HODGDON, Maine — The SAD 70 board decided last week not to accept federal education funds that would be available to the district after Hodgdon High School was designated by the state as one of 10 “persistently lowest-achieving schools” in Maine.
In response to the decision, a parent and community forum will be held at 6:30 tonight at the Hodgdon High School gymnasium to discuss the next steps for the school.
Two weeks ago, the Department of Education released a list of the state’s 10 “persistently lowest-achieving schools.” Schools included on the list became eligible for a total of $12 million in federal school improvement grants, provided they plan to take certain steps. Schools are not required to accept the money.
Hodgdon High School was on the list. The school educates students from the towns of Amity, Cary Plantation, Haynesville, Hodgdon, Linneus, Ludlow and New Limerick.
The only other Aroostook County school on the list was Houlton Junior-Senior High School, less than 10 miles away. The SAD 29 board also decided not to accept the funding.
The state Department of Education used federal criteria to produce the list, which identified low levels of improvement in math and reading achievement over a three-year period.
The identified schools were listed in two categories. Tier 1 schools are those that receive Title 1 funding — which is reserved for areas with low-income families — but have not made progress for two or more years according to the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Tier 2 schools such as Hodgdon High School are high schools that are eligible for Title 1 funds but whose districts use those funds in other schools. Five schools from each tier were placed on the list.
The figures for all Maine schools were released by the Education Department on Tuesday.
Robert McDaniel, superintendent of SAD 70 in Hodgdon, said Tuesday that the school already had been working on an action plan to improve the school before the state released its designation.
“There is always room for improvement and we want to improve,” McDaniel said Tuesday.
“We are mainly holding this forum so that we can tell parents why we made the list and how the list was put together,” he said. “We also are going to talk about how we are putting together an action plan to help our school reach its full potential. To do that, we need input from the community, and that is what we are looking to get from this forum.”
If the school board had voted to accept the money, the high school would have had to adopt one of four aggressive plans for improvement: the “Turnaround Model,” in which a school must replace its principal and at least half its staff; the “Restart Model,” in which a school must close and reopen as a charter school, which is not permissible under Maine law; the “School Closure Model,” in which a school must close and move students elsewhere; or the “Transformational Model,” in which a district must replace principals who have been at a school more than two years, must train teachers and administrators, implement various reforms, extend learning and planning time, and adjust other operating procedures.
McDaniel said the school board recognizes there is room for improvement, but a model for action must be sustainable, he said.
“We knew that if we accepted the federal money, the school would have to continue funding the educational model that we chose on our own after the grant money ran out,” he said. “There is no guarantee that we would be able to do it. If we come up with our own plan, we can adopt one that we can sustain ourselves.”
During tonight’s hearing, McDaniel said, the public will be invited to tell the school what they think officials are doing wrong and suggest ideas for how to make it right.
“All of those ideas will help us craft this action plan,” he said. “We began working on this action plan even before the state came out with this list, and we are going to continue moving forward with it. We welcome any comment from the community as we move forward.”