April 26, 2018
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Study ranks Hampden schools as higher-performing, efficient

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

HAMPDEN, Maine — It’s one thing to be an efficient school, but without good results, efficiency means little. Similarly, any school could probably see good results with unlimited resources, but what public school in Maine has unlimited resources?

That’s why school officials in SAD 22 are beaming with pride at the moment. Three schools within the district, which includes the towns of Hampden, Newburgh and Winterport, recently were designated as both efficient and higher-performing by an independent study of schools across the state.

“For us, it means we’re producing great results with reasonable expenditures,” SAD 22 Superintendent Rick Lyons said this week.

More than two years ago, the Legislature asked the Maine Education Policy Research Institute, or MEPRI, at the University of Southern Maine to develop a set of metrics to study school performance.

MEPRI spent two years studying standardized test scores, graduation rates, per-pupil expenditures and other demographic information for 427 schools.

Although the full report is not expected to be presented to the Legislature until later this year, schools that participated have been notified of the results.

Hampden Academy was one of only nine high schools, among 105 studied, that were designated as both higher-performing and efficient. The other eight were located south of Augusta. Reeds Brook Middle School was among 17 middle schools identified as higher-performing and efficient, and Weatherbee Elementary School was among 54 elementary schools selected.

In the grand scheme of things, the designation doesn’t mean much, but the indirect benefit is significant, said Mary Giard, director of curriculum for SAD 22.

“The teachers and our support staff certainly should be proud, but parents should be, too, because they set high expectations for education,” she said.

In 2008, SAD 22 was exempted from the state’s school administration consolidation law because it was identified by the Maine Department of Education as an efficient and high-performing district.

Lyons said the recent MEPRI report was a strong validation of that 2008 exemption.

“Certainly as we start our budget, which is going to be a tough budget, we can make the case that we provide a good value,” the superintendent said.

Like many other school districts across the state, SAD 22 could receive less in state funding for education next year, although “it’s not as bad as we thought it could be,” Lyons said.

Also like other districts, SAD 22 has offered retirement incentives to teachers as a way to bring down costs. So far, Lyons said, six have taken the offer. In the last three years, SAD 22 has cut 22 positions, most through attrition.

The 2011 school budget is expected to be presented to the SAD 22 board of directors later this month.

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