Brewer school board increases graduation requirement to 24 credits

Posted Aug. 05, 2013, at 10:13 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Freshmen at Brewer High School, who start school later this month, and all those who follow will have earn 24 credits to graduate under new rules adopted Monday by the Brewer School Committee.

Michael Hutchins, a retired teacher who taught at Brewer High School for 25 years, was the lone school board member to vote against increasing the number of credits required to graduate.

After school board chairwoman Janet McIntosh asked and heard that the new policy would go into effect with this year’s incoming freshmen, and that parents of the first class had not been informed, Hutchins suggested waiting.

“Maybe we should put this off for a year,” he said. “We have students who are coming in from outlying districts who are not aware.”

Hutchins, who pointed out that Hampden Academy and Old Town High School both require only 22 credits, said he was worried about dropout rates increasing.

“I would hate to see our dropout rate increase because they fail a class and don’t feel like they can make it up,” he said. “I just don’t know if it would be the best for all our students.”

Brewer High School Principal David Wall addressed Hutchins’ concerns by saying, “That is the beauty of a block system.” If a student fails a class, a study hall can be converted to a “credit recovery” class, he said.

Wall presented the school board with an analysis of student credit earned with the 184-member class of 2012-13 that showed “51 percent achieved 24 credits or more” and about 74 percent of the class had earned 23 credits.

“We’re not just increasing graduation requirements, we’re also adding a fourth year of math,” Wall said.

School board member Dani O’Halloran said the increased credit requirement at the high school is a good thing for students.

“We need it,” she said.

The measure passed 3-1, with Kevin Forrest absent.

During the meeting, the school board also:

• Endorsed a partnership with Hampden Academy to share the cost of offering a high school wrestling program, with Brewer paying for the coach and Hampden Academy paying for the officials and supplying a practice area the first year since Brewer High is under renovation. The two school departments will share the costs of transportation and will continue to compete against each other, Brewer High School athletic director Dave Utterback said. The move saves about $6,600, he said.

• Discussed changing freshman basketball to first team basketball, and allow sophomores and possibly juniors to play. The board has no policy about the name or guidelines for freshman basketball so the school board directed the superintendent to research policies and get back to them.

• Heard the school department is still trying to fill positions for a guidance counselor and secretary at Brewer High, and a foreign language teacher and two soccer coaches for Brewer Community School.

• Heard Brewer School Department received a grant of nearly $5,000 from Maine Emergency Management Agency to add security measures at the high school, including possibly adding a surveillance camera.

• Heard a presentation from Kathleen Kazmierczak, director of instruction, about assessment data and how Brewer students rank. Problems with “grade three jump right off the page,” Superintendent Jay A. McIntire said afterward. She pointed out that another third-grade teacher was added to help address the identified problems.

• Heard a letter from a junior at Brewer High School, read by McIntire, in support of ed tech Kim Kelley, who has been reassigned to Brewer Community School, staying on at the high school. A parent in the audience also aired similar sentiments.

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