Lessons with "Cougar" coming soon
DIXFIELD -- A group of seventh graders have been working diligently on a project they call Project Guinea Pig.
On Nov. 13, five of those Dirigo Middle School students confidently presented their finding to the RSU 10 Board of Directors.
The result was the board giving the go-ahead for the project, which Social Studies teacher Abigail Wood called a good example of customized learning, a new concept the district plans to implement for most students. It allows them to progress at their own pace.
The official start of the project should begin in a few weeks. The students said they will name their guinea pig "Cougar."
Project Guinea Pig has allowed the students to research the food, care and other needs for keeping a small furry animal in their classroom. They’ve learned new technologies during their research, studied school policies regarding pets in the classroom, created and used spreadsheets and graphs, and learned to work together on a project.
The students involved in the project presented a slide show on the work they have done and plan to do once the board approves having a guinea pig in their classroom. This includes a budget to pay for continuous care of Cougar with the help of various fundraisers. An application plan for taking care of Cougar will be posted on the bulletin board in the Cougars' Den.
Wood noted the project has been student directed with some guidance from the teacher. "They did the research. They took control. They did a great job."
A board member asked about what they will do with Cougar during vacations and in the summer. The response was that teachers will come in or take it home.
Asked if the students were prepared in case Cougar should die, a seventh grader noted that they should be okay because it will not anyone's own pet; it's a school pet.
In other business, Tom Danylik has been appointed at the Mountain Valley High School boys' basketball coach, replacing Rick White, who recently resigned from the post. In taking this position, Danylik submitted his resignation as a co-coach for the MVHS girls' junior varsity hoop team.
In addition, Ken Baker was appointed as the MVHS boys' JV basketball coach, after resigning as a co-coach for the MVHS girls' junior varsity hoop team.
Other appointments included Joe McLaughlin as the Buckfield Middle School varsity boys' basketball coach; Brianna Bellefontaine as the BMS varsity girls' basketball coach; Ron LaBerge as MVHS Academic Decathlon coach; Laura Columbia as MVHS Class of 2015 advisor; David Radcliffe as Mountain Valley Middle School JV girls' basketball coach; Michael Legere as MVMS alpine ski coach; and Owen Libby as Dirigo High School JV boys' basketball coach.
Long-term substitute teacher Mary Buzzard was hired as interim literacy coach at Rumford Elementary School and Diane Brown was hired as half-time interim French teacher at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School, both until the end of the current school year. Robert (Bobby) Robbins has been hired as RES bus/driver custodian.
The board approved an eight-day trip to England in April 2014 for any RSU 10 high school student, staff and parents. The trip will be self-funded.
Approval was requested early to allow students to earn money toward the trip and to reserve seats at a discount.
Wood said a minimum of 14 students must sign up for the trip. Already, she said, 20 have indicated interest.
In other matters, long-term substitute teacher Mary Buzzard was hired as interim literacy coach at Rumford Elementary School and Diane Brown was hired as half-time interim French teacher at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School, both until the end of the current school year.
Supt. Tom Ward told the board he is visiting the selectmen’s meetings in each of the 10 district towns to explain the changes in the amount of local appropriations each town must raise in order to receive general purpose aid from the state.
Canton was the most recent one, with Hartford on Thursday and Mexico, Carthage and Sumner following.
“General purpose aid is based on property valuation,” he said. “Property values dropped more dramatically in southern Maine. Now, we’re catching up.”
Although he said RSU 10, which is in year four of an eight-year funding formula, is below anticipated cost, the administration and board are continuing their search for ways to save additional money.
Ward said a possible reorganization plan of the schools in the of Dixfield and Rumford-Mexico regions is expected to be presented at the next board meeting Nov. 26. He said Planning Decisions was supposed to have their study completed by the end of October, but they are still working on it.