Orono Action presented their 2020 platform to the Orono Public School board members during their board meeting on Jan. 27.
The nonpartisan committee of the Orono school board consists of parents and community leaders and “advocates on behalf of” Orono students by “developing legislative platform endorsed by the school board that articulates our legislative priorities.”
Co-chairs Amy Alworth and Emily Bremmer Forbes presented their three point platform to the board. The number one priority, according to Alworth, is to “increase special education funding to reduce the special education cross subsidy. For Orono, the special education cross subsidy is more than $1.4 million for the fiscal year 2018.”
“To begin, the cross subsidy is still a big problem. Thankfully our legislators last year contributed $9.7 million to the special [education] formula, calling it cross subsidy special aid. We’d still like to see major progress in decreasing the gap that individual districts are responsible for covering,” Alworth said.
The second point included in the platform states “Diverting taxpayer dollars from transparent, accountable public schools, which accept all students, to pay for education at private institutions that are held to none of these standards is fiscally irresponsible and harms our future workforce. These diversion proposals include vouchers, tax credits and scholarships.”
Board member Mike Bash commented on the language used in the second point and suggested the language should not be aimed at any specific types of institutions.
The third piece to the platform involves “index local optional revenue to account for geographic wage differences.”
The board approved the platform at the meeting.
Orono High School Principal Dr. Amy Steiner then presented the timeline for registration and the goals.
“Our goals for this process really, bottom line, is we want kids in the right classes. By that we want kids to be appropriately challenged,” she said. “We also want to find classes that help engage them, spark their passion, feed their passion, their interests...and also maybe open some doors in the post secondary world they didn’t know they had.”
Steiner also discussed a change she would like to see in the Spanish curriculum with the goal to increase language proficiency. Steiner recommended a possible new curriculum not only includes grammar and vocab but also engages students by having them look at their own culture as well as to think about other cultures.
“It will really help us align and move to a curriculum that’s more aligned with the district’s goals and visions for world language programs,” she said.
A change students will see in Physics 9 classes is related to the way the teachers instruct. The classes will be moving towards a modeling instruction, which is “discovery and inquiry based” rather than a lecture approach according to Steiner.
“It involves leading questions, having students explore, having students ask questions and a lot of discussion with their peers and really being actively engaged, which we also think will help draw kids in a little bit, into physics, which doesn’t always grab enough students,” she said.
Board member Laura Wallander asked if students will need to be more content focused at an earlier level.
“That’s what’s engaging about it. [Students] don’t have to feel like they have to know something going into it. It’s all about their own discovery of it and then the teacher adds in the content as they’re exploring it,” Steiner responded.
Superintendent Karen Orcutt added as the state changes standards, the test scores have increased in rigor over time and have led the school board and staff at test scores and what the nuances are.
“It’s an important time to remind everyone that when we make changes in curriculum we’re watching test scores over time very closely. All of the science standards are not just changes in curriculum, they are changes in teaching methodology,” she said.