May 30, 2024

MCI Transitions program proves successful

PITTSFIELD – For many eighth-grade graduates, making that big step into high school can be intimidating.

For Warsaw Middle School students, it can be even more daunting since their next step is Maine Central Institute, a college preparatory school with a campus of buildings and a complicated three-day rotating schedule.

This summer, however, MCI and SAD 53 jointly offered Transitions, a program to give at-risk students the opportunity to spend three weeks at MCI working on study skills, getting comfortable with staff and the campus itself, and boning up on math and English.

Coordinator Jason Judd presented the program’s initial findings to an impressed school board Monday night.

Of the 29 students who participated, only one failed a class in the first quarter of high school. Of the 62 students who were not enrolled in Transitions, 13 students failed one or more classes. That’s a 97 percent pass rate compared with a 79 percent rate.

Although this was the first year of the program, those results are very promising, and board chairman Robert Downs called them “pretty compelling.” Downs suggested that a second year’s worth of data could confirm the program’s success.

Judd explained that the program was from 9 a.m. to noon for three weeks. “These were the most at-risk students, students we were really worried about,” he said. “The data is amazing. We are very excited.”

Kendra Ludden, a Transitions student, said the program made it much easier to move up to MCI. “Even if you give up some of your summer, you’re helping yourself,” she said.

Ashley Dionne also participated. “I was able to get used to the campus and had a chance to meet some of my teachers. This was a great start to high school and it boosted my confidence.”

Both girls said that when the first day of school came, their peers were peppering them with questions.

SAD 53 curriculum director Anne Miller said she expected about a dozen pupils to volunteer for Transitions and was very pleased when 29 came forward. The program was open to all eighth-graders. She said the program was funded by MCI and Title 1 federal funds. “This idea came from joint, ongoing meetings with the MCI and the Warsaw Middle School Transitions committee.”

She said the short-term goal was to familiarize students with the MCI campus, enrich basic skills, boost self-confidence and work on study skills. “The long-term goal is dropout prevention,” she said.

Warsaw Middle School principal Sandy Nevens invited Ludden and Dionne to come back in the spring and address his graduating eighth-graders about the program’s benefits.

“Their work ethic was great,” he said. “This is such a great program.”

“We wanted to start small the first year,” Judd said. “But we are now going to try to include other students.”

Also at the meeting, Superintendent Michael Gallagher told board members that Maine Department of Education Commissioner Susan Gendron has reiterated her promise to propose legislation that would relieve SAD 53 of nonconsolidation penalties.

SAD 53 voters approved a consolidation plan with SAD 59 last spring, but SAD 59 voters narrowly defeated it. SAD 53 officials contend that since their communities approved the merger the district should not be penalized. The penalty is the withholding of more than $100,000 in state funding.

Gallagher said the legislation would be proposed in January as an emergency bill.


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