Remarks to the 2012 Annual Meeting

Below are excerpted remarks to our Fall 2012 Annual Meeting by Head of School Dr. Dorothy Foote.

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Thank you.

I am thrilled to be here with all of you today.

Just over a year ago, we gathered at this campus to announce the merger of Wayfinder Schools.

It was an exciting time, but also a time of unanswered questions. An incredible amount of work- by many of you in this room- had gone into bringing these two organizations together- the questions-would we able to serve more kids?  Reach more families?  Strengthen our communities?  Help our students succeed?  Ensure more students in Maine were graduating with their high school diplomas?

Now, here we are, 16 months later.

The first graduating class of the merged Wayfinder Schools has made it through.

Many of them are now attending college.  Most all of them are employed in communities throughout Maine.  100% of them reported that their experience at our school left them feeling more confident, more connected to their communities, and more prepared to enter the workforce.

The number of applicants we had for the current year far exceeds the number of applicants for any previous year.  New students are applying all the time.

Our use of Restorative Justice Practices and our focus on strengths-based education, social justice and positive youth development is keeping kids in school, engaged in their work and better prepared for the future.

Our work matches current research in education that states that the goal of a learning environment, a school culture, is to be challenging, engaging, supportive, relevant, and experiential. Learning must have meaning  – and be useful to adolescents in the world.

Adolescents who do not finish school face significant challenges throughout their lives. Relationships, jobs, homelife, community engagement. A very high percentage are incarcerated.

I was at a leadership breakfast Wednesday with the Department of Corrections at which the main reason cited for kids being in detention centers is “expulsion” from school.  What we know is that the culture of detention, suspension, expulsion is not working.

Our dropout rate in Maine is 30% – that is approximately 2300 kids per year in Maine.

I’ll often say – there is no high school after high school.

The work we are doing – going out into communities and putting kids back in school-is the best work we can be doing in Maine today. This is urgent work.

In the past year, we have been recognized by The Maine Commissioner of Education, by The Barbara Bush Family Literacy Foundation, by the Maine Women’s Fund, The Newman’s Own Foundation and others.  We have been featured in Maine Magazine, the Portland Press Herald, The Bangor Daily News, and on several television and radio shows including Good Day Maine and Maine Things Considered.

We have a strong story to tell.  A story of success, of innovation, of using cutting edge research and best practices to help Maine kids succeed and become capable, contributing members of their communities.

I am excited for the next stage of this journey and I thank you for being here today.