Cape Elizabeth High School junior has Maine Board of Education's ear

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CAPE ELIZABETH — High school junior Chelsea Whynot is used to public speaking.

And she better be.

As a member of the school’s state champion mock trial team, she had to think on her feet, acting professionally in a courtroom, and use appropriate legal references.

And now, as the student representative to the state Board of Education, she represents her town and Maine’s entire 1st Congressional District.

She told the School Board all about the application process and experience with the Board of Education at a Dec. 13 meeting – again, using her public speaking skills.

Since 2008, students from Maine’s two congressional districts have alternated as non-voting members of the state board. The students begin the application process their sophomore year, and if selected, serve two-year terms. 

Whynot said guidance counselor Brandy Lapointe gave her the application, which was “long and very intense,” and required essays and recommendations.

Early last January Whynot found out she was one of six finalists from District 1, and participated in an interview with the members of the Board of Education in Augusta.

She said the board members asked difficult questions – things like how education could help combat child obesity, how she could find solutions to educational policies she may not agree with, which Department of Education guideline she would have the most difficult time following and how she could find a solution to the problem.

Whynot said she was selected as one of two final applicants for the position and a few months later was named the newest student representative to the board.

Since June, Whynot said, she has attended DOE board meetings, participated in a two-day retreat with board members and visited schools throughout the state.

“We are working on Common Core standards, talking about the new SAT test coming out in 2014, and hearing a lot about charter schools,” she said. “(Board members) are always asking about things going on in my town, and if there is anything I want to bring up. If there is anything you’d like me to bring the board, I’d be happy to do so.”

Chairwoman Mary Townsend said Whynot is a standout student who is very capable of serving as the representative to the state board.

“She’s the only student in our (congressional) district chosen to represent us,” Townsend  said. “It’s a huge, huge honor and I can’t think of a better person to do it than you.”

School vision, mission

In other business, the School Board has started to revise the School Department vision and mission statement, and Superintendent Meredith Nadeau asked the public for input and assistance. 

Nadeau said the current vision, mission and belief statements have not been updated in nearly 10 years. During her interview process over the summer, she said the revision was discussed as a top priority.

The process will begin by gathering input from a wide range of stakeholders, Nadeau said. A leadership team of teachers and district staff will review the current vision and “think about where we want to be,” she said. 

Their feedback will be used to gather more information from the greater community, including students, parents, residents, teachers, business owners, and town representatives. Those suggestions will go back to district leadership, who will present a new vision and mission statement to the School Board for consideration.

Because the process has no budget, Nadeau asked for volunteer help to augment the school resources.

“If you have expertise in publicity or public relations, or if you don’t mind making phone calls to gather some donations for things like refreshments, or if you have expertise in compiling data and doing data entry or wordsmithing and editing, please contact the superintendent’s office and I will be happy to have a conversation with you and see how we can put your skills and talents to work,” she said.

Contact Nadeau by calling 799-2217 or via email at mnadeau@capeelizabethschools.org.

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or aanderson@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.

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