Mid-Coast School Notebook: June 23

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New director announced at Midcoast Senior College luncheon

The Midcoast Senior College Board of Directors named James Wilkes president of the board, effective June 13, at the annual meeting luncheon, held at Bowdoin College. Wilkes succeeds Dr. Anthony Belmont.

Wilkes has been vice president of Midcoast Senior College for the past two years and chairman of the Policy Committee since 2014, in addition to serving on the Finance and Nominating Committees.

Wilkes has also served on numerous nonprofit boards in Ohio, as well as the Maine Cathance River Educational Alliance.

In his 38-year career in education, Wilkes served as an Ohio City Superintendent of Schools, assistant superintendent, principal and teacher. After retiring from public education, Wilkes worked in the private sector as a school facility planner, and concluded his career as assistant dean for teacher professional development at Ashland University in Ohio.

Harpswell Academy announces leadership transitions

The board of directors of Harpswell Coastal Academy recently announced a transition in leadership. Carrie Branson, who has been with HCA as associate head of school since the school’s first year, will be taking on the new role of executive director. Founding Head of School John D’Anieri will move to a consulting role with the HCA Leadership Team and board of directors. Maria Russell, dean of students at the Brunswick Landing Division 2/3 high school campus, will become that site’s principal. The Leadership Team is rounded out by Micah Depper in the new role of director of Teaching and Learning and Phelan Gallagher, Music and Media Studies teacher and director of Digital Learning. “This transition has been planned since the school’s founding,” said D’Anieri. “My agreement with the Board of Directors was to work for three to five years, including the planning year, to help build a sustainable project-based, place-based, entrepreneurial public school.” Having reached the significant milestone of graduating the first four-year class of students who started with HCA as ninth graders, D’Anieri is looking forward to devoting more time to developing entrepreneurial education and workforce development projects in partnership with regional and statewide organizations.

Branson, who has shared most of the leadership and decision-making with D’Anieri for the past four years, is excited to take on the new role of Executive Director. “Over the course of my career, I’ve played just about every role in small and independent schools – teacher, department head, operations director, and principal. This next phase just seems to make sense, both for me and for HCA.”

Brunswick man honored for supporting Senior College

Mark Smith, of Brunswick, was presented the prestigious 2017 Founders Award during Midcoast Senior College’s Annual Meeting on June 13 at Bowdoin College. Smith was honored for his staunch support of MSC through numerous roles.

“Mark is a longstanding member and contributor to MSC. Serving as president of the board from 2009-2013, Mark managed the rapid evolution and growth of the college,” said Anthony Belmont, outgoing president of Midcoast Senior College. “During that time, he played a key role in the relocation from Bath to SNHU in Brunswick, helped create the Founders’ Award, and oversaw the transition to independent 501(c)3 status.”

The plaque and framed certificate were presented to Smith by Belmont before more than 200 members, sponsors and guests. Nominations are solicited each spring from among past and present members, students, faculty, volunteers, and others. The board makes the final selection.

To acknowledge the contributions of the two co-founders of Midcoast Senior College, Nancy Wheeler and the late Jack Thompson, the board of directors established in 2009 the Wheeler/Thompson Founders Award. Presented annually at the spring luncheon, this award recognizes an individual who has supported the spirit and work of Midcoast Senior College in significant ways.

CES students transform garden by transplanting 

Taking advantage of recent a rare sunny day, six first-grade classes from Coffin Elementary School set off on foot for Tom Settlemire Community Garden to transplant approximately 240 squash, pumpkin, sunflower and nasturtium plants that they had seeded earlier in the spring.

TSCG is located on Crystal Spring Farm, a property owned and managed by the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. Through the garden, the land trust strives to provide intergenerational gardening opportunities, increase the availability of locally grown food for area food pantries, and offer experiential gardening opportunities for the community.

With the help of a dedicated crew of volunteers, the young students transplanted all of their seedlings. When they are ready this fall, the squash will be donated to Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program, while the pumpkins and sunflowers will be harvested for further study by Coffin Students in the fall.

Staff from the Land Trust, Nikkilee Cataldo and Caroline Elliot were on hand to give tours, including the composting and solar-powered watering facilities that are on-site. “We love having kids in the garden,” said Cataldo. “It is important to our mission as a land trust to have young folks get their hands dirty doing something good for the community, and to just enjoy the natural beauty of this amazing community asset.”

As this school year nears its end, students were able to stay engaged in their learning while participating in a service project for their community. First-graders have spent time this spring learning about plant life cycles, plant parts, and growing requirements. Most students enjoyed digging in the dirt and finding earthworms, but eating watermelon was a unanimous success. First-grader Sylus Pillsbury beamed as he said, “This is really fun!”

Morse student earns honorable mention in essay contest

Griffin Tibbitts from Morse High School in Bath was among the five honorable mention awardees in the Margaret Chase Smith Library annual essay contest. This year high school seniors across Maine were asked to come up with solutions to the current drug epidemic.  

The Margaret Chase Smith Library, located in Bangor, is an archive, museum, educational facility and public policy center devoted to preserving Smith’s legacy, as well as promoting research into American political history, advancing the ideals of public service and exploring issues of civic engagement.