‘Millennial’ students focus Brewer schools chief

This story was published on Aug. 11, 2005 on Page B2 in edition 3 of the Bangor Daily News

BREWER – There is a new kind of student with needs that are distinct from those of Generation Xers or baby boomers, the city’s new school superintendent says.

Dan Lee, hired earlier this week by the Brewer School Committee, said in an interview that one of his goals is to understand this new type of student, the Millennial Generation, “and help schools evolve to better serve them and future generations.”

Baby boomers, born in the late 1940s to the early 1960s, and Generation X, born through the 1970s, brought distinct needs to the nation’s school districts. Lee said the Millennials, who are 25 and under, “only know life as it exists in a period of economic growth. Their standard of living is unprecedented.”

Millennial students have grown up with the Internet and “despite what you may read in the popular press, the educational performance of today’s student is unmatched,” Lee said.

For this reason, one of Lee’s goals is to get at least one third of high school graduates into college, he said.

“Their parents have lovingly nurtured and supported their development while at the same time taught their children to cope with the inexplicable acts of terrorism,” he said. “Educational pedagogy, the methods by which we instruct students, must change to meet these unique needs.”

Lee, a longtime Bangor resident and superintendent of SAD 3 in the Unity-Thorndike area, starts in Brewer in mid-September.

“The Brewer School Committee … is right on target,” he said Tuesday. Former Superintendent Betsy Webb “is to be credited for her good work in this regard. My main objective will be to continue to move this progressive agenda forward to the best of my abilities.”

Webb resigned to become assistant superintendent for the Bangor School Department.

“Dr. Lee’s knowledge, philosophy and skills align perfectly with the course Brewer has set with its pursuit of academic excellence in a safe and nurturing environment,” a statement issued Monday from the Brewer School Department says. “His leadership will continue Brewer along the path towards our vision.”

Lee worked for years as a Bangor elementary school principal and remained a resident even after taking the post with SAD 3 during November 2002. His wife, Chris, is a third-grade teacher at Bangor’s Vine Street School.

The drive to work will be miles shorter, but that’s not the reason behind Lee’s decision to apply for the job in Brewer, he said.

“The Brewer School Department is … poised to make significant strides with respect to academic excellence,” he said. “Brewer is growing and I look forward to playing a leadership role in this renaissance, so to speak.”

Lee was principal at the Fruit Street School in Bangor for more than 16 years until being hired by SAD 3. He also served for two years as assistant principal at James F. Doughty School, then known as Bangor’s Fifth Street School, and was as principal at the Rose M. Gaffney School in Machias from 1983 to 1986.

Lee started out teaching English and remedial reading in Fort Kent in the 1970s. He earned his bachelor’s degree in science from the University of Maine at Fort Kent, his master’s degree from the University of Southern Maine, and his doctorate in education from the University of Maine in Orono.

Lee’s transition to Brewer is scheduled for early September, when he will take over his office at Capri Street Elementary School. “I am going to love having an office located in an elementary school,” he said. “There is nothing like the sound of little children playing outside my window during recess to remind me of why I have chosen to devote my life to this profession.”