April 06, 2020

SAD 63 mulls Searsport high school option

HOLDEN – SAD 63 is exploring the idea of sending high school students to Searsport in light of a new admissions policy at Brewer High School, the superintendent said Thursday.

Concerns about where students in the district would attend high school if they don’t meet Brewer’s new criteria for behavior, academics and attendance have prompted Superintendent Louise Regan to invite Superintendent Mary Szwec from SAD 56 in Searsport to the next SAD 63 board meeting for a discussion.

It’s important to have another option for students who aren’t accepted into the program in Brewer, Regan said.

“What happens to students who aren’t allowed to enter?” she said. “It behooves us to look for more opportunities for them. We can’t have students, after eighth grade, who wash out of public education.”

Szwec will be accompanied by Gregg Palmer, principal at Searsport District High School.

Representatives from the Dedham School Department also have been invited.

Emphasizing that the discussions are “very preliminary and exploratory,” Regan said that one of the major challenges would be the distance between Searsport and the SAD 63 communities of Holden, Eddington and Clifton. The trip is about 30 miles one way.

Regan said she issued the invitation after receiving a letter from Szwec, who noted that she and Palmer had read about the policy change in Brewer.

“She expressed an interest in talking to us about the Searsport philosophy, their academic programs and the possibility of some of our students attending Searsport District High School,” Regan said.

Brewer’s new policy, which goes into effect Sept. 1, requires out-of-town students not currently enrolled at Brewer High School to fill out an application, submit two years of academic attendance and discipline records and provide a recommendation from their principal or superintendent.

The policy has elicited criticism from school officials in towns that pay for students to attend Brewer High School.

Regan said she is intrigued by a number of Searsport District High School’s initiatives, including a strengthened focus on technology; a program for students struggling with reading; and an exchange program with students from Brooklyn, N.Y.

“We have a very thoughtful, reflective board, so I wouldn’t necessarily say they would decide this by next September,” she said. “We don’t know where this is going to go. We’re exploring other avenues and [Searsport’s] programming looks and sounds wonderful.

“We need to talk to them about it,” Regan said.

The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 23, at the Holden School.

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