“We’ve got one more document to get to the department of education, but they’ve given us the green light to do the site work,” said board member Phil Taylor. He said he expected the document to be in the department of education’s hands within a day or two.
Taylor said the construction company has held a pre-construction meeting with everyone who will be working at the site. He said manager Jim Kelly laid down the law on safety and personal conduct. “They went over procedures, how things will be fenced off, security, background checks, even language,” Taylor said. “Anyone caught using off-color language at the site may get one warning, but that’s it.”
One of the first things that will be done is to move a portable classroom that’s behind the school off the site. But he noted that there had been some concern that Windham Southwest Supervisory Union may be the actual owner of the building.
“The town of Wilmington actually owns it,” interjected WSSU Business Manager Karen Atwood. “The supervisory union can’t own property (under state law).”
“Oh,” said Taylor. “If the supervisory union were claiming ownership, I was going to say they should come get it.”
Taylor said construction could be underway sometime around Thanksgiving.
“We should have a groundbreaking event,” said Twin Valley School Board Chair Seth Boyd. “Can you believe that we’re actually going to do this?”
In other consolidation matters, Taylor said the academic committee had “distilled” the results of vision sessions held with the public, parents, teachers, and students. “It’s still rough and in raw form, but it still gives you a clear look at what people want to see,” he said, “and I’m pretty happy with the results.”
Taylor said parents and teachers appear to be on the same page when it comes to “21st century skills,” academic rigor, problem-solving skills, and communication. “I expected teachers to be aware, but parents were really on top of that, too. There was a clear focus on core knowledge and skills, and coming out strong on 21st century skills.”
Students also had interesting responses, Taylor said. “One of the things that was clear from the students is that they associate great teachers with a great school. It’s reassuring to learn that they enjoy math, science, and literacy.”
Following up on a discussion of science and math scores at Twin Valley High School that took place at a previous meeting, the board agreed to keep a close eye on changes in the programs.
“For me there are a couple of questions,” said Taylor. “What is the core amount of science we should have in terms of graduation requirements? We talked about ongoing exposure to science as being critical – continual training of the mind. We’re not a big school, so let’s not try to act like a big school and offer a huge diversity, but maybe we can broaden the program.”
Board member John Doty agreed that the program may need to be updated. “If I was looking at the Twin Valley program of (science) study as a student more than 50 years ago, this would not be unfamiliar to me. This is what I had in high school,” he said. “And we may need to move to a proficiency- and competency-based model, rather than a Carnegie model. We’re trying to establish a new school and set the bar high.”
Doty said some students may not be challenged and, worse, some may be allowed to choose easier science courses because they’re not planning to pursue post-secondary education. “Are we in the business of sifting and sorting kids? I don’t think we are.”