2017-11-17 / Front Page

School, business partnership is a winning formula

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

The Scarborough School and Business Council was formed during the 2013-2014 school year to build connection between Scarborough students and the workforce and now, four years later, is poised to take advantage of some of the educational partnerships that may be able to be forged between Scarborough schools and businesses.

“With 1,400 businesses and 17,000 employees, there is a lot of talent out there that I think we can tap into the share knowledge with our kids,” said Scarborough Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Karen Martin, who, along with Scarborough Schools Director of Curriculum and Assessment Monique Culbertson, is co-chairing the council.

Bringing the two groups together, Martin said, could come in many different forms, including guest lectures, internships or mentorships to help students explore career fields they are interested in and learn important life lessons to use after high school. The partnership also could benefit businesses as well.

“Being involved in education and being involved in the schools, it provides employees a creative outlet,” Martin said.

Culbertson said the school-business/community partnerships would help the schools offer students career exploration, teach workplace skills, enrich the curriculum and offer service learning opportunities.

The school/business council, she said, is currently working to develop several partnerships, including a surf/club ambassador program at the Salt Pump for middle school students, an internship course at the high school and a mentoring program at the middle school, as well as further developing the Maine Medical Research Institute internship program and financial literacy opportunities for high school students.

Assistant Superintendent Jo Anne Sizemore said the middle school partners with Junior Achievement for business seminars and career exploration for students as well as a job shadow day for eighth-graders. For the last five years, high school technology education teacher John McHugh has led students in Junior Achievement’s Titan Challenge, a state-wide business competition.

Board of Education member Cari Lyford said the school-business partnerships “melds really well with proficiency-based education,” which states students must prove they are proficient in a several content area through multiple pathways.

The big thing the council is tackling right now, Culbertson said is “how do we develop these mentorships, how do we develop these partnerships, but also sustain the partnerships with annual review and evaluation to make the partnerships stronger and more applicable to our needs, as well as the partners’ needs.”

Martin said the businesses that do partner with the schools are not intended to be limited to just Scarborough, but any business that has ties to the community. The University of New England, she said, is an active member of the council. Board of education member Jodi Shea said there may be opportunities for the school/business council to partner with Scarborough residents who don’t work in Scarborough.

“There is a high amount of resources we have in students’ parents, grandparents and caregivers that we may be able to tap into, but they may work in Westbrook or wherever,” she said.

Martin said the council has focused a lot of time in trying to find ways for people who want to get involved, to get involved.

“I think we have all identified that as the crucial piece. It needs to be easy, you have to know where to start. We have to make it smooth for folks. Otherwise we lose that interest,” Martin said.

Shea said not only does it need to be easy for the business or employee, but the school officials as well.

Martin said one notion may be to create a website outlining the school-business partnerships and how an interested party could get involved.

“Our long-term vision is to have it really organized, so we can take advantage of all these resources that we know are out there,” Martin said.

Shea suggested allowing business professionals to register on a website so when a teacher or educator is looking for a business partner, they have an idea who is interested and in what fields they work.

Board of Education member Donna Beeley thanked Martin and Culbertson for the work they have done leading the group and giving the vision structure.

“Both of you coming together is symbolic of the school-business piece, so it just makes so much sense,” she said.

Board of Education member Mary Starr said the model has “merit and a lot of promise” and said the group may also want to reach out to alumni of Scarborough to “show kids” what is possible after a Scarborough education.

Culbertson said the school department hasn’t done any tracking of Scarborough High School alumni, but “certainly alumni would be a group we reach out to as we begin to look for opportunities for our students.”

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at news@scarboroughleader.com.

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