WATERVILLE — Day cares, schools and colleges in Waterville are seeking community input on how to maximize their resources to “make Waterville a hub of education excellence,” officials said.

A new multi-institution coalition, called SPaRC, will hold its first town-hall style meeting Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. at Waterville Senior High School. SPaRC stands for Strengthening, Partnering and Reinforcing Community.

Waterville Schools Superintendent Eric Haley will be among those attending a town-hall style meeting Tuesday from 5-7 p.m. at Waterville Senior High School to discuss making Waterville a “hub of education excellence,” Morning Sentinel file photo by Michael G. Seamans

The group includes Waterville Public Schools, Educare Central Maine, Kennebec Valley Community College, Thomas College, Colby College, and Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education, according to Sherry Brown, an English teacher at Waterville Senior High School and one of the leaders of the initiative.

“This really came out of (Superintendent) Eric Haley thinking about Waterville in terms of all influence Colby is bringing in and the business influences and changes Waterville is making,” Brown told the Morning Sentinel. “We believe healthy communities start with healthy schools. We were thinking about the fact that we’re unique in that we have three higher (education) partners that are not in competition with each other, Educare, a thriving business community, a thriving arts community, the South End Teen Center, the Alfond Youth Center — we wanted to see: What does it look like when we partner together?”

Brown said that the group is working with consultants from the American Institutes for Research to develop a sort of comprehensive plan for the area’s educational offerings by the spring of 2020. It will include both long-range and immediate goals.

“This is very much a strength-based initiative,” Brown said in response to a question about whether the group formed in response to any particular problems. “We’re looking at: What are we missing in terms of what are the partnerships that we just aren’t seeing that we can act on? That’s really what this is about.”

In the coming months, American Institutes for Research will conduct interviews, observe the school environments and analyze trends that the community can then decide whether or not to act on. Tuesday’s meeting, though, is part of the early research and information gathering stage. Attendees will learn about the overall initiative and have a chance to discuss ideas, experiences and opinions about Waterville schools in small groups.

“It’s important for people to come and share their opinions,” Brown said. “Healthy schools are the heart of healthy communities, and we really think that’s important.”

There will be food and free childcare offered by the Mid Maine Technical Center’s early childhood program. The group is also sponsoring free transportation to and from the event, which can be arranged by calling 873-7048.

Another communitywide event will occur in February, where participants will spend a full day analyzing trends and setting goals.

“This is so exciting because it’s the first time in Waterville that the entire education system has collaborated like this, through the whole cycle of education,” Hannah Bard, director of Mid-Maine Regional Adult Community Education, wrote in a news release.


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