The RSU 9 board of directors shuffle around the room to find the side representing their preference of being a morning person or an evening person on Tuesday, July 11. The intent of the activity was to find ways to bond with each other. Submitted Photo

FARMINGTON — The Regional School Unit 9 board of directors were given a presentation on SEL [social and emotional learning] at their board meeting on Tuesday, July 11. Liz LeClair, a commercial arts teacher at the Mt. Blue Campus, gave the presentation along with Assistant Superintendent Monique Poulin and Interim Mt. Blue High School Principal Joel Smith.

The board was previously introduced to SEL in late June of last year. LeClair, along with former Director of Curriculum Laura Columbia, and Angela Ostiguy, a social worker at Mt. Blue Middle School, gave a presentation for SEL as part of a strategic plan for the 2022-2023 school year.

Participants in SEL included LeClair, Smith, Columbia, Interim Assistant Principal Greg Henderson, W.G. Mallett School Principal Tracy Williams, teachers Tess Cote and Reilly Romanoski of Mt. Blue Middle School, Devon Hall of Academy Hill School, School Counselor Merrily Welch of Mt. Blue Middle School, Katie Fournier of Cascade Brook School, RSU 9 Director Libby Kaut and Senior Associate Emily Gilmore.

“What is SEL,” Smith said to the board. “I think there’s a lot of information and stuff out there, but SEL is basically how people, students, parents, community members, acquire knowledge, skills and attitudes in ways that they can manage emotions, learn empathy, and then make responsible decisions moving forward.”

SEL is a product of CASEL [Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning], a non-profit that formed in 1994 that has been the leaders of the SEL movement for over two decades, according to its website. The mission statement is to integrate social and emotional learning into academic curriculum.

To demonstrate, the board held two exercises. Their first exercise involved members of the board and the audience turning to one another and sharing a piece of good news with each. Directors Kyle Fletcher and Rich Ruhlin shared their good news with the whole room once the exercise was done.


“Me and my wife has got some good news today,” Fletcher stated. “For anybody that doesn’t know, we have a five year old who was in pre-Kindergarten class over at [G. D. Cushing School], and we got his report card today. Social and emotional just went from ones and twos all the way to straight threes.”

Ruhlin added, “So for years, for 25 years I coached multiple sports but baseball was one of them at SAD 55. My youngest daughter played baseball with me; she hated it, but she only did it because it was father/daughter time.”

Ruhlin followed by saying that he and his daughter went to a Portland Sea Dogs game and had a father/daughter bonding. “It was fantastic,” he said.

The second activity involved members of the board standing in the center of the room and moving from one side to the other depending on their preference to the question asked. For example, it was asked if they preferred sweet or salty foods. Board members shuffled amongst each other and to get to the respective side for their preference.

“I can tell you from a corporate leadership perspective, these are exactly the types of exercises that are engaged, for those that are watching, throughout your professional career,” Ruhlin stated.

The results of the year long SEL program saw a marked improvement in multiple areas. A survey was collected from participating teachers with 154 responses gathered to formulate the data. Understanding of the CASEL competencies went from 44.2% to 85.7%, observing connections between school and classroom policies and practices went up from 59.7% to 89.6% and confidence in implementing the competencies went up 48.7% to 82.5%.

“Everybody gave excellent feedback and some of it was more positive about the experience and some just gave us some great feedback to improve our offerings for next year,” Poulin stated.

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