School Choices in Maine: Independent Schools 

We continue our week long look at school choices in Maine.

Wednesday we talked about independent schools

Douglas Cummings, is the Executive Director of Independent Schools Association of Northern New England.

We began by asking him-Do you think education in Maine has changed for the better or worse in the last few years?

I think it’s really changed for the better, but I also think it’s important to try to determine how you are going to asses what better is and I think that’s a big question we’ve all had for years and years and years. But when you look at the Independent schools of Maine, I’m in them regularly, there’s just a lot of neat and innovative things going on for kids there. I think their very student centered institutions and I think education in general is a lot better than it was several years ago. I think it’s always easy to remember the good ol’ days , some times the good ol’ days aren’t as good as people might of thought they were. I would advocate that I think schools are getting a lot better as time goes on.

Question: Are kids being prepared adequately enough for life after high school?

I think that they are, but there’s a different questions there, what are we preparing them for. If we’re talking about 2020 or 30 or 40, we don’t even know what the jobs are going to be then, much less what the skills are going to be. So this is a little bit of a shot in the dark and I think we are preparing kids. I think we are constantly looking what’s best for kids and trying to asses the technologies and disciplines that they are going to need. I do think mathematics is going to be a key. I think when you look at our kids on the worldwide state, we’ve gotta step it up and we’ve gotta be in control of our agenda and make our own assessment and make our own adjustments as we go forward.

Question: If you were the head of the Maine Department of Education, what would be your number one priority?

That’s an easy question, the Commissioner of Education sole responsibility, from my viewpoint, is they’ve gotta be the primary chief advocate for kids in Maine. And that bully pulpit that they are at needs to be used in that manor, to advocate for kids. It’s important that the advocacy is about kids, not funding, not anything political. It’s what’s best for our kids and that person has the sole responsibility to drive that.

Question: Should taxpayer dollars support independent/charter/home schools?

Absolutely, but your question I think is really school choice. I represent the Independent Schools of Maine, of course we support school choice. Parents need to have control, more control, of where their kids go to school, and all kids do not fit into a square hole or a round hole., and I think the more opportunities we can give to young people in our state the better we’ll prepare them and the better we will all fell about the success they have following that. People need more control of their education.

Question: What is the future of education in Maine for kids born in 2014?

I think it’s good. I spend a lot of time in schools, as I’ve said, I see a lot of educators today in our Independent schools, who are innovative, they are creative, they’re movers, they’re shakers. I’m excited for our schools, I’ve been in this business for 40 years, and I am ecstatic about the kinds of professionals we’re seeing in our schools, right from the teachers on through to the school headmasters. I think they are really strong people, driving change forward. So, I’m really optimistic.