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I hope this message finds you still in the summer mindset, engaged in fun and relaxing summer activities with your friends and family. Please do not let me take you out of that mindset, but do know that “new year’s day” on the academic calendar is just around the bend. As September approaches, I still get that mixed feeling of excitement, nerves, and hope for a great year that I can remember from my own years in elementary school.

The first day of school for Morse grade nine students only is Tuesday, September 3rd. We begin the official school day at 7:40. Grade nine students will all be provided with lunch, free of charge, on the 3rd so no need to pack a lunch! All Morse students will return on Wednesday September 4th. This is a Late Start Wednesday, so we will begin school at 8:40. Students are not expected to have all of their school supplies on these first days, as class supply lists will be given by teachers during these days. Please do bring something to write with and something to write on, the rest will be supplied.

Several teachers have started their return to their classrooms and are sharing stories of their own summer adventures and professional developments. In addition to a rejuvenating break, many of the Morse Faculty have been revamping curriculum, taking graduate school classes, and attending Advanced Placement Institutes. Our fitness rooms are bustling with fall athletes each morning and evening as they prepare for the season ahead. The back-to-school excitement is in the air!

In a few weeks, the class of 2020 will take their earned seats at the front of the Montgomery Theater, while we welcome our newest shipbuilders, the class of 2023, to the balcony. Whether this is your first or your last year with us at Morse, I hope that you feel welcomed, challenged, and supported throughout your time at Morse.

As with any new school year, there will be some change. First, we have some retirements that have precipitated a few faculty and staff changes:

  • Ms. Maria Minor (formerly Newcomb) will be joining Morse as our new health teacher. Ms. Minor has taught health at the Bath Middle School for several years and is looking forward to reconnecting with many of her former students.
  • Ms. Jean Twomey will be Morse’s newest world language teacher. Ms. Twomey will be teaching both French and Spanish classes. Formerly teaching at Woolwich Central School and Bath Middle, Ms. Twomey is looking forward to teaching at the high school level.
  • Ms. Nancy Riggs will be joining the Morse team to start a new program called the Student Support Program. This program will help students with their emotional and behavioral needs in order to find greater academic success in school. Ms. Riggs comes to us from Yarmouth, but has spent most of her career at Woolwich and other RSU1 schools.
  • Ms. Sarah Wilbur will be joining us full time this year as an Education Technician in the Special Education Department. Ms. Wilbur was a long-term substitute for us last year and we are excited to have her join us on a more permanent basis.
  • Mr. John Dever is our new teacher in the social studies department. Mr. Dever is a member of the Bath Community and has been a successful teacher at Mt. Ararat for many years; we are excited to welcome Mr. Dever to Morse.

Please help me in welcoming these wonderful educators to the Morse Community.

We also have a programmatic change that does not involve new staff: Our Academy Program (alternative education) has been changed and expanded for students in grades 9 and 10. The Academy will now be taught by a team of teachers and will include English, History, Science, and Health (for grade 10 students only). These small classes will continue with many of the same methodologies of adapting course curriculum to appeal to students who would find greater success with a less-traditional classroom experience. We are looking forward to this transition in programming as we continue to look for ways to support our students with diverse needs.

Morse is also starting a new Advanced Placement (AP) program called AP Capstone. AP Capstone consists of two interdisciplinary classes, AP Seminar and AP Research. Interested students can choose to take one or both of these classes while at Morse. A student who is successful in the AP Capstone program, as well as their other classes, will find advantages in their college preparedness as well as an additional accomplishment to help in the college application process. We are starting the program this year with the addition of the AP Seminar class.

Speaking of our AP programming at Morse, last year’s scores were released in June and Morse continues our tradition of excellence! Our AP students are performing well-above state and national averages: Morse had 87 students take 1 or more AP tests for a total of 154 AP tests taken last year. Couple that with AP courses that Morse students have taken as underclassmen, and we could currently have the most amount of AP Scholars that we have ever had (these distinctions will be released in the fall). Due to these high AP scores, the senior class were eligible for almost 200 college credits, or 65 college courses. With the cost of the average college credit currently sitting at $594, Morse’s AP programming could save the class of 2019 an estimated $118,206. Not only is this programming good for our students, but I feel that it is a great return on our investment. Morse was chosen as one of three Maine schools to earn the AP Honor Roll last school year, I am hopeful again this year... Please join me in congratulating and thanking the AP students and teachers for their hard work this past school year!

The Morse Fine Arts Department is excited to announce the addition of a Musical to their performances this school year! Of course, we will continue to have MoHiBa as well as the One Act Play festival, and now we will have a musical in the spring of 2020. More information to come on this exciting development.

Morse’s Unified programs, which partners mentor students with students with developmental disabilities has been truly culture-changing. We started this work with a semester-long Unified Physical Education course and have expanded to a year-long physical education course, a semester-long music class, and a competitive Unified Basketball team. I am proud of the staff and students that have been a part of these great programs and look forward to future success.

Speaking of Unified Physical Education, did you hear that the 2019 Sagadahoc County Teacher of the Year was Mr. Bingham? Morse now has four of the six county teachers of the year on staff! Also, Ms. Stanton was named the Maine English Teacher of the Year for 2019. Congratulations to Mr. Bingham and Ms. Stanton!

The summer months allow me to take some time to celebrate our successes from past school years and also identify areas of improvement. The following are a few items that I could use family help with:

Attendance: One area that the faculty and administration would like to improve is our average daily attendance. Our students perform better in school with consistent attendance. I ask that our families do their best to minimize the amount of days your student misses school. RSU 1 and the State of Maine identifies an excused absence as:

  1. Personal illness;
  2. An appointment with a health professional that must be made during the regular school day;
  3. Observance of a recognized religious holiday when the observance is required during the regular school day;
  4. A family emergency;
  5. A planned absence for a personal or educational purpose which has been approved; or
  6. Education disruption resulting from homelessness, unplanned psychiatric hospitalization, unplanned hospitalization for a medical emergency, foster care placement, youth development placement or some other out-of-district placement that is not otherwise authorized by either any individual education plan or a superintendents’ student transfer agreement.

To be honest, we have an increasing amount of students missing school for reasons outside of those outlined above, particularly for extended family vacations. This is challenging for students and faculty and I respectfully ask for your collective help with this issue.

If your student is going to be out of school for an extended period of time, please have them complete the Planned Absence Form, that is available in the Attendance Office or Website.

If your student is absent from class due to illness, please be sure to call Mrs. Westlake, 207-443-8250 ext 1234, so your student’s attendance data will be accurate.

Updated Information: Morse will continue to distribute information through Infinite Campus and School Messenger. It is very important that we have the most updated contact information for your family in our system. Please contact Mrs. Westlake at 443-8250 ext 1234 or rwestlake@rsu1.org if your contact information needs to be updated. Also, please make sure that you have an Infinite Campus Account bookmarked on your computer and/or App on your phone. This will give you more information about your student’s attendance and grades than you ever thought you should know! If you do not have an active Infinite Campus Account, please use the information provided later in this Navigator or contact Lynn Rouillard-Hill at 207-443-8250 ext 1109 or lrouillard-hill@rsu1.org. Ms. Rouillard is also available to help families complete the Free/Reduced Lunch paperwork, which does not only help family finances, but that of our school as well.

Use of School Nurse: If your child calls or texts you during the school day informing you that they have become ill and are unable to complete the day at school, please direct them to the Nurse's Office. The Nurse will evaluate the student's health and, if necessary, will call parents to arrange dismissal from school. Not only is the School Nurse responsible for evaluating student health and communicating with families, but she also is responsible for tracking elevated absentee rates due to illness in an attempt to improve the health of our schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Ms. Katrina Barter: 207-443-8250 ext 1102 or kbarter@rsu1.org.

Drop off: Please be mindful of our neighbors at Morse. Morse’s location in a residential setting is sometimes challenging. Our neighbors love Morse, and I rarely receive complaints; however, the most common complaint is due to parents idling in front of driveways at drop off time. Please be mindful of this, thank you!

Progress on the new Morse High School / BRCTC is on schedule. If you have not driven up on the Wing Farm Parkway recently, I recommend you take a look. Our new school is sure to be a wonderful place to call our new home and we are looking forward to moving in about sixteen months!

Morse continues to receive support from our alumni, which really is second to none. We often hear that The Bath High School Alumni Association is the largest and most active alumni association of public schools in the country; but what does that mean for our current students? Well, for the class of 2019 it meant that the Morse Faculty were able to choose recipients of 79 scholarships that are managed by our Alumni Scholarship Fund, totaling $248,000. This does not include the additional $320,000 that local school groups, businesses, and national scholarship programs awarded to the Morse class of 2019. So when parents and teachers say that it pays to work to your highest potential in school, they really do mean it… to start, it paid almost $600,000 to students in the Morse class of 2019!

The Morse administration, faculty, and students will continue to practice and improve our school safety plans, which include protocols to respond to school emergencies that are based on the ALICE response system. ALICE stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate and was put into practice last school year at Morse. In the place of our usual lockdown drills, students will be trained in this response system and practice drill responses over four sessions during this school year. Students will also be informed of the need to keep the many exit doors to Morse closed and locked during the school day. If you have any specific questions about our safety plans, feel free to reach out to School Resource Officer Chuck Reece, creece@rsu1.org, or Principal Eric Varney, evarney@rsu1.org.

Morse’s open house is Monday, September 9th, from 5:30 to 6:30. Please drop in and meet the faculty and staff.

I continue to be reflective and humbled to be the principal of Morse High School. Although I do feel that this school and community does very well by our students and provides an excellent place to live and learn, I continue to look for areas of improvement and I appreciate the opportunity to serve my community in work that is so meaningful.

Welcome to a new school year!

Respectfully,

Eric J. Varney
Principal
Morse High School