Sumner Program in Step with Education Commissioner’s Focus



Jacqueline Weaver

Denny O’Brien, a systems consultant helping to track the Sumner Pathways program at Sumner Memorial High School, chats with John San Diego, 18, of Sullivan.

SULLIVAN — Schmoozing is not high on the list of preferred activities for Sumner Memorial High School freshman Robin Hoglund.

Hoglund is a fan of crime shows and thought the world of pathology might suit her.

After spending some time job shadowing at a laboratory in Bangor, she explored the inner workings of a funeral home and decided embalming has more appeal.

“I’m not a people person,” said the shy Franklin resident.

The opportunity to explore her interests while engaging in a traditional curriculum was made possible by Sumner Pathways, an alternative education initiative at the high school.

Hoglund’s experience also dovetails with a plan recently unveiled by Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen to overhaul education in Maine and to make the changes in an era of diminishing resources.

“Education Evolving: Maine’s Plan for Putting Learners First” places the students — not the constraints of curriculum or class time — in the driver’s seat, he said.

Bowen said schools should be encouraging students to chart their own course, think independently, problem solve and collaborate in order to succeed in today’s world.

Quoting Tony Wagner, author of “The Global Achievement Gap,” Bowen said: “Our schools are not failing. They are simply obsolete.”

Bowen advocates, among other changes, having learning take place “anytime, anywhere.”

That is already happening in Sumner Pathways, which was recognized by the state last year.

Pathways adviser and teacher Val Peacock and the former coordinator, Ander Thebaud, received the Education Commissioner’s Recognition Award for shaping the two-year-old program, which currently has 16 students.

Sumner’s enrollment is about 230 students.

For more education news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

Jacqueline Weaver

Jacqueline Weaver

Reporter at The Ellsworth American