ESM Mission Statement
The Episcopal Schools of Maine (ESM) build and nurture intellect and character in a religious environment that affirms all faiths. They expose students and their parents to rigorous intellectual challenge, a call to social and environmental service and broad, cultural responsibility. They encourage students to seek and attain the highest standards of academic, artistic and physical achievement through integrated curriculum. Each school is a community of students, parents, teachers and staff working and living together to bring out the best in each other.
Episcopal Schools of Maine will be a statewide network of schools under the auspices of the Diocese of Maine. 1. Local K-8 schools. 2. A secondary school, country day and boarding on Mount Desert Island, providing outstanding graduates of the elementary schools and a wide diversity of other students with a rich educational experience.
ESM affirms all faiths and includes students with no religious background. Without any requirement that students accept its teaching, ESM exposes student to the Christian faith as interpreted through Episcopal Church traditions. ESM provides students with a theological framework of reference for understanding their lives’ challenges.
ESM, particularly at the elementary level, involves parents in their children’s education and encourages parental support and participation at every level.
An integrated curriculum: ESM weaves academics, athletics, artistic creativity, extra-curricular activities and social and environmental responsibility into its students’ education and lives.
Each school is a community. Each member of the community receives strength from the support of others and ESM in general.
Episcopal education gains momentum in Maine
Mike Kennedy found himself on the spot. As Diocesan Council wrapped up its business at Grace Church in Bath one Saturday last May, Bishop Chilton Knudsen asked Kennedy, a member of Council from Sts. Mary and Jude, Northeast Harbor, to talk about the work of a small group of people engaged in an exploratory process around starting an Episcopal boarding school on Mt. Desert Island.
“As I sat there thinking about what I was going to say, the vision of a state-wide system of lower schools feeding a boarding school on MDI came together,” he explained. “A small group of us had been talking about the possibility of a secondary boarding school, but it occurred to me that a system-wide approach would be a strength. Council expressed its enthusiasm for the effort and encouraged us to display an exhibit at Diocesan Convention in November. We were very encouraged by Council’s response.”
However, months before Diocesan Council gave an enthusiastic nod, the germ of an Episcopal school had begun to form in the mind of one man: Cuthbert “Cuff” Train, a real estate broker and developer from St. Andrew and St. John, Southwest Harbor, who remains at the heart of the effort. In February 2001, as St. Andrew and St. John engaged in some long-term planning, the facilitator asked Train, the outgoing senior warden, “Where do you see this parish in ten years?”
Train burst out, “A pre-K-12 coed, country day/boarding school on Mount Desert with an Episcopal Retreat Center at its heart.” The faciliator encouraged him to contact Bishop Knudsen and with her blessing he began to gather a small group to investigate: Moorhead “Mike” Kennedy, Ted Fletcher, an attorney in Bangor and the husband of Ann Kidder, rector of St. Andrew and St. John; Liz Erickson, the development director at Jackson Laboratory; and the Rev. Vesta Kowalski, an area priest.
As members of the group began their research, they discovered some surprising facts: Maine is only one of five dioceses out of 100 in the Episcopal Church that has no Episcopal School. New Episcopal school startups have been on the rise over the past five years. The group, which named their project Episcopal Schools of Maine (ESM), began to see that their hopes might be confirmed by other people in Maine: Parents want the opportunity to send their children to schools that offer high academic standards and moral values.
In the U.S., 165,000 students are enrolled in Episcopal schools. According to the Rev. Jonathan Glass, associate director of the National Association of Episcopal Schools, “Eight schools were opened in 1997-98; six began in 1998-99; and five opened their doors in 1999-2000. While the results are impressive, the demands on exploratory committees, founding boards, and founding heads are great.” The weight of those demands has become ever more apparent to the group as the work has progressed. In the year since ESM was first conceived, the group has worked hard to develop a mission statement, determine a strategy for starting a first school, and identified three goals for ESM.
“Throughout our discussions, we have been guided by three core principles: first, that any school must be true to our vision of Christian mission; second that any school must offer excellence in every respect; and third, that while we will expect financial sacrifice from parents, no child will be denied admission for lack of financial resources,” explained Train.
ENTER AN EPIPHANY…
As the group continued its work, strategizing about how to approach communities that might be interested in the start-up of an elementary school and how to begin funding the endeavor, Pam Hansen, Director of Development at Epiphany School in Boston, began the process of moving to Waldoboro. Epiphany, an Episcopal middle-level school started in the Dorchester section of Boston four years ago, has adopted a plan to be the one-stop educational and social service venue for children in that section of the city.
Hansen joined the ESM group and brought her considerable skills and school start-up experience at a critical time in the process. Before long, ESM had determined that the middle level grades were a place to start. Often children in grades six through eight are the most vulnerable and under-served in their community by falling outside well-developed early education programs and the extensive offerings high school programs. Promoting local middle schools seemed to be the most promising way to start the communication process.
One way to begin to get the word out is to engage the broader participation of parents, teachers, potential students, and interested Episcopalians from the whole Diocese. As a result, ESM is planning a series of regional meetings in the Spring and Summer. The first meeting will be held at St. Thomas’, Camden, on Sunday, April 28 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. A second meeting will be held at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro on Sunday, May 19, from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. “Our goal is to work our way around the state clockwise unless a community is excited about a new school and wants to meet with us sooner,” said Train.
The group hopes to encourage a wide range of people who are interested in an Episcopal middle school to attend. Ted Fletcher, a member of the ESM group, explained how they envision the local community to begin to develop a school, “We view the function of a diocesan group as promoting Episcopal education by: providing supportive start-up assistance for local schools, providing initial financial support, identifying other potential sources of funding, encouraging the development of curricular materials, and assisting in the recruitment and development of faculty.”
As interest in a local, Episcopal middle school wells up in other parts of the state, the ESM group will “take their show on the road” to meet with congregations and interested Episcopalians. In time they group hopes to look forward to one or more boarding secondary schools for students who seek to continue their Episcopal education beyond middle school. The possibility of extending the classes to lower grades exists as well, depending on the needs of a local community.
“These are schools where we are going to help children ask the right questions,” said Kennedy. “Since September 11, we have come to see that our children are what we value most. What we are doing by seeking to provide an unapologetically Christian approach to education and the highest academic standards is distinctive.” Train added, “We have deep faith and good reason to believe Episcopal Schools of Maine will bring wonderful opportunities to Maine children and their families.”