Donation from former students put Bucksport schools at top of the class

BUCKSPORT, Maine (WABI) - A few months ago we told you about a pair of former Bucksport High School students that wanted to give back to their school and hometown in a big way.

The quarter million dollar gift was to be put toward the school systems growing STEM offerings.

TV5 was there Tuesday to see how things are being implemented and why this is something all involved wanted to get behind.

"What Maine needs to do is recognize that you've only got a few competitive advantages compared to other states in the country, and one of those big ones is education," said 1989 BHS graduate Andy Silvernail.

That's exactly why he and wife Shelby gave back to their old school.

"Need to continue to invest aggressively up and down the grade levels in education, and we've got to put the resources into really hands-on learning," said Silvernail.

"Purchased three machines that can be used in all aspects in our programming," said RSU 25 Superintendent Jim Boothby.

"We have the opportunity to provide to our students what other high schools across the state can't," added Josh Tripp, Bucksport HIgh School Principal.

Senior Matt Sargent is among those working in the labs, "I definitely feel like this is the future. A lot of engineering fields are driving more and more of the aspects of using this technology to build things."

Those we talked with pointed to a shift in the way education is being viewed in 2020 and a belief that a traditional 4-year college, while the correct path for some, is not for every student.

"It's all about finding real world application for our learning," said Tripp.

Need evidence of the way the program is working for the Bucksport school system? They needed a cover plate for the gym floor at the middle school. Instead of spending a couple hundred bucks, they had a student design it and build it with the new machines.

"Schools need to be working with employers for internships or workshops to get trained and be productive and educational, and I think that integration between education and industry is going to be critically important," said Silvernail.

"Industry is already approaching us and saying we want their students when they come out of high school," said technology teacher Mike Gross. "There are some industries that may even be offering to pay for their college and maybe have a job opportunity lined up for them."

He added, "This is the future."

In addition, the school has used the money to hire what is essentially a math coach - for their teachers.

Over the course of the next three years, the coach will work with kindergarten through 8th grade teachers on the best and most recent ways to get through to kids.

And, two in-house teachers are being trained to take over once the three year contract is up.