Derek Pierce is a visionary local leader in education. After earning a master’s in education from Harvard, he taught for several years in Los Angeles and Maine, became the principal of a school in Poland, Maine, and is now the principal of Casco Bay High School in Portland. Writer Sarah Braunstein profiled Derek in Maine Magazine in 2012, and highlighted his vision to do right by Maine kids by creating a “caring school culture that held every student to high expectations.” Since he became the principal of Casco Bay High School, Derek has been named Maine’s Principal of the Year, won a $100,000 leadership award from the Nellie Mae Foundation, and helped launch scores of local students on to postsecondary education pursuits using a highly successful expeditionary learning model.
Derek’s commitment to innovative, inclusive, and student centered learning have been a perfect match for our Service Works program at LearningWorks. Service Works offers a program called Alternatives to Suspension that gives kids in trouble at school a chance to reflect on their mistakes and make amends by performing community service projects within a restorative justice framework. The program keeps kids in school and connected rather than removing them from their community when they are struggling the most. In the Greater Portland area, Casco Bay High School has been a key partner in this project.
When we asked Derek how he first started working with us, he quipped, “I remember learning about LearningWorks because it kept winning grants that Portland Public Schools failed to get.” He went on to say, “We have used the Alternatives to Suspension program as a part of our school’s move to a discipline system based on restorative justice. When our students complete service with LearningWorks in lieu of a traditional suspension, I know their education is not stopping. It is expanding. The students have an opportunity to see the value in both serving and making amends. Participating students typically return to us more ready to contribute to our school community as well. The program has helped many participating students forge something positive when they need it most.”
Courtesy - Molly Haley Photography