Watershed School Handbook
Watershed School is a supportive community that cultivates intellectual inquiry, the joy of learning, creativity, and compassion, while encouraging students to strive for personal growth and make meaningful contributions to the world around them.
History of School
Watershed opened in 2003 as an independent day school for high school students. Located in Camden, Maine, Watershed is the only non-parochial independent school option in the midcoast area. Watershed students often come from area public schools, seeking a more demanding intellectual environment and enthusiastic school community. Students enrolling at Watershed often rank near the top of their 8th- grade class.
Board of Trustees
Watershed’s Board oversees all fiduciary and legal responsibilities, hiring of director, fundraising, facilities, community relations, policies and procedures review.
Communication & Parental Concerns
Respectful, effective communication and supportive interaction among students, parents and community members form the basis of an effective school. Please don’t assume we’ve got it all figured out! Contact us when you have ANY questions, concerns or great ideas. Open and direct contact with faculty is encouraged.
Please contact the school if you will be absent or late. You should arrive early so that you can be in time for the beginning of school every day. Late entrance disrupts classes and puts the latecomer at risk academically.
If a student misses more than 9 classes per semester, they will not be able to earn credit for that course, unless agreed upon in advance and in consultation with the Head of School.
Early (< 8:30) arrivals are by arrangement only. The Watershed School day ends between 3:00 and 3:30.
Illness & Medications
Please do not come to school if you are ill with a fever or have an illness easily communicable to others. Please inform the school of any prescription drug use impacting health or behavior.
Transport To & From School
Students driving their own cars to school cannot drive during the school day as part of any school-related activities. * On occasion Watershed School parents will be asked to drive students. All students transported by parent volunteers must be in a seat with its own seat belt. Please avoid having students wait for transport after school!
Parent involvement helps create a great school experience for students. We expect parent involvement in support of your child’s education. For example this includes carefully reading all written communication from the school, being aware of course expectations, contacting Watershed if there are concerns or questions, maintaining regular, lighthearted communication about school with your son or daughter, asking your child to phone a teacher if he or she is confused about assignments, and attending school functions. Parents able and willing to contribute to the larger school community are welcomed into our company of volunteers! Please contact Will Galloway or Laura McGrath.
Behavior In Our Various Buildings
The rules are similar and common sense: no damage to furniture or any other property, noise levels that don’t disturb others in the building, respectful behavior at all times. Note that your behavior in town or at the library reflects on us as a whole school community, so always be at your best.
-No discrimination based on gender, race, handicap, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation
-No harassment or abuse of any kind
-No alcohol or illegal drug use
-First 180 day drivers: No passengers unless supervised by 20+ year-old driver.
* Students unable to adhere to school laws may face either suspension or expulsion.
* Students may drive in certain circumstances, i.e., medical appointments, with written permission from a parent or guardian.
At Watershed, conflict is defined as a crisis in our interaction. Our focus in responding to conflict is to support opportunities for greater clarity, mutual understanding and informed decision-making. Specific processes and communication forums have been designed to provide the time and structured support for students, faculty and parents to work through difficult conversations. Such forums include all-school meeting, advising, small group mediations and individual meetings. In addition, all students participate in a four-to-six week program each fall to introduce the basic premises and practices for effective communication, with an emphasis on understanding conflict, listening to understand, communicating effectively and facilitating group decision-making.
Principles of restorative justice, rather than retributive justice, are the foundation upon which our community is built. In this light, emphasis is placed on understanding how one’s behavior impacts others, and not simply the breaking of a rule.
Contacting Students During the School Day
Please call the office and or email your request. We will make every effort to deliver messages to students. Please avoid contacting students during class time.
Formal conferences are held twice a year (November & March). The purpose of conferences is to gain clarity regarding academic progress and curriculum content. Informal conferences are held as needed. Please contact administration and/or faculty directly if you have any concerns.
Please use it! It is your responsibility as a parent to check the website, calendar, and emails from school for updated information. Please check the school events calendar, social media pages, and the homework assignment calendar on the student, parent, and faculty intranets. (see home page).
Watershed students typically are expected to do two or more hours of homework a night. Students are required to keep informed of assignments and are encouraged to contact faculty directly with questions.
Individual classes provide students with detailed homework expectations. All homework assignments can be found on the assignment calendar found on the student intranet and posted on the course web page.
When unclear on assignments, please contact the classroom teacher directly using the faculty contact sheet found on the student intranet.
Course expectations are developed and agreed upon by faculty and students at the start of each semester. They provide a description of course content and detailed requirements for earning credit and/or credit with honors. Students are provided with a copy of the course expectations, and they are posted on the school website.
Please check the Watershed website, our social media pages, and emails from the school for the most up-to-date information.
PSATs are offered every year in October. Sophomores take them as a practice session and juniors take them as practice for the SATs and as the qualifying exam for National Merit Scholarships. That distinction is awarded to the top three percent of students in the country.
The SAT scores are the only scores colleges get to see. PSAT scores are never released to anyone except the student/parents and our school.
Watershed curriculum includes problem solving exercises in math classes with practice SAT problems. English classes practice timed writing responses like those required on the SAT. (There is no writing prompt on the PSAT.) The test also has questions on reading comprehension and common grammar and usage of the English language.
A test-taking workshop is offered each year. Topics covered include test length, type of questions, scoring, and how taking the PSAT can help students prepare for further testing later in high school. Parents are welcome to attend the annual workshop.
Detailed score reports will be mailed to the school and parents in early December. Watershed math instructor Mary Smyth works offers individual counseling and review based on a thorough analysis of the score report a student receives. She offers this same service to Watershed students and parents.
All juniors are encouraged to take the SAT in the spring of their junior year. Seniors may elect to take the test in the fall. Watershed does not currently administer the SAT. Students register with local school districts administering the test.
Detailed information about the SAT and scheduling can be found at Collegeboard.com.
SAT II Test / AP Classes
Watershed does not structure course content around standardized test materials. Watershed faculty will provide additional study materials for students who wish to take a standardized subject matter test such as the SAT II. Currently, Watershed does not offer AP classes as these classes require curriculum content to be directed by the College Board Testing Center.
Yearly Academic Expectations
Most Watershed students take a full schedule (six courses) every semester. Watershed students enrolling as freshmen will have four years each of English, Math, Science, Foreign Languages, History, and Arts.
By sophomore year, students and parents should learn what colleges expect of applicants. With the support of Watershed’s College Advisor, families plan a college preparatory education at Watershed and develop a list of college and universities that best fit a student's interests and abilities. More selective colleges have many more applications than openings, and look for students who have taken a more rigorous course load. Most four-year colleges expect the following high-school course background as a minimum:
four years English
three to four years History/Social Studies
three years Mathematics
three years Science
two to three years Foreign Language
at least one year Visual and Performing Arts
one to two years challenging electives
For admission to technical or health care professional schools, 3-4 years each of math and science are recommended.
We recognize that some students will arrive later in their high school careers and others may choose alternative educational paths. To that end we have developed minimum requirements for graduation. At present our minimum graduation requirements are:
four years English
three years History
two years Mathematics
three years Science (including 1 year of lab science)
two years Arts-related study and practice
At least one full-schedule academic year of Watershed credits.
Successful completion and public presentation of graduation project.
For more on assessment, read our policy.
The purpose of progress reports is to provide feedback to students and parents, describe general trends in student performance, identify areas for academic improvement and growth, and give notice of specific problems.
Parents and students are given a description of topics covered in the course.
Quizzes or tests or graded papers are also listed in assessment results.
Additional information about a student’s progress in the class might include:
Specific comments regarding truly exceptional work
Specific comments regarding exceptional participation
Examples of areas where individual effort, or participation in group effort, might be improved
Current issues that, if continued, might cause a student to be denied credit.
Academic credit is tied directly to the course expectations. Whenever possible students and parents are given ample notification of not receiving credit for a course.
If a student does not earn two or more credits in any given semester, the student will be placed on academic probation for the following semester. While on academic probation, students must earn credit in all courses. If the terms of probation are not met, the student may face expulsion.
University of Rockland Courses and Transfer Credit
The University of Maine System offers local high-school students the opportunity to experience college by registering for University courses (50% reduced tuition) for a three-credit college course. The University College at Rockland is participating in this program with a full complement of University courses.
Maine students are eligible if they are currently attending Maine high schools, whether public or private, with junior or senior standing and maintaining a B average or above. Home-school students and adult-education diploma candidates are also eligible.
Students can take any academic courses taught on-site at University of Maine System campuses or centers for which they have met prerequisite requirements as long as there is space available in the course. Traditional high school students may enroll in a maximum of two courses or six credit hours per semester during their junior and senior years.
Seniors & College Counseling
Juniors, Seniors and their families have the opportunity to meet with our college advisor a minimum of four times during the academic year. College counseling provides support with goal setting, essay writing, essay review, developing appropriate college lists, and financial aid forms.
In the European guild tradition, apprentice or journeymen craftspeople must eventually prepare a project illustrating their mastery of basic skills developed during their years as craftspeople in training. This project marks their passage to membership in the guild community. The graduation project at Watershed is an opportunity for students to illustrate mastery of the skills and understanding gained during their high-school years and as such is a mark of passage to adult life. Students may pose an essential question, such as “What is Community?” or “What is Art?” or “What is Freedom?” Or they may pose a more focused question within a particular discipline. They answer their question through research and creative work, producing a multidisciplinary project that they present to the Watershed community.
A completed Graduation Project at Watershed will have two or three components:
A written thesis (required)
A formal presentation (required)
A product in addition to a written thesis (optional)
Transcripts are available from the office upon request.
Students meet with their advisors twice a month for the purpose of academic support and oversight. Additionally, advisors serve as advocates and mentors for their students as needed when difficult or challenging situations arise.
Student Orientation Trip
Watershed’s annual fall trip takes place at the start of school, and is an opportunity to begin the school year with an outdoor adventure that builds camaraderie and esprit de corps. The trip, which is carefully planned and led by faculty members, provides a transformative context for developing responsibility and life skills.
For students and participating teachers to begin to construct friendly, effective relationships and a school spirit of cooperation, humor, and adventure.
To experience being responsible and attentive to others.
To learn outdoor skills.
To experience living with less–life at a more basic level.
To start off the Watershed school year on the best possible note!
Four days, three nights.
Travel each day “expedition style,”, with anew campsite each night OR travel to Hurricane Island for on-site activities there.
Students are given specific tasks of such as navigation, cooking, tent set-up, latrines, gathering firewood, organizing games, karmic care, etc
Teacher-led activities are conducted two or three times each day.
Group discussions revolve around the meaning and importance of school community.
Each year, students, faculty and parents enjoy a walk in the Maine woods during mid October, followed by a picnic lunch.
Quebec Winter Carnival:
The Watershed School attends the Winter Carnival in Quebec City during the first weekend in February. The purpose of the trip is to introduce students to international and cultural diversity, learn how to travel together in a large group, and to have fun.
Martin Luther King Day Trip to Bates College:
All students attend Martin Luther King Day celebration at Bates. Students attend discussions, debates and presentations while on campus. Students leave the school at approximately 7:30 am and return to Rockland before 5:00 pm.
Beech Hill Walk
On the last day of school, all students and faculty hike Beech Hill for yearbook signing and reflections. Parents are welcome.
-No discrimination based on gender, race, handicap, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.
-No harassment or abuse of any kind.
-No smoking, even off campus, even if 18.
-No alcohol or illegal drug use.
-First 180 day drivers: No passengers other than family members unless supervised by 20+ year-old driver.
Watershed’s location in downtown Camden provides our students with access to many resources in the larger community. Classes make use of the public library, the Camden Opera House, and other institutions. As such, students are allowed to travel around the town freely, provided they adhere to the following guidelines:
Be on time.
Represent yourself well.
Represent your school well.
Choose appropriate places.
Students are encouraged to travel to downtown classes and locations in groups.
Watershed expects that all students will not disturb the peace, use drugs, break the law, go into bars or smoke.
Facebook use is strongly discouraged during the school day.
Cell Phones, Texting
Texting is not allowed in class. Avoid cell phone calls during class unless in an emergency.
The school currently has no refrigerator, but there is a microwave and a hot pot. Students are expected to clean up after themselves after lunch as well as during our all-school cleaning times on Wednesday afternoon and Friday afternoon.