Shead High School Waiting to Hear About

$10 Million Prize

By Johanna S. Billings

Shead High School students and officials are eagerly waiting to find out if they won a $10 million XQ Super School prize.

Shead history teacher Damon Weston said Thursday the school expects to hear this week whether the Eastport high school will receive one of five prizes of $2 million per year for five years. The official rules on the XQ Super School website say the winner will be notified by Aug. 4.

In mid July, the school learned it was one of 50 finalists in the contest, which is funded by Lauren Powell Jobs, wife of the late Steve Jobs, who co-founded Apple Inc. Five prizes will be awarded.

“We kind of have a one in 10 chance,” said Weston. “Everyone on the team’s really proud.”

The more than 700 entrants were asked to make a detailed proposal explaining how to turn their school into  a “super school.”

“We had to put together a pretty elaborate proposal,” he said.

A committee of 10 people, including teachers, school committee members and community members, gathered input from students and proposed the Pacific Atlantic Community Technology School, or PACT. It would be a part of Shead High School, which currently has about 100 students, he said.

Shead students could opt into the PACT School, through which they would engage in research “campaigns” in an effort to solve a complex problem, such as how to prevent overfishing. Students would then present their findings to the community, he said.

The Pacific portion of the name comes from partnerships Shead is in the process of forming with two schools in California.

All the details have not yet been worked out, but it’s likely that participating students would be able to visit partner schools on the opposite coast. Others will collaborate with students at the partner school through technology, he said.

“I’m excited about the possibility of making those connections … so students learn about the rest of the world,” Weston said.

The connection to California originated last summer when California resident Caitlyn Hoffman came to Eastport with a group of students for an unplugged vacation and fell in love with the area.

“She came up with this idea of making this connection more permanent,” Weston said.

Hoffman was the driving force behind the initial proposal, which had been due Feb. 1, and she is still involved with the committee.

After she returned to California last winter, the school learned it was one of 348 semifinalists. The committee had to fine tune and update the proposal in time for a May 23 deadline.

Now, it’s just a matter of playing the waiting game.

Weston said it would be “amazing” to win one of the prizes and that both students and committee members are excited about the prospect. 

Hoffman concurred.

“If we are winners, it’s going to be an extraordinary partnership with the West Coast and the East Coast,” she said Friday. “This is an amazing collaboration.”

If they don’t win, however, all is not lost. The committee plans to apply for grants in order use at least some of the concept they’ve developed, Weston said.


“Even if we don’t receive one of the prizes,” he said, “we plan to use the proposal on a smaller scale.”