Maine Department of Education

The Maine Department of Education provides leadership and support to educators and families in preparing all Maine students for success in college, careers and civic life.

The Maine DOE Newsroom highlights the work of Maine schools and the Department of Education.

MEDIA RELEASE: Commissioner Makin Sends Special Message of Gratitude to Maine Schools

As Maine people and schools prepare for the season and time with loved ones, and as the Maine Department of Education (DOE) reflects on what we are thankful for through the ongoing challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine DOE Commissioner Pender Makin sends a special message of gratitude to Maine schools, including staff, teachers, specialists, school and district administrators, nurses, custodians, support staff, substitute educators, child nutrition workers, transportation drivers, volunteers, caregivers and all of those who support our schools- for their tireless work to ensure children around the state have access to education and essential support services through one of the most challenging years we have ever experienced.

“Hi friends my name is Pender Makin and I’m Commissioner of Education for the State of Maine. Like all of you, I’ve had to reinvent my role, scrap my carefully developed plans, and adjust my approach to pretty much everything throughout these past eight months. Together Maine’s educators school staff building and district leadership and your support team here at the Department of Education have shouldered the heavy responsibilities of safely reopening schools for in-person classes recognizing that so much of our society’s eventual recovery from this pandemic depends upon a strong healthy school system.

I wanted to take a minute today to thank you for your extraordinary efforts and deep commitment to the education of Maine’s children. Because of your courage and hard work, 100 % of Maine public school administrative units were able to safely open up this fall and because of your diligent attention to the six requirements for health and safety at school, Maine schools are significantly safer than other settings in the greater community. Data provided to me this morning indicates that our public school students and staff members are less than half as likely to be positive with COVID-19. As the general population, specifically those who attend or work in Maine public schools currently have only 40 percent the positivity rate that we’re seeing across other sectors of our state. Please know that your efforts and contributions are making all the difference for the students and communities you serve and for our state as a whole as we remain in a state of civil emergency and everyone has had to be hyper vigilant for such a long time now.

We’ve been asking more of our schools than we’ve ever had to ask before and yet as we enter what seems like it might be the epicenter of the pandemic and with our daylight diminishing into the solstice ahead I’m asking something more of you – please take care of yourselves. Be gentle with your expectations, and give yourselves the grace that educators and others who keep schools running tend to offer so generously to others. Acknowledge that this has all been extremely difficult and own the fact that collectively you’ve been knocking it out of the park in terms of supporting students and in terms of providing your entire communities with steadfast assurance in a time of uncertainty.

You see, local public schools have always been far more than buildings where academic learning occurs. The schools give shape and identity to our communities the schools hold us together in shared purpose and in a shared promise that we all make to the better future that awaits us.

Thank you for your heroic work throughout this extraordinary time.”

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Department of Education Announces New Team to Support Contact Tracing in Schools

21 retired nurses join ranks with Maine Department of Education to support schools in their contract tracing efforts and notification

Augusta, MAINE – Commissioner of Education Pender Makin today announced the deployment of a team of Department of Education Contact Tracers. A cadre of nurses, many retired from years of employment in Maine schools, have received training through the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) and will be immediately called into service for school-specific contact tracing.

“This program will provide Maine schools with specialized supports throughout the contact tracing process,” said Maine Commissioner of Education, Pender Makin, “It will support the work of school nurses and other school staff as they communicate with and monitor close contacts of positive cases. The overarching goal is to support our schools and keep our children actively engaged in learning while mitigating the spread and effects of this pandemic.”

The new program will complement the ongoing work of Maine CDC’s case investigation and contact tracing team, which now includes approximately 150 staff and volunteers.

With support and training from Maine CDC, and funded through federal emergency relief funds, the first team members have begun to assist in the notification to those who have been deemed a close contact to a staff member or student who has tested positive for COVID-19. This team will enroll “close contacts” into Sara Alert, an online platform that Maine CDC uses to notify and   monitor people exposed to the coronavirus. The Maine CDC will continue to investigate confirmed cases and outbreaks associated with schools.

“The partnership between health and education teams will help protect students, teachers, school staff, and school communities,” said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew.

This first of its kind effort comes as Maine sees a significant increase in the prevalence of COVID-19 in Maine communities recently, increasingly impacting local schools and creating additional demands on those already conducting contact tracing for Maine CDC.

Last week, roughly half of the close contacts identified as connected with new cases of COVID-19 in Maine were associated with schools. Even though there is a lower rate of transmission in school settings than in the general community (13.5 compared to 33.1 new cases per capita in the last 30 days), Maine has taken a comprehensive approach in defining “close contacts” in schools.  Out of an abundance of caution and in recognition of the difficulties in tracking the movements of children throughout a day, an expanded definition of close contact at schools includes all students within a classroom or other common setting. Therefore, a positive case within a school can have considerably more close contacts than that of a general community member.

To ease the impacts that schools are having on the system and to continue to provide responsive and timely support to school staff, students and families, Emily Poland, Maine DOE’s School Nurse Consultant, sent an open call for retired nurses to consider being trained to support contact tracing.

In a matter of two days, twenty-one nurses stepped forward, including twenty RNs and one LPN. They bring with them a collective 758 years of nursing experience, with 352 years of service as school nurses. With medical and school-based experience, this team of nurses will be an invaluable resource to families, teachers, and staff alike as they conduct the contact tracing in Maine schools.

“Nurses are heroes, they step up every day to the ever-changing challenges no matter the situation, even if it means stepping out of retirement,” said Emily Poland, DOE School Nurse Consultant. “School nurses are no different; they are dedicated to keeping their students in school and ready to learn, but this requires a lot of effort in monitoring symptoms that students have, referring to primary care providers, and communicating with families, all while attending to the various health needs of all students in the school on any given day. I am proud to be among the ranks of Maine nurses.”

“As a retired Public Health & School Nurse, with knowledge and skills of communicable disease management, my desire to ‘do something’ has continued,” said Brenda White of Freeport. “I feel selfishly blessed to be retired as I try to imagine the historic challenge for practicing school nurses during this pandemic. When I received a phone call to work with a team to focus specifically on school contact tracing, of course it was an easy ‘YES’ for me. This is something I can do from home and still stay safe, and do my small part to assist School Nurses and to control the spread of COVID-19 disease in the State of Maine.”

Additional resources are being put into place by the Department of Education in response to the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Maine, and to assist both schools and Maine CDC. This includes the launch of a single, dedicated phone number for schools to report positive cases, and a dedicated portal through which close contact information for schools can be submitted for follow-up. The Department of Health and Human Services will supplement the team at the Department of Education as needed.

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Honoring RISE Award Finalist Andrew Hutchins From Mt. Blue

Andrew (Andy) Hutchins is a dedicated Food Services Director for Regional School Unit 9 in Mt. Blue. He was nominated for the RISE Award and honored by the Maine Department of Education (DOE) as a finalist. The RISE Award (Recognizing Inspirational School Employees ) honors classified school employees who provide exemplary service.

Amanda Barry, Theresa True and Cindy Fortier, colleagues and community members nominated Andy for the award. Here are a few of their thoughts about him:

“No matter how busy he is he is always going to every school in our district to make sure everything is all set and making sure things are running as smooth as possible. When faced with a problem he is quick to resolve. He is committed is roll as Food Director of RSU 9.”

“He excels in everything. He is generous and patient. He has a calming demeanor. Has an excellent can do attitude that spreads to his employees.”

“When COVID reared its ugly head in March Andy was there pushing, working all hours to make sure that we all had a plan to be able to make sure we would be able to get meals to our community children. We had handfuls of volunteers within a day.”

“He is a pleasure to work for/with, the way he treats and acts around people make it easy for people to want to lend a helping hand when there is more work to be done.”

“He is an amazing human who is always pushing forward for the best for the students and his employees.”

When asked what he loves most about his job, this is what Andy had to say:

“School nutrition programs provide such an essential service in our communities. I am blessed to lead a team of foodservice heroes who deliver that service every day with a smile.”

RISE Award nominations were submitted from across the state by local educational agencies, school administrators, educators, professional associations, nonprofits, parents and community members this fall. More information on the Maine RISE Award can be found here the national RISE Award can be found here.

Honoring RISE Award Finalist Susan Lombardo From Westbrook

Susan Lombardo is a hard-working Ed Tech at Congin School in the Westbrook School Department. She was recently nominated for the RISE Award and honored by the Maine Department of Education (DOE) as a finalist. The RISE Award (Recognizing Inspirational School Employees ) honors classified school employees who provide exemplary service.

Katlyn Preston and Angela Pecoraro, colleagues from school, nominated Susan and Principal Jennifer Mull-Brooks endorsed the nomination. Here are a few thoughts they shared about Susan.

“Susan Lombardo is a compassionate, caring, and dedicated educator who goes above and beyond each and every day for her students in the K-4 functional life skills classroom. She demonstrates a warmth and loving presence towards her children (with various developmental delays) as she helps them navigate their daily routine so they can grow to become independent and productive citizens.”

“Sue teaches her children the importance of grit and perseverance and she is determined to help them succeed no matter what their disability is. Sue always treats them with respect and kindness, no matter what challenges are being presented on any given day. She does all this with a contagious smile and great sense of humor.”

“A common phrase is “I want to be Sue Lombardo when I grow up” amongst the younger teachers. Everyone you talk to will tell you “she’s amazing! She’s so patient and so kind but firm. I don’t know how she hits the balance just right.”

When asked what she loves most about her job, this is what Susan had to say:

“This job started as a long-term substitute position when my youngest child started school and turned into a job that brings me more rewards than I could ever have imagined.  I am considered a teacher to these special children who live with autism; however I find that I learn so much from them.  Each child is unique, presenting strengths and challenges in their learning.   My job is to not only help them learn and socialize to the best of their abilities, but to advocate for them and teach others about what they need to succeed.”

RISE Award nominations were submitted from across the state by local educational agencies, school administrators, educators, professional associations, nonprofits, parents and community members this fall. More information on the Maine RISE Award can be found here the national RISE Award can be found here.

Honoring RISE Award Finalist Rebekah Stephens From Lewiston

Rebekah (Becca) Stephens is a hard-working Ed Tech at McMahon Elementary School in Lewiston Public Schools. She was recently nominated for the RISE Award and honored by the Maine Department of Education (DOE) as a finalist. The RISE Award (Recognizing Inspirational School Employees ) honors classified school employees who provide exemplary service.

Rebecca Fournier, a colleague nominated Becca. Here are a few thoughts from Rebecca about why she nominated Becca.

“Becca demonstrates that Ed Techs are skilled professionals, by lesson planning, implementing curriculum, and being a liaison between the community and school for parents and families.”

“Becca is a part of the after-school programming at McMahon- through 21st century and routinely engages in community and school activities. She is actively involved in many committees including the Union and helped create a clothing closet for students in need in our school.”

“Becca garners support from our school administrators due to her exemplary work. Many coworkers seek Becca out for her advice on Union and family/community matters.”

When asked what she loves most about her job, this is what Becca had to say:

“What I love most about my job is the growth I get to see in my students. Not only academically but socially and emotionally. I also enjoy making connections with students and working with the students one on one.”

RISE Award nominations were submitted from across the state by local educational agencies, school administrators, educators, professional associations, nonprofits, parents and community members this fall. More information on the Maine RISE Award can be found here the national RISE Award can be found here.