Awardees recognized for helping students at risk

Commissioner Bowen honors 10 who make a difference in Blaine House ceremony

AUGUSTA – Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen honored 10 people in a Blaine House ceremony Friday for their contributions to meeting the needs of children and youth at risk in their schools and/or communities.

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Recognized were: William Braun, superintendent of RSU 19/MSAD 48 (Newport); Travis Collins,  alternative education teacher at Mount View High School in Thorndike (RSU 3/MSAD 3); Martha Kempe, Director of Passages Program in Camden, a program of the Community School; Tom Morrill, superintendent of Auburn Schools; Page Nichols, a teacher and volunteer at the REAL School in RSU 14 (Windham); Valerie Peacock and Ander Thebaud, who direct the Sumner Pathways Program at Sumner High School in RSU 24; Anna Perkins, director of the Glenn Stratton day treatment program at Good Will-Hinckley School; and Willo and Tom Wright of the Seeds of Independence Program in Freeport.

Nominations for the annual awards are received from local dropout prevention committees and are received by the State Advisory Committee on Truancy, Dropout and Alternative Education.  The Committee advises the Commissioner on causes of the truancy and dropouts and methods to address the problem. Recipients are chosen for their impact on many young people whose lives might have turned out quite differently if not for the caring and intervention of these individuals.  The awardees have worked to create caring, respectful and safe learning environments for students while supporting them academically to achieve the Maine Learning Results standards.

Leslie Morrill and Emanuel Pariser, co-chairs of the Truancy, Dropout, and Alternative Education Advisory Committee, opened the ceremony and introduced Stephen Bowen, commissioner of education who gave opening remarks. Commissioner Bowen read biographies and presented awards.

In addition to the scheduled awardees, the State Advisory Committee made a surprise award to Shelley Reed, Truancy, Dropout, Alternative Education, and Homeless Education Coordinator for the Maine Department of Education, who will be retiring this summer. They thanked her for her tireless work on behalf of Maine youth.

The awardees are:

William Braun, superintendent RSU 19/MSAD 48. Braun has been in education for 41 years, a superintendent for 22 years and a superintendent in RSU 19/MSAD 48 for 17 years. He is a firm believer in providing the best and varied educational opportunities for all students and is an avid supporter of many initiatives to keep students in school and increase student achievement. Under Bill’s supervision RSU 19 provides a Tutor Transition Program, social work services, online learning, early childhood programs, alternative education, summer school and afterschool programs, peer mentoring, anti-bullying training and activities . He recognizes the need for parent involvement and recognizes the impact it can have on student success.

Travis Collins, alternative education teacher at Mount View High School in Thorndike (RSU 3/MSAD 3). Collins has been a teacher for the alternative education program for the past 2 years. He has worked diligently to create a positive, authentic learning environment for the most at-risk student population. Collins engages students in relevant project-based activities that have led students to gain the necessary credits in order to graduate on time. In the program, students have built a greenhouse, raised seedlings and sold them, demonstrating entrepreneurship and construction skills, and the sustainability of self.

Martha Kempe, Director of Passages Program in Camden, a program of the Community School. Martha has served as program director of the Passages program for the past seven years. The Passages Program was established to help dropout parents earn their high school diploma while continuing to care for their children at home. Kempe’s work has focused on meeting the needs of Maine’s youngest parents, providing a cutting-edge curriculum leading to a state approved high school diploma. Kempe is a fierce advocate for the students and staff. Her belief that teen parents deserve our respect, our support, and our encouragement to become self-directed learners informs everything she does.

Tom Morrill, superintendent of Auburn Schools. Morrill has had a long career in education, holding roles from classroom teacher to principal and most recently has had a four-year tenure as superintendent in Auburn. While serving Auburn, he has secured grants to provide after-school programs and social services for the most at-risk students. Resources are pledged to ensure that all Auburn students exit third grade reading on grade level. In order to do this Auburn has entered into a partnership with the University of Maine to provide literacy instruction coursework for all K-3 teachers. Kindergarteners are being provided Apple iPad2’s and the middle school is becoming an expeditionary learning site.

Page Nichols, a teacher and volunteer at the REAL School in RSU 14 (Windham). Nichols first came to the REAL School as a long-term substitute. Using her strong and intuitive skills she works effectively with even the most disaffected students. She not only puts in an eight hour day at the school but also serves as a mentor for Seeds of Independence programs for adjudicated youth and for teen parents. Nichols has also helped young people in the Dominican Republic and refugees in Haiti.

Valerie Peacock and Ander Thebaud, directors of the Sumner Pathways Program at Sumner High School in RSU 24. The Pathways Program is seen as the lead pilot program for the integration of student centered learning in the newly formed RSU 24. Students are placed at the heart of the learning process which is the best way to meet a diverse population of learner’s needs. Pathways success is the result of the passion, wisdom, caring and dedication of Peacock and Thebaud. They give students voice and space to guide their own learning. They balance challenge and support. They maintain rigor and find creative ways to meet standards through community-based and project based learning.

Anna Perkins, director of the Glenn Stratton day treatment program at Good Will-Hinckley School. Perkins’ 40-year career has been dedicated to improving the education of students with special social, emotional, and academic needs. She is currently the director of the Glenn Stratton day treatment program where her approach of collaboration and inclusion create a school atmosphere where the students know they are in a safe learning environment and that all of their needs can be met. This approach is critical for the students in the program as they have transient histories and have had multiple foster/kinship care placements. Perkins provides a high quality program giving students the confidence and skills they need to move forward.

Willo and Tom Wright of the Seeds of Independence Program in Freeport. Seeds of Independence is a non-profit, charitable organization which provides critical supports and opportunities for young people in need. Led by Willo and Tom Wright the program is committed to combating juvenile delinquency and reducing the school dropout rate through their mentoring programs. “Jump Start”, a program for first-time juvenile offenders, focuses on healthy decision-making skills. “Rebound” assists repeat offenders, fostering self-esteem, moral character and self reliance. Teen parenting classes teach young parents important skills for nurturing and raising a child as well as helping teens to reconnect to learning. Seeds of Independence also coordinates a large-scale service mission to the Dominican Republic where at-risk youth, peer mentors and adult volunteers work together to aid Haitian refugees.

David Connerty-Marin | Maine Department of Education | 207-624-6880

Shelley Reed | Maine Department of Education | 207-624-6637