AUGUSTA – Maine education chief Stephen Bowen has presented his annual Commissioner’s Recognition Awards to those who have helped at-risk youth find success in school and beyond.
Commissioner Bowen was joined by Emanuel Pariser and Leslie Morrill, co-chairs of the State Advisory Committee on Truancy, Dropout and Alternative Education, in presenting the awards at a Blaine House ceremony last week.
Those honored included educators Troy Frost of the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley, Francis Conroy of Bonny Eagle High School, Audrey O’Clair of RSU 3 and Doug Daigle of Windham High School; retired MSAD 44 school board member Sidney Pew; and Lewiston Academy.
Frost, of the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley, is the first charter school educator to receive the Commissioner’s Award. In his 25-year career, he has helped hundreds of youth with significant personal and family challenges transition to healthy adulthood. Frost has been successful in supporting students through family engagement, collaboration with fellow faculty and implementation of best practices including restorative justice, relationship-based teaching and standards-based curriculum.
Conroy is a social studies teacher in the alternative education program at Bonny Eagle High School. The program – staffed by three teachers, two ed techs and a social worker who work with 50 to 60 high school students in an off-campus facility – provides unique opportunities for students to fulfill graduation requirements, including through expeditionary and service learning. Additionally a member of both the MSAD 6 Dropout Prevention Committee and the Alternative Education Task Force, Conroy’s efforts have been effective in measurably reducing the dropout rate at the school.
O’Clair is the early literacy educator for RSU 3, which serves 11 communities in Waldo County spread across 440 square miles with over 65 percent of the families qualifying for free/reduced lunch. She has engaged young children and their families in early intervention programs that help young children become passionate and proficient in reading and learning. O’Clair has reached beyond the classroom to conduct home visits when needed and also organized a summer learning opportunity for incoming kindergarteners who may benefit from additional support before entering school.
Daigle, a social worker at Windham High School, brings in outside counselors; coordinates re-entry meetings for students who have been hospitalized, incarcerated, suspended or who struggle with medical or mental health issues; and arranges for crisis interventions for families in need, ensuring food and shelter so that students can access their education and their futures. He also serves on the Windham High School Alternative Education Committee and the Dropout Prevention Committee, working to develop further district-wide supports for families and students.
Pew, who recently retired after nearly two decades of service as a MSAD 44 board representative from Andover, was recognized for his lengthy tenure on that district’s Dropout Prevention Committee. A tireless advocate of that committee, he was significantly involved in the development of the district’s Dropout Prevention Plan, as well as its annual reviews and updates, which continues to help keep students in school today.
The final honoree of the day, Lewiston Academy was created in 2009 as an alternative program for juniors and seniors at Lewiston High School who have not found success in the traditional school environment. Curriculum is integrated and learning is grounded in both the practical as well as the theoretical, with real-life applications and experiences. Students receive both academic work and readiness instruction, ensuring they leave school with viable job skills and prepared to pursue higher education if desired. Lewiston High School principal Gus LeBlanc accepted the award on behalf of the program.
For more information about Maine’s efforts to help at-risk students succeed in their learning, visit www.maine.gov/doe/special/at-risk.html.