A letter from Commissioner Bowen: A new opportunity

It has been a great honor to serve students and schools as the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education for the past two and a half years. In that time, we’ve made incredible progress in moving from plan to practice our Education Evolving strategic plan to restructure Maine’s education system around our students. 

School accountability and support has been advanced with the launch of A-F performance grading system and our successful application for flexibility from the federal No Child Left Behind Act; student choice has been strengthened with the authorization of five charter schools and the expansion of early college opportunities; and Governor LePage’s landmark legislation has been enacted requiring all schools to adopt educator evaluation systems and ensuring all high school diplomas will be awarded based on student mastery of college and career ready standards starting in 2018.

I am extraordinarily proud of what we have accomplished. Maine is a state the nation is now looking to as a leader in meaningful education reform.

The good work we’ve done, in collaboration with so many of you, also led to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) approaching me about becoming their Director of Innovation, working to take Maine’s transformation nationwide.

The offer was not one I took lightly, but ultimately the opportunity to take what is working here in Maine to scale was one I could not refuse. Earlier today and with mixed emotion, I gave Governor LePage my resignation, and thanked him for the support he has given me and this Department since I first joined his team during its transition into office in 2010. It has been an honor to work for a Governor with such a passion for education. His personal story is a testament to the importance of our work in schools and an incredible inspiration to all of our students about what they can achieve regardless of where they begin.

My last day at the Department will be Thursday, Sept. 12. In my remaining four weeks here, I will be working with my senior leadership team including Deputy Commissioner Jim Rier and Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome to develop a plan that will ensure the Department’s momentum is maintained throughout the transition, including our commitment to supporting schools improvement.   An Acting Commissioner will be named in the coming weeks.

As I told the Governor in my letter to him, I firmly believe in the reform work we are doing here in Maine and I am confident that the reforms we have advanced, both in terms of education policy and in terms of how the Department does its work to support schools and students, will lead to improved student outcomes. I encourage you to continue that transformational work on behalf of Maine’s kids, and I look forward to seeing and supporting those efforts in my new role.

Many of you are already familiar with the great work of CCSSO, a nonpartisan, national association of state commissioners of education, which provides leadership, advocacy and technical assistance on major education issues. As their Director of Innovation,  I’ll be based in Maine but working across the country supporting states in implementing policy and practices changes to transform their public education systems, largely through CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network. The network is comprised of a group of states – including Maine – taking action to support student-centered instructional approaches and to spur system-level change by scaling locally-led innovation to widespread implementation, both within and across states. I hope and trust that in that work, I will cross paths with many of you again.

I thank you for your incredible efforts each day to meet the needs of learners of all ages all across our great State of Maine. Please keep up this extraordinarily important work and I wish you the very best.

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