105th Commissioner’s Conference draws education leaders

The Maine Department of Education welcomed education leaders from across the state last week at the 105th Annual Commissioner’s Conference for Superintendents in Bangor. The topics of this year’s annual conference included the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), inequity that poverty creates in schools, school turnaround, and more.

The conference began Sunday night with a recognition banquet where 21 superintendents and one State Representative and long-time educator were honored for their service and outstanding leadership.

The Commissioner’s Award was presented to Dr. Fern Desjardins, superintendent of schools for RSU 33/MSAD 33 in the St. John Valley area.

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Commissioner’s Award recipient, Fern Desjardins, being interviewed by local media.

The award is at the discretion of the Department’s leader, and Deputy Education Commissioner Bill Beardsley made this year’s choice based on an educator’s dedication to education in rural Maine.

Maine DOE’s Deputy Commissioner Bill Beardsley welcomed attendees on Monday stating that the Department is working on streamlining; including preparing for the launch of Maine’s first-ever computerized certification system.

Other presenters included Dr. David Silvernail, a research professor at the University of Southern Maine, who discussed data on the inequity that poverty creates in Maine schools; Catherine Barbour of the American Institutes for Research explained how, as a school turnaround principal, she was able to help failing schools succeed; and Carmen Coleman, a former superintendent in Kentucky, shared her experience and advised educators to incorporate real-world lessons to encourage student success.

Monday afternoon Maine DOE’s Chief Academic Officer Rachelle Tome, Director of ESEA Janette Kirk, and Senator Collin’s representative Carol Woodcock discussed the future of ESSA. Along with a questions and answer portion, attendees collaborated in sharing suggestions for the State to move forward in developing the framework for ESSA. Participants were also reminded of the value of local stakeholder engagement and asked to provide feedback via a survey.

On Tuesday, the Department offered updates on legislation, educator effectiveness, special education, proficiency-based diplomas, standards and assessments. Participants also broke out into smaller groups where they attended talks on certification, Essential Programs and Services (EPS) funding, and learning through technology.

One-on-one meetings with Department staff were held throughout the day to discuss school transportation, facilities, finance and operations, data and reporting. Madawaska Schools Superintendent Gisele Dionne said these meetings were “extremely beneficial” because the educators could ask specific questions.

For more information about the recognition banquet, click here. Additional details regarding the conference can be found here.