Maine’s certification process: A precise, manual review

Maine’s certification statutes and rules, administered by the Department of Education’s certification team, apply to approximately 97,000 individuals in Maine who seek to work in Maine schools. The processing of applications is still a manual process, though the Department is working to transition to an electronic system within the next 18 months.

The terms used in the certification process are set forth in Maine statutes to include the following: administrators (school superintendents or building principals), teachers and education specialists receive a certification; education technicians receive an authorization; and an approval is issued for secretaries, bus drivers, janitors, tutors, coaches, and referees. All three categories require a criminal history record check prior to working in a school setting.

All requirements for the application process – whether for an administrator, teacher, education technician or secretary – are set forth in the online portal. Attention to detail in the application process will save the applicant time and help avoid delays in a process, currently at four- to six-weeks turnaround time.

“We need to look at all documentation accompanying an application, including information provided by the FBI and State Bureau of Identification on criminal background checks. Our small staff of nine reviews all the documents submitted with each application, affirms testing requirements are met, course work is approved, and much more,” says Maine DOE’s Director of Higher Education and Educator Support Bob Hasson.

All applications must be complete before the team can process the application. Missing fees, transcripts, and other documentation, or a missing signature on an application can complicate and lengthen the processing timeline. Other risks for incomplete applications include mailing in an application with lack of either the support chair’s signature or employer verification.

“In the course of a day, a certification specialist can process anywhere from one to ten applications, depending on the intricacies of each application,” says Hasson. “This laborious task takes the team in many directions as the State of Maine issues certificates and subject endorsements in 123 areas. In addition, applications for authorizations, renewals and approvals, all of which require criminal history record checks, exceeded 16,000 in 2015 alone.”

In January of 2015, the Department mailed 8,474 renewal applications to administrators, teachers and education specialists. In June of that same year, hundreds of new teachers applied for initial certification. The bulk of these applications were submitted in the summer, but some arrived long after the start of the 2015-16 school year.

Last September, to better facilitate the processing of new and renewal applications, in-person visits to the Maine DOE offices in Augusta were limited to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. This allows the certification team uninterrupted time to process applications on Tuesday and Thursday.

At that same time, the Department amended the Policy for Processing Applications from In-Person Visits.

Hasson says, “Applicants are encouraged to apply for their credentials as soon as possible to avoid the possible delay of a backlog. This month, the certification team is on schedule with the expected four-week processing time, and we aim to stay the course through the remainder of the summer.”

Take note of the following in preparing your application:

  • Fingerprints (criminal history records check) are required for anyone who works with children in a school setting. Learn more here.
  • Certification is needed for teachers, administrators, etc. Learn more here.
  • Authorization is required for education technicians I, II, III. Learn more here.

For further assistance or questions contact the Maine DOE’s Certification Office at 624-6603, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.to 3:30 p.m.