Get to Know the DOE Team: Meet Karen Kusiak

Maine DOE Team member Karen Kusiak is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Karen in this question and answer.

What are your roles with DOE?

During, before, and after the Legislative session I support the policy team with analyses of bills that relate to education. I follow hearings, testimony, amendments, work sessions, voting in the chambers of the Legislature, and the Governor’s actions on bills.  In all seasons, I organize responses for, or respond to, formal inquiries about education that are submitted to the Governor’s Office or that come from members of the Legislature. During pandemic times, I have been working on a team to review and coordinate school districts’ applications for federal relief through ESSER and through the second round of funding in the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.

What do you like best about your job?

I learn something new about at least one federal or state law, rule, policy, practice – or a nuance of law, rule, policy, or practice – practically every day.

How or why did you decide on this career?

Education found me over 40 years ago; I didn’t think I wanted to be a teacher. However, after I stumbled into a Title One aide position (before Maine used the term “Ed Tech”) I quickly became a certified teacher (via alternate route) then special educator, special education administrator, and teacher educator who prepared future teachers to be critically aware of practices and policies that marginalized some students or undermined public schools and the practice of education. I was and continue to be particularly dismayed about neoliberal education policies of the last decade or more, and worked to change them. I’m delighted today to be part of a team that is focusing on education equity from inside government.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

I enjoy independent cinema, cooking, travel (when I can…), reading, time with my two daughter who moved “away,” and keeping up with the news. This summer and fall I have made a point to find new places to put my kayak in the water and new Maine Trails to walk. Before the pandemic, I enjoyed rowing Cornish pilot gigs in Belfast Harbor.