PRIORITY NOTICE: 2021-2022 NEO Maine Schools for Private Schools and Updated School Approval Process

Updated: 24 May 2021

In accordance with 20-A M.R.S. Chapter 117, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) requires private schools seeking approval status to be approved annually. What follows are updates and reminders of the annual and ongoing reporting requirements to attain and maintain approval as an approved private school for attendance and tuition purposes by the Maine Department of Education.

Updates
Due to modifications in Department policy and protocol, the DOE is outlining some important changes to deadlines and processes for private school approval for the 2021-2022 school year. Please review the revised deadlines and processes below carefully. Missed deadlines will impact private school approval and any associated tuition payments. 

  • The 2021-2022 NEO Maine Schools Update, which is the online form used to verify school organizational information, is the first step of the approval process, will open for completion on May 15 for schools that were approved prior to June 30, 2021. Private schools seeking 2021-2022 approval that were approved prior to June 30, 2021 must access and submit the Maine Schools Update form by July 1, 2021. Please reach out early to our Help Desk (624-6896) in order to resolve any questions or issues.
  • Schools that were not approved private schools at the end of the 2020-2021 school year should contact the Department before July 1, 2021 to request access to NEO Maine Schools and NEO Staff modules. A new school will set up and have access to the NEO Maine Schools Update form as early as July 1, 2021 and must submit both this form and the annual report with checklist documentation no later than September 1, 2021. Please contact Pamela.Ford-Taylor@maine.gov to start this process.
  • All private schools seeking continued or new approval status must provide current, updated 2021-2022 staff information in the NEO staff module by September 1, 2021. Certification and criminal history record checks must be current for all staff, teachers, and administrators by this date. The Department will commence the final step of certification checking at this time, and will not approve schools with personnel whose NEO public portal record reflects current noncompliance. The Department urges private schools to review instructions well in advance, at https://www.maine.gov/doe/data-reporting/collection/helpdesk/resources/staff-dataentry-guides, and contact the Help Desk with questions regarding the proper way to enter staff information in the NEO information system.
  • Schools will no longer submit the annual reports via email or mail. New this year, and mirroring the Maine Schools Update deadlines, is a new online process using the Private School Annual Report link, with which private schools will submit their annual report with supporting checklist documentation.
  • There are two revisions to requirement submission:
    • Any school that does not have current NEASC accreditation, or that enrolls 60% or more publicly funded students as determined by the previous year’s October and April average enrollment, must include Curriculum/Program of Study documentation which provides evidence of instruction in elementary schools as specified in 20-A M.R.S. §§ 4701, 4704, 4706 and 4711 and/or in secondary schools as specified in 20-A M.R.S. §§ 4701, 4704, 4706, 4722 (including establishing a CTE pathway to graduation), 4722-A, 4723 and 4724, and in the basic curriculum established by Rule [Chapter 127] and in alignment with the system of learning results established in 20-A M.R.S. § 6209.
    • Any request for approval  for the receipt of public funds for tuition purposes will be contingent upon the receipt and acceptance of all basic school approval documentation by July 1 (or September 1 for new schools) and receipt of the Year-End Report of Private Schools  (Form EF-M 240) by September 1. This financial report, previously requested to go directly to the DOE finance office, will now be submitted using the same link to the Private School Annual Report. The link may be accessed multiple times in order to ensure submission of required basic information by an earlier due date, and financial information by the later September 1 due date. Upon full approval, schools approved for tuition purposes will appear on this Approved List and Tuition Rates Website. However, because of the annual budget process, tuition rates for 2021-2022 will not be calculated until December. Until that time, estimated tuition will be used. Please contact Paula.B.Gravelle@maine.gov with additional questions.

Summary of Private School Approval Deadlines

  • May 15 – July 1: NEO Maine Schools and annual report submission for continuing schools
  • July 1 – Sept 1: NEO Maine Schools and annual report submission for new schools
  • September 1: NEO Staff update and certification deadline for all schools
  • September 1: EF-M-240 due for tuition-receiving schools
  • No later than September 30: NEO Staff and certification/background checking feedback to schools

Detailed Directions: Private School Approval and NEO
Maine Schools NEO Module 

The NEO Maine Schools form is required by all public and private schools to inform DOE of school and school administrative unit contact information, changes in grade spans, and other school-related information. to be updated in Maine Schools, the superintendent or chief administrator of the school must first be entered into the NEO Staff Module. Access to NEO staff can be obtained by submitting a NEO Access Request Form to the MEDMS Helpdesk as follows:

Log in to the NEO information system. Click on Maine Schools. If you do not see this option on your menu, and are a superintendent (for private schools, this is the chief administrator of school), technical coordinator, or administrative assistant, please contact the MEDMS Helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov or 207-624-6896.
When completing the Maine Schools Module, please be aware that all fields, with the exception of Administrative Office Fax, are required. Also, PO Boxes are not valid entries in the “Physical Address” box and the mailing address is needed only if it is different from physical address. At the bottom of the form, check the box to confirm that all information has been reviewed before signing and submitting the form.

Staff NEO Module
For security and privacy purposes, all staff information must be properly entered in the NEO Staff module. The School Approval office utilizes only the NEO public portal Staff Positions search function, together with internal staff violations reporting, to verify that all staff have appropriate certifications and/or clearance. Neither certification nor clearance information should be manually or electronically submitted in any format with school approval materials. This ensures that private information is being relayed in a safe manner.

Private School Annual School Approval Report and Documentation 
The annual report, with required checklist documentation, is currently submitted separately from the NEO system to DOE’s School Enrollment/Approval Specialist, using the Private School Annual Report. The NEO requirements need not be completed prior to the submission of the annual report; however, school approval will not be issued until the NEO information is complete and verified.

School Year Private School Student Reporting
School approval includes the requirement that all private schools provide attendance data on their publicly funded students in the Synergy student information system.
Currently, every private school that seeks tuition from a school administrative unit is already entering information into the Synergy student information system for each student for whom they seek public funds. The attendance data entry is comprised of the number of days in the reporting period for which the student is enrolled, the number of days they were present, and the number of days of excused absences. This data needs to be updated and reviewed quarterly and certified on June 30th.

To ensure both enrollment count and that private schools are on track to receive the appropriate tuition allocation, the following guidelines should be closely followed:

  1. In order for attendance data to be submitted, NEO Maine Schools organizational information must have been submitted and approved. If Maine Schools is not submitted, enrollment and attendance cannot be uploaded, and EPS cannot be processed;
  2. The first instance of submitting attendance for publicly funded students at private schools, which is due quarterly, must be entered by October 15 and includes the attendance period July 1 through September 30. The next reporting period (to be entered by January 15) will require updated attendance numbers through December, and so on. More details about attendance data submission, and a helpful training manual document, can be found in Student Attendance Reporting and Attendance Manual Entry Guide.
  3. Publicly funded October 1st student enrollment data must be entered by October 15; certified by October 31.

Please contact the MEDMS Help Desk at 624-6896, or MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov for assistance with NEO or the student information system. For staff certification questions, please contact the DOE Certification Team at cert.DOE@maine.gov. Please contact Paula Gravelle at 624-6792 or Paula.B.Gravelle@maine.gov for questions about tuition. And, for questions about school approval please call Pamela Ford-Taylor at 624-6617, or Pamela.Ford-Taylor@maine.gov.