UMaine-led Grant Helps Maine Schools Implement Behavioral Support Framework

More than 4,000 students across Maine are now receiving Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) thanks to intensive professional development provided by University of Maine College of Education and Human Development experts supported by a grant from the Maine Department of Education.

PBIS is a nationally recognized, multi-tiered framework providing a continuum of supports to all students, promoting positive academic and socio-behavioral outcomes. In 2018, educators from 15 Maine schools formed the PBIS Regional Professional Development Cohort, receiving instruction on how to implement the framework, and meeting regularly with UMaine experts to share their experiences and address ongoing challenges during the three-year grant period.

“When we first started this project, nobody knew we’d have to complete it during a global pandemic,” says Courtney Angelosante, UMaine lecturer in special education and one of the experts who provided professional development to teachers and school leaders.

“It really has been a wonderful experience that will have enduring benefits for years to come,” she says.

The grant included schools from several parts of Maine, including RSU 3/MSAD 3 (Brooks, Freedom, Jackson, Knox, Liberty, Monroe, Montville, Thorndike, Troy, Unity and Waldo); Brewer Community School; Indian Island School; Dr. Lewis S. Libby School (Milford); Appleton Village School; Vassalboro Community School; East End Community School (Portland); RSU 20 (Searsport and Stockton Springs); and Wiscasset Elementary School.

“We’re really proud of the work these schools have done,” says Karen Robbie, PBIS trainer and doctoral candidate in the College of Education and Human Development. “Thanks to their efforts, more children in Maine are now experiencing positive, predictable, effective and equitable school environments.”

Other members of the UMaine team included Jim Artesani, associate dean for graduate education, research and outreach, and Kristin Grant, a retired principal from RSU 14.

“It has impacted me tremendously and made me become a better and more effective teacher and person,” says Vincent Vannah, a teacher at Morse Elementary School.

He adds that the PBIS framework made school staff rethink their mindset around teaching about behavior, creating a more positive atmosphere.

“I am able to lead and support fellow teachers in my school with implementation and support of strategies to best help teachers that are experiencing difficult and hard behavior,” says Vannah, who served as a PBIS coach for Morse Elementary throughout the project.

Members of the PBIS Regional Professional Development Cohort will gather on Monday, June 21 at the Hutchinson Center in Belfast to celebrate their accomplishments. Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin and other MDOE officials will deliver remarks at the event. Jen Freeman of the National Center on PBIS is also scheduled to share a message with the cohort.