River View Community School Takes the Kindness Challenge

Submitted by Vicki Duguay, Principal, River View Community School in MSAD 11

River View Community School in South Gardiner, part of MSAD #11, has taken a concerted effort to increase the kindness factor within our school. We believe that the promotion of kindness among our students and school community is vitally important to the atmosphere within our school. Kindness encourages a positive mindset, which, in turn, nurtures our students while they are learning and participating in their educational endeavors and outside interests and activities.

Research has shown that focusing and teaching the skills and attitudes to have a positive mindset can improve school and community atmosphere and strengthen relationships between students, staff, and the community. Armed with that knowledge, River View staff signed up for the Kindness Challenge at www.kindnesschallenge.com and purposefully implemented Second Step (www.secondstep.org ) in our classrooms.

Our focus has been on intensifying and encouraging a positive and supportive school community where students and staff are kind, supportive, helpful, and caring toward each other. Teachers and staff teach lessons that give students a better understanding of how kindness can directly affect the atmosphere of the school, the mood of others, and have a positive impact on personal self-esteem. The lessons give the students an opportunity to practice being kind and supportive and also time to reflect on how this impacts their daily lives.

Due to the effectiveness and impact of the lessons, our school community evolved from not only staff recognizing students for being kind, but students recognizing each other as being kind and staff going out of their way to recognize their colleagues for their kindness and support as well.

There is a train of kindness ‘shout-outs’ that line our hallways that staff and students have written recognizing acts of kindness that they experienced themselves or observed happening to others. Students and staff are encouraged daily to continue to recognize acts of kindness and add to the ongoing chain.

Students also participated in spreading the ‘kindness germ’ on National JoyGerm Day on January 8th where students made cards that had statements of encouragement and happiness that were distributed throughout our community.

Students are recognizing the importance of practicing kindness for the act itself, not for the recognition or reward that might be given. Each day one can spot little actions that show our focus on kindness is working. One can spot students are saying thank you, asking how a friend feels, holding doors, picking up papers and items on the floor, and helping fellow classmates within the classroom.

Does Kindness Matter? We at River View Community School say yes! We have proven through our efforts and focused activities that being kind and spreading kindness can and does have a beneficial and uplifting impact at our school. We have seen our discipline referrals decrease by 50% since our purposeful focus on Kindness began. Our motto is, “In a world  where you can be anything, Be Kind.”

Seeking Schools to Participate in “Youth Mindfulness” Opportunity

The Maine DOE has teamed up with OmKids and Radiant Beginnings to offer a 2-hour, in-person training on a video-based mindfulness and stress relief curriculum to support students’ and teachers’ emotional health.  This opportunity is available to a small number of Maine schools that include PreK through grade 5 and are available to implement youth mindfulness during the spring of 2018-19 school year.  Youth mindfulness has been shown to improve attention stability, compassion, and emotional balance when practiced regularly.

In a southern Maine pilot, OmKids and Radiant Beginnings found that implementing program activities for as little as 5 minutes a day for 8 weeks led to:

  • Overall stress reduction (decreased for 94% of students)
  • Emotional distress reduction (decreased for 44% of students)
  • Fewer behavioral difficulties (decreased for 31% of students)
  • Fewer hyperactivity and concentration difficulties (decreased for 63% of students)
  • Fewer difficulties getting along with other children (decreased for 63% of students)

If your school is interested in an opportunity to bring youth mindfulness to your teachers and students, please complete this interest survey for the Maine DOE to review.  The survey will close on March 1.  You will be notified if your school has been chosen to implement youth mindfulness by March 8.

For more information, please contact Sarah Adkins, Student Assistance Coordinator, at sarah.adkins@maine.gov or 624-6685.

 

EPS High-Cost Out-of-District Report (EF-S-214) Open for Reporting on March 1, 2019; Deadline is April 15, 2019

The EF-S-214, also known as the EPS High-Cost Out-of-District Report will be open for data entry to Maine public schools on March 1 in the Maine DOE’s NEO Portal.

The report can be located by logging into NEO at: https://neo.maine.gov/DOE/NEO/Accounts/Account/Login then Navigate to→ Special Education → Forms → EFS-214.

School districts should sign into the report as early as possible to allow time for data entry as well as the two-step submission process. The deadline to complete the report is April 15. The Department must approve the report by April 15 to allow time to make possible EPS adjustments.

This report is required for all publicly funded school districts, including districts that do not meet the High-Cost Out-of-District tuition threshold of $16,214 (see further details below).

Below are a few important things to note about the EF-S-214 report:

  • School districts will need to project the tuition cost for the full fiscal year.
  • Fiscal Year 2019 tuition/board cost that total above $16,214 for each student should be included in the report. 
  • Adjustments to the Special Education High-Cost Out-of-District allocation will be based on costs above $16,214 for placements in Regional Special Education Programs, $24,321 for placements in other school administrative units, and $32,428 for placements in private schools.

 

Questions about the report should be direct to Stephanie Clark (Fiscal Compliance Specialist) for the Maine Department of Education at 207-624-6807 or (Stephanie.clark@maine.gov).

MSAD 49 Partners with Harvard University School of Education

Submitted by Reza Namin, Superintendent of Schools for Maine School Administrative District 49

Under leadership of Superintendent Dr. Reza Namin, Maine School Administrative District 49 has implemented a partnership with the Harvard University School of Education. 47 teachers, staff, and specialists in 8 Professional Learning Communities are taking part in the partnership. The goal of professional learning through WIDE World at the Harvard Graduate School of Education is to transform school systems by developing professional communities of teachers and school leaders with interactive online courses and on-site support programs that enable schools to cultivate the critical learning students need for the 21st century world. Programs are based on Teaching for Understanding, a classroom-tested framework developed through research at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. They are taught on-line which enables a truly global learning environment with educators participating throughout the world. Courses are job-embedded so that learners may integrate research-based strategies for learning and teaching into their own workplace. Teams of learners are supported by both a course instructor who is on the faculty of Harvard University as well as coaches from around the world who help them achieve their goals. WIDE World encourages participants to tailor their learning to their own classrooms, schools, programs, and systems while building local capacity for enhancing learning for all.

Courses for Maine School Administrative District 49

Teaching for Understanding 1: Focus on Student Understanding

TfU is an introduction to the Teaching for Understanding framework. In this course, participants learn to clarify educational goals, link student work to experience, design active learning instructional units, develop effective assessment practices, and reflect on their own teaching practice. As we enter a new century of the unknown, there are critical skills that students must have in order to excel. The Teaching for Understanding course is an opportunity to learn teaching strategies that will actively engage students in the critical-thinking and 21st Century problem-solving skills that are now demanded by society.

Teaching for Understanding: Understanding in Practice

This course builds upon concepts and strategies learned in our introductory courses, giving participants a chance to explore the practical challenges of Teaching for Understanding. Using the unit, participants have previously planned, they will look at ways to refine their practice and implement new strategies to keep students engaged and focused. With fellow educators, a coach, and an instructor, TFU will help you combine disciplinary goals and students’ understanding in the classroom, exchange successful approaches and guide you through the process of continual reflection and adjustment.
TFU will also give you practical strategies for incorporating participants’ educational institutions’ educational goals into their unit.

An Impact on Maine School Administrative District 49

As Maine School Administrative District 49 reaffirms its identity as a learning community, the philosophy of Teaching for Understanding is most appropriate. We acknowledge and build upon our current strengths as a school district, including our curriculum standards, faculty professional learning communities, and attention to individual student needs. It is important to focus now on understanding and the realization that 21st-century learners must not only have knowledge and skills, but also strategies to think deeply about their learning, themselves, and the world. As our school department moves forward, all of our learners – both children and adults- will be challenged in new ways through our curriculum, instruction, and professional development.

Healthy Decisions Day a Success at Maranacook Community Middle School

Submitted by Kristen Levesque, Principal at Maranacook Community Middle School

Healthy Decisions Day is an annual event at Maranacook Community Middle School, that is organized by the school counselor, Gwen Mohlar, with support from other staff.  It started as a way to help educate students about making healthy decisions (especially about drugs, alcohol, and peer pressure) when growing up. This year the event was held on February 1st.

Students have opportunity to see a keynote speaker, go into grade level programs then pick 3 sessions under the themes below. It was a very informational day.

  • Effects of Substances on the Brain/ Body: Presenter focused on how the brain and body are affected by many or different types of substances.
  • Refusal Skills: Presenters focused on how students’ futures can be effected and the decision making skills students can use/ learn to remain substance free.
  • Healthy Coping Skills: Presentations focused on healthy alternatives to substance misuse. These techniques can be used by many and is a great way to introduce different, healthy stress relief techniques to students.

Below are photos from the day: