Atwood Primary School Principal Jennifer McGee Reflects on “Core Skills”

This submission is from the May 2019 RSU 18 Administrative Report, submitted by RSU 18 Assistant Superintendent Keith Morin.

The Principal’s Pen by Jennifer McGee, Principal of Atwood Primary School 

I was struggling for what I would write about this month.  After all, I have been writing Principal’s Pens for 20 years now.  As I was staring at my blank computer screen, a man, who had been working in the building installing toilet paper dispensers, appeared at the door of my office.

“Are you the principal,” he asked peering around the corner.

“I am,” I said, rising from my seat.  

“Good, I want to talk to you,” he said extending his hand to shake mine.  I’m always a bit nervous, never knowing what I’m about to hear. And then he continued, “Ma’am,  I have been working in school buildings for 38 years, and I have NEVER done this before…but I want to tell you, you have the nicest bunch of children I have ever seen.  They are so polite, so nice. I want to make a donation to your school.”

He went on to tell about the thousands of schools he had been in for the past 38 years, and could not believe how delightful and well behaved our children are…and so young!  

That visit, prompted this month’s Principal’s Pen.  

This entire school year, I have been taking a course called The Educational Leadership Experience.  Each month, a group of Maine educator’s tour businesses in Maine that are on the rise and hiring! It’s been a wonderful experience, and one of my take-aways is this:  soft skills have become core skills.

In the past, employers used to refer to traits like manners, punctuality, interpersonal skills, and work ethic as “soft skills”. No longer. Now they are called “core skills”.   The reason for this change is simple. If people don’t possess these essential skills, they will not keep their job. Workplaces are demanding their work force arrive with these core skills in tact.  And I happen to agree.

Manners matter.  And manners in all shapes and forms make a difference.  When I was a child, we sat at the table and had dinner as a family. My elbows were not allowed on the table, my napkin was placed in my lap, we were expected to chew with our mouths closed and not talk with our mouths full.  We also said “please” and “thank you” when we passed food to one another.

My Mom was a stay-at-home-mother, so family dinners were a regular thing.  When I was raising my children, we had more than a few dinners in the car…and admittedly, family dinners around the table were rare…but…manners were expected. Always.

At the beginning of the school year, here at Atwood, during our very first town meeting, we begin talking about the importance of manners.  And our duty teachers are wonderful about reminding the children to say “please” and “thank you” as they go through the breakfast and lunch lines.  And you all are certainly doing your part, because today a complete stranger noticed how very polite your children are!  So there: core skills…check!

I think it was kind of symbolic that this repairman also said he wanted to donate to our school because of the kindness and politeness of our students. It serves to show us that unexpected and surprisingly wonderful results can come from positive interpersonal skills.   

Children can learn this too.  I know, when my children were small, I didn’t want rude friends over to our house to play. I wanted the polite, well-behaved, nice children!  So there are rewards for manners.

And it feels good to be polite and kind.  A first grader skipped into her classroom on her way in from recess, “I held the door for my friends,” she said!  She felt good inside. As adults we like that feeling too. That’s why sometimes people pay it forward in the Dunkin Donuts drive thru line, that’s why we have “secret pals” at work….to leave each other random surprises, and that’s why it feels good to bring a bouquet of flowers to someone who does not expect them!  Giving really is a selfish act…because it feels so great!

So ultimately my message for this month’s Principal’s Pen is to say: Keep it up parents!  You are doing a great job raising polite children who want to do the right thing. A random stranger working in our building watched and listened to your children, and he said they were the BEST children he had ever encountered in his 38 year career, and that’s pretty great.   

Keep at it!  Manners are core skills that will serve your children well their whole lives.  You may feel like you are the “nag police” when you insist your children say “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” and “I’m sorry” and “chew with your mouth closed”, but you are setting them up for a lifetime of exercising solid core skills that will serve them well every single place they go!  People notice.

This story was also featured in the OC NJ Daily Newspaper.

CDC Notifies Public of Confirmed Measles in Maine

Maine Department of Education is sharing the notice provided by the Maine Center for Disease Control regarding a school aged student with a confirmed case of Measles. Schools that were directly involved/at risk have been contacted and have received guidance from the CDC epidemiologist.

If schools who are not affected are contemplating notification beyond what has already been provided to the media by the CDC, the following questions should be considered when making the decision:

    1. What message do you want to send that isn’t already in the news/social media?
    2. What are you telling families to do in response to the information?
    3. Who is going to be handling the parent response?

If school personnel have further questions, we encourage local conversations with the school nursing staff, who are in contact with Emily Poland, School Nurse Consultant at the Maine Department of Education.


PRIORITY NOTICE: Seeking Public Comment for a Tydings Amendment Waiver

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is seeking 30 days of public comment from May 22 – June 20, 2019, on a Tydings amendment waiver application (waiver from §421(b) of the General Provisions Act) to the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). The Tydings amendment waiver seeks an extension to the availability of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) §1003(a) funds awarded during Federal fiscal year (FY) 2017.

Maine DOE Leadership participated in a call with USDOE program staff on Friday, May 10, 2019. During this call, the USDOE outlined next steps regarding Maine’s submission of an amendment to the Maine ESSA State Plan. The Maine DOE is working to provide the necessary information as expeditiously as possible. During this time of pause, the Maine DOE is unable to utilize 1003(a) funds. USDOE approval of the Tydings amendment waiver would allow the Maine DOE to make available 1003(a) funds to Maine schools identified for tiered supports, once the pause is lifted.

The U.S. Department of Education requires state educational agencies, when seeking waivers from statutory or regulatory requirements, solicit public comment on the application, respond to public comments, and provide evidence of the available comment period. The Maine Department is requesting the period of availability for $2,578,500.00 of 1003(a) funds be extended from September 30, 2019 to September 30, 2020.

A copy of the letter seeking waiver from §421(b) of the General Provisions Act can be downloaded with key elements of the request included below.

Federal program affected by the requested waiver

Maine’s Model of Support for eligible Tier III (Comprehensive Supports and Intervention or CSI) and Tier I (Additional Targeted Supports and Intervention or ATSI) support under section 1003(a) of ESEA, as amended by the ESSA of 2015, is immediately impacted by the Department’s waiver request. This request is seeking to extend the availability of $2,578,500.00 to support eligible Maine schools.  The funding will assist schools in engaging in whole-school reform by meeting school and student needs.

Impact to Student Achievement

Waiving §421(b) of the General Provisions Act (Tydings waiver) will directly impact student achievement by allowing the Maine Department of Education to provide increased support for school and classroom leaders during the 2019-2020 school year. Maine is committed to providing a differentiated method of support to struggling schools. Maine’s Model of Support includes coaching and mentoring for school leaders, evidence-based professional learning for educators, and content-specific instructional coaching in classrooms. This process requires all eligible Tier III schools to annually partner with educators, families, and community members to complete a comprehensive needs assessment (CNA). During this process each school team analyzes local academic and non-academic data, identifies promising practices and concerning trends, determines root cause,and creates meaningful goals and a plan for continuous improvement.


The Department will continue to work with schools eligible to receive Tier III (CSI) and Tier I (ATSI) support to ensure funds are utilized in a manner that is reasonable, necessary and allowable under the ESEA, as amended by the ESSA of 2015. The Maine Department of Education will continue to ensure proposed uses of funds align with the school’s completed CNA.  Schools eligible to receive Tier III (CSI) supports will continue to document all school improvement related work within DirigoStar (Indistar), the Department’s online project management tool. Each school is also supported and monitored by an assigned school leadership coach. Maine DOE leadership and instructional coaches visit each Tier III eligible school several times throughout the school year.

Continuity of Services to Students

Schools will continue to utilize their completed CNAs to direct and implement the work without negative impact to specific student populations. The extension to the period of availability of funds will ensure schools will have an increased opportunity to access funds to further target supports and meet the needs and goals of the schools, students, and educators as determined in the CNA. Schools will continue to share and engage with communities and families in ways they have found beneficial, and which meet the needs of schools and their communities.

Comments may be submitted to:

Free Training, Technical Assistance, Equipment and Materials for Public Preschool Programs

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) has received a grant from the US Department of Education to support public preschool teachers, special educators, principals and special education directors in providing high quality classroom environments and inclusion practices for 4-year-olds.

The program is being offered through Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (MRTQ PDN), a University of Maine System partnership between University of Southern Maine (USM) and University of Maine (UMaine), that includes the University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies (CCIDS) which has expertise in providing training and technical assistance around inclusionary practices.

MRTQ PDN will contract with Maine DOE and partner with Child Development Services to provide online training and technical assistance to 3 classrooms of 6 participants each. Teams must include the preschool teacher, ed tech, principal, special education director, elementary special education teacher, and a CDS consultant or teacher. The purpose of team participation is to ensure consistent understanding and application of the course content so that high quality inclusive practices will be supported and sustained.  All team members will receive certificates of contact hours which support certification renewal and/or local professional development requirements.

This project will serve as a pilot to help Maine DOE gather information on what schools need to best support all preschool age children, including those with special needs and disabilities.

Upon completion of training and technical assistance, each public preschool classroom teacher who has participated will receive $1500 in mini-grants for materials and supplies to support high quality preschool inclusionary environments.

For more information, or FAQ view the application or contact Nicole Madore at


End of School Year 18’-19’Checklist for Completing Reports

The following checklist is designed to assist districts with publicly funded students in completing required end of year reports.  The dates listed after each report are when the report is open for entry and due for certification, if required.

Synergy:  The following items are available in the Synergy Student Information System. Please visit the Synergy Instructions Helpdesk Page for Synergy codes to be used for the items below.

   Update Attendance – All students with an enrollment must have attendance entered.

   Update Truancy – All students who have met the threshold for truancy must have a truancy incident entered.

  Special Education – exit any students who have left special education: Special Education will not need to be ended unless the student is exiting the special education program. Special Education services will need to be          uploaded each year.

   Update Behavior – Note: all enrollments exited with an expulsion must have an expulsion incident in the Behavior module.

   Update/End ALL Enrollments (done last):

  • DOE will NOT be automatically ending enrollments
  • Concurrent enrollment MUST be ended before the primary enrollment can be ended
  • All students will need to be exited on their actual last day of school. This may be verified using “Attending Student Report”
  • June 30 should not be automatically populated for the last day of school.
  • Future exit dates that are more than 7 days out are not permitted in the system.
  • Ending a student’s enrollment will end Economic Status and Truancy – to avoid this, update Truancy records prior to ending enrollments
  • Ending enrollments will prevent you from manually updating Attendance Data. Once an enrollment has been ended, attendance data can only be modified by uploading the data.
  • New enrollments will need to be uploaded/entered as well as special education information each school year.

Annual End of Year Reports and Certifications:

The following items are Annual Reports for the 2018/2019 school year. Instructions for these reports can be found here:

The report listed below is linked directly to its corresponding certification report in NEO

Graduation Phase I : April 1 – May 15

Graduation Phase 1 Instructions

Maine Schools and School Approval – Verified and certified by Superintendent by May 3 – June 14th

Instructions for Maine Schools

Accountability– Verified and certified by Superintendent. May 13 – June 21

Accountability Report Instructions

Attendance – Verified and certified by Superintendent. June 4 – June 29

Attendance Reporting Instructions

Behavior – Verified and certified by Superintendent. June 4 – June 29

Behavior Reporting Instructions

Special Education Exit Report – Verified and certified by Special Ed Director or Superintendent. June 1 – June 31.

Special Education Exit Reporting Instructions

Truancy – Verified and certified by Superintendent. June 4 – June 29

Truancy Reporting Instructions

Bullying reporting –  Verified and certified by Superintendent. June 15 -June 29.

Bullying Reporting Instructions

Report of Adult Education for Subsidy Purposes–  June 1-July 15.

EF-M-39 Report of Adult Education Instructions

School Health Annual Report.  May 25 – July 31.

School Health Annual Report Instructions

Restraint and Seclusion Report – Verified and certified by Superintendent. June 15 – August 1.

Restraint and Seclusion Reporting Instructions

Graduation Phase II: July 1 – August 30

Graduation Phase II Instructions

Q4 Actual Balance Sheet July 1 – August 23

Actual Balance Sheet Instructions

Q4 Actual Expenditure July 1 – August 23

Actual Expenditure Instructions

Q4 Actual Revenue July 1 – August 23

Actual Revenue Instructions

Q1 Budget Expenditure – Due by 8/2/2019 or 30 days after the budget passes, whichever is later

Budget Expenditure Instructions

Q1 Budget Revenue (coming soon) – Due by 8/2/2019 or 30 days after the budget passes, whichever is later.

Budget Revenue Instructions

Contacts and Questions:  If you have questions about these reports, (i.e. what should be entered) please contact the specialist listed below:

Attendance: Trevor Burns 624-6678

Maine Schools: Katherine Warren 624-6716

Special Education: Brandi Giguere 624-6648

Financial Reports: Tyler Backus 624-6635

Truancy: Gayle Erdheim 624-6637

School Approvals: Pam Ford-Taylor 624-6617

Behavior/Bullying/Restraint and Seclusion: Sarah Adkins 624-6685

Accountability: Katherine Warren 624-6855

School Nurse Report: Emily Poland 624-6688

If you have questions about accessing the reports, please call or email the helpdesk, 624-6896 or

If you do not have credentials for Synergy or NEO, the district superintendent may grant access using the appropriate webform on the Helpdesk Page:

Synergy Access Request

NEO Access Request