PRIORITY NOTICE: Update and Guidance From Commissioner Makin: April 1, 2020

Dear Champions of Education, 

Yesterday, Governor Mills issued a “stay at home” order, offering specific guidance around curtailing non-essential activities, gatherings, and travel. She also ordered schools to refrain from in-person, classroom instruction practices until after May 1st (or until further orders are issued).  

As we close in on the third week of remote instruction, please know that your resilient leadership and ongoing efforts are making a huge difference for Maine students and families. While everything is so suddenly chaotic and unfamiliar to everyone, our schools continue to shine like a beacon of hope. I have received countless emails and messages from legislators, parents, community members, and students sharing their gratitude for the steady support, the nutritional services, and the deeply human connections that are provided by educators, counselors, and school administrators. I’ve heard anecdotes from teachers who have noticed increased participation and engagement from students who had previously been among the most disconnected and apathetic. The lesson in this phenomenon is an important one… they’re counting on you even when their outward behaviors disguise this fact. 

Updates and information: 

  • Essential employees:   PreK-12 educational and. Child nutrition staff are all considered essential during this crisis. We are currently working with our educational organizations’ leadership to develop clarified and unified guidance in light of the Governor’s most recent Executive Order.  
  • Nutrition programs and April vacation: Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition team continues to seek flexibilities and waivers for our SAUs and communities. We are thrilled to share that there have been waivers granted for schools with fewer than 50% free/reduced meal students and bulk service provisions. Read more here.  We have applied for a waiver that will allow meal programs to be Reimbursed For the meals served during April vacation- currently not reimbursable. We will provide an update as soon as we hear from USDA. 
  • The CARES Act federal relief package will provide schools/SAU’s with funding to mitigate some of the financial impacts of the COVID-related disruption. Much more on this coming very soon! 
  • Remote Learning Plans/Sharing: Although we’re not requiring districts to share their remote learning plans, some have shared theirs with us and offered them as a resource to others that are still developing their plans! We will be happy to collect and share in a protected way with colleagues. Thank you to all who have shared their well-developed plans! If you’d like to offer your districts plan as a guide for others, please email Chief Innovation Officer, Page Nichols at page.nichols@maine.gov. 
  • Home Instruction: The Department recognizes that disruption due to COVID-19 may impact a home instruction family’s ability to maintain the required number of instructional days, and is therefore including home instruction in the statewide waiver granted for the minimum of 175 days of instruction for 2019-2020 school year.  Demonstration of satisfactory academic progress is still required to be submitted to superintendents by September 1st.  
  • School Budget, voting, etc:  We have been working with MSMA, the AG’s office, and the Governor’s office to develop an executive order that will provide the various flexibilities that have been requested. Please stay tuned – solutions are imminent.  (The Legislature did vote our GPA budget IN and intact, so your ED279 printouts provide an accurate basis for what you’ll receive in state subsidy).  
  • DOE is open for business – including CERTIFICATION office!  The system is up and running, the phones are being monitored by our knowledgeable and helpful team of experts, and we are eager to get your completed applications for renewal or initial certification processed as soon as possible! We have had some state level issues with phone system overload, so don’t hesitate to use email also!  As mentioned in an earlier notice, we do intend to provide extensions for those who have had education, testing, fingerprinting, or practicum/internship disruptions due to the COVID emergency – but for those of you who have completed the necessary steps, please submit necessary documentation and move ahead with your renewal application!   

Silver Linings: 

  • It’s possible that we’re demonstrating capacity for never having to make up “snow days” in the future!  
  • We have a perfect opportunity to redesign our state assessment system! 
  • Every time we do something kind or selfless to benefit someone else, we get a bump of serotonin … It even works when we simply observe someone being kind to someone else!  
  • Amid the fear and loss and physical disconnection, watch empathy, compassion, and humanity shining like the North Star – far above the fray.  
  • We will emerge from this better than we’ve ever been. 

Thank you for all you are doing on behalf of your students, staff, and communities.  

 Pender

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE Increases Flexibility to School Meal Programs Feeding Children in Need

Maine –With the approval of yet another waiver to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and additional bulk packaging options, the Maine Department of Education has been able to add significant flexibility to its school food service programs, enabling schools to provide meals to students all over Maine, increasing the potential to reach even more hungry children in a more meaningful way.

The first waiver obtained by the Maine DOE expanded the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) allowing school districts and community partners to provide meals to students during extended remote learning due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Today Maine DOE received approval for a waiver to the requirement that National School Lunch Program participants must have a population of at least 50% who receive free or reduced- meals.  Maine DOE requested flexibility to locate meal distribution sites in areas that do not meet the 50% criteria to ensure that any child can receive the meals they normally would on a regular school day during unanticipated school closures related to COVID-19. To maintain children’s access to meals, and to support families experiencing financial hardship, Maine DOE requested to waive the area eligibility requirements under 7 CFR 225.6(c)(2)(i)(G). This was approved by the federal Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

The Maine DOE has also been granted flexibility to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Summer Food Service Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program, allowing schools and community partners to prepare meals in bulk – multiple meals for several days in one package for children up to the age of 18.

Advanced planning of bulk meals is required to ensure that the meal pattern is met, and food will be stored and prepared in a safe manner. Bulk provisions would be provided for in home meal preparation.

Schools and community partners can now request approval from the Maine Child Nutrition team at the Maine Department of Education. For more information or to submit a request for an approval. Child.nutrition@maine.gov

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In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits.  Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1)     mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
(2)      fax: (202) 690-7442; or
(3)      email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

The Maine Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, genetic information, religion, ancestry or national origin.

Complaints of discrimination must be filed at the office of the Maine Human Rights Commission, 51 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0051. If you wish to file a discrimination complaint electronically, visit the Human Rights Commission website at https://www.maine.gov/mhrc/file/instructions and complete an intake questionnaire. Maine is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

 

 

Maine DOE Seeks Applicants for Paid Professional Learning Opportunity

The Maine Department of Education is seeking applications from qualified individuals interested in learning more about the competitive grant process.  Selected applicants will be trained to serve as peer reviewers who assist the Department in to reviewing, assessing, and scoring competitive grant proposals for the 21st Century Community Leaning Centers (21st CCLC) Program.  The 21st CCLC program is a federally-funded education program that provides competitive funding for schools and communities to develop before-school, after-school, and summer educational programs that support students and their families.

This year’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for the 21st CCLC program was released to the public on January 2 and is available online at: https://www.4pcamaine.org/century21/FY2020/. The Department anticipates receiving proposals from local education agencies, community-based organizations, and other eligible entities seeking awards under this RFP.

Qualifications:

Applicants will be selected based on their experience in providing effective academic support, enrichment, youth development, and related support services for children and youth.  The most qualified candidates will be individuals who have experience in the administration of high-quality youth development programs within schools and communities.  Examples of the experienced individuals sought include, but are not limited to:

  • 21st CCLC program directors and site coordinators
  • Teachers and principals
  • College and university staff
  • Youth development workers
  • Community resource providers

Please note that an applicant or member of an applicant’s organization will not be selected to serve as a member of the Department’s peer review team.

Required Tasks:

Selected applicants will work individually to read each assigned application and create detailed, objective, constructive, and well-written comments on approximately 10-12 applications based on the criteria established in the RFP. These comments will be turned in to the Department prior to participating in on-site consensus scoring sessions.  Applicants must be able to participate in an online training webinar and review grant applications through a web-based system.  It is anticipated that selected candidates will have a three (3) week window in which to complete the individual review of assigned proposals.  Following the individual review of proposals, each successful applicant will be required to travel to the Maine Department of Education for two scheduled scoring days.  It is during these consensus scoring sessions that the peer review team to score each application.

Selected candidates must complete the following tasks during the following date(s):

Task Date(s) Time(s)
Participate in an online training webinar April 3, 2020 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM
Review grant applications through a web-based system and provide individual, written comments on each application (which MUST be turned in to the Department) April 6, 2020 –
April 28, 2020
Any Time
Participate in on-site consensus scoring sessions which will be located at the Maine Department of Education in Augusta, ME April 30, 2020;
May 1, 2020
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM;
9:00 AM – Finished

Compensation for Services:

Selected reviewers who complete the required tasks will be reimbursed for travel costs to and from the consensus scoring sessions as well as provided a $85 honorarium per assigned application.

Previous participants have also found that serving as a member of the peer review team is an excellent opportunity for professional development and growth. It is likely that, if selected, applicants will be exposed to new program models, strategies, and practices.  These new concepts may provide ideas and support for ongoing work as well as future grant writing efforts.  Most importantly, the time given to this effort will help ensure the funding of quality education programs for the children and families of Maine.

How to Apply:

Interested parties must contact Travis Doughty at travis.w.doughty@maine.gov to obtain a copy of the 2020 peer reviewer application and then return the completed application along with a current resume or CV.

Pursuant to Title IV, Part B of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, peer reviewers may not include any applicant, or representative of an applicant, that has or will submit a proposal in response to the current competition.

Deadline:

The Maine Department of Education will continue accepting peer reviewer applications through March 12, 2020 or until the needed positions are filled.  Interested parties are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

Contact:

For more information, contact State Coordinator, Travis Doughty at travis.w.doughty@maine.gov or 624-6709.

Seeking Districts Interested in Helping with Public Service Announcements

The Maine Department of Education has begun coordinating Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for substitute (guest) teacher shortages and bus driver shortages that many Maine schools and SAUs are experiencing.

To help attract candidates, we would like to get some video footage at schools and do short video interviews with school personnel (superintendents, transportation directors, teachers) and perhaps students to talk about bus drivers and substitutes. We will also be looking into providing a link on our website to a general application that can be filled out and submitted to any school or district in Maine.

Districts leaders that are interested in helping the Department with this effort should contact Rachel Paling at rachel.paling@maine.gov.

Lincoln Elementary Helps Kick of 5th Annual “Read to ME” Challenge

For the 5th year, schools and community partners across Maine have collaborated with the Maine Department of Education to launch the Read to ME Challenge, a month-long public awareness campaign held in February to promote childhood literacy in Maine. 

Lincoln Elementary School in Augusta helped kick off this year’s Challenge by hosting Commissioner Pender Makin who read Full, Full, Full of LOVE by Trish Cooke to an assembly of Kindergarten through 2nd grade students. Joining the Commissioner was Lincoln Elementary School Principal Heather Gauthier, Maine Senator Matthew Pouliot, Maine Representative Donna Doore, Augusta Superintendent James Anastasio, Augusta Assistant Superintendent Donna Madore, Augusta Title I Director Theresa Violette, and Augusta School Board Member Staci Fortunato, along with Lincoln Elementary School teachers, staff, community members, and other representatives from the Maine DOE. 

After a warm greeting and introduction from Principal Gauthier, Commissioner Makin read to students and then issued a challenge to Governor Janet Mills and to all of the Commissioners in the Governor’s Cabinet to participate in the 2020 Read to ME Challenge campaign.  This simple but powerful campaign challenges adults to read to children for 15 minutes, capture that moment via a photo or a video, and then post it on social media and challenge others to do the same. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #ReadtoME and tag the Maine DOE at @mdoenews on Twitter and @MaineDepartmentofEducation1 on Facebook! 

Following the reading and challenge, Maine Department of Education staff members Dee Saucier, Lee Anne Larsen, and Mary Hermon, along with Senator Matthew Pouliot, and Representative Donna Doore visited different classrooms at Lincoln Elementary and were among the first to take the Challenge.  

The Read to ME Challenge will run for the month of February, leading up to Read Across America Day on March 2, 2019. Learn more about the Read to ME Challenge on the Maine DOE Website, which includes a heat map of participants and an opportunity to submit your Read to ME story for the heat map!