How Ashland District School has Adapted to Make Music Education a Priority

By Jonathan Simonoff, Visual and Performing Arts Chair for Ashland Community School

The Ashland District School (MSAD 32) music program tried really hard to keep a positive outlook during these difficult times. Instead of thinking “It’s too bad we can’t do this,” we tried to frame it as, “How great is it that we get to do this now?” We looked at our goals for each part of our Pre-K – 12 curriculum and tried to identify ways to still reach these goals in a safe but engaging environment. For some classes those changes were minimal but other parts of the program had a drastic overhaul.

For example, the youngest elementary grades have not changed much but some parts of instruction are being recorded so that vocal and instrumental songs can still be shown to the students. Those classes are also being taught in each grade’s homeroom now.

In the past, 4th grade students would use recorders as part of pre-band lessons. This year we are using ukuleles to try to hit upon these concepts. Each student has a ukulele they get to use in class that is sanitized after.

Our beginning band students have also seen a significant change. Since we are not starting any students on traditional band instruments, we have made use of keyboards and drum pads. The class has been put into groups and each student in 5th grade gets a weekly small group lesson on keyboards for note reading skills and drum pads for extra rhythm reinforcement. We are in week 3 of these lessons and so far, every kid is reading and playing very well. I do remind them that they will get a chance to try the band instrument they want but these skills will help them later.

Last year our middle school students usually would have the option of signing up for middle school guitar class or middle school band. This year the guitar class is still an option and the other class they can sign up for is middle school percussion, which focuses on reading and playing rhythms on a variety of traditional and non-traditional percussion instruments.

Perhaps the groups that have changed the most this year are my high school classes. Normally high school students would have the option of taking guitar class or high school band. The guitar class is still running as normal but high school band has changed significantly.

My ed. tech and I have developed an alternating multi-course option for my high school students. We rotate courses every other day and students were able to sign up for one course each day. The courses offered as follows – Piano Class, Percussion Class, Strings Class, Rock Band, Independent Study, or 1 study hall. For example, a student could take piano one day and strings the other day and they follow that schedule for at least a semester before potentially changing their courses.

The classes are pretty self-explanatory.  Piano class (a very popular choice) is like a group piano lab. Percussion class has students spending time practicing rhythms and working on drum set techniques. Strings class is teaching students violin. Rock band (another popular choice) has students working with guitar, bass guitar, piano, and drum set to play modern music and independent study allows students to set up and achieve their own musical goals with check-ins with me to track their progress and give advice. For example, I have a few students working on playing the ukulele and using online guides to help them. I also have some students working on creating their own compositions. Study hall is a chance for students catch up on their other academics.

This set up comes with the understanding that students need to be self-motivated and disciplined since some of the time in class they are expected to work independently while myself or my ed. tech are working with other students. It has been very rewarding both for students and teachers to see progress being made and finding new ways to connect with and learn about music.

It also has been a lot of work to set up in terms of making sure we have enough keyboards and violins. We also are writing some of the music out by ear for students (particularly the Rock Band) to perform. But now that we are a month into school, things seem to be moving along nicely and I am very happy with how this year is shaping up!

This story was submitted by Jonathan Simonoff, Visual and Performing Arts Chair for Ashland Community School in collaboration with Jason Anderson, Visual and Performing Arts Specialist for the Maine DOE as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea email it to Rachel at

iCivics STUDENT Webinar to Discuss the 2020 Election (For Students/Classrooms Grades 3-12)

On Friday, October 2 at 10am join Joe Schmidt (Social Studies Specialist MDOE) as he hosts an iCivics panel to discuss Getting from “Can’t Vote. Don’t Care” to “Count Me In”: Youth Engagement in a Presidential Election.

This 30-minute session is intended for your students to watch on YouTube live and submit questions as iCivics will talk about the importance of voting (even for students who are not old enough to vote) and how students can be involved. The iCivics panel will then answer questions submitted by your students. You and your students can join in and watch here – The comments section will be turned off so questions will be collected ahead of the webinar.

This form can be shared with your students or collect your student questions and submit on their behalf. This session will be recorded and available for asynchronous viewing at a later time.

Contact Joe Schmidt ( with any of your questions.

Priority Notice: Maine DOE seeks public comment on waiving requirement that 21st CCLC programs operate only during non-school hours

In response to the unprecedented obstacles schools, teachers, students, and their families are facing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has offered an additional waiver to state education agencies, pursuant to section 4201(b)(1)(A) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).  Under Title IV, Part B of the ESEA, section 4201(b)(1)(A) requiring that 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) programs operate only during non-school hours or periods when school is not in session.  If granted, this waiver would allow 21st CCLC program providers in Maine to temporarily operate with greater flexibilities to better meet the needs to students and families during the 2020-2021 school year.

This waiver would grant the Maine Department of Education (DOE) temporary authority to permit its 21st CCLC programs to provide supplemental services when school is in session, but students are not receiving in-person instruction.  For example, it would be permitted that a teacher provides additional 21st CCLC-funded academic supports for a group of students during a remote learning day when those students are not otherwise engaged in facilitated instruction with their classroom teacher.

The Maine DOE continues to work diligently to support Maine’s schools and educational communities as the 2020-2021 school year begins.  Given the hybrid instructional approaches many schools have adopted this year, students may benefit from dedicated staff and enhanced resources to help with remote lessons, independent work, and other enrichment opportunities during the portion of the week when remote lessons learning is occurring.  It is for reasons such as these that the Maine DOE has chosen to pursue this waiver.

As part of the statutory requirements for seeking this waiver, the Maine DOE must solicit and respond to public comment on its waiver request as well as provide evidence of the available comment period.  This 15-day public comment period shall begin on September 29, 2020 and conclude on October 14, 2020.

Comments may be submitted to:

Applications Open for United State Senate Youth Program

The United States Senate Youth Program (USSYP) is pleased to announce that the state departments of education nationwide have begun their annual selection processes. Two Maine students will be selected to attend the online Washington Week program March 14-18, 2021 and each will receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship. This year the application process will be completely online with each high school principal able to nominate one student from their high school to be considered.

Students must submit their application and signed nomination via email no later than 11:59pm on December 4, 2020. All form, requirements, and additional information can be found at on the Maine Social Studies DOE Website. More about the program can be found on the National USSYP website.

The USSYP was created by Senate Resolution 324 in 1962 as stated in supporting Senate testimony from that year, “to increase young Americans’ understanding of the interrelationship of the three branches of government, the caliber and responsibilities of federally elected and appointed officials, and the vital importance of democratic decision making not only for America but for people around the world.”

Each year, this extremely competitive merit-based program brings 104 of America’s brightest high school juniors and seniors from every state, the District of Columbia, and the Department of Defense Education Activity, to Washington, D.C. for an intensive week-long study of the federal government and its leaders. The state departments of education throughout the country select the students through a rigorous nomination and selection process. Each of the 104 student delegates will also receive a $10,000 undergraduate college scholarship, with encouragement to continue coursework in history, government and public affairs. The Hearst Foundations have fully funded and administered the program since inception; as stipulated in S. Res. 324, no government funds are utilized.

MaineCare Seed Adjustments, Q4’20 Reports Due by October 15, 2020

The recovery of Q4’20 MaineCare Seed will occur in the October 2020 subsidy payment and the Maine DOE is asking school administrative units (SAU) to review their reports by October 15, 2020 to ensure accurate adjustments to subsidy. SAU staff must review student by student claims on both the public and private MaineCare reports for Q4’20 by October 15, 2020.

To access the MaineCare Seed reports, please follow the instructions below.

  1. Log into NEO using this link:
  • Anyone who currently has Special Education Director permissions to the Special Education module, will automatically have permissions to access MaineCare reports.
  • As in the past, if a new staff member needs permission to access this module, a request from the Superintendent to the Maine DOE Helpdesk will be necessary. The helpdesk contact information is or 207-624-6896.
  1. Click on the Student Data tab
  2. Click on the Student Report tab
  3. Select MaineCare in the Reporting Area drop-down
  4. Choose the quarterly Seed report and the report type (private/public)
  5. Click view report button
  6. Once the report appears on the screen, choose the export button.
  • You may export the reports to Excel but, please be aware that there may be multiple worksheet tabs within the workbook. Save the file to your computer.

If you disagree that a particular student or time period should be on the report, please provide the reason that you disagree along with the following information to

  • Identify the type of report (public or private) and the quarter in which the claims are located.
  • State Student ID
  • Service provided dates (From and To)
  • Total amount of Seed being disputed

Summer services: Students must be enrolled for the time period they are receiving educational services. This means that students that are receiving extended school year services in district or extended school year services in an out of district placement must have a primary enrollment for that time period in order for the MDOE to have the most accurate enrollment data to determine SAU responsibility for MaineCare Seed.

Please contact for more information or technical assistance related to MaineCare Seed.