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

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.

Clarification on Proposal of MaineCare Benefits Manual Section 106, School-Based Services 

On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, MaineCare filed the proposed Section 106, School-Based Services rule (Chapters II and III) with the Secretary of State’s office. At that time, a version of the proposed rule was shared publicly, although the rulemaking documents will not be available online until January 29, 2020, as per the standard Administrative Procedure Act (APA) process. 

Since that time, the public hearing has been rescheduled to Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at the Augusta Civic Center. This change, and other formatting changes to the proposed rule, will be posted online on January 29, 2020. At that time, MaineCare Services will send out a e-message notice and email to its Interested Parties, with a link to the proposed rule. 

In the meantime, MaineCare requests that any interested parties who would like to submit public comments, please wait until the public comment period has opened on February 18, 2020.  We apologize for any confusion this has caused.  If you have any questions about this notice, please contact Trista Collins, State Medicaid Educational Liaison.

MaineCare Seed adjustments to be made, review Q1-20 reports by January 15, 2020

The recovery of Q1-20 MaineCare Seed will occur in the January 2020 subsidy payment, and the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) is asking School Administrative Units (SAUs) to review their reports by January 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 Q1-20 by January 15, 2020.

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

  1. Log into NEO using the link below

https://neo.maine.gov/DOE/neo/Dashboard

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 medms.helpdesk@maine.gov 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, to Denise.towers@maine.gov.

  • 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.

For more information or technical assistance related to MaineCare Seed, please contact Denise.towers@maine.gov.

School Bus Purchase Program Applications Open November 1

The Maine Department of Education is accepting applications to receive subsidy for new school buses purchased through the School Bus Purchase Program.  The application period is November 1 through November 25, 2019.

The Department will be able to approve about $9 million in school bus allocations that combines new bus requests and the prior year bus term commitment.  Round one applications will be accepted.  This program provides subsidy to school administrative units (SAUs) in order to offset partial cost of new school buses that are used to transport students to and from home and school and school events.  This program is a resource to help SAUs purchase new school buses, retire end of life school buses, and respond to emergency and special bus needs.  Eligible vehicles must meet Code of Maine Regulations Chapter 85 minimum qualifications, with the exception of Section 3.1.

The School Bus Purchase Program instructions and application information are available on the Maine DOE’s NEO website dashboard.  For more information or technical assistance, please contact Pat Hinckley at 624-6886 or email pat.hinckley@maine.gov .