MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE Farm to School Cook-off Takes on New Format

people cooking in industrial kitchen
Competitors cooking the 2019/2020 Cook-off.

AUGUSTA –The Maine Department of Education, Child Nutrition team is holding its annual Farm to School Cook-off in SY 2021 as usual, except this year it will look a bit differently. The cook-off is a statewide culinary competition for teams of school nutrition professionals and students to promote local foods in school meals. This voluntary competition is made available to all school districts in the state.

On a “typical” year, the cook-off would involve three regional competitions that take place in locations across the state (including CTE culinary arts centers), and a finals competition in the Child Nutrition Culinary Classroom. To adapt to these ever-changing times, the format for the 2021 cook-off will be as follows:

Round 1– virtual cook-off (March 2021). Teams will submit videos of their breakfast and lunch meals to be posted on the Child Nutrition website, where voting will take place. The top three teams will advance to round 2.

The video presentation will include details on local ingredients, techniques used, feasibility, and anything else the team would like to share.

Round 2– final cook-off (May 2021). The top teams will compete in the Child Nutrition Culinary Classroom in Augusta! The 2021 Farm to School Cook-off champion will be awarded a plaque and the opportunity to be spokespeople in the 2022 cookbook. Please note all necessary precautions will be taken, including face coverings and social distancing of teams in the culinary classroom. The Child Nutrition team will be monitoring any changes needed to this format to ensure the safety of all participants.

Each team will prepare a breakfast and lunch meal within a specific time frame using at least three ingredients that are grown, raised, caught, or manufactured in the State of Maine and meet Summer Food Service Program meal requirements as well as one USDA food. Local eggs and local parsnips will be used as “challenge” ingredients in the competition. All recipes will later be shared in a Maine farm to school cookbook to be used in future summer meals programs.

Interested school districts can find more information and the link to register on the Maine Child Nutrition website. The registration deadline is December 18, 2020. For more information on Maine’s Farm and Sea to School program, visit

Middle School Career and Technical Education: New Grant Information and Resources

The Career and Technical Education (CTE) Team recently released information regarding Pilot C for implementing Middle School CTE programs. Middle School CTE provides an opportunity for Maine middle school students to experience hands on learning, workplace skills, and career exploration. CTE empowers students to explore interests and discover activities that are inspiring, experience potential career pathways, and gives them an awareness of the many options that are available.

In June of 2017, the legislature enacted law to expand CTE opportunities by requiring Maine schools to provide access to developmentally appropriate CTE for middle school students (grades 6-8). Along with this legislation, there was an opportunity for CTE schools to apply for grant funding to pilot a Middle School CTE program. In the fall of 2019, Maine Department of Education (DOE) opened the first round (Pilot A) of grants and 14 CTE schools applied and received funding. The second round (Pilot B) application had 14 grantees as well, and now Pilot C is available.

The MS-CTE Pilot C Grant applications are available and must be submitted to the MDOE by December 15, 2020. The grant must be expended or encumbered by June 30, 2021. Funds may be used in school year 20-21 and/or during school year 21-22 with proper obligation. (Obligation means amount representing orders placed, contracts awarded, services received, and similar transactions during an accounting period that will require payment during the same, or a future, period.) Through the current pilots, middle school students are discovering the many opportunities that are available to them in CTE. These pilots have included CTE camps, in school MS-CTE experiences, professional development opportunities for teachers at both the middle school and CTE school, hands on CTE tours, as well as after school CTE programming.

The Middle School CTE programs thrive with collaboration between the CTE schools and the middle schools. The middle schools and CTE schools work together to design a program that will meet the needs of the students and provide an engaging learning experience. Alignment with the middle school CTE standards is required for all programs. These standards are in draft form and are being reviewed through the implementation of the current pilot programs. The current draft standards can be found here.

For additional information please visit the Middle School CTE web site at or contact Margaret Harvey at

Get to Know the DOE Team: Meet Maryalice Crofton

Maine DOE Team member Maryalice Crofton from Volunteer Maine is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Campaign. Learn a little more about Maryalice in the brief question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

My job for the last 26 years has been with the Maine Commission for Community Service – 25 years as Executive Director. In July 2012, the Commission’s fiscal agent changed to the Department of Education so that’s the start of my internal connection to the business people. As one might expect, the role of Executive Director is multi-faceted. There are 24 Commissioners who are very involved in our work – we couldn’t do as much without them. Then there is the facet that is managing federal and state legislative as well as intergovernmental relationships. Our oversight committee is State and Local Government but our budget flows through DOE so we have a new relationship with education and cultural services. Then, there are the partnerships, public education, keeping everyone focused on our strategic plan, and supporting the team. I serve on the national public policy committee as well as a couple of work groups.

What do you like best about your job?

I’ve always said I would leave when I got bored. That hasn’t happened yet and it’s what keeps me engaged in the work. That, plus knowing the important role of service in community health and resiliency. It’s been such a relief to have more and more research published for our field.

How or why did you decide on this career?

That presumes I decided! I have to say that my career path has not been deliberate but accidental and it’s been an adventure. I came to the Commission after 15 years of leading mentoring nonprofits and before that I worked in youth development for UConn Cooperative Extension. Here I was the Grants Officer first – I told folks I didn’t want to be in charge for a while. Well, that lasted 4 months! Then the Exec Director retired and had me appointed interim. From there, it’s history.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

I’m an avid gardener, landscaper, singer, and thinker. If I say “I’ve been thinking” to either my husband or my work colleagues, they all get this pained expression that goes with “Oh, no. Now what?” Then they laugh and say how shocked they are.

Priority Notice: Input Sought for Teacher Shortage Areas

As part of a federal requirement, the Maine Department of Education submits to the U.S. Department of Education teacher shortage areas for designation, based on collected data and public input.  The U.S. DOE annually designates teacher shortage areas for purposes of deferment of loan repayments or reductions of teaching obligation.

The Department intends to propose the following as K-12 teacher shortage areas during the 2021-2022 school year:

  • Early Elementary (K-3)
  • Early Childhood (Pre-K)
  • English/Language Arts (7-12)
  • Social Studies (7-12)
  • Teacher of Students with Disabilities (all grade levels)
  • Mathematics (7-12)
  • Physical Science (7-12)
  • Spanish (PK-12)
  • Physical Education (PK-12)
  • Health (PK-12)
  • Visual Arts (PK-12)
  • English – Second Language (PK-12)

The Maine Department of Education is committed to working with our schools to most accurately represent the needs and shortage areas across our state. We recognize the diverse geographic regions and varying conditions that comprise our public education system and strive for equitable and accurate representation.

To provide input regarding a specific shortage area, or to propose additional shortage areas, please submit correspondence to Stephanie Fyfe at within 10 days of this notice.

Honoring RISE Award Finalist Debra Baldacci From Bangor

Deb Baldacci is a devoted Lunch Accountability Clerk at Fruit Street School in the Bangor School Department. She was recently nominated for the RISE Award and honored by the Maine Department of Education (DOE). The RISE Award (Recognizing Inspirational School Employees ) honors classified school employees who provide exemplary service.

“Mrs B, as she’s affectionately known as, commits to memory the names of each student, their sibling, teacher and preferences for food choice. She gently encourages students to do their best and make healthy choices. She notices everything and seeks out counsel when wondering about one of her students changes in behavior.”

“As a specialist in the school, I know that if I have a student who comes to my office saying they had no time for breakfast, I can take that student to her office to work out how to solve that problem. She will without hesitation stop what she’s doing to show care and concern for any child, whether that be asking if they need more breakfast, or notice something special about a student.”

“She looks to fill any needed training for her staff by sharing with them information within the school day process that they might to need know. She takes it upon herself to see that tasks are completed even if they are not specifically assigned to her or her staff.”

“Everyone knows Ms. B. I have students that years later, I might see, and they will ask about Ms. B. She has put everyone as a priority so that they consider her to be the safe harbor when times are difficult, and they seek out to share good news. She’s our rock.”

 When asked about her job, this is what Deb had to say:

“I feel very fortunate to work at Fruit Street with such a wonderful staff and students.”

RISE Award nominations were submitted from across the state by local educational agencies, school administrators, educators, professional associations, nonprofits, parents and community members this fall. More information on the Maine RISE Award can be found here the national RISE Award can be found here.