Administrative Letter: 2018-2019 Maine Schools/Public School Approval Now Open

Administrative Letter: 16
Policy Code: KLL
TO: Public School Administrators
FROM: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
DATE: July 12, 2018
SUBJECT: 2018-2019 Maine Schools/Public School Approval Now Open

In accordance with 20-A M.R.S. Chapter 206 and Maine Department of Education (DOE) Rule Chapter 125, to maintain continued approval status for the school administrative unit and all schools within it, the superintendent shall submit timely completed annual school reports to the Commissioner, including the annual approval report for the unit and for each school in the unit certifying progress on the Comprehensive Education Plan.
Public schools complete the annual school approval process in the NEO information system, verifying required organization and school administrative unit and school approval information in the NEO Maine Schools module.

This year the two separate processes – Maine Schools Update, and School Approval – were integrated into a one-step process, thereby allowing submission of both organizational information and school approval checklist items in one sitting. In addition, the information may be saved when partially finished to complete at a later time. While completing the approval process, the page should be saved often, as there is a time-out period.

Public School and NEO

Maine Schools/School Approval NEO Module
The Maine Schools module in the Maine DOE’s NEO information system is now open for the 2018-2019 school year. The NEO Maine Schools form is required by all public schools to inform the Maine Department of Education of school and district contact information, changes in grade spans, and other school-related information. This module new includes the school approval component for public schools. As a preliminary step, in order for an organization to be updated in Maine Schools, the superintendent or chief administrator of the school must first be entered into the NEO Staff Module. Access to NEO staff can be obtained by submitting a NEO Access Request Form (Excel) form to the MDOE Data Helpdesk.

Filling out the Maine Schools/School Approval Module: All fields with the exception of Administrative Office Fax are required. PO Boxes will not be accepted in the “Physical Address” box. Mailing address is needed only if different from Physical address. The Cost Center information references the three-digit code that the business office uses in the public financial system to assign building level costs (may require two codes).
At the bottom, check the box to confirm that all information has been reviewed before signing and submitting the form.

Log in to the NEO information system. Click on Maine Schools. If you do not see this option on your menu, and are a superintendent, technical coordinator, or administrative assistant, please contact the MEDMS Helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov or 207-624-6896.

Please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, Maine DOE School Enrollment Specialist at 207-624-6617 or Pamela.Ford-Taylor@maine.gov with questions or comments about the school approval.

Administrative Letter: 2018-2019 Private School Approval, NEO Maine Schools, and Staff Now Open

Administrative Letter: 15
Policy Code: KLL
TO: Private School Administrators
FROM: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
DATE: July 12, 2018
SUBJECT: 2018-2019 Private School Approval, NEO Maine Schools, and Staff Now Open

In accordance with 20-A M.R.S. Chapter 117, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) requires private schools seeking approval status to be approved annually.

Private schools seeking approval status must enter required organization and staff information into the NEO information system and submit their annual school approval report. Related documentation should be submitted to Maine DOE’s School Enrollment/Approval Specialist, either electronically or by mail. The NEO requirements need not be completed prior to the submission of the annual report; however, school approval will not be issued until the NEO information is complete and verified.

Private School and NEO

Maine Schools NEO Module
The Maine Schools module in the Maine DOE’s NEO information system is now open for the 2018-2019 school year. The NEO Maine Schools form is required by all public and private schools to inform the Maine Department of Education of school and district contact information, changes in grade spans, and other school-related information. As a preliminary step, in order for an organization to be updated in Maine Schools, the superintendent or chief administrator of the school must first be entered into the NEO Staff Module. Access to NEO staff can be obtained by submitting a NEO Access Request Form (Excel) form to the MDOE Data Helpdesk.

Filling out the Maine Schools Module: All fields with the exception of Administrative Office Fax are required. PO Boxes will not be accepted in the “Physical Address” box. Mailing address is needed only if different from Physical address. The Cost Center information references the three-digit code that the business office uses in the public financial system to assign building level costs (may require two codes). Since this is a required field but currently not used for private schools, a value of “001,” “002,” etc. should be entered there to indicate this is an excluded field.

At the bottom, check the box to confirm that all information has been reviewed before signing and submitting the form.

Log in to the NEO information system. Click on Maine Schools. If you do not see this option on your menu, and are a superintendent (for private schools, this is the head of school), technical coordinator, or administrative assistant, please contact the MEDMS Helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov or 207-624-6896.

Staff NEO Module
For security and privacy purposes, all staff information must be entered in the NEO Staff module. The Maine DOE school approval process will include a clearance check for every school employee, as well as appropriate certification checks where applicable.

Guidance for Completing the Annual School Approval Report and Documentation

2018-2019 Approval Reports and requirement checklists are linked below, and also available from the updated Private School Approval  web page. If unsure of which form is appropriate for your needs, please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, School Enrollment/Approval Specialist.

Changes/Additions/Clarifications:

  • Organization of annual report rearranged to make it clearer for schools meeting differing requirements according to accreditation and funding status.
  • Non-profit status.
  • Grade span may not include Pre-K. The Department does not “approve” private Pre-K schools. These schools are licensed by Maine DHHS.
  • Records maintenance and release policy
  • Schools receiving public funds must report the data that the Department requests, including attendance data for private schools enrolling 60% or greater publicly-funded students, per M.R.S. 20-A Section 2952.
  • Out of state private schools were “grandfathered” on previous approvals through 2017-18. For 2018-2019 these schools are no longer eligible to accept public funds unless they undergo the private school basic school approval process, including Maine fingerprint/background check, curriculum alignment with the Maine Learning Results, and movement toward proficiency-based diplomas.
  • Approval year will mirror the public school approval year – July 1 through June 30.

Please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, Maine DOE School Enrollment Specialist at 207-624-6617 or Pamela.Ford-Taylor@maine.gov with questions or comments about the school approval.

ADMINISTRATIVE LETTER: Guidance on multiple disabilities eligibility category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Administrative Letter: 14
Policy Code: BGC
To: Public School Administrators and Special Education Directors
From: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
Date: May 7, 2018
Subject: Guidance on multiple disabilities eligibility category under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Maine Department of Education’s Office of Special Services is providing the following information regarding the identification of “multiple disabilities” as an eligibility category for students with disabilities. This guidance is intended to help Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams correctly identify students with multiple disabilities consistent with the definition in federal law.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B, for a child to qualify under the category of “multiple disabilities,” the following criteria must be met:

  1. The child has impairments that occur concomitantly (two or more disabilities that occur at the same time); and
  2. the result of the combination of the impairments causes such severe educational needs that the child cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for one of the impairments.

Based on these criteria, the category of multiple disabilities requires the presence of severe educational needs, not solely the presence of two or more disabilities. For example, a child who has an intellectual disability and blindness or a child who has an intellectual disability and orthopedic impairment would be categorized as multiply disabled. An example of a child that should not be classified as having multiple disabilities could be child who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and has a speech language disability.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that Maine has much higher identification rates of children in the category of multiple disabilities than the national average.  In 2016-17, for ages 6–21, the national multiple disabilities rate (pooling across all states and territories for which data were available) was 2.34 percent while Maine’s rate was 10.77 percent. There are very few states/territories with higher rates than Maine’s.

Maine Multiple Disabilities Identification Rate Compared to National Average

National 2.34%
Maine 10.77%
These values represent the percentages of multiple disabilities out of all children with disabilities, not out of all children both with and without disabilities. 

Maine Multiple Disabilities Identification Rate 2014 – 2016

2016-17 10.46%
2015-16 10.04%
2014-15 9.68%
These values represent the percentages of multiple disabilities out of all children with disabilities, not out of all children both with and without disabilities. 

Given the significant difference between Maine’s identification rate and the national average, the Department will be working on supportive efforts to ensure that students are being correctly identified in this category. As such, the Maine Department of Education Office of Special Services’ monitoring team will be working with school districts with high identification rates in multiple disabilities as part of the general supervision system of monitoring and supports.  It is recommended that this information be shared with anyone who is a part of identification and/or triennial evaluations.

For more information about this topic, please contact the Maine Department of Education Office of Special Services by phone at (207) 624-6713 or via email to Jan Breton, Director of Special Services at janice.breton@maine.gov.

Administrative Letter: Important changes in documenting medical services in Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

Administrative Letter: 13
Policy Code: BGB
To: Public School Administrators and Special Education Directors
From: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
Date: April 14, 2018
Subject: Important changes in documenting medical services in Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

The Maine Department of Education has instituted new requirements for Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) beginning May 1, 2018. This guidance is offered in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services. The purpose of this change is to clarify the documentation of educationally and medically necessary services on the IEP aligning to Section 65 and Section 28 of the MaineCare Benefits Manual.  These changes will ensure compliance with documentation required for access to MaineCare benefits.

When an IEP Team determines that the nature and severity of a child’s educational needs are significant enough that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily (MUSER X.2.B. page 120), the least restrictive environment (LRE) statement must reflect the fact that certain services will be necessary in order for the child to access the curriculum.

Beginning May 1, 2018, the Department requires that newly developed or amended IEPs contain justification for medically and educationally necessary services such as day treatment services, rehabilitation services, nursing services, or other medical services that a child needs in order to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Other educationally and medically necessary services such as speech and language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social work services, and transportation are already listed in the service grid. The justification will be stated in the least restrictive environment section (LRE) of the IEP (Section 9).

The LRE statement must include information that would justify MaineCare paid educationally necessary medical services. An example of such a statement is the following: “Due to the child’s complex medical needs, the child requires a highly-structured setting with a predictable routine, clear and consistent consequences and integrated therapy for social and emotional needs in a significantly more restrictive day treatment setting”.  Please note that an LRE statement might include additional explanation and that the above example is not intended to necessarily model a complete LRE statement.

Beginning May 1, 2018, schools are requested to write an LRE statement similar to the above example depending on the specific needs of the child.  When the revised IEP form goes into effect on August 1, 2018, it will still be important to develop an appropriate LRE statement but the documentation for MaineCare purposes will be in section 8, “Additional Medical Services for FAPE”.

A draft copy of the revised IEP form can be accessed at the following site:  http://maine.gov/doe/specialed/forms/index.htmlPlease note: this form is only a draft and the revised IEP form will change before implementation on August 1, 2018. 

Further guidance will be included in a revision of the procedural manual available on the Special Services webpage sometime before the August 1 date.  For more information, contact the Department of Education – Office of Special Services at (207) 624 -6713.

Administrative Letter: Guidance for suspension, expulsion and modified schedules in public preschool programs

Administrative Letter: 12
Policy Code: JKD
To: Public School Administrators
From: Robert G. Hasson, Jr., Ed. D. Commissioner
Date: January 18, 2018
Subject: Guidance for suspension, expulsion and modified schedules in public preschool programs

This guidance is offered by the Maine Department of Education to clarify suspension, expulsion, and modified schedules as they apply to 4-year-olds attending public preschool programs.

Suspension, Expulsion, and Modified Schedules in General Education

Suspension for up to 10 days of 4-year-olds attending public preschool programs is permitted only in accordance with 20-A M.R.S. § 1001(9).

As with their K-12 counterparts, 4-year-olds attending public preschool may not be unenrolled nor asked not to return without being afforded the due process standard for expulsion in accordance with 20-A M.R.S. §1001(8-A).

Districts cannot unilaterally determine that a child attend on a modified schedule-e.g. reduced school day, reduced school week.  Parents must be involved in and agree to this decision and understand thoroughly the reasons for the request.

Suspension and Expulsion for Children with Disabilities

In accordance with Federal and State law, a child may not be excluded from enrollment in a public preschool program based solely on the presence of a disability.  Enrolled children who are referred to Child Development Services (CDS) based on program concerns regarding the child’s development or behavior must be considered a child with a disability and afforded the same rights as his/her K-12 counterparts until the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team makes its determinations.

Please contact Sue Reed, Early Childhood Specialist at 624-6632 or susan.d.reed@maine.gov or Jan Breton, State Director of Special Services, Birth – 20, Janice.breton@maine.gov 624-6676 with questions or comments about the guidance.