Maine DOE Celebrates Newly Named ‘Community Schools’ Grant Awardees

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) is pleased to announce that four Maine schools have been awarded $50,000 grants to support their ‘community schools’ work. Community Schools is a local engagement strategy that creates and coordinates opportunities with its public school to accelerate student success. It is an effective, evidence-based, and equity-driven strategy for school improvement included under section 4625 of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

The grant awardees and the projects supported by the funding are as follows: 

  • Biddeford Schools/Biddeford Primary – Increase mental health supports; provide access to legal services; create community garden; host vacation-week camps
  • Portland Public Schools/Talbot Elementary School – Add positions (i.e. stipends) for After-School Coordinator, Homework Diner Coordinator & Interpreters, and Walking School Bus Coordinator; increase materials to support these enrichment opportunities
  • RSU 9/Cape Cod Elementary – Hire Community School Coordinator; provide Social Worker and Nurse stipends; increase after-school academic and enrichment support; support adding a service animal; increase dental care access
  • RSU 34/ Old Town Elementary School – Add after-school enrichment; continue food security/insecurity support; add Homework Diner

Supported by the Maine DOE’s Office of School and Student Supports, last spring a Community Schools Request for Applications (RFA) process resulted in these four schools receiving $50,000 each in grant funding to support their work. So far two of the awardees have implemented a Community School Coordinators position to create a community of practice (COP) including Jennifer Goodwin, RSU #34/Old Town Elementary School; and Kristin Hanna, Portland Public Schools/Talbot Elementary School. It is anticipated that Biddeford and RSU 9 will be able to use grant funding to add such coordination throughout the school year.

“To be able to fund four districts at the time we did is a great start heading into what we hope is a post-pandemic school year,” said Director of the Office of School and Student Supports Julie Smyth. “Community School models are receiving so much attention nationally – the Biden administration is committed to adding 25,000 new community schools, which will impact over 300,000 students,” added Smyth, who is committed to working with state partners to grow Maine’s understanding and support for Community Schools.

Smyth and her team have already begun convening a community of practice (COP) group among the grant recipients this week.  The purpose of the COP is to build community to support each other, to learn together, and to leverage existing knowledge to support more schools in moving forward with Community Schools work.

Although the next Community Schools RFA will not be available until SY 2024-2025, it will have the potential to provide up to 10 additional school administrative units with start-up funding.  In accordance with Title 20-A, §9923: Designation of community schools (maine.gov), the Maine DOE hopes to biannually designate 10 additional community schools.

For more information on Community School Coordinators and Community Schools visit any of the following websites:

For further information and questions, reach out to Julie Smyth, Director of the Maine DOE Office of School and Student Supports at julie.a.smyth@maine.gov.

600+ Devices Deployed to Mt. Ararat Middle School Students: a look at how one school implements the 1:1 device portion of MLTI 2.0

Thanks to the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI), every September, with the excitement of a new school year just beginning, the Learning Commons Team at Mt. Ararat Middle School (MAMS) prepares, organizes, and deploy 600+ laptops for student to use as critical tools for their learning throughout the school year. It is a group effort by Karen Silverman, Candy Wright, and Kat Campbell to get every kid their laptop. MAMS asks for all hands on deck, so they also are lucky to have the help of the IT team, Ryan Palmer, Corrie Calderwood, and Kate Greely.

The groundwork for laptop deployment starts in the summer. Each machine is cleaned, charged, and fitted with a student name sticker. These stickers are placed not only on the machine but also on the charger and case so that if anything is lost throughout the school year it can be returned.

There were many brand-new devices this year and Karen shared student reactions.

“Students were excited when I…showed them that all our laptops flip into tablet mode. They loved that! And then I would do my best Vanna White and tell them ‘but wait there’s more!’  MAMS students all have touchscreen laptops this year.”

MAMS was able to choose a Chromebook model from CTL for their students, one of the six choices available through the new and reimagined MLTI 2.0. Karen, who served on the 2020 MLTI Advisory Board, is now able to work with a program that is not just devices, but also offers the opportunity for teachers to develop their craft around technology. The program’s long-term goal is to provide the equitable integration of technology for engaging and effective educational experiences.

Students at MAMS are excited for the opportunities and most students have begun using their devices, and many students will be taking them home this week if their parents opted them in. Throughout the year, the Learning Commons Team will support students in troubleshooting problems, or if a student has lost their laptop, they will help locate it. This will keep the team busy until June when the same type of organization goes into collecting the devices and preparing them for the following year, until then the devices will help students at Mt. Ararat Middle School be engaged in learning.

Health Ed. and Physical Ed. Inclusive Teaching Practices and Learning Workshop to be Held in December – Register Now!

The September Health Education and Physical Education Inclusive Teaching Practices and Learning Workshop dates are being postponed. The first sessions will now be held in December.

HE & PE Inclusive Teaching Practices and Learning Professional Development

  • Have you taken a look at your curriculum and teaching practices with the lens of inclusion?
  • Are your materials representative of all students and their families?
  • Are your practices and the language you use inclusive of all your students and their families?  
  • Do you even know what to look for?

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) Health Education & Physical Education (HE & PE) Program will host a professional development opportunity this year focused on learning more about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and the impact on teaching practices. The training will start with an exploration and understanding of foundational concepts in DEI then teachers will be led through a process for doing a deep dive into their own curriculum, instructional strategies and classroom management practices. Following the trainings, video sessions for follow-up conversations and technical assistance will be held.

We are excited to have Dr. Sarah Benes (she, her, hers), as our co-trainer and consultant on these trainings. Sarah is an assistant professor at Southern Connecticut State University in health education and physical education, co-owner of Lighthouse Wellness and Health Education Consulting, and SHAPE America President-Elect. We are pleased to have some of Maine’s HE & PE Teacher Leaders also co-training with us this year.

This is a two-day training and attendees must commit to both days. There will be at least three opportunities offered throughout this school year. The first one is open for registration. Thursday and Friday, December 1 & 2 in Augusta (Please note we may change the training format due to the shortage of substitutes.)

The fee for this training is ONLY $40 to cover the cost of food. All other expenses are being funded by the Maine DOE.

A book study will be held this fall to begin to explore and understand issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. This is not required to attend the two-day workshop.

Register here December Workshop

For further information and questions contact Susan Berry at susan.berry@maine.gov and/or Jean Zimmerman at Jean.zimmerman@maine.gov.

Get to Know the Maine DOE: Meet Courtney Belolan

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

What are your roles with DOE?

As the Director of Policy and Government Affairs, I am a part of the team that works to bring our vision for education in the State of Maine to life.  My focus is on legislation and policy, collaborating with people from across the department to understand, respond to, and influence the different laws, rules, and guidance related to education here in Maine.

What do you like best about your job?

I value the opportunities I have to see the interconnectedness of all the different aspects of education.  Before coming to the DOE, my background was mostly in instruction, assessment, and curriculum.  Every day I learn something from one of the incredible people here or get to hear about an issue from a different perspective.  The philosophical and theoretical discussions I get to be involved in never fail to make my day. I have long said that argument and statistics are two of the most important areas of skills and understandings for anybody to learn and practice. I get to use them every day!

How or why did you decide on this career?

Honestly, I avoided a career in education for a little bit!  It wasn’t until a teacher approached me after I finished a whole-school assembly presenting the wildlife of Long Island (I used to work for NY Audubon, and was the person who brought the animals from a sanctuary into schools) and told me I needed to be in public schools that I took it seriously as an option.  Once I was teaching, I quickly discovered a passion for teaching and learning and student-centered practices.  As far as ending up in policy, I didn’t see that coming! I was fortunate to be able to get involved with policy work through the Maine Curriculum Leaders Association, and the more I did it, the more comfortable I became, the more I liked it, and the better at it I got.  Policy is a way to have an impact on all the learners in Maine, not just the ones in my classroom or school, or district.  It is important work and I am honored to be a part of it.

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

I have the most fun when I am moving my body in some way or enjoying silliness with my son.  Roller skating, tap dancing (any dancing really), hiking, yoga, even boxing!  If it involves coordinated movement, I’m in. Nothing brings me more joy than having laughing fits with my son, though.  He loves all the silly comedy shows I love and has a sense of humor that gets me every time.  I am also a musician beginning to get back into the music-making groove.  I love to sing in choirs and bands, I picked cello back up after about 20 years, and still play my piano and guitars now and then.  My gardens also are a source of joy in my life, they help me stay connected to the earth and its beauty.

The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health: Calling Maine’s Anti-Hunger Advocates

Join other educators and advocates to learn about the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and review federally recognized innovations & data-driven solutions.  Then, join with local multidisciplinary teams to collaborate on opportunities specific to your region and make a commitment to eliminating disparities.

Date: September 28, 2022
Time: 3:30pm
Facilitator: Rebekah Sousa

Outcomes:

  • You will be able to define food security
  • You will consider the 5 Pillars of the conference and apply them to the State of Maine, Counties, and/or Local Communities.
  • You will have models for strengthening food security within communities
  • You will network with like-minded individuals across sectors and specialties to create more holistic and thoughtful approaches for the specific challenges in Maine.

Audience: School staff, administration, and school stakeholders

Register here.

For further questions, reach out to Rebekah Sousa at Rebekah.Sousa@maine.gov.