MEDIA RELEASE: Nine Additional Maine Educators Join Maine Kids Rock Initiative for 2021-2022 School Year

The Maine Kids Rock Initiative, a statewide program that offers professional training to teachers as well as grants for instruments and equipment to schools with identified needs, enters its fifth year (2021-2022) with the addition of the following educators to its roster:

  • Lanissa Nadeau (Brewer Community School)
  • Neil James (Geiger Elementary/Lewiston Middle School)
  • Bridget Kazukiewicz (King Middle School, Portland)
  • Joshua Lund (Benton Elementary School)
  • Michelle Biddlecom (Winthrop Grade School)
  • Brittany Elwell (Carmel Elementary/Suzanne Smith Elementary/Caravel Middle Schools)
  • Thomas Stott (Beech Hill School, Otis)
  • Oren Robinson (Palermo Consolidated, Windsor Elementary Schools)
  • Nadine Baker (Rose M. Gaffney/Machias Memorial High School)

These teachers join the ranks of nearly 70 additional teachers across Maine who utilize the Modern Band approach to music education with nearly 1,500 students at all grade levels.

“My administrators and I are very excited to bring music into the 21st century for our students,” said Joshua Lund, general music educator. “At Benton Elementary, we are planning to integrate MKR into the general music class experience as well as starting new co-curricular ensembles. The training, resources, and equipment provided through Maine Kids Rock are sure to help transform what music can be for the students in my school!”

The Maine Kids Rock initiative continues as a partnership between the Maine Department of Education and the national non-profit organization Little Kids Rock.

“We’re thrilled to continue to grow Maine Kids Rock, bring more music education to Maine, and reach even more kids by using the music they know and love,” said Miranda Altman, Senior Director of Program Operations for Little Kids Rock. “We are incredibly grateful to the teachers of this initiative as we enter our fifth year. Welcome to the nine teachers that are newly joining this program!”

Throughout the year these teachers will receive free professional development opportunities, and their schools will receive a set of classroom “rock band”-style instruments for students to use as they explore music education through a modern music lens.  Learning opportunities for students go beyond just learning to play a guitar or drums; they also explore songwriting, the development of interpersonal skills, and boost self-confidence as performers.

For more information about the Maine Kids Rock Initiative through the Maine Department of Education, please contact Visual and Performing Arts Content Specialist Jason Anderson.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine School Teams Advance in 2021 Farm to School Cook-off

Votes were cast and here are the results! Congratulations to South Portland (Kaler Kooks) and RSU 12 (Whitefield Wildcats) who will be advancing to the finals round of the 2021 Maine Farm to School Cook-off. The finals competition will be held on May 5th at the Maine Department of Education’s (DOE) Child Nutrition Culinary Classroom in Augusta.

The Maine Farm to School Cook-off is a statewide culinary competition for teams of school nutrition professionals and students to promote local foods in school meals. The 6th annual competition is organized by the Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team.

A big thank you to the four teams below who participated in the virtual event. For more information and to view each team’s videos please visit: https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/nutrition/programs/localfoods/cookoffvoting.

MEDIA RELEASE: Governor Mills Proclaims April 2021 as National Poetry Month

Governor Janet T. Mills has proclaimed April 2021 National Poetry Month in the State of Maine, marking the importance of poetry in education and the everyday lives of our citizens.

“National Poetry Month brings us together as readers and writers, whether at home, in classrooms, bookstores, or libraries throughout our nation,” said Governor Janet T. Mills as part of the official proclamation. “Poetry illuminates hope in our darkest hours, gives voice to our struggles, brings inspiration to our triumphs, and is a gift of expression that transcends our personal experience to unite us in words.”

The Maine Department of Education (DOE) joins Governor Mills and our partners throughout the state this month by promoting and participating in activities that support schools in using poetry as a tool and a topic for instruction.

“Poetry is often taught as a stand-alone unit of study, yet the power of poetry is in its versatility by virtue of form and precision, and could be included in every unit of study all year long,” said Morgan Dunton, Maine DOE English Language Arts Specialist. “Regular engagement with poems, long or short, contemporary or historical, provides an opportunity to better understand complex texts.”

With a theme of “Normalize Poetry in Your Classroom” the Maine DOE has collaborated on poetry themed events and opportunities in April including:

How We Do It: Inspiring Students to Write and Publish 
The Telling Room hosted a conversation with educators about their experience supporting and encouraging educators to write stories and poems. They discussed their recent collection of youth poems called, “A New Land” and share resources you can use in your classroom.  Download the collection here. Learn more and access their educator toolkit.

Spend an evening with Maine Poet Gary Lawless 
Hosted by the Maine Council of English Language Arts. Lawless is a poet who has authored 21 collections of poems. He is also the co-owner of Gulf of Maine Books, a book editor, and publisher. Thursday, April 8th, 7pm: Click here to register.

Normalize Poetry: Teach Poetry in Every Unit 
Many of us teach a poetry unit each year, but that is just not enough. Poetry is a fabulous tool for teaching the fine art of language use in every instructional unit. Maine DOE ELA Specialist Morgan Dunton will demonstrate methods of teaching grammar, usage, mechanics, and appreciation of the poetic form to enhance reading, speaking, and writing skills. Thursday, April 15th, 3:30 pm. Click here to register.

In concluding the official proclamation, Governor Mills writes, “I urge all Maine citizens to celebrate the creativity of poets and the indelible marks their words leave upon the pages of our shared humanity by reading and writing poetry.”

Find additional information, events, and resources to celebrate and appreciate the beauty of poetry all month on the Maine DOE Website. For further questions about poetry in curriculum or the Department’s efforts for poetry month, please contact Maine DOE English Language Arts (ELA) Specialist Morgan Dunton at morgan.dunton@maine.gov.

MEDIA RELEASE: Mills Administration Updates COVID-19 School Health Advisory System

All counties remain green

AUGUSTA — The Mills Administration today released an update to its color-coded Health Advisory System that classifies counties’ relative risk of COVID-19 transmission to assist schools as they continue with their plans to deliver instruction and support students safely.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) continue to review evidence that indicates lower transmission of COVID-19 in schools compared to the general population. Over the last 30 days, the rate of new cases for school staff or students is 30 per 10,000, about 25 percent lower than a new case rate of 41 per 10,000 for the general population. This continues to demonstrate that in-person learning in schools that follow public health precautions can be conducted safely, without increased transmission of COVID-19, and supports schools’ adherence to the six requirements for returning to in-person instruction, regardless of their county’s designation.

DHHS and Maine CDC assessed COVID-19 data and trends by county and all counties remain green. The two-week new case rate has remained steady, and the positivity rates for all counties are below 5 percent. Since the March 12 update, Piscataquis County has been closely monitored. Over the past two weeks both the new case rate and positivity rate have dropped in Piscataquis County and are now consistent with other counties.

These designations are provided for the consideration of school administrative units in their decisions to deliver instruction.

The county-level assessments are based on both quantitative and qualitative data, including but not limited to recent case rates, positivity rates, and syndromic data (e.g., symptoms of influenza or COVID-19). Those data are publicly posted every week on the Maine CDC website. DHHS and Maine CDC also consider qualitative factors, such as the presence of outbreaks that may potentially affect school-age children. The qualitative and quantitative considerations and data used by the CDC in determining community transmission risk levels for schools can be located here: How County Risk Levels for Maine Schools are Determined

The Health Advisory System categorizations are defined as follows:

  • GREEN: Categorization as “green” suggests that the county has a relatively low risk of COVID-19 spread and that schools may consider in-person instruction, as long as they are able to implement the required health and safety measures. Schools in a “green” county may need to use hybrid instruction models if there is insufficient capacity or other factors (facilities, staffing, geography/transportation, etc.) that may prevent full implementation of the health and safety requirements.
  • YELLOW: Categorization as “yellow” suggests that that the county has an elevated risk of COVID-19 spread and that schools may consider additional precautions and/or hybrid instructional models to reduce the number of people in schools and classrooms at any one time.
  • RED: Categorization as “red” suggests that the county has a high risk of COVID-19 spread and that in-person instruction is not advisable.

The next update will be provided on April 9, 2021. Updating this advisory on a two-week basis aligns with the incubation period for COVID-19 and allows for greater stability in the trend data for small counties.

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MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Partners with T-Mobile to Provide Increased Internet Access to Maine Students

The Maine Department of Education has partnered with T-Mobile to expand efforts to provide internet access and devices to Maine students through their Project 10Million initiative. If they choose to participate, the program provides mobile Wi-Fi hotspot devices directly to school districts for student use.

“We are thrilled to partner with T-Mobile to continue providing opportunities that allow Maine students to stay connected to their teachers, peers, and school communities,” said Maine Commissioner of Education Pender Makin. “The partnership helps to expand our own Connect Kids Now! initiative which supports Maine schools by providing internet connectivity through the pandemic.”

The Connect Kids Now! initiative began in the spring of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic when it became abundantly clear that technology resources were critical in closing the equity of access gap for continued learning for Maine students. In line with this these efforts, T-Mobile’s Project 10Million initiative provides the opportunity for districts in Maine to participate by signing up and choosing from three tiers of service which they can pass on to students at no cost: up to 100GB per year per device for free, or low-cost options for 100GB per month or unlimited data. Part of the commitment of the partnership will be to provide additional devices from T-Mobile over the next five years. T-Mobile will distribute these devices directly to districts and all student households with at least one student participating in the National School Lunch Program are eligible for the program. The Maine DOE will look to include districts based on economic factors such as Title 1 schools, National School Lunch Program eligibility rates, and distressed county designations. Districts can complete an online interest form to participate in the program.

“Partnering with the Maine DOE helps us identify districts and students that will benefit most from Project 10Million and get them the devices and connectivity required to fully participate in school,” said Mike Katz, executive vice president of T-Mobile for Business. “We are grateful to be a part of the solution that Commissioner Makin and her team have put in place to make sure ALL students can access the resources they need to succeed.”

Districts that are interested in participating in T-Mobile’s Project 10Million can fill out the interest form on the project’s website.