MEDIA RELEASE: Call to Action for Maine Parents: Complete the Meal Benefit Application at School This Year – Even if School Meals are Free

Maine needs all parents and caregivers to take action this school year––by taking the time to complete the confidential Meal Benefit Application through your local school, even if school meals are already free for all students. Families, schools, communities, and our state can greatly benefit from the data that is gathered from the application, and this application is important for a number of reasons.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, when school meals became complementary, there has been a significant drop in Meal Benefit Application returns––meaning less families are filling out the application.

The family income data provided by the application informs key funding for school resources. This includes school meal reimbursements, funding for Title I programs, funding and resources for after school programs, funding provided to schools from the Maine State Legislature for essential programs and services at school, funding for special education, teacher loan forgiveness, and much, much more!

Federal and state government use the aggregate data from the application to distribute education funding to schools across the county and state of Maine. In other words, if there is no data to inform the needs of the community, it could result in less education funding for your local district and for Maine.

By completing the Meal Benefit Application, you are directly investing in your child’s education and the children and families in your community.

Specific programs that are funded by the data collected from Meal Benefit Application:

How can I complete the Meal Benefit Application?  The application is available through your local school administrative unit (SAU) school nutrition program and it is completely confidential. Most SAUs have the application available to be completed online. Follow this link to access your SAU’s online application (if your school district is not listed, please contact them directly). A printed version of the application is also required to be available––it will often be part of beginning of year paperwork that comes home with your child.

This past school year has certainly had its challenges due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We are thrilled that, despite these challenges, all Maine children have had the opportunity to access free healthy school meals on a daily basis. We would like to extend our gratitude to Maine parents and caregivers who have participated in their SAUs’ meal programs. We know that with the continued support of Maine’s incredible families, we can ensure the best for our children.

MEDIA RELEASE: Maine DOE and Teens to Trails Partner to Increase Outdoor Opportunities for Maine Teens; Schools Can Apply NOW

Through a new partnership between the Maine Department of Education (DOE) and Teens to Trails, schools serving teens are encouraged to apply for $500-$1500 which includes training and start-up support for school-based outing clubs.

winter hikingWAVES (Wilderness Activities and Virtual Engagement for Students), a program of the Maine DOE, provides meaningful opportunities for Maine teens to engage socially with peers online or outdoors. Teens to Trails is a Maine organization whose mission is to connect high school students to life-changing outdoor experiences.
“We are thrilled by this partnership,” said WAVES Project Director Sarah Woog. “Teens to Trails is a Maine-based non-profit with proven expertise and passion for getting teens outside! Teens to Trails and WAVES have the shared goal of increasing Maine teens’ engagement with the outdoors. Together, we are excited to leverage our organizations’ resources and work collaboratively with schools to give all Maine students the opportunities they deserve.”

“In 2020, 53% of Americans participated in outdoor recreation, the highest participation rate on record,” said Teens to Trails Director Alicia Heyburn. “Outdoor spaces became places of refuge to safely socialize, improve physical health and connect with friends and family. Schools have an important role to play in continuing this positive trend by redefining the learning environment and using the outdoors to support the social and emotional wellbeing of students. The partnership between Teens to Trails and WAVES means that schools have trusted support to invest in making the outdoors welcoming and accessible to all students.”

Teens to Trails and the Maine DOE are eager to support an outing club at your school. School-based educators, with their administrators’ consent, are welcome to apply on behalf of their school. The application is simple, and the rewards are immense. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and the final deadline to apply is September 17.

Eligible schools:

  • Serve Maine teens;
  • Have the support of the school principal school administration;
  • Have school staff/faculty member as club advisor;
  • Commit to participating in two Teens to Trails programs in the first year;
  • Are able to demonstrate how funding will increase access to the outdoors for teens who may not otherwise engage.

Schools who receive funding may expect the following support:

  • Funds may be used for a club advisor stipend;
  • Access to Teens to Trails Club Hub for tips on running a sustainable club;
  • Professional Development day for outdoor club advisor(s);
  • Free summer white water rafting trip for club advisors to network and have fun;
  • Back-to-school student outdoor club recruitment materials;
  • Option to join four outdoor weekends with clubs from around the state;
  • Spring and Fall Trip Lotteries to win pre-planned adventures;
  • Access to gear to keep students warm and comfortable;
  • Ongoing support from Teens to Trails staff, including support planning for sustainability.

Please submit your application at your earliest convenience to secure funding and begin planning for YOUR school’s Outing Club! Find more information and apply here.
Please reach out to sarah.woog@maine.gov with any questions or feedback – WAVES and Teens to Trails will be in touch shortly!

MEDIA RELEASE: Eight Semifinalists Selected for 2022 Teacher of the Year

The Maine Department of Education, in partnership with Educate Maine, is pleased to announce the eight teachers that have been selected as semifinalists for Maine’s 2022 Teacher of the Year program. The semifinalists were selected from the 2021 County Teachers of the Year, who were honored in May in a virtual ceremony.

2022 Teacher of the Year Semifinalists:

Andrew Kirby
Aroostook County
Kirby has been teaching for 13 years and will be teaching science to grades 9-12 at Caribou High School.

I know Andrew is a teacher that will go above and beyond to work with students that need extra help, he sees when a student understands the material and may just need an alternative route to explain it, and is willing to adjust his classroom to the needs of his students to keep them successful.” – Andrea Hallett, Director of Guidance, Presque Isle High School

Paige Fournier
Cumberland County
Fournier has been teaching for 17 years and currently teaches special education at Freeport Middle School.

Paige’s influence on our building stretches well beyond the four walls of her classroom. She truly has changed the lives of many kids. She has such a positive impact on our entire school from the life skills classroom.” – Ray Grogan, Principal, Freeport Middle School

Michelle Laliberte
Franklin County
Laliberte has been teaching for 20 years and currently teaches PreK – Kindergarten at Rangeley Lakes Regional School.

Mrs. Laliberte truly makes learning fun for the kids, teaches teamwork and responsibility to very young kids with regular assigned classroom “jobs,” and involves the students’ families to help ignite the passion for learning both in and outside of the classroom.” – Kathryn Kay, Parent

Patti Forster
Knox County
Forster has been teaching for 29 years and is currently teaching English to grades 9-10 at Camden Hills Regional School.

Patti brings a huge heart and expert understanding of pedagogy to her work with students. She purposefully works with students who struggle with school or English. She is successful where other teachers have failed. As department head she leads her peers in bringing more social and emotional learning into their program, has developed and implemented a set of tier 2 interventions for students 9-12 who are struggling in English.” – Shawn Carlson, Principal, Camden Hills Regional School

Melissa Guerrette
Oxford County
Guerrette has been teaching for 20 years and currently teaches grade 5 at Oxford Elementary School.

Melissa Guerrette is a teacher that creates an impact at all levels: at OES, in MSAD #17, in the greater Oxford Hills Community, and in the state of Maine. She exemplifies what it means to be a reflective practitioner and is generous with her time and knowledge of best practices.” – Heather Manchester, Curriculum Director, RSU 17 / MSAD 17

Kelsey Stoyanova
Penobscot County
Stoyanova has been teaching for 7 years and currently teaches grade 8 English Language Arts at Reeds Brook Middle School in Hampden.

She forms meaningful relationships with her students and creates an environment that is welcoming. Along with that, I feel like I can be challenged in her class to do my best while also developing and working on skills that might be harder for me. We do this by having class discussions, creative projects, and interesting assignments.” – Tessa Castrucci, Student

Hillary Hoyt
Waldo County
Hoyt has been teaching for 7 years and currently teaches grade 3 at Leroy H. Smith School in Winterport.

Her desire to make sure each child feel like they are important is evident in her ability to individualize for each child, yet set high expectations of citizenship and respect. Her ability to restructure lessons and units to meet student’s interests, with such a diverse classroom, is unique.” – Dawn Moore, Principal, Leroy H. Smith School

Christine Goulet
York County
Goulet has been teaching for 21 years and currently teaches grade 2 at for Biddeford Primary School.

Christine has been a part of our Tiger community where her passion for teaching and learning has engaged, empowered, and supported all students in her learning environment which is not necessarily determined by the four walls of her classroom. Christine has a positive attitude, a growth mindset, and a strong passion of teaching all learners.” – Mandy Cyr, Director of Instruction, Biddeford School Department

The eight 2022 Teacher of the Year semifinalists will continue in the selection process which consists of a professional portfolio review and an oral presentation, and results in identifying three state finalists. The state finalists will then sit for a final interview and have a school-site visit before one of them is named the 2022 Maine Teacher of the Year.

The Teacher of the Year selection panel is made up of legacy Teachers of the Year, school administrators, Maine DOE staff, members of professional education organizations, and the business community. The 2022 Maine Teacher of the Year will be announced in October.

The Maine Department of Education’s Maine Teacher of the Year program is administered and managed by Educate Maine and supported by both the Maine State Board of Education and the Maine County and State Teacher of the Year Association. Funding for the program is generously provided by Bangor Savings Bank, Dead River, Geiger, Hannaford, Maine Lottery, the Silvernail Family and Unum.

More information about Maine’s Teacher of the Year program, the 2021 County Teachers of the Year, and the 2022 semifinalists can be found on the Maine Teacher of the Year website. For questions and information, please reach out to Program Director Dolly Sullivan at dolly@educatemaine.org or call 631-3385.

An ‘End of Year Message’ to Maine’s Education Communities from the Maine 2021 County Teachers of the Year

As the 2020/2021 school year ends and students, families and school staff transition to a summer schedule, now is the time to reflect on all that has been accomplished during a school year the world has never seen.

The 2021 County Teachers of the Year have put together a special “End of Year Message” to their colleagues, students and their communities who all worked together for the greater good of education across Maine this year.  These outstanding teachers share a message of gratitude for coming together to ensure our children had every opportunity to continue learning and growing this year. #StrongerTogether4ME

“The theme of being stronger together really came about when we started talking about how much we ALL have done, much of which isn’t as visible to people living outside of our schools. The actions of the groups mentioned in the video really proved that we truly are stronger together. We think this video highlights that truth,” the group said in a joint statement. 

“With that in mind, we want to know what you have seen that shows we are #StrongerTogether4ME students? Share your own images with the hashtag #StrongerTogether4ME on social media to celebrate!”  

The recently annouced 2021 Maine County Teachers of the Year were nominated by a member of their community and selected through a selection process earlier this year as part of the Maine Teacher of the Year Program. Throughout their year of service as County Teachers of the Year, they serve as ambassadors for teachers, students, and quality education state-wide through speaking engagements and collaborative work with education stakeholders and decision makers throughout Maine.

The Maine Department of Education’s Teacher of the Year Program is administered through a collaborative partnership with Educate Maine. To learn more about the Teacher of the Year program visit: https://www.mainetoy.org/

MEDIA RELEASE: School Nutrition Programs to Feed Children Beyond School Year with Summer Food Service Program

AUGUSTA — With the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Maine public schools have long offered a nutritious breakfast and lunch meal program to thousands of children in Maine during the school year. During the pandemic, many flexibilities were put into place to ensure children had access to complementary meals while learning remotely from home or attending school in person.

We applaud those who worked tirelessly to provide food to children during a challenging school year. With summer right around the corner, that important service will continue in many areas of Maine. The Summer Food Service Program, a program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, operates at hundreds of sites across Maine to ensure children get the nutrition they need.

“Maine’s National School Lunch Programs are an invaluable lifeline to our students for whom schools are a much needed and consistent source for food.” said Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “The Summer Food Service Program helps schools continue to provide this critical resource to Maine students through the summer months, and we are committed to assisting schools and communities as they address the needs of the whole child.”

The Summer Food Service Program may be offered statewide in areas or at sites where more than 50 percent of the children are eligible for free or reduced meal benefits under the National School Lunch Program or where census track data supports the need. This summer, area eligibility waivers have allowed sites to operate in areas that have need due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Eligible sponsoring organizations include schools, nonprofit residential summer camps, government agencies, and tax-exempt organizations including faith-based organizations.

In July 2020, 112 sponsors participated in the program, serving meals at 730 sites throughout the state. Sponsors operate open sites in all 16 counties in Maine; anyone 18 and under may come to eat at no cost. Many sponsors will be utilizing USDA flexibilities which allow meals to be consumed off site to promote physical distancing and are offering innovative delivery and service models to meet the demand safely.

To find nearby Summer Meal sites, please visit USDA’s Summer Meal Site Finder website at: https://www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids, text “Summer Meals” to 97779 or call Maine 211.

Updated information will be available late-June.

For more information about the Maine DOE’s Summer Food Service Program, contact adriane.ackroyd@maine.gov, call 592-1722 or visit https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/nutrition/programs/sfsp.

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In accordance with Federal civil rights law and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) civil rights regulations and policies, the USDA, its Agencies, offices, and employees, and institutions participating in or administering USDA programs are prohibited from discriminating based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age, or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity in any program or activity conducted or funded by USDA.

Persons with disabilities who require alternative means of communication for program information (e.g. Braille, large print, audiotape, American Sign Language, etc.), should contact the Agency (State or local) where they applied for benefits.  Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339.  Additionally, program information may be made available in languages other than English.

To file a program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, (AD-3027) found online at: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html, and at any USDA office, or write a letter addressed to USDA and provide in the letter all of the information requested in the form. To request a copy of the complaint form, call (866) 632-9992. Submit your completed form or letter to USDA by:

(1)     mail: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410;
(2)      fax: (202) 690-7442; or
(3)      email: program.intake@usda.gov.

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

The Maine Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination because of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, genetic information, religion, ancestry or national origin.

Complaints of discrimination must be filed at the office of the Maine Human Rights Commission, 51 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0051. If you wish to file a discrimination complaint electronically, visit the Human Rights Commission website at https://www.maine.gov/mhrc/file/instructions and complete an intake questionnaire. Maine is an equal opportunity provider and employer.