PRIORITY NOTICE: Expanded Authority of Reserve Funds

An Act Regarding the Reserve Funds of Certain School Organizational Structures was signed by Governor Mills on March 12, 2020 and will become effective on June 16, 2020.

The contents of the new legislation are summarized below and may be of interest to leaders of some School Administrative Unit (SAU)s. Administrators may wish to consult with legal counsel regarding the procedures for establishing reserve funds for their school organizational structure.

School Administrative Units included in this act are School Administrative Districts (SADs), Regional School Units (RSUs), Community School Districts (CSDs), and Career and Technical Education (CTE) Regions.

Previously, School Administrative Units were able to establish a reserve fund for school construction projects and for financing the acquisition or reconstruction of a specific or type of capital improvement. This new legislation provides additional flexibility to create reserve funds for any of the following: regular education, special education, career and technical education, other instruction such as summer school and extracurricular activities, student and staff support, system administration, school administration, transportation and buses, facilities maintenance, debt service and other commitments; and all other expenditures including school lunch. The request for the reserve fund must be included in the district budget and have a description of the purpose for the reserve fund. The governing board is the trustee of the reserve fund, and in the cases of SADs, RSUs and CSDs, the fund must be deposited or invested by the treasurer as directed by the governing board.

Previously, Boards of Directors of any of these SAUs were able to expend money from reserve funds only if they were authorized to do so by a vote at a district budget meeting and an article for the purpose for the reserve fund had been in the warrant calling the meeting. However, this legislation now also provides the Boards of Directors with the ability to expend funds when the expenditure is required by law or in an emergency where the cost of a district vote is prohibitive. The governing board of the SAUs may expend the funds after providing public notice of a regular or special meeting, at which a vote to expend funds from the reserve fund will be taken. A public hearing must be held prior to the vote to expend funds from the reserve fund, and the vote must be recorded in the meeting minutes.

Step 1 – Reserve fund proposed in the budget for specific purpose is approved

Step 2 – Reserve fund set aside in SAD, RSU, CSD organizations

Step 3 – To expend the funds in the budget year, provide notice and:

  1. Hold a district meeting, OR
  2. Hold a regular or special meeting of the governing board with a public hearing, vote, and recorded vote.

For CTE regions, the cooperative board may expend the reserve fund if permitted by any indebtedness secured by the reserve fund and if approved in the region budget. A separate article for that purpose must be included in the budget proposal.

Please reference PL 2019 Chapter 588 for additional information.

Expanded Authority of Reserve Funds

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PRIORITY NOTICE: Virtual Meeting Schedule – Wednesday 4/8

Virtual office hour schedule for Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The Maine Department of Education continues to schedule virtual office hours with Department Specialist to support educators and administrators during extended remote learning. During these meetings, our specialists will be available to provide support and guidance regarding distance learning and school supports, as well as to facilitate networking and resource sharing between educators.

As a reminder, virtual meeting schedules are regularly updated on this web page: https://www.maine.gov/doe/covid-19/contentmeetings. The Department will continue scheduling content specific office hours as needed.

Please note that Department staff hosting the virtual meetings have ramped up security measures to keep out participants that are attempting to hack into the meetings for reasons other than to participate in education related conversations.

Virtual Office Hours:

(Please note: some meetings have a 100 person max capacity.)

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 8, 2020

FOCUS AREA SPECIALIST TIME MEETING INFO CONTACT INFO
Brain Centered Emotional Support Kellie Bailey 8:30 https://zoom.us/j/689251005  kellie.bailey@maine.gov
Pre K for ME- Focus on Centers Nicole Madore 9:00 AM https://zoom.us/j/142611875  nicole.madore@maine.gov
Physical Education Jean Zimmerman and Susan Berry 9:30 https://zoom.us/j/580974456

See email from Susan Berry for password or request password from Susan

susan.berry@maine.gov
School Clinical Mental Health “Office Hours” Bear Shea 10:00 https://zoom.us/j/975637699 w.bear.shea@maine.gov
Special Education: Elementary/Middle School Special Ed Consultants 10:00 AM https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/841008831 roberta.lucas@maine.gov
Adapted Physical Education Jean Zimmerman and Susan Berry 10:15 https://zoom.us/j/580974456

See email from Susan Berry for password or request password from Susan

susan.berry@maine.gov
ESEA Federal Programs Update and Office Hour Shelly Chasse-Johndro 10:30am See email from the GEMS system for link. Link and password can also be requested via email shelly.chassejohndro@maine.gov
Pk-5 Mathematics Office Hour: Networking Jen Robitaille & Michele Mailhot 11:00 AM Register jennifer.r.robitaille@maine.gov
Pre K Open Office Hours Nicole Madore 11:00 AM https://zoom.us/j/257654032  nicole.madore@maine.gov
PK-5 Science: ME Audubon & PBS Shari Templeton 12:00 p.m. https://zoom.us/j/385026278 shari.templeton@maine.gov
PK-12 Social Studies Office Hour Joe Schmidt 1:00pm Contact Joe Schmidt for meeting link and password joe.schmidt@maine.gov
School Psychology During theCOVID-19 Crisis Ann Belanger 1:00 PM https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/381739019 ann.belanger@maine.gov
6-12 Mathematics Office Hour: Networking Michele Mailhot & Jen Robitaille 2:00 PM Register michele.r.mailhot@maine.gov
School Nursing/How to Host a Vaccine Clinic, Part 2 Emily Poland, Patricia Endsley,  & MeCDC 2:00 https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/253041016

Password required, please email Emily

 emily.poland@maine.gov
Health Education Susan Berry and Jean Zimmerman 2:30 https://zoom.us/j/662765411

See email from Susan Berry for password or request password from Susan

susan.berry@maine.gov
CED and CTE Networking Diana Doiron & Meg Harvey 2:00 Contact Diana or Meg for link & password diana.doiron@maine.gov
Brain Centered Emotional Support Bear Shea 3:30 https://zoom.us/j/689251005 bear.shea@maine.gov
English for Speakers of Other Languages April Perkins 4:00 https://zoom.us/j/407031543 – Contact April Perkins for password. april.perkins@maine.gov

PRIORITY NOTICE: Virtual Meeting Schedule – Friday 4/3

Virtual office hour schedule for Friday, April 3, 2020

The Maine Department of Education continues to schedule virtual office hours with Department Specialist to support educators and administrators during extended remote learning. During these meetings, our specialists will be available to provide support and guidance regarding distance learning and school supports, as well as to facilitate networking and resource sharing between educators.

As a reminder, virtual meeting schedules are regularly updated on this web page: https://www.maine.gov/doe/covid-19/contentmeetings. The Department will continue scheduling content specific office hours as needed.

Please note that Department staff hosting the virtual meetings have ramped up security measures to keep out participants that are attempting to hack into the meetings for reasons other than to participate in education related conversations.

Virtual Office Hours:

(Please note: some meetings have a 100 person max capacity.)

FRIDAY, APRIL 1, 2020

FOCUS AREA SPECIALIST TIME Join Meeting CONTACT INFO
Brain Centered Emotional Support Kellie Bailey 8:30 https://zoom.us/j/689251005 kellie.bailey@maine.gov
Health Ed and Physical Ed with grade span breakout rooms Susan Berry and Jean Zimmerman 9:00 https://zoom.us/j/790086867

Password required, email Susan Berry

susan.berry@maine.gov
ESEA Federal Programs Update and Office Hour Shelly Chasse-Johndro 9:00 See email from the GEMS system for link. Link and password can also be requested via email shelly.chassejohndro@maine.gov
Special Education: Weekly Wrap Up Special Ed Consultants 10:00 https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/723182562 roberta.lucas@maine.gov
Digital Learning – Best Practices Around Video Conferencing Jon Graham & Emma Banks 11:00 https://zoom.us/j/830817204 jonathan.m.graham@maine.gov
MTSS Lunch and Learn Andrea Logan 12:00 Please email Andrea for a link and passcode. andrea.logan@maine.gov
SEL Content Hour Kellie Bailey 1:00 https://zoom.us/j/5080785422 kellie.bailey@maine.gov
Career and Education Development Networking Diana Doiron 2:00 https://networkmaine.zoom.us/j/549688895 diana.doiron@maine.gov 
PK-12 Low/No-Tech Science Shari Templeton 2:00 https://zoom.us/j/987629444 shari.templeton@maine.gov
Brain Centered Emotional Support Bear Shea 3:30 https://zoom.us/j/689251005 bear.shea@maine.gov

PRIORITY NOTICE:  Unified Guidance Regarding Executive Orders and School Personnel:  All School Services and Employees are Essential

As our state and nation face unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 state of emergency, it is more critical than ever that Maine schools and school employees work together to provide the deeply needed services of continuity of education, communications, connectivity, payroll, other administrative activities, custodial services, transportation/deliveries,  and student nutrition. The Governor has directed SAUs to pay hourly employees for their previously contracted hours throughout the remainder of this school year, and this decision was predicated on the understanding that all school employees would continue to have important roles in limited, alternative, ongoing operations. The Department of Education has also stated that all school employees are essential.  The Priority Notice from the Dept of Education on 3/27/20 says: “All school employees are considered to be ‘essential’ under the Governor’s Executive Order #19 and should be expected to complete all duties and tasks assigned to them.”

On March 31st, Governor Mills instituted Executive Order 28 further restricting public contact and movement, schools, vehicle travel and retail business operations.  In addition, cities and towns are also putting new provisions in place, which restrict operations of non-essential businesses, new questions have arisen about the definition and what it means for public-school employees to be essential.

Although school employees are essential, their physical presence at school is not always necessary during this emergency, as there are many tasks and trainings that could be completed remotely.  In light of the Governor’s “Stay Healthy At Home” order at this critical juncture to flatten the curve, physical presence in schools should be restricted to a bare minimum in order to provide essential functions – such as providing educational and nutritional services to students, payroll, certain cleaning and maintenance staff, certain administrative assistant staff where communications cannot occur remotely, IT staff to support remote learning functions, transportation staff  – and only as long as social distancing and other CDC recommendations (including hand washing protocols) are being implemented. The fewest numbers of employees possible should be on premises, and only during the necessary time frame required for conducting such services. All functions that do not require in-person staff in schools should be done remotely.

It is possible that some hourly staff members will not have enough immediately purposeful work to do (either on site or remotely) to fill the contracted hours for which they are paid. In that case, these employees should be considered to be “on standby”, ready to assist as work does become available for them. Administrators and supervisors should determine when/if certain positions are needed to perform tasks.  While on standby, employees will continue to receive hourly wages as contracted prior to the COVID emergency.

Given the Governor’s most recent Executive Order, the Department of Education (DOE), Maine School Board Association/Maine School Superintendents Association (MSBA/MSSA), Maine Principals Association (MPA), Maine Education Association (MEA), Maine Administrators of Services for Children with Disabilities (MADSEC) and Maine Curriculum Leaders Association (MCLA), would like to clarify the roles and responsibilities of public-school employees during this time.

  • Employees who are able and assigned by supervisors to work remotely should continue to do so, and raise any concerns they may have with their local district leadership.  Administrators and staff are encouraged to collaborate and problem-solve to foster telework options during this crisis.

  •  School employees should continue to go to work if they  must be there to perform essential functions. CDC guidelines should be strictly followed including social distancing of at least 6 feet from all other people.  School employees working onsite should be kept to the bare minimum necessary to execute the functions that require their physical presence.

  • Employees  whose services are not immediately needed, as determined by supervisors, or whose work cannot be done remotely, should continue to receive their regular wages and should remain ready to perform tasks as they become necessary and assigned by supervisors.    Employees on standby leave should be ready to help schools meet their basic needs, and may be assigned to participate in a rotation of duties during this time.

  • Any  school employees who are sick, in a high risk group, or feel unsafe for any reason, should have access to their own sick leave, the new federal leave program, a district sick leave bank, if applicable, or any other paid leave that a district may be providing.

We can all take common sense steps to ensure that only staff whose physical presence is required  to provide services and who are engaged in immediately necessary services are in our schools, and that those who are in our schools are being protected by following the most current CDC guidelines for social distancing, cleaning, hand washing, and ventilation.

We so appreciate all the work being done to help students during these challenging times.  We know our public schools are wonderful places filled with amazing, hard-working and dedicated staff.  Please be sure to take care of each other during this crisis.

PRIORITY NOTICE: Update and Guidance From Commissioner Makin: April 1, 2020

Dear Champions of Education, 

Yesterday, Governor Mills issued a “stay at home” order, offering specific guidance around curtailing non-essential activities, gatherings, and travel. She also ordered schools to refrain from in-person, classroom instruction practices until after May 1st (or until further orders are issued).  

As we close in on the third week of remote instruction, please know that your resilient leadership and ongoing efforts are making a huge difference for Maine students and families. While everything is so suddenly chaotic and unfamiliar to everyone, our schools continue to shine like a beacon of hope. I have received countless emails and messages from legislators, parents, community members, and students sharing their gratitude for the steady support, the nutritional services, and the deeply human connections that are provided by educators, counselors, and school administrators. I’ve heard anecdotes from teachers who have noticed increased participation and engagement from students who had previously been among the most disconnected and apathetic. The lesson in this phenomenon is an important one… they’re counting on you even when their outward behaviors disguise this fact. 

Updates and information: 

  • Essential employees:   PreK-12 educational and. Child nutrition staff are all considered essential during this crisis. We are currently working with our educational organizations’ leadership to develop clarified and unified guidance in light of the Governor’s most recent Executive Order.  
  • Nutrition programs and April vacation: Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition team continues to seek flexibilities and waivers for our SAUs and communities. We are thrilled to share that there have been waivers granted for schools with fewer than 50% free/reduced meal students and bulk service provisions. Read more here.  We have applied for a waiver that will allow meal programs to be Reimbursed For the meals served during April vacation- currently not reimbursable. We will provide an update as soon as we hear from USDA. 
  • The CARES Act federal relief package will provide schools/SAU’s with funding to mitigate some of the financial impacts of the COVID-related disruption. Much more on this coming very soon! 
  • Remote Learning Plans/Sharing: Although we’re not requiring districts to share their remote learning plans, some have shared theirs with us and offered them as a resource to others that are still developing their plans! We will be happy to collect and share in a protected way with colleagues. Thank you to all who have shared their well-developed plans! If you’d like to offer your districts plan as a guide for others, please email Chief Innovation Officer, Page Nichols at page.nichols@maine.gov. 
  • Home Instruction: The Department recognizes that disruption due to COVID-19 may impact a home instruction family’s ability to maintain the required number of instructional days, and is therefore including home instruction in the statewide waiver granted for the minimum of 175 days of instruction for 2019-2020 school year.  Demonstration of satisfactory academic progress is still required to be submitted to superintendents by September 1st.  
  • School Budget, voting, etc:  We have been working with MSMA, the AG’s office, and the Governor’s office to develop an executive order that will provide the various flexibilities that have been requested. Please stay tuned – solutions are imminent.  (The Legislature did vote our GPA budget IN and intact, so your ED279 printouts provide an accurate basis for what you’ll receive in state subsidy).  
  • DOE is open for business – including CERTIFICATION office!  The system is up and running, the phones are being monitored by our knowledgeable and helpful team of experts, and we are eager to get your completed applications for renewal or initial certification processed as soon as possible! We have had some state level issues with phone system overload, so don’t hesitate to use email also!  As mentioned in an earlier notice, we do intend to provide extensions for those who have had education, testing, fingerprinting, or practicum/internship disruptions due to the COVID emergency – but for those of you who have completed the necessary steps, please submit necessary documentation and move ahead with your renewal application!   

Silver Linings: 

  • It’s possible that we’re demonstrating capacity for never having to make up “snow days” in the future!  
  • We have a perfect opportunity to redesign our state assessment system! 
  • Every time we do something kind or selfless to benefit someone else, we get a bump of serotonin … It even works when we simply observe someone being kind to someone else!  
  • Amid the fear and loss and physical disconnection, watch empathy, compassion, and humanity shining like the North Star – far above the fray.  
  • We will emerge from this better than we’ve ever been. 

Thank you for all you are doing on behalf of your students, staff, and communities.  

 Pender