PRIORITY NOTICE: 2019-2020 NEO Maine Schools and Public School Approval Scheduled to Open May 3

It is that time of year again for each school administrative unit (SAU) to submit annual school reports, including the annual approval report for the unit, certifying progress on the Comprehensive Education Plan. This is in accordance with 20-A M.R.S. Chapter 206 and Maine Department of Education (DOE) Rule Chapter 125, which requires information  to maintain continued approval status for the (SAU) and all schools within it.

Public SAUs and schools complete the annual public school approval process in the NEO information system, verifying required information in the NEO Maine Schools and Public School Approval module.

NEO Maine Schools and Public School Approval Module: FY2020 Changes

Last year, NEO Maine Schools and Public School Approval were integrated into a one-step process, thereby allowing submission of both organizational information and school approval checklist items in one sitting. While this new efficiency was generally well-received, the Department learned that the new process presented some challenges in implementation, particularly for some types of public units that require differentiated formats of school approval. As a result, further improvements to the NEO system have been implemented as outlined below.

  • NEO Public School Approval now delivers targeted school approval certification statements based on school administrative unit type, and has been revised to be more categorical in nature. This means that Superintendents will be responding to fewer questions, and only the questions that apply to the appropriate type of school.
  • In an effort to reduce unnecessary text and make the school approval form more user-friendly, the Department has omitted non-critical citations from certification statements, instead providing a link to a public school approval requirements list with associated citations.
  • The Department had several requests to “re-open” the NEO Public School Approval form to update specific items. While this is not part of the update process, NEO now allows communication between Superintendents and the DOE via the general comment field that appears at the bottom of the NEO Maine Schools and Public School Approval module. Responses entered here, by either the Department or by the Superintendent, will trigger emails regarding outstanding items.
  • Finally, the Department will be able to access some additional coding options, issuing “Waivers” only in situations where exceptions are needed; while an “Approved” option can be selected for items that were initially outstanding but are then brought into compliance.

The Department very much appreciates the effort and feedback that was provided to inform the system improvements over the past year, and hope it continues. An important item to remember, that will not change, is that NEO 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 relatively short time-out period.

Maine Schools and Public School Approval NEO Module Directions

We are currently working with a target date of May 3, 2019 for the opening of The NEO Maine Schools and Public School Approval module. The intent of an earlier opening date is to allow time before the current school year ends, and vacations begin, to complete this important task. This change will also support an improved student enrollment upload process in the fall.

The Maine Schools portion is to inform the DOE of school and district contact information, changes in grade spans, and other school-related information. As a preliminary step, 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 to the DOE Data Helpdesk.

To begin: 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 DOE Data Helpdesk.

Filling out the Maine Schools and Public 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).

Next, carefully mark all SAU level approval questions with a response, and if the response is “No, or partially No,” a comment must be entered. Additionally, mark to answer the school level approval question for each school listed.

As you move down the module/form, ensure that the SAU- and school-level section question is checked for each section: “Please confirm that the above section has been reviewed…”

At the bottom, date, sign and submit the form.

For questions related to the NEO information system or access, please contact the DOE Data Helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov or 207-624-6896

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

PRIORITY NOTICE: 2019-2020 NEO Maine Schools for Private Schools and School Approval Process Scheduled to Open May 3

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 School Approval Process Updates

As indicated in last year’s guidance (July 12 and  October 2), the 2019-2020 private school approval annual report submission deadline is moving to an earlier date than previous years and will align with the public school approval year (July 1 to June 30). There is also a new target opening date for FY2020 NEO Maine Schools, so that the task of verifying organization information can be completed early. This change will support an improved student enrollment upload process in the fall. The Department urges private schools to submit complete information as early as possible for FY2020, and reach out early to resolve any questions or issues. Any requested funding for publicly funded students will be contingent on the process of basic school approval, following by receipt of the Year-End Report of Private Schools (Form EF-M 240).

All private schools seeking approval status must, in addition to the organizational piece in NEO Maine Schools, enter required staff information into the NEO staff module. The most reported barrier for private schools undergoing basic school approval in FY2019 was related to clearance (CHRC) and certification issues during Department implementation of a new certification system. A significant temporary backlog in certification office processing times, and mismatched or inaccurate NEO staff entry by the private school, were the most common causes of the resulting delays in certification issue resolution. The Department urges private schools to review instructions at https://www.maine.gov/doe/data-reporting/collection/helpdesk/resources/staff-dataentry-guides, and contact the Help Desk with questions regarding the proper way to enter staff information in the NEO information system. The Certification office backlog issue has been rectified.

Private School Approval and NEO

Maine Schools NEO Module 
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.

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 chief administrator of school), technical coordinator, or administrative assistant, please contact the MEDMS Helpdesk at MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov or 207-624-6896.

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.

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

Staff NEO Module
For security and privacy purposes, all staff information must be properly entered in the NEO Staff module. The School Approval office utilizes only the NEO public portal Staff Positions search function, together with internal staff violations reporting, to verify that all staff have appropriate certifications and/or clearance. Neither certification nor clearance information should be manually or electronically submitted in any format with school approval materials. This ensures that private information is not being relayed in an unsafe manner.

Private School Annual School Approval Report and Documentation

The annual report is submitted separately from the NEO system, with related documentation, to Maine DOE’s School Enrollment/Approval Specialist, either electronically (email, preferred) 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.

2019-2020 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.

Private School Reporting

School approval includes the requirement that all private schools provide attendance data on their publicly funded students in the Synergy student information system.

Currently, every private school that seeks tuition from a school administrative unit is already entering information into the Synergy student information system for each student for whom they seek public funds. The attendance data entry is comprised of the number of days in the reporting period that the student is enrolled, the number of days they were present, and the number of days of excused absences. This data needs to be updated and reviewed quarterly and certified on June 30th.

Subsidy will as always be dependent on accurate reporting of October 1st enrollment counts. In order for an accurate enrollment count and to ensure that private schools are on track to receive the appropriate tuition allocation, the following guidelines should be closely followed:

  1. In order for attendance data to be submitted, NEO Maine Schools organizational information must have been submitted and approved. If Maine Schools is not submitted, enrollment and attendance cannot be uploaded and EPS cannot be processed;
  2. The first instance of submitting attendance for publicly funded students at private schools, which is due quarterly, must be entered by October 15 and includes the attendance period July 1 through September 30. The next reporting period (to be entered by January 15) will require updated attendance numbers through December, and so on. More details about attendance data submission, and a helpful training manual document, can be found in Student Attendance Reportingand Attendance Manual Entry Guide.
  3. Publicly funded October 1ststudent enrollment data must be entered by October 15; certified by October 31.

Please contact the MEDMS Help Desk at 624-6896, or MEDMS.Helpdesk@maine.gov for assistance with NEO or the student information system. Please contact the DOE Certification Team at cert.DOE@maine.gov for certification system questions. Please contact Paula Gravelle at 624-6792 or Paula.B.Gravelle@maine.gov for questions about tuition. And, for questions about school approval please call Pamela Ford-Taylor at 624-6617, or Pamela.Ford-Taylor@maine.gov.

PRIORITY NOTICE: Updates Regarding ESEA Dashboard, Data Correction, and Federal Accountability under ESSA

This notice provides an update to the original timeline released in the DOE newsroom on March 11, 2019 regarding School Year (SY) 2018/19 data correction requests, the timeline for the release of the ESEA Dashboard, and the implementation of the federal accountability model under ESSA.

Data requests submitted to the Maine DOE by the February 8, 2019 deadline were reviewed, amended if necessary with the updated data sets, and uploaded to the ESEA Dashboard. The original timeline indicated the Data Dashboards would be provided to Superintendents for review on Monday, April 15, 2019.  The Department is currently in the process of conducting Quality Assurance (QA), ensuring the accuracy of presented data sets, and therefore the Dashboards were not available for District and School review on April 15, 2019. Once the QA process has concluded, district and school leaders will be notified and provided two (2) weeks to review the information provided. The ESEA Dashboard will become available prior to the conclusion of SY 2018-19.

As a result of a Maine DOE leadership phone conversation with the US Department of Education (USDE) on December 12, 2018, a subsequent phone call on March 8, 2019, and written feedback provided to the Maine DOE on March 15, 2019 related to Maine’s ESSA amendment, the Maine DOE was directed to resubmit clarifying information on April 8, 2019 to the USDE for review.  USDE has verified receipt of the clarifying information, and the Maine DOE awaits their feedback so that the process can proceed.

During this time of pause, the Maine DOE has secured state funding to support the provision of virtual coaching to schools that the Maine DOE anticipates will be eligible to receive additional support when amendments to Maine’s ESSA State plan are approved.  Participation in the virtual coaching is currently optional, with many eligible schools taking advantage of this support.

Maine DOE has requested an extension, until August 31, 2019, to officially make school identifications, and has requested the period of availability of 1003(a) funds be extended until September 30, 2020. These extensions will allow the Maine DOE to ensure the Department is able to align available federal funds to the identification timeline, therefore ensuring the availability of financial supports to schools.

Please know that the Maine DOE continues to do everything conceivable to ensure Maine has an equitable federal accountability model that honors stakeholder feedback and Maine’s small, rural context.

 

 

 

PRIORITY NOTICE: Information Regarding ESEA Dashboard and Implementation of the Federal Accountability Model Under ESSA

Dear District and School Leaders,

I am writing to provide you with an update regarding School Year (SY) 2018-19 data correction requests, the timeline for the release of the ESEA Dashboard, and implementation of the federal accountability model under ESSA.

Data requests submitted to the Maine DOE by the February 8, 2019 deadline will be completed by Friday, March 15, 2019. The updated data sets will be uploaded to the ESEA Dashboard and provided to Superintendents for review on Monday, April 15, 2019. The review period will end on Monday, April 29, 2019. After April 29, 2019, no further data corrections will be possible. The ESEA Dashboard will be publicly  available later in SY 2018-19.

Maine DOE leadership had a phone conversation with the US Department of Education (USDE) on December 12, 2018 to discuss Maine’s ESSA amendment. During this conversation Maine DOE staff members outlined Maine’s proposed amendment. USDE did not indicate required revisions to Maine DOE during the call or provide written follow-up. The Maine DOE submitted the amendment on December 14, 2018.

The Maine DOE leadership emailed USDE leaders several times over the past three months to inquire about the ESSA amendment status. To meet USDE’s required timeline for implementation, the previous administration instructed Maine DOE leaders to move forward with the implementation of the ESEA Dashboard and federal accountability system, without regard to the status of Maine’s amended ESSA Plan.

Under my leadership, Maine DOE leaders expressed concern regarding the implementation of the federal accountability model without federal approval of Maine’s amended model. After gaining a deeper understanding of the concerns expressed by Maine DOE leaders, I called Frank Brogan, Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education, to inquire about the status of Maine’s amendment. As a result of that call, a meeting was scheduled with USDE staffers and Maine DOE leadership for Friday, March 8, 2019.  During the call, Maine DOE leadership connected with USDE to discuss Maine’s amended ESSA plan, which had been submitted to them on December 14, 2018. Given the USDE’s recent feedback provided during the March 8, 2019 call, the Maine DOE suspects current anticipated school identifications will likely remain unchanged. However, Maine DOE believes USDE’s proposed revisions will require Maine to identify additional schools. The Maine DOE expects to receive written feedback from USDE by Friday, March 15, 2019.

In light of these developments, Maine DOE will request an extension to make school identifications during SY 2019-20. Please know that the Maine DOE is doing everything conceivable to ensure Maine has an equitable federal accountability model that honors stakeholder feedback and Maine’s small, rural context.

Pender Makin
Commissioner
Maine Department of Education

PRIORITY NOTICE: Reminder to Review and Report any District Data Errors in 2019/20 Subsidy Printouts (ED 279s) by March 15, 2019

The Maine Department of Education would like to acknowledge the hard work of school districts in ensuring that the data they submit to the Department is as accurate as possible. Each year there are a handful of data errors that districts notice after the release of the ED 279 printouts and these can have a significant impact on subsidy.

The Department encourages school districts to examine their ED 279 printouts as closely as possible to identify any possible data errors. Any districts who have found an error in their data are encouraged to report this as soon as possible to the Department of Education’s School Finance Team. Errors must be identified and reported within 30 days of the posting of the preliminary ED 279s.

While we cannot guarantee a complete financial correction for errors that have been made because of inaccurate data submitted by school districts, we will work hard to mitigate the impact on your district to the greatest extent possible. (The Department will always make fiscal corrections in the event that an error is made on our end – this notice pertains to inaccurate data submitted by school districts). As corrections are submitted, they will be placed on a list for review in the order received. As a reminder, any financial corrections in subsidy are made after the state budget has passed the legislature.

To better understand where and why errors might occur, here is a list of reports that impact the ED 279 subsidy calculation and a list of deadlines. We send out reminders around these reports, and encourage superintendents and business office staff members to carefully examine the data before submitting and certifying it; this will help to avoid issues that emerge after the release of the ED 279 printouts.

Should you have questions regarding subsidy printouts or to report an error, please contact our friendly, smart, and helpful school finance team: Tyler Backus at tyler.backus@maine.gov; Paula Gravelle at paula.b.gravelle@maine.gov; or Ida Batista at ida.batista@maine.gov.