Kittery School Department Hosts Kick-off Celebration to Promote Free Summer Lunch Program

Kittery School Department hosted a kick-off pizza party this week welcoming children in their community to enjoy free lunch all summer long.  At the event they served pizza, watermelon, chocolate hummus with strawberries, snacks, and milk. This event is hosted annually to let the community know about the Summer Food Service Program that provides free lunch to all kids Monday through Friday throughout the summer months, completely free, no questions asked.

Kaitlin Beach, Shapleigh School Assistant Principal and Alli Gamache, Mitchell Primary School Principal
Kaitlin Beach, Shapleigh School Assistant Principal and Alli Gamache, Mitchell Primary School Principal

Funded by the U. S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Maine Department of Education in partnership with local sponsors throughout the state, the Summer Food Service Program is an extension of the Federal Child Nutrition program found in schools across the nation which provides free or reduced priced meals to families who qualify. The Kittery School Department is one of 463 sites located in Maine this summer who offer the Summer Food Service Program.

Traip Academy Assistant Principal/Athletic Director, Kittery School Department Superintendent, Eric Waddell, and Michael Roberge, Traip Academy Principal John Drisko serving pizza at the event
Traip Academy Assistant Principal/Athletic Director, Kittery School Department Superintendent, Eric Waddell, and Michael Roberge, Traip Academy Principal John Drisko serving pizza at the event

The strong connections between the Kittery School Department and their community allow them to not only host the summer meal program at the Kittery Community Center where kids are in and out all day participating in summer activities through the recreational department, but also provides the kids with other opportunities and activities available through community partnerships. For example, at the event this week, each student received a free backpack with school supplies tucked inside. The backpacks and the supplies are donated with the help of United Way and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Each time kids come back for a meal this summer they will get an additional item for their backpack. Wendy Collins, Kittery School Department School Nutrition Director and the organizer of the Summer Food Service Program, hopes it will help get kids to come back and eat each day and spread the word about this wonderful service to the community.

IMG_1400
Sarah Perkins and Catherine Hoffmann, from the Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council

Also present at the event was the Maine Dairy & Nutrition Council who have helped support the Kittery School Department through grant funding. During the event they helped serve the milk for lunch that day and promoted their Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative. In addition, there were representatives from Let’s Go! promoting their statewide initiative 5-2-1-0 Goes to Child Care to help communities maintain and improve upon their healthy food choices and physical activity opportunities. They provided activities and games for kids to enjoy after lunch, along with the many other fun things available including face painting and a large Thomas & Friends themed bounce house.

The event served 193 kids who all got to enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal provided by a school department and its community who care so very much about the children and families who live in their community.

To find summer meal sites near you, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/summerfoodrocks, and type in your address. The map will be populated with the sites nearest to you. You can also text “Summer Meals” to 97779 or call Maine 211.

Maine DOE Engages Stakeholder Input Through Regional Think Tank Series

Drawing its largest gathering of stakeholders, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) hosted its 5th event in a series of Think Tanks held at various locations throughout the state this spring and summer. The Think Tanks are a way for the Department to discuss various topics and gain feedback from stakeholders about ongoing initiatives, long term programming, and to inform future decision-making.

In this first round of Think Tanks, the following topics were discussed: redefining school success, the Maine Learning Through Technology Initiative (MLTI), educator readiness, educator excellence, and special education.

The July 8th event held in Augusta started off with a warm introduction from Deputy Commissioner Daniel Chuhta thanking participants for making the trek to Augusta, in some cases from as far away as Washington County. Shortly after, attendees split off into three large groups to discuss specific topics for the day.

The discussion about MLTI, hosted by Beth Lambert, Maine DOE Coordinator of Secondary Education and Integrated Instruction, was introduced with an explanation of the 20 year history of MTLI, an acknowledgement that information will be forthcoming in regards to the recent passage of the budget and the coming school year, and that the day’s feedback will aid in the planning of the future of MLTI beyond 2021 when all of the current contracts have come to an end.

“Before we begin, I want to mention that there is only one thing that is off the table for today’s discussion,” said Lambert in her opening remarks. “We will not be talking about whether or not to end the MLTI Program,” she noted. “MLTI has been around for 20 years, and we would like it to be around for many, many more years to come.”

Stakeholder presenting feedback

Over the course of the next few hours the group was split off into four smaller groups, each tasked with identifying values, concerns, and suggestions on large sheets of chart paper. A summary of those lists was then shared out with the entire group before the session ended prior to lunch.

Meanwhile in another session, a group was discussing the answers to a specific set of questions posed by Maine DOE Deputy Director of the Office of Special Services, Ann Belanger:

  • What is the most challenging aspect of the special education process?
  • Do you find the Maine Unified Special Education Regulations (MUSER) user friendly? What would make them more user friendly?
  • How can the Maine Department of Education support districts and parents in providing services to students with disabilities?
  • Are there topics/issues about which you feel that more information and/or training is needed? What are they?
  • Are there practices and/or policies that create barriers for students with disabilities?

Stakeholders engaged in worksessionParticipants then shared their collaborative responses with the entire group, working together to carefully record all the responses in notes. The group then worked together to create the ideal special education program, detailing the processes that would need to be involved to create this type of ideal setting.

For the session about redefining school success, Mary Paine, the Director of a new Office of School Success, introduced an initiative that engages educators, students, parents, and communities in conversations about what they think makes a school successful. Her session worked to further engage with stakeholders on this topic. The framework that results from the Maine Defines School Success statewide dialog will eventually complement Maine’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan by providing a broader set of indicators of success in Maine’s schools. In addition to being part of the Think Tanks series, the school success discussion will continue in school communities throughout the state over the course of the next school year.

IMG_3330

Led by Maine DOE’s Office of Higher Education and Educator Support Services, the educator readiness session prompted participants to discuss talent needs that are ideal for teacher candidates including pre-service and in-service, as well as what is needed to ensure teachers are prepared for equity and diversity in the classroom.

Each session resulted in walls of chart paper filled with written notes detailing suggestions, ideas, concerns, values, and much more. “We are pleased with the participation and appreciate that folks were willing to join us in these discussions across the State,” said Deputy Commissioner Chuhta.

IMG_3304

Following the July 8th event there will be an additional Think Tank held in Winter Harbor this fall to discuss the same topics and the Department is also planning to release a survey for those unable to participate in discussion topics at the Think Tanks already held.

“In the works is a new section of the Maine DOE website dedicated to the Think Tanks where the transcribed notes from each of the sessions will be available along with other information,” said Chuhta. “In the coming months, the notes will be synthesized to help us determine next steps and guide decision making on the topics discussed,” he added.

In a continuation of the Think Tank Series, the Department is expecting to launch another round of Think Tanks on a different set of topics over the course of the coming school year.

Maine School Counselors Attend Annual Conference in Boston

70 school counselors from Maine attended the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Annual conference in Boston from June 29 – July 2  for an opportunity to network with school counselors from across the country, hear from inspirational keynote speakers, and attend an array of breakout sessions to explore hot topics in the school counseling profession.

Conference participants came back with information about developing and designing the elements of a Comprehensive School Counseling Program, which includes aligning lessons to the ASCA Mindsets and Behaviors Standards, collecting and analyzing attendance, academic and discipline data, and collaborating with district and school staff on multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS).

A wonderful example of Maine’s outstanding school counselors striving to ensure that all students are provided with the programming they need to address social emotional learning, college and career readiness, and academic supports and interventions.

The images below were graciously provided by Bonnie Robbins from RSU 16, Jennifer Simmons from MSAD 5, and Sarah Adkins from the Maine DOE.

 

Maine FFA Joins Forces with Other New England States

On June 25-30, 2019, three student State Officers of the Maine FFA Association (formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”) joined 23 of their counterparts from the other New England States for a regional leadership training held for the first time at Northern Vermont University (NVU) in Lyndon.  Most costs for this event were generously supported by a grant from the AgEnhancement Program of Farm Credit East, along with additional funding by Farm Credit East and by Yankee Farm Credit.  Maine FFA State Officers Graham Berry (President), Camryn Curtis (Vice President) and Ava Cameron (Secretary-Treasurer), were eager to gain leadership skills for the coming 2019-2020 school year.  They traveled to Vermont with State FFA Advisor Doug Robertson, from the Maine Department of Education.  On the way, they had the chance to experience the agriculture of Vermont, including a visit to Shelburne Farms, a 1,400 acre historic agricultural education facility on the shores of Lake Champlain, dating from the 1800s.

The purpose of the training was to prepare State FFA Officers to serve nearly 7,000 FFA members, grades 7 to 12, in the six New England States.  As representatives of one of the largest student leadership organizations in the country, State FFA Officers are expected to organize leadership workshops, conferences and other events for their membership, composed of students studying subjects related to agriculture and natural resources, whether through middle/high school science curricula infused with agriculture topics, or through technical programs in areas such as horticulture, forestry, landscaping, natural resource management, and outdoor leadership.

In Vermont, three National FFA facilitators from California, Kentucky and Oregon led training sessions on areas related to Communication Skills and Workshop Development/Delivery, helping student State FFA Officers begin to create their own workshop sessions to bring back to their home states.  Training logistics were overseen by host Vermont FFA Executive Director Suzanne Buck and Maine FFA State Advisor Doug Robertson.  To complement their formal training, State FFA Officers also participated in hands-on teamwork/leadership training on NVU’s high and low ropes courses, successfully undertaking team and individual challenges.  Students interviewed a local Lyndonville Institute agriculture teacher, observing his students’ projects related to gardening and maple syrup production, and learned more about opportunities in the agriculture industry through guest speakers from Case New Holland Tractors.

State FFA Officers commented on the high quality of their National FFA facilitators, the idyllic setting of NVU, with its excellent food and amenities, and the overall effectiveness of the training program and learning environment.  They left the training with increased confidence and excitement to serve FFA members in the coming year, along with strong personal connections to their New England peers, whom they will next see at events in Massachusetts, Washington, DC and Indianapolis.

Those wishing to learn more about Maine FFA, including the possibility of connecting with an existing FFA chapter or beginning a new one, should contact State FFA Advisor Doug Robertson:  doug.robertson@maine.gov, (207) 624-6744.

WCC Washington County Educator Profile: Lynn Mitchell

Submitted by Sarah Woog from the The Washington County Consortium. 

Meet Lynn Mitchell, Passamaquoddy Culture and Language Teacher at Calais High School.

Have you ever considered learning Passamaquoddy? If you are not Native, does this question give you pause? Have you ever wondered if learning the Passamaquoddy language and culture is an endeavor you should or could have access to? According to Lynn Mitchell, yes and yes.

Lynn Mitchell is the Passamaquoddy Culture and Language teacher at Calais High School. She’s been teaching Passamaquoddy Culture and Language to Native and non-Native students at Calais for four years. Lynn believes her class bridges divides between Native and non-Native communities, creates a shared experience, and develops empathy and deepens ties between the communities. Lynn isn’t the only person at Calais High School who believes this. Her passion reverberates throughout the school.

Mary Anne Spearin, Principal at Calais High School, recommended I profile Lynn for this month’s newsletter. Mary Anne said, “Her love for all students became apparent during our Blue and White review when Lynn presented her academic awards. She became emotional when referring to the ever strengthening connection between the Calais High School students and staff and the Passamaquoddy culture, traditions, and language, stating it had been a long time coming.” In our divisive times, these connections are so important in our shared quest for a more kind and just world. And Lynn is building more connections, too.

Lynn recently visited a fifth grade classroom in Norridgewock, Maine. She arrived at 10:30 AM and spent the rest of the school day with the class. She taught the young people and teachers about her people, the First People, about their language and traditions, and their existence as people, not as caricatures or mascots. Lynn is clearly committed to creating bridges, and I admire the love with which she builds them.

Lynn teaches with love too. I asked her the best part of teaching and she didn’t miss a beat- the kids. She smiles when she talks about the games she uses to engage them, about the challenges of differentiation, about the student who told her he wanted to be a linguist because of her class. 

Lynn learns with love. She is finishing her coursework in Education at the University of Maine at Machias next year. She told me she’s grateful for the experience, is excited for the credential, but especially appreciates the knowledge and skills she is acquiring that supports her work in the classroom. She loved the coursework that taught her about unit design and lesson planning. Lynn has created the curriculum and content she is using in her classes. The frameworks and planning processes she’s learned have allowed her to offer a course that always has a waitlist.

Two more loves of Lynn: working at Maine Indian Education, and her husband, Dana Mitchell. Lynn is proud of her 32 years at Maine Indian Education. She and her husband were actually married at the Wabanaki Culture Center, where Maine Indian Education is located. Dana also works for Maine Indian Education, at Beatrice Rafferty School, and has his own illustrious career in service to Native students that would require another profile to do justice. Lynn loves that her husband “supports everything I do.” Knowing Dana and Lynn, his support of Lynn is unwavering, but it’s also worth noting that he supports the spirit of her work, and shares her passion for teaching, learning, and building community.

I’ll end here with a quote from Lynn: “It is a passion of mine to advocate for our beloved Passamaquoddy culture and language and to educate not only our children from the reservation, but all children.” Do you share Lynn’s passion for educating children? Do you want to provide your students with increased opportunities to authentically learn about  Passamaquoddy culture and language in your classroom? If so, reach out to Lynn (mrslynn.mitchell@gmail.com), and build another bridge together.