Priority Notice: Proposed Revisions to Ch. 125, School Approval Standards

The State Board and the Department of Education are proposing the repeal and replacement of Chapter 125: Basic School Approval Standards: Public Schools and School Administrative Units.

The last repeal and replace of State Board of Education/Maine Department of Education Rule Chapter 125 was in 2002. The resulting language was highly duplicative of statute. The proposed replacement eliminates redundancy when possible, and minimizes to include only what is required in law.

To this end, the proposed Rule is written to address school approval standards and requirements in a linear fashion, reflecting requirements in the order they appear in statute when possible, and providing detail where necessary. For clarity, a chart referenced in Section 4 of the proposed Rule resides on the Department web page and contains a comprehensive list of requirements and citations.

Specific revisions to the Rule are as follows:

  • Based on a cross-walk conducted by the Department, language which is duplicative of statute or is outdated has been updated or eliminated;
  • The definition of school has been revised;
  • Unnecessary definitions have been eliminated;
  • Certain requirement exceptions for SAUs that tuition all or whole populations of students out of the resident unit have been added;
  • Certain requirement exceptions for Career and Technical Regions have been added;
  • The Comprehensive Education Plan format determination remains with the SAU, but must equally include and reflect all schools within the unit;
  • The minimum requirements as required by M.R.S. 20-A Section 4502(5) are listed in Section 5:
    • 5.01 – Grade K now has a minimum instructional day of 3 hours;
    • 5.03 – added “Areas used for the provision of student services and health services shall be adequate to provide for the privacy and confidentiality of such services;”
    • 5.08 – revised language regarding school counseling program;
    • 5.12 – revised language regarding time out areas to reference Restraint and Seclusion;
    • 5.15 – added family outreach requirement, per statute;
    • 5.16 – added language around Promotion, Retention, Acceleration and Graduation of Students;
    • 5.18 – added requirement for Multi-tiered System of Support, per LD 651; and
  • Section 7.01 outlining the initial approval process for SAUs was revised to reflect current practice.

Public Hearing Information for Rule Chapter 125:

  • December 16, 2019 from 1:00-3:00 PM
  • Room 500 in the Cross State Office Building, 111 Sewall Street, Augusta, Maine
  • All are welcome to attend, and no RSVP is required.  Anyone unable to attend the public hearing may send written comments via email to or by mailing comments to:

Maine Department of Education
attention: Jaci Holmes
23 State House Station
Augusta, ME  04333-0023
Comment Period Deadline: December 27, 2019

Public Preschool Annual Report Due July 31, 2019

We are grateful to our school districts who are addressing the need for public preschool programming in their communities, and we are committed to fostering partnerships and increasing early intervention and educational opportunities for our youngest learners. As you are likely aware, all public preschool programs are required to complete the Public Preschool Annual Report. We have shortened the report for ease of use, and the Department of Education will refer to the data collected throughout the year to help inform policy, determine professional development needs, and provide follow up information or support.

The Public Preschool Annual report is now available  and is due to the Department no later than close of business on July 31, 2019.

Before you start the survey, it will be useful to have the following information readily available:

  • Information related to staff turnover
  • Program operation:
    • Number of hours per day
    • Number of days per week
    • Any major changes to the program, including, but not limited to:
      • partners
      • curriculum
      • location
    • Successes/challenges experienced over the course of the year
    • Student attendance-
      • number economically disadvantaged
      • number chronic absenteeism
      • transient students
    • Students identified for additional support:
      • English Learners- screening process
      • Individualized Education Plan (IEP) information including but not limited to:
        • referrals
        • IDEA eligibility identification
        • no longer qualify
      • Student growth in all learning domains

For further information or questions, please contact Nicole Madore at  or 624-6677.

Maine DOE Data Management Systems Summer Training

The Maine Department of Education Data Team is holding their annual summer training during the first two weeks of August.  The focus of the training this year will be on tips and resources to assist districts with their data reporting, and viewing/certifying their reports. The sessions will be focused on sharing resources to assist districts with the data tasks required.

Training Dates and Locations

August 6, Caribou High School, 308 Sweden St Caribou, ME 04736

August 7, Brewer High School, 79 Parkway south Brewer, ME 04412

August 8, Ellsworth Elementary/Middle School, 20 Forrest Avenue Ellsworth, ME 04605

August 12, Cony High School, 60 Pierce Drive Augusta, ME 04330

August 13, Mt. Blue High School, 129 Seamon Rd Farmington, ME 04938

August 14, Mt. Ararat Middle School, 66 Republic Avenue Topsham, ME 04086

August 15, Buxton Center Elementary School, 912 Long Plains Road Buxton, ME 04093

All sessions will begin with registration at 8:30, with presentations beginning at 9.  We will serve a light lunch and will finish no later than 4:00.  Coffee and water will also be provided throughout the day.

Topics for each session:

  • How student and staff data is used for EPS and Accountability
  • What’s new for 2019-2020
  • Accurate, Complete and Timely Data Submissions
  • Data Security
  • Our Website and Where to find helpful resources
  • Data Collection and Reporting Calendar
  • Maine Schools and School Approval changes
  • NEO Staff – Entering Staff information
  • MEIS – Maine Educator Information System
  • Synergy – Manual and Uploads
  • Graduation (NEO) requirements and reporting
  • Student Reports (NEO) – where to find them and how to utilize them
  • Behavior, Truancy and Attendance (NEO) – importance of these reports and important resources

To register for the training, please visit Summer 2019 Training Registration.

If you have any questions, comments. or concerns regardin these training sessions, please contact Ryan Cunningham Maine DOE Data Systems Helpdesk Manager at (207) 624-6809 or

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 or 207-624-6896

Please contact Pamela Ford-Taylor, DOE School Enrollment Specialist at 207-624-6617 or 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, 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 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 for assistance with NEO or the student information system. Please contact the DOE Certification Team at for certification system questions. Please contact Paula Gravelle at 624-6792 or for questions about tuition. And, for questions about school approval please call Pamela Ford-Taylor at 624-6617, or