Get to Know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Sarah DeCato

Maine DOE Team member Sarah DeCato is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Sarah in the question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

The role of School Nurse Specialist, works directly with the Statewide School Nurse Consultant, to provide school nursing leadership, consultation, and direction across the State of Maine. The School Nurse Specialist works as a team within Coordinated School Health to assist in synthesizing and disseminating information as it relates to trends in health care, school nursing practice, and health related policy changes. The School Nurse Specialist plans and provides educational offerings as they relate to special projects.

Sample focus areas include:

1) Establishing regional Communities of Practice (CoP) for school nurses statewide
2) Establishing communication interdepartmentally and externally with partners around the creation of a Child Care Health Consulting (CCHC) network as it relates to the role of the school nurse

What do you like best about your job?

I love working with the people I work with and having the opportunity to impact student health statewide working alongside school nurses. I enjoy collaborating with other departments within state government to best meet the needs of the populations we serve. Having a job where my expertise can be put to good use, where there is also the opportunity work/life balance is important and I am fortunate to find that here at the DOE.

How or why did you decide on this career?

The bulk of my professional nursing career has been working with or for children. Having worked in the non-profit world a number of years both running one of our former Healthy Maine Partnerships and while managing a 21st Century Afterschool Program grant, I realized I needed to become a nurse to make a larger impact on public health. I received my undergrad in nursing from the University of Southern Maine, and my graduate degree, with a focus in community/population health nursing, from New Mexico State University. I’ve worked with children as both a Public Health Nurse for the MeCDC and as a former Director of Health/School Nurse for a private high school. In my free time, I have served as adjunct faculty in the population health nursing program at the University of New England, helping shape the next generation of nurses.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

I enjoy being a chicken farmer, gardening, kayaking, hiking, biking, skiing, and going on camping adventures with my family. I also enjoy listening to live music and reading (but not at the same time).

Get to Know the Maine DOE: Meet Courtney Belolan

Maine DOE Team member Courtney Belolan is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Campaign. Learn a little more about Courtney in the question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

As the Director of Policy and Government Affairs, I am a part of the team that works to bring our vision for education in the State of Maine to life.  My focus is on legislation and policy, collaborating with people from across the department to understand, respond to, and influence the different laws, rules, and guidance related to education here in Maine.

What do you like best about your job?

I value the opportunities I have to see the interconnectedness of all the different aspects of education.  Before coming to the DOE, my background was mostly in instruction, assessment, and curriculum.  Every day I learn something from one of the incredible people here or get to hear about an issue from a different perspective.  The philosophical and theoretical discussions I get to be involved in never fail to make my day. I have long said that argument and statistics are two of the most important areas of skills and understandings for anybody to learn and practice. I get to use them every day!

How or why did you decide on this career?

Honestly, I avoided a career in education for a little bit!  It wasn’t until a teacher approached me after I finished a whole-school assembly presenting the wildlife of Long Island (I used to work for NY Audubon, and was the person who brought the animals from a sanctuary into schools) and told me I needed to be in public schools that I took it seriously as an option.  Once I was teaching, I quickly discovered a passion for teaching and learning and student-centered practices.  As far as ending up in policy, I didn’t see that coming! I was fortunate to be able to get involved with policy work through the Maine Curriculum Leaders Association, and the more I did it, the more comfortable I became, the more I liked it, and the better at it I got.  Policy is a way to have an impact on all the learners in Maine, not just the ones in my classroom or school, or district.  It is important work and I am honored to be a part of it.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

I have the most fun when I am moving my body in some way or enjoying silliness with my son.  Roller skating, tap dancing (any dancing really), hiking, yoga, even boxing!  If it involves coordinated movement, I’m in. Nothing brings me more joy than having laughing fits with my son, though.  He loves all the silly comedy shows I love and has a sense of humor that gets me every time.  I am also a musician beginning to get back into the music-making groove.  I love to sing in choirs and bands, I picked cello back up after about 20 years, and still play my piano and guitars now and then.  My gardens also are a source of joy in my life, they help me stay connected to the earth and its beauty.

Get to Know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Alexandra Cookson

Maine DOE Team member Alexandra (Allee) Cookson is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Alexandra in the question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Data Quality Trainer with the MEDMS Helpdesk, and my main job is to ensure that school data is reported in an accurate, complete, and timely manner.

What do you like best about your job?

I appreciate that I am able to work with both the districts and various teams in the DOE so that we can ensure consistency in all of our reporting and data use across the state.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I am very excited about the opportunity to help districts and DOE teams, and this was my main reason for choosing this new adventure in my career as an educator after 5 years as a classroom teacher. I look forward to meeting and working with the incredible educators across this great state!

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

My hobbies outside of the DOE/Education world include group fitness instructing, 5k obstacle course races, spending time with my family, and enjoying the wonderful adventures and experiences that Maine has to offer.  I am also a certified life coach.

 

 

Get to Know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Georgette Valliere

Maine DOE team member Georgette Valliere is being highlighted this week as part of the Get to Know the Maine DOE Team Campaign. Learn a little more about Georgette in the question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I have been working with DOE since April 1985 and have seen many Commissioners during my time here (Commissioner Makin is #15) and they are all completely different.  My primary role with DOE is being the Assistant to the Commissioner & Deputy – scheduling meetings, handling correspondence, and arranging for all meetings and travel (including flights & hotel arrangements).

I also assist with other members of DOE that need help with travel arrangements, such as lodging or airline tickets, in addition to ordering books, office supplies, subscriptions, etc., I also assist around the office with troubleshooting video conferencing technology needs, and serve as a backup for building control issues, telephone orders/issues, when necessary.

I have also been helping to coordinate (along with DOE Leadership) the Annual Commissioner’s Conference for Superintendents, which entails handling a lot of logistics and attention to detail.

I have played in many roles and have had numerous responsibilities over the years, including homeschooling, Certificates of Employment for Superintendents, and currently I am assisting with processing DOE Diplomas. There are many things to list that sometimes pop up at a moment’s notice, so I have to shift gears!

What do you like best about your job?

The thing I like best about my job is the wonderful administration (people), and meeting people, the versatility of work, and keeping busy.  DOE is a very caring department and since the COVID pandemic which has caused many to work remotely, I have not been able to meet as many employees.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I decided on this career many years ago after working in private business including working in the restaurant and hospitality industry, woodworking mill, furniture store, pest control business, shoe shop, property management, and motorcycle repair shop (which allowed my husband and I to meet a lot of different people across the US & Canada as they were travelling to Laconia, who had stopped with motorcycle problems). My experience with handling all the paperwork/accounting for the rental property and motorcycle business, along with working here full time and housekeeping made me finally make the decision to work in State Government for the health benefits & the retirement – so here I am!

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

I do rubber stamping (make my own greeting cards), and I like to make different styles than the regular open/close ones. I have also done basket weaving. In the summer I go to hotrod/car shows with my husband, he has a bright red 32 Ford coupe.  I have a grown son who has his own home, and my husband and I have a cat, his name is Tommy Two Socks.

Get to Know the Maine DOE: Meet Gina Post

Maine DOE Team member Gina Post is being highlighted as part of our Get to Know the Maine DOE Team campaign. Learn a little more about Gina in the question and answer below.

What are your roles?

I am Interim Executive Director with the Maine Charter School Commission (MCSC). While MCSC staff aren’t technically Maine Department of Education (DOE) employees, we do work very closely with the Maine DOE.

What do you like best about your job? 

As a former teacher, I find it interesting to work with schools that have unique missions and approaches to education.

What do you like to do outside of work for fun?

Outside of work, I like to read, do crossword puzzles, and spend time outside with my family.