Get to know the DOE Team: Meet Dan Chuhta

Maine DOE team member Dan Chuhta is being highlighted this week as the part of a Get to know the DOE Team campaign! Learn a little more about Dan in the brief question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I support the Commissioner in all aspects of the important work of the Department.  I work closely with office directors and the Commissioner’s Office staff to provide effective leadership and support to our colleagues both in the field and across the the Department.

What do you like best about your job?

The part I like the best is the fact that no two days are the same, and that I can go from discussing early childhood education in the morning to school bus purchasing in the afternoon, with perhaps school funding, certification, legislation, adult education, social emotional learning, and career and technical education in between.  I also enjoy the many opportunities to be out and about across the State, attending events that celebrate education, and collaborating with MDOE colleagues, as well others across state government, to support students, educators, and families in Maine.

How or why did you decide on this career?

Though I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher, I didn’t realize that some day I would become Deputy Commissioner!  I thank the many teachers that I had, as well as the wonderful educators that I’ve had a chance to work alongside, for the inspiration, motivation and encouragement to continue doing important work in the name of public education!

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

Being outside with my family!  Our two kids (fourth and eighth grade) are at super ages for doing many things all year round.  Some of our favorites include relaxing on the beach (preferably the ocean!), downhill skiing, running road races, travelling to see family (in many corners of the country) and visiting our beautiful State Parks!

Get to know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Brandi Cota

Maine DOE team member Brandi Cota is being highlighted this week as the part of a Get to know the DOE Team campaign! Learn a little more about Brandi in the brief question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Office Specialist for the Maine Learning Technology Initiative. I provide support for the MLTI 1:1 grant program by collecting applications, assisting in the review and approval, also with writing and processing of our contracts. I manage the billing for all of the 200 + schools in the MLTI program which includes invoicing, tracking device inventory, and processing payments. I also assist with event planning, managing the inventory of the leased devices throughout the state, and communicating with technology staff at our schools.

In addition to my work on the MLTI program I provide support for Preschool Development Grant and I am also a part of the Morale Team and the Procurement Resource Group.

What do you like best about your job?

What I enjoy most about my job is to assist in the planning of events like the MLTI student conference. Being apart of events where we are able to see first hand the innovative work that Maine students are doing with technology in our schools. Working on the morale team and spending time planning and participation in fun events with my coworkers is very fulfilling. I also enjoy getting to communicate with teachers and school staff all over the state.

How or why did you decide on this career?

After my time in the Air Force I spent most of my career working in retail management. Even though I enjoyed it I realized I needed a more reliable work schedule as a parent. I switched to the business administration career field when I moved to Maine, and I thought the Department of Education would be a perfect fit.

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

I spend the majority of my free time with my 10 year old son, close friends and family. I enjoy watching my son play in his games, and this time of year I love watching Packers football. We also like to go to the movies, the beach, attend concerts, and traveling to new places.

Get to Know the DOE Team: Meet Shawn Collier

Maine DOE team member Shawn Collier is being highlighted this week as the part of a Get to Know the DOE Team campaign! Learn a little more about Shawn in the brief question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

As the Data and Research Coordinator for Special Services, I oversee the collection of special education data and work to ensure data quality for federal and state reporting. My role also involves research and data analysis to evaluate various special education programs and initiatives and assess compliance with federal and state regulations.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy the research aspects of my job the most, and I enjoy helping others use data to evaluate programs and initiatives and inform policies that promote student success. I also like to annoy my cube neighbor Leora Byras by singing classic Madonna hits like ‘Borderline’ as I work.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I’ve worked in a wide variety of positions over the years, including social work/case management, college teaching, psychological research, and I served 8 years in the Navy. In my current position, I draw most heavily on the investigative and statistical methods I learned as a researcher and teacher. I have always loved the ‘detective work’ of research – gathering data and testing hypotheses – and it is very rewarding to have these efforts benefit students.

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

My favorite times are spent outdoors, especially at a beach or lake, with my 7-year-old daughter. I also enjoy hand-drumming and playing folk music, especially Celtic and Eastern European, on the fiddle. This winter, I’d like to start an ‘extreme’ (outdoors, in the snow) badminton league.

Get to Know the DOE Team: Meet Stephanie Clark

Maine DOE team member Stephanie Clark is being highlighted this week as the part of a Get to Know the DOE Team campaign! Learn a little more about Stephanie in the brief question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the fiscal compliance associate with School Finance and Compliance.  I am responsible for collecting and reviewing the financial audits from the School Administrative Units as well as the municipal schools and towns,  I am also responsible for the Special Education tuition financial reports and I conduct the audits for the school construction projects once the project is complete and closed.

What do you like best about your job?

I like the fact that I can help the districts with staying in compliance with what statute requires of them.  It is so rewarding to start with a person that is confused or doesn’t understand something work with them and explain why and how to help them complete the job they are trying to accomplish.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I have worked for the State of Maine for over 13 years and in that time I have worked in a few different agencies, I am happy to say that I am enjoying the Department of Education and the work that we do here the most.

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

I have two dogs, Sadie, a Yorkshire terrier and Remy, a toy poodle named after the color announcer Jerry Remy of the Red Sox, with whom I like to cuddle and watch TV with.  Along with my dogs I like to spend time traveling with my husband Glen around and outside of the State.  I also enjoy spending time with my church family.

Get to Know the Maine DOE Team: Meet Valerie Chiang

Valerie Chiang, Maine DOE School Construction Coordinator is being highlighted this week as the part of a Get to Know the DOE Team campaign! Learn a little more about Valerie in the brief question and answer below.

What are your roles with DOE?

I am a School Construction Coordinator with the Office of School Construction team.  My role gives me the opportunity to work with various school departments on improvements to their facilities through a number of programs including the Major Capital School Construction, Revolving Renovations Funds, and when requested, provide assistance to any school departments taking on their own local projects.  I assist school departments navigate DOE and other State construction related requirements, review and prepare contracts, review design documents, invoices, and oversee construction activities.

What do you like best about your job?

I really enjoy being a part of the overall process and helping it all come together every step of the way.  Since the process takes years, it is a unique blend of patience and excitement – from hearing the thoughts and ideas generated by students, staff, and administrators, to working with the designs developed by architects and engineers and balancing their creativity with fair and equitable solutions, and finally watching it all transform into reality as construction goes on.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I’ve always been fascinated with the technical aspects of how things come together and how things work, with a twist of artistic flair thrown in the mix.  Architectural drafting while I was in high school started me down my education and career path.  Before I moved to Maine, I was working as an architect in New Jersey designing schools.  Eventually, I started looking to move to Maine with dreams of a career change and becoming a forest ranger.  (Little known fact – I had volunteered with the National Forest Service while I attended college in Virginia, and got to teach kids while dressed up as Smokey Bear!)  When I finally made it to Maine 15 years ago, I stayed involved in construction, working for the Bureau of General Services in an architect position.  While I was at BGS, part of my project load included participating in portions of the DOE school projects, reviewing design documents and overseeing construction.  When the School Construction Coordinator position opened up where I could join DOE and get even more involved with all aspects of school projects, I jumped at the opportunity!

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

The biggest reason why I moved to Maine was to live in my favorite playground, instead of just visiting Vacationland.  You’ll find me outdoors as much as possible with my husband and 6 huskies – we’re always having fun restoring our apple orchard, hiking, kayaking, camping, snowmobiling, dogsledding…and occasionally building something!