WCC Educator Profile: Lewis Collins

Washington County Consortium (WCC): Washington County Educator Profile, submitted by Sarah Woog, Executive Director of the WCC.

Meet Lewis Collins, Superintendent of Moosabec CSD and Union 103

Moosabec CSD and Union 103 is a school district in Washington County nestled in the coastal communities of Jonesport and Beal Island. It includes Jonesport-Beals High School, Jonesport Elementary School, and Beals Elementary School. The district is a relatively small district, one familiar to many of us, with generations of pride in its schools, combined classrooms, contract disputes, packed gyms for basketball games, and a part time superintendent. These characteristics represent significant strengths and challenges, and Lewis (Lew) Collins is excited to leverage the strengths of the district to meet the challenges of a small rural district in Maine.

Lew started as Superintendent of Moosabec CSD and Union 103 in July of this year, and shortly began listening to the staff at the schools and community members he signed on to serve. He sees listening as one of the most important things he can do this year, and recognizes that the voice and values of the people in the district will help him determine how to best support them and increase student outcomes. Lew plans to spend much of his time this year “going into schools, getting diverse perspectives, listening to staff and teachers.” So far, he likes what he’s hearing and said the district’s greatest strengths are “first, its kids; and next, its staff, who are completely dedicated to student success.”

Complete dedication to student success has been a hallmark of Lew’s long career in education. He began his career in Camden, NJ, where he was a teacher at an alternative education school for adjudicated youth. He’s proud of the on-the-job training the school provided, and the work-study with pay opportunities the students were able to take advantage of. The school, and Lew’s work within it, supported students in discovering, defining, and pursuing their own paths to success, paths that took them off the troubled roads they had already traversed, and supported them on a journey toward meaningful and fulfilling lives. 

This theme of supporting students in finding fulfillment and success determined by their own passions and values is one with which many educators in Washington County can relate. This theme is evident in the current work being done to expand Career and Technical Education opportunities, and is pervasive in all of our schools. We all know the lobsterman’s daughter who takes a half day work-study her senior year to work on the boat, or the third-grader who designs a four-wheeler for his lego-engineering project. In fact, in Lew’s own district, students at Beals Elementary learn science by posing hypotheses and designing experiments in their own backyards, working with the Downeast Institute (DEI) to address the green crab problem, or to determine the best conditions under which mussels may thrive.

Lew is continuing his listening tour of his district. It’s important work. He is excited to see how his “understanding of the needs of his district translates into success for kids.” I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll find the needs and values that surface are already familiar to him, are harmonious with his own values and experiences, and provide a rich foundation for inspiring and supporting student success.  And Lew, as you listen to the folks in Washington County you are here to support and serve, I hope one message is loud and clear: Welcome. It’s good to have you.

Cultivating Positivity at Noble Middle School

Submitted by Melinda Luders, Assistant Principal at Noble Middle School. 

If you need a dose of positivity and lots of smiles to start your day, just join the parent morning drop off line at Noble Middle School in Berwick, Maine! It doesn’t matter what day of the week you choose or the weather outside, the morning crew will be there to greet you with a smile. The crew consists of principal Mike Roberts, SRO Fogg and PE teacher Becky Good. We asked Becky to share her story.

It all began a year ago when I volunteered to trade in my lunch and recess duties for everyday morning duty. As the first couple weeks went by I noticed that not everyone was as happy as I, so I got to thinking … How could I start their morning off on more of a positive note? What could I do to make them smile? After all, good energy and positive vibes are contagious; I wanted to build the momentum in our community.

I decided to print and laminate different smile emojis and mount them on paint stirrers. I found that by putting the smiley face in front of my face it would almost always elicit a smile from my passers by. As the weeks and months went by, more and more parents and children arrived with smiles on their faces wondering what crazy thing Ms. Good would be doing next. The response I love the most is when a parent rolls the window down and says, ‘Thanks for making me smile!’

One morning a parent and her four passengers arrived holding emojis up in front of their faces giving back smiles. Our greetings then evolved from smiles to other funny emojis, big head cut outs, Wednesday’s hump day hat, rollerblading in Bruins attire, serving up hot chocolate and sometimes even having a real fire pit where we roast marshmallows for some of the lucky students being dropped off.

The smiles and the kindness kept spreading throughout the school year. One parent even nicknamed Friday as ‘Kind Friday’. He gives each of us a Kind bar as he passes through the line. Another dad would bring coffee and tea on Thursdays. It’s not uncommon that the three of us often get handed an occasional whoopie pie as well.

Another school year has begun and the smiles and waves are still going strong. Even the new 6th grade parents have jumped on board with the positive start to the day. “I couldn’t think of a better way to begin my day.”

Maine Adult Education System Receives Champion of Education and Workforce Development Award

Gail Senese, Maine DOE Director of Adult Education, Lisa MacDonald Cooper, MDF Program Director, Education & Workforce, Shirley Wright, Executive Director of MAEA, and Suzanne Nowinski, President of MAEA.
Gail Senese, Maine DOE Director of Adult Education, Lisa MacDonald Cooper, MDF Program Director, Education & Workforce, Shirley Wright, Executive Director of MAEA, and Suzanne Nowinski, President of MAEA.

At the 2019 Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon hosted by the Maine Development Foundation (MDF), Maine’s Adult Education System, comprised of over 70 local Adult Education Programs, the Maine Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education, and the Maine Adult Education Association (MAEA), was one of six award recipients.

As part of the award presentation, MDF described the Maine Adult Education System in the following way:

Local adult education programs throughout Maine provide a range of instructional services to help adults develop the skills for further education opportunities, job training, and better employment, and to realize their full potential as productive workers, family members, and citizens. Adults seeking to further their education or advance their careers can enroll in adult education courses in literacy and adult basic education, high school completion, English language acquisition courses, Maine College Transitions, and career preparation and enrichment. Instruction is aligned with adult learners’ goals and focuses on supporting their efforts to meet the College and Career Readiness Standards. The Maine Adult Education System partners with Maine CareerCenters, local employers, higher education, and community agencies to maximize the education and training opportunities for its adult learners. And, most importantly, it embodies the very spirit of lifelong learning, which enriches individual lives and whole communities.

Accepting the award on behalf of adult education programming statewide were Gail Senese, Maine DOE Director of Adult Education, Suzanne Nowinski, President of MAEA, and Shirley Wright, Executive Director of MAEA.

Gail Senese, Maine DOE Director of Adult Education.

“This means so much to all of us,” said Dr. Gail Senese in an acceptance speech she gave on behalf of the Maine Adult Education System. “We see ourselves as part the economic development chain in this State, preparing people to be good workers, and good community members, and good neighbors. We thank you so much for this recognition, for not only the people who work in this field but for the people who deserve to be served.”

BackPack Team at Gorham School District Receives $25,000 Neighborhood Assist Grant

Gorham School District was one of 40 recipients nationwide to receive a $25,000 Neighborhood Assist Grant. They received the award for the efforts with their BackPack Program and School Garden, an initiative that provides food for students and families experiencing food insecurity in the community.

This past June, State Farm accepted 2,000 applications for their Neighborhood Assist grant program.  Submissions represented causes from throughout the country which focused on education, safety, and community development initiatives.  A review committee narrowed down the submissions to the top 200 finalists which were posted online and voted on by the public.  The 40 causes with the most votes each won a $25,000 grant.

Gorham’s BackPack Team Administers weekend food and snack bags to students, offering a school food pantry at the high school, and by growing a school garden which provides fresh produce to the local food pantry during the growing season. The BackPack Program sends food home every weekend with students who would otherwise not have enough food to last through the weekend. Learn more here.

School Administrators holding shopping bags of food.

Enrollment up at Maine’s Community Colleges

The Maine Community College System announced last week that preliminary enrollment figures show a 6.3 percent increase in enrolled students this fall compared to the same time last year.

The increase is in sharp contrast to a nationwide trend of declining enrollments at two-year public colleges over the last several years. The strong showing is due in part to a number of new initiatives at the colleges aimed at attracting and retaining more students. The system also did not raise tuition for this academic year, maintaining the lowest tuition and fees in New England.

As of September 23, the system-wide headcount is up 6.3 percent (an additional 966 students) from the same date a year ago. All seven colleges report increases, the largest of which are at Eastern Maine Community College, up 10.4 percent with 2,141 students enrolled compared to 1,939 last year at this time, and at Southern Maine Community College up 8.2 percent, with 6,078 students enrolled compared to 5,618 a year ago.

At the same time, the system is also seeing a surge of participation in its short-term job training programs which are not included in the fall headcount enrollment numbers.

In the last year, the number of trainees who completed short-term training programs funded by the MCCS Maine Quality Centers (MQC) program has almost doubled to 1,602, up from 897 in the previous year. MQC works with Maine employers to provide customized training that is free to trainees and is focused on strengthening the skills of the Maine workforce.

“We’re seeing significant growth both in our programs that lead to one-year certificates and two-year degrees and in short-term training,” MCCS President David Daigler told the system’s Board of Trustees at a meeting Wednesday in Bangor. “Demand from both employers and individuals looking to gain the skills needed to compete in this new economy is exploding and stretching our ability to respond.”

The high demand for both degree programs and short-term training at Maine’s community colleges is particularly noteworthy given the state’s record low unemployment, aging demographics and widespread workforce shortages. Community college enrollment has historically been tied to the economy, going up during periods of high unemployment and declining when jobs are plentiful.

Fall enrollment increases have been driven in part by initiatives at campuses across the state. Among the new efforts are: doubling the number of visits to some high schools, replacing group orientations with one-on-one orientation sessions; reaching prospective students through texting instead of email; adding new high-demand programs including plumbing, HVAC and esports; and giving students new online tools to communicate with others to increase peer-to-peer connections.

Enrollment numbers for fall 2019 will be finalized in mid-October.

See the full release with graphics on the MCCS website.