Five Portland Public Schools Students Named National Merit Semifinalists

Five high school seniors in the Portland Public Schools have been named Semifinalists in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program. These academically talented students now have the opportunity to compete for about 7,600 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $30 million that will be offered next spring.

The five Semifinalists are Portland High School seniors Liam Foley and Andrew Leonard; Deering High School students Aidan Blum Levine and Matthew Keast; and Casco Bay High School student Oscar McNally.

“Congratulations to these exemplary students!” said Superintendent Xavier Botana. “This is the highest number of National Merit Semifinalists from the Portland Public Schools in more than five years. The credit goes to not only these hardworking students but to their teachers and other supporters, including their parents. I wish them the best as they continue on in this competition.”

These students are among 68 Maine seniors named as Semifinalists in the 2021 contest. There are approximately 16,000 Semifinalists nationwide. Semifinalists were selected from a pool of more than 1.5 million high school juniors that entered the 2021 competition by taking the 2019 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test.

Of the 16,000 Semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to the Finalist level of the competition. To become Finalists, Semifinalists must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be involved in school and community activities, show leadership abilities, be endorsed by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT or ACT scores that confirm their  earlier performance on the qualifying test. Of those Finalists, about half will win a National Merit Scholarship and become National Merit Scholars.

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered in the spring of 2021. The National Merit Scholarship winners will be announced in four nationwide news releases beginning in April and ending in July. These scholarship recipients will join approximately 353,000 other distinguished young people who have earned the Merit Scholar title.

This story was submitted by Tess Nacelewicz Communications Coordinator for Portland Public Schools as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea, email Rachel at

UMFK and Region Two School of Applied Technology Partnering to Provide Students with First Year of a Nursing Degree

Imagine being a high school student enrolled in the Health Sciences Program at the Region Two School of Applied Technology knowing you can graduate from high school with the first year of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree from the University of Maine at Fort Kent complete.  A new collaboration between the UMFK’s Nursing Program, Region Two School of Applied Technology in Houlton, and UMFK’s Rural U Early College and Concurrent Enrollment Program now makes that opportunity possible for these high school students.

The new program, called Rural U Nursing: Health Sciences Alliance Program brings together the strengths of the programs mentioned above and provides students the opportunity to earn 24 or more university credits, one full academic year of credits that serve as the first year of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing at UMFK.  Students completing the program can come into UMFK’s Nursing program as 2nd year students.  UMFK’s Nursing program is also available at the University of Maine at Presque Isle adding yet another option after high school for these students.

“We are so pleased to partner with Region Two to bring freshman level college courses to high school students who are interested in pursuing a nursing degree,” states Dr. Erin Soucy, UMFK’s Dean of Undergraduate Nursing.  Dave Keaton, Director of the Region II School of Applied Technology adds, “What a tremendous opportunity for our Intro to Medical Professions students and for the workforce in Aroostook County!”

Credits earned in this program will include articulated credit UMFK grants for Maine CNA Certification earned at Region Two, credits from a concurrent enrollment NUR 200 Introduction to Professional Nursing to be taught at Region Two by Health Sciences Instructor Amber Sloat, credits for Anatomy and Physiology I and II classes taught at the Houlton Higher Education Center, and early college and concurrent enrollment classes earned through UMFK’s Rural U program.  While this program provides an accelerated pathway to a nursing degree, students will not be charged tuition for any of these credits; thus also providing a more affordable pathway to a BSN degree. Scott Voisine, UMFK’s Dean of Community Education adds, “All early college programs like Rural U give students a chance to experience college learning and earn credits more affordably, but this new collaboration takes it one step further provides a direct onboarding of students into a rigorous and rewarding career pathway at UMFK.”

Rural U Nursing is a direct response to the need to increase the number of nurses in Aroostook County, in Maine, and in the Region.  Students will be able to begin the program immediately this fall.

This story was submitted by Dave Keaton, Director of the Region Two School of Applied Technology as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or idea, email it to Rachel at

MSAD 11 Launches 8 Committee Return to School Planning Process in Response to COVID-19

As with many schools around the State of Maine, the nation, and across the globe, planning for the 2020/2021 school year has been an almost impossible task with not knowing what will be around the corner during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those in the trenches of planning is the fearless team at MSAD 11/RSU 11. They have worked tirelessly this summer at engaging their community and being transparent in the processes as they work to respond to the pandemic situation.

“I believe that it is critical that schools continue to highlight their strengths and I’m especially proud of the collaborative work of the district and the process that (MSAD 11 Superintendent) Pat Hopkins has led us through in this district,” said MSAD 11 Director of Curriculum and Instruction Angela Hardy.

The team worked on a process for redesigning their school system by August 24 which included the launch of an 8 committee Return to School Planning Process. A Steering Committee was formed to facilitate the process after first developing a set of guiding principles for their work. The committees were composed of 100 people representing all levels of staff, the School Board, parents, and community members. Seven subcommittees meet weekly or more, led by administrators throughout the summer, to focus on their charge: Facilities/Safety; Food Service; Resources; Transportation; Communications; Core Instruction/SEL/Technology; and, Athletics. Every subcommittee has staff, parent/community, and administrator representation and reported out at the Steering Committee. “MSAD 11 is as prepared as it can be because of the trust our community has of our educators and the commitment our principals and directors have toward the health and well-being of their staff and students. The leadership’s willingness to listen to concerns and their drive to come to creative, thoughtful solutions in a collaborative manner is paramount to this process.” stated the Director of Curriculum.

“Beginning in the spring, Supt Hopkins has kept staff informed at every step as we went through ‘remote learning’ and the end of the 2019-2020 school year.  When it became obvious that we would not be returning as normal in the fall, a Return to School Committee was put together.  This committee included 20 teachers and additional staff members from a group of employees,” said Dean Hall, President of the MSAD 11 Teachers’ Association, GRMS Social Studies Teacher.  “All staff had a chance to serve and those who did serve had a real voice in developing the plan we will be using to start the school year.”

The Steering Committee, the decision making body which recommends to the Administrative Team or School Board next steps, met weekly and livestreamed each meeting and posted the recording on their YouTube page and Return to School Planning website.

The district has also held virtual district-wide staff meetings to respond to staff questions and concerns as they arose. In addition, the superintendent met weekly with every president of each Association to co-design a COVID staff handbook.

“We would like to thank MSAD 11 for their continued commitment to the safety of their students, staff, and surrounding community,” said Chad Greenleaf, President of the Educational Technicians & Administrative Assistants Association. “I applaud the district leaders for their willingness to extend an offer of teamwork. Through the collaborative process that involved representatives from every area of expertise within the school district and community, we were able to assemble a comprehensive yet flexible plan.”

To further engage with community stakeholders, MSAD 11 administrators collaborated with their regional representative from Maine Roads to Quality and hosted a virtual meeting with MSAD 11/RSU 11 daycare providers to help them navigate the district’s online resources and information and to collaborate towards solutions that will support families as they return to school in a hybrid/blended/cohort-based learning model. They plan to continue meeting virtually as the school year progresses to keep open lines of communication and revisit issues that arise.

Virtual parent meetings have also been on-going as the school year starts, with each building principal and the directors of special services to walk parents through the start of the school year, share the district’s newly designed district-wide student handbook, and explain the schedule in greater detail.

“The MSAD 11 community should know their voices were heard. They can be proud of the result we were able to attain through this process,” added Greenleaf. “We remain committed to our student’s education and well-being regardless of the challenges ahead.”

This story was written collaboratively between distinct staff at MSAD 11/RSU 11 and Maine Department of Education staff as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. To submit a story or an idea please email it to Rachel Paling at

Joe Mason of Asa Adams Elementary School Honored as Maine School Custodian of the Year

Joe Mason of Asa Adams Elementary School in Orono has been awarded as the Maine School Custodian of the Year and will be the recipient of the A. Burleigh Oxton Award for Excellence.

Joe credits the “Read ME Agriculture” program as a factor that lead him to reach out to the community more for volunteers and also working with staff to coordinate readings, he says, “This is one of the many things that really made my role as a custodian expand to also become involved in doing something other than just cleaning for the kids, but actually getting to ‘teach’, if you will.”

Joe started as a custodian at Asa Adams Elementary School in Orono in September of 2014. He became Greenhouse Coordinator 3 1/2 years ago and it was at that time he learned about the MAITC “Read ME Agriculture” program. Not long after that he had the school lined up for the ‘Applesauce Day’ reading, and has continued with the program since then.

In addition to the annual readings, he also works with some kids who help water the plants in the school’s greenhouse. He’s worked with small groups of students in the past couple of years to do things like build bee boxes for Mason bees, start marigold seeds, and grow edible pea shoots.

Outside of work Joe is also an avid home gardener, and loves to pickle things: cucumbers, zucchini, fiddleheads, carrots, asparagus, and green beans. He is also a passionate disc golf player (and a state winner three times!), and has helped get the sport incorporated into the PE program at his school.

Congratulations to Joe on this well deserved award!

This story is courtesy of Maine Agriculture in the Classroom (MAITC). Learn more about MAITC by visiting their website at

St. George School 2nd Grade Teacher Shares, “Student Voices: An Alphabet Book of Remote Learning”

A driving force behind all learning opportunities in Alison Babb-Brott’s second grade classroom is the power and importance of student voice. When students feel confident and empowered, their initiative, engagement, and quality of work all begin to increase. And as these habits of scholarship all start to increase, so do Ms. Babb expectations. It is this symbiotic relationship that underlies all of the work they do in second grade.

With so much lost to remote learning, Ms. Babb wanted to create an authentic, motivating project for her students that would lend itself not only to their voices, but also to their desire and ability to create.

She designed this project to give her students a space to reflect on the transition to remote learning and an opportunity to channel feelings of grief and powerlessness into a collaborative art project.

The students spent the final weeks of remote learning thinking, writing, sharing, revising, and drafting, and drawing to create letter pages that commemorate their remote schooling experiences.

The effort they put forth to create such a high quality product, especially given the many challenges to remote creation, is a credit to who they are as scholars.

Student Voices: An Alphabet Book of Remote Learning

“I hope my students will share this book with friends and family near and far, and that copies will eventually make their way onto bookshelves and coffee tables at home; reminding them of what they are capable of, no matter the circumstances,” said Babb-Brott.

This story was submitted by Alison Babb-Brott, a Second Grade Teacher at St. George School in St. George as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. In addition to being a second grade teacher, Babb-Brott is also the 2020 Knox County Teacher of the Year and was recently named a 2021 Teacher of the Year State finalist.

To submit a good news story or idea to the DOE, email Rachel Paling at