WCC Washington County Educator Profile: Lynn Mitchell

Submitted by Sarah Woog from the The Washington County Consortium. 

Meet Lynn Mitchell, Passamaquoddy Culture and Language Teacher at Calais High School.

Have you ever considered learning Passamaquoddy? If you are not Native, does this question give you pause? Have you ever wondered if learning the Passamaquoddy language and culture is an endeavor you should or could have access to? According to Lynn Mitchell, yes and yes.

Lynn Mitchell is the Passamaquoddy Culture and Language teacher at Calais High School. She’s been teaching Passamaquoddy Culture and Language to Native and non-Native students at Calais for four years. Lynn believes her class bridges divides between Native and non-Native communities, creates a shared experience, and develops empathy and deepens ties between the communities. Lynn isn’t the only person at Calais High School who believes this. Her passion reverberates throughout the school.

Mary Anne Spearin, Principal at Calais High School, recommended I profile Lynn for this month’s newsletter. Mary Anne said, “Her love for all students became apparent during our Blue and White review when Lynn presented her academic awards. She became emotional when referring to the ever strengthening connection between the Calais High School students and staff and the Passamaquoddy culture, traditions, and language, stating it had been a long time coming.” In our divisive times, these connections are so important in our shared quest for a more kind and just world. And Lynn is building more connections, too.

Lynn recently visited a fifth grade classroom in Norridgewock, Maine. She arrived at 10:30 AM and spent the rest of the school day with the class. She taught the young people and teachers about her people, the First People, about their language and traditions, and their existence as people, not as caricatures or mascots. Lynn is clearly committed to creating bridges, and I admire the love with which she builds them.

Lynn teaches with love too. I asked her the best part of teaching and she didn’t miss a beat- the kids. She smiles when she talks about the games she uses to engage them, about the challenges of differentiation, about the student who told her he wanted to be a linguist because of her class. 

Lynn learns with love. She is finishing her coursework in Education at the University of Maine at Machias next year. She told me she’s grateful for the experience, is excited for the credential, but especially appreciates the knowledge and skills she is acquiring that supports her work in the classroom. She loved the coursework that taught her about unit design and lesson planning. Lynn has created the curriculum and content she is using in her classes. The frameworks and planning processes she’s learned have allowed her to offer a course that always has a waitlist.

Two more loves of Lynn: working at Maine Indian Education, and her husband, Dana Mitchell. Lynn is proud of her 32 years at Maine Indian Education. She and her husband were actually married at the Wabanaki Culture Center, where Maine Indian Education is located. Dana also works for Maine Indian Education, at Beatrice Rafferty School, and has his own illustrious career in service to Native students that would require another profile to do justice. Lynn loves that her husband “supports everything I do.” Knowing Dana and Lynn, his support of Lynn is unwavering, but it’s also worth noting that he supports the spirit of her work, and shares her passion for teaching, learning, and building community.

I’ll end here with a quote from Lynn: “It is a passion of mine to advocate for our beloved Passamaquoddy culture and language and to educate not only our children from the reservation, but all children.” Do you share Lynn’s passion for educating children? Do you want to provide your students with increased opportunities to authentically learn about  Passamaquoddy culture and language in your classroom? If so, reach out to Lynn (mrslynn.mitchell@gmail.com), and build another bridge together.

Questions & Answers regarding An Act to Prevent Food Shaming in Maine’s Public Schools

In an effort to support schools and districts as they align their practices and policies in response to the passing of Public Law 2019, Chapter 54, please see the Question and Answer document and resources, below.  

 Food Shaming

  1. What constitutes food shaming?  The law prevents public schools from:
  • denying a reimbursable meal to an otherwise eligible student who requests it;
  • requiring a student to throw away their meal after it has been served to them;
  • requiring a student to perform chores or work as a means of paying for one or more meals or as punishment for not paying for one or more meals;
  • refusing a meal as a form of or as part of a disciplinary action; or
  • openly identifying or otherwise stigmatizing a student who cannot pay for a meal or has payments due for a meal.

Grades

  1. What grade levels are impacted by this new law?

The law applies to all grade levels in a public school that provides students meals eligible for reimbursement under a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, therefore any grade enrolled in the public school.  The law does not apply to private schools.

Seniors

  1. Can schools prohibit seniors from participating in graduation functions/activities if the student has meal debt?
  2. When Seniors have balances at the end of the year, whether it is for meals, books, or computers, we do not pass out the cap and gown until the balance is paid.  Can we still do that?
  3. Our district charging policy has been that to receive graduation tickets or their cap and gown, seniors must have their lunch balance cleared up. Additionally, we have withheld open campus privileges or a superintendent’s agreement if there is an outstanding lunch balance. Will this still be allowable?

The law prevents openly identifying or otherwise stigmatizing a student with a meal debt.  If the only reason a student is being prohibited from an activity is because of a meal debt, it would constitute identifying or stigmatizing a student.  If the prohibition is potentially based on one of a list of factors (owed books, uniforms, other debt) including a meal debt, it might not constitute identifying or stigmatizing a student, since there are multiple reasons for which a student is denied.  School administrative units are encouraged to consult with legal counsel about their specific policies.

Communication

  1. Are the cashiers allowed to tell the students when they are charging or close to charging?

A public school’s communications about a student’s meal debts (charging) must be made to the parent or guardian of the student rather than to the student directly except that, if a student inquires about that student’s meal debt, the school may answer the student’s inquiry.  A public school may ask a student to carry to the student’s parent or guardian a letter regarding the student’s meal debt.  A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. Are we allowed to let the children know that they are getting low on their account?

A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. Most software schools are using automatically say “Please wait, low balance,” when a student uses their PIN. which is identifying the student, where others can hear it. Would that still be acceptable?

A student with a low balance still has funds on their account and is not in debt, therefore it is allowable to communicate with a student about their low balance.

  1. If a student directly asks about balance information what is our answer? What if they are 18 years old?

If the student inquires about his/her meal debt, the school may answer the student’s inquiry. This applies to a student enrolled at the public school, regardless of age. A student may be asked to deliver a notice to parents/guardians about the debt, but should not be approached unsolicited about the debt.

  1. Can we post a sign at the register telling students they can ask what their account balance is?

Yes. If the student inquires about their meal debt, the staff may answer their inquiry. Otherwise communication must be made directly to the parent/guardian, regardless of the age of the student.

A La Carte

  1. Our school policy says that if you owe money you cannot purchase a la carte items and there is no charging of a la carte items.  This policy has helped to keep our lunch debt down some. Are we still going to be able to say no to the extra items if they don’t have money?

Yes. This law applies to reimbursable meals only. If your local policy does not allow a student to charge a la carte items, a public school may discreetly notify a student that they do not have funds on their account to purchase the a la carte item(s).

  1. Charging for ala carte is not allowed so when the student is told that in line in front of other students, is that considered lunch shaming?

No. This law applies to reimbursable meals only. If your local policy does not allow a student to charge a la carte items, a public school may notify a student discreetly that they do not have funds on their account to purchase the a la carte item(s).  Efforts to make this policy known and well publicized should be made to avoid the situation and potential for embarrassment.

Alternate Meals

  1. Can Schools implement an alternative meal (with all components) until the debt is paid?

No, the student must receive the same reimbursable meal as the other students. Provision of an alternative meal could openly identify or stigmatize a student.

  1. Our school provides a bag lunch to students with a negative balance before the lunch period so that it looks like a lunch brought from home. Can we keep doing this?

No, the student must receive the same reimbursable meal as the other students.

Outstanding Debt

  1. What are we to do with the outstanding lunch balances? How do we encourage parents to be responsible?

Public schools should follow their policy or procedure for collecting payments from families. This policy/procedure should be shared publicly so parents are informed of the process.

  1. Can we send outstanding debts to a collection agency?

Yes.

  1. What happens when everyone owes and refuses to pay because they know they do not have to, in order to get a meal?

The school nutrition program should make efforts to collect meal payments as identified in their local policy.

  1. Who will pay for the unpaid balances?

The school nutrition program should make efforts to collect meal payments as identified in their local policy. Once the debt is determined to be uncollectable, such as after a student leaves the district or graduates, it is considered bad debt and is not an allowable expense of the Federal school foodservice program or any other Federal program. The debt would need to be paid by non-Federal funds, such as the general fund and the debt would become the responsibility of the public school at this point.

OTHER

  1. What is the State’s plan to provide funding for the lunch bills that won’t get paid?

The law was identified as an unfunded mandate and passed by a 2/3 vote by the Legislature.  Funding will need to be addressed at the local level.

  1. Does this apply to all meals, breakfast, lunch and snack?

This law applies to all programs that provide student meals eligible for reimbursement under a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. This includes the School Breakfast Program, National School Lunch Program and Afterschool Snack Service.

  1. Is there guidance available on how to handle unpaid meals?

The law requires the Department of Education to develop guidance for school administrative units relating to the collection of student meal debt, including, but not limited to, best practices and information on how to create an online system for the payment of student meal debt.

The Maine DOE has guidance available online, and  The USDA has guidance and resources available online, including a guide book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Student Written Song Brings Together Three Maine Communities

Submitted by Connie Carter, Operation Breaking Stereotypes.

Students from Indian Island School, Leonard Middle School, and Orono Middle School partnered with Operation Breaking Stereotypes to break stereotypes about the three communities and to work together to connect the towns in positive and productive ways. Their result was to write a song that connects the three communities and highlights positive aspects of each town. Their hope is that the song will inspire people to look beyond stereotypes to the power of working together.

Operation Breaking Stereotypes is a non-profit committed to facilitating the ongoing quest for knowledge and social justice through short-term exchanges between middle and high school students in Maine and New York City.

 

Employee of the Week: Trevor Burns

Student Data Coordinator, Trevor Burns is being highlighted this week as the Maine DOE’s Employee of the Week! Learn a little more about Trevor in this brief question and answer:

What are your roles with DOE?

I am the Student Data Coordinator. I maintain student enrollment information to make sure there are no data anomalies within the system as well as to ensure all is accurate and correct. I also handle some reports done by the field throughout the year. Some of those reports include Graduation reporting, Quarterly Attendance reporting, October EPS reporting and Adult Education EF-M-39.

What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy seeing and learning more about the school system I grew up in myself. I am learning lots of things about schools and districts that I had only heard about growing up through my district of RSU 57. I actually didn’t know where most districts were even located in the state prior to starting at the MDOE.

How or why did you decide on this career?

I had just graduated from the University of Farmington with a degree in Actuarial Science. Looking for an internship; I had signed up for the Margaret Chase Smith Internship program, where they had selected me for a Data Analyst role. After spending some time in the internship, I had learned that I really enjoyed working with Data. Actuaries are known to work with and around data similar to data analysts, but the data analyst role focuses more primarily on the things I like; Data.

 

Updated Maine DOE Home Instruction Portal Release  

In March of this year, the Department of Education (DOE) released the online Home Instruction Portal. Since then, home instruction parents all over the state have begun to utilize the new portal, and have reported that the new process is less burdensome than the former paper-only process, which required double-reporting and greater expense and time due to mailing and requesting proof of receipt.

Many have also provided valuable feedback about what was confusing, or concerning, from a parent perspective. As a result, the DOE revisited the online forms to make some technical improvements, and has released an updated Home Instruction Portal as of July 9, 2019. If you submitted your Notice for 2019-2020 prior to this date, please be assured that it is still properly filed, and there is no need to repeat the submission.

If you have not yet filed your Notice, please check out the updated online portal. Other ways to file include submitting the revised Notice of Intent to Provide Home Instruction, or other form or letter, to either the Superintendent of Schools in the public school administrative unit where you reside, or to the DOE. You no longer need to file paperwork in both places. You may provide Notice in a different format, provided it contains all required information:

  • Applicable School Year
  • Parent/Guardian Full Name
  • Physical Address, City, Zip Code; and Mailing Address (if different)
  • Child’s Full Name
  • Child’s Date of Birth
  • Indicate First or Subsequent Year of Home Instruction
  • Date Home Instruction Will Begin (if First Year)
  • Assurance (if First Year): FIRST YEAR HOME INSTRUCTION PARENT ASSURANCE :  The home instruction program will provide at least 175 days annually of instruction and will provide instruction in the following subject areas: English and language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education, health education, library skills, fine arts and, in at least one grade from grade 6 to 12, Maine studies. At one grade level from grade 7 to 12, the student will demonstrate proficiency in the use of computers. The home instruction program will include an annual assessment of the student’s academic progress that includes at least one of the forms of assessment described in 20-A M.R.S. § 5001-A (3)(A)(4)(b).
  • Prior Year Assessment (if Subsequent Year)
  • Statement of Intent to Continue Providing Home Instruction (if Subsequent Year): SUBSEQUENT YEAR HOME INSTRUCTION PARENT STATEMENT: I intend to continue providing home instruction and enclose the prior year annual assessment of the student’s academic progress as outlined in 20-A M.R.S. 5001-A(3)(A)(4)(b).
  • Signature
  • Date of Signature
  • A valid email address if parent would like an acknowledgment

As a reminder, the updated process will allow parents to provide first/subsequent year notice “simultaneously to the school officials of the administrative unit in which the student resides and to the commissioner” in one of three ways:

  1. Enter information once annually directly on the new Home Instruction Portal, uploading any required prior year assessment information;
  2. Complete the form or letter on paper once annually and take it, with any required prior year assessments, to the resident superintendent’s office; or
  3. Complete the paper form or other form/letter once annually and mail it with any required prior year assessments to the Department of Education or to the Superintendent’s Office.

Submission using any of the methods described will result in the automatic generation of an acknowledgment to the parent/guardian via email, provided a valid email address is provided.

More information is available at https://www.maine.gov/doe/schools/schoolops/homeinstruction.

Please direct any questions or concerns to Pamela Ford-Taylor at pamela.ford-taylor@maine.gov or 207-624-6617.