June 25, 2018
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State seeks comment in education funds quest

By Jessica Bloch, BDN Staff

Maine residents will have a chance to comment in the next week on how the state should focus its application for a federal program that could provide $75 million in funding for education.

Maine Department of Education Commissioner Susan Gendron will present information about Race to the Top, a $4.35 billion national effort to reshape America’s education system and better prepare students for the economy and workplace of the future during a series of open meetings around the state.

“It’s very much a working session in which we’re looking for school districts to tell us what are the most effective tools that they’ve seen and they’re already using, or something that’s in use somewhere else that they think we should be making part of the application,” said Maine Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin.

The meetings, all scheduled from 4 to 7 p.m., opened Monday in Westbrook and will continue Wednesday in Orono at the University of Maine’s Wells Conference Center.

Coming meetings will be held March 28 at the UMaine-Farmington Olson Student Center in the North Dining Hall; March 24 at the gymnasium of Rose M. Gaffney School in Machias; and March 25 at UMaine-Presque Isle in the multipurpose room of the campus center.

The meetings are free and open to all, including school administrators, teachers, parents, businesspeople, community members and anyone else interested. Light refreshments will be available.

After introductory and explanatory remarks, attendees will discuss at their tables topics including turning around low-performing schools, recruiting and retaining effective teachers, adopting standards and data systems.

Connerty-Marin said school districts interested in receiving some of Maine’s Race to the Top funding will have to sign on to certain aspects of the program, such as an evaluation system for teachers and principals. Schools can develop their own programs for other aspects, such as choosing between rigorous studies systems such as advanced placement or international baccalaureate.

School districts will have to sign an agreement with the state if they’re interested in participating, which Connerty-Marin said is part of the state’s agreement with the federal government.

“Kentucky got 100 percent of its districts to participate, and [Gendron] is hoping to do the same here,” Connerty-Marin said.

The sessions will be facilitated by education consulting company West Ed, which will summarize the ideas generated at the meetings and assist in developing and writing an application to the federal government. The state will submit by June 1 the application to the U.S. Department of Education.

The state is using a grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to hire West Ed, which is based in Woburn, Mass.

Connerty-Marin said about 45 people, most of whom were educators, attended Monday’s meeting in Westbrook.

For information, go to www.maine.gov/education/racetothetop.

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