The Maine School Boards Association awarded Distinguished Service Awards this year to Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah, and dedicated school nurses statewide, for their exemplary leadership and work.

MSBA President Lucy Richard presented the awards on the second day of Maine School Management Association’s Fall Conference attended virtually on Oct. 28- 29 by school board members and superintendents from across the state.

Makin was praised by MSBA for changing the focus of the DOE from being a regulatory agency to one that supports school boards, administrators and teachers in their essential work. That support was critical when the COVID pandemic hit.

The commissioner was the voice at the table with the governor and other state leaders, weighing in on the most effective ways to keep students, teachers and administrators safe while teaching and learning continued. She was integral in helping public schools navigate the COVID health crisis, and she did it while showing great respect for the people in the field.

Dr. Shah also performed distinguished service as the head of the Maine Center for Disease Control throughout the pandemic. He not only ran an agency that was at the epicenter of the COVID response, he communicated regularly through live press conferences covered by television and radio and written up extensively in newspapers. His ultimate goal was to get the message out about necessary precautions to slow the spread of the virus.

Dr. Shah’s leadership was critical to school boards and superintendents as they enforced sometimes unpopular rules to keep students and staff safe. His very visible support for safety protocols in public schools helped the public and parents accept necessary school closings, restrictions on sports, and mask mandates.

School nurses were honored, with their names rolled across the screen, for their dedication to keeping students safe. They worked long hours, reached out to families and did contact tracing and wellness checks.

To see a list of the school nurses serving helping keep Maine public school students safe click here.