Schools & Education – Press Herald Fri, 26 May 2017 03:47:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Harvard hosts Zuckerberg as commencement speaker Fri, 26 May 2017 02:14:18 +0000 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg returned to Harvard with a message on fighting inequality and taking risks in the name of innovation.

Zuckerberg, who, like the graduates, is a millennial, started Facebook in his Harvard dorm room in 2004. He dropped out the next year and returned Thursday to receive an honorary degree.

Excerpts from his speech:

“Let’s face it, you accomplished something I never could. If I get through this speech today, it’ll be the first time I actually finish something here at Harvard.”

“My best memory from Harvard is meeting Priscilla. I had just launched this prank website Facemash, and the ad (administrative) board wanted to ‘see me.’ Everyone thought I was going to get kicked out. My parents drove up here to help me pack my stuff. My friends threw me a going-away party. Who does that? As luck would have it, Priscilla was at that party with her friends. And we met in line for the bathroom in the Pfoho Belltower (a dorm), and in what must seem like one of the all-time most romantic lines, I turned to her and said: ‘I’m getting kicked out in three days, so we need to go on a date quickly.”‘

“Ideas don’t come out fully formed. They only become clear as you work on them. You just have to get started. If I had to know everything about connecting people before I got started, I never would have built Facebook.”

“It’s really good to be idealistic. But be prepared to be misunderstood. Anyone working on a big vision is going to get called crazy, even if you end up right.”

“There is something wrong with our system when I can leave here and make billions of dollars in 10 years while millions of students can’t even afford to pay off their loans, let alone start a business.”

“Every generation expands its definition of equality … And now it’s time for our generation to define a new social contract.”

]]> 0 CEO and Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg greets graduating students as he walks in a procession though Harvard Yard.Thu, 25 May 2017 22:14:18 +0000
Messalonskee High School’s robotics team competing in China Fri, 26 May 2017 00:59:12 +0000 When Lisa Klein, a coach for Messalonskee High School’s Infinite Loop robotics team, opened her email and saw an invitation to travel to China for a competition, she was taken by surprise.

Her first thought was that the email came from China, Maine. She messaged her friend who works for FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, the nonprofit that promotes interest in science and mathematics and runs competitions for robotics teams – and asked, “Is this for real?”

The invitation was for real, and it was coming from the China halfway around the world in Asia, not the one a half-hour away in Kennebec County.

Students from the FIRST robotics team at the high school, along with Klein, two mentors and two program alumni, boarded a bus Tuesday afternoon in Augusta to begin the journey to Qingdao, China, a city on the east coast south of Beijing and north of Shanghai. Two students, senior Michael Viens and freshman T.J. Petrill, represent the team. The two alumni are Gretchen Rice, who graduated last year and just finished her first year at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts, and Justin Shuman, a student at Kennebec Valley Community College.

They will work with another team based in Qingdao and compete in the FIRST China International Competition starting June 2 at the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. Principal Paula Callan said the students arrived Thursday morning.

“Obviously it’s exciting. It’s intriguing,” said Klein, who coaches the team along with Keith McGlauflin. “You know, there’s a little bit of nervousness going to a new country.”

No one in the group has been to China before, and one of the students had never been on a plane, she said.

They’re excited, though, Klein said, because the invitation was an honor for the program.

Infinite Loop, which started in 2007, is one of six teams in the United States invited to participate in the competition in China, which will feature 200 teams from around the world. In 2016, more than 2,600 teams from the U.S. competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition. FIRST estimates that more than 52,000 teams worldwide are competing in different competitions. A group of students in Falmouth, called Team 172 – Northern Force, also was chosen to compete.

“We feel like it’s because we’ve made a name for ourselves,” Klein said in discussing why her team was chosen, both through winning competitions and promoting interest in the fields of STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

For eight days, the students will build a 120-pounds-or-fewer robot with a team from China, whom they’ve talked with over Skype. After a day of sightseeing, they’ll spend three days competing before returning home.

The students are “going over a little bit blind” about how the process works, especially in such a short time frame, Klein said.

In a normal season, FIRST releases the new rules for the game in January and the students have six weeks to build a robot that complies with the rules, purchasing all their own materials. Then, they compete for another six weeks.

The rules are based on a theme. Last year was a medieval theme, with obstacles such as a water moat and rough terrain the robot had to get over. This past year, the theme was steampunk, and the robot had to collect fuel, deliver gears to airship pilots and then climb a rope to the airship for the last 30 seconds, among other things, said Klein, who was a mentor for five years before becoming a coach two years ago. The teams compete in groups of three versus three.

Despite the nerves about the short time frame, Klein said this will be a “wonderful experience” for the students, not only because they’ll get to experience a different culture, but also because they’ll be helping and growing with another team.

Infinite Loop was chosen in part, Klein believes, because the team “knows how to help another team get started doing what they need to do.”

The FIRST organization is paying for in-country travel, meals and lodging, and the students held fundraisers to pay for the international plane tickets and visa costs. The school also gave the group $7,500.

Infinite Loop, which has 16 student members, has won a number of awards in competitions over the years, including the engineering inspiration award and the gracious professionalism award. The team also has won the chairman’s award, which Klein said is considered the most prestigious award at competitions, for five years in a row.

The award goes to teams that are a model others should emulate, according to FIRST’s website, as well as those that embody “the purpose and goals of FIRST.”

The students do a lot of outreach to promote interest in the STEM fields, Klein said, a major goal of the FIRST organization, which emphasizes that it’s about “more than robots.” They present demonstrations in classrooms or summer camps, mentor middle schoolers during Lego week and help other schools jump-start their own FIRST teams.

“We’ve gone to many, many schools and tried to get the interest going,” Klein said, “… which is what FIRST is all about. They want to grow interest in STEM fields.”

The Messalonskee students have helped create 13 teams in the area, including programs in Hallowell, Livermore Falls and Brewer. Sometimes, they chat via Skype with students farther away in towns such as Brewer, or they offer to share their building space at Wrabacon Inc. in Oakland with other teams that don’t have a place to work.

“I just think that this is a wonderful opportunity for them to get hands-on learning,” Klein said, adding that the students not only learn about engineering, but also about business.

At Messalonskee High School, students run the program like a business, she said, working together on a $60,000 budget, which is funded through donors, sponsors and $5,000 from the school. There are meetings and captains, as well as positions such as treasurer.

“They get the business aspects as well as the STEM aspects,” she said.

FIRST was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, an inventor and advocate for science and technology, to inspire young people to take part in more science and technology programs.

Now more than 460,000 students worldwide are involved in one of the FIRST programs, and interest in the STEM fields is rising. Studies on the effects of the robotics program show that it encourages students to do better in school and strengthens their skills in leadership and problem-solving.

According to an evaluation of the effect of FIRST programs by the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in 2011, 83 percent of students who take part in FIRST programs were interested in becoming an engineer or a scientist, and 92 percent increased their interest in going to college.

A Brandeis University study from 2005 found that FIRST participants were twice as likely to major in science or engineering than their peers, and 33 percent of women participants majored in engineering.

More than 75 percent of FIRST alumni also enter a STEM field as a student or professional, according to a survey conducted by FIRST.

Madeline St. Amour can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

Twitter: @madelinestamour

]]> 0 in the Infinite Loop robotics team at Messalonskee High School built this robot for FIRST competitions.Thu, 25 May 2017 22:09:22 +0000
School-choice advocates fault Trump private-school scholarship proposal Thu, 25 May 2017 02:29:30 +0000 President Trump’s budget proposal to provide federal tax money for private-school scholarships is getting pushback from an unconventional source: groups known for promoting school-choice initiatives.

The plan promoted by Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos widened a divide in the school-choice movement and brought swift condemnation from people who support more competition for public schools in the form of charter schools but oppose sending tax money to private institutions.

“I think it’s an affront to the American dream,” said Jonah Edelman, CEO of the pro-charter group Stand for Children, which planned to align with a frequent adversary, one of the nation’s largest teachers unions, to oppose the plan.

The administration’s budget proposal sets aside $250 million for the scholarships. That’s a tiny sliver of the $4.1 trillion spending plan released Tuesday, but if approved it would mark the first time the federal government has helped pay private-school tuition for K-12 students in a nationwide program.

The budget also calls for $1 billion for a new program encouraging school districts to give parents options in choosing a public school for their children. And it increases grants for charter schools.

Trump has said he eventually wants federal school-choice programs to expand to $20 billion a year.

“This administration understands that educational choice is an essential component to ensuring every child can access a quality education,” said Tommy Schultz, spokesman for American Federation for Children, the school-choice advocacy group headed until last year by DeVos.

She and the group support using public money to help parents pay tuition for private schools, including religious ones, through vouchers or tax credits. The tax credits would go to parents who qualify based on their income or to corporations that provide private-school scholarships.

Critics say the approach will divert money from public schools that need it.

They find it especially objectionable because it’s on a short list of spending increases in a plan that otherwise cuts the Education Department’s budget by 14 percent. Trump’s budget proposal reduces funding for after-school programs, arts education and college work-study programs.

“Under the guise of empowering parents with school choice,” the administration’s budget “would hurt the very communities that have the most to gain from high-quality public school options,” Eli Broad, a Los Angeles billionaire and major proponent of public charter schools, said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Public school choice cannot come at the expense of all public school families and students.”

An AP data analysis published earlier this month found that Broad and DeVos were among about four dozen wealthy Americans who have largely funded the school-choice political movement.

The contributors have generally fallen into two camps – those who support public charter schools and those who promote both charters and private-school vouchers. They have worked together to pass school-choice initiatives in the past and generally have butted heads with teachers unions.

]]> 0 Secretary Betsy DeVos supports a proposal to use federal money to fund private school scholarships.Wed, 24 May 2017 22:29:30 +0000
Lewiston students protest bullying after suicide of middle school classmate Wed, 24 May 2017 14:25:19 +0000

The students and parents who gathered Wednesday night at Lewiston Middle School hold up candles in memory of Anie Graham, a 13-year-old girl who took her own life. Staff photo by Derek Davis

LEWISTON — The father of a Lewiston Middle School student who took her life this week says the school and other support services did not do enough to help her.

“We tried so hard, we tried everything. When it got serious, when it got real, no one helped us,” Matt Graham said, his voice breaking with grief as he stood in the driveway of the family’s home Wednesday evening.

Anie Graham, a 13-year-old seventh-grader, died by suicide. Her father and her friends said she was picked on at school and on social media, and her death prompted about 50 students to walk out of Lewiston Middle School in an anti-bullying protest Wednesday morning. More than 200 students, parents and teachers returned to the school Wednesday evening for a candlelight vigil, with many students still wearing green T-shirts and face paint in Anie’s honor.

Lewiston Superintendent Bill Webster said he was not aware of any report to the school by Anie that she was being bullied. Webster said he spoke Wednesday night with Matt Graham and listened to his input on how to prevent student suicide.

Webster said the Grahams want to see more aggressive intervention if a student expresses the desire to kill himself or herself. They told Webster that a student who expresses a suicidal thought at school should be transported directly to the hospital. They also said the school should urge parents to take their child to the hospital immediately if he or she has mentioned suicide.

Lewiston Middle School students Lillyanna Torres, left, and Felicity Sanborn check their cellphones while wearing matching handwritten T-shirts on Wednesday morning. The pair helped organize a protest for the lack of an official school event to memorialize a seventh-grader who recently committed suicide. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Under current policy, those comments would prompt the school to provide a list of resources to the family and refer them to counseling services. But the superintendent pledged to research the suggestions from Anie’s family.

“The family is dealing with a tragic situation that none of us can imagine,” Webster said.


Graham spoke briefly and emotionally Wednesday evening about his daughter’s struggle.

He said he and his wife had sought help for Anie at the school and the hospital to no avail. Although both of Anie’s parents have full-time jobs and health insurance, Graham said their insurance coverage couldn’t help them with treatment.

“The school and the hospital and the insurance company all told us they couldn’t help,” he said. “Every system we have in place failed our daughter.”

He wanted people to know his daughter was beautiful and popular, but she was still a victim of bullying.

“Social media hurts people,” Graham said. “Bullying hurts people.”

Students first learned of their classmate’s death Tuesday. Lewiston Middle School Principal Jake Langlais informed them Wednesday morning that Anie’s death was a suicide, and the school observed a moment of silence in her memory. He deferred questions about her experience at school to the Graham family.

Students combine candles they lit during Wednesday night’s vigil for Anie Graham. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Students who joined the walkout described Anie as friendly and bubbly, a frequent host of pool parties and a talented math student. A few remembered going to the movies with her in recent weeks or seeing her in class Monday. Under a gray sky, some students decorated posters with Anie’s name.

“When you think bullying, you think pushing around and harassing, but the words that were said to her were harassing,” said 13-year-old Felicity Sanborn. “I’d rather have all my teeth knocked out than be called some of those names.”

Felicity said she had known Anie since they were in fourth grade. She and 13-year-old Lillyana Torres wore teal T-shirts they made in honor of their friend – Anie’s name was on the front and a message about suicide awareness was on the back. Felicity and Lillyana organized the protest on social media and encouraged other students to wear green in their friend’s memory.

The administration recorded an unexcused absence for the students who joined the protest, but there was no disciplinary action. The group remained on the front steps and lawn for hours during the school day.

“I hope people think about how their disrespectful words affected her, how she felt she was a piece of dust,” Felicity said. “She felt as though she had nothing to live for.”

Lewiston Middle School Principal Jake Langlais tells students they are welcome to leave the protest behind and return to class, suggesting that there would be no repercussions for their protest over the lack of an official vigil for a fellow student. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

Lillyana credited the principal with being caring and responsive, but said bullying exists both at the school and on social media. Guidance councilors and other staff should do more to prevent that kind of behavior, she said.

“It’s very effective on kids’ brains and hearts and thought process,” Lillyana said.


There were 235 reported suicides in Maine in 2015.

Recent statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Maine’s rate of suicide is consistently higher than the national average and has been trending upward over 15 years. The national rate is 13.41 suicides per 100,000 people, but Maine’s rate is 16.41 per 100,000 residents.

Suicide also is the second-leading cause of death among Maine residents ages 10-25, and the number of suicides among 15- to 24-year-olds in Maine increased from 17 in 2008 to 30 in 2014.

Data from the 2015 Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey shows 16 percent of middle school students had considered suicide, and 48 percent of middle schoolers said they had experienced bullying at school.

Extra counseling services have been made available for Lewiston students and staff this week, and the district has mailed all parents in the district a pamphlet on “supporting teens through difficult times” that includes a list of community resources.

Neither Webster nor Langlais said whether an investigation would be conducted into the bullying allegations or Anie’s death. Both said they were worried about the role that social media plays in bullying.

“We need to do more work as a society on student-to-student communication in school and out of school,” Webster said.

Students and parents embrace during the vigil at Lewiston Middle School. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Langlais said he has spoken with Anie’s family and close friends since her death.

Linda Scott, chairman of the Lewiston School Committee, said she hadn’t spoken to members of the committee Wednesday night and she did not want to comment on whether they planned to investigate whether Anie was bullied or whether enough was done to help her. She referred all questions to the superintendent.

Lt. Mike McGonagle, a spokesman for the Lewiston Police Department, said, “At this point, we are looking into all aspects of the case, but there appears to be nothing suspicious.”

The district encourages students to report bullying when it happens, Webster said, and each claim is investigated. Lewiston schools will continue to review their policies to prevent and investigate claims of bullying, the superintendent said.

“I want to commend our staff for their role before and after this tragic event,” he said. “I think their actions have been appropriate, and again, my heart goes out to the family with all they are going through right now.”

Eighth-grader Lillyanna Torres gets a hug from classmate Kadyn Dufour on Wednesday morning outside Lewiston Middle School. Torres helped organize a protest over the lack of an official vigil to memorialize a seventh-grader who died unexpectedly. Staff photo by Ben McCanna

The district will have a community meeting at the Green Ladle, a student-run restaurant at the Lewiston Regional Technical Center, on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.


Webster and Langlais attended the vigil outside the school Wednesday night, watching from the periphery. “Right now, we just want all our kids to be safe,” Langlais said. “By all, I mean all. These types of events trigger emotions in everyone, kid or adult.”

Students at the gathering hugged, clutched small candles and released green star-shaped balloons in Anie’s honor. One girl collected notes in a cardboard box for Anie’s family, who did not attend. The chatter of teenage voices quieted for a moment of silence.

As the crowd dispersed, still-flickering candles formed a makeshift memorial next to the school. Even when their flames were extinguished and the sky was dark, a small knot of students and adults remained, talking quietly in the shadows.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

]]>, ME - MAY 24: Students and parents embrace during a vigil for Anie Graham, a 13-year-old girl who took her own life, at Lewiston Middle School. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Thu, 25 May 2017 08:19:16 +0000
Mom who went to classes with quadriplegic son gets honorary MBA Wed, 24 May 2017 02:53:51 +0000 ORANGE, Calif. — A Southern California university has awarded an honorary degree to the mother of a quadriplegic student after she attended every class with him and took his notes while he pursued his Master of Business Administration.

Judy O’Connor, a retired elementary-school teacher, pushed her son Marty in his wheelchair for him to receive his degree during commencement Saturday at Chapman University in the Los Angeles suburb of Orange.

Then, a choked-up graduation announcer said the school’s faculty, administrators and board of trustees had decided to give her an MBA. The idea for the surprise honorary degree came from her son.

A stunned but composed Judy O’Connor blew a kiss to the crowd giving her a standing ovation. “I’m a geek. I love being in school,” she said before the ceremony. “I’m not going to lie. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Marty O’Connor received an undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado and was working as a salesman for a packaging industry company in 2012 when he fell down a flight of stairs and was paralyzed.

“After I got hurt, I didn’t know which end was up. I didn’t really have a direction,” he said in a story on the school’s website. “I needed that mental challenge and wanted to add some professional value to myself.”

His mother was living in Florida but moved to Southern California to help her son earn his MBA. He uses an iPad, laptop, voice-recognition software and a special mouth stylus to communicate but could not take notes or write the answers to tests. So his mother did.

]]> 0 O'Connor attended every class and took notes for her quadriplegic son, Marty, throughout graduate school.Wed, 24 May 2017 00:55:30 +0000
Maine Legislature’s education panel votes 6-5 against statewide teachers contract Tue, 23 May 2017 22:37:38 +0000 A legislative panel narrowly opposed a bill Tuesday that sought a statewide teachers contract, even after the bill’s author watered it down to make it voluntary.

“I’ve been trying to listen to all of you and your concerns,” Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, told the members of the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee in Augusta. “I’ve conceded a lot.”

Pouliot amended L.D. 864 to start as a “pilot project” at schools in economically disadvantaged areas and to made it an opt-in proposal instead of a mandatory statewide contract.

With little discussion, the committee voted 6-5 against the amended bill, which now goes before the Legislature.

Gov. Paul LePage called for a statewide teachers’ contract in his two-year budget, saying it would be a way to ensure rural areas could recruit and retain teachers.

Pouliot echoed that idea Tuesday, calling it a “wage equality” bill.

Under L.D. 864, local school boards and superintendents would still hire teachers. But once they’re hired, the state would pay for salary and benefits based on a contract collectively bargained between the state and the Maine Education Association.

During the public hearing, opponents, including the MEA, said the bill doesn’t provide any guarantee that starting teacher pay would increase, takes local control away from districts and does not spell out how the state would pay for it. It also would end the current funding formula, under which the state gives more money to poorer communities and less money to wealthier ones. If the state paid all salary and benefit costs, poor communities could receive less money from the state, while wealthy communities could get more.

Primarily, opponents pointed out that wealthier districts could still add a premium to any baseline contract salary agreement, perpetuating wage inequality between wealthy and poor communities.

Opponents also said that if the bill’s supporters wanted to support a fairer wage, there was another bill before the Legislature that would increase the statewide minimum teachers’ salary to $40,000.

The average starting teacher’s salary statewide is $33,207, with a low of $30,005 in Aroostook County and a high of $35,831 in York County, according to a Portland Press Herald analysis of Maine School Management Association data.

According to federal statistics, the average salary for elementary and secondary teachers in Maine was $50,229 in 2015-16, putting the state 33rd nationally. The national average was $58,064 and Maine’s average teacher salary was well below all other New England states, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> 0 Tue, 23 May 2017 23:17:52 +0000
UMaine system schools to raise tuition for first time in 6 years Mon, 22 May 2017 19:18:47 +0000 Students attending University of Maine System schools in the fall will pay about $421 more per year following the vote by trustees on Monday to approve the first tuition increase in six years.

The average increase across the system will be 2.5 percent, from $17,065 to $17,486 for in-state tuition, fees, and room and board. The tuition hike alone is 3.3 percent, or $242 per year, to $7,482 a year.

Chancellor James Page has described the increase in tuition – and the state appropriation – as a move away from past austerity during financial hard times to a need today to invest again in the system. The state appropriation is up this year, returning it to pre-recession levels after almost 10 years.

The tuition freeze allowed the system to “keep quality education within the financial reach of Maine families while our savings initiatives have brought all seven campus budgets into balance,” Page said in a statement. “We now have plans to make reasonable, strategic investments in student success initiatives and campus facilities to prepare our students and Maine’s workforce for the future.”

The individual campuses will be allowed to set the tuition rates for out-of-state students, since several campuses are interested in offering financial incentives to increase out-of-state enrollment. Orono, for example, has had success with its flagship match program, where out-of-state students pay an amount equal to that of their home state flagship. Out-of-state students generally pay about three times as much for tuition alone, with a total cost of about $40,000.

The tuition increase is part of a $529 million budget for the fiscal year beginning in July, approved Monday by the trustees at their meeting in Presque Isle.

Chief Financial Officer Ryan Low also presented new five-year financial projections that anticipate a budget surplus of $632,841 in 2022, the first system budget surplus since 2009.

“We’re continuing to move in the right direction,” Low said.

For years, annual budget gaps have been closed with deep cuts and campuses borrowing system funds, or dipping into their own campus reserves. In the budget approved Monday, UMaine Augusta and the University of Southern Maine used campus reserves to balance their budgets.

Several trustees urged caution with the five-year projection, particularly a prediction that enrollment would increase between 1.6 and 1.9 percent a year – for a total of almost 10 percent within five years. Over the last five years, systemwide enrollment has decreased 5 percent.

“I call for a sanity check on this please,” trustee James Erwin said, adding that he wanted to “sound a note of caution.”

“It seems extremely optimistic,” said Erwin. “I think we as a board need to keep a very close eye on this.”

The five-year projection also assumes annual increases to tuition, fees and state appropriation tied to the consumer price index. However, the state allocation in particular is difficult to predict, and annual increases cannot be guaranteed. Low noted that the governor’s current budget allocation is below the CPI and affected this year’s budget.

The trustees can decide to raise tuition and fees annually, but have historically resisted increasing student costs, citing the ability of the average Mainer to afford a public education.

This fall is also the start of the system’s new three-tiered tuition plan, part of the move to a unified budget system.

Currently, each of the seven campuses charges its own tuition, ranging from a high of $8,370 a year at the flagship campus in Orono to a low of $6,600 a year at the campuses in Fort Kent and Presque Isle.

In the fall, tuition will be $8,580 a year at the University of Maine and the University of Maine at Farmington; $7,860 at the University of Southern Maine; and $6,840 a year at the campuses in Augusta, Fort Kent, Machias and Presque Isle.

In-state tuition for graduate programs will increase to $7,722 a year at the University of Maine, $7,074 a year at USM and $7,002 a year at Farmington. Tuition at the University of Maine School of Law is unchanged at $22,290 a year.

In other action Monday, the trustees:

n Bypassed the usual national search process and approved the direct appointment of Raymond Rice as president of UMaine Presque Isle.

Rice has been serving as interim president since July 2016, when then-president Linda Schott left to lead Southern Oregon University. Rice, a professor of English, was a faculty member at UMPI for 19 years and had served as provost and vice president for academic and student affairs. He continues to serve as both president and provost, officials said.

“I recognize this is an extraordinary step. It is one that is unusual,” Page told the trustees. “I think it is fully warranted in light of the solid support (Rice) enjoys on this campus and in the community and with his colleagues throughout the system.”

Rice will have a two-year term beginning in July, and be paid $175,000 a year. As interim president, Rice earned $140,000.

n Unanimously approved Erwin, a former state assistant attorney general, as the new chairman of the board of trustees, and trustee Karl Turner, a retired banking executive and four-term former state senator, as the new vice chairman.

n Voted to extend the appointment of James Page for another year, to 2019, after meeting in executive session. He was hired in 2012.

n Approved capital campaigns for the University of Southern Maine and the University of Maine. USM’s $80 million capital campaign focuses on an overhaul of the Portland campus, including a $50 million, 1,000-seat performing arts center on the Portland campus, $15 million in athletic facility upgrades and a $15 million endowed “promise” scholarship program for full-time students with financial needs.

The $80 million is part of a larger $189 million plan that includes revamping the Portland campus to include a new $30 million student center, a five-story dorm, a boutique hotel and perhaps a food studies culinary institute. The hotel and culinary institute would be operated by students and tied to USM’s food programs and new tourism major. The student center project also would create a new quad on campus, after closing Bedford Street, and a parking garage.

UMaine’s $200 million capital campaign, of which more than $100 million already has been raised, is primarily for financial support of faculty, students and some capital projects including an engineering building.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> 0 University of Southern Maine, above, has been hard hit by recent cuts made by the UMaine System in an effort to close a budget deficit. Now we're learning more about a new center that would house combined graduate programs currently operating at USM and the University of Maine.Mon, 22 May 2017 22:02:36 +0000
Notre Dame graduating seniors walk out on Pence Mon, 22 May 2017 00:18:42 +0000 Some graduating seniors at the University of Notre Dame walked out of their own graduation ceremony to protest Vice President Mike Pence when he began to deliver the commencement speech Sunday morning.

Pence was chosen to give the commencement address at the nation’s most prominent Catholic university – even though the school ordinarily invites newly inaugurated presidents to give the address in their first year of office. Thousands of students and faculty members signed a petition asking Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, not to invite President Trump, and the university chose instead to invite Pence, a former Indiana governor.

A coalition of student activist groups at Notre Dame called We StaND For planned a walkout to protest policies Pence pursued as governor that they say targeted the most vulnerable.

Pence was planning to seek re-election as governor when Trump selected him to be his vice presidential running mate in the summer of 2016, but Pence was unpopular at the time in his own state and many thought he would lose his re-election bid.

School officials knew of the student walkout plans and did not try to stop them. More than 100 students quietly walked out.

The Notre Dame protest was far smaller than that faced by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos when she recently delivered the commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Florida.

]]> 0 Dame graduate Erin McNamee, a biology major in the school of science, stands with her back to Vice President Mike Pence in protest as he speaks in South Bend, Ind.Sun, 21 May 2017 20:27:37 +0000
UMaine System trustees approve reorganization at Presque Isle campus Sun, 21 May 2017 23:32:27 +0000 In the latest move to streamline operations and lower costs, the University of Maine System trustees agreed Sunday to a reorganization of the University of Maine at Presque Isle.

Under the reorganization plan, UMPI is eliminating some administrative positions and combining two of its three colleges, creating one College of Professional Programs and Education.

The system has been engaged in a years-long effort to consolidate back-office functions, reduce costs and streamline operations to close multimillion-dollar budget gaps. That effort has been paired with an attempt to reshape the system into a “one university” model instead of seven independent and sometimes competing campuses.

As a system, finances have largely stabilized, but some campuses have struggled to balance their budgets. Financial stability was behind the decision last March to make the University of Maine at Machias a regional campus of the flagship University of Maine in Orono.

While not the same type of arrangement, the UMPI reorganization announced Sunday “allows for potential expansion of collaborative positions and shared programming” with other campuses, officials said.

UMPI, with 1,326 students, is the second-smallest campus in the system and enrollment there has dropped 9.1 percent in the past five years.

Under the reorganization, the campus is eliminating the positions of campus operations officer and director of student success, which is estimated to save $447,708 over five years.

In his remarks to the trustees, UMPI President Ray Rice emphasized the college’s “special partnership” with the University of Maine at Fort Kent. The two campuses already share some back-office operations and partner on some academic programing, but are looking to expand their collaboration, Rice said.

One plan is for Fort Kent nursing professors to be teaching Presque Isle students by fall 2018.

To help with collaboration, UMFK provost Steven Gammon will now be “executive vice president for collaboration and strategic alliances,” reporting directly to the Presque Isle and Fort Kent presidents.

Also Sunday, the trustees approved a plan to have a Caribou farm provide locally raised and processed food directly to the campuses in Presque Isle, Fort Kent, Machias and Orono, part of a larger effort to have more local food served to Maine students.

Last year the system awarded Sodexo a five-year dining services contract, worth $12 million annually, as part of a university pledge to locally source 20 percent of the food served to students by 2020. Sodexo has now hired Circle B Farms of Caribou as its Northern Maine Food Aggregator, overcoming distance and insurance liability burdens to allow a local farmer to provide food to the campuses in northern Maine.

The system has spent more than $1.25 million on local products in the first 10 months of the initiative, and sourced 18 percent of its food purchases with more than 100 local companies from July 2016 to April 2017.

Under the agreement, Circle B Farms – which primarily grows blueberries and apples – aggregates local produce from several Aroostook County farms to deliver to the campuses.

“Our partnership with the universities and Sodexo is a great opportunity for Circle B Farms and our local employees,” said Sam Blackstone, owner of Circle B Farms. “But it is also great for the entire agricultural industry in northern Maine as farmers work with us to grow their businesses by providing institutional customers like the universities with fresh, locally produced food.”

The trustees will continue their regular monthly meeting, held in Presque Isle, on Monday.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> 0 Sun, 21 May 2017 20:12:41 +0000
More than 1,000 graduate from Southern Maine Community College Sun, 21 May 2017 21:30:17 +0000 More than 1,000 degrees and certificates were awarded Sunday as Southern Maine Community College held its 70th commencement exercises at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

Ron Cantor

The 1,022 students in the class of 2017 came from all 16 Maine counties, 16 other states and 16 foreign countries, said Clarke Canfield, spokesman for the South Portland-based college.

SMCC President Ron Cantor presided over the ceremony, and award-winning broadcast journalist Bill Green, the host of “Bill Green’s Maine” on WCSH-TV and WLBZ-TV, was the keynote speaker.

“The Class of 2017 has distinguished itself, and our graduates can go anywhere from here,” Cantor said.

More than 94 percent of SMCC students enter the workforce or transfer to another school within nine months of graduation, Canfield said. SMCC graduates will attend the University of Southern Maine, University of Maine, University of New England, Bentley University, Lesley University and the Culinary Institute of America.

Bill Green

“Now I know what I want to do, and it’s because of SMCC. The college and the people here helped me shape my goals for the future,” said Liberal Studies graduate Zakia Momand, who plans to attend law school eventually. Momand has a dream of practicing law in her parents’ home country of Afghanistan, with a focus on women’s rights and human rights.

Momand spoke no English and had little formal schooling when she moved from Pakistan to Portland in 2009.

]]> 0, 22 May 2017 08:59:30 +0000
Unity preschool program emphasizes importance of the outdoors Sun, 21 May 2017 00:03:16 +0000 UNITY — Ashley Morency knew right away that the Sprouts preschool program was the right fit for her daughter, Abbigail.

“She came right in and started playing,” Morency said Friday morning while watching 3-year-old Abbigail play with a worm. “She definitely loves the outdoors.”

Abbigail had a major speech delay, Morency said. She couldn’t get her words out or express herself.

Since coming to Sprouts and working with the staff there, Abbigail has overcome the delay and is now socializing with other children. On Friday, she was showing people the worm in her hand and squealing with excitement.

“It tickles!” she said while holding her hand out so her mother could see the worm.

“The kids that get to come here are just lucky,” Morency said.

Mary Mayhew, state commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, was also out in the school’s garden beds Friday morning. She said she was visiting the Sprouts program because there is value in seeing “innovative programs and models.”

“We all like to play in the dirt,” said Mayhew, who oversees the department in charge of child care in the state. “A lot of what we try to do with all of our programs is support getting information out,” so that others can learn from them. “How do we help support kids being ready to learn?”


Jill Barnes, a teacher at the Sprouts program provided by Broadreach Family and Community Services and housed at Unity Elementary School, said she’s seen a number of children overcome behavioral issues after attending the nature-based preschool.

Broadreach provides a number of services to help both children and adults in Waldo and Knox counties develop skills and lead healthy lives.

In addition to Sprouts, Broadreach provides a traditional pre-K program. It also provides services to children through Youthlinks, an out-of-school program to empower youth, and prevention services for young people who are considered at-risk.

Barnes, who’s been with Broadreach for 16 years, credits the improvements in her students to the outdoors environment and the larger space the children have with the new Sprouts program.

“It’s a different pace that is child-led and centered on the child’s interest,” she said.

Broadreach started Sprouts, which serves 2-1/2- to 5-year-olds, about a year ago, said Deb Hensley, director of the early childhood program at the nonprofit.

“We had been for years wanting to do more with the outdoors,” Hensley said. “We all decided it was so important in this day and age, when the children and parents are obsessed with technology, that we balance it out.”

They visited Juniper Hill School in Alna, which follows the place-based education model – learning that is rooted in the local environment – and uses nature to teach its children.

Hensley said they were skeptical of the program before they went and that they worried about how difficult it would be to recreate. But once they saw it firsthand and learned from those at the program that it was really about “gear and committing,” they decided to run a pilot program.

Now, 16 children and six staff members are involved in the Unity program, as well as 26 children at the location in Belfast. About 50 percent of the children have special needs, so Sprouts receives some state funding.

The rest of the money comes from tuition, which is $170 per week for five days of care, and any grants the organization can win.

The children spend at least four hours outside every day, rain or shine. They wear Muddy Buddy rainsuits that look like miniature hazmat suits in bad weather, Hensley said.

The teachers required a change in mindset. Instead of using typical plastic equipment for an activity, Barnes said, they would think about what they could use in nature instead.


Forest kindergartens, where children spend all of their time outdoors, started in Europe decades ago.

The first nature-based preschool was started in 1967 in New Canaan, Connecticut, according to Patti Bailie, an assistant professor of early childhood education at the University of Maine at Farmington. In the United States, nature-based preschools, which spend a portion of their time outdoors, are more popular than forest kindergartens.

By one estimate, there are now about 180 nature-based preschools in the country, she said.

“It’s been amazing to see the growth of the programs and of the interest,” said Bailie, who founded the Schlitz Audubon Nature Preschool in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 2003.

The growing interest makes sense, she said, when looking at the research on the benefits of letting children learn in nature.

“Nature is a good vehicle for children,” Bailie said, where they can develop physically, cognitively and emotionally.

Children in nature-based programs tend to have better developed motor skills, be more confident and engaged, and be better at solving problems.

Some studies show that taking a walk outside can reduce the symptoms of attention deficit disorder as much as taking medications in some cases, she said.

The outdoors is also good for brain development, 85 percent of which occurs during the preschool years, according to Bailie. Exercise, multisensory experiences and working out problems can all help develop the brain.

Bailie said that she would love to see more schools incorporating nature into early education, “especially because I think that schools are not made for children when you have to sit in seats all day.”

“If they’re not doing things that children really need, you see more behavior problems, you see more diagnoses of ADD,” she added.

When Hensley was asked whether she’s seen a difference in the children since switching to a nature-based model, she said she might start crying.

“It’s like night and day,” she said. “The behaviors that we see inside, they’re pretty much gone outdoors.”


There is a forest kindergarten at White Pine in York, but Hensley said she didn’t know of any other schools with programs similar to Juniper Hill and Sprouts.

Bailie could think of a few that were starting up in southern Maine, but not many in central or western Maine, she said, although there are a number of conferences throughout the state on the topic each year.

“In our area, I think there’s more interest, I think it’s starting to happen,” she said.

Bailie is hoping to push the university’s child care center on campus toward a nature-based model, and she wishes other universities would include it in their coursework so teachers would be more prepared to work at nature-based schools.

]]> 0 Mayhew, state commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, center, helps Balin Irving, 3, drop a squash seed at the Sprouts preschool program in Unity. Mya Robertson, 3, left, and Anna Ford, 3, help dig holes in the soil.Sat, 20 May 2017 20:20:11 +0000
Feats add up for this young math wiz Sat, 20 May 2017 20:07:00 +0000 Stephanie Mui doesn’t recall the specifics of the math problem presented to her fourth-grade class years ago. Regardless, it was so difficult, it stumped even her teacher. Not Mui, though.

“To solve it I remember I had to set up a system of algebraic equations and basically just solve them simultaneously,” said the 17-year-old from Fairfax, Virginia.

So, Mui is pretty sharp at math. Which makes sense. She has been working to master the subject since she was a little kid. According to Mui, she was learning addition and multiplication in preschool, and really, she just kept rolling. Mui proved to be so good at math that after fifth grade she started taking community college courses.

She didn’t stop there.

On Saturday, Mui will be the youngest among more than 8,700 graduates at George Mason University’s 50th commencement. She has earned a master’s degree in mathematics from Virginia’s largest public university, a milestone reached before she has even graduated from high school.

“To me, it’s just my life,” Mui said. “To others, it might look a little weird. But yeah, I just think it’s my life.”

Let’s not call it weird, though. Because sometimes people see the word “weird” and think it means “strange but like, in a bad way,” and The Washington Post does not want readers to think there is anything bad about being smart. Instead, let’s say that Mui’s path is remarkable, and even impressive.

“As a student she is sharp, very sharp. She impresses everyone,” Sean Lawton, an associate professor at George Mason who taught and mentored her. “As a human, she is mature, polite, observant, and careful. She works hard and does not give up.”

Lawton, director of the Mason Experimental Geometry Lab, met Mui a few years ago. At that point, he wrote in an email to The Post, Mui was “very mature already and intimidatingly smart.” Lawton offered her a project to work on in the lab, a problem he thought was pretty hard.

“One I didn’t know how to solve myself,” he wrote. “In a short time she came up with a good idea and began writing computer programs to test her ideas. She was fast. I had (and still do have) a hard time keeping up with her.”

Mui’s first attempt to solve it was unsuccessful. But she got there eventually and ended up making 3-D prints and movies of her results. The project was prizewinning, and this semester, Lawton said, she read and explained research articles that “laid the theoretical foundation” of the project.

“The funny thing was that after she read the papers we realized that her solution to the geometry problem I gave her was very near to the original theoretical approach laid down by John Nash (the Nobel laureate and leading character of the movie “A Beautiful Mind”), which was pretty cool to see since she came up with her solution before reading Nash’s paper,” he wrote.

Lawton lauded Mui’s presentations and said her mathematical writing was “amazing” for her age and experience level.

“I remember when I first offered to pay her a small wage to work on her research from one of my grants,” he wrote. “She refused, saying she was not sure if it was right to be paid for thinking about math.”

(Mui spoke with her parents and ended up taking the money, Lawton said.)

It was a little scary to go to Mason from Northern Virginia Community College, which offers a lot of classes online, Mui said. At Mason, she was in a traditional classroom environment. Mui said she didn’t tell people her age, but she didn’t lie about it, either.

“I’m really glad I did it,” she said of her nontraditional path. “I like being challenged.”

The daughter of engineers, Mui started taking community college courses after fifth grade, and George Mason said she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the university last year. While she pursued her master’s, she continued her high school education. In June, she will graduate from Oakton High in Fairfax County.

Grace Wang, who taught Mui honors biology at Oakton, called her pupil bright, kind and humble, a goal-oriented student who was conscientious and responsible. In an email, she called Mui an “amazing young lady,” who could serve as a role model to girls interested in science and math, and “one of the most brilliant students” that she had ever taught.

“You can be brilliant and successful while maintaining humility,” Wang wrote. “Unlike others that would be boastful or arrogant, she was not a self promoter and was intrinsically motivated. She has a truly inquisitive mind and loved learning and discovering things.”

Many of her peers are headed off to college next fall. Mui is bound for New York University as a doctoral candidate, where she will study at the private university’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

“I kind of look at math like it’s a puzzle,” Mui said. “It’s a fun puzzle to solve. To me that’s what it is. I think people should see it as that, too.”

]]> 0 math problems never seemed to faze Stephanie Mui, who was able to do algebra as a first-grader, above. At left the now 17-year-old celebrates the master's degree she earned at George Mason University's 50th commencement last week.Sat, 20 May 2017 16:55:41 +0000
More than 1,800 UNE students graduate in Portland Sat, 20 May 2017 19:46:43 +0000 More than 1,800 University of New England graduates received degrees at the university’s 182nd commencement ceremony Saturday at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.

The degrees included bachelor’s, master’s and doctorates in osteopathic medicine, dental medicine, pharmacy, health sciences, natural sciences, social sciences, human services, education, management and the liberal arts.

A UNE College of Dental Medicine graduate receives her diploma from President Danielle Ripich Photos courtesy University of New England

The ceremony included the first graduating class of the university’s College of Dental Medicine. It was the 11th and final commencement ceremony for President Danielle Ripich, who is retiring.

Saturday’s graduation ceremony was the final commencement for  UNE President Danielle Ripich, who is retiring.

“The 62 men and women who will become Doctors of Dental Medicine today put their faith in UNE at a time when our Oral Health Center truly was just a ‘cavity’ in the ground awaiting construction,” she remarked. “They came to us as pioneers and, through their hard work and diligence, have established a culture of excellence for this, our newest college.”

The commencement speaker was Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and former chairman of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans in the Obama administration.


A group of UNE College of Dental Medicine graduates are all smiles.

Hrabowski was named one of America’s Best Leaders in 2008 by U.S. News & World Report. Time magazine named him one of America’s 10 Best College Presidents in 2009 and one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2012.

Of the dental students who have announced their post-graduation plans, 47 percent will be staying in New England. At least 11 of those students are staying in Maine to practice or receive further professional training. Several more students have expressed a desire to return to Maine after completing residency and specialty programs.

]]> 0, 20 May 2017 22:06:43 +0000
Oak Hill school to change dress code after Litchfield girl challenges rules for shorts Fri, 19 May 2017 19:28:30 +0000 LITCHFIELD — When temperatures soared into the low 90s on Thursday, many of Peyton Guay’s classmates at Oak Hill Middle School wore shorts.

But Peyton, a sixth-grader, was not so lucky. She was forced to wear sweatpants because she doesn’t have many pairs of shorts that conform to the school’s dress code — a set of rules that she has found increasingly annoying and sexist.

“It was hot,” Peyton, 12, said matter-of-factly of her day on Thursday.

After returning home on Thursday afternoon, Peyton had changed into an inauspicious pair of black cotton shorts. She would have been more comfortable wearing those to school, she said, but they wouldn’t have passed muster with some of her school’s educators, depending on their reading of the dress code.

That dress code now requires all shorts, dresses and skirts fall lower than a student’s fingertips when her arms are hanging straight down, but doesn’t clearly state what counts as fingertips.

That ambiguity has frustrated Peyton’s mother, Danica Gagne, who recently bought eight pairs of shorts for her daughter, only to discover that just two would clearly fall below the middle finger of her daughter, who is 5 feet, 2 inches tall and has relatively long arms. To be sure, her daughter was meeting that requirement, Gagne said she might have to buy boy’s basketball shorts or capri-style pants.

The dress code also forbids shirts with spaghetti straps, and it seems rooted in the traditional belief that women should dress modestly so as not to distract the men in their midst, Gagne said.

“It sexualizes it,” she said of those requirements. “They’re little kids. Come on.”

When Gagne shared her concerns with other parents in Regional School Unit 4 — the district made up of Litchfield, Wales and Sabattus — many agreed with her. So did the one person who might be able to make a difference: Ben Wilson, principal of Oak Hill Middle School.

“I personally feel the dress code can be sexist and would welcome a change,” Wilson wrote in response to Gagne’s May 9 comment on a Facebook page for RSU 4 parents.

Wilson invited Peyton and other students to suggest a few changes for the dress code. Over two days, that group of students collected more than 100 signatures, and their proposals will soon take effect for the middle school, said Andrew Carlton, the district’s curriculum director, who will soon replace outgoing Superintendent Jim Hodgkin. Carlton couldn’t be immediately reached for further comment Friday evening on what date the change will take effect and whether that will take place before the end of the school year.

That’s been a relief to Peyton and her mother, who have taken a cue from other girls across the country who have challenged their schools’ sartorial requirements on the grounds that they’re sexist. One day, Peyton went to class with a hashtagged message written on her arm in blue ink: #IAmMoreThanAdistraction.”

Young women across the country have been spreading similar mantras on social media platforms. In Maine, one high profile example came last month when Molly Neuner, a sixth grader at King Middle School in Portland, defied that school’s dress code by wearing a tank top to class and the words #iamnotadistraction on her arm, the Portland Press Herald reported. Earlier that week, a teacher had reprimanded Molly in front of other students for wearing a purple tank top. After meeting with her parents, the principal said the school would review the dress code at the end of the year.

At Oak Hill Middle School, the dress code currently indicates that clothing choices shouldn’t “disrupt the school climate” and lays out 12 specific guidelines. Several guidelines are preserved in the proposal made by Peyton and her classmates, such as bans on clothing that includes inappropriate language and that reveals private areas of the body.

But several specific provisions were removed. Most relevant to Gagne’s concerns about her daughter’s shorts, the finger length requirement has been replaced by a requirement that shorts extend at least 4 inches down the inseam.

Gagne supported that change, she said, because her daughter has heard mixed interpretations of the fingertip rule and would prefer a concrete, measurable length. While her daughter has not gotten in trouble for dress code violations, Gagne said the rules have made her nervous that some shorts might not pass muster.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” Gagne said of the present rules. “It’s not just about wearing uncomfortable clothing. The girls don’t want to be called out. It makes them anxious. They can’t wear sweatpants in 90-degree weather.”

The new dress code will allow shirts with spaghetti straps and cropped tops. It has also eliminated a sentence from the current dress code that bans students from wearing “clothing or hairstyles that cause a distraction to learning.”

Administrators in RSU 4 supported the students’ changes, Carlton said, because they recognize that it can be hard for some families to afford to keep replacing clothes to meet the dress code’s requirements.

He noted that the overall structure of the dress code will remain in place, including the provision that the school climate not be disrupted. He also applauded the students and principal for working together to draft the new rules.

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure we provide an environment for every student to learn,” he said.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

Twitter: @ceichacker

]]> 0 this composite image, Danica Gagne, left, stands with her daughter Peyton Guay, 12. Peyton and her mother have been working on revising the Oak Hill Middle School dress code so Peyton can wear shorts to school without worrying about violating the dress code. At right, Peyton demonstrates the current dress code system at Oak Hill Middle School that involves measuring with fingers on the outside of the shorts. Fri, 19 May 2017 23:09:21 +0000
Police say student who brought airsoft gun to Westbrook school won’t be charged Fri, 19 May 2017 14:12:00 +0000 An 18-year-old student who had an airsoft pistol in his car at Westbrook High School, prompting a lockdown of four local schools Friday, will not be charged with any crimes, police said.

Westbrook High School, Westbrook Regional Vocational Center, Westbrook Middle School and Canal School went into lockdown at 9:16 a.m. after reports of a man with a gun entering the high school. Police responded immediately and searched the school room by room, and an alert from the school department soon indicated the students and staff were safe. The lockdown lasted about an hour.

Westbrook police questioned three students – two 18-year-olds and a 16-year-old – involved in the incident. At a news conference Friday morning, Police Chief Janine Roberts said one of the students could face a misdemeanor charge for carrying a firearm on school property. But in a statement later, she said no law was violated.

“Because an airsoft pistol does not expel a projectile by the action of an explosive, it is not considered a firearm by Maine law,” Roberts said.

Because no charges will be filed, the students will not be identified. Earlier in the day, Roberts stressed that a fake gun is still a real threat.

“It’s a significant threat because when officers are faced with someone with a fake weapon, we don’t know,” she said.

An investigation determined the three students were in a car in the school parking lot with what was ultimately determined to be an airsoft pistol. Airsoft guns are typically replicas of real firearms that shoot small plastic pellets, according to the website They include spring-, electric- and gas-powered guns. When fired, they could cause pain and bruising. At close range, they could break skin.

Another student saw one of the 18-year-olds holding the airsoft pistol in the car and then entering the school. That student alerted a teacher, prompting the lockdown. Police searched the school and found the student who had been seen with the gun. He did not have it with him, and the airsoft pistol was confiscated from the vehicle. All three students from the car were interviewed at the public safety building.

Eighteen officers – every officer on duty – responded to the call at the high school.

“It’s one small act that has a huge ripple effect,” Roberts said.

Superintendent Peter Lancia said the schools followed lockdown procedures “by the book.”

Parents received alerts about the lockdown immediately, and students sheltered in classrooms. Each school practices lockdown procedures at least once a month, he said.

“I’m furious,” Lancia said. “It makes our entire school unsafe if someone brought a gun to the property. Fortunately, no one came into the high school with a weapon, so the risk was certainly less, but I don’t want any weapons on our property.”

An alert sent about 10:13 a.m. said school dismissal would be at the regular time, although parents would be allowed to pick up their child if they wished.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

]]> 0 Fri, 19 May 2017 22:07:23 +0000
Waterville students to compete in national science tournament Thu, 18 May 2017 02:34:58 +0000 WATERVILLE — Fifteen Waterville Senior High School students are headed for Dayton, Ohio, to take part this weekend in the 2017 Science Olympiad National Tournament.

The team placed second at the state Science Olympiad tournament April 1 at University of Southern Maine in Gorham, but the team that placed first, Waynflete School in Portland, is unable to go.

In 22 years, Waterville High teams have won first place at the state contest 17 times and have attended national competitions 18 times, according to Coach Jon Ramgren.

About 2,000 students in 120 teams from around the country will take part in the national event. Sixty teams are made up of junior high students and 60 of high school students.

The students compete in rigorous events that challenge them to solve problems using biology, earth science, chemistry, physics and engineering. Some involve building structures, including one where students must build a tower using only wood and glue. It must be a certain height and strong enough to support 30 to 35 pounds hanging from it, according to Ramgren, who teaches honors chemistry, applied chemistry and forensic science.

Ramgren said he is proud of the Waterville students. In January, the team took part in an invitational or practice tournament at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“They’re phenomenal and they’re involved in everything,” he said. “Eight kids are on the track team, kids are on the tennis team, on the baseball team. The results these students are able to achieve is not because of what I’m doing, particularly, but because of what the school has done over the 10 to 12 years that the kids have been in the system.”

Students going to the nationals are Bridger Holly, Katie Lopes, Anthony Pinnette, Nathan Pinnette, John Violette, Merline Feero, Maddie Hallen, Brock Jolicoeur, Carter Jones, Adam Livshits, Ella Ruehsen, Abi Bloom, Kevin Chen, Jordan Perkins and David Ramgren.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

]]> 0 Waterville Senior High School Science Olympiad team at the state meet April 1 at University of Southern Maine in GorhamThu, 18 May 2017 00:30:42 +0000
Bus driver forgets 5-year-old boy on Gardiner bus Wed, 17 May 2017 22:13:22 +0000 An incident where a 5-year-old boy remained unnoticed on a school bus left at the school bus barn in Gardiner has triggered an investigation by the school district.

The boy was spotted as he was walking alone along U.S. Route 201 — also known as Brunswick Avenue — about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, apparently trying to get home.

Gardiner Police Chief James Toman said Wednesday that the boy was walking south on Brunswick Avenue, also known as Route 201, when he was spotted by “a good Samaritan” about 4:40 p.m. The bus barn is on Brunswick Avenue near Pushard Lane.

The boy was given a ride home by Officer Samuel Quintana.

The incident has triggered an investigation by Maine School Administrative District 11, the Gardiner area schools, according to Superintendent Patricia Hopkins.

“This is the type of event that every superintendent dreads,” Hopkins said via email Wednesday. She said she learned of the incident Tuesday evening. “I became aware that a young elementary student was not dropped off at his home and was left unaccompanied on a school bus at the bus barn.”

She also said, “I can assure you that the school district has taken this matter extremely seriously and has initiated an investigation. To the extent that its cause may lie with an employee, by law, I cannot comment on what actions might be taken. I can guarantee however that there will be a thorough review of all our practices to ensure that this does not happen again.”

She added, “Both the school board and the administration make great efforts to ensure that the students entrusted to our care are safe,” Hopkins said. “We have enacted protocols and practices to prevent the exact situation that occurred late yesterday afternoon.”

She said drivers are expected to check buses before leaving them at the school bus depot, a protocol “clearly outlined in the bus driver handbook.

“The student fortunately made it home safely due to the intervention of a concerned citizen and the police,” she said.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

]]> 0 Ninety-two percent of school bus drivers believe it’s “their job” to step in when a student is being assaulted, taunted or threatened, a survey found – but only 56 percent say they’ve been trained in how to intervene in bullying incidents.Thu, 18 May 2017 08:24:30 +0000
Maine family gives $50 million ‘transformational’ gift to Bates College capital campaign Wed, 17 May 2017 01:42:02 +0000 A Maine family with fourth-generation ties to Bates College has donated $50 million to the Lewiston school, the largest single gift in its history and probably the largest cash gift to a college in Maine, campus officials said.

The donation came from Alison Grott Bonney and Michael Bonney, who both graduated from Bates in 1980.

“I believe that never in the history of the liberal arts tradition has a liberal arts education been more critical, when one thinks about the future of our society, than today,” Michael Bonney said.

The gift was announced as part of a five-year, $300 million capital campaign, the largest capital campaign in the school’s history.

“This campaign will be transformational for Bates,” President Clayton Spencer said Tuesday night at a campaign kickoff event held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

“The Bates Campaign provides us with the opportunity to secure the programs and values that have defined Bates for a century and a half and to shape new strategies for a new age,” she said.

Last year the Bonneys gave a $10 million gift, which was the largest single gift in the history of Bates at the time.

Other Maine colleges have received large donations, sometimes in objects, not cash. In February, the Colby College Museum of Art received its second gift of art valued at more than $100 million from longtime supporters Peter and Paula Lunder, which will launch the Lunder Institute for American Art.

Also this year, Colby received $25 million from the Davis Family Foundation to fund study abroad opportunities, and $10 million from Portland developer Joseph Boulos toward a new athletic complex.

Last year, Bowdoin College in Brunswick received a $10 million gift from college trustee David Roux and his wife, Barbara, to build a new center for studying the environment.

The University of Maine and University of Southern Maine are both launching major capital campaigns this spring.

Colby is also in fundraising mode this year, having recently announced it already had raised $100 million toward a $200 million state-of-the-art athletic center on campus that will include the state’s first Olympic-size swimming pool.

Michael Bonney has served as a Bates trustee since 2002 and as board chairman since 2010.

The Bonney family has ties to Bates going back to the 1920s, when Michael Bonney’s maternal grandfather graduated in 1927. Michael and Alison’s three children all graduated from Bates. Their $50 million gift, from the Bonneys’ family foundation, will help build new facilities and renovate existing science, technology, engineering and math facilities.

After graduating from Bates with a degree in economics, Michael Bonney began his career with Maine-based Hannaford Brothers, working in the supermarket chain’s pharmacy operation. He worked at several pharmaceutical companies before retiring in 2014 as CEO and director of Cubist Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Merck for $9.5 billion.

Bates spokeswoman Marjorie Hall said the college already has raised $168 million toward the capital campaign.

Of the $300 million goal, $75 million is earmarked for financial aid; $100 million for academic programs, including $24 million for eight endowed professorships; $65 million for student programs, including $25 million for athletics and $24 million for internship and work-related programs; and $60 million for the endowment and annual fund.

Bates’ endowment, as of last June, was $251 million, Hall said.

Bates College has about 1,800 students, and tuition, fees, room and board are $66,720 a year. In the incoming class this year, 42 percent received need-based financial aid.

Bates has been open to men and women from all racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds since its founding by Maine abolitionists in 1855.

Noel K. Gallagher can be contacted at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> 0 GROTT BONNEY MICHAEL BONNEYWed, 17 May 2017 15:08:02 +0000
Augusta ed tech says schools discriminated against her for saying ‘I will pray for you’ Tue, 16 May 2017 16:32:50 +0000 AUGUSTA — An employee has filed a complaint of religious discrimination against the Augusta School Department, alleging that she was unfairly disciplined for telling a co-worker that she would pray for him in September.

The employee, educational technician Toni Richardson, has filed her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces civil rights cases involving workplace discrimination. She announced her complaint at the State House on Tuesday afternoon, standing next to her attorneys.

“This entire year Toni has had to self-censor herself, making sure she’s not using religious language,” said one of her attorneys, Jeremy Dys of the First Liberty Institute, a national organization that represents clients in similar cases. “This has been a hard year for Toni. She’s even had to refrain from wearing jewelry that has a cross on it, because if someone were to overhear this private conversation or see that religious imagery round her neck, then she could face discipline or even be terminated.”

As part of her complaint, Richardson is asking the school department to throw out a memorandum it sent to her and tell her fellow employees that they won’t face discipline for using religious language, Dys said.

But in a written statement, school officials said they had been working with Richardson to address her concerns and were surprised by the legal complaint that she filed this week.

“We are very surprised and extremely disappointed by the filing of this EEOC complaint for the simple reason that we had made a good faith proposal to Ms. Richardson’s lawyers to address her concerns and resolve this matter,” the statement read. “And while they had promised to get back to us (and we were waiting to hear from them), they have instead chosen to litigate without any response to our proposal.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer from another national organization that tries to keep religion out of public institutions said that groups like First Liberty Institute take up cases like Richardson’s to advance a narrative that Christianity is under attack.

Though it did not appear to be the case in the recent legal action against the Augusta School Department, those groups sometimes use their complaints to justify actions that discriminate against LGBT people and other populations, said Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director at Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“There has been, in recent years, a growing number of cases where religious believers allege they’re being discriminated against by government bodies,” Luchenitser said.

Then referring to groups like First Liberty Institute, he continued, “They try to paint a picture of Christians as being persecuted by government whenever they learn of incidents like the one being alleged, when in fact Christians are the majority group in America.”

In her complaint, Richardson, a special education technician at Cony High School, said she was disciplined by the school department after trying to offer words of encouragement to a co-worker, who also attends her church, by telling him she would pray for him. She said she was later “interrogated” by school officials, who sent her a “coaching memorandum” telling her what she can and cannot say in school.

While announcing her complaint Tuesday afternoon, her attorney handed out copies of that memorandum, in which a school official referred to the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits public institutions from favoring certain religions.

“In the future, it is imperative you do not use phrases that integrate public and private belief systems when in public schools,” wrote the official, whose name was redacted from the copy of the memorandum. “This coaching memorandum is not considered disciplinary in nature and will not be included in your personnel file. If you have any additional interactions that are deemed unprofessional by administration, you will be subject to disciplinary action and/or possibly dismissal.”

Dys, the attorney from the First Liberty Institute, said Tuesday afternoon that, even though the official said the memo would not go in Richardson’s personnel file, the threat of possible dismissal suggested that it essentially was going in her file.

“All I’m asking for is for the memo to be taken away,” Richardson said during a brief remarks at the State House. “It makes me feel nervous and scared.”

Richardson provided more information in a written complaint, a copy of which is available on the First Liberty Institute website.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Augusta School Department said it “recognizes the rights of employees to hold and express religious beliefs and it never was our intent to unlawfully restrict those rights.”

The department said it rewrote its memorandum to Richardson to “make this crystal clear” and gave a copy of the rewritten memorandum to her attorneys for them to review, but had not heard back from the legal team until learning of the complaint this week. It was not clear late Tuesday whether the rewritten version of the memorandum was the one her attorneys distributed at the State House.

“We remain strong believers that here in Maine important issues like this are best resolved through honest and open dialogue,” the school department wrote in its statement. “We believed this is exactly what was happening – and it is so disappointing that our commitment evidently was not shared. While we disagree with some of the allegations that have been made, now is not the time and place to get into a debate over those issues.”

The First Liberty Institute, based in Texas, is the largest legal organization in the country that works to protect religious freedom, according to its website. Richardson also has Maine attorneys, including Timothy Woodcock, who was at the announcement on Tuesday.

Zachary Heiden, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, was not aware of Richardson’s case until a reporter contacted the organization Tuesday.

Without addressing the specifics of the case, Heiden said that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment allows students and teachers to practice their religion, whether by wearing a crucifix or writing an essay with religious themes.

He said there are also some groups that have challenged laws like the Affordable Care Act under the Free Exercise Clause, stating that it violates their religious beliefs.

The ACLU has defended clients on Free Exercise grounds, Heiden said, but it has opposed laws that use the principle to infringe on the rights of LGBT people, like the so-called religious freedom bill that was proposed in the Maine Legislature in 2015. That year, similar laws that were passed in Arkansas and Indiana led to protests and a national backlash.

]]> 0, 16 May 2017 22:14:19 +0000
Panel gets early look at plans for Colby College athletic complex Tue, 16 May 2017 01:32:55 +0000 WATERVILLE — The Planning Board on Monday got a first look at plans for a $200 million athletic complex to be built at Colby College that would have the first Olympic-sized swimming pool in the state.

The proposed 350,000-square-foot athletic complex will be built on Campus Drive, diagonally across the street from Johnson Pond, and is expected to be the largest in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, which includes Colby, Bates, Bowdoin, Middlebury, Hamilton, Trinity, Williams, Amherst and Connecticut colleges, as well as Wesleyan and Tufts universities.

No vote was taken on the proposal Monday, but Colby representatives said they would come back to the board for final approval June 5.

Construction on the athletic complex is expected to start this summer and be ready for occupancy in 2020, after which the current Alfond Athletic Center would be demolished to create green space, according to Mina Amundsen, Colby’s assistant vice president for facilities and campus planning.

“I do want to highlight that sustainability is a key concept for the building and the site,” Amundsen said.

The building will have a landscaped courtyard that is open to the sky, she said. Wetlands along the edges of the site will be preserved.

Stephen Mohr of Mohr & Seredin Landscape Architects Inc. of Portland, noted that the building will be on 30 acres, 27.5 of which are already developed, so only 2.6 acres will change as a result of the new development. Mohr said there will be “zero wetland impact” as a result of the project.

Kelley Doran, Colby’s assistant director of capital planning and construction and a licensed Maine architect, said there are two entrances planned.

The planned athletic complex, above, will occupy the same site as the current one, right.

“The strength and fitness area will be more or less in the center, on all three levels of the building,” she said.

Because it will be such a large building, officials wanted to bring in a lot of natural light, Doran said.

The exterior facade of the building will be a combination of glass and brick, and the exterior around the field house and ice rink will be a mix of metal panels and panels that look like frosted glass, she said.

The plans include an indoor competition center with a 200-meter track and a multi-level, 13,500-square-foot fitness center.

The new center, to be available for use by the community, region and state, will be among the best Division III facilities in the country, according to Colby officials.

The new center will include a gymnasium, 50-meter swimming pool, squash and aquatic centers, a hockey arena, studios, training rooms and coaching suites. Colby officials say the center will serve as a resource for the entire campus, as well as athletes from Waterville, the state and New England.

The building of the center represents the largest single project in the college’s history and is expected to create an economic boon to the city, bringing in more than $1 million in revenue a year to the area from people staying in hotels and eating and spending money on other activities, according to Colby President Greene.

The aquatic center is expected to become a destination in northern New England for swimming groups from across the state.

Excavation started last year to move Colby competition fields to create space for the new athletic complex.

Those three new competition and recreational fields include a practice field, a competition soccer field and Bill Alfond Field, which will continue to be used for competition field hockey and lacrosse. The new fields are behind the current athletic center and will be playable in the fall.

Colby also is investing more than $45 million in downtown revitalization efforts that include building a student residential complex and boutique hotel and renovating a historic building, all on Main Street.

Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:


Twitter: AmyCalder17

]]> 0 College's new athletic complex is planned to be a state-of-the-art facility.Tue, 16 May 2017 09:26:29 +0000
Cape Elizabeth High places 8th in national mock trial competition Tue, 16 May 2017 00:31:17 +0000 Students from Cape Elizabeth High School placed eighth in the national mock trial competition last weekend, the highest ranking ever for a Maine school, officials said.

Cape Elizabeth students have gone to the national competition seven years in a row, but no Maine team had ever placed higher than last year’s 20th, according to social studies teacher and team coach Mary Page.

Cape Elizabeth was one of 46 teams in the 2017 National High School Mock Trial Competition in Hartford, Connecticut.

Cape Elizabeth junior Grace Roberts was recognized as one of the 10 best attorneys performing at the competition, Page said.

Other team members were: Marianna Godfrey, Kinnon McGrath, Will Pearson, Libby Palanza, Emelie Jarquin Manegold, Colby Mayer, Lauren Cutter, Lilia Membrino and Samantha Vaughan. The attorneys coaching the team were Dick O’Meara, David Hillman, Sheila Sawyer and Jon Sahrbeck.

In mock trials, students prepare both sides of a case. Teams face off in actual courtrooms, and trials are presided over by judges and attorneys. At this year’s nationals, student teams tried a scenario involving the murder of a teenager after a Halloween party and the legitimacy of the confession provided by the defendant at a college initiation ceremony.

]]> 0 Mon, 15 May 2017 20:31:52 +0000
School nickname change divides Vermont community Mon, 15 May 2017 01:00:55 +0000 SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. — A move to change a high school team name to be more inclusive has sparked death threats, a stalking charge and likely contributed to the defeat of the school budget twice in a Vermont community that has long supported education.

The South Burlington School Board voted unanimously in February to drop the “Rebel” name at the high school come fall because of previous connections to the Confederacy. But some alumni and parents say the name change is unnecessary and if the school board wants to change it, it should be put to a public vote.

The school board declined during its Wednesday meeting to allow voters to make that decision.

“The rebel name to me means pride. It had nothing to do with the Confederacy,” Stacey Savage, an alumnae whose kids have also gone through the school system, said after the meeting. She’s part of a group that opposes the name change and said it may seek legal action.

The move to change the name came about because of a gradual shift in the largely white school, whose population is now nearly 20 percent nonwhite, said South Burlington High School Interim Principal Patrick Phillips. He said the nickname has created discomfort for some students.

Superintendent David Young told the school board in February that it had become “crystal clear” to him that the nickname “is interfering with all students’ ability to feel safe and included in our schools. That is unacceptable to me and should be unacceptable to everyone.”

Some schools, colleges and professional teams have retired Native American nicknames or mascots deemed offensive. The College of the Holy Cross, in Worchester, Massachusetts, will examine its Crusader mascot starting in the fall.

School team names typically have a long history and heritage and emanate from tradition, said Bruce Howard, of the National Federation of State High School Associations.

“I think certainly schools sometimes have to be open to whether the climate’s changed,” he said.

South Burlington once had a mascot that resembled a so-called rebel Southern soldier from the Civil War. The mascot is long retired and now just the name exists, as well as strong feelings about it.

In February, Principal Patrick Burke, the high school’s principal currently on a leave of absence, said he didn’t think the Rebel name is racist or bad.

“But because we cannot escape the unfortunate historical Confederate context going forward, it’s no longer a symbol the SBHS of today can 100 percent rally around,” he said.

A member of a group opposed to the name change was charged in March with threatening a student over the student’s position about the change.

On Friday, an 18-year-old student pleaded not guilty in federal court to making death threats to students and staff at the high school, causing three lockdowns and class cancellation. The Burlington Free Press reported that one of the email threats discussed the Rebel name change.

The community has twice rejected school budgets in recent months and Phillips thinks the name change and associated costs – around $50,000 – has probably contributed to the defeats.

A third vote on a revised budget that removes the name change expense takes place in June.

At Wednesday’s meeting, resident Claudia Berger pressed the board to allow voters to decide.

“I urge you to again put this to a binding vote and I think we will get the healing that we need,” she said. The board declined, saying officials made the decision based on the best interest of the student body.

Fellow resident Sandy Dooley said she was opposed to a public vote on an issue that she said is a student’s right.

“I think that every student, every child who participates in our education programs here in South Burlington has a right to be in an environment that in every respect supports his or her opportunity to take full advantage of what we’re offering here. And I think there’s ample evidence that the ‘Rebel’ identifier interferes with that,” she said.

A new nickname has not been decided.

]]> 0 pass a scoreboard bearing the "Rebel" nickname at South Burlington High School in Vermont. The school board is facing local resistance after voting to change the name.Sun, 14 May 2017 21:41:03 +0000
Texas Southern University drops Sen. John Cornyn as graduation speaker Sat, 13 May 2017 22:54:32 +0000 Once reserved for cheesy senior photos at campus landmarks, college commencement exercises have graduated into something different six months after Donald Trump was elected president: a battleground for protesting conservative policies and the people who promote them.

The latest quarrel ended Friday, when historically black Texas Southern University canceled one of its scheduled commencement speakers – John Cornyn, the Republican senator from Texas who is on Trump’s short list to head the FBI.

The rescinded invitation came after students threatened to boycott a commencement ceremony featuring Cornyn and signed a petition on demanding that the university drop the senator because of his policy stances.

The petition called Cornyn’s presence an “insult” to Texas Southern and suggested that students have a right to boycott their own graduation ceremony if the administration kept Cornyn as speaker against their wishes.

The university’s capitulation has drawn Texas Southern into the debate about free speech at U.S. colleges and universities that has stirred controversy several times when conservative speakers have planned to set foot on campus.

The protests often make national headlines and are something officials have to take seriously.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was booed as she spoke earlier in the week at the commencement ceremony of Bethune-Cookman, another historically black school. Administrators there did not act on petitions asking that DeVos not be allowed to speak.

Instead, DeVos had to raise her voice as she thanked mothers who attended the ceremony. Moments later, about 380 students turned their backs on her.

Earlier this year, Berkeley administrators flip-flopped on a decision to let Ann Coulter speak on campus over safety concerns surrounding student protests. Coulter declined their second offer and roasted California university officials in the media and on Twitter.

At Texas Southern, more than 800 people had signed the petition asking administrators to drop Cornyn as a commencement speaker. By Saturday morning, organizers had declared victory with a little red flag at the top.

“The decision to host Mr. Cornyn as a keynote speaker sends the message that the policies and views he has advocated and supported, including both discriminatory policies and politicians, are acceptable by the university and subsequently the student body,” says the petition written by Rebecca Trevino.

It ticks off a list of Cornyn’s policy stances:

He voted for DeVos for U.S. Education secretary and against expanding a children’s health insurance program.

And he voted in favor of requiring a voter ID in federal elections, a move critics say makes it harder for blacks and other minorities to vote.

In a statement on Facebook, the university said it was trying to keep commencement positive, with a focus on students and their families.

“Every consideration is made to ensure that our students’ graduation day is a celebratory occasion and one they will remember positively for years to come,” the statement said. “We asked Senator Cornyn to instead visit with our students again at a future date to keep the focus on graduates and their families. We, along with Senator Cornyn, agree that the primary focus of commencement should be a celebration of academic achievement.” The school wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Trump’s administration worried some leaders this month when he released a statement that some interpreted to mean that a key funding source for historically black colleges and universities might not be constitutional.

A few days later, Trump said in a statement that his previous comment “does not affect my unwavering support for HBCUs and their critical education missions.”

Cornyn is the second-ranking Senate Republican and has been more vocal in his support of Trump in recent weeks. He was one of four people scheduled to interview Saturday to serve as the FBI’s new director, after James Comey was abruptly fired Tuesday.

In an email to The Washington Post on Saturday, a spokesman said “Senator Cornyn was honored to be invited to address TSU’s graduates, but he respects the administration’s decision and looks forward to continuing to engage with the university in the future.”

]]> 0 Sat, 13 May 2017 18:54:32 +0000
Maine graduation season springs into high gear Sat, 13 May 2017 22:34:17 +0000 The Maine College of Art graduation ceremony Saturday was a little offbeat compared to traditional commencements full of the usual pomp and circumstance.

Graduates and faculty marched into the State Theatre in Portland to the quirky beat of the electronic jazz band Jaw Gems, instead of the requisite brass ensemble.

The only gowns were worn by the 20 master’s degree recipients, while the 88 undergraduates wore optional mortarboards and walked across the stage to receive their degrees in fashionable raiments. The audience also got a good look at each graduate’s art as slides of their work flashed on an overhead screen as they were handed their diplomas.

It was no doubt the only graduation in Maine on Saturday that featured the college president – in this case, interim president Stuart Kestenbaum – reading an original poem as his welcoming address while sporting “academic bling” – a shiny necklace with pendants representing each of the college’s departments fashioned by a faculty member.

The graduation season shifted into high gear Saturday, with hundreds receiving degrees at ceremonies across the state.

More than 900 University of Southern Maine undergraduate and graduate students received degrees at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland in a ceremony that featured journalist and Waterville native David Brancaccio, host of American Public Media’s “Marketplace Morning Report,” as speaker.

In Orono, more than 1,900 University of Maine graduates received degrees in two separate ceremonies at the Harold Alfond Sports Arena. The university’s 215th commencement ceremonies featured speakers Heather and Abe Furth – UMaine graduates and Orono-area entrepreneurs.

Degrees were also conferred on more than 650 students at Saint Joseph’s College in Standish, where Kerry Weber, a Catholic author and social justice advocate, spoke to graduates.

The York County Community College graduation of 263 students at the Ogunquit Playhouse featured speaker Jean Ginn Marvin, the innkeeper at Nonantum Resort and chairwoman of the Maine Community College System board of trustees.

At Unity College, 150 graduates heard from Jimmy Chin, a documentary filmmaker, National Geographic photographer and climber known for skiing Mount Everest from the summit.

At the MECA commencement in Portland, artist Lily Yeh, who brings art projects to traumatized and impoverished places around the globe – such as a village of genocide survivors in Rwanda and a community of dump pickers in Kenya – spoke to the students about effecting change through art.

“Creating art in forlorn and forsaken places is like making a fire in the darkness of a winter night,” she said.

But while the ceremony was heavy on speeches exhorting students to find meaning through their art, there was also some useful advice.

Speaking on behalf of the faculty, Marie Shurkus, chairwoman and associate professor of academic studies, told the students not to fear failure but to view it as a bridge to success.

“Look fear in the eye and invite it to tea,” Shurkus said.

Some MECA graduates said they were sad to leave college but excited about the future.

Justin Desper, 23, of Kennebunk is aiming to become a designer of wearable technology. Desper, who transferred from the University of Maine to MECA as a junior, said he will miss the art college.

“I loved MECA. I felt more at home here and more connected than at any other school I attended,” he said.

Greta Wilsterman, 22, of Falmouth, Massachusetts, said she was excited about her upcoming two-year internship with potter Silvie Granatelli in Floyd, Virginia.

“She only has one apprentice and I get studio space,” Wilsterman said.

Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at:

Twitter: QuimbyBeth

]]> 0 walk down the staircase before Maine College of Art's commencement Saturday at the State Theatre in Portland.Sat, 13 May 2017 19:03:18 +0000
School choice funded by deep pockets, survey reveals Sat, 13 May 2017 21:53:55 +0000 The Associated Press examined political contributions over a 10-year period by the people who have been major contributors to advance school choice measures such as public charter schools and programs to use taxpayer funding to pay for private school tuition.

Some key findings:

Forty-eight individuals or married couples donated at least $100,000 from 2000 to 2016 to support statewide ballot measures advocating for the creation or expansion of charter schools or taxpayer-funded scholarships that can be used for K-12 private school tuition.

Those contributors account for more than three-fifths of funding to support the ballot measures since 2000.

The support from those contributors totaled nearly $64 million, nearly equal to the amount all opponents of the measures reported spending.

Despite the proponents’ spending, voters rejected seven of nine statewide school-choice ballot measures.

The contributors also are major givers to officeholders, candidates and causes. They donated a total of nearly $225 million from 2007 through last year. The biggest portion of their contributions went to candidates, party and general ideological political action committees.

Their spending was roughly even over that period on school choice causes, other education measures that were not specifically advocating for school choice, and causes that are not linked directly to education.

Teachers unions, which represent 4.5 million employees, reported giving about 21/2 times as much to political campaigns and committees as the 48 individuals and couples gave over the 10-year period.

The wealthy school choice advocates also put millions into nonprofit groups that advocate and fund school-choice measures.

The school choice advocates generally support public charter schools, which are run by different rules than traditional schools and often fall outside the oversight of local school districts. But their views diverge on the role of vouchers, which use taxpayer money to pay tuition at private schools. Still, the dividing lines are not always neat: Some contributors who say they oppose vouchers have funded groups that support them.

]]> 0 - In this Monday, July 25, 2016 file photo, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks during the first day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The nation's two largest teachers' unions _ the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers, which have 4.5 million members combined _ contributed $573 million to campaigns and political action committees from 2007 through 2016, much of it designed to counter the spending of the wealthy families and their affiliated groups. The American Federation of Teachers has had conversations with some charter school advocates it has opposed in the past about coordinating to fight a national voucher program, said Randi Weingarten, president of the union. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Sat, 13 May 2017 18:10:55 +0000
Betsy Devos’ political resume built on fundraising, contributing Sat, 13 May 2017 21:29:05 +0000 Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s education secretary, built her political resume by raising and contributing millions of dollars to support the cause of giving parents choices on where their children go to school.

The daughter of one wealthy businessman and the wife of another, DeVos has headed a series of groups that help rich contributors spend large sums on elections, including one that was assessed the biggest fine ever by the Ohio Elections Commission.

A look at her political activities.


DeVos is the daughter of an auto parts manufacturer who married into another wealthy Michigan family, the one that runs Amway.

Her family is steeped in politics. Her father, Edgar Prince, was a major early donor to the Family Research Council. Her husband, Dick DeVos, lost a 2006 run for governor of Michigan, and DeVos herself served as the chairwoman of the state Republican Party. Her brother, Erik Prince, is the founder of the security company Blackwater, which has had key government contracts.

Her education experience is mainly through advocating for school choice. She attended private Christian schools. Her children, now grown, were educated through a combination of private schools and homeschooling.

During a 2001 appearance at a retreat of Christian philanthropists, she said, “Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.”


DeVos personally contributed at least $2.3 million to candidates and political action committees from 2007 through last year.

Her family, including husband and one-time Michigan gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, mother Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, brother Erik Prince and father- and mother-in-law Richard and Helen DeVos contributed a combined $19 million in that same period.


Twenty years ago, DeVos wrote an opinion piece for the Washington publication Roll Call in which she said her family was the leading contributor of “soft money” donations to political parties. Unlike money given directly to a candidate, money given to the political parties is largely unregulated, thus the term “soft money.”

“We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American virtues,” she wrote. “We expect a return on our investment; we expect a good and honest government.”


In 2000, DeVos was a key player in a ballot initiative fight in Michigan over whether the state would allow vouchers for private schools.

She and her husband contributed nearly $1.6 million to the losing effort. The couple and their relatives paid for more than one-third of the campaign overall.


In 2006, DeVos’s school-choice group, All Children Matter, had a political action committee in Virginia, where contributions are unlimited. The group raised $17.8 million that year, and more than 40 percent of it was contributed to affiliated PACs in other states.

The group asked Ohio campaign finance regulators if it would be OK to shift money from Virginia to Ohio, a state with strict campaign contribution limits. The state said it would be illegal.

The committee made the shift, anyway. All $870,000 spent by the Ohio operation of All Children Matter that year was funneled through Virginia.

Ohio campaign finance regulators in 2008 ordered the group to pay $5.3 million in fines, an amount it still has not paid.


In recent years, DeVos’s groups had significant independent spending on political races.

Generally, groups can spend without limits as long as they don’t coordinate with campaign committees. In most places, they’re not required to disclose the individuals who fund them, which is why some of this kind of expenditure is known as “dark money.”

According to tax filings from 2011 through 2015, groups DeVos ran or that were subsidiaries of those she ran – American Federation for Children, American Federation for Children Action Fund, Great Lakes Education Project and Students First Pennsylvania – combined for nearly $20 million in political spending. Some of that money may have been double-counted after being passed from one of the organizations to another.

It’s not clear how much of that money was from DeVos herself.


At least two groups that do not report their donors ran ad campaigns to support DeVos’s confirmation.

Those groups are Club for Growth, a major supporter of conservative candidates across the country, and America Next, which was formed by then-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2013.

]]> 0 DeVos comes from a family steeped in Republican politics, and has long been an advocate of school choice, putting her in good standing with President Trump.Sat, 13 May 2017 18:07:34 +0000
Trump lashes out at ‘pathetic’ critics Sat, 13 May 2017 20:58:37 +0000 LYNCHBURG, Va. — President Trump on Saturday lashed out at “pathetic” critics and the establishment class he charges with trying to block his path.

Speaking to graduates at Liberty University, Trump returned to his outsider message. He spoke about challenging the Washington order as he struggles with a political crisis that has intensified with his contradictory explanations for his firing FBI Director James Comey.

“I’ve seen firsthand how the system is broken,” Trump said, and how a “small group of failed voices” tries to dictate how to live and how to think.

“No one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can’t be done,” Trump said. “Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic, because they’re people that can’t get the job done. But the future belongs to the dreamers, not to the critics.”

Trump has admitted that Comey’s investigation into Russian connections to Trump’s inner circle was a factor in his decision to fire the FBI director.

Trump’s threatening Twitter post warning Comey that he may have recorded private conversations between the two has intensified concerns among both Republicans and Democrats about whether Trump is working to undermine the independence of the nation’s top law enforcement agency.

]]> 0 Sat, 13 May 2017 17:48:31 +0000
Saint Joseph’s College receives $2 million gift for nursing program Sat, 13 May 2017 19:45:23 +0000 Saint Joseph’s College received the largest capital gift by any individual in the Standish college’s 105-year history Saturday.

The $2 million gift was made by Jeanne Donlevy Arnold of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, to the college’s Center for Nursing Innovation. The gift will be used to address shortages in the nursing workforce in Maine and across the country.

Donlevy Arnold, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Saint Joseph’s in 1983 and is a university trustee, announced the gift as a surprise during graduation ceremonies Saturday. Earlier, she received an honorary doctorate in public service from the school.

She said her bachelor’s degree from Saint Joseph’s opened new opportunities and enabled her to pursue a career in nursing. “Those opportunities turned out to be transformative and beyond all my expectations,” she said in a statement. “I am proud of how Saint Joseph’s College set my life on a new course so many years ago.”

Donlevy Arnold earned her bachelor of science degree in professional arts from Saint Joseph’s distance learning education program, now the online program. A retired senior vice president of Good Samaritan Hospital, she served as campaign chairwoman in the effort to raise $3.5 million to meet a $1.5 million challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation for a Center for Nursing Innovation at the college.

College president James Dlugos said the new nursing center will be named in Donlevy Arnold’s honor. The Jeanne Donlevy Arnold Center for Nursing Innovation will offer five learning labs for hospital and home-care settings; $1 million in scholarships for Maine students; new offices and conference rooms; and the renovation and development of student labs.

In addition to the honorary degree that she received Saturday, Donlevy Arnold has received honorary degrees from the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences and Lebanon Valley College.

Board member Carol Strobeck praised Donlevy Arnold for her commitment to her profession and the school. “Your consistent commitment to nurses and the profession of nursing has led you back to your alma mater, where you are now helping Saint Joseph’s address one of our nation’s most critical health-care needs,” she said.

]]> 0 Donlevy ArnoldSat, 13 May 2017 17:50:10 +0000
Maine graduation season springs into high gear Sat, 13 May 2017 19:06:25 +0000 The Maine College of Art graduation ceremony on Saturday was a little offbeat compared to traditional commencements full of the usual pomp and circumstance.

Graduates and faculty marched into the State Theatre in Portland to the quirky beat of the electronic jazz band Jaw Gems, instead of the requisite brass ensemble.

The only gowns were worn by the 20 master’s degree recipients, while the 88 undergraduates wore optional mortarboards and walked across the stage to receive their degrees in fashionable raiments. The audience also got a good look at each graduate’s art as slides of their work flashed on an overhead screen as they were handed their diplomas.

It was no doubt the only college graduation in Maine on Saturday that featured the college president – in this case interim president Stuart Kestenbaum – reading an original poem as his welcoming address while sporting “academic bling” – a shiny necklace with pendants representing each the college’s departments fashioned by a faculty member.

The graduation season shifted into high gear Saturday with hundreds of students receiving degrees at ceremonies across the state.

More than 900 University of Southern Maine undergraduate and graduate students received degrees at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland in a ceremony that featured journalist and Waterville native David Brancaccio, host of American Public Media’s “Marketplace Morning Report,” as speaker.

In Orono, more than 1,900 University of Maine graduates received degrees in two separate ceremonies at the Harold Alfond Sports Arena. The university’s 215th commencement ceremonies featured speakers Heather and Abe Furth, who are UMaine graduates and Orono-area entrepreneurs.

Degrees were also conferred on more than 650 students at St. Joseph’s College in Standish, where Kerry Weber, a Catholic author and social justice advocate, spoke to graduates.

The York County Community College graduation of 263 students at the Ogunquit Playhouse featured speaker Jean Ginn Marvin, the innkeeper at Nonantum Resort and chairwoman of the Maine Community College System board of trustees.

At Unity College, 150 graduates heard from Jimmy Chin, an athlete, documentary filmmaker and National Geographic photographer.

At the MECA commencement in Portland, artist Lily Yeh, who brings art projects to traumatized and impoverished places around the globe – such as a village of genocide survivors in Rwanda and a community of dump pickers in Kenya – spoke to the students about effecting change through art.

“Creating art in forlorn and forsaken places is like making a fire in the darkness of a winter night,” she said.

But while the ceremony was heavy on speeches exhorting students to find meaning through their art, there was also some useful advice.

Speaking on behalf of the faculty, Marie Shurkus, chairwoman and associate professor of academic studies, told the students not to fear failure but to view it as a bridge to success.

“Look fear in the eye and invite it to tea,” Shurkus said.

Some MECA graduates said they were sad to leave college but excited about the future.

Justin Desper, 23, of Kennebunk is aiming to become a designer of wearable technology. Desper, who transferred from the University of Maine to MECA as a junior, said he will miss the art college.

“I loved MECA. I felt more at home here and more connected than at any other school I attended,” he said.

Greta Wilsterman, 22, of Falmouth, Massachusetts, said she was excited out her upcoming two-year internship with potter Silvie Granatelli in Floyd, Virginia.

“She only has one apprentice and I get studio space,” said Wilsterman.

]]> 0, ME - MAY 13: Ashley King wears a flower on her cap during Maine College of Art's commencement at the State Theatre. The graduate from Portland, Oregon received a master of arts in teaching. (Staff photo by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer)Sat, 13 May 2017 19:07:44 +0000
Boy, 8, who committed suicide never reported being bullied Fri, 12 May 2017 23:38:17 +0000 CINCINNATI — An 8-year-old boy shown on surveillance video being knocked to the floor unconscious at school two days before he killed himself told the staff he had fainted and never said he had been bullied or assaulted, a school spokeswoman said Friday.

Gabriel Taye’s mother didn’t learn of the bullying until her attorneys saw a copy of an email written by a Cincinnati police homicide detective in an investigative file that describes the scene outside a boys’ bathroom, her lawyers said. The attorneys have questioned why the mother was told he fainted on Jan. 24 when the video shows he had been injured by another boy at Carson Elementary School.

The school spokeswoman said administrators weren’t aware of the recording until days later when the detective investigating Gabriel’s suicide requested surveillance videos from security officials.

Meanwhile, the Hamilton County coroner said she is reopening the investigation into Gabriel’s suicide. He hanged himself with a necktie in the bedroom of his Cincinnati apartment on Jan. 26.

On Friday, a small group of demonstrators gathered on the sidewalk outside Carson Elementary, with some parents complaining about their children being bullied.

Carolyn Emery has two children at the school, including a daughter who was in first grade with Gabriel. She said he was a “very loving little boy who always had a smile on his face.”

]]> 0 Fri, 12 May 2017 20:27:29 +0000
Former Exeter admissions officer pleads guilty to sexual assault Fri, 12 May 2017 23:20:47 +0000 BRENTWOOD, N.H. — More than 40 years after he sexually assaulted a prospective student at the prestigious Phillips Exeter prep school, a former admissions officer has pleaded guilty to the charge but will serve no jail time.

Rockingham Superior Court Judge N. William Delker on Friday approved a plea agreement for 75-year-old Arthur Peekel, a former Illinois high school Teacher of the Year, whose 12-month sentence was suspended.

“While I believe that there is some satisfaction to sending someone like you who committed a crime like this to jail, no amount of jail time is going to right the wrong you committed in this case,” the judge said, adding that he hoped the guilty plea and sentence would change the culture and show that this “kind of conduct, no matter how long ago it occurred, will come back to roost.”

Peekel also has to pay a fine of $1,200 and register as a sex offender for the next decade.

He showed little emotion as he acknowledged assaulting Lawrence Jenkens when Jenkens visited the school as a 14-year-old in 1973.

He never directly addressed Jenkens, who was in court with his family and several alumni, and he left without making any comments.

Peekel was named Teacher of the Year in 1992 while at the Illinois high school. Officials there said they were unaware of the Exeter allegations when they hired him and no allegations were made against him there.

Jenkens, who later graduated from Exeter, said he pretended to be asleep as Peekel abused him. He told school authorities repeatedly about the abuse, including meeting with the principal at the time to describe it. But it was only last year that Exeter referred his case to the police.

When Jenkens was interviewed by police about the abuse, he confronted Peekel over the phone. The conversation was recorded by police in Greensboro, North Carolina, where Jenkens is head of the art department at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Jenkens said Peekel apologized on the call but never acknowledged wrongdoing and suggested Jenkens was dreaming.

“I think the first thing that Arthur Peekel did was end my childhood,” Jenkens said, reading from a statement in court. “I was scared to death that night … In my experience, children who were abused were murdered … I assumed that night I was going to die.”

Jenkens went on to detail how the abuse had haunted him for the past four decades, describing how it made it difficult to form intimate relationships and how he left Exeter “not with a sense of my potential as a young man but instead with sense of grave doubt about my abilities and very little sense of self-worth.”

But with the guilty plea and sentencing, Jenkens said, he finally has closure and “understands maybe more clearly than ever before that I am a victim, that it wasn’t my fault and that I didn’t do anything to deserve what happened to me.”

Concerns about sex abuse at Exeter were first raised after revelations in March 2016 about former teacher Rick Schubart, who was forced to resign in 2011 after admitting sexual misconduct dating to the 1970s. In April, another teacher was fired amid allegations he had sexual encounters with a student decades ago. Then, the Peekel case came to light.

Those cases prompted the school to launch its own investigation, leading to a report in which it identified five more former staff members accused of abuse.

A law firm commissioned by Phillips Exeter identified four teachers and a psychologist accused of sexually inappropriate behavior involving eight students from 1966 to the 1980s.

Three of the accused have died. The other two were barred from campus.

]]> 0 Peekel, center, a former admissions officer at Phillips Exeter Academy, follows his lawyer Philip Utter, left, past reporters after a court hearing Friday in Brentwood, N.H.Fri, 12 May 2017 19:20:47 +0000
Deering High senior makes a very public musical ‘promposal’ Fri, 12 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Katie McCabe wasn’t nervous.

“One more minute?” she asked excitedly. “Is that him?”

McCabe held her violin in her hand and craned her neck to look up the stairs. She stood in the lobby at Portland’s Deering High School with four members of her band – two guitarists, a bassist and a singer. Students crowded around – their cellphones at the ready – waiting for the sixth band member.

Elliott Weeks, the drummer, was in class on the second floor. Any minute, his teacher would send him to the main office. Weeks didn’t know he was really walking into an elaborate “promposal.” McCabe was waiting at the bottom of the stairs to invite him to the annual dance, but she wasn’t going to just walk up and ask.

“Why not go all out once in front of everyone?” McCabe said beforehand. “I’m a senior. I can just graduate the embarrassment away.”

The Deering High School prom is scheduled for Saturday at the Marriott at Sable Oaks in South Portland. The event is open to juniors and seniors and their dates, so sophomores like Weeks aren’t allowed to attend unless they go with upperclassmen. Though Weeks and McCabe are in different grades, they have known each other since middle school. When McCabe and four other seniors formed a band this past winter, they asked Weeks to be their drummer.

“Our name is TBD,” McCabe said. “Our rule is that every time someone asks what it stands for, we have to come up with something different. So let’s see, today our band is called Tyrannosaurus Box Dumplings.”


When the rest of the band starting making plans for the prom, Weeks wanted to join.

“He said, ‘Hey you should take me. I want to go, and I don’t have a date,'” McCabe said. “So I said sure.” McCabe certainly isn’t shy. She is a competitive tap dancer, a camp counselor and a natural public speaker. She decided to do something flashy to formally invite her friend to the prom.

She thought about corny invitations – a box of candy with a note about how sweet prom would be. She remembered last year when someone wrote “PROM?” in chalk on the school patio. At least four other people pretended it had been their idea and used the message to ask their dates. She wanted to do something even bigger.

Weeks had been nagging the band to learn the Dexys Midnight Runners song “Come On Eileen,” so McCabe rewrote the lyrics to swap “Eileen” with “Elliott.” The rest of the band learned the song on the sly during free periods at school. McCabe conspired with one of Weeks’ teachers. Last Thursday, less than two weeks from the prom, the time came to execute their plan.

The final period of the day had just begun.

Minus Weeks, the band met in a soundproof studio in the music room at Deering. They had time for a couple of practice runs.

“We don’t have anything to lose,” McCabe said.

“You have a prom date to lose,” joked Spencer Todd, one of the guitarists.

Singer Helen Bellafiore reread the lyrics on her cellphone. Todd high-fived Caroline Hodson, the other guitarist, after their first run-through. Bassist Jade Bucha planned to hold a white board with the words, “Prom?” McCabe did a little dance of excitement as they practiced. At 2 p.m., TBD took it from the top one more time, and then they were ready.

They split up as they filed out of the music room.

“2:25, main lobby, be there,” Bellafiore shouted at a group of students in the hallway.

Bellafiore and Bucha ran to the library to print out the lyrics. Todd and Hodson went to set up their guitars in the main lobby. McCabe ran to a first-floor classroom to borrow a dry-erase marker for the white board.

“Will you go tell Mr. Adams to send Elliott to the office at 2:25 p.m.?” she asked another student.

The girl ran up the stairs, and McCabe raced to meet the band near the front door to the school.

“Good luck, Katie,” someone shouted.

A crowd gathered in the main lobby. Teachers in the nearest classrooms allowed their students to empty into the hallway. They opened Snapchat on their phones.

From the stairs came the faint sound of footsteps, and then a cheer went up.

Weeks had arrived.


Weeks laughed when he saw the other members of TBD and dropped his backpack to the ground.

McCabe grinned and brought the bow to her violin to play the song’s opening chords. The guitarists began to strum.

“Come on, Elliott,” the band sang. “Come on, Elliott.”

Bellafiore launched into the lyrics.

“Poor old Elliott,” she sang. “Sounded sad upon the mention of prom, thought he’d go solo all along. Oh, his mother cried, she’d bought him a suit so who could blame her.”

The crowd grew as the music drew people from their classrooms. Students walking in the front door stopped to listen. Bellafiore hit the chorus.

“Come on, Elliott, oh I swear, what we mean, at this moment, you mean … everything,” she sang. “Kate in that dress, her thoughts I confess, verge on flirty, come on Elliott.”

At the music slowed, McCabe put down her violin. The crowd cheered. She swayed to the music and pointed at Elliott.

“You’re a sophomore, but my age is more,” McCabe sang. “So I’m askin’ you, come on, Elliott.”

In the background, Bellafiore chimed in.

“Come on, Elliott, go to prom,” she sang.

Students began to dance and wave their phones in the air as TBD played the final verse. Weeks laughed, and when the final notes died away, he joined the raucous applause.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

Correction: This story was revised at 8:50 a.m., May 12, 2017, to reflect the correct spelling of Katie McCabe’s name. An earlier version of the story spelled her name incorrectly.

]]> 0 of the members of the band TBD – from left, Jade Bucha, Elliott Weeks, Katie MacCabe and Spencer Todd – celebrate MacCabe's elaborate plan to ask Weeks to the prom. Though they're in different grades (sophomores like Weeks can't go to the prom unless asked by an upperclassman), they have known each other since middle school. Deering High School's prom is set for Saturday in South Portland.Fri, 12 May 2017 10:54:56 +0000
Maine lawmakers reject 2 bills to loosen restrictions on guns at schools Thu, 11 May 2017 23:09:03 +0000 AUGUSTA — A bill to allow carrying concealed weapons at Maine’s public colleges and another to permit guns in cars at K-12 schools were both effectively defeated in committee Thursday.

The college concealed carry bill was rejected in part because several Republicans on the Joint Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs thought the current system – which allows trustees to set gun policy for their campuses – was working.

Maine’s public colleges currently forbid guns on campus except by express permission from officials and in certain situations, such as a visiting law enforcement official. Some schools allow students to lock up their guns with campus or local police while they are in residence.

“For example, at Orono, very often people hunt on the way in, can lock up their guns on campus and then hunt on the way home. That seems to be a very reasonable way to do that,” said Sen. Brian Langley, R-Ellsworth, who voted against L.D. 1370.

The bill, defeated 11-2, would have required colleges to allow people to carry concealed firearms on campus, except in dorms and at public venues, such as a stadium or concert hall, when signs forbidding guns during an event are posted.

Representatives of the University of Maine System, the Maine Community College System and Maine Maritime Academy, where the bill would apply, all opposed the legislation.

Ten states allow students to carry firearms on campus. The most recent legislation was signed by the Georgia governor last week.

State law allows anyone 21 or older to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

Also Thursday, the committee rejected a bill that would have allowed guns to be carried in cars at child pickup or drop-off areas at K-12 schools.

Although supporters offered to amend the bill to require firearms be unloaded and in a locked box or gun rack, the original bill, L.D. 988, failed 9-4.

“I just don’t like the idea of guns being on a school campus, period,” said Rep. David McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield. “I understand it’s an inconvenience in some places or in certain seasons. But the idea of someone coming onto the grounds with a gun makes me terribly nervous.”

In 2007, in the wake of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, the Maine Legislature determined that the state would neither ban nor permit guns on public college campuses, leaving it up to the institutions. In 2009, that was expanded to private colleges in Maine.

Maine is one of 23 states that leave the decision up to each college or university, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> 0 the third time in as many years, gun rights supporters are trying to pass a law making it legal in Maine to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.Fri, 12 May 2017 00:17:47 +0000
Casco Bay High School instructor in running for state teacher of the year Thu, 11 May 2017 22:11:05 +0000 A Casco Bay High School teacher is one of 16 in the running to be named Maine’s teacher of the year.

Brooke Teller, a chemistry teacher at the Portland expeditionary learning school, was named Cumberland County teacher of the year, one of 16 county teacher of the year winners recognized Thursday at a ceremony in the State House Hall of Flags in Augusta.

“She (Teller) is a spendid educator and an even more splendid human,” Casco Bay High School Principal Derek Pierce said in his nomination letter.

Pierce credited Teller with launching a new course, The Chemistry of Mars, which she taught with a University of Southern Maine professor. Teller also led a course on climate change, where juniors studied the chemistry of climate change and produced newscasts for local fifth-graders. The students then formed a group known as Climate Change Warriors.

Teller holds a bachelor’s degree from Smith College and a master’s from Central Connecticut State University. She was previously nominated as teacher of the year in Connecticut and has taught chemistry for more than 15 years.

The Maine Department of Education said in a statement Thursday that each county winner will submit a video showcasing their classroom practices before the field is narrowed to eight. After a portfolio review and presentations to the selection panel, the field will be narrowed to three.

In October, after a school site visit and interview, the state’s top teacher will be announced. The Maine Teacher of the Year is a program of the Maine Department of Education in conjunction with Educate Maine, an education advocacy organization based in Portland.

Other nominees include: Nesrene Griffin of the Governor James B. Longley Elementary School in Lewiston; Christopher Coleman of the Great Salt Bay Community School in Damariscotta; Jen England from Noble High School in North Berwick; John Dever, a teacher at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham; and Lisette Bordes, a teacher at Messalonskee High School in Oakland.

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

]]> 0 Thu, 11 May 2017 20:29:16 +0000
Feature obituary: Waynflete mourns loss of ‘inspiring’ educator Deborah Curtis Thu, 11 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Deborah Curtis, a popular history teacher at Waynflete School for more than three decades, died Monday after battling cancer. She was 64.

Debba Curtis, as everyone called her, taught history, U.S. government and a popular Constitution class. She was also a student adviser and worked with Waynflete’s theater and mock trial programs.

“Without question, Waynflete is as diminished by her loss as it was enriched by her participation in it,” Head of School Geoff Wagg said in a letter to the school community. “There is simply no way to adequately describe how much she meant to generations of students as a teacher, director and adviser. Her classes were always lively and engaging, thought-provoking and inspiring.”

Before teaching, Curtis worked as an assistant district attorney in New York City in the 1970s.

She moved to Portland and began teaching at Waynflete in 1984. She was a popular teacher, known for her enthusiasm for history, law, music and theater, colleagues said.

Lowell Libby, director of the upper school, said Curtis touched a lot of lives through the years, sharing her passions for law and the Constitution with her students.

“It was agonizing for her not to be teaching with everything happening in the country,” Libby said. “She would have loved to be on campus, talking about all the issues in the news. She made learning very powerful. She did a lot of work connecting what students were studying to what is happening today.”

Her second love was theater, especially musicals by Gilbert and Sullivan and Rodgers and Hammerstein, and directed several over the years.

“She could really get the kids fired up,” Libby said.

Ms. Curtis was remembered by her two sons Wednesday as a strong and fiercely independent woman who overcame many adversities with grace and humor.

Ms. Curtis began to lose her eyesight in her early 40s, and had relied on seeing-eye dogs for the past several years. But her failing vision never stopped her from living a full life, they said.

Ms. Curtis traveled, walked to work, directed plays, sang in a choir, raised her sons and was a voracious reader, holding books close to her face as her vision worsened.

Her son Ned Donovan, a professional actor living in New York City, shared stories Wednesday about the impact she had on students. Donovan said his mother introduced him to theater and was his cheerleader.

“She was an extremely supportive mom,” Donovan said. “She gave me the tools and confidence to grow on my own terms and was there to help when I needed her. She was a nurturer. Everything was a teaching moment.”

Another son, Will Donovan, noted his mother’s energy and spirit. He said she traveled to Paris, London, Washington, D.C., and Dubai.

“I was always very impressed by her ability to stay on the path despite anything,” her son said. “She was steadfast. She always stayed strong in the face of everything she went through.”

Ms. Curtis was diagnosed with cancer about 14 months ago and stopped teaching last year. She lived her last months in Small Point, where she spent summers all her life.

About two weeks ago, she visited her old classroom at Waynflete and met with students and colleagues.

“The room was packed with students,” Libby said. “It was incredibly powerful.”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

Twitter: MelanieCreamer

]]> 0 Curtis, who began teaching at Portland's Waynflete School in 1984, died Monday at 64.Thu, 11 May 2017 08:33:25 +0000
Twelve Maine students named national merit scholar finalists Thu, 11 May 2017 02:39:17 +0000 A dozen Maine students were awarded $2,500 as finalists in the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program, officials announced Wednesday.

The students are among 2,500 merit scholars nationwide chosen from a field of 15,000 applicants. They were judged on their academic record, scores on two standardized tests, contributions and leadership in school and community, an essay and a recommendation from a high school officials.

The winners are: Natalie J. Gale, Cape Elizabeth High School; Maggie K. Nolan, Greely High School; Paige J. Singer, Marshwood High School; Alexander L. Bartone, North Yarmouth Academy; Thomas J. Matthews, Gorham High School; Kyle Ryan, Kennebunk High School; Jake E. Koffman, Orono High School; Evan P. Kane, Scarborough High School; Steven H. Larkin, Cheverus High School; Ellen E. Stanton, South Portland High School; Benjamin M. Eneman, York High School; and Peter W. Kenealy, York High School.

]]> 0 Thu, 11 May 2017 00:57:48 +0000
Students shout, turn backs on DeVos as she gives commencement address Wed, 10 May 2017 23:28:00 +0000 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Drawing shouts of “Liar!” and “Just go,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos powered through her commencement address Wednesday at a historically black university, even as many of the graduating students turned their backs to her in protest.

“Let’s choose to hear one another out,” DeVos said, reading her prepared text in a measured tone despite continuing waves of boos, catcalls and scattered applause at Bethune-Cookman University.

As the crowd kept trying to shout her down, university president Edison Jackson briefly took over the microphone to sternly lecture the class of 2017. “If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go,” Jackson warned.

DeVos alienated many African-Americans in February when she described historically black colleges as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” After a storm of criticism, she acknowledged that these colleges were “born, not out of mere choice, but out of necessity, in the face of racism.”

In her keynote, DeVos repeatedly praised the school’s founder, Mary McLeod Bethune, as someone who “refused to accept systemic and repulsive racism,” and had “the courage to change old ideas.”

“I am here to demonstrate in the most direct way possible that I and the administration are fully committed to your success and to the success of every student across this great country,” she said.

President Trump’s nomination of DeVos, a Republican fundraiser with no classroom experience, was so controversial that Vice President Mike Pence had to cast a tie-breaking vote for her confirmation.

DeVos has continued since then to cite historically black colleges as examples of alternative options for quality education, her stated goal for promoting the diversion of tax money from public schools to private companies and charters.

]]> 0 DEVOSWed, 10 May 2017 21:33:08 +0000
Thomas College receives $5.3 million grant for new business institute Wed, 10 May 2017 18:24:46 +0000 WATERVILLE — The Harold Alfond Foundation announced Wednesday it is giving a $5.3 million grant to Thomas College for a new business institute at the school, launching initiatives such as an internship program and training sessions and workshops for both students and local businesspeople.

The investment, which will be used to create the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation, will help Thomas College “contribute to the renaissance of the greater Waterville region,” said President Laurie Lachance.

Lachance said she has seen the rebirth of Lewiston and Bangor and coastal communities in Maine.

“I want to leave you with this thought: It is our turn, central Maine. It’s time,” she said. “The foundation has invested in us. They believe in us. They know we can do this. We need to believe we can do this.”

The founders of the Alfond Foundation, which is named after Dexter Shoe company founder Harold Alfond, “understood that institutions of higher learning could lead a community,” said Greg Powell, chairman of the Alfond Foundation.

While globalization and technology changed the economic landscape of what was once a hub for manufacturing, “in recent years, this community and the foundation have seen and felt the opportunity to meet the challenges of change by changing,” Powell said.

Already, the foundation has a partnership with CGI, previously known as Collaborative Consulting, and others to create a student debt relief program with $5.5 million in startup funding, as well as $20 million in downtown Waterville revitalization in partnership with Colby College in Waterville.

Powell said Thomas College is “the perfect partner to help in economic growth” because of its strong leadership, its investment in educating central Maine’s workforce and its ability to collaborate with others.

“Thomas grads are so impressive that 20 percent of the workforce of the Harold Alfond Foundation is constituted of Thomas College grads,” he said. “At a time when Maine businesses require talent, Thomas is the region’s top educator of business students.”

Those who graduate from the college also tend to contribute to the area. More than 75 percent of graduates stay in Maine, and more than half of those graduates stay in central Maine.

Reilly Kons, 21, of Topsham, said the revitalization of Waterville is part of what’s inspired him to stay in the area. Kons is a senior studying marketing management who is interning at CGI and will join GHM Insurance Agency as an account executive in June.

“If you were going to tell me I was going to start my career in Waterville, I would’ve thought that something went wrong,” Kons said. “I’ve come to really love the area.”

The Institute for Business Innovation “envisions a new role for Thomas to engage with the business community,” Powell said, and establish a “pipeline of talent” in the area.

Powell also encouraged business leaders to become involved with the institute, saying that Harold Alfond “loved teamwork and he loved action, and he liked to say, ‘Don’t tell me. Show me.’”

The $5.3 million grant, which covers the total cost of the institute, will allow the college to establish a paid internship program with local business partners such as the Central Maine Growth Council, Greenlight Maine, and Adam Burk and Co. It also will organize programming for undergraduates and graduates in entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as a number of certification programs and workshops for businesspeople.

Mike Duguay, a former director at Summit Natural Gas, will lead the institute as its executive director.

“This is a very special place, a hidden treasure that has the potential to dramatically change the way” that higher education is delivered in the area, said Duguay, a native of Fairfield and one of the founders of the original Kennebec Valley Entrepreneurial Network.

The institute is already in the midst of its first one-week intensive class on entrepreneurship, which has 19 students, and plans to partner with organizations in the community to foster business locally. For example, the season finale of Greenlight Maine, a show where entrepreneurs present their ideas with the hopes of winning a cash prize to fund it, will be filmed live at the college on June 6.

Megan Ruby, 19, of New Gloucester, is one of the students in the intensive one-week course on entrepreneurship. As someone working with a group of students and Duguay to develop a fitness product, Ruby said the course has been very helpful.

While it’s only the third day, the students already have gone through scenarios with three different prototypes, envisioning the different target markets.

“It’s a good opportunity to sit down for a week and think,” Ruby said. She was stuck in a rut with her own product, trying to figure out where to go with it, and the course has provided a “good chance to see it from a different perspective.”

The institute also will house the Alfond Fellows, who will “serve in the spirit of a group who might have been called town fathers or mothers,” said Chris Gaunce, vice president of Central Maine Motors and chairman of the board of directors for the Central Maine Growth Council.

The fellows will meet one-on-one with local businesspeople, students and entrepreneurs to help them in different areas of business, said Mikaela Ziobro, director of strategic initiatives at Thomas College. The mentoring program is live now, and those who would like to participate can contact the institute and Duguay, who will help them identify the issues and match them to a mentor with an appropriate skill set, Ziobro said.

Among the mentors are Bill Mitchell, who runs GHM Insurance; Kathy Corey, vice president of merchandising and personnel at Day’s Jewelers; and Charlie Gaunce, owner of Central Maine Motors.

Lachance said the foundation approached the college about two and a half years ago and asked the college to devise an idea that would grow both the school and the area, and it would fund it.

After traveling the country to research what other business schools were doing and presenting ideas to a study group to get feedback, the college decided on the institute.

“Thomas has never been in a better position to work as an economic catalyst,” said Conrad Ayotte, co-chairman of the board of trustees at Thomas College.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

Twitter: @madelinestamour

]]> 0 College students and staff members listen to speakers Wednesday after an announcement that Thomas College would receive $5.3 million from the Harold Alfond Foundation for the new Harold Alfond Institute of Business Innovation at the Waterville college.Thu, 11 May 2017 11:33:47 +0000
University of Maine at Farmington biomass plant exceeds expectations in first year of operation Tue, 09 May 2017 20:57:56 +0000 FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington’s new biomass plant has outperformed expectations in its first year in operation, lowering energy costs and usage and generating $7 in economic activity for every dollar spent to fuel the plant, according to university officials.

With the additional savings the plant has created, it is on schedule to pay itself off in less than the 10 years initially projected, although UMF director of facilities management Jeffrey McKay said he would not know until June just how much the university saved in energy costs this year. Even so, McKay said the plant had proven more efficient, using less fuel overall than in previous years and requiring less energy for heat and hot water.

“It is exceeding expectations. It’s going very well,” McKay said. “It’s definitely living up to those expectations, but actually a little bit better. It’s hard to quantify exactly how much, better because I don’t have a lot of data yet.”

The plant heats and provides hot water for 23 UMF buildings, or 80 to 85 percent of the campus, with plans to add a building to the plant’s heating loop in the future, McKay said. The remainder of the campus relies on geothermal energy.

As part of the university’s sustainability plan, fuel for the plant must be sourced within 50 miles of the campus, cutting down on the plant’s carbon footprint. That plan also has proved a boon for the local economy. According to the Northern Forest Center, every $1 the university has paid to fuel the plant has generated $7 in local economic activity. By that calculation, the $165,000 the university paid for wood chips this past year generated an additional $1.2 million.

The university unveiled the plant last March after delays in a long-discussed natural gas pipeline extension to Farmington pushed university officials to look at other options. The plant was expected to replace 95 percent of the 390,000 gallons in heating oil and reduce the university’s carbon emissions by 3,000 tons a year. McKay said he expects to exceed those projections thanks to work the university recently undertook to upgrade heating systems in three residence halls on the biomass loop.

The plant also employs an electrostatic precipitator, a type of filtration device, to clean its ash emissions. That ash is rendered so clean that it has been approved by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association for use on crops, McKay said. Several local farms are using the ash in lieu of lime, though the plant generated only about 40 yards of ash this winter.

It is not clear if UMF’s switch to biomass further stalled plans to extend natural gas lines in Franklin County. Lizzie Reinholt, spokesperson for Summit Natural Gas, cited Franklin County’s remote and rural location as well as mountainous areas as some of the challenges facing natural gas providers interested in expanding in the region.

“We are always looking for new opportunities to expand our footprint and increase access to natural gas,” Reinholt said. “In order to warrant any type of expansion, however, we need to have enough customers at the end of every line we build. Unfortunately, at this point it doesn’t make economic sense to expand to Farmington, as the cost of the project continues to be a barrier to growth.”

McKay said a natural gas plant would have been a cheaper alternative to the biomass plant, at least initially, but argued that the current plant goes further to reduce the university’s environmental impact.

“We’re pretty strongly feeling that that’s what we’re going to find, is this is definitely a greater impact on carbon footprint reduction than if we were bringing in natural gas,” McKay said.

The plant is just one of the latest moves in the University of Maine System’s push to reduce its energy costs and environmental impact. In 2015, the system’s board of trustees voted to divest itself partially from investments in the coal industry. As part of its “coal divestiture policy,” the board agreed to withdraw about $500,000 of its $1.7 million in coal investments and screen future investment options to prevent new investment in the coal industry. Last month, the system announced a new investment policy that “will give consideration to Environmental, Social, and Governance principles in making investment and management decisions,” according to a university news release. While the new policy does not commit the system to divestiture from all fossil fuels, it promises to “weed out the worst offenders,” said University of Maine Trustee and Investment Committee Chair Karl Turner.

The change comes as the University of Maine System marked a 34 percent reduction in its emissions since 2006. The system also accomplished an 87 percent reduction in consumption of high-intensity fossil fuels, including heating and fuel oil, as campuses across the system turn to a mix of renewable energy sources, natural gas and propane.

Kate McCormick — 861-9218

Twitter: @KateRMcCormick

]]> 0 Beckler, mechanical manager at the UMF Biomass Central Heating Plant at the University of Maine in Farmington, looks inside the wood-burning boiler system that heats 23 buildings on campus on Monday. At left is an electrostatic precipitator, which cleans air emissions from the burning fuel to near zero.Tue, 09 May 2017 18:07:41 +0000
Spare a dime? Puerto Rico seeks change to aid university Mon, 08 May 2017 23:33:28 +0000 SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The budget problems at Puerto Rico’s largest public university are so bad that the U.S. territory will soon ask people for spare change to support it.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello introduced a bill Monday to have commercial businesses ask if customers want to donate part of their change to the University of Puerto Rico, which faces deep cuts after the island’s decade-long economic slump.

The proposal comes as a federal control board overseeing the finances of Puerto Rico’s government seeks to cut $450 million from the university’s budget in upcoming years as part of overall cost-slashing measures. The school’s budget for the fiscal year ending June 30 was a little over $1 billion. Rossello has proposed that the cut be reduced to $241 million, but the issue has not been resolved.

Rossello’s measure would create a registry of businesses authorized to collect change donated to help the university, whose main campus and several others have been shuttered for a month by a strike by tens of thousands of students protesting the cuts.

Another bill the governor submitted would create a commemorative license plate to help raise funds for the school, with the institution receiving $20 per purchase.

The ideas were two of several that university students proposed during a recent meeting with government officials, said Thomas Rivera Schatz, president of Puerto Rico’s Senate.

“All those suggestions were carefully listened to,” he said, adding that he and a legislature controlled by Rossello’s party fully support the governor’s actions.

The looming budget cuts prompted nearly a dozen top university officials to resign in protest in February, and the strike followed shortly afterward. A group of students filed a lawsuit seeking to return to classes, and an appeals court last week ordered the university to open by Thursday.

Student leaders said they would not heed the court’s order but rather hold an assembly Wednesday to vote on the issue. University officials warned that if they don’t obey the order, a judge could impose penalties on them.

“We urge everyone to reflect so that the University of Puerto Rico can finally open its gates and continue with its mission,” said the university’s interim president, Nivia Fernandez.

The university has 11 campuses and more than 50,000 students. The system already has seen nearly $350 million in cuts in recent years.

]]> 0 protest looming austerity measures amid an economic crisis and demand an audit on the island's debt to identify those responsible during the May Day march in San Juan, Puerto Rico, last week.Mon, 08 May 2017 19:33:28 +0000
About 350 UMA grads expected at Saturday ceremony Sun, 07 May 2017 23:28:15 +0000 James Conneely will deliver his second and final commencement remarks as president Saturday during the University of Maine at Augusta’s 49th graduation ceremony.

Conneely resigned unexpectedly last month after less than 18 months on the job. His resignation is effective June 30, and University of Maine System Chancellor James Page expects to name an interim president by the end of May.

“It has been an honor to lead the university during the past one and a half years, and I continue to be amazed with the dedication of the faculty and staff to the mission of UMA and the students,” he said in a statement provided by his chief of staff, Joyce Blanchard.

Blanchard said the university will confer close to 600 degrees and she expects about 350 graduates to attend. The ceremony, where graduates from the university’s Augusta and Bangor campuses, online programs and University College Centers will receive associate and bachelor’s degrees, is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.

John Piotti, the president of American Farmland Trust, is the commencement speaker. He leads the organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., that has permanently protected 5 million acres of farmland and helped tens of thousands of farmers adopt environmentally sound farming practices.

Piotti spent eight years in the Maine Legislature and was the CEO and president of Maine Farmland Trust for a decade.

Jason Ryan, a 2008 graduate and current director of the Open Branch Project in Portland, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes the exemplary achievements of outstanding alumni whose personal lives, professional accomplishments and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater.

Senior Kim Carter, a frequent contributor to the Kennebec Journal, will receive the Kathleen Dexter Distinguished Student Award, given to a graduating student who has demonstrated specific contributions and excellence in scholarship, extracurricular participation and/or leadership, and community service outside of UMA. Carter will start a graduate program at Clemson University in South Carolina later this summer.

Zachary Pulsifer, who is receiving a bachelor’s degree in applied science, is this year’s student speaker.

Conneely’s resignation leaves the school searching for its fifth president since September 2014.

Allyson Handley left the school after six years at the helm to take a job in California. Glenn Cummings, former president and executive director of Good Will-Hinckley and the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences, took over as interim president at UMA after that; and in June 2015, he was appointed president of the University of Southern Maine. Rebecca Wyke, the University of Maine System’s chief financial officer, took over as interim president after Cummings left.

Conneely came to UMA after having been president of Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore, associate provost and vice president of student affairs at Eastern Kentucky University and assistant vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of Arkansas.

He began his 31-year career in higher education at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. He spent time at Villanova University outside of Philadelphia and Emory University in Atlanta. He moved to Fayetteville in 1993, where he served as Arkansas’ director of residence life and dining services before taking the position in the student affairs department.

Conneely has declined several requests for interviews to talk about his departure from UMA.

Jason Pafundi can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

Twitter: jasonpafundiKJ

]]> 0 University of Maine at Augusta, seen in this 2013 file photo, will confer close to 600 degrees Saturday during commencement ceremonies.Sun, 07 May 2017 19:35:39 +0000
Eighteen Penn State students face charges in hazing case Sat, 06 May 2017 21:15:44 +0000 BELLEFONTE, Pa. — Eighteen Pennsylvania State University students and their fraternity were charged Friday in one of the largest hazing prosecutions in the nation’s history, sending a chill through the campus in nearby State College as it was about to begin commencement festivities.

Eight students face involuntary manslaughter charges in connection with the death of Tim Piazza, 19, who suffered fatal injuries when he fell down a set of stairs during a Beta Theta Pi pledge party in February.

Flanked by Piazza’s parents and a blown-up portrait of the sophomore engineering major, Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller accused fraternity members of putting Piazza through a booze-fueled hazing ritual and failing to call for help once it was clear he was seriously injured.

With his arm wrapped around his wife, Piazza’s father, Jim, choked back tears.

“This did not have to happen,” he said. “No parents should have to deal with this.”

The charges were the result of a months-long grand jury investigation and served as an indictment of the Greek system at Penn State.

“The Penn State Greek community nurtured an environment so permissive of excessive drinking and hazing,” the presentment said, “that it emboldened its members to repeatedly act with reckless disregard to human life.”

The panel’s presentment described a ritual known as “the gauntlet” in which Beta Theta Pi pledges were required to stop at various stations, where they guzzled vodka, shotgunned beers, drank from wine bags, and played multiple rounds of beer pong.

Those charged with involuntary manslaughter also face felony charges of aggravated assault, which could result in prison terms, as well as other charges.

Ten other members of Beta Theta Pi face lesser charges, including hazing, furnishing alcohol to minors, reckless endangerment and tampering with evidence.

]]> 0 Sat, 06 May 2017 17:15:44 +0000
’13 Reasons Why’ stirs debate in Maine schools on issues surrounding suicide Sat, 06 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000 South Portland High School senior Julia Stanton has watched the wildly popular but controversial Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” mostly out of curiosity.

“I wanted to understand the strong reactions of my classmates,” she said. “And I certainly do.”

Emotionally heavy subjects such as sexual assault and suicide have been tackled by teen-targeted television shows, movies and novels before, but there is something about “13 Reasons Why” that has alarmed some educators and mental health experts.

The 13-episode series, based on a 2007 young-adult book by Jay Asher, launched March 31 on the video-streaming website Netflix. Viewers learn in the first episode that the main character, Hannah, 17, has taken her own life. She leaves behind 13 cassette tapes that collectively serve as an explanation for why she chose suicide. Each tape represents a person who wronged Hannah in some way. The rest of the series plays out largely in flashbacks that include an extended rape scene before culminating with Hannah’s suicide, which is shown in graphic detail.

The National Association of School Psychologists recently sent a notice to school mental health professionals offering guidance on how to talk to students about the show – the first time the group ever has made such a move. The American Psychological Association also wrote a letter cautioning youths who might have suicidal thoughts against watching the series, which has generated significant buzz, especially via social media.

The move comes as recent statistics show that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Mainers ages 10-25. The state has a suicide rate higher than the national average.

In Maine, the state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness partnered last week with the state Department of Education on a letter for school districts to send to parents, if they choose. Many have done so.

Susan Barry, director of coordinated school health programs for the education department, said the staff felt that it was important to respond to the series appropriately.

“I would say that it’s not a common occurrence, but if there is something that poses a safety risk, it’s important to be proactive,” she said.

Greg Marley, NAMI Maine’s clinical director, said the letter is meant to encourage parents to talk about the show with their children or watch it with them.

“This series really calls to the adults in kids’ lives to engage in a conversation about these issues,” he said. “We should be able to talk about suicide and talk about the stressors and drivers that get to understand why it should never be seen as a solution.”

The biggest concern, Marley said, is contagion or copycat behavior. That risk is biggest among adolescents, who tend to be impulsive.

Stanton said the classmates she has talked to “either love or hate the show,” with no one indifferent. She couldn’t think of any other work of fiction that has generated the same level of discussion among her peers.

“For some, it was simply a story they could watch in fascination and enjoy the fictional tale for what it is,” she said. “For many others, however, it was extremely triggering and overly graphic. It trivialized thoughts that many teens have had, and really upset a lot of students I know who watched it.”

Makeda Zabot-Hall, a freshman at Portland High School, said she heard about the show from friends before she sat down to watch it last month.

“It was a big thing on social media,” the 15-year-old said.

Makeda said she found the show “intriguing,” but felt that it underplayed the reasons for Hannah’s suicide.

“They did put it on (the other) kids,” rather than showing the role Hannah’s depression played in the events that led to her killing herself.

And some of the situations depicted in the show struck her as unrealistic, such as a school counselor telling Hannah to try to move on with her life after she was raped, rather than helping her deal with the trauma.


Dominic DePatsy, school superintendent in Saco, said he and other superintendents in York County decided collectively to send out letters to parents last Friday about “13 Reasons Why” before the public discussion grew louder.

“We kept it short rather than make a huge deal out of it,” he said. “We want them to be aware and have the opportunity to talk to their kids.”

DePatsy, who has five kids of his own ranging from 11 to 18, said if any of them showed interest, he would watch it himself first. So far, he hasn’t had to do that.

Jeff Porter, superintendent for SAD 51 in Cumberland and North Yarmouth, said his staff also sent notices to parents – a first.

“I think it’s definitely a topic that’s come to the forefront,” he said of teen suicide. “It used to be we would bury stuff like this and never talk about it. That’s not a choice anymore. And sometimes frank discussions are important.”

Porter has had that conversation with his own teenage daughter, who had been talking about the show with friends and wanted to watch it. Porter gave his OK, if he could watch it as well.

“I was concerned before I started but, having watched the first three episodes, I think it’s more about relationships than it is suicide,” he said.

He said athat lthough some professionals have urged a boycott of the show, he doesn’t think that would help.

“If you forbid it, then they watch anyway, but they won’t talk about it afterwards because they can’t acknowledge they watched it,” he said.

Cape Elizabeth also sent an email to parents that said vulnerable kids, especially those who have expressed thoughts of suicide, shouldn’t watch the series. The email also included a link to a statement from the National Association of School Psychologists expressing concern about the show and tips for how parents can discuss the series with their children.

South Portland Superintendent Ken Kunin said the buzz among students increased last week, after they all returned from April vacation.

By the time the NASP and the Maine Department of Education sent out resources, some administrators already were talking about how to address the show.

“We can’t tell kids to turn it off, but what we can do is engage them in meaningful conversation,” Kunin said.

Suicide risk among students is one of the things that keeps Kunin up at night. He said teachers and staff are much better trained on the issue than ever before, but he also worries that students may be exposed to more triggers, as well.

“There has been a lot of thoughtful research over the last 20 years about risk factors and sensationalizing or glamorizing – we know that to be a factor in people taking a permanent step to solve a temporary problem.”


Because Netflix is a subscription-based service, the series can show far more graphic images than a network TV show.

It’s those handful of graphic scenes, as well as the fact that Hannah’s suicide is driven in part by revenge against the people who let her down, that have driven concern.

Some also have criticized the depiction of a school counselor on the show, who does not take Hannah’s report of sexual assault seriously, and the fact that the series doesn’t explore whether Hannah has a mental illness that contributed to her suicidal behavior.

“What the series does accurately convey is that there is no single cause of suicide. However, the series does not emphasize that common among most suicide deaths is the presence of treatable mental illnesses,” NAMI and the Maine Department of Education wrote in the letter.

In 2015, there were 235 reported suicides in Maine. It’s the second-leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 25, according to NAMI, and the third-leading cause of death for those ages nationwide.

Maine’s rate of suicide is consistently higher than the national average and has been slowly rising over the last 15 years – a rate of 16.54 suicides per 100,000 residents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. By comparison, the national rate was 13.41 per 100,000 people.

The number of suicides among 15- to 24-year-olds in Maine increased from 17 in 2008 to 30 in 2014.

Marley said data from the annual Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey also shows that 14 percent of seventh-graders and 17 percent of eighth-graders had seriously considered suicide and about 6 percent of middle school students had made an attempt.

For a variety of reasons, he said, there have been more suicides and, in general, more stress and anxiety among young people.

“But suicide is preventable when we can recognize the behaviors and warnings,” he said.

The issue of teen suicide gained attention in Portland in March 2016 when a Waynflete junior became the second student at the private school to take her life in five months, and the school took the unusual step of posting public messages about the deaths on the school website.

Netflix, in response to the recent backlash, added warnings before the first episode and also before some specific episodes, including ones when sexual assault and suicide occur.

The online video-streaming giant also released a statement in the face of scrutiny.

“There has been a tremendous amount of discussion about our series 13 Reasons Why. While many of our members find the show to be a valuable driver for starting important conversation with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories,” it read.

The series also includes a 3-minute show called “Beyond the Reasons,” that further explores some of the topics in the show and offers resources.

Stanton, the senior at South Portland, said shows like “13 Reasons Why” can be productive, but she thinks it ultimately missed the mark.

“I believe that while suicide and teen sexual assault are important topics to discuss, an overly dramatized TV show isn’t the wisest first approach,” she said. “It glorifies a terrible and very real tragedy, and is sending the message to teens that the emotional revenge Hannah gets will somehow satisfy her even in death. Suicide is a permanent end to life, yet this show trivializes that by making Hannah the main character, still present in some way.”

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

]]> 0 REASONS WHYSat, 06 May 2017 12:09:35 +0000
Enrollment deposits by first-time students up 34% at USM Sat, 06 May 2017 02:20:42 +0000 The number of first-time students putting down deposits to attend the University of Southern Maine this fall is up 34 percent over last year at this time, signaling a turnaround for a campus that has struggled to increase enrollment and improve its finances.

“There is a lot more work to do before we open for the fall semester, but we are thrilled with where we are right now,” said Nancy Griffith, vice president for enrollment management at USM.

Incoming students had a May 1 deadline to put down deposits to hold their place.

First-year student deposits at USM increased from 563 students a year ago to 756 this spring, and the combined first-year and transfer deposits increased 20 percent from 948 students to 1,134.

Griffith said new strategies to recruit students include enhanced financial aid packages, outreach to all college counselors in Maine and accelerated undergraduate programs that lead to graduate programs and the University of Maine School of Law.

“We are truly moving in a new direction,” Griffith said.

University of Maine enrollment, 2012-2016

Includes undergraduate and graduate programs. Roll over the columns to see detailed figures for each campus.

Last year, USM closed a projected $6 million budget gap and balanced its budget without any emergency funds from the University of Maine System for the first time in years.

Systemwide, fall 2017 enrollment deposits are up 3 percent, officials said. In-state student deposits are up 2 percent despite declining demographics that mean there are fewer graduating high school seniors every year.

At the University of Maine in Orono, the number of first-year and transfer students putting down deposits was up 2.7 percent, from 2,737 last year to 2,810 this year. First-year student deposits alone are up 2.2 percent.

“We are excited about our record-setting number of first-year student confirmations,” UMaine President Susan J. Hunter said. “These incoming students reflect the hard work required to meet the challenge of recruiting in a formidable climate, with declining demographics and strong competition for qualified applicants.”

UMaine officials said the May 1 deposits were up 12 percent for out-of-state students and 21 percent for international students.

UMaine has aggressively sought out-of-state students, who pay up to three times more than the in-state tuition and fees cost of about $10,000. The Orono campus also offered new financial aid packages and continued its popular “flagship match” tuition program, which allows students from nine targeted states to pay the same tuition they would pay at the flagship campuses in their home states.

Students at Maine’s public universities will face a tuition increase this fall for the first time in six years, if the trustees approve the average 2.6 percent increase at their May 22 meeting.

Griffith said USM has a 28 percent increase in deposits from in-state students. Out-of-state student deposits were up 15 percent, but international student deposits are down, she said.

Systemwide, deposits are up 3 percent, according to system officials. The smaller universities in the system tend to attract older, nontraditional students who usually enroll closer to the fall, officials said.

The university system as a whole is emerging from years of financial turmoil, making increasing enrollment and tuition revenue a top priority.

Over the last five years, the system has been sharply focused on cutting costs and increasing revenue, even as it faced declining enrollment amid a tuition freeze and a state funding freeze.


]]> 0 University of Southern Maine, above, has been hard hit by recent cuts made by the UMaine System in an effort to close a budget deficit. Now we're learning more about a new center that would house combined graduate programs currently operating at USM and the University of Maine.Sat, 06 May 2017 00:09:00 +0000
Frustrated over budget crisis, Winslow officials ask residents to call Augusta Fri, 05 May 2017 00:44:34 +0000 WINSLOW — The school administration gave a presentation Thursday evening about what it calls a crisis budget situation and the increased needs straining the system to an audience of about 50 at the junior high school.

At the end of the meeting, the administrators handed out a sheet with contact information for the local representatives and asked people to call those in Augusta and ask them to restore school funding.

The proposed school budget of $14.68 million is 2.1 percent greater than last year’s budget. The increase, paired with a sharp decrease in state revenue, has left the school’s budget in the hole for nearly $700,000.

Schools across Maine are struggling with potentially massive cuts to state revenue after Gov. Paul LePage recommended 48 changes to the funding formula for essential programs and services.

At a budget workshop Tuesday evening, the Town Council said it would raise taxes by $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value, giving the surplus to the school, and use $350,000 from the fund balance to help make up the difference. A warrant article will be added to the ballot that would put any additional state revenue back toward the fund balance and local share.

As a compromise, the school will have to make another $150,000 in cuts. The school board recently voted to approve $200,000 in cuts before presenting the budget to the council.

Winslow schools, which are part of Alternative Organizational Structure 92 along with Waterville and Vassalboro, held an informational meeting about the budget issues to ask the public to help them restore education funding as well as let people know what’s going on.

“We’re all in this together,” Superintendent Eric Haley said.

Haley spoke about why funding public education was important, even for those who don’t have children in the school system.

“It’s our investment in human resource for the future,” he said, asking if people wanted someone who was uneducated to make decisions in the future about health care and elderly care. “It’s a responsibility that we have.”

Assistant Superintendent Peter Thiboutot spoke about why it costs more to educate students now, even though the district serves fewer people.

“It’s important to remember that we are a public school, not a private school, not a charter school,” he said. “Our responsibility is to serve and educate all students who live in our community. That includes students who live in poverty, students who are homeless, students who struggle with special needs.”

While it may be surprising, he said, “homelessness is a real concern.”

“It becomes difficult to focus on your school work when you’re worried about where you’re going to sleep,” Thiboutot said. Winslow schools have 17 identified homeless students, but he expects there are more.

Because of the federal McKinney-Vento Act, homeless students have a right to attend their school of origin even if they move to a different area. The school then is required to provide transportation, which can get expensive.

This is something the school can’t predict or account for because “you never know” who is going to be homeless, Thiboutot said.

The district also contracts with Kennebec Behavioral Health, which is serving 50 Winslow students with problems such as anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Thiboutot asked the audience a series of question before speaking, including about how many of them grew up in poverty and how many of them grew up without a sense of direction. A number of people raised their hands.

“I suspect you all have a story about school — about a teacher, a coach, an administrator who touched you in some way, who inspired you,” he said.

Now those teachers are being asked to “do more with less,” he said, “and, frankly, it’s taken a toll on them.”

Town Councilor Ken Fletcher also spoke, saying that this is a “solvable problem.”

The Legislature has to do two things, he said: restore municipal revenue sharing to 5 percent, which he said would get Winslow $500,000 per year; and fund education at 55 percent, which would give Winslow more than $700,000.

“It’s simple,” he said. “We could make sure we’re doing all the right things because we manage the money very well … but we cannot keep raising property taxes to compensate.”

A man in the audience said it seemed as though the town was “shirting the responsibility.”

“I want textbooks for this gentleman here,” he said, motioning to junior high Principal Jason Briggs. Textbooks for some subjects at the junior high were cut again this year.

While he said he understood the long-term issue, “my point is we can only deal with what we deal with right now.”

“I doubt we’re going to get much help (in Augusta),” he said.

Town Councilor Jerry Quirion said that the local representatives for the area are having a town hall-style meeting at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Waterville Senior High School, and they would listen if people showed up and told them what they wanted.

“We need your help. We need you to contact people to get the job done and stop making our children and others suffer,” Haley said, adding later, “Public schools are under attack in this country.”

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

Twitter: @madelinestamour

]]> 0 Fri, 05 May 2017 15:55:17 +0000
Astronaut from Maine leaves crowd of York County schoolkids seeing stars Thu, 04 May 2017 02:01:00 +0000 KENNEBUNK — It might have been her fascination with nature. Or maybe it was the way the stars looked from northern Maine.

Jessica Meir doesn’t remember exactly what prompted her, at age 5, to start saying she wanted to be an astronaut. In her high school yearbook, she wrote her plan for the future was to “go for a spacewalk.”

Three decades later, the Caribou native has completed astronaut training with NASA and is awaiting her first assignment in space. Her boss is Chief Astronaut Chris Cassidy, a York native and the only other astronaut from Maine.

Meir, 39, spoke to students from Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Arundel on Wednesday about her work as a scientist and her path to a new career at NASA. Before putting on a spacesuit for the first time, she studied emperor penguins in the Antarctic, worked with elephant seals in northern California and trained geese to fly into wind tunnels so she could measure their physiology in extreme environments.

Meir was selected in 2013 as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class and was one of only two class members without a military background. One of their first training exercises was survival school on Navy land near Rangeley.

“Only a few people get to be in a spacesuit. That’s when you feel like a real astronaut,” Meir told the 1,300 elementary students from RSU 21.

Meir graduated from Caribou High School in 1995 before earning her undergraduate degree in biology from Brown University, a master’s degree in space studies from International Space University and a doctorate in marine biology from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in 2009, according to her NASA biography. Early in her career, she worked for three years at the Johnston Space Center in Lockheed Martin’s Human Research Facility as an experiment support scientist. In 2002, she was an aquanaut on an exploration mission in Aquarius, an underground research laboratory.

After showing them a photo of Caribou from the International Space Station, Meir told students about the training she does at NASA and her job in the mission control center communicating with astronauts on the space station.

She prompted laughs as she described what it is like to feel zero gravity and the logistics of wearing a 400-pound spacesuit during 6-hour training sessions in a large pool. Those sessions are so long, she said, that astronauts have to wear diapers.

The spacesuit training stories were particularly interesting to 9-year-old Samuel Matthews, a third-grader at Kennebunkport Consolidated School.

“I didn’t know training was that exciting,” he said.

There may have been no student more excited for the presentation than fifth-grader Jaime Harrington of Kennebunk. She wanted to wear her NASA shirt, but when she couldn’t find it, had to settle for a T-shirt covered with a chart of the planets. The 10-year-old said she dreams of being an astronomer and loves the thought of “looking through a telescope and seeing the stars.”

“I thought it was really cool to see how people came from so many places and backgrounds and came together to study space,” she said of Meir’s astronaut class.

Harrington said she plans to work hard in science now and take STEM classes in high school. But would she want to actually go to space?

“I’d want to be the one in control of the astronauts from Earth,” she said.

Meir spent the day in Kennebunk, speaking to various student groups and at a community presentation Wednesday evening. Her visit was hosted by the school district and the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel, a nonprofit that raises money to support education in the school district.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

Twitter: @grahamgillian

]]> 0, 03 May 2017 23:43:08 +0000
U.S. colleges try to reassure foreign students, as applications decline Wed, 03 May 2017 20:05:23 +0000 On a trip to India, the president of Portland State University in Oregon reassured prospective students they’d be safe on his campus. Purdue University sent overseas applicants a note from two mayors touting Indiana’s “friendly smiles” and hospitality. And dozens of other schools produced online videos to welcome foreign students.

As U.S. colleges face new but significant declines in applications from abroad, many are rolling out marketing efforts to combat fears of harassment and concerns that President Trump’s stance on immigration reflects a United States that is becoming less welcoming to foreigners.

“Students are telling us that they don’t feel safe here in the United States. That they’re concerned about discrimination, racism,” said Katharine Johnson Suski, admissions director at Iowa State University. “This year it was a little more important to make sure that they felt comfortable with their decision.”

Colleges and universities have received a financial boost in recent years from international students, who are typically charged higher tuition rates than American peers who live in state. Some schools have come to rely on revenue from foreign students, whose enrollment has climbed sharply over much of the past decade, according to federal data.

But there is evidence enrollment figures at some schools could drop next fall. Nearly half the nation’s 25 largest public universities saw undergraduate applications from abroad fall or stagnate since last year, according to data colleges provided to The Associated Press in response to public records requests. Eight schools did not provide data, while six saw gains.

Prospective students attend an open house at the the University of New England’s satellite campus in Tangier, Morocco. Rachid Ouettassi/University of New England via Associated Press

International applications to the University of Arizona are down 24 percent compared with this time last year; California State University, Northridge, is down 26 percent. The University of Houston has seen a 32 percent drop, although it’s still accepting applications and its numbers will likely rise.

The U.S. Department of Education did not immediately comment.

Philadelphia’s Temple University sparked a chain reaction in November when it posted an online video featuring students and staff members saying “You are welcome here” in multiple languages, set to upbeat piano music. Since then, more than 100 other schools have made similar videos and circulated them abroad. Temple also hosted seven overseas receptions for admitted students, more than in the past.

At Iowa State University, officials are ramping up their overseas mailings to sell students on the school’s Midwestern charm. The University of Minnesota is considering a phone campaign. The University of Florida has produced videos featuring “global Gators” and is offering online video chats.

“Given the current climate, it seems like this is something which is even more important,” said Joseph Glover, provost at Florida. “Obviously we are concerned about the situation, like every other public university in the United States.”

Safety concerns are nothing new among international students, but many schools say anxieties have grown since Trump was elected. Some students have said Trump’s “America first” rhetoric and his proposal to ban immigration from six majority-Muslim nations have given them pause. Some application deadlines fell before the election, but even Trump’s campaign rhetoric cast doubts, experts say.


Students in India have been particularly alarmed, especially after a gunman shot two Indian men at a Kansas bar in March, killing one, after allegedly saying “get out of my country.”

Portland State President Wim Wiewel was in India soon after the shooting to meet prospective students, and the discussion quickly turned to safety. Wiewel and his wife reassured families that Portland, Oregon, is friendly to foreign visitors.

“People in America recognize that even though there are a few crazies around, it’s not like it’s open season on Indians or Muslims,” Wiewel said. “Having us talk to them totally took away their fears. But the problem, of course, is we can’t talk to everyone.”

Some government officials are trying to tackle the problem, too. Several of the videos feature cameos from state governors or congressional members. A top official from America’s embassy in India penned a newspaper column last week stressing that “U.S. colleges and universities take pride in providing safe and welcoming environments.”

Along with India, fewer applications have been coming from China and Saudi Arabia, which previously sent large numbers to American colleges. Experts say factors at play include economic turmoil in China and India, but some have blamed the downturn on a “Trump effect.”

Officials at the University of New England say Trump’s election has complicated plans to recruit Moroccan students. At a February open house in Tangier, the election was a frequent concern.


“Several students wearing hijabs wondered whether they would be welcome in the United States, given the election of Donald Trump and the rhetoric they were hearing,” said Anouar Majid, vice president for global affairs at the private school in Biddeford, Maine. “We assured them that the United States is very welcoming.”

When he applied to the University of New England, 17-year-old Aymane Lamharzi Alaoui was worried about discrimination, he said. Since then, he has spoken with family members in Boston and believes Americans are more welcoming than some of Trump’s comments suggest.

“I know there’s an increase in xenophobia and racism in the past couple of months in the U.S.,” he said in an interview. “I’m sure there are some places where I wouldn’t be very welcome, especially places in the southern United States, but I think most of the country is very tolerant.”

For most colleges, it’s too early to know how many overseas students will enroll next fall. But many say any loss could be a blow.

At Iowa State, where applications are down 23 percent, international students bring valued diversity, said Suski, the admissions director. And there is also the revenue they provide.

“There will,” Suski said, “be a financial impact on our campus come this fall.”

]]> 0 science major and resident assistant Clancy Phillips, right, speaks to prospective students at an open house at the University of New England's satellite campus in the Moroccan coastal city of Tangier. In response to concerns about anti-immigrant sentiment, some U.S. colleges are making new efforts to help international students feel welcome and reassure them of their safety.Wed, 03 May 2017 16:26:00 +0000
Bill would set Maine teacher salaries at minimum of $40,000 Wed, 03 May 2017 18:15:45 +0000 A bill to raise the minimum teacher salary in Maine to $40,000 a year was before lawmakers on Wednesday, more than a decade after lawmakers set the last minimum salary at $30,000 a year.

“If we want to show that we value and respect education, we must provide teachers with respectable wages,” Nate Petersen, a social studies teacher at Hermon High School, said at Wednesday’s public hearing. “We need standards that ensure anyone who becomes a teacher enters the classroom ready to reach, teach and inspire every student. You can’t attain those qualities when you’re only offering to pay someone a minimum of $30,000.”

The bill’s author, Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, had a similar bill last session, which failed in a party-line vote in the Senate. L.D. 818 would also raise teacher training standards and increase the amount of state student loan aid available to students training to be teachers.

Legislation passed in 2005 during the Baldacci administration set a minimum teacher salary of $30,000 a year. Under that law, the state sent money to districts to make up the difference between what the districts paid some teachers and the $30,000 minimum. The state funding stopped in 2012-13, when the supplement was eliminated in a cost-cutting move under the LePage administration, leaving districts to make up the difference.

The state Department of Education said Wednesday it would cost the state $14 million to implement the bill, since there are currently 2,959 full-time equivalent teachers who earn less than $40,000. L.D. 818 would require the state to increase a district’s allocation to meet the new minimum salary.

Today the average starting teacher’s salary statewide is $33,207, with a low of $30,005 in Aroostook County and a high of $35,831 in York County, according to a Press Herald analysis of Maine School Management Association data.

Millett said Wednesday that the starting salary is “so uncompetitive” that it discourages people from entering the field at all.

“Our low starting salary often forces our teachers to take second and third jobs to make ends meet,” she said before the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

A study of minimum teacher salaries by the National Education Association, which represents teachers, found that Maine ranked 41st in the nation for beginner teacher salaries.

According to federal statistics, the average salary for elementary and secondary teachers in Maine was $50,229 in 2015-16, putting the state 33rd nationally. The national average was $58,064 and Maine’s average teacher salary was well below all other New England states, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The state Department of Education has taken no position on the bill, but spokesman Ángel Martínez Loredo told the committee that the department was bringing forward its own bills regarding teacher training standards and a statewide contract for teachers that “would allow for a comprehensive review of salaries.”

On Thursday, the Education Committee will hold a public hearing for L.D. 864, which would create a statewide contract for teachers, but does not stipulate a minimum salary. DOE officials said a statewide contract would be one way to ensure a consistent starting salary across the state.

Gov. Paul LePage also pushed for a statewide teacher contract in his two-year budget proposal as part of his efforts to overhaul Maine’s K-12 funding formula.

Dick Durost with the Maine Principals’ Association was neutral on the minimum-salary bill. He said the group’s members had concerns about requiring a minimum 3.0 grade-point average for teacher trainees, saying many teachers have a gift for teaching that is not reflected in the GPA.

Several teachers told lawmakers that not only do they work extra jobs, they often pay for school and student supplies because of tight district budgets.

It’s not a fair set-up, said Cassandra Edwards, who teaches second grade at Vivian E. Hussey School in Berwick.

“I feel guilty because I’m spending (about $500 on supplies) on a very small income,” Edwards said. “The idea that teachers don’t make much money has become an excuse to not pay us more.”

“There is widespread recognition teachers are underpaid,” said C.J. Betit, with the Maine Education Association, which represents Maine’s teachers. A higher starting salary is even more important because close to a third of today’s teachers will be of retirement age in five to seven years. Already there are teacher shortages in Maine in several subject areas.

“Many vacancies will need to be filled,” Betit said. “And not only are teacher salaries low … but college students today are entering the workforce with an unprecedented amount of student debt, which substantially cuts into how far those salaries stretch.”

L.D. 818 will be discussed in a committee work session next week.

Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> 0 ISLAND. ME - JANUARY 28: Chebeague Island School fifth grader Logan Beaupré works on a writing project about the island on which he lives, as his teacher Kristin Westra helps third grader Sadie Todd in the grades 3-5 classroom on Wednesday January 27, 2016 . (Photo by Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer)Wed, 03 May 2017 23:53:46 +0000
Officials break ground on $25.5 million Colby College residential-retail complex Wed, 03 May 2017 16:30:49 +0000 WATERVILLE — The ceremonial shovels hit the dirt Wednesday as officials launched construction of a $25.5 million Colby College residential complex downtown that will house about 200 students and faculty and staff members involved in a special civic engagement curriculum.

About 100 Colby and city officials, as well as students, residents and economic development organizations, turned out for the groundbreaking at 150 Main St. on the northeast tip of The Concourse, which Colby bought earlier this year. The 100,000-square-foot complex is expected to open in August 2018.

Mayor Nick Isgro said a lot of milestones have been met along the two-year journey to get to this point, since city and Colby officials, business advocates and others started discussing ways to help revitalize downtown. Thanking and praising Colby President David Greene for his efforts, Isgro said the groundbreaking was a symbol of the symbiotic relationship between the city and Colby.

“This community has come together in a way that I have never seen in one shared goal we all have an interest in,” Isgro said.

Fifty years ago, the land on which the crowd stood was the site of controversy when, as part of urban renewal efforts, several buildings were eliminated, removing a large section of the vibrant downtown, according to Isgro, who said his grandfather argued before the city’s aldermen against doing so and eliminating that tax base.

As the sun shone on the construction site and wind whipped at the microphone, Greene thanked attendees for coming and said it was amazing to see the site cleared and ready for building a 100,000-square-foot residential complex with a retail component on the ground floor. The northeast tip of the first floor will be a glassed-in community space available for use by Colby and nonprofit organizations in the community, as well as for City Council meetings.

Greene touched on the city and Colby’s relationship throughout history, noting the college was founded in 1813, more than 200 years ago, before Maine became a state. Taking an extraordinary risk, Baptist ministers created the liberal arts college that eventually became Colby. But it did not happen without bumps and challenges along the way, according to Greene. In 1929, the country was facing a great depression and the college had to move. The people of Waterville raised more than $100,000 to buy land on Mayflower Hill for that purpose. Colby’s efforts now to help revitalize downtown is “payback,” according to Greene.

The college employs more than 900 people and pays $55 million a year in wages to workers, the vast majority of whom live in Waterville and the area. Colby also gives $6.5 million a year to support Colby students from Maine, according to Greene.

“Colby has been an important employer, but it’s also been an extraordinary educator,” he said.

As part of downtown revitalization, Colby bought the former Hains building across Main Street from the construction site and is spending more than $5 million to renovate it into offices for technology group CGI, some Colby offices and retail on the first floor. The building is expected to open this summer. Colby also bought the former Levine’s clothing store at 9 Main St., which has been demolished, and plans to build a 42-room boutique hotel on the spot that will feature a restaurant, employ 45 people with an annual payroll of $1.7 million and create about 140 construction jobs.

Greene said the efforts would not have been possible without the partnership among Colby, the city and others.

“You’re going to see some very fast work out here in the next several months,” he said.

In the crowd Wednesday were Colby freshmen Siobhan Pascal, 19, of Dominica; Emily Carter, 19, of Oklahoma; and Parker Sikora, 18, of New Hampshire, all of whom work in the college’s alumni center. They said they have the opportunity to speak to alumni and they explain the work that Colby is doing with downtown revitalization.

All three said students and staff members are excited about the college’s plans to integrate further into the community. Pascal said that being able to interact with people in the community and live in an apartment in the complex where students can make their own meals will give them a sense of independence.

While many students already take part in community service activities such as volunteering at schools, the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, the South End Teen Center and other places and are involved in the Colby Cares About Kids program, actually having students living downtown will strengthen that bond further and create a healthier relationship between Colby and the community, the students said.

“My hope is that it is working to leverage a stronger relationship between students at Colby and the greater Waterville area,” Sikora said.

Carter, an environmental policy and art major, and the others said they hope to live in the residential complex during their college career. Carter said she is interested in public art spaces and wants to get involved in that in the city.

“I love Waterville,” Carter said. “It reminds me so much of my hometown. I love the community service aspect of it and I don’t want to just be on the hill. I want to be in the community of Waterville.”

Cindy Jacobs, president of the Waterville Public Library board of trustees, who also serves on the city’s parking study committee, clapped as Colby and city officials and others dipped silver shovels into a pile of dirt at the site of the future residential complex.

“This is the best thing that can happen to Waterville,” Jacobs said. “We need a lot of young people in town. We’re looking for civic engagement, and it will bring a lot of volunteerism to the whole community. This community has needed a shot in the arm economically for a while. We are fortunate to have Colby stepping in to help improve not only our downtown, but also getting involved by supporting our schools and attracting young people to the area.”

John Butera, senior economic adviser to Gov. Paul LePage, was on hand for the groundbreaking. Butera said it takes a lot of people and time to get to where Waterville and Colby were Wednesday with revitalization efforts that will boost the economy and create jobs.

“You need that driving force, and Colby is that driving force,” Butera said.

Butera, who with Greene and others helped draw CGI to Waterville, was executive director of the Central Maine Growth Council from 2001 to 2010 and followed LePage, who is a former Waterville mayor, to the governor’s office.

Butera recalled his time in Waterville working on economic development and trying to attract businesses and jobs to the city.

“We were successful with T-Mobile at FirstPark and developing Hathaway. Those were two large-scale projects.”

Now, he said, with unemployment low, at 3 percent, the focus is on workforce development and getting people who are underemployed or not in the workforce trained for and placed in jobs.

Greene said after the ceremony that the residential complex and retail site is expected to open in August 2018 and the hotel in late 2018 or early 2019.

“I think the sun is shining on Waterville today,” he said, standing with Colby communications director Kate Carlisle. “It’s the start of something important and it really feels like the race has begun right now. It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon, but we’re going to be running it as fast and as hard as we can because we want to make sure that we can really help to address the challenges Waterville is facing right now.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

Twitter: @AmyCalder17


]]> 0 Mayor Nick Isgro speaks on Wednesday beside a row of hard hats during a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of a Colby College residential complex that will be built on The Concourse in Waterville.Thu, 04 May 2017 10:25:31 +0000
At schools in Maine and beyond, ‘Hamilton’ becomes a class act Wed, 03 May 2017 08:00:00 +0000

Gorham Middle School seventh-grader Gavin Lavoie performs a rap song that he wrote as part of a social studies lesson that used the hit Broadway show “Hamilton: An American Musical.” Staff photo by Gregory Rec

GORHAM — Joleen Gima is not throwing away her shot.

In a soft but steady voice, the Gorham Middle School seventh-grader raps “Orphan Soldier” as her classmates freeze to listen.

They’ve all been given the same social studies assignment: Playwright and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, overwhelmed by the success of his Broadway hit “Hamilton: An American Musical,” needs another song for his show. Go.

“The battle of Monmouth Burr suffered a heat stroke,” Gima reads, finding the rhythm in her song about Aaron Burr’s life. “He was so disappointed his heart nearly broke // Burr decided times were getting rough // In 1779 he resigned, he had enough! //1784 Burr got into politics // He wanted to help resolve some conflicts.”

Applause bursts out as she finishes, her classmates smiling and laughing as they muster their courage to read their own works aloud.

“They were phenomenal,” said teaching intern Pamela Marshall, who created the “Hamilton” lesson for the social studies class. “The best thing is they surprised themselves.”

“They were phenomenal,” said Pamela Marshall, a teaching intern, about the Gorham Middle School seventh-graders who created their own songs inspired by the Broadway rap musical “Hamilton.” “The best thing is they surprised themselves,” Marshall said. Staff photo by Gregory Rec

Marshall’s decision to use the songs and storyline of the wildly popular Broadway musical to teach history is part of a nationwide movement. The rap musical about the life of Founding Father and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton has won 11 Tony awards and the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

But the real sign of its popularity has been the sky-high prices – the best seats on Broadway sell for at least $849 – and sold-out runs, both in New York and on tour. Miranda and the cast performed selections in the Obama White House and its multiethnic cast and message about immigrants tapped into a cultural conversation about race and what it means to be American.

The play’s educational potential was realized almost immediately, with the 2015 creation of the Hamilton Education Program (#EduHam), funded by a $1.5 million grant by The Rockefeller Foundation to the Gilder Lehrman Institute. The program includes online resources such as Hamilton-related lesson plans, videos, essays and links to historical documents – and $10 tickets to see the play for some low-income students.

In an interview with Newsweek, Miranda said he initially only counted on school groups being enthusiastic about the play.

“I was quietly confident that we’d get lots of school groups,” Miranda said. “History teachers have been using the White House clip since it went up in 2009, so I knew they’d come see the finished product and hopefully bring their students. Everyone else has been a revelation,” he told Newsweek, adding that the dedicated student matinees arranged through the Hamilton Education Program have been the most gratifying recognition for the show, “no question.”

Joleen Gima, seventh-grade songwriter, said she’d never heard of “Hamilton” before it came up in class. Now, she listens to it nonstop.

“At these matinees, before the show starts, they perform their own history-inspired works for their peers and our company. And they are the most rollicking, spirited, inspiring audiences I’ve had the privilege to perform for in my life,” Miranda said. “My only regret about leaving the role is the energy from those student matinees. They have changed my life.”

For students and teachers farther away from Broadway, they are largely on their own.

Small organic efforts like Marshall’s tend to come from passionate fans, like Addie Matteson, an Indiana elementary school librarian who created a series of “Hami-lessons” and posted them online at the School Library Journal website.

“I’ve been floored by the growing impact of this show on my students,” Matteson wrote online. “Many have listened to the whole cast recording. They refer to it in their history lessons, and they rap in the halls.”

At Yarmouth High School, Marc Halsted had a similar epiphany after a student gave him the soundtrack as a thank you present for writing a college recommendation letter.

“I listened to it for a month, and came up with all these ideas for how to use it,” said Halsted, who teaches five sections of Advanced Placement U.S. History.

“Hamilton: An American Musical,” a hip-hop Broadway show about the life of Founding Father and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, has won 11 Tony awards, the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Photo by Joan Marcus

“I was stunned at how well it went over with my students,” Halsted said. He used the material to “totally revamp” his standard George Washington lecture, and even better, spice up his talk on the Assumption Bill.

“It is one of the single most boring moments. It is nauseatingly boring to teach,” he said of the Assumption Bill, put forward by Hamilton to allow the federal government to assume debts accumulated by the states during the American Revolutionary War.

But “The Room Where It Happened,” the song from “Hamilton” about the meeting that broke the legislative impasse, isn’t boring at all.

“All of a sudden I’m playing the song, then watching the scene from (Public Broadcasting Service’s) ‘Hamilton’s America,’ and the kids are totally into it,” he said. “And they don’t forget the importance of the Assumption Bill.”

Gima, 12, said that’s what’s happened to her.

She’d never heard of “Hamilton” before it came up in class, and now she plugs in her earbuds and listens to it nonstop at home and while she’s doing homework.

“I fell in love with it,” Gima said.

‘Orphan Soldier’ by Joleen Gima and Tessa Dol
The text of “Orphan Soldier,” a rap by Gorham Middle School students Joleen Gima and Tessa Dol

Hey let’s talk about the American Revolution,

About a guy who changed the course of evolution

Against the British he fought to find a solution

Aaron Burr, durr

Let’s talk in case your memory’s quite a blur.

He was born in New Jersey, 1765

This point Burr’s life didn’t quite thrive

Just a year later his parents didn’t survive

Burr and his sister lived with their uncle for the rest of their lives

Burr was no fool,

At just the age of the 13 he finished high school,

He then studied theology at Princeton University

But then he experienced a diversity

Burr decided theology wasn’t cool and then went on with his cousin to law school

1775 Lexington and Con-cord

Burr knew the colonists would lose which they couldn’t af-ford

Burr then enlisted into the Continental Army

Which was actually kinda pretty gnarly.

Burr went on the expedition to Quebec

Where he saved more than just one neck

Burr then was declared captaincy

And a place in Washington’s staff casually

Later Burr quit Washington’s staff

Which gave everyone a questionable laugh

Burr wanted to be on the battlefield

So he picked up his sword and grabbed his shield

It was 1776 the British landed

Washington wanted to leave the barricade stranded

But Burr rescued the barricade

And said Washington don’t rain on my parade.

The battle of Monmouth Burr suffered a heat stroke

He was so disappointed his heart nearly broke

Burr decided times were getting rough

In 1779 he resigned, he had enough!

1784 Burr got into politics

He wanted to help resolve some conflicts

He became a senator in 1791

But that was just the start of his political run.

In the year of 1800 Burr ran for president

But the votes for Burr weren’t quite evident

Thomas Jefferson won and was pretty nice

So Burr then decided to become the vice.

July 11th 1804,

Burr shot Hamilton to the floor

Arrested in Louisiana 1804

Looks like colonists’ memory needed a fix

Cause Burr lived freely and died in 1836.


Noel K. Gallagher can be reached at 791-6387 or at:

Twitter: noelinmaine

]]> 0"Hamilton: An American Musical," a hip-hop Broadway show about the life of Founding Father and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, has won 11 Tony awards, the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album and the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.Wed, 03 May 2017 08:23:05 +0000