The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram » Schools & Education Thu, 05 May 2016 01:22:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Novel program draws out-of-state students, fuels jump in UMaine admissions Wed, 04 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 The University of Maine’s new “flagship match” program has been so successful at boosting enrollment by bringing in out-of-state students that the university is considering expanding the program beyond six northeastern states.

Admissions at UMaine in Orono for this fall have increased 22 percent so far, bolstered by a 54 percent surge in out-of-state students. The 2016-17 enrollment projections are on track to reverse flagging enrollment at UMaine’s flagship campus in recent years. To help attract and retain students, the UMaine System has frozen in-state tuition over the past six years.

Joel Wincowski, interim vice president for enrollment management, is the architect of the flagship match initiative. He said the university likely will decide within the next few weeks whether to expand the program to students in California and Illinois in its second year.

Currently, students graduating high school with a “B” average or higher in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Connecticut can attend UMaine for the cost of in-state tuition at the flagship school in their home state.

For instance, a Pennsylvania student would pay $17,515 a year to attend UMaine in Orono – the same as in-state tuition at Penn State University. That’s far more than UMaine’s in-state tuition of $10,610, but far less than UMaine’s out-of-state tuition of $28,880. For a Massachusetts resident, the cost to attend UMaine would be about $14,100.

The school reaps the financial benefit of gaining a student who is paying substantially more than the in-state rate, while the students are enticed to enroll by paying less than the out-of-state tuition. The program, coupled with a new marketing campaign and strategic recruitment efforts last fall, has proven to be popular in its first year, with the number of out-of-state students at UMaine rising from 731 last year to 1,123 for 2016-17, including 518 from Massachusetts.

“We’re ecstatic with these numbers,” Wincowski said. “The numbers are unbelievable, off the charts.”


He said the university had projected admission rates of 2,100 new students for the fall by May 1, but instead has 2,447 enrollees and expects to top 2,500 in the next week or so.

The enrollment process continues through the summer, but May 1 is a typical date when many high school students have decided which college to attend in the fall.

UMaine Provost Jeff Hecker said the university plans on hiring six additional full-time professors, and perhaps more, to serve the additional students. UMaine has about 375 full-time professors.

Wincowski said the flagship match program, which he believes is the first of its kind in the country, is simple to understand and should be expanded to students in more states.

“The flagship match program would be at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois,” said Wincowski, who came up with the idea to boost enrollment shortly after he arrived at UMaine in August 2015 from St. Mary’s College in Maryland, where he was vice president.

He said the program only makes sense in states where the flagship university has in-state tuition that is higher than Maine’s in-state rate. In-state tuition and fees at UC Berkeley are $12,972, and at the University of Illinois, $15,626.

Wincowski said a new Maine Match program that also started this year is helping to retain Maine high school graduates by matching scholarships given to students who were contemplating leaving Maine for their college education.

Even though Maine’s K-12 enrollment has declined, UMaine enrollment by in-state residents is up 3 percent so far, an indication that retention efforts are working, he said.


Meanwhile, numbers at most of the other UMaine System campuses also are increasing, although the other campuses do not yet have the flagship match program. The rise stems from a downward trend across the system in recent years that may be reversing. Enrollment at several of the campuses are showing increases in fall 2016, with five of the seven, including the two largest – UMaine in Orono and the University of Southern Maine – attracting more out-of-state students.

At USM, which has campuses in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston, enrollment for fall 2016 has so far increased by 10 percent to 563 first-year students. In-state enrollments are up 2 percent, while the number of out-of-state students jumped 28 percent.

USM President Glenn Cummings said the school is monitoring the Orono campus’ flagship match program closely and considering whether to replicate it or implement a similar program.

Cummings said USM has about 6,000 undergraduate students and a capacity for about 9,000, so there’s room to grow. He said USM’s Portland location should be attractive to out-of-state students, especially if they are getting a tuition break. In-state tuition and fees at USM are currently $8,920, and $21,280 for out-of-state students.


“I have a lot of respect for what UMaine is doing, taking that calculated risk,” Cummings said. “We are certainly going to take a look at (the flagship match). Portland is an enormous magnet on the Eastern Seaboard for young people, and we haven’t even begun to market that.”

When Cummings took over the USM presidency last year he said he planned several initiatives to improve enrollment numbers, including stemming USM’s dropout rate, improving outreach to high school students and strengthening marketing, particularly to out-of-state students.

Nancy Griffin, vice president of enrollment management at USM, said that although the university doesn’t have a flagship match program, it has worked hard to put together attractive financial aid packages for students.

“This is a major turning point for us,” Griffin said. “We have hit all of our enrollment targets.”


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Second Portland superintendent candidate speaks at forum Wed, 04 May 2016 02:35:52 +0000 One of two finalists to be superintendent of Portland’s schools made her case for why she should be hired, speaking before an audience of more than 40 people who came to the King Middle School Tuesday night.

Teresa A. Lance is now a School Leadership Officer – the equivalent of an assistant superintendent – for Harrison School District Two in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Lance, who was hired in March 2013, said she oversees the operations of the district’s middle and high schools in a much larger school district than Portland. The district serves over 11,000 students in 25 schools and has an operating budget of $113 million.

Lance fielded some of the same questions posed to her competitor for the job, Xavier Botana, faced during a Monday night forum at Casco Bay High School. Several audience members expressed concerns at both forums about the turnover Portland has seen in the superintendent post. Over the last decade, city schools have been led by five superintendents, including two interims.

The city’s last permanent superintendent, Emmanuel Caulk, got married last year and left Maine to become the superintendent for the Fayette County Public Schools in Kentucky. Caulk served in Portland from 2012 until June 2015.

“I’m going to be here as long as you want me to be here. It’s very much a reciprocal relationship,” Lance said of how she would approach the superintendent job after being asked if the Portland post would be a stepping stone to better job.

Lance went on to say that she would like to remain in Portland until she retires and would like to mentor other women interested in becoming school superintendents.

In her current position, Lance supervises and evaluates secondary school principals and assists the superintendent with establishing educational goals for students in grades six through 12. Her career in education has placed her in a diverse set of jobs.

She was a school principal in Houston and Baltimore, and in a consulting role helped turn around an underperforming school in Naperville, Illinois. Lance holds a Master of Science degree in Education/Health Education.

It was pointed out to Lance by several audience members that a significant number of Portland students are the children of immigrants – more than 60 languages are spoken in city schools. Lance said she was aware of the cultural differences and pledged to work hard at making sure that all students can access any program.

“We need all of our courses to mirror the demographics of our district,” she said.

Lance also said she would strive to develop a good working relationship with school unions.

“I’m hoping it’s very much a love relationship,” Lance said “We may have different agendas, but at the end of the day, it’s all about moving student achievement forward.”

Lance said she is not afraid to delegate responsibilities, and told the audience that if she is hired, she won’t be a stranger to teachers.

“I’m very visible. I’m in the schools on a daily basis,” she said.

In addition to the public forums, the finalists this week also will visit three schools at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Each candidate will be interviewed by the School Board, top administrators, stakeholders, and a group of high school students before leaving the state.

A national search attracted 41 applicants. The School Board interviewed six semifinalists before selecting Lance and Botana as the two finalists. Botana is currently the assistant superintendent in the Michigan City, Indiana, school system.

The School Board intends to announce its final decision by mid-May. The new superintendent will start July 1, but their starting salary has not been set.

Caulk was paid $137,500 a year when he left the district in June.


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Residents call for SAD 6 board to address concerns about hiring of superintendent’s son Mon, 02 May 2016 23:39:43 +0000 BUXTON — Frank Sherburne, the superintendent of School Administrative District 6, came under fire from residents who attended a school board meeting Monday night and called on the directors to address their concerns about his leadership of the district.

Some of the 40 people who attended wanted the board to remove Sherburne, while Vada Boulette of Standish, president of the Bonny Eagle Football Boosters, presented a petition carrying 113 signatures urging the directors to consider ending his contract over concerns that he broke the district’s nepotism policy when he hired his son. Questions about Zachariah Sherburne’s employment with SAD 6 arose after he was charged in March with sexually assaulting a student in another district where he worked.

Jennifer Connors, a parent of two Bonny Eagle High School students, asked to speak about Sherburne’s employment, but Chairwoman Rebecca Bowley said personnel matters are not discussed in public.

“We are citizens. It is our children,” Connors said.

Bowley said the board has formed a committee to review the situation and expects to receive its findings this week.

“The board is working very hard with legal counsel to make sure we have all the facts,” she said, but it cannot discuss specific employees in public. She said the board is taking the matter “very seriously.”

A crowd turned out for Monday night's meeting of the SAD 6 school board. A petition presented to the board calls for it to consider ending Superintendent Frank Sherburne’s contract.

A crowd turned out for Monday night’s meeting of the SAD 6 school board. A petition presented to the board calls for it to consider ending Superintendent Frank Sherburne’s contract.

After the board adjourned to meet privately, Connors said there are “a lot of concerned parents out there” who believe that Frank Sherburne should be on administrative leave. “This board just turns their head,” she said.

At a meeting on April 20, the board issued a statement saying it would seek “a prompt resolution” to concerns about the allegations against Zachariah Sherburne, 23, of Porter, and whether his employment violated the district’s nepotism policy.

SAD 6 hired Sherburne, the son of the superintendent, on Feb. 8 as an educational technician at Buxton Center Elementary School.

The district’s nepotism policy says: “It is the policy of the SAD 6 board not to employ any person who is a member of the family of a board member or the superintendent.”

Frank Sherburne was at the meeting, but did not acknowledge or respond to the comments made about him.

When approached during a break, he cut off a reporter’s question and said, “I don’t speak to the media.”

When the reporter asked board member Todd Delaney to see the petition that was given to him as chairman of the board’s Negotiations Committee, Sherburne told him not to, saying it’s the district’s property and would be made available only through a Freedom of Access request. Delaney acquiesced.

A closed-door board meeting to evaluate the superintendent is scheduled for May 23. According to the district’s policy, an annual evaluation of the superintendent is done in May.

Randy Breault of Buxton, who has a child in fifth grade, doesn’t believe that the board is taking the situation seriously enough.

SAD 6 Superintendent Frank Sherburne speaks during Monday night's school board meeting.

SAD 6 Superintendent Frank Sherburne speaks during Monday night’s school board meeting.

“The public comments by the board have not met my expectations,” he said Monday night. “I don’t believe (Frank Sherburne) should be working in education.”

Chris Day, a parent of two high school students, agreed that the superintendent “needs to be removed,” he said.

Getting away with violating a policy is “not setting a good standard for all the kids,” he said.

Many of the people who attended the meeting were parents hoping to express their concerns about the superintendent and the board’s response to his violation of the nepotism policy. There was no public comment period and most didn’t get a chance to address the board, as they would have had to sign up before the meeting to speak on a specific agenda item.

That included a student who said he was attending the meeting to voice his support for Sherburne.

“He’s been the most dedicated educator I’ve ever met,” said Trevor Hustus, a junior from Hollis. “He cares about students.”

Daniel Shirnin, a junior from Standish who serves as the board’s student representative, believes Sherburne has shouldered too much of the blame for his son being hired.

Board member Daniel Kasprzyk brought up the district’s nepotism policy Monday in the board’s discussion of approving contract renewals.

Bowley said there are many employees in the district who are related to other employees and that the policy is being reviewed.

“We will have a meeting about nepotism, I am sure,” she said.

Zachariah Sherburne was arrested March 15 on charges of gross sexual assault, a felony, and sexual abuse of a minor, a misdemeanor.

According to an arrest affidavit, Zachariah Sherburne engaged in “a sexual act” on Feb. 12 with a 16-year-old girl who was a student at Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, in SAD 55, where he was employed as an ed tech. According to the affidavit, the teen is pregnant and says Zachariah Sherburne is the father.

His last day of work in SAD 6 was March 11, the day he turned himself in to the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office. School officials haven’t said whether he quit or was fired.

The sheriff’s department said Zachariah Sherburne was drinking alcohol when he had sex with the teenager at the Kezar Falls Fire Department, where he is an EMT.

He was released on $500 bail. His next court appearance is scheduled in June.


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Incoming class at University of Maine up 22 percent over last year Mon, 02 May 2016 23:35:13 +0000 The number of new students who have been confirmed for admission at the University of Maine in September is up by 22 percent over last year.

Figures released Monday by the flagship campus in Orono show that 2,447 students had paid the deposit fee of $150 by the May 1 deadline, up from 2,012 at this time last year.

The biggest jump came among out-of-state students, with 1,123 confirmed for admission compared with 731 last year – a 54 percent increase.

Massachusetts is the state with the highest number of new students planning to come to UMaine. The University of Maine Office of Institutional Research reported that 518 Bay State students have been accepted to attend the university this fall, compared to 286 last year – an 81 percent increase.

Massachusetts was followed by New Hampshire, which had 102 students confirmed for fall 2016 admission, compared to 73 last year – a 40 percent increase.

“I am very pleased with the number of confirmed students. Being up 22 percent at a flagship university is unheard of and may very well be the largest increase in the nation,” Joel Wincowski, interim vice president for enrollment management, said in an email to the Portland Press Herald. “I do not believe anyone expected double-digit growth, especially with the demographic decline in Maine and the rest of New England in high school graduating seniors.”

Wincowski said one of the reasons for the surge in out-of-state applications is the university’s new “flagship match” program, which allows students from six targeted Northeast states to pay the same tuition they would pay at flagship campuses in their home states.

The flagship match is available to students from New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, all of which have higher in-state tuition than Maine. UMaine’s in-state tuition is $10,610. Its out-of-state tuition is $28,880.

While the number of out-of-state student applicants shot up, the figures showed a 3 percent increase in Maine residents who will attend the university.

Wincowski called the increase among Maine residents “significant” and attributed the surge in out-of-state students to better branding and other recruitment strategies implemented by the university.

Wincowski said UMaine’s Define Tomorrow campaign – a series of television commercials featuring students playing sports, famous graduates such as author Stephen King meeting with President Obama, and students working in their chosen field of study – has helped to brand the university. “It’s really been all about getting our name out there,” he said.

Earlier this year, the university reported that more aggressive marketing and the flagship match program to attract more out-of-state students were beginning to pay off. The flood of applicants prompted the university to start a waiting list for the first time in recent history.

Officials announced in March that the university in Orono had 14,205 qualified applicants for 2,150 seats in the incoming class of 2020. Of those applicants, the university sent acceptance letters to 11,403 students.


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Portland residents meeting 2 finalists for school superintendent Mon, 02 May 2016 13:33:03 +0000 The Portland Board of Education on Monday named the two finalists for superintendent of schools.

One of the finalists, Xavier Botana, assistant superintendent in the Michigan City, Indiana, school system, met with the public Monday evening at Casco Bay High School. About 6,000 students are enrolled in Botana’s school district.

The other finalist, Teresa A. Lance, assistant superintendent in Colorado Springs, Colorado, will meet the public from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium at King Middle School. The two candidates are fielding questions from the public and those attending can complete a feedback form that will be given to the school board.

More than 30 people attended Monday’s forum. Botana talked about his work record, his personal life and his vision for Portland schools.

Botana, 53, told the audience he was born in Cuba. When he was a young child, his parents put him on a flight to Spain with instructions for a stewardess to make sure he made it safely. Botana said he lived there for two years with his grandparents before being reunited with his parents in the United States after they’d obtained visas.

The mass exodus of unaccompanied Cuban minors during the early 1960s became known as Operation Pedro Pan. It was driven by parents who feared the Cuban government, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, would decide how their children would be educated.

“I was fortunate to have been living in a time and place where this country was exceptionally welcoming of people from Cuba,” Botana said

He described Portland as a welcoming community and made reference to its immigrant community and the large number of students who speak foreign languages.

One audience member pressed Botana about his professional ambitions, citing the high turnover rate among Portland superintendents.

“I don’t see myself as moving again,” Botana said. “I see myself as being the superintendent here for the next 10 to 15 years.”

“I am looking for a place where I can make a difference and change the lives of thousands of children,” he said.

Each candidate will visit three schools in the district this week. They also will be interviewed by the school board, top administrators, a group of stakeholders and a group of high school students. The board intends to announce its decision by mid-May. The start date for the position is July 1.

It’s not known what Portland’s new superintendent will be paid. The previous superintendent, Emmanuel Caulk, was paid $137,500 a year when he left the district last June.

Botana and Lance were chosen as finalists from a field of 41 candidates. The school board interviewed six semi-finalists identified in the national search.

Botana, who is fluent in Spanish, has been an associate superintendent for the Michigan City Area Schools in Indiana since 2010. His previous jobs include chief academic officer for the Portland, Oregon, public schools, chief officer of instructional design and assessment for the Chicago Public Schools, administrator for the Illinois State Board of Education, and he has held various other positions in schools in Illinois.

Botana holds a master’s degree in educational administration and has completed some doctoral program coursework, according to the Portland school board.

Lance currently is the school leadership officer – a position equivalent to assistant superintendent – for secondary schools in Colorado Springs. She has held a variety of education positions, including serving as adjunct instructor at Argosy University in Denver, senior turnaround consultant for American Institutes for Research in Illinois and educational specialist for the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Before that, she was a principal and educator at schools in Maryland.

Lance is a candidate for a doctoral degree in educational leadership and has a Master of Science degree in education and public health.

Additional information about the search for a new superintendent is available on the school department’s website.


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Protesters urge Dartmouth College to dump fossil fuel investments Mon, 02 May 2016 09:48:54 +0000 HANOVER, N.H. – More than 400 protesters took to the on-campus home of Dartmouth College President Philip Hanlon over the weekend to urge the school to shed its investments in fossil fuel companies.

The Lebanon Valley News reports Sunday’s demonstration was sponsored by Divest Dartmouth, a student-run organization founded in 2012 with a mission to persuade the university to sever ties with the “dirtiest fossil fuel companies.”

Senior Noah Cramer says Dartmouth invests in companies where “the destruction of our climate is built into their business model.”

Protesters noted that Dartmouth divested from South Africa in the 1980s to protest apartheid. They say the school has a moral obligation to do the same with fossil fuels.

Dartmouth officials say Hanlon has commissioned a study to fairly present arguments for and against divestment.

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Use of a ‘Double’ helps homebound seventh-grader reconnect with classmates Mon, 02 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Thirteen-year-old Abby Fisher sits in the light-filled kitchen of her Vassalboro home on a chilly April day getting ready for school.

She opens her laptop and sets a small speaker on the table.

At the same time, about a mile away, the students in Abby’s seventh-grade science class at Vassalboro Community School are settling in at their desks.

A live video feed from the classroom pops up on Abby’s laptop. Her classmates can see her in real time, too – thanks to a robot nicknamed “Double.”

Abby’s mother has another name for the high-tech device.

“It’s a lifesaver,” Jennifer Fisher says.

Double is an iPad mounted on wheels that Abby is able to remotely control over Wi-Fi. Think Skype on a Segway.

“It acts as your double,” says Sara Broyles, communications manager at the California-based Double Robotics Inc., the company that created the “telepresence” robot that Abby uses. “It gives you a physical presence where you can’t be in person.”

Since 2012, Double Robotics – one of a handful of companies that manufacture telepresence robots – has sold 5,000 of them worldwide. Eighty percent are used by telecommuters. The robots are also used in schools and in medical settings, sometimes by doctors making “virtual” visits to hospitalized patients.

Double is the reason Abby is able to go back to school from her kitchen table.

She was diagnosed with Lyme disease last year and missed much of this school year and last because of countless bouts of crippling fatigue, severe headache and other Lyme-related health problems.

“I was tired a lot,” Abby says, brushing her long red hair off her shoulder, “and I had a lot of bad stomach pain and sometimes I would be nauseous. Foot pain and dizzy a lot.”

Her mother is all too familiar with those symptoms. She, too, has Lyme disease – which went undiagnosed for more than a decade.

“I would literally get home from work and crawl up the stairs and get in bed until the next day. It was horrible,” Jennifer Fisher says.

Both are slowly improving with treatment, but Abby still has more bad days than good.

“It’s hard,” she says. “I wasn’t able to see my friends. And I got kind of behind.”

This winter, school nurse MaryAnn Fortin and computer teacher David Trask began talking about ways to help Abby reconnect.

“I went to David one day and said, ‘What can we do to get this kiddo in class?’ ” Fortin says. She wondered about using Skype or FaceTime. But Trask had another idea.

“David kiddingly said, ‘Well, they do have these double robots,’ ” Fortin says. “I said, ‘Show me.’ So we looked at it (online), and I said, ‘We can do this,’ and he goes, ‘Yeah, we can do this.’ ”

Thanks to a grant from the Perloff Family Fund of the Maine Community Foundation that covered the cost, they did.

“I think it was a couple of weeks later they had the robot. It was amazing,” Jennifer Fisher says. “(The school) was wonderful. They say it takes a village, and I wouldn’t want to be part of any other village.”

The Double – which costs about $3,000 (the iPad is sold separately) – arrived at the school on March 11.

Abby “drives” the 14-pound robot using the directional keys on her laptop. It’s fitted with a gravitational stabilizer so that, even if someone bumps into it, it will usually right itself. The camera on the robot allows her to see where she’s going. She can wheel down hallways, into the elevator, or just park it and hang out with her friends.

“During breaks sometimes I can go out in the hall so I can talk with them. They usually crowd around me,” Abby says with a shy smile.

“It allows (the homebound student) to be part of the school community,” Trask says. “You know, simply sending work home or conversing over email, for a kid especially, it’s not the same.”

When it’s not being used, Double is parked in a docking station in the computer classroom where the battery is recharged.

While the younger kids in the school of 440 students are still entranced by the robot, the novelty seems to have worn off for many of Abby’s peers.

As Double rolls down a second floor hallway, one student turns and says, nonchalantly, “Hey, Abby, going to science?” Others simply wave hello as they hurry by and Abby – on the iPad –waves back.

While Abby is the first to use Double at Vassalboro Community School, she won’t be the last. Principal Dianna Gram is already thinking about others who might benefit.

“It’s a great feeling (to have the robot available),” Gram says. “We shouldn’t let the barriers of not being able to walk in the door get in the way of someone’s education.”

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More graduates push pause, see benefits of pre-college ‘gap year’ Mon, 02 May 2016 08:00:00 +0000 Connecticut College was ready to enroll Nick Boulos after he graduated from high school in Portland, but before he headed to southern New England for his freshman year, Boulos put the brakes on and spent a semester in France.

He says the academic hiatus, known as a “gap year,” delivered more than he expected.

“I saw, experienced and learned so much more than I could have ever dreamed to,” Boulos said. “Not only this, but it also served as a time for me to mature, see a little bit more of the real world, and really understand the big picture of what life is by seeing so many different cultures and points of view on certain topics.”

College acceptance season is well underway, and fall deposits are due at most colleges by May 1. But a growing number of students like Boulos are taking a gap year that can mean travel, overseas service projects or just working to raise tuition money and figure out what they want to study in college.

The University of Maine in Orono and the University of Southern Maine, the two largest public universities in the state, allow incoming freshmen who have paid a $150 deposit to defer for up to a year. They must simply write an email or letter requesting the deferment.

But policies vary: The 234,000-student University of California system generally does not allow deferments, and instead encourages students to apply again the following year.

At UMaine, which has about 11,000 students, there are usually about 100 incoming freshmen who ask for a deferment, said Joel Wincowski, vice president of enrollment management.

“There’s a variety of reasons students take a year off. A lot of them want to travel before entering. Some are the opposite – they need to earn additional money to pay for college,” Wincowski said.

Nick Boulos, a Portland high school graduate, and Kira Farley visit the Milan Cathedral in Italy during their gap year abroad.

Nick Boulos, a Portland high school graduate, and Kira Farley visit the Milan Cathedral in Italy during their gap year abroad.


There are no centralized statistics on how many American students take gap years, but the number of gap year programs has been climbing, indicating significant growth. USA Gap Year Fairs, a 10-year-old company, said it had representatives from more than 80 gap year programs at fairs in 20 states last year – and more than 5,000 interested students and families in attendance.

“In the United States we’re seeing strong growth,” said Joe O’Shea, author of “Gap Year: How Delaying College Changes People in Ways the World Needs” and president of the board of the American Gap Association. “There are new programs all the time.”

Taking some time off after high school and before starting college isn’t a new concept, but it only became formalized in the 1960s with a handful of sponsored, structured programs that place students in a local home and set them up with either classes or service projects, frequently with on-site support from the sponsor.

It can also be an inoculation against typical problems for college students: stress, high dropout rates, apathy and burnout, O’Shea said. He pointed to one program, Global Citizen Year, as an example of the new model of gap year, where students have financial support to pursue experiential learning.

“High school graduates are entering college under-prepared, families are questioning their return on investment, and colleges are facing growing concerns about relevance,” according to the program’s materials. “The standard educational path – focused on memorization, testing and college admissions – often stifles the most important learning. As the stakes get higher and the competition fiercer, ambitious students are scrambling for goals they don’t have time to question. In short, school is interfering with kids’ real education.”

Today, all of the Ivy League schools have gap year policies, and some actively encourage taking a gap year.

On the admissions page of Harvard’s website, a message extols the advantages of taking time off to avoid burnout.

“Perhaps the best way of all to get the full benefit of a ‘time-off’ is to postpone entrance to college for a year,” the admissions director writes. “For nearly 40 years, Harvard has recommended this option, indeed proposing it in the letter of admission. Normally a total of about 80 to 110 students defer college until the next year. The results have been uniformly positive.”

On Sunday, the White House announced that President Obama’s daughter Malia will take a gap year before attending Harvard in the fall of 2017.

Boulos, the Portland student heading to Connecticut College, said needing “a breather” was partly the reason behind his gap year program, which was organized through Portland’s Council on International Educational Exchange.

“I was burned out from high school,” he said. “I always knew that I wanted to continue on to college and further my education, but I felt like I needed a break before I dive into college.”

Chloe Williams, a 2015 Waynflete graduate, was just 17 when she got on a plane to spend six months in Chile as part of a CIEE gap year program.

“Though I was excited, nervous, interested, and a little scared before, it was not until I hugged my dad goodbye that I actualized the fact that I was leaving everything I had ever known behind me,” Williams wrote in her blog. Months later, she reflected on what she had learned. “This type of travel is new and unfamiliar, but it’s beyond interesting. Every little activity I do with my family, no matter how small, is showing an interesting part of their culture – and I am living it. Living this culture is the traveling, and the touristy activities are strung along through my time here, wrapping it up as the best traveling experience I could have ever dreamed of.”


Matt Redman, who oversees the gap year program at CIEE, said demand is so high that the educational exchange is expanding its gap year program beyond traditional travel and culture experiences to include service projects, internships and other structured learning programs.

“Five years ago, it was exclusively just the tip-top students looking to strengthen their college applications or take some kind of pause and get some experience before a very rigorous college experience. Now it’s broadened to students – even some current first-year college students – who realize they wanted to do something else,” Redman said.

O’Shea and Redman both emphasized that the gap year experience helps students grow personally, particularly if they are enrolled in a program that is structured and includes time for reflection on what they are experiencing.

“It’s a big win for students to be able to take that time and think about what they want to do,” said Redman, who took a gap year himself 20 years ago to focus on competitive skiing. “I did tremendously better my freshman year. I was more productive. I was able to focus better. Those lessons still benefit me today.”

Despite the rise in formal gap year programs, O’Shea estimates that about 70 percent of gap year students are just doing it on their own – working, volunteering, traveling or some combination of activities.

“They just design it themselves: Live here for ‘x’ months, work there, try this. They’re self-designing their own education,” he said.

Generally speaking, taking a gap year used to be more informal – think hostels and Eurail passes – and is far more common overseas, O’Shea said. The first structured programs showed up in the 1960s, but it’s only been in the past decade that they have become more mainstream.

Importantly, colleges and universities are accommodating gap year students. Two public universities, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Florida State University, even offer financial aid to help students pay for a gap year. It’s good for the schools, O’Shea said, because the gap year students tend to be highly motivated, resilient and curious. It gives them a chance to “breathe” before starting school, but it also gives them the opportunity to figure out who they are.

“These students are very eager to grow and develop and take on adult roles,” he said. “It’s very much about becoming an adult.”

It can also be a good option for students who have been under pressure to achieve and get into college, but aren’t sure what they want to study.

“They want the opportunity to live and to grow outside of traditional education. This helps them grow in new ways and that’s very attractive to many students,” said O’Shea, who is also director of Florida State University’s Center for Undergraduate Research and Academic Engagement.

“The best kind of gap years are the ones that challenge your assumptions of yourself and the world around you,” he said.

This story was updated at 12:35 p.m., May 2, to correct the time Nick Boulos spent in France.


]]> 17, 02 May 2016 12:33:00 +0000
School gains a geodesic dome; students in Skowhegan gain more experience Mon, 02 May 2016 02:40:29 +0000 SKOWHEGAN — The sun was shining as a trio of young men shoveled dirt into a wheelbarrow Friday morning and hauled it to planters outside a glistening opaque dome on the campus of the Marti Stevens Learning Center.

“Just pack it down. We’ll have to add more anyway,” Barry Sites, the director of the alternative school in School Administrative District 54, told the three students as they filled the planters.

The project is typical of the way students at the learning center start their day – with a two-hour block of project-based learning – but it also represents a new facet of life at the school.

With the help of a grant worth more than $60,000, the school is putting finishing touches on a geodesic dome greenhouse, a state-of-the-art growing center where the students plan to grow flowers and vegetables and house an aquaponics system.

The addition of the greenhouse and the development of about 1.5 miles of new hiking and walking trails at the Marti Stevens campus are the most recent developments in the school’s sustainable agriculture program, which started in 2014 with the help of an AmeriCorps volunteer.

The center, named for founder and social activist Marti Stevens, who died in 1993, is home to alternative education services for 52 students in School Administrative District 54. The district comprises the towns of Skowhegan, Norridgewock, Canaan, Smithfield, Cornville and Mercer.

“We’re getting back to our roots here,” said Sites, as he surveyed the former farmland where the campus is now located. “Somerset County is an agricultural area, and we’re bringing that back. There’s a rebirth of agriculture in the area, especially with the whole farm-to-table idea.”

Three years ago the school decided to build a more hands-on curriculum in an effort to move toward proficiency-based learning standards, Sites said. It added livestock and refurbished an old school bus – affectionately labeled “the bunny bus” – and built an aquaponics system, which creates a relationship between fish and plants to produce food.

School officials hoped to build a greenhouse but were deterred by the cost.

“It just wasn’t economical. The kids were really bummed out,” Sites said.

Then in 2014 the school learned that it had been chosen to receive a State Farm insurance company Youth Advisory Board grant worth $61,389 – enough to cover the full cost of the geodesic greenhouse, which Sites said was chosen because it has a longer expected lifetime than a traditional greenhouse.

The students began assembling the project themselves last year and are completing work on it now. They hope to grow flowers and vegetables that will allow them to add another dimension to their project-based learning with a farm stand that will teach them lessons in financial management.

“We’re basically learning how to plant things,” said 16-year-old Barry Robinson of Skowhegan, who has been working on the greenhouse for the last two years. “Every morning we come out here, and we do something with the dome.”

Learning how to grow plants also contains several other lessons, said Sites, noting that the greenhouse and the aquaponics system inside are also used to teach the students how to test pH levels and to test for ammonia and nitrates.

“Their grade comes from how well they care for their plants,” he said. “It’s real. It’s based on the everyday needs of the project.”

“It’s pretty interesting,” said Jacob Corson, 19, a senior. “Trying to figure out the whole (aquaponics and greenhouse) system is a challenge.”


]]> 0, 01 May 2016 23:58:15 +0000
Deering High production to expose problem of sex trafficking dramatically Sat, 30 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In their latest production tackling difficult and sensitive subjects, drama students at Deering High School in Portland are delving into the brutal, heart-wrenching issues surrounding sex trafficking.

“It Could Happen to You,” a one-time performance on Tuesday at Deering, is a series of student-written vignettes. Some boil with anger, others with fear. All of them aim to teach empowerment and knowledge.

Actors whisper the threats of an abuser, while others reveal the interior voices of a victim.

Sex trafficking is forced prostitution, as opposed to a sex worker who is a prostitute but is not being forced to do it by someone else. In recent years there has been heightened awareness of sex trafficking and pointed efforts to acknowledge that many prostitutes are victims of serious crimes, not criminals themselves.

Gracia Ruganza, 15, a junior at Deering High School, rehearses for "It Could Happen to You," a performance about sex trafficking to be presented at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the school in Portland.

Gracia Ruganza, 15, a junior at Deering High School, rehearses for “It Could Happen to You,” a performance about sex trafficking to be presented at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the school in Portland. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The performance, to be followed by a panel discussion featuring law enforcement officials and sex trafficking experts, is meant to use the voices of young people to speak directly to their peers about a sensitive issue many don’t know about or think can’t happen to them.

“People tell me (sex trafficking) isn’t happening, that this isn’t some Third World country. They wish people would just shut up about it,” said Catherine Mossman, a sex trafficking survivor who does advocacy work through her nonprofit group, Stop Trafficking ME. As part of her work, she volunteers at the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland and gives talks on sex trafficking in Maine.

“Afterward, people come up and say, ‘I had no idea.’ That’s exactly why we’re doing this – for the people who have no idea,” Mossman said.

In the last two years, the Preble Street agency in Portland has worked with more than 100 victims of human trafficking, most of whom also were victims of sex trafficking, according to Daniella Cameron, manager of the nonprofit’s Anti-Trafficking Coalition. She said those numbers covered Cumberland and York counties, but not the rest of the state.

Mossman has a GoFundMe page seeking $8,000 to professionally film the Deering High School production and distribute it to Maine high schools.

At a recent rehearsal, the students sat around a table reading their lines aloud and brainstorming ways to make them more powerful. The vignettes are based on the same theme, in a mix of spoken word, role playing, choreographed movement and rap.

Deering students rehearse for "It Could Happen To You," a series of student-written vignettes about sex trafficking. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Deering students rehearse for “It Could Happen To You,” a series of student-written vignettes about sex trafficking. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“A tank top doesn’t mean I want it. … No outfit will tell you what I want,” one student read.

“Picture this!” the group reads together. “Trapped in the back of a van with the other girls.”

A similar show at Deering last year on sex trafficking was very successful, said drama teacher Kathleen Harris.

“I’ve always believed drama is not just comedy and to make people laugh, but to shake things up,” Harris said.

In 2013, Harris wrote and Deering High School students performed a one-act play inspired by a mural of Maine’s labor history that made national news when Gov. Paul LePage ordered it removed from the Department of Labor’s headquarters.

Grace Uwimana, a senior at Deering High, rehearses for Tuesday's performance. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Grace Uwimana, a senior at Deering High, rehearses for Tuesday’s performance. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“Tribute: The Maine Labor Mural Play” focused on the characters depicted in the mural, including Rosie the Riveter; Frances Perkins, labor secretary under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the first woman to serve as a Cabinet member; child laborers; and workers who were affected by a divisive paper mill strike in Jay in the 1980s.

Last year, Harris led Deering students in “The Women of Lockerbie,” a play about women in Lockerbie, Scotland, who fought the U.S. government to secure the clothing of those killed on Pan Am flight 103, a plane destroyed by a terrorist bomb in 1988. In the play, the Lockerbie women washed the clothing and sent it to the families of those killed on the flight, believing that it would help comfort them.

Harris said “It Could Happen to You” has an important message for students at Deering, which emphasizes international learning and has students from dozens of countries.

“We have kids here that had to run for their lives” from their native countries, Harris said. Tackling difficult, weighty subjects is the right thing to do, she said.

“These are our future leaders and they need to learn that there is a harsh reality out there,” she said.

The performance at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Deering High School auditorium will be followed by a panel discussion with Cumberland County Assistant District Attorney Christine Thibeault; Mossman; Peter DiMarzio, a victim assistant specialist with Homeland Security Investigations; Equality Maine project director Gia Drew; and Beth Peavey, the juvenile program manager for the Long Creek Youth Development Center.


]]> 2, 30 Apr 2016 17:00:03 +0000
Cape Elizabeth to restart school superintendent search Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:15:21 +0000 CAPE ELIZABETH — The school board announced plans Friday to resume its search for a new superintendent after the second and last finalist for the job withdrew from consideration.

Craig King, superintendent of Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10, which serves Rumford and 11 other communities, withdrew his candidacy after he toured the town’s schools on Wednesday and the board met in executive session that night.

The board already has begun the process of hiring an interim superintendent to serve during the 2016-17 school year and will resume its search for a permanent superintendent next winter, Chairwoman Elizabeth Scifres said in an email to the school community.

“It is not unusual for a school department to need more than one cycle of the search process to find a good fit,” Scifres said. “The school board takes its charge of finding the right match for our district very seriously and is committed to hiring the best person it can to lead Cape Elizabeth schools.”

The school board is seeking a replacement for Meredith Nadeau, who has been superintendent for five years and will leave this summer to become superintendent of the elementary and junior-senior high schools in Newmarket, New Hampshire.

The position oversees the education of 1,622 students in three town schools – elementary, middle and high – and a $23.5 million annual budget.

The other finalist for the job was Steven Bailey, superintendent of the Central Lincoln County School System, Alternative Organizational Structure 93, which is based in Damariscotta.

Bailey withdrew from consideration for the Cape Elizabeth post in mid-April.

He decided to stay at AOS 93 after the school board there voted to give him 10 days of compensatory time for the long hours he works, according to the Lincoln County News.

King, who also was one of three finalists for the now-filled superintendent’s job in Scarborough, previously served as principal of Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham and worked as a principal and an assistant principal in Mississippi.

He did not immediately respond to a call for comment.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

]]> 3 Fri, 29 Apr 2016 22:31:33 +0000
Portland narrows superintendent search to 2 finalists Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:59:01 +0000 From staff reports

The Portland School District has selected two finalists for the position of superintendent and will announce their names Monday, when the first of two forums will be held to introduce the candidates to the public.

The first forum will be held from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Monday in Room 200 of Casco Bay High School, the district announced in a posting on its website.

A forum with the other finalist will be held from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium of King Middle School.

Participants will have a chance to ask questions of the candidates and complete a feedback form that will go to the school board.

In addition to the forums, the finalists will visit an elementary, middle and high school.

Each candidate will be interviewed by the board, top administrators, a group of stakeholders, and a group of high school students.

Finalists will also present a brief entry plan as a presentation to the school board.

The board plans to choose a superintendent by mid-May.

The start date for the position is July 1.

Jeanne Crocker has been serving as interim superintendent, at an annual salary of $138,875, since August.

The board elevated Crocker from her position as director of school management after the previous superintendent, Emmanuel Caulk, resigned to take a superintendent’s post in Lexington, Kentucky.

BWP & Associates, a national consulting firm, assisted with Portland’s superintendent search, which resulted in 41 applications.

The initial field was narrowed to a group of six semifinalists.

]]> 7 Fri, 29 Apr 2016 22:28:09 +0000
South Portland students see hub of Maine’s shipping economy up close Thu, 28 Apr 2016 17:55:23 +0000 From her neighborhood in South Portland, and every time she crosses the Casco Bay Bridge, 10-year-old Abbie Hews can see the massive crane that towers above the International Marine Terminal on Portland’s waterfront.

On Thursday, Abbie got to see the 200-foot-tall crane up close when she toured the Portland Harbor facility as part of a new educational program that highlights the broad reach of Maine’s shipping economy. The Dyer Elementary School student was among more than 200 fifth-graders who strolled around the 36-acre terminal that’s expected to handle 10,000 cargo containers this year.

David Arnold of the Maine Port Authority leads the students across the International Marine Terminal.

David Arnold of the Maine Port Authority leads the students across the International Marine Terminal.

“I think it’s really cool,” Abbie said near the end of the tour. “I like the crane especially, because it’s really a lot bigger than I thought it was, and you see it all the time.”

The South Portland School Department and the Maine Port Authority worked together in recent months to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum for fifth-graders based on activities and resources at the International Marine Terminal. The curriculum will be available to other districts.

Since 2009, the state has invested $30 million to upgrade and expand the terminal and is negotiating a lease with Americold to build a $30 million cold-storage facility at the terminal sometime next year, said Jonathan Nass, deputy commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation.

The curriculum emphasizes how Maine connects with the world through its ports, especially in transporting goods produced by farmers, fishermen and manufacturers across the state, said Patrick Arnold, president of Soli DG Inc., which operates the terminal for the state.

“It takes a village to do anything successful,” Arnold said. “The health of that village depends on the health of the economy.”

South Portland Superintendent Ken Kunin said an interdisciplinary curriculum strives to connect classroom learning with real-world experiences that many students will remember for decades.

Andrew Heffernan, Brady Mullen and Nolan Hobbs, all fifth-graders at Dyer Elementary School in South Portland, were part of a tour of the International Marine Terminal in Portland on Thursday morning to learn about shipping and the types of business the terminal does.

Andrew Heffernan, Brady Mullen and Nolan Hobbs, all fifth-graders at Dyer Elementary School in South Portland, were part of a tour of the International Marine Terminal in Portland on Thursday morning to learn about shipping and the types of business the terminal does.

Sarah Maxwell, a fifth-grade teacher at Skillin Elementary School, developed the pilot curriculum after visiting the terminal in November. She tied lessons and activities to learning goals related to geography, math, reading, writing and vocabulary, she said.

After visiting the terminal on Thursday, students will analyze cargo packing lists to determine where goods originated and use measurements to calculate the volume of shipping containers, to name a few follow-up exercises.

“Getting kids out of the classroom and into the community makes the biggest, lasting impact,” Maxwell said. “There are just so many learning connections to be made here. They get to see how it’s all connected and think about how blueberries grown in Maine get to Iceland.”


]]> 4, 29 Apr 2016 11:50:04 +0000
McAuley High School must choose a new name Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:56:52 +0000 Catherine McAuley High School will have to change its name when it officially drops its affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church in July.

The Sisters of Mercy, who founded McAuley, the state’s only all-girls high school, told the school’s operator that it could no longer use the name of the Irish nun who started the religious organization.

“We respect the decision, even though we’re disappointed,” Head of School Kathryn Barr said Tuesday.

Barr said the school tried to work with the Sisters of Mercy so it could continue to use all or part of the name, but the organization ultimately decided against it. Messages left with the Sisters of Mercy seeking an explanation for insisting on the change were not returned.

The private school in Portland will start the process of choosing a new name in the coming weeks by seeking suggestions from students, alumnae, parents, teachers and board members.

The school also plans to hold meetings for members of its community to discuss its future. The board of trustees will announce the school’s new name before July 1.

“While I am saddened by the news that the school will have to change its name, the alumnae know that there is so much more to ‘McAuley’ than its name,” said Katharine Faust, a 1996 graduate and co-chairwoman of the school’s alumnae association. “I hope that many young women in the years to come enjoy the opportunities in leadership, education and camaraderie that I remember so fondly about my time at such a fine school.”

Barr said the school is trying to embrace the name change as part of its renewal.

The school announced in October that it would become independent, freeing its board of trustees from having to report to the Sisters of Mercy’s Northeastern Community in Cumberland, Rhode Island.

School officials said, however, that many of McAuley’s traditions, including its plaid uniforms, religion classes and morning prayers, would continue.

Heidi Osborn, chairwoman of the board of trustees, said at the time that the Sisters of Mercy were restructuring their organization and control of the school was headed to their national office.

She said that dropping the affiliation would keep control of the school local as it launches new initiatives, including a partnership with the University of New England that allows McAuley students to earn college credits and the incorporation of art and ethics into its STEM – science, technology engineering and math – program.

“Our independence marks the beginning of a new chapter for our school,” Osborn said in a statement Tuesday. “We will signal this momentous occasion by selecting a name that is both worthy of our vision and emblematic of the traditions and values that will continue to ground us.”

The changes come as the school, founded in 1969, is experiencing declining enrollment, dropping from more than 200 students to 120 in the past 10 years.

More than a year ago, the Sisters of Mercy entered into an agreement to sell the 12-acre Stevens Avenue site where McAuley’s campus is located to a housing developer who agreed to continue leasing some of the property to the school.

The Sisters of Mercy’s presence in Maine has diminished in other ways. Once comprising several hundred women who started and staffed schools, orphanages, hospitals and other institutions statewide, the organization had 20 sisters still active in full-time ministry last summer, when it celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding in the state.

After McAuley High School officially becomes independent, the order’s only formal affiliations in Maine will be Saint Joseph’s College in Standish and Mercy Hospital in Portland.

Catherine McAuley, born in Dublin in 1778, felt a calling to help the poor and built a house and school for homeless women. Although reluctant to form a religious order, she was advised to do so to ensure her work continued.

The Sisters of Mercy was founded in 1831 and now has more than 9,000 congregations worldwide.

“I am confident that the legacy of Catherine McAuley will continue to influence and direct the mission of Maine’s only all-girls high school,” said Faust of the alumnae association. “She was an extraordinary woman who exemplified mercy, leadership and service to others.”


]]> 62, 26 Apr 2016 22:43:47 +0000
Attorney General’s Office: LePage broke law by holding private meeting of education task force Mon, 25 Apr 2016 16:05:28 +0000 The LePage administration violated Maine’s open meeting law Monday by holding the first meeting of a “blue ribbon” commission on education funding behind closed doors, the Attorney General’s Office said.

“I know of no exemption that would permit the meeting that occurred this morning to be convened privately,” Assistant Attorney General Brenda Kielty said in an email Monday afternoon.

Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-South Portland, and several other people were refused entry to the Blaine House on Monday morning when they tried to attend the first meeting of the Commission To Reform Public Education Funding and Improve Student Performance. Millett, who was told she wasn’t “on the list of attendees,” argued that the meeting was a violation of Maine’s public meetings law.

Standing in the driveway of the Blaine House on Monday morning, LePage policy adviser Aaron Chadbourne repeatedly told Millett and others that it was an invitation-only “breakfast” even though an agenda had been distributed describing it as the commission’s first meeting.

“There was an agenda and if you’re convening the commission, it is a public meeting,” said Millett, the top-ranking Senate Democrat on the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee. “You can’t have it both ways.”


Gov. Paul LePage’s office refused to directly respond to the AG’s opinion, but spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett described the meeting as informal.

“This morning’s meeting was an informal, get-to-know-you gathering in a relaxed setting before the commission starts its work at a later date,” Bennett wrote in an email. “The governor, at this time, has offered to step back from the process to save the (Maine Education Association) and the media from wasting their time attacking him instead of focusing on real education reform.”

When asked again to address the AG’s opinion that the event violated Maine’s open meeting law, Bennett wrote: “It is the first of several meetings and again I will emphasize that any action or proposed recommendations will be made public. This was an introductory meeting.”

A violation of the state’s open meeting law, which is covered under the Freedom of Access Act, is a civil violation punishable by a fine of up to $500. If the meeting did break the open meeting law, everyone who attended would be in violation. It wasn’t clear Monday night if or how the AG’s Office would pursue the matter.

One commission member, Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said he objected to the closed-door policy as the three-hour meeting got underway.

“After our introductions, I asked to speak and I said that ‘I am very uncomfortable having a private meeting doing the public’s work in the Blaine House,'” Alfond said afterward. “‘This is getting the commission off on the wrong foot, possibly violating laws around freedom of access and I don’t think this is a smart move.'”

Alfond said LePage told him that anyone who was uncomfortable was welcome to leave, but no one left the meeting.

“Despite our repeated requests for an open meeting, the governor insisted today on closed doors. There is no question this meeting would have happened with or without us,” said Assistant Majority Leader Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, who also is on the commission. “I made the choice to stay at the table to represent my constituents and caucus because the education of our children is fundamental to the success of our state. I have also made it clear that all meetings need to be public.”


Alfond said he contacted the governor’s staff five times about making the meeting open to the public. Although the staff didn’t respond to his requests, they did change the location for the meeting from the governor’s State House cabinet room to the Blaine House, which is the governor’s residence, he said.

“If this was (a legal meeting), it was probably threading the needle. If not, it should not have happened,” Alfond said.

In a video recorded by a Maine Education Association staff member, Chadbourne, LePage’s policy adviser, is seen telling Millett, Rep. Brian Hubbell of Bar Harbor and others that they would not be allowed inside the Blaine House because they were not invited by the governor.

As Alfond and Gideon begin walking into the governor’s mansion, Hubbell, a Democrat who serves on the Education and Cultural Affairs Committee, asks several times if he can go in, too.

Chadbourne: “If you were not invited, then the governor has asked that you not be allowed into the breakfast.”

Hubbell: “The governor is the one who has asked that we not be there?”

Chadbourne: “The governor is the one who invited the commission to attend and I don’t believe that you were invited.”

Millett rejected suggestions that the Blaine House breakfast was an informal meet and greet.

“It’s not,” Millett said late Monday morning. “You don’t chit-chat for three hours. They are doing business.”

Alfond said there was nothing controversial about the substance of the closed-door meeting. The group heard from LePage and then was briefed on several issues, including K-12 enrollments and cost trends, state tax revenues and the University of Maine System. LePage, in his comments, did not set out any parameters or limitations of the commission’s future work, he said.

“It was a pretty disorganized meeting, and one that seemed rudderless for a long time,” Alfond said. The group decided it would focus initially on education funding and certain academic goals, such as having students reading proficiently by third grade, a benchmark indicator of future academic success.

The commission is chaired by Bill Beardsley, whom LePage installed two weeks ago as the state’s education chief while bypassing the legislative confirmation process. The governor approved a financial order that allows Beardsley, as DOE deputy commissioner, to perform many of the duties of commissioner through April 2018.


In a cover letter attached to the agenda, Beardsley thanked the members for attending the first meeting.

“This is a very challenging, high-stakes endeavor with very high potential rewards,” Beardsley wrote.

The DOE did not respond to questions about why the meeting was closed, but did release documents that were distributed at the meeting, including information about test scores, university tuition and other background on education policy.

A creation of the Legislature, the commission is charged with evaluating the state’s current education funding model and reporting back to the Legislature with “recommendations for action to reform public education funding and improve student performance in the state.” The commission is expected to meet through July 2018.

The commission was formed by L.D. 1641, which spells out the commission’s goals and the membership, with the governor or his designee getting one of the 15 slots.

Kielty, who is also the state’s public access ombudsman, said state law stipulates that “advisory commissions set up by the Legislature must conduct their meetings in public unless the law that created the commission specifically exempts the organization from FOAA.”

The bill does not contain any language exempting the commission from the public meetings law.

“This is absurd,” said MEA President Lois Kilby-Chesley. “Obviously the public has an interest in any discussion about ways we can better fund our public schools and improve outcomes for our kids; I find it unacceptable the governor would deny the public entry to this important discussion. Not only does it violate the requirements of the public’s business being conducted in public, but it makes us wonder what the governor is trying to hide by making the commission meet in secret.”

Alfond said future meetings will be public. The next meeting will be on June 6 at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Oxford.

In addition to LePage or his designee, Beardsley, Alfond and Gideon, other members of the commission are: Sen. Garrett Mason, R-Lisbon Falls; Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport; State Board of Education and Maine Charter School Commission member Jana Lapoint; 2016 Maine Teacher of the Year Talya Edlund; Charter School Commission member J. Michael Wilhelm; Lewiston Regional Technical Center Director Robert Callahan; second-grade teacher Douglas Larlee; South Portland Assistant City Manager Joshua Reny; School Administrative Unit Superintendent Richard Colpitts; University of Maine System Chancellor James H. Page; and Maine Community College System President Derek Langhauser.


]]> 224, 26 Apr 2016 15:25:35 +0000
Waterville Science Olympiad team prepares for nationals Mon, 25 Apr 2016 02:25:20 +0000 WATERVILLE — Early on Wednesday afternoon, the halls of Waterville Senior High School were empty as students and faculty enjoyed a weeklong April recess. But tucked into a classroom, a small group of students hovered over their computer screens at a cluttered work table. They spoke quietly to one another and ate their lunches, but kept their eyes focused on their work.

The students, members of the Waterville Science Olympiad team, said being at school during vacation is the kind of dedication and commitment to the team that it takes to become state champions – which they became last month.

The team placed first out of 14 Maine teams at the state championship, its 17th win at that event in the last 21 years. With the first state win for any of the present teammates, the team advances to compete against 60 high school teams from around the country at the Science Olympiad National Tournament May 18-20 at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

“On Science Olympiads, everyone has to do the same amount of work and you are all held responsible,” said Sophie Boardman, a senior on the team. “So I feel like it’s more hard work, but fulfilling in the end when you know that you’ve medaled and you’ve done all this work for it. We definitely wouldn’t be here (during spring break) if we weren’t going to nationals.”

On Wednesday, Boardman was joined by teammates Maxwell Burger-Roy, a senior, and Machaela Laramee, also a senior, for a practice in advance of their trip next month.

The trio had been at practice since about 9:30 that morning and stayed until just before 2 p.m. With other teammates away on vacation, the members at the practice were few, but those who had time in between sports practices also stopped by when they could.

Jon Ramgren, the team’s coach and a science teacher at Waterville High School, also attended to oversee and help with practice. The last time his team made it to nationals was in 2012.

“They’ve done really well,” Ramgren said. “It was just a matter of time before they broke through (to nationals) again. It’s been important to the kids, and they’ve made it a priority and worked hard at it.”

The Science Olympiad tournament comprises 23 competition events covering all areas of the sciences, including physics, engineering, environmental science, chemistry and biology.

Boardman, who transferred from Messalonskee High School her sophomore year and was on the robotics team at the Oakland school, said she was drawn to the Science Olympiad team because Waterville doesn’t have robotics. While she could have joined the robotics team at the Mid-Maine Technical Center, she joined the Science Olympiad team instead because she felt it offered an opportunity to learn about a wider range of science.

“There’s a lot of events spread out into all the sciences. Until sophomore year I had no experience in environmental science,” she said.

The team breaks down into groups of two or three for each event, which they select in the fall. Some of the events are tests, which students on the team spend all year practicing and studying for. Some also require building gadgets and mechanisms in advance of tournaments, such as the clock Burger-Roy made, which will be put to the test in the It’s About Time event.

Wednesday’s practice was bittersweet for Burger-Roy because he has a commitment that will prevent him from going to nationals. Other teammates will take his place in the events he was scheduled to compete in, which were cell biology, protein modeling, It’s About Time and astronomy. At practice he was working on compiling notes for his replacements to work from.

“Those four events are in the area of science that I specialize in, and I feel that if I can get as much of what is going on in my head out on paper, then it will be just like I’m there,” Burger-Roy said.

Burger-Roy will attend Northeastern University in Boston this fall, and plans to study chemical engineering. He said he has enjoyed his two years on the Science Olympiad team because it allows him to be competitive in a subject he loves.

The team is working to raise $13,000 to cover the expenses of traveling to the national competition. Ramgren said the team has held bake sales after school and may hold car washes if necessary, but donations sent to Waterville Senior High School will be accepted.


]]> 0, 24 Apr 2016 22:30:15 +0000
Prom 2016: Submit photos from your school Sun, 24 Apr 2016 17:30:40 +0000

Add your prom photo to our gallery

Share your prom photos with us and we'll add them to an online gallery at Some photos will also be displayed in our Scene & Heard print section on June 12.
  • Accepted file types: jpg, png.
  • Accepted file types: jpg, png.
  • Accepted file types: jpg, png.
]]> 0, 02 May 2016 11:47:52 +0000
Wisconsin teen shoots 2 outside prom before officer kills him Sun, 24 Apr 2016 15:47:43 +0000 ANTIGO, Wis. — An 18-year-old man opened fire with a rifle outside of a high school prom in northern Wisconsin, wounding two students before a police officer in the parking lot fatally shot him, authorities said Sunday.

Investigators did not say whether they believe the two students were specifically targeted or discuss a possible motive for the shooting.

But a school administrator said it appeared that the gunman – identified by police as Jakob E. Wagner – intended to go into the dance and start shooting randomly.

The two prom-goers were shot as they left the building, according to Eric Roller, the chief of police in Antigo, a community of about 8,000 people roughly 150 miles north of Milwaukee.

“Officers were in the parking lot patrolling the activities and heard the shots and an officer immediately fired upon the shooter, stopping the threat,” Roller said. He said the gunman was taken into custody and died at a hospital.

The Unified School District of Antigo said Wagner approached the school with a high-powered rifle and a large ammunition clip. The district said the “quick actions” taken by police and district staff to secure the building “prevented what might have otherwise been a disaster of unimaginable proportions.”

Interim district administrator Donald B. Childs said Sunday that it appears Wagner intended to go into the building and shoot at people at the dance.

“We have no reason to believe at this point it was targeting anybody specifically,” Childs said, adding that the shooting outside the entrance happened “from some distance.”

The female victim was treated and released and the male victim was undergoing surgery for injuries that weren’t life-threatening, police said. Childs said the wounded boy, who was shot in the leg, attended the high school but that his date, who was grazed in the shooting, was from out of state.

Gov. Scott Walker praised the police response, saying the actions of the Antigo Police Department “undoubtedly saved lives.”

Friends said Wagner was a senior at Antigo High School in 2015, but Childs said he did not graduate with his classmates and was continuing to work on his diploma. He said the school of about 750 students will have counselors available when classes resume Monday.

Dylan Dewey, who graduated from Antigo High last year, said Wagner had been dating a girl at the school who broke up with him last month. He described Wagner as an “all-around good guy” who enjoyed hanging out with friends.

]]> 7 Sun, 24 Apr 2016 19:56:08 +0000
University of Maine at Augusta garden aims 
to cultivate community Sat, 23 Apr 2016 01:30:10 +0000 AUGUSTA — The community garden at the University of Maine at Augusta is as much about the community as it is the garden.

“We’re not just building a garden,” said Kati Corlew, assistant professor of psychology. “We are trying to create a movement and a community within UMA and within the Greater Augusta area.”

The 3,600-square-foot garden fell fallow last year and is being revitalized this spring as part of a new cultivating community course taught by Corlew and assistant professor of social sciences James Cook.

Ten students are participating in this first year of the program, not only by working outside in the garden, but also in the classroom to create partnerships in the community.

One of the partnerships is with the Augusta Food Bank, which has received all the food from the garden since the garden first began producing it four years ago. Cook said the garden yielded 1,000 pounds of produce its first two years.

Dan Oullette, a junior, was one of several students working in the garden Friday during the campus’ Earth Day activities. Oullette said he had almost no gardening experience before taking the course, and he was attracted by its mission to help others.

“Activism has always spoken to me, and this is empowering,” Oullette said. “The trick is pooling the community together to have that same passion, but it’s starting to come together.”

Cook and Corlew said the goal is to expand to the Bangor campus next year. After that, the program would alternate between campuses.

“We’ve gained a lot just teaching this course, and our next task is to make this small class part of a larger campus presence,” Cook said, “and that’s going to be a challenge.”

Cook said the goal for the weekend was to plant peas, radishes, early carrots and beans in the raised beds while plowing the remaining part of the garden. Over the summer, they hope a couple of students and community members will tend the garden a few times per week

“We benefit when we help others,” Corlew said.

Cook said when people engage in community activities, they cease to become individuals and instead become part of a group and have a sense of belonging.

“That benefits the people participating and it benefits our community,” Cook said.

Corlew and Cook have been teaching students the theories behind social movements and social issues, including hunger, which is a growing concern among college students.

“They are putting those theories in practice by creating the community garden,” Corlew said. “This is not something that is theoretical for them, because more and more college students are dealing with hunger issues. They absolutely understand the importance of food security.”

Elsewhere on campus Friday, UMA’s student government organization was taking part in its UMA Community Clean-Up Day in connection with Earth Day. More than 20 students and faculty and staff members were raking, weeding and cleaning around campus.


]]> 1, 22 Apr 2016 23:02:03 +0000
Cape Elizabeth’s proposed school budget rises 3.2 percent Sat, 23 Apr 2016 00:24:57 +0000 The Cape Elizabeth School Board will present a proposed $24.3 million budget to the Town Council’s finance committee on Tuesday, offering a 2016-17 spending plan that’s up nearly $751,000, or 3.2 percent, over the budget ending June 30.

The council also is considering a $12.3 million municipal budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 that’s nearly $444,000, or 3.8 percent, higher than the current spending plan, said Town Manager Mike McGovern. The county assessment is up more than $75,000, or 6.4 percent, to $1.2 million.

The municipal budget proposal calls for fee increases of $5 to $15 for some group and commercial uses at Fort Williams Park, including the picnic shelter, the Ship Cove platform and tour bus parking.

Tuesday’s committee meeting starts at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The council plans to hold a public hearing on the proposed budgets on May 9, followed by a vote on May 19.

The combined municipal, school and county spending plans would increase the property tax rate by 60 cents, or 3.5 percent, from $16.88 to $17.48 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

At that rate, the annual tax bill on a home valued at $300,000 would increase $180, or 3.5 percent, from $5,064 to $5,244.

The town will hold a school budget validation vote on June 14, along with a referendum on a proposal to borrow $1.4 million to upgrade the solid waste transfer station.

Town officials say the recommended redesign would make the 37-year-old transfer station safer, more accessible, more efficient and more economical. It would replace the station’s large, below-ground-level hopper with several smaller, drive-by compactors.

The school board is expecting to receive $2.6 million in state education aid in 2016-17. The board is expected to ask the council to let the school district keep any additional state aid that it might receive so it can be used for future educational needs, rather than dedicate any overage to tax relief.


]]> 0 Fri, 22 Apr 2016 22:59:20 +0000
Phillips Exeter Academy copes with sexual abuse crisis Fri, 22 Apr 2016 23:08:09 +0000 CONCORD, N.H. — The principal of an elite prep school dealing with a series of sexual abuse allegations acknowledged Friday that it represented a “dark moment” but said the school will emerge from the crisis strong and healthy.

Phillips Exeter Academy Principal Lisa MacFarlane’s comments followed revelations last month about former teacher Rick Schubart. Schubart was forced to resign in 2011 after admitting sexual misconduct dating to the 1970s and was barred from campus after more misconduct surfaced in 2015.

The school said this month that a second teacher, Steve Lewis, was recently fired for having sexual encounters with a student decades ago.

MacFarlane said the Exeter community is “a really strong one” and the school founded in 1781 is “not alone among schools in having a dark moment in a long history.”

“What we are focused on is being as thoughtful and committed as we can to understanding that moment, to making any changes we need to,” MacFarlane said. “We are not alone in that. I am confident that the Exeter of today and tomorrow will be strong, healthy and vibrant.”

Since the revelations became public, Exeter has hired two law firms to examine abuse allegations: one to investigate the cases involving Schubart and another to examine the school’s handling of misconduct allegations aimed at faculty members.

The school also is talking with prominent victims’ assistance organizations about a partnership to address the needs of victims, MacFarlane said. Last week, it hosted a play written by teenagers from New York “that deals with these issues and required the entire campus to go and see it,” she said.

“We are so deeply saddened and remorseful for what has happened in the past. We admire the courage of survivors who have come forward,” she said, acknowledging the abuse allegations are “painful for us to look at but necessary.”

She said many changes have been in the works for some time because of allegations at Exeter and other schools.

Since arriving in September, MacFarlane has brought in the Prevention Innovation Research Center, which works to eliminate relationship violence and stalking, to do a comprehensive survey of the student body of more than 1,000 students in grades 9-12. The goal, she said, was to “really understand what our students today are thinking, feeling, talking about, doing.”

MacFarlane said it was too early to determine whether the school ever has had a problem with sexual abuse that goes beyond a few cases. She urged anyone with relevant information to step forward.

“We are committed to learning as much as we can about that past,” she said.

She noted the school had received “wonderful, thoughtful support” from parents of current students and there had been no change in enrollment patterns.

]]> 0, 22 Apr 2016 19:47:54 +0000
Massachusetts unveils rebate plan for some college tuition Fri, 22 Apr 2016 00:12:12 +0000 BOSTON — Massachusetts will offer tuition rebates to full-time, qualifying students who begin their studies at a community college and go on to earn a bachelor’s degree at a state university.

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker and state higher educational officials on Thursday unveiled what they called a first-in-the-nation program at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, one of the state’s 15 community colleges. The initiative, dubbed Commonwealth Commitment, would be phased in over two academic years, starting in September.

Students from any community college who enroll in one of two dozen fields of study would receive a 10 percent rebate on tuition and fees upon successful completion of each semester, provided they maintained a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

To continue in the program, students must earn an associate degree from the community college in 21/2 years or less, and complete their bachelor’s degree at a state university, including any University of Massachusetts campus, in no more than 41/2 years total.

“Even though public higher education in Massachusetts is already a great value, the Commonwealth Commitment will make it even easier for students to go to school full-time and to enter the workforce faster and with less debt,” Baker said in a statement.

Along with the rebates, tuition and fees for participating students would remain frozen at the level at which the students started participation in the program and remain at that level for the duration of their studies.

The average Commonwealth Commitment participant, who must be a Massachusetts resident, would be estimated to save more than $5,000 on the cost of a four-year degree. But because the state has no solid guess of how many students might sign up, there is no estimate of what the program might cost the state in lost tuition and fees.

Beyond saving students money, higher education officials say it is also intended to prod more young people into completing school faster and getting into the workforce sooner. Many Massachusetts employers, they say, are facing a shortage of qualified college graduates to choose from.

People who attend school part-time while working would not be eligible for Commonwealth Commitment because they would be unlikely to complete their degrees within the 41/2 year time frame. Officials say it would also be difficult – though not impossible – for students to switch majors and remain in the program because extra courses might be required.

]]> 0 Thu, 21 Apr 2016 20:12:12 +0000
SAD 6 delays action on nepotism concerns involving school chief’s son Wed, 20 Apr 2016 22:34:13 +0000 BUXTON — The School Administrative District 6 board met privately for more than two hours Wednesday evening, days after news broke that the superintendent’s son, hired earlier this year as an educational technician, had been charged with sexually assaulting a student in another district.

The board took no action, but issued a short statement after the session saying it is seeking “a prompt resolution.”

“The Board is aware of the community’s concern regarding the District’s nepotism policy and recent allegations concerning a former employee of our school system,” the statement says. “We will be working with our legal counsel to gather relevant information to ensure that we have all of the facts. The Board is committed to bringing this matter to a prompt resolution for the good of our school system.”

Before going into executive session around 6 p.m., board Chairwoman Rebecca Bowley said she had no comment.

The statement was read by board member Ansel Stevens; Bowley said that was at the request of the board. Stevens refused to comment beyond the statement.

The board did not say why it was going into executive session, other than to meet with attorney Peter Felmly. When asked by a board member who Felmly represents, Bowley specified that Felmly represents the board.

District officials have not commented on the details of the situation involving former ed tech Zachariah Sherburne, whose father is Superintendent Frank Sherburne. Bowley has refused to say, for example, whether the superintendent had a role in his son’s hiring, which would violate the district’s anti-nepotism policy, or whether Zachariah Sherburne quit or was fired.

SAD 6 hired Sherburne as an ed tech at Buxton Center Elementary School on Feb. 8.

Frank Sherburne was not at Wednesday’s meeting, nor were any members of the public. He has not answered questions about his son’s employment in SAD 6, which encompasses Buxton, Hollis, Limington, Standish and Frye Island.

Zachariah Sherburne, 23, is charged with gross sexual assault, a felony, and sexual abuse of a minor, a misdemeanor. According to an arrest affidavit, on Feb. 12 he engaged in “a sexual act” with a 16-year-old girl who was a student in SAD 55, at Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, where Sherburne was employed as an ed tech. Because Sherburne was employed there, he had “disciplinary authority” over her, the court document alleges.

Sherburne’s attorney, Allan Lobozzo of Lewiston, has said his client was never the girl’s teacher and would not have had disciplinary authority over her.

Sherburne told a detective that he was drinking alcohol when he had sex with the teenager at the Kezar Falls Fire Department, where he was a volunteer firefighter. The teenager is now pregnant, and she said Sherburne is the father, the affidavit says.

]]> 17, 21 Apr 2016 07:02:08 +0000
Two-time Pulitzer-winning historian to speak at UMF commencement Wed, 20 Apr 2016 19:12:43 +0000 Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Alan Shaw Taylor will be the University of Maine at Farmington’s 2016 commencement speaker.

The ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. on May 14 behind the Olsen Student Center.

Taylor, a historian and Colby College graduate, will also be given an honorary degree at the ceremony. He is the fourth person to win two Pulitzer Prizes for American history since the establishment of the award in 1917, according to a news release from UMF. An expert on Colonial America, the Revolution and the Early American Republic, Taylor is known for finding new stories in history and looking at them in ways that other historians might not, the release said.

Kathryn A. Foster, UMF president said in the release that Taylor is notable for his extensive knowledge, scholarly research and unique talent to make history come alive again. It is an honor to have him addressing our graduates on this important day.”

He was born in Portland and graduated from Bonny Eagle High School in Standish. He lives in Virginia and holds the Thomas Jefferson Foundation chair in the Corcoran History Department at the University of Virginia.

His first book, in 1990, “Liberty Men and Great Proprietors: The Revolutionary Settlement on the Maine Frontier, 1760-1820,” focused on Maine’s early settlement. Six years later, he won the Pulitzer Prize in American History for “William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic.” It was also awarded the Bancroft and Beveridge prizes.

In 2014, he won a second Pulitzer Prize for “The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832,” a book about runaway slaves who helped the British military. It also won the Merle Curti Prize for Social History and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Emily Rumble, of York, will give the student address. Rumble is a George Mitchell Scholar and honors student graduating cum laude with a major in secondary education.

Foster and Joseph McGinn, provost and vice president for academic affairs, will confer degrees to this year’s graduates. Marjorie Medd, member of the UMS Board of Trustees, will deliver greetings to the graduates from the University of Maine System.

]]> 0, 20 Apr 2016 15:12:43 +0000
Battle lines drawn in Yarmouth school budget campaign Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 YARMOUTH — A proposed $1 million increase in next year’s school budget has ignited a rare political dispute in a community that prizes its well-funded education system, regarded as one of the best in the state.

Lawn signs presenting pro- and anti-budget positions have sprouted around town and opposing camps have bombarded town councilors with calls and emails, urging them to support or oppose the proposed spending plan. In some cases, budget opponents say they have been bullied and intimidated for speaking in opposition to what they regard as runaway spending, Some are hesitant to resist the budget because they fear they will be cast as anti-education, said Deborah Delp, who has helped organize a campaign aimed at getting the Town Council to reject the School Committee’s proposed budget.

“Only a few of us are willing to speak out. We speak for many because they just won’t,” Delp said.

But Tim Shannon, who organized the Yes for Yarmouth campaign to support the budget, said accounts of intimidation are just rumors.

“Honestly, I think that is nonsense. I haven’t seen any instance of it, I haven’t heard any instance of it. There has been a completely civil conversation about this,” Shannon said.

The Town Council is considering a $23.1 million school budget that is almost 5 percent, roughly $1 million, bigger than last year’s spending plan. The budget increase is balanced with more state aid, meaning the school budget will only increase local taxes 1.6 percent, according to a February presentation from Superintendent Andrew Dolloff. Combined with Yarmouth’s municipal spending, the budget actually includes a slight tax rate decrease, making 2017 the third fiscal year property tax rates will have gone down.

Increased school spending is driven primarily by unprecedented growth in student population, which has increased 14 percent in the past five years, to an all-time high of slightly more than 1,600 students. To accommodate the growth, Yarmouth is planning to hire new full-time teachers for the third and eighth grades, a full-time nurse and eight part-time staff members. The budget also includes a staff pay increase, new supplies and equipment, and $80,000 for school technology.

Despite the increase, School Committee Chairman Tim Wheaton said the spending plan is a “maintenance” budget that does not provide new programming outside of an increase for high school music. Some parents are concerned about large class sizes and say they would like to see more education spending, not less, Wheaton said.

“There is what seems to be a demand in our community to expand educational programming, including sensitivity to class sizes,” he said.


Yarmouth has historically supported its schools, regarded as some of the best in the state, as a way to attract new residents and increase property values. In the past five years, voters have overwhelmingly supported school budget increases, regularly approving budgets with 70 percent of the vote. Some residents have voted against the budgets, but it rarely spills into the public sphere.

“There is always a pocket of people who want us to be concerned with holding the line on spending,” said Town Council Chairman Randall Bates. “There were never signs out or anything like that, but there was certainly some debate.”

He added: “I think there are competing forces going on in Yarmouth. We are always trying to balance having a fine, top-notch school system but recognize there are other needs in town.”

But for some residents, next year’s budget is a breaking point. Bruce Soule, who helped organize school budget opponents around the Yarmouth Tax Study Committee, said he wants the Town Council to reevaluate the budget and question priorities. Even though this year’s budget will mean a tax rate decrease, Soule said he and others are tired of yearly spending increases that support programs in addition to what the state determines are essential for education, at the expense of other municipal spending.

“We are providing a private school education with a public school tax rate,” Soule said. “At some point, where do you stop paying for all the extras that are beyond the needs determined by the state?”

In an April 13 letter to the Town Council, Soule asked councilors to reject the school budget and give the School Committee a goal to tie future increases to economic indicators such as Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and inflation. His group has collected 180 signatures in support of its position and he said that number represents a much larger groundswell of residents.

“We are just looking at this spending running out of control. More and more items just keep on getting pushed on the taxpayer that rightly should be paid by the parents,” Soule said.

Shannon, with the Yes for Yarmouth campaign, said budget opponents are a very small group of taxpayers. Most residents are willing to pay for education and feel school spending benefits the town as a whole, he said.

“There are always people who categorically oppose change and categorically oppose taxes, no matter what the need,” he said. “I think there has always been a small minority of discontented ‘no’ people and this year somebody thought to get a sign. It just made visible that minority view,” he added. “I don’t think their support extends beyond the signs, whereas ours does.”

Budget support was on display at a public hearing last Thursday. More than a dozen residents stood up to voice their support for the budget, compared to a handful who criticized additional spending. The seven-member Town Council voted unanimously to move the budget forward to a second and final public hearing on May 5, in advance of the town meeting on June 7 and a ballot referendum June 14.

Although his group aims to get the council to reject the budget before a townwide vote, Soule said his group would keep up the pressure into the June election.

“We are going to carry on and see if we can convince enough people in town who want the budget to be controlled to vote it down,” he said.


]]> 42, 19 Apr 2016 23:17:07 +0000
Tax credit program expands to encourage college grads to take jobs in Maine Wed, 20 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 After a year and a half working for ESPN in Connecticut, Brendan Gilbert was eager to return to his native Maine.

Armed with a degree in communications, he landed a job with Patra Co. in Brunswick, doing Web-based marketing.

And, to his surprise, he was able to net a lucrative state tax credit that he has used to help pay his student loan debt.

Gilbert has been telling his friends he considers the Opportunity Maine credit “a great benefit for people who want to stay in Maine.”

Gilbert and about 4,000 others have tapped the little-known program that awards tax credits to recent college grads who choose to work in Maine. Now, state officials hope a round of legislative tweaking and new promotional efforts will attract more recent college graduates – and in the process help build a more skilled workforce for Maine.

“What we really want is for them (college graduates) to come back and live and work in Maine,” said Tracy Coughlin of Maine Education Services, a nonprofit that helps students and families plan and pay for college. MES has been administering and marketing the Opportunity Maine program since it was created in 2008, although the Maine Development Foundation will take over the marketing effort this year.

When the program started, taxpayers had to be graduates of Maine colleges and working in Maine to qualify for tax credits, which can range up to $4,500 per year.

Over the years, the rules have been loosened and, for the 2016 tax year, it will be open to all post-2008 college graduates – not just those from Maine colleges and universities – who take jobs in Maine.

The new rules will also offer more incentives to Maine companies to pay some or all of their employees’ student loans, even for employees holding graduate degrees. A company making student loan payments for an employee can claim the payments as a tax break on its annual filing. This year, the Legislature lifted the cap on the amount employers can pay on their workers’ student loans and still qualify for the tax credit. The credit is over $4,000 for a bachelor’s degree or nearly $800 for an associate degree, per eligible employee.

Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, who sponsored a bill this year that included changes in the program, said he expects that provision will take off as more employers become aware of it.

“It’s a huge recruiting tool,” he said, and will allow Maine employers to compete with out-of-state companies offering higher salaries.


Economists are predicting that Maine will face a shortage of more than 100,000 workers by 2032 because of baby boomers retiring and the state’s low birth rate. Six out of every seven job openings in Maine over the next several years will be to replace existing workers leaving the labor force, which began shrinking in 2013, according to an analysis by the Maine Department of Labor.

“That’s what we hear from employers around the state: workforce, workforce,” said Yellow Light Breen, chief executive officer of the Maine Development Foundation. “It’s the number one challenge facing the state.”

Opportunity Maine is “a mostly unknown program,” he said, particularly the part that allows an employer to pay off a worker’s student loans and get a tax credit. Marketing it dovetails with other efforts that MDF is focused on to attract young, skilled workers to Maine, said Breen.

In testimony before the Taxation Committee, Rep. Mattie Daughtery, D-Brunswick, representing the Legislature’s Youth Caucus, argued for the expansion of the program to Mainers who got their college educations outside the state.

“Student loan debt in particular keeps many in very difficult financial situations just starting out with their lives, with a third of millennials nationwide still living with their parents,” she said. “Let’s encourage those students to come back to Maine to live, work and play, avoiding the so-called brain drain scenario. We need those young people to help make Maine a more prosperous state.”


The amount that taxpayers can claim under the Opportunity Maine program varies, based on their individual tax and loan situations. Gilbert said his credit ends up covering about two-thirds of his annual payments on a $10,000 student debt he accumulated while earning a bachelor’s degree from the New England School of Communications at Husson University. He said he’s stretching out his payments to take advantage of the credit, which can be claimed over 10 years.

The federal government allows taxpayers to claim a deduction on interest paid on their student loans, but Coughlin said she thinks only one other state – Kansas – offers a state credit like Maine’s.

In 2014, the latest year for which figures are available, nearly 4,000 taxpayers claimed a credit under the program. Credits are higher for the highly desirable tech worker with a STEM (science, technology, education or math) degree. The average amount was $1,832 for people with a STEM degree. For college grads without a STEM degree, the average credit was a little more than $1,000.

Coughlin said with Maine’s unemployment rate below 4 percent, it may seem odd to push a program to invite more workers to move here. But she noted that many employers say they are having a hard time finding skilled workers.

And with Maine’s aging workforce, many skilled workers are retiring, so she said the program is a good way to attract young skilled workers to replace them.

“We want to make it a strong, powerful tool” for improving the quality of the workforce, she said.


]]> 16, 22 Apr 2016 16:27:14 +0000
Lyseth students ready to continue their Odyssey Tue, 19 Apr 2016 20:40:11 +0000 A group of students from Lyseth Elementary School in Portland spent part of their spring vacation practicing for the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals. Lyseth’s A and B teams of fifth-graders both qualified for next month’s competition in Iowa.

Lyseth Elementary School fifth graders Emily Seavey and Sammy Desjardins work together to lift a giant syringe during a rehearsal of their team's production "No-cycle, Recycle" that will be performed at the Odyssey of the MInd World Finals in Iowa in May.

Lyseth Elementary School fifth-graders Emily Seavey and Sammy Desjardins work together to lift a giant syringe during a rehearsal of their team’s production “No-cycle, Recycle” that will be performed at the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in Iowa in May. Photos by Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

Students from 70 schools turned out for the April 2 state tournament in Biddeford.

Emily Seavey, center, listens as coach Melanie Desjardins, left, speaks with Team B about their production. From left are team members Sammy Desjardins, Seavey, Declan McPartlan, Ella Romano and Jack Armstrong. Two teams from Lyseth Elementary, including Adrian Boothby and Hannah Dionne (not pictured), are rehearsing for the competition.

Coach Melanie Desjardins, left, speaks with Team B about their production. From left are team members Desjardins, Seavey, Declan McPartlan, Ella Romano and Jack Armstrong.

Students receive their problems in the late fall and came up with a solution and presentation – without any adult help – which they demonstrate before a panel of judges. In March about 120 teams were winnowed down by about half at regional tournaments in Brunswick and Sanford.

The top two winners in each of numerous divisions from the tournament in Biddeford may compete at the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals at Iowa State University from May 25 to 28.

Each team has to raise money to finance the trip, which costs about $800 to $1,000 per child.

At left: Desjardins and Seavey demonstrate their people-powered vehicle. Two teams of fifth graders, 14 students in all, designed and built vehicles without pedaling for propulsion as part of the problem-solving competition. At right: Ella Romano reacts while rehearsing her team's production "No-cycle, Recycle."

At left: Desjardins and Seavey demonstrate their people-powered vehicle. Two teams of fifth-graders, 14 students in all, designed and built vehicles without pedaling for propulsion as part of the problem-solving competition. At right: Ella Romano reacts while rehearsing her team’s production “No-cycle, Recycle.”

]]> 0, 19 Apr 2016 16:54:56 +0000
Maine ranks 7th nationwide in high school achievement Tue, 19 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 In a slight improvement over last year, Maine high schools rank seventh in the nation in student achievement, according to the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings.

Last year, the state was eighth in the rankings, which are based on graduation rates for the schools and on student performance on state proficiency tests, Advanced Placement exams and International Baccalaureate tests. It was the first time the magazine considered graduation rates as part of its methodology.

Four Maine schools were among the top 500 schools nationwide: Yarmouth High School (251), Cape Elizabeth High School (335), Falmouth High School (345) and Brewer High School (496).

Several Maine schools on this year’s list were not ranked last year, including Portland’s Casco Bay High School, Mt. Abram Regional High School, Marshwood High School in South Berwick, Madison Area Memorial High School and Caribou High School.

Two years ago, Maine was the top-ranked state in the country for student achievement, but the methodology has changed.

The No. 1-ranked state in the country for 2016 was Maryland, which was also the top state last year. Maryland had nearly 29 percent of its schools earn top honors. It was followed by Connecticut, California, Florida, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and Maine. After Maine, which had 19.3 percent of its schools get top honors, the top 10 was rounded out with Utah, Rhode Island and New York.


CORRECTION: The story was updated at 2:28 p.m. on April 19, 2016, to clarify the previous rankings of some Maine schools.


]]> 30, 19 Apr 2016 14:30:07 +0000
Tennessee transgender bathroom bill withdrawn Tue, 19 Apr 2016 00:49:26 +0000 NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A transgender bathroom bill in the Tennessee legislature failed Monday after the House sponsor said she was withdrawing the legislation while waiting to see how legal challenges play out in other states that have passed similar measures.

The bill’s demise follows intense lobbying from both supporters and opponents of the measure and questions about potential economic fallout if it were to become law.

Rep. Susan Lynn, the Republican who sponsored the bill in the House, said she needed to tweak the legislation before bringing it back up again next year.

“There’s definitely some issues we need to work out,” Lynn said. “We know as soon as this bill passes, we’re going to be sued. So if we’re going to be heading into a lawsuit, we want to make sure we have the strongest position possible.”

The bill would have required all students in public schools and universities to use bathrooms and locker rooms that matched their gender at birth.

Lynn had amended the bill so students who objected could be given an alternative, but opponents said it was still hurtful toward transgender students.

Lynn pulled the measure on the same day that a religious coalition of the Family Action Council of Tennessee and about 30 pastors had urged state lawmakers earlier in the day to stand strong in the face of intense opposition.

]]> 26 Mon, 18 Apr 2016 20:57:41 +0000
Parents of Maine students in Ecuador call earthquake a learning experience Mon, 18 Apr 2016 16:38:34 +0000 Katie Teague was watching “The Peanuts Movie” with her younger son at home in Westbrook on Saturday evening when her husband got a call from a friend asking if they’d heard about the earthquake in Ecuador, where their 14-year-old son, Shaun, was on a mission trip with his school.

Her husband went online to learn more and found out how severe it was.

As of Monday, at least 413 people had died and more than 2,500 had been injured in the magnitude-7.8 quake that flattened homes and buckled highways. Aid was arriving from around the world to provide medical care and help search for survivors still buried under the rubble.

Before Teague’s husband relayed what information he had, she checked her phone. She had a voice mail from her son, letting her know he was OK.

Shaun Teague is in the city of Manta with seven other high school students, two teachers and a parent from the Greater Portland Christian School in South Portland, which organizes mission trips abroad every other year. They have been teaching vacation Bible school and immersing themselves in the Spanish language.

Another group of about the same size, most of them students from Lake Region High School in Naples, is on a trip to Ecuador but was in the Galapagos Islands, far from the epicenter off the country’s central coast, when the earthquake hit, said Vicke Toole of Naples, whose daughter is in that group.

She said the students didn’t feel the quake but saw the ocean waves grow. That group, on a tour organized through a company called Education First, is scheduled to return to Quito, the capital, on Tuesday and arrive back in Maine next Monday, said Kurtis Clements of Casco, who also has a daughter on the trip.

He said his nerves have calmed since getting the news, but, he added, “I’d like to know how she’s going to get home.”

The South Portland students are supposed to leave Tuesday from Manta, but that airport was closed Monday. They were hoping to get a bus to Quito, where they have a connecting flight, but the roads are badly damaged and the buses aren’t running.

Their cellphones are dying and their calls home are getting less frequent.

But parents said Monday that they trust the chaperones to get the group home safely and believe the students will learn a lot from the harrowing experience.

“I feel this is probably why they’re there,” Teague said, noting her pride in her son when she found out the students had taken up a collection for a family whose home was destroyed in the earthquake.

Treena Garrison of South Portland heard from her 14-year-old son, Kade, before she learned about the earthquake.

She said there was a nervous energy, almost giddiness, in his voice when he first called to say the home they were staying in hadn’t been damaged and that they were all gathered outside.

When he called back an hour and a half later, his tone had changed.

Kade and his group had grabbed their backpacks and started heading toward the church where they had been teaching because there was a tsunami warning and the church was on higher ground.

“I thought, ‘This is real,’ ” Garrison said.

Garrison said the parents of the Greater Portland Christian School students have had a group text going since they left for Ecuador on April 8 and have been sharing all the information they’ve gotten since the earthquake.

She said everyone has reported that the teens are doing well.

“I feel like the kids are going to learn and grow so much in their faith throughout this experience,” she said.


]]> 1, 19 Apr 2016 00:04:18 +0000
Presidential campaign captivates Maine teenagers Mon, 18 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 When 16-year-old Connor Mullen complained recently that he had been taunted by students and teachers at South Portland High School after wearing a baseball cap supporting Donald Trump, it was the boiling point of an unusually intense political atmosphere among teenagers.

This year’s presidential campaign has captivated teenagers’ attention like few before it. Wall-to-wall media coverage, unorthodox candidates and a charged political atmosphere are drawing the entire country’s attention, and that has filtered down to teenagers, even those who won’t be eligible to vote in November. For some, the 2016 election marks the first time they will be able to vote.

“Some years, I have to really fan the flames to get students excited about the presidential campaign. Not this year,” said Ted Jordan, a social studies teacher who teaches an Advanced Placement government course at Cape Elizabeth High School.

The reason for the interest is clear, Jordan said: Trump, a Republican, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is seeking the Democratic nomination, break the mold of the typical politician.

“They are candidates that are against the system, against the establishment,” Jordan said.

At Portland High School, students said politics are a constant source of discussion, and the debates can get heated. The student body is divided between Sanders and Trump supporters. Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich are barely scratching out support.

“A lot of teachers have gotten annoyed because all we do is talk about politics,” said Madison Snyder, a 17-year-old junior who supports Sanders. She said most students feel the same way, but other students said Sanders only appears to have the most support because he has the loudest backers.

“Outspoken people are for Bernie – that’s why you hear it the most,” said junior Peter Barry, 17.

Reed Foehl, a 16-year-old Portland sophomore, said students back Sanders because supporting Clinton is unpopular.

“If you support Hillary, there is a lot of peer pressure,” Foehl said. “People say, ‘Why do you support her? She’s evil.’ ”

Students said political debate is usually civil but occasionally turns into arguments. Most times, conflict surfaces between Trump and Sanders supporters. Often, teenagers pretend to support Trump because they know it will provoke others.

“People do it as a joke, just to get back at other people,” said Charles Egeland, 16, who added that he’s not that interested in the election. “I don’t really care. Once I’m 18, I’ll pay attention.”

According to a national survey by Fuse, a youth marketing firm in Burlington, Vermont, Trump is widely disliked by teenagers. Almost 75 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of him, while 55 percent had a similar opinion of Clinton. Sanders was extremely popular by comparison: 50 percent of respondents said they would vote for him, compared to 17 percent for Clinton and 14 percent for Trump.

Yarmouth High School seniors Eavan O’Neill, 18, Lydia Sullivan, 17, and Anna Bouton, 18, said the constant presence of the presidential campaign on social media makes it impossible to escape. Facebook and Instagram feeds are filled with memes and news stories about the race and the candidates. The stream becomes a flood whenever Trump makes a controversial remark, O’Neill said.

“What is said on social media has shaped a lot of people’s views,” O’Neill said. “It’s everywhere.”

Oona Mackinnon-Hoban, 17, a junior at Portland High, said she supported Sanders in the March caucus and hopes to vote for him in the general election. She has always been interested in politics, so to see her peers get involved is gratifying.

“Part of me is really excited because I’ve seen people who would never be interested in politics get really invested in this campaign,” she said.

Some students, however, have opted to stay out of the fray.

John Stolz, a Scarborough senior, said he supports Kasich but tries to avoid talking politics.

“I do occasionally,” he said, “but once you present facts that show you’re (correct), they start attacking you personally.”

Rand Nohr, a junior at Falmouth High School, said the teachers are good about letting discussions play out, but he tries not to engage in it.

“I’m thankful I don’t have to vote,” he said. “I think they are all terrible.”

Staff Writers Kelley Bouchard and Eric Russell contributed to this report.

]]> 21, 18 Apr 2016 09:35:30 +0000
Mainers in Ecuador safe after earthquake Sun, 17 Apr 2016 22:58:48 +0000 A group of students and teachers from the Greater Portland Christian School in South Portland reported that they are safe after an earthquake in Ecuador claimed the lives of at least 262 people Saturday.

The magnitude 7.8 quake, the strongest to strike Ecuador since 1979, was centered on the country’s sparsely populated fishing ports and tourist beaches about 105 miles northwest of the capital city, Quito.

Unofficial reports said more than 580 people were injured in the earthquake, which began Saturday evening.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the country suffered more than 135 aftershocks. The quake flattened buildings and buckled highways along Ecuador’s Pacific coast.

The Greater Portland Christian School’s “Ecuador Team” reported on its Facebook page: “We are all fine but one church family lost the house they were building. When the kids saw them at the church last night they took up an impromptu offering for the family.”

The group also directed its Facebook message to parents, asking them not to worry.

“We want to remind parents that we are all safe here and that since the Manta airport is open we will follow our original plans. News reports will show the worst damage, but we are far from it,” the students wrote. “Please don’t worry about us. We will be home soon as planned.”

The Greater Portland Christian School, located at 1338 Broadway in South Portland, has sent high school students on mission trips to places such as Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, where they perform a variety of tasks and services in the name of Christ, according to the school’s website.

The school group departed for Ecuador on April 8 and is scheduled to return on April 20.

]]> 0 Sun, 17 Apr 2016 22:56:32 +0000
Colleges tantalize with wait-list maybes Sun, 17 Apr 2016 00:09:48 +0000 Students applying to top colleges crave to hear “yes!” when decisions roll out in March and brace themselves for “no.” But huge numbers get a vague answer that is neither admission nor denial – a tantalizing “maybe” – with an invitation to join a wait list.

Wait-list offers far outnumber seats in the entering classes at many of those schools, a Washington Post analysis found. The University of Michigan last year invited 14,960 students onto its wait list, by far the largest total from among dozens of schools that The Post reviewed and more than 25 percent of all applicants to the state flagship in Ann Arbor. Of the 4,512 who accepted a wait-list spot, just 90 – 1.99 percent – were admitted to a class of 6,071.

Wait lists prolong the tension of the grueling college search for tens of thousands of students a year, giving a glimmer of hope that often ends with no payoff beyond the satisfaction of learning that elite schools considered their bids worthy of a verdict other than outright rejection.

For colleges, wait lists provide peace of mind during admission season, enabling enrollment chiefs to plug unexpected holes in a class – perhaps nursing students, or prospective engineers, or out-of-state residents interested in business. But for teenagers on the cusp of high school graduation, the massive lists exact an emotional toll after they already have spent many stressful months in pursuit of their college dreams.

“I definitely do still feel like I’m in a limbo state,” said Apollo Yong, 17, a senior at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va. He is wait-listed at the University of Chicago and Dartmouth College, and is wondering what his final choices will be as the May 1 deadline looms for admitted students to choose a school: “There’s still, like, hope that I’ll get in.”

A strong International Baccalaureate student with an interest in biomedical engineering, Yong plays violin in the orchestra and picked up the mandolin for a part in the spring play “Dark of the Moon.” He has been admitted to the University of Virginia, Georgia Tech and the University of Texas at Dallas, and said he is “really happy” with those options.


Chicago and Dartmouth both praised Yong’s “impressive accomplishments.” But instead of admission they offered him places on their wait lists. “Initially I thought, ‘What did I do wrong?’ ” Yong said. He acknowledged feeling a curious mix of disappointment, frustration and hope in knowing that he qualified for those two ultra-selective schools, if only space would open up.

It is difficult to say what the chances are that Yong will get into either school. At the most elite schools, wait-listed students seem to face prospects ranging from slim to none.

Chicago reveals little about its wait lists. Data from Dartmouth show that it is hit-or-miss: Last year, Dartmouth admitted 129 from a wait list of 963, amounting to roughly 10 percent of the entering class. But Dartmouth did not admit any wait-listed applicants in 2014 – of 1,133 names, zero made it to the New Hampshire campus.

The Post reviewed wait-list results for 2014 and 2015 at nearly 100 selective schools, drawn from responses to the Common Data Set questionnaire. Some colleges will start to make admission offers from their wait list in late April. Many, though, will wait until after the May 1 deadline for admitted students to make an enrollment deposit. Then, when they know how their classes are shaping up, they might dip into their wait lists. Or they might not.

Some famous schools, such as Harvard University, use wait lists but reveal nothing about them. Yale University disclosed that it invited 1,324 applicants to its list in 2014, about the same size of its entering class, but declined to reveal how many were admitted through that route.

Stanford, the nation’s most selective university, admitted a mere seven from its wait list in 2014 and none from a list of 927 in 2015. Wait-listed students also were shut out last year at Lehigh and Tulane universities and at the University of Maryland, as well as Bryn Mawr, Dickinson and Macalester colleges. They had little success at Carnegie Mellon (four admits) and Duke (nine).

The dynamics of wait lists provide a stark illustration of the pecking order in higher education at a time when top-flight students often apply to a dozen or more schools.

Consider students who have accepted admission to a school ranked in the top 25 by U.S. News and World Report but not in the top 10. If those students get an offer from a top-10 school via a wait list after May 1, they might well accept it and forfeit their enrollment deposits elsewhere. But that, in turn, leaves the first schools they accepted with a suddenly vacant seat. So those schools must go to their wait lists, creating a cascading effect through the market.

Case Western Reserve, a private university in Cleveland ranked 37th nationally, keeps an eye every year on the flow of students to higher-ranked private schools such as Northwestern, Chicago, Carnegie Mellon and Emory, as well as public universities such as Ohio State, Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and the University of California at Berkeley. Those schools sometimes lure strong candidates away from Case Western.

“What happens there matters to us,” said Rick Bischoff, Case Western’s vice president for enrollment.


To ensure that the university hits its freshman enrollment target of 1,250, Case Western keeps one of the deepest wait lists in the country and uses it aggressively. The school invited more than 9,000 applicants to its wait list last year, and wound up with 5,119 names. Ultimately, it offered admission to 518 of those students. Not all accepted, but the school met its enrollment goal.

Bischoff said that it is vital not to admit too many students through regular admission. In 2012, the university overshot its enrollment target by 30 percent, leaving the school to scramble to find beds for hundreds of unexpected arrivals and to schedule more courses. “That’s bad,” Bischoff said.

Now, Case Western doles out regular-admission offers conservatively and plans on filling about 10 percent of its class through the wait list. Bischoff said that he starts making offers from the list in late April.

“We love our wait-list kids,” Bischoff said, noting that their academic profile is as strong or stronger than the overall entering class. “It’s not that these are sub-par students. These are terrific, terrific kids.”

When the school pulls from the wait list, he said, “we’re making some kids’ dreams come true.”

Sometimes, schools activate nearly their entire wait list. Penn State admitted 1,445 of its 1,473 wait-listed applicants in 2015 to its main campus, a year after it wait-listed no one. Ohio State let in everyone from its list in 2014 (239 students) and again in 2015 (304).

Vanderbilt University works its list heavily. In 2014, it offered admission to 210 of its 4,536 wait-listed students to help fill a class of about 1,600. Douglas Christiansen, the university’s vice provost for enrollment, said Vanderbilt must ensure that it has strong candidates for its schools of music, engineering, education, and arts and science.

After students join Vanderbilt’s wait list, the university keeps close tabs on their desires, asking them twice to confirm that they want to remain under consideration. Usually, some drop out during that back and forth.

“Our whole intent with the wait list is to be upfront, transparent, fair and expedited so these youngsters are not in greater level of continued agony of what they’re trying to do,” Christiansen said. “And they and their families can move on – whether that’s ‘Yay, moving on to Vanderbilt’ or to somewhere else.”


What wait-listed students most want to know is what will boost their case for getting in. Christiansen said that Vanderbilt’s guidance is to reconfirm interest and then stay in touch via email with a regional admissions officer. (But in moderation: Too many emails can backfire.) And forget about trying to lean on the school through connections.

“You don’t need to pull out your parents’ influential friends. You don’t need to send letters from senators, representatives, movie stars or wealthy people,” Christiansen said. Big-name testimonials “will not make a difference at all.”

Michigan said that its wait-list invites grew to that high level last year in part because application totals spiked 75 percent over five years. Surging demand creates more uncertainty as the university tries to predict a final class size based on how many offers of admission it has made, and Michigan also is seeking to maintain high standards for each of its seven undergraduate schools and colleges that admit freshmen.

“All of which, in our view, supports a desire for a robust wait list in the event that the wait list would be needed to stabilize the incoming class,” said Rick Fitzgerald, a Michigan spokesman.

About 4,500 students in both 2014 and 2015 accepted spots on Michigan’s wait list – a number that is equivalent to about 75 percent of the size of the school’s freshman class. Fitzgerald said that the university plans to scale back its invites this year, but could not say by how much.


Meanwhile, wait-listed students everywhere are spending April, and perhaps part of May, in high suspense.

Jasmine Ben Hamed, 17, a classmate of Yong’s at Washington-Lee High, said that she has an offer from American University and is wait-listed at George Washington and William and Mary. A varsity tennis-team captain who is involved in community service, Ben Hamed said that she is interested in international relations and humanities.

It was hard to get the wait-list news, she said. “It was telling you, ‘You’ve done a good job,’ ” she said. “But if I had done one more thing, would I have gotten in?”

Sally Ancheva, 17, another Washington-Lee senior, was admitted to UC-Berkeley, UCLA and U-Va., as well as Stetson University in Florida, with a scholarship. She said she was wait-listed at Harvard, Stanford and Chicago.

She recalled getting the Stanford decision in late March: “A part of you always thinks it’s going to be a yes.” But she was realistic, ready for a no.

The “maybe” caught her off-guard. “I wasn’t prepared for that. I took it like a rejection. It was very tough,” she said. Now, she is reiterating her interest to her wait-list schools and trying to stay flexible.

“I’ve come to peace with the whole thing.”

]]> 0, 16 Apr 2016 20:22:44 +0000
Ben Bradlee Jr. to speak Monday at Colby College Sat, 16 Apr 2016 01:38:51 +0000 WATERVILLE — As a government major and member of the varsity hockey team at Colby College in the 1960s, Ben Bradlee Jr. had no intention of pursuing a career in journalism.

But after serving in the Peace Corps for two years following his 1970 graduation, the Manchester, New Hampshire, native landed a job at the Riverside Press-Enterprise in California and went on to work as a reporter, editor and then deputy managing editor at The Boston Globe.

Bradlee left the Globe in 2014 after 25 years.

Bradlee and a team of investigative reporters at the Globe are the subject of the recent film “Spotlight,” which recounts the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the newspaper into decades of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and its cover-up.

At 7 p.m. Monday, Bradlee will speak at Colby’s Lorimer Chapel on the film, journalism and the sexual abuse scandal.

The talk is open to the public.

A free screening of “Spotlight” is also planned for 8:30 p.m. Sunday in the Lovejoy building at Colby.

The talk and film screening are part of a series sponsored by Colby’s Oak Institute for Human Rights, “Reclaiming Sex,” which focuses on sexual violence and sexual abuse as human rights offenses.

Bradlee said the film is an accurate portrayal of the Globe’s investigation. He hopes it will also change people’s perceptions of journalism.

“Too often I think reporters are portrayed in film as a bunch of jackals following politicians around and screaming questions, so it’s nice to have us portrayed in a good way I think,” Bradlee, 67, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in an interview Thursday.

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

]]> 0, 15 Apr 2016 22:55:50 +0000
Scarborough chooses new school superintendent Fri, 15 Apr 2016 19:41:01 +0000 The Scarborough School Board has chosen a public school administrator from Massachusetts to take over when Superintendent George Entwistle retires in June.

Julie Kukenberger, who is assistant superintendent in Haverhill, Massachusetts, was chosen from 16 applicants and three finalists, according to school officials.

“Julie Kukenberger has excellent credentials and experience,” Donna Beeley, board chairwoman, said in a news release. “She will be an excellent addition to our school district and our community.”

Kukenberger worked as a classroom teacher, principal and director of curriculum and instruction before assuming her current position. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Rider University and a master’s degree in educational administration from Rowan University, both in New Jersey. She is pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership at Boston College and plans to complete her degree in 2018.

Kukenberger said she is eager to begin working for the district.

“I am energized by the passion and dedication of the school board and educators in Scarborough,” Kukenberger said. “Teachers and leaders have shared with me areas where we will need to focus in order to ensure that we continue to provide all students in Scarborough with the type of education that results in choice and opportunity. I am excited to become a member of the Scarborough leadership team and look forward to serving the students and the community.”

Entwistle has been superintendent in Scarborough since 2011.

Finalists for the position included Brooke Clenchy, senior associate education commissioner of Massachusetts, who has a master’s degree in educational leadership, curriculum and instruction from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington; and Craig King, superintendent of Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10, which serves Rumford and 11 other communities.

King, who also is one of two finalists for a superintendent’s position in Cape Elizabeth, previously served as principal of Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham and worked as a principal and an assistant principal in Mississippi. He also taught high school there and at the elementary level at an international school. He has a master’s degree in education and a doctorate in educational leadership, both from the University of Southern Mississippi.

The other finalist for the Cape Elizabeth position is Steven Bailey, superintendent of the Central Lincoln County School System, Alternative Organizational Structure 93, which is based in Damariscotta.

Bailey previously served as assistant superintendent and curriculum director in South Portland. His history includes principal positions in Exeter, New Hampshire, South Portland and Veazie, where he began his teaching career. He has a master’s degree in education and a certificate of advanced studies, both from the University of Maine.

King and Bailey are expected to visit Cape Elizabeth schools during the week of April 25. The school board there is seeking a replacement for Meredith Nadeau, who has been superintendent for five years and is leaving to become superintendent of the elementary and junior-senior high schools in Newmarket, New Hampshire.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

]]> 0 Fri, 15 Apr 2016 20:24:29 +0000
Former ed tech had left SAD 6 job before arrest on sex charges, board says Fri, 15 Apr 2016 19:05:57 +0000 The chairwoman of the School Administrative District 6 board said Friday that an educational technician had stopped working for the district four days before he was charged with sexually assaulting a student in another district.

In a statement, Rebecca Bowley said the SAD 6 board was notified of the allegations against Zachariah Sherburne, the son of Superintendent Frank Sherburne, only after he stopped working for the district on March 11.

Bowley did not specify when the board was notified and did not respond to questions, including whether Frank Sherburne had a role in his son’s hiring, which appears to be a violation of the district’s anti-nepotism policy.

Zachariah Sherburne, 23, is charged with gross sexual assault, a felony, and sexual abuse of a minor, a misdemeanor. According to an arrest affidavit, on Feb. 12 he engaged in “a sexual act” with a 16-year-old girl, who was a student in SAD 55 at Sacopee Valley High School in Hiram, where Sherburne was employed as an education technician. Because Sherburne was employed there, he had “disciplinary authority” over her, the court document alleges.

Sherburne’s attorney, Allan Lobozzo of Lewiston, said his client was never the girl’s teacher and would not have had disciplinary authority over her.

Sherburne admitted to a detective that he was drinking alcohol when he had sex with the teenager at the Kezar Falls Fire Department, where he was a volunteer firefighter. The teenager is now pregnant, and she said Sherburne is the father, the affidavit says.

SAD 6 hired Sherburne as an educational technician at Buxton Center Elementary School on Feb. 8. It was not clear Friday whether he was also still working at Sacopee Valley High when he began working at Buxton Center Elementary.

According to the affidavit, the girl told police that Sherburne was also a substitute teacher at Sacopee Valley.

Lobozzo said that Sherburne didn’t have the girl as a student when he worked as a substitute. Lobozzo didn’t know when his client stopped working at Sacopee Valley, and a message left at the SAD 55 district office was not returned.

The circumstances of Sherburne’s hiring in SAD 6 also were not clear.

“Although we are unable to discuss many aspects of (Zachariah) Sherburne’s employment because they are confidential, we can tell you that Mr. Sherburne worked for the school district as an educational technician from February 8, 2016, to March 11, 2016,” Bowley’s statement said.

It is also unclear whether Sherburne quit or was fired. His last day at SAD 6 was the same day he turned himself in to the Oxford County sheriff’s department.

On March 11, he met with a sheriff’s deputy in Brownfield and said that he knew he had done something wrong, that he had told the girl that it couldn’t happen again, and that the relationship ended. He told the deputy he had wanted to come forward and confess, the affidavit says, and that he finally did when he learned Sacopee Valley had opened an investigation.

The Oxford County Sheriff’s Office arrested him on March 15, and he was released on $500 bail. His next court appearance is in June.

According to the SAD 6 chairwoman’s statement, the school board is not aware of any allegations of inappropriate conduct while Sherburne was employed at the Buxton school.

“The safety and well-being of our students is our first priority, and we have no reason to believe that safety or well-being has been compromised,” the statement said.

Most parents picking up their children from Buxton Center Elementary on Friday were aware of the allegations, but not all of them knew that Sherburne was the superintendent’s son.

Amanda Chute, whose 6-year-old son is a student, said she has not been impressed with Frank Sherburne and the recent news “only confirms that.”

“I think something should happen,” she said. “From what I know of him, he seems to blame everyone else, but you don’t allow your kid to work in your district.”

In 2013, the SAD 6 board cleared Frank Sherburne of allegations by the Sacopee Valley Teachers’ Association that the superintendent had improper communications with a student.

A letter from the union that May said Sherburne communicated directly with a troubled student and interfered with the staff’s ability to “respond to the student’s significant mental health needs.” The Pierce Atwood law firm investigated the allegations for the board and found they were without merit.

Trish Iaconeta, whose son attends the Buxton school, said she would be concerned if the younger Sherburne had not been subjected to the same hiring standards as everyone else.

“You can’t even volunteer here without a background check or fingerprints. And I think that’s good,” she said. “But I think in order to make sure our kids are safe, the school should investigate his time here.”

Frank Sherburne has not addressed the allegations against his son or answered questions about his son’s employment in SAD 6, which encompasses Buxton, Hollis, Limington, Standish and Frye Island. A Press Herald reporter visited the SAD 6 office Friday and was told that Sherburne was in a meeting.

The reporter said he would wait and was then told that Sherburne would not speak with him even after the meeting and referred all questions to Assistant Superintendent Michael Roy or to Bowley. Roy later called the Press Herald and said Bowley would issue a statement, and that neither he nor Sherburne would answer any questions.

The district’s nepotism policy, which is posted on its website, says: “It is the policy of the SAD 6 board not to employ any person who is a member of the family of a board member or the superintendent.”

Of the 14 members of the SAD 6 school board, most did not respond to requests for comment. Only board member Charlotte Dufresne answered questions in a phone call. Another member, Ansel Stevens Jr., called back to defer comment to Roy or Bowley. Board vice chairman Jacob Stoddard said late Friday afternoon that he did not have time to speak on the phone and asked that questions be emailed to him. He hadn’t responded to them Friday night.

Dufresne said she did not remember Zachariah Sherburne’s name being brought before the board for a vote on whether to hire him. School board minutes show no record of the board taking such a vote.

“I don’t follow all the hirings, resignations and firings,” Dufresne said. “My focus of being on the board is the education of the students.”

Dufresne acknowledged the district’s policy against hiring relatives of school board members and the superintendent, but she said relatives have been allowed to work within the district in the past.

“As long as you’re not the direct supervisor, it has been allowed previously,” she said.

Zachariah Sherburne has two addresses listed in court documents – a post office box in Parsonsfield and a residence in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. He has no criminal record in Maine, according to state records.

He did not answer a call to his cellphone Friday.

Staff Writer Scott Dolan contributed to this report.


]]> 32, 15 Apr 2016 21:37:25 +0000
Pot brownies at Mt. Blue prompt medical use guidelines Thu, 14 Apr 2016 22:23:42 +0000 In response to a trend of students bringing baked goods containing marijuana to school and consuming them on school grounds, the Regional School Unit 9 board of directors plans to consider a policy that establishes the district’s guidelines on student consumption of prescribed medical marijuana.

On Tuesday, the board voted to expel a boy for eating and distributing brownies containing marijuana on the Mt. Blue High School campus in Farmington. RSU 9 Superintendent Tom Ward said the district has been averaging three or four such incidents per year, between the middle school and the high school, of students caught bringing either brownies or muffins containing marijuana to school.

Although a medical marijuana prescription was not involved in the most recent student expulsion, Ward said a “majority of our cases” involving students consuming marijuana on schools grounds have been related to medical marijuana.

“The trend of what we’re dealing with is students bringing medical marijuana brownies to school,” Ward said Thursday.

The proposed policy will go before the school board April 26. Ward said he could not disclose the policy’s full scope but said it would put the school in compliance with a state law passed last year that allows students to take prescribed medical marijuana on school grounds as long as it is administered by a parent or guardian. RSU 9 includes Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton.

Ward said the policy would establish guidelines about consumption of medical marijuana by students with prescriptions on school grounds, to show that the district is “not going to tolerate” students bringing marijuana products to school.

In February, the Augusta school board approved a similar policy, which states that students are not permitted to posses medical marijuana while in school but may consume it – in a nonsmokable form – if it is administered by a primary caregiver. However, the Augusta policy was passed so the school would be in compliance with the state law, not because of concern about the issue within the district.

The Winslow school board also approved a medical marijuana policy in January.

Jennifer Zweig-Herbert, chairwoman of the RSU 9 board of directors, said she couldn’t comment on whether medical marijuana has been an increasing problem for the district, but said she believes guidelines for usage in school should be in place.

“I think because medical marijuana is legal in Maine now, I think we should definitely have a policy, just like we have a policy on other legal medications,” Zweig-Herbert said.

Tuesday’s student expulsion was the second involving marijuana brownies this year. In January, a student was expelled for distributing marijuana brownies to at least two classmates in December.

Ward said the student expelled Tuesday gave one classmate a brownie containing marijuana and that both students ate the brownies at school. They were reported to administration when it became apparent that the two students “seemed to be high.” The classmate who received the brownie was not expelled but has been penalized, Ward said.

The student who distributed the brownie is expelled until the end of the school year but will be allowed to return at the start of the next school year. Ward said the district is working with the student to continue his education outside of school during his expulsion.

]]> 2 Thu, 14 Apr 2016 19:11:10 +0000
Neighboring Maine towns share same superintendent finalist Thu, 14 Apr 2016 17:00:35 +0000 Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth are each seeking a new superintendent of schools, and one candidate is a finalist in both of the neighboring communities.

Craig King, superintendent of Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10, which serves Rumford and 11 other communities, is one of three finalists in Scarborough and one of two finalists in Cape Elizabeth.

The Scarborough School Board has already made its final choice, reaching a consensus during an executive session Wednesday after its finalists visited the town’s schools this week, Chairwoman Donna Beeley said Thursday. The board has refused to publicly identify its top choice and is scheduled to announce and formally appoint the winning candidate at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

The two finalists for the Cape Elizabeth position are scheduled to visit that town’s schools the week of April 25, although that plan may become moot if Scarborough picks King and leaves Cape Elizabeth with one remaining candidate.

“It’s possible,” said Elizabeth Scifres, chairwoman of the Cape Elizabeth School Board. “We knew it could happen.”

Scifres acknowledged that Maine school districts often face a challenge in attracting qualified candidates for superintendent positions because the pool of candidates for school leadership is small in a mostly rural state. She said Cape Elizabeth’s opening drew applicants from across the country, but mostly concentrated in New England. Scifres refused to say how many applications Cape Elizabeth received.

Scarborough received 16 applications, Deeley said, for a position that Superintendent George Entwistle has held since July 2011 and will retire from in June.

Cape Elizabeth is replacing Meredith Nadeau, who has been superintendent for five years and is leaving to become superintendent of the elementary and junior-senior high schools in Newmarket, New Hampshire.

King, the man under consideration in both towns, previously served as principal of Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham and worked as a principal and an assistant principal in Mississippi, where he taught at a high school. He also taught at the elementary level at an international school. He has a master’s degree in education and a doctorate in educational leadership, both from the University of Southern Mississippi.

The two other candidates in Scarborough are Brooke Clenchy, senior associate education commissioner of Massachusetts, who has a master’s degree in educational leadership, curriculum and instruction from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington; and Julie Kukenberger, assistant school superintendent in Haverhill, Massachusetts, who has a master’s degree in educational leadership from Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey.

The other candidate in Cape Elizabeth is Steven Bailey, superintendent of the Central Lincoln County School System, Alternative Organizational Structure 93, which is based in Damariscotta.

Bailey previously served as assistant superintendent and curriculum director in South Portland. His history includes principal positions in Exeter, New Hampshire, South Portland and Veazie, where he began his teaching career. He has a master’s degree in education and a certificate of advanced studies, both from the University of Maine.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

]]> 6 Thu, 14 Apr 2016 21:09:29 +0000
Joint Chiefs chairman to speak at Maine Maritime graduation Wed, 13 Apr 2016 23:08:44 +0000 The country’s highest-ranking military officer will be the commencement speaker at Maine Maritime Academy’s graduation ceremony in May.

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will speak at the academy’s commencement May 7 in Castine, according to a press release from the school.

“We are honored that General Dunford will deliver the send-off to the Class of 2016,” said William J. Brennan, the college president, in the release. “As our nation’s top military adviser and seasoned Marine Corps commander, General Dunford exemplifies service and leadership. Our students strive to embody both qualities in their careers and in their lives.”

Maine Maritime Academy offers 18 degree programs in engineering, management, science and transportation, and has about 950 undergraduate and graduate students. It has suffered two tragedies in this school year.

In October, five graduates died in the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro in a hurricane. The five were Michael Davidson, 53, of Windham, the captain; Michael Holland, 25, of Wilton; Danielle Randolph, 34, of Rockland; Dylan Meklin, 23, of Rockland; and Mitchell Kuflik of Brooklyn, New York.

In February, David Breunig, a Maine Maritime Academy junior from Westbrook, disappeared after a night with friends in Orono. He has not been found.

]]> 0, 14 Apr 2016 11:43:20 +0000
LePage signs order that keeps embattled education chief in office Wed, 13 Apr 2016 18:55:43 +0000 AUGUSTA –– Gov. Paul LePage is following through on his plan to install the state’s education chief while bypassing the legislative confirmation process.

The governor has approved a financial order that will allow acting deputy commissioner Bill Beardsley to perform many of the duties of commissioner for the Department of Education. The creation of the temporary position coincides with the end of the six-month period that Beardsley can legally serve as acting chief, and runs through April 2018.

LePage nominated Beardsley for the job earlier this year but pulled him back after Democrats on the education committee signaled that they might vote to block the former president of Husson University.

LePage responded by vowing in February to take over some responsibilities of the job rather than subject his nominee to political scrutiny. The governor’s comments prompted criticism from Democrats, who accused LePage of circumventing the process for appointing state agency chiefs.

In a statement, Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-South Portland, said the order was “yet another end-run around transparency and due process by Gov. LePage.”

She added, “The Department of Education is charged with leading our public schools, education policy and a more than $1 billion budget. Its work touches nearly every single Mainer at some point in their lives. Maine people deserve vetted leadership at the top of DOE. That means a commissioner who received a hearing in front of the Education Committee and a vote by the Senate – not a disciple of Gov. LePage who slid into the job through a back door.”


LePage has previously justified his actions by saying Democrats were playing politics with a qualified candidate. Democrats have successfully blocked at least one of the governor’s appointments since he took office in 2011 and delayed the confirmation of a second. Earlier this month Democrats voted to block Steven Webster from the Unemployment Insurance Commission, but LePage withdrew Webster’s nomination before he came up for final vote in the Senate. Many of his nominees, if not most, have received overwhelming support.

Beardsley had come under scrutiny about how he handled the case of Bob Carlson, a former chaplain at Husson University who committed suicide after learning state police were investigating allegations that he sexually abused several children over 40 years.

Beardsley was drawn into the scandal because he was named in a police report saying he had received two phone calls, one in 2005 and another in 2006, that suggested Carlson had participated in a homosexual relationship. Beardsley told police he confronted Carlson after the second caller in 2006 threatened to make the relationship public.

Beardsley told the Portland Press Herald in August 2012 that he told Carlson that if he had done anything wrong he shouldn’t be on campus, and that Carlson immediately resigned. Beardsley later acknowledged that he had not categorically banned him from campus.

Last year, Beardsley repeated what he told the Legislature’s education committee in 2012: He had no knowledge of any illegal activity by Carlson. Beardsley was eventually confirmed to the State Board of Education after a vigorous debate on the floor of the Senate and a party-line vote of 19-13.

Peter Steele, the governor’s communications director, said in an email Wednesday that the governor’s decision to pull Beardsley’s nomination “had nothing to do with Carlson,” but an effort to avoid Democrats’ turning his confirmation hearing “into a sideshow on transgender bathrooms.”


In 2010, Beardsley, then a gubernatorial candidate, expressed his views about transgender bathrooms during an interview with the “Aroostook Watchmen” radio show.

“On the transgender issue – it seems like – that I feel so badly for little children that are being, you know, kind of decisions being made for them that are outside what we call our normal activities here in the state and imposing those kind of things on a very small child,” he said.

According to the financial order signed by the governor April 8, the new position will allow Beardsley to oversee “significant policy changes” and involvement in “executive level educational issues and decision-making.” The position will also include “day-to-day oversight of the department’s school funding.” According to the financial order, the position will be funded with salary savings from a vacant position within state government.

Staff Writer Steve Mistler can be contacted at 620-7016 or at:

Twitter: stevemistler

]]> 13, 13 Apr 2016 19:31:57 +0000
Student in pro-Trump hat sets off taunting, dialogue at South Portland High Tue, 12 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SOUTH PORTLAND — When Connor Mullen started wearing a baseball cap bearing Donald Trump’s campaign slogan to South Portland High School three weeks ago, he expected other students to taunt him.

But when two adults who work in the school made fun of him, including a teacher who Mullen said blurted “Thank God you can’t vote,” he decided to speak out. Friday, he voiced his concerns to administrators and was told that while he was free to wear the hat, which reads “Make America Great Again,” he might want to consider leaving it at home to avoid further problems.

To Mullen, the advice seemed to contradict what he’d heard from teachers over the years, that Americans have a right to their own political opinions, and we must all respect that.

“I knew kids would pick on me about it, that’s just kids being kids, but when the adults started doing it I thought that’s problematic,” said Mullen, 16 and a sophomore. “This is a school that preaches equality.”

Over the weekend, news of the hat controversy was reported by WCSH-TV, where a family member of one of Mullen’s friends works. Knowing people would be talking about him and looking out for him, Mullen wore the hat again Monday. It was knocked off his head at least once, and one student told him “I’m glad you’re being bullied.”

Two students were seen at the school Monday wearing “Make America Great Again” T-shirts, in an apparent show of support for Mullen, several students said.

Mullen’s father, Peter, who works as an education technician in Cape Elizabeth schools, has advised his son to use the hat controversy to practice civility.

“I told him to remember to treat those kids (who might harass him) with the same respect you expect to be treated with,” Peter Mullen said.


Superintendent Ken Kunin said Monday that school officials first became aware of Mullen being hassled by other students and adults Friday, when a teacher reported that a female student had removed Mullen’s hat from his head and thrown it in a trash can. Mullen said that when he talked to Assistant Principal Phil Rossetti about the incident that day, he told him about the teacher who remarked on his hat.

Mullen said he also told Rossetti about a discussion in one of his classes a few days earlier. When the topic of uninformed voters came up, an education technician took Mullen’s hat off his head and held it up, evoking laughter from his classmates.

Kunin said school administrators “did follow up” with the teacher and the education technician, but didn’t elaborate. He said disciplinary action was taken against the student who threw the hat in the trash, but he wouldn’t be more specific.

“We said, of course, ‘That’s not OK. You don’t do that,’ ” Kunin said. “We defend our students’ First Amendment rights.”

Kunin referenced the landmark 1969 Supreme Court decision on Tinker v. Des Moines, when the justices sided with high school students who were suspended for wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. The high court ruled 7-2 that students’ free speech should be protected, stating that: “It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

The court decision gives school officials some latitude in limiting student demonstrations, Kunin said, but they must prove to be a “material and substantial disruption” of school activities.

Kunin said Principal Ryan Caron sent an email to the faculty Monday reminding them that the school should be open to and respectful of students’ ideas and speech. Kunin said he experienced similar challenges during the 2008 presidential election, when he was principal of Deering High School in Portland. He reminded students who supported then-candidate Barack Obama to respect students who wore T-shirts supporting Sen. John McCain.

“This is a beautiful problem to have in a school because it’s a chance to practice democracy,” Kunin said. “It’s a great example of why we need public schools. You don’t all of a sudden wake up and know how to act in a democracy. You learn how to act in a democracy.”

Caron said he also spoke to Mullen on Friday and wanted him to understand that he could continue to wear his cap, and that he should let administrators know if anyone else harasses him in any way. Caron said Rossetti and Mullen talked about “the charged political climate and the attention that the hat might draw.” Caron said the assistant principal “suggested that (Mullen) might consider not wearing the hat.” Kunin called the message on the hat “protected speech.”


South Portland High is no stranger to free-speech debates.

A little over a year ago, three students gained national attention when they tried, by rewording part of the morning announcements, to make it clear to students and faculty that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is optional under state and federal law.

The months-long effort resulted in the faculty leadership committee unanimously approving last April a new pledge procedure proposed by Lily SanGiovanni, Gaby Ferrell and Morrigan Turner that said: “I now invite you to rise and join me for the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Outside the school Monday, several students said they felt Mullen has the right to wear the hat, even though they personally don’t like Trump or his message. There is no prohibition against wearing hats in the school.

“I don’t think he deserves (to be bullied), he hasn’t done anything,” said Gavin Damian-Loring, a senior standing with a half-dozen other students. “It’s like saying you don’t like someone else’s shirt so you have the right to punch them in the face.”

But Caity Gaven, another senior in the group, said she thought Mullen wore the hat because he was “trying to start something.”

“I think if you’re wearing a Trump hat around here, you know people aren’t going to like it,” Gaven said.

Mullen, who plays on the soccer and hockey teams, said he started wearing the hat because “I like the slogan, I like Donald Trump, and I like hats.”

Mullen says he wants a career in the military or law enforcement, or both, and supports Trump largely because of things he’s said about the people who work in those fields.

“I want a job like that where you can help people, and I’ve heard Trump say how important he thinks veterans and (people in law enforcement) are,” Mullen said.

Peter Mullen said his son attended Trump’s Portland rally in March mostly because he’d never seen a presidential candidate before. But at the event, “something clicked” for the teenager, his father said. Peter Mullen supports Ted Cruz, Trump’s rival for the Republican nomination, and he’s talked to his son about the differences between the two candidates.

“I’ve told him I don’t like the delivery of (Trump’s) message,” Peter Mullen said.

Connor Mullen says he’s tried to call the Trump campaign to let officials know about the treatment he’s been getting for wearing a Trump hat in school. He thinks the information might help his candidate. The Trump campaign didn’t respond Monday night to a request for comment on this story.

Mullen says he’ll keep wearing the hat everywhere. He says if he stops, then those who belittled him for expressing a political opinion will have won.

“And I don’t want them to win,” he said.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard contributed to this report.


]]> 574, 12 Apr 2016 09:10:03 +0000
Survey of Maine teachers finds technical problems with new state tests Mon, 11 Apr 2016 21:00:20 +0000 Some Maine teachers responding to an online survey said they had technical problems administering new state assessment tests, and thought it took longer than expected for students to complete.

The Maine Education Association, the state teachers union, emailed the survey to 9,500 teachers on March 30 and received 352 responses. The survey asked teachers about their experience with new statewide English and math tests given to students in third through eighth grades.

Of the respondents, about half said the untimed tests took more than nine hours for students to complete, and about 60 percent said they had some sort of technical issue. Schools administer the tests over several days.

Maine students are taking new Measured Progress tests this year, after the Legislature voted last year to drop the Smarter Balanced test after one year because educators and parents said the test was flawed and difficult to administer and take.

State education officials had anticipated that the Measured Progress tests would take less time than the seven-hour average for Smarter Balanced.

]]> 2 Mon, 11 Apr 2016 17:43:19 +0000
Cape Elizabeth names finalists for school superintendent Mon, 11 Apr 2016 18:05:59 +0000 The Cape Elizabeth School Board has narrowed its search for a new superintendent to two finalists, board Chairwoman Elizabeth Scifres announced Monday.

They are Steven Bailey, superintendent of the Central Lincoln County School System, Alternative Organizational Structure 93, which is based in Damariscotta, and Craig King, superintendent of Western Foothills Regional School Unit 10, which is based in Dixfield.

Both candidates will be in Cape Elizabeth the week of April 25 to meet with students, staff, parents and community members.

Meredith Nadeau, who has been superintendent in Cape Elizabeth for five years, will leave June 30 to become superintendent of the elementary and junior-senior high schools in Newmarket, New Hampshire.

Bailey previously served as assistant superintendent and curriculum director in South Portland. His history includes principal positions in Exeter, New Hampshire, South Portland and Veazie, where he began his teaching career. He has a master’s degree in education and a certificate of advanced studies, both from the University of Maine.

King previously served as principal of Mt. Ararat High School and worked as a principal and an assistant principal in Mississippi, where he taught at a high school. He also taught at the elementary level at an international school. He has a master’s degree in education and a doctorate in educational leadership, both from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

Twitter: KelleyBouchard

]]> 0 Mon, 11 Apr 2016 19:08:26 +0000
Immigrant kids blocked from school, report finds Mon, 11 Apr 2016 08:00:00 +0000 SAN FRANCISCO — Immigrant children living in the United States without legal status have been blocked from registering for school and accessing the educational services they need, according to a report on school districts in four states by Georgetown University Law Center researchers.

Such students have faced long enrollment delays and have been turned away from classrooms as the result of some districts’ arbitrary interpretations of residency rules and state laws, the researchers said.

All children living in the United States must attend school through at least the 8th grade or until they turn 16 under compulsory education laws in all 50 states. Many states allow students to enroll beyond that age, according to the Education Commission of the States.

But some districts’ elaborate paperwork requirements effectively have kept immigrant youths out of school, while lack of translation and interpretation services have left their families uninformed about the process, the report found.

The Obama administration’s efforts to find and deport the tens of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children and families who arrived during the 2014 surge of illegal crossings have further complicated the situation, prompting some students to avoid school for fear that they will be picked up by authorities, the report’s authors said.

“U.S. law is clear on this point – no child in the United States should be excluded from public education,” said Mikaela Harris, a Georgetown law student who co-wrote the study issued by the university’s Human Rights Institute and the nonprofit Women’s Refugee Commission. “That doesn’t always play out in practice.”

The report, which studied school districts in Florida, New York, Texas and North Carolina, calls for strengthening federal outreach to districts unaccustomed to serving newcomer populations and better assurances that educational access continues amid immigration enforcement.

]]> 9 Mon, 11 Apr 2016 08:18:50 +0000
Maine College of Art, Salt Institute may announce merger next week Fri, 08 Apr 2016 18:56:20 +0000 The proposed merger of two of Maine’s best-known arts education institutions, the Maine College of Art and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, may become a reality next week after more than eight months of discussions.

Maine College of Art will host a news conference Tuesday to announce details of a union of “two of Maine’s landmark educational institutions,” according to a statement Friday by Raffi Der Simonian, the college’s director of marketing and communications.

Though the statement does not name Salt, the two institutions have been involved in discussions on a potential partnership or merger since last summer. Salt leadership announced in June that the Portland-based school would close because of inconsistent fundraising and dwindling enrollment.

Der Simonian would not say Friday whether Salt would be a school within the Maine College of Art, or whether its courses in writing, photography, radio and multimedia would be part of other college programs. He also didn’t say how many students any new program might serve.

He said the details will be announced at the news conference at Maine College of Art’s Institute of Contemporary Art on Tuesday at noon.

Kimberly Curry, chairwoman of Salt’s board, also declined to give details until the news conference.

Salt, founded in 1973 and based in Portland, enrolled about 25 students each semester. Though small, the school’s alumni work in media and the arts all over the world. Salt students have chronicled Maine people and places for more than 40 years in photos, documentary films, radio reports and writing.

The idea of Salt becoming part of Maine College of Art has met with mixed reaction from alumni. Some have said that in light of the announcement about its closing last year, a merger that would keep Salt’s programs alive and its archive secure would be welcomed. Others want Salt to stay independent, and have lamented being kept in the dark on discussions between Salt and Maine College of Art.

Jaed Coffin, who taught at Salt about five years ago and now teaches writing at the University of New Hampshire, was happy to hear about the potential merger.

“It’s so important to keep it going, to have this huge archive of stories by people who really took the time to do them,” said Coffin, of Brunswick. “That it’s continuing, for me, can’t be anything but good news.”

Some former Salt students also are quoted on Salt’s website as supporting the idea. Amy Toensing, a photographer who has done work for National Geographic magazine, said in a short written statement that she supports the idea and believes both the college and Salt are working to keep “Salt’s name and brand alive and independent.”

But members of an alumni group called Save Salt, which formed shortly after the announced closing of Salt last June, say they cannot support the merger because they do not feel alumni have been involved enough in the planning.

“We feel that it’s been a lost opportunity to not involve the Salt alumni board or Save Salt in any meaningful way around the planning and envisioning of Salt’s future,” said Mike Eckel, senior Washington D.C.-correspondent for Radio Free Europe, who attended Salt in 1996. “Until or unless we know more details about this proposed plan we will have to hold to our previous statements that we do not see a strong affinity between MECA and Salt.”

When Salt officials announced last year that the school would close, some people connected to the school felt its focus had been too narrow and it had been too slow to expand beyond traditional documentary techniques. Because of the school’s small size, even small decreases in enrollment were a financial setback.

The Maine College of Art, with about 450 students, is based in Portland and grants degrees in a wide range of arts-related fields. Those include bachelor of fine arts programs in ceramics, digital media, graphic design, illustration, photography, metal smithing & jewelry and painting.

]]> 3, 08 Apr 2016 23:52:01 +0000
School choice dispute leads to lawsuit in York County Thu, 07 Apr 2016 21:40:38 +0000 From Staff Reports

Thornton Academy in Saco and the parents of at least 12 students from Arundel have sued Regional School Unit 21, arguing that the Kennebunk-based district has illegally deprived Arundel students of their right to attend Thornton Academy’s middle school.

RSU 21 covers Arundel, Kennebunk and Kennebunkport, and has its own middle school in Kennebunk.

Arundel students have attended Thornton Academy Middle School under a soon-to-expire contract developed before Arundel joined RSU 21. The regional school board and Thornton Academy are now disputing whether Maine law protects the right of Arundel students to choose whether to attend Thornton Academy Middle School or the Middle School of the Kennebunks.

In the school board’s view, current Arundel studnets can stay at Thornton Academy but future middle school students from Arundel will attend the Middle School of the Kennebunks.

Thornton Academy’s headmaster and many Arundel parents say state law protects the students’ continued access to Thornton Middle School.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in York County Superior Court.

]]> 0 Thu, 07 Apr 2016 17:42:41 +0000
Biddeford, Saco, Dayton to push back start times for middle, high school students Thu, 07 Apr 2016 01:22:03 +0000 BIDDEFORD — Citing a desire to give students a better chance to learn, the school boards of Biddeford, Saco and Dayton agreed Wednesday to push back start times for middle and high school students to 8:30 a.m. or later.

Middle and high school students in those towns now start school between 7:30 a.m. and 7:45 a.m. The change will begin with the fall semester.

The changes are part of a national trend, and are recommended by a variety of medical agencies.

The joint meeting at Pepperell Mill drew dozens of parents and medical professionals, who presented data that suggests teenagers who begin their school day at 8:30 a.m. or later learn better, live healthier lifestyles, are less prone to athletic injuries and less likely to engage in risky behaviors. No one from the public spoke against the proposal.

Students in lower grades will begin earlier than they do now, from 7:45 a.m. in Dayton to 8:10 for some schools in Saco. They now start school between 8:10 and 8:30 a.m. Research suggests teenagers function better later in the morning than younger students.

The joint meeting of the school committees also involved administrators from Thornton Academy in Saco, where students from Saco attend high school. Students from Dayton attend middle and high school at Thornton. Thornton Headmaster Rene Menard endorsed the changes.

The Dayton and Saco boards passed the proposal unanimously. Biddeford passed the measure 7-2, with committee members Lisa Vadnais and Crystal Blais voting against it.

Old Orchard Beach had already shifted its start times for the middle and high schools from 7:30 to 8 a.m. for the current school year. Scarborough, South Portland, Yarmouth and SAD 51 (Greely High School) also are considering later start times. School departments in Westbrook and Cape Elizabeth have pushed back start times.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. According to the latest-available CDC report on the topic, Maine’s average high school start time is 7:53 a.m., 10 minutes earlier than the national average.

]]> 10, 07 Apr 2016 14:33:02 +0000
Windham student suspended after threatening tweet refers to ‘Columbine’ Wed, 06 Apr 2016 18:45:02 +0000 A male Windham High School student has been suspended after sending out a tweet Tuesday that said the administration was “asking to be the next Columbine,” a reference to a mass shooting at a Colorado high school that left 13 dead.

Superintendent Sanford Prince said an adult education student told a teacher about the tweet Tuesday at about 5:30 p.m., and the teacher immediately notified Prince and the police. Windham police said they found the student, talked to him and his parents and confirmed he had no access to weapons.

“We move on it as fast as we can,” Prince said Wednesday. “You hope that indeed there’s nothing behind this that has any truth, but we’ve been trained to take it seriously.”

Because of student confidentiality rules, Prince would not identify the student other than to say he attended Windham High School. He is not in the adult education program.

Windham schools have been the subject of threats before.

Last year, a 16-year-old Windham boy, Justin Woodbury, served six months in a juvenile facility for sending threatening emails in December 2014 that prompted officials to close RSU 14 schools for three days.

The student who tweeted the threat has not been charged, but police are forwarding their report to the district attorney to determine whether charges will be pursued, said Windham Police Chief Kevin Shofield.

“The tweets did not necessarily rise to the level where someone should be charged with a crime but we’re in the process of putting our report together,” he said.

A spokesman from the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office did not return a call seeking comment.

The tweet, sent at 12:48 p.m. Tuesday, read: “If administration at Windham High continues to treat students the way they are, they’re asking to be the next Columbine.” A second tweet said the writer “understood why schools get shot up,” Schofield said.

The 1999 shooting at Columbine High School was one of the first mass shootings at a school.

Prince said police and school officials were continuing to investigate, and the student could face expulsion.

Prince said he notified the school board, and the principal sent out a note to students and parents Tuesday night.

The high school, which has a police resource officer at all times, had an additional police officer there Wednesday.

Principal Chris Howell sent two more emails to parents Wednesday, saying the school was operating normally.

“We had a great start to the school day today,” Howell wrote in one, adding that the student involved was not at school. “The building continues to remain a safe and welcoming place for our entire school community.”

Howell said Wednesday that the student would be out of school until “disciplinary issues are resolved.”

Howell said the student’s tweets were not related to any pattern of behavior or larger schoolwide issue.

“It was confined to an individual event that had happened during that school day and it was the individual reacting to that,” Howell said.


]]> 7, 07 Apr 2016 08:20:28 +0000
Maine Charter School Commission member resigns because of conflict Tue, 05 Apr 2016 23:27:13 +0000 AUGUSTA — Ande Smith, a member of both the Maine State Board of Education and the Maine Charter School Commission, has resigned from the commission because only three commissioners can serve on the education board at the same time.

On March 23, the Senate confirmed Gov. Paul LePage’s nominees to the education panel, including charter school commissioner John Bird.

Both Bird and Smith said Tuesday at the Charter School Commission meeting in Augusta that they were caught off-guard by the immediate need to have one of the charter school commissioners step down.

“I didn’t realize I had to jump off immediately,” said Smith, who was vice chairman of the commission.

Smith, who is running for the 1st Congressional District seat now held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, said he decided to be the one to leave the seven-member Charter School Commission once the conflict was pointed out.

“I just want to say I regret having needed to withdraw,” Smith said. “When John was appointed to the board, I got an email from (Board of Education Chairwoman Martha Harris) saying we had four and we needed a change.”

Smith, a small-business owner and attorney from North Yarmouth, served nearly 30 years in the U.S. Navy and owns a cybersecurity consulting firm in Maine.

With Smith’s resignation, five of the nine members of the State Board of Education have ties to the Charter School Commission. The three current charter school commissioners on the education board are Bird, Jana Lapoint and Nichi Farnham, and the two former commissioners on the panel are Smith and Heidi Sampson, who resigned from the commission in March 2014.

The other commissioners are Shelley Reed, Mike Wilhelm and Laurie Pendleton.

Bird said he didn’t realize his appointment would trigger the change.

“I had no idea all this was going to happen,” he said.

At Tuesday’s Charter School Commission meeting, Smith told his former fellow members: “I have appreciated working with you all. It’s probably the hardest-working board in the state. You all do fantastic work and it’s been a great honor to be with you all.”

Lapoint agreed to serve as temporary vice chairman of the charter commission until a new chairman and vice chairman are selected in July.

The seven charter school commissioners are appointed by the State Board of Education.

Also Tuesday, the commission announced the resignation of Carl Stasio, executive director of Portland’s charter school, Baxter Academy for Technology and Science.

Stasio, who was headmaster of Saco’s Thornton Academy for 26 years before joining Baxter when it opened in 2013, will continue as a consultant for the charter school, according to a letter from Baxter board of directors Chairwoman Kelli Pryor.

Commission Executive Director Bob Kautz said Stasio, who came out of retirement to take the Baxter job, had long planned to step down and that the resignation was not a surprise.

Pryor said Head of School Michele LaForge would lead Baxter, and the school would hire a chief operating officer to support LaForge as she “restructures the administrative team.”

Baxter’s enrollment is at capacity with 320 students, and had a fall 2015 waiting list of almost 100 students. The four-year high school also opened a satellite campus at 561 Congress St., where it rents five classrooms.

The commission also discussed, but did not vote on, the idea of hiring an additional analyst at $53,000 a year to assist with oversight of existing schools. The commission, which is responsible for visiting and monitoring all the charter schools, currently has an executive director, a program director and an administrative assistant.

Three percent of all state funds going to charter schools is automatically withheld and used to fund the commission. It is used for staff salaries, per-diem payments for commission members, travel costs and other expenses.

The commissioners also discussed a proposal to create a website and logo for the commission, at an anticipated cost of $20,000. The commissioners decided to discuss those proposals, and the possible new staff position, at a strategic initiatives meeting to be held in June.

For about a year, the commissioners have increasingly discussed how their role has been shifting from work that focuses on approving new schools to monitoring existing ones.

State law allows a maximum of 10 charter schools. The commission has already approved seven brick-and-mortar charter schools and two virtual charter schools. The next round of applicants for the last open slot can apply this year to open in the fall of 2017.

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Princeton to keep Woodrow Wilson’s name despite his racist views Tue, 05 Apr 2016 01:10:28 +0000 PRINCETON, N.J. — Woodrow Wilson’s name will remain on Princeton University’s public policy school, despite calls to remove it because the former U.S. president was a segregationist, the Ivy League university announced Monday.

Princeton was challenged to take a deeper look into Wilson’s life in the fall, when a group of students raised questions about his racist views. The Black Justice League held a 32-hour sit-in inside Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber’s office, demanding that Wilson’s name be removed from programs and buildings, including the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs, and for other changes to make the university more diverse and inclusive.

Eisgruber said the process helped him learn more about one of Princeton’s most celebrated alumni and presidents.

“The students should recognize they have really changed the way people will talk about and remember Wilson,” said Eisgruber, a 1983 Princeton alumnus. “All the people whom we honor in history are going to be people with flaws and deficiencies. If we made that argument for not honoring people, we would honor nobody. The right attitude is to honor people, but be honest about their failings.”

Princeton also pledged to adopt other changes, including a pipeline program to encourage more minority students to pursue doctoral degrees and diversifying campus symbols and art.

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