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Education in Maine
  • Maine School of Masonry Exceeds Goal of Capital Fundraiser

      

    Students of the Maine School of Masonry Historic Restoration and Preservation program work on site at the Kennebec Arsenal restoring the historic buildings.

    By Ramona du Houx

    On November 13, 2017 the Maine School of Masonry (M.S.M.) received a $5,000 grant from The Sugarloaf Charitable Trust for their capital campaign to help expand the Historic Restoration and Preservation facilities at the school.

    “We’d like to thank the Sugarloaf Charitable Trust for their generous grant. Our work converting part of the school to accommodate our restoration courses can now be completed,” said Stephen Mitchell, M.S.M. President. “We live in such a blessed community. I’d like to thank everyone who stepped up to the plate and donated. It’s humbling. We’re looking forward to teaching more students in the art of historic restoration and preservation.”

    The new mixing laboratory that was installed with donated funds for the Restoration and Preservation courses at Maine School of Masonry.

    With the expansion M.S.M. will now be able to enroll more students into the Historic Restoration and Preservation courses in the coming years. Anyone interested should contact the school now at 639-2392 or visit their website at masonryschool.org as interest in these classes is high.

    With individuals, non-profits and business giving generously M.S.M raised $9,100 and with the value of the materials donated surpassed their goal of $8,000.

     “Maine students deserve the best, and having a classroom that meets their needs for the restoration and preservation programs is vital to the mission of the Maine School of Masonry, and our community. After 12 years we've expanded in a direction that is unique—preserving our National Heritage, while giving students opportunities for high paying life-long professions.”

    The classes take the students on site to practice what they have learned in the newly expanded facilities in Avon. The buildings that the students work on are listed as National Historic Landmarks and the school has special permission to renovate these historic treasures.

    M.S.M is the only school to offer courses of this kind in America. 

    “Seeing students on site at the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta, and Fort Knox near Prospect makes me so proud knowing they’re keeping our heritage alive,” said Mitchell. “It’s a dream come true for me.”

    Daniel Wuorio at work re-pointing in the Historic Restoration and Preservation course at the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta. Photo by Ramona du Houx

  • Concert to Benefit Human Rights Education in Maine

    The Leopard Girls will perform their eclectic blend of jazz, rock, blues, and pop music at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick next Friday, October 6, at 7:30PM. Doors open at 7:00PM with a $10 suggested donation. All proceeds from the show will benefit the educational programming of the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, a nonprofit education center and exhibition space located in Augusta.

    Leopard Girls is a five-piece act from Maine made up of Chris Simpson, Scott Woodruff, and Gary Lawless - formerly of Jimmy Midnight and The Yurtbirds – with Ben Hunsberger (welcomefarmmusic.com) and drummer Hal Ahlers of Blues Buzzards. For more information about Leopard Girls, visit their Facebook page atfacebook.com/TheLeopardGirls.

    The HHRC is housed in the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta.

    In addition to permanent exhibits on Holocaust survivors and liberators in Maine, the HHRC and Klahr Center host rotating historical and art exhibits, events, meetings for Maine social and school groups, and workshops for students and teachers that raise awareness of civil rights and human rights issues in Maine and beyond.

    The HHRC brings free educational programs like “Decision-Making in Times of Injustice,” “Yearning to Breathe Free: The Immigrant Experience in Maine,” “Civil Rights in America,” and others, to Maine high school students across the state with materials from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Facing History and Ourselves, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and other organizations.

    For more information about HHRC, its programs, and its exhibits, call (207) 621-3530, visit hhrcmaine.org, or visit the Klahr Center at 46 University Drive in Augusta.

  • U.S. Representative Pingree to speak College of the Atlantic


    U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree
     PHOTO COURTESY OF COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC

     U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) will give the keynote address for College of the Atlantic’s annual Farm Day at the school’s Beech Hill Farm on Wednesday, Sept 20, at 1:15 p.m. The free talk is open to the public.

    Pingree, a 1979 graduate of COA, will speak on national and local food policies and the pending 2018 re-authorization of the Farm Bill.

    Following the talk, attendees are invited to take part in a farm-policy panel with Emily Horton, staffer for Pingree; Cindy Isenhour, assistant professor of anthropology and climate change at the University of Maine and facilitator of the legislature’s Stakeholder Working Group to Address Food Waste in Maine – LD 1534; Ryan Parker, farmer and environmental policy outreach coordinator for the Natural Resources Council of Maine; and Betsy Garrold, president of Food for Maine’s Future.

    The panel discussion will be followed by tours of the farm.

    In 2008, Pingree became the first woman elected to Congress from Maine’s 1st Congressional District. She has served on the House Rules Committee, Armed Services Committee and Agriculture Committee. She currently sits on the House Appropriations Committee, serving on the Subcommittee on Agriculture and the Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment.

    Pingree has been an advocate in Congress for reforming federal policy to better support the diverse range of American agriculture, including sustainable, organic and locally focused farming. Many provisions from comprehensive legislation she introduced to make these reforms were passed in the 2014 Farm Bill. She also has introduced two pieces of legislation – the Food Recovery Act and the Food Date Labeling Act – to help reduce food waste in the United States. She has been chosen to receive a 2017 James Beard Leadership Award for her national leadership in food system reform.

    Beech Hill Farm, at 171 Beech Hill Road, is a MOFGA-certified organic farm. The 73-acre property includes six acres of fields in vegetable production, three small heirloom apple orchards, pasture land for pigs and poultry, five greenhouses and open forest. The farm produces food for COA and the Mount Desert Island community, while using methods that maintain the integrity and health of the land and encourage environmental and economic sustainability. Beech Hill Farm is a base for understanding agriculture as a central concern of human ecology for College of the Atlantic students and faculty.

  • 17th Century Encampment - July 29 & 30 at Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site

    Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site in New Harbor is hosting a 17th Century Encampment on July 29 and 30. Visitors are invited on this special weekend to take a step back in time and explore 17th century life on Maine’s coast at the 12th annual living history encampment on the site of one of New England’s earliest English settlements. The encampment is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, with a special musical performance from 7 to 9 p.m. on Friday evening, July 28. Admission is free.

    Re-enactors will portray the lives of the English, French and Native people who lived, worked, and fought on these lands. Demonstrations will include fish processing, blacksmithing, coopering, rope making, cooking, and provincial militia firearms drills.

    To open the weekend, the celebrated local duo Castlebay will present a program of music and songs popular in 17th century New England on Friday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Contented Sole, located dockside at Colonial Pemaquid: 2 Colonial Pemaquid Drive.

    Listen to the history of the Salem witch trials and their connections to Pemaquid and the Maine Frontier through a talk by renowned historian and historical archaeologist Emerson “Tad” Baker on Saturday, July 29 at 11 a.m. in the Colonial Pemaquid Museum. Drawing from his recently published book, A Storm of Witchcraft and the American Experience, he will explore the many connections between the Salem witch trials and the Maine frontier.

    FMI: Call Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site at 207-677-2423; or visit the webpage www.maine.gov/colonialpemaquid.

  • Maine Masonry School needs your help

    Chandler Ellis works on his brickwork at the Maine School of Masonry in Avon. Chandler is signed up to take the Historic Renovation and Preservation program in the fall.

    A plead for community help from the Maine School of Masonry to keep their Historic Preservation and Restoration courses, that train students for lifelong professions, on course. Go to their GOFUNDME campaign here to help!

    By Ramona du Houx 

    Driving on the road to Rangeley some passengers may wonder what The Maine Masonry School is as they zip past the building with an iconic sign. If they took the time to stop they’d discover the country’s only private non-profit masonry school. That’s right, the only one.

    Since 2005 hundreds of students have learned the fundamentals of laying brick and stonework from instructors who bring out the talents of individuals as they build different projects in the workshop or on location.

    “They bring out a students creativity, giving us the freedom to express ourselves. Going there paves the way for a multitude of career opportunities,” said Chandler Ellis, who graduated in 2017.

    Every year the school has been fighting an ongoing battle, as masonry is tragically becoming a lost skill, while the demand for masons is ironically incredibly high. But the school is making a difference as students become skilled craftspeople after a nine-month 1,200-hour certificate program and are placed in jobs every year or start their own business.

    “The school gave me the knowledge and skill I needed to go into business. I learned so much about masonry and with each project my confidence grew. It’s a great school,” said Tyler Kachnovich, class of 2016 whose business is T&T Landscape and Masonry.

    When there is a need to add new material to the curriculum they have always been on the cutting edge. Just last year the school answered the need for Historic Preservation and Renovation with new program. 

    All across the country historic buildings are in need of renovation because there is a shortage of trained quality craftspeople to do the needed repairs and restoration work.

    This unique Renovation and Preservation program has been extremely well received and the demand for space in the classes is high.

    “Historic buildings surround us in New England but most people don’t realize there is a shortage in skilled craftspeople that can renovate and preserve these majestic monuments. Each building represents an important time in our history and needs to be preserved for future generations,” said Stephen Mitchell, Maine School of Masonry founder.

    “Our classes give a new generation the skills needed to keep our history alive, as well as high paying jobs. Richard Irons, of Irons Masonry, has been an advisor for our program and on site specialist. With 38 years of experience under his belt working along side him gives our students instruction they can’t get anywhere else.”

    Andrew Ryba is a professional landscaper in Mass., who graduated from the school this year. Now he wants to take the Historic Renovation and Preservation course.

    Richard was awarded the Maine Historic Preservation Award in 1998 for "his excellence in historic restoration, his craftsmanship and dedication to the preservation of Maine's irreplaceable architectural history.”

    In partnership with the owners of historic landmarks and with the state’s approval, these classes have already begun work on restoration and preservation projects at the Kennebec Arsenal, and Fort Knox.

    But there is an obstacle to overcome to successfully continue the program.

    After twelve years, the school is in need of its own renovations to accommodate these new classes with upgrades to its facilities. In addition, last winter was brutal on the school’s buildings and vital repairs are needed.

    With the new classes set to start this fall work needs to begin refitting the school immediately.

    Tyler Garnett took a few building courses in Portland but wanted a more comprehensive program in masonry so he enrolled at the Maine School of Masonry and graduated this spring.

    The school needs immediate help with:

    • Donations to help with the school’s renovations for our new classes.
    • Materials can also be donated and are tax deductible.

    Materials needed to upgrade our facilities for our renovation/preservation classes:

    • Insulation
    • Sheet rock
    • White paint
    • Wooden flooring
    • A new furnace or a new heating source (they really want to use a more clean energy source)
    • A mobile home (As students will be working on site at the locations listed above some historic locations are far from Avon and having a mobile home will save the classes the commute.) 

    Donated materials can be dropped off at the school any time.

    Some students have already signed up for the fall classes, including Ellis, knowing once their trained in historic renovation and preservation they could earn over $75,000 per year.

    “And they’ll be able to tell their grandchildren they took part in saving a piece of American’s history,” said Mitch.

    William Ellis, an instructor with a professional engineering background, and Andrew Ryba work on “pointing” renovations at the Kennebec Arsenal in Augusta.

    Key supporters of our Historic Renovation and Preservation coursers are Richard Irons, Maine Preservation, Greater Portland Landmarks , Main Street 1 and Niemann Capital.

    The Maine School of Masonry is a non-profit 501(c)3.

    Their email is masonryschool@tds.net

    The school is located at: 637 Rangeley Road, Avon, ME 04966

    website: masonryschool.org

    Richard Irons is the school’s Mason Consultant, with 38 years of experience. Here he’s working at the Kennebec Arsenal showing students the skills that have taken him a lifetime to learn.

  • Grants from Full Plates/Full Potential for Maine School breakfasts

    Full Plates Full Potential, an organization dedicated to ending child hunger in Maine, just granted over $26,000 to Maine Public Schools and nonprofits addressing student hunger and increasing access to nutritious school breakfast.

    The grants are funding breakfast models called ‘breakfast after the bell’, which have increased the number of children  participating in the healthy School Breakfast Program. Teachers who have implemented the ‘breakfast after the bell’ models have also seen fewer disciplinary issues, less visits to the nurse's office and better results academically.

    The traditional breakfast in the cafeteria offered before the bell isn’t meeting the needs of all Maine students. Many students arrive at school just as the bell rings or later and don’t have the time to get breakfast before starting their day. Models such as Breakfast in the Classroom and Grab N’ Go allows all students the opportunity to eat a healthy breakfast before starting their school day.

    “Besides meeting their nutritional needs, a full belly allows students to focus on their academics and to reach their full potential,”  according to Michelle Lamm chair of the FPFP breakfast sub-committee and supervisor at the Preble Street Maine Hunger Initiative.

    Research by Feeding America shows that when kids lack proper nutrition, they’re less able to live up to their full potential in the classroom—and later in life, too, when they join the workforce and raise families of their own. In 2016, nearly 87,000 kids in Maine — 47 percentof all public-school students—lived in “food insecure” households (homes where there is often not enough nutritious food to eat). 

    About Full Plates Full Potential

    Full Plates Full Potential is a 501(c)3 organization that is dedicated to ending child hunger in Maine. Every day, thousands of Maine children don’t get enough good, nutritious food to eat.

    Full Plates Full Potential believes it’s possible to increase the number of children enrolled, participating, and consuming nutritious meals available through the safety net of child nutrition and school-based programs, eliminating child hunger in Maine within five years.

    Full Plates Full Potential funds best practices to increase access and participation in USDA child nutrition programs, which include: breakfast, lunch, child and adult care food programs and the summer food service program. FPFP was established in 2015 and has built a strong track record of providing technical assistance to schools and nonprofits, creating a five year plan to end childhood hunger and giving grants to support best practices. Their website www.fullplates.org 

  • Maine school boards plead for budget full funding-LePage threatens with veto

    Newport Schools stand to lose $1.5 million under Fredette/LePage proposal

    by Ramona du Houx


    Last night, June 25th, the RSU 19 Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution urging the State of Maine to fund education at 55percent.

    RSU 19 serves the Maine towns of Corinna, Dixmont, Etna, Hartland, Newport, Palmyra, and St. Albans and is the school system in House GOP Minority Leader Ken Fredette’s (R-Newport) district.

    On June 26th Governor LePage said he would veto the budget unless his demands were met in his budget proposal, which boils down to cutting education funding in school districts accross the state, amoungst other Draconian measures. 

    Despite twice voter-approved referendums instructing the state to hit this funding level,  Fredette and his House Republican caucus have been steadfast in their support of LePage’s budget proposal.

    “What is it going to take for Rep. Fredette to realize that Mainers want fair funding for their schools?” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “Since he hasn’t responded to voters who have asked for this twice, I sincerely hope he the educators and experts from his own hometown. It is time for Rep. Fredette and his GOP caucus to do the right thing, to support Maine people and fully fund the state’s share of K-12 public education.”

    Under the GOP education proposal, Fredette’s home district would lose $1.5 million dollars and fail to hit the 55 percent target in Maine law.

    According to the RSU 19 School Board, this lack of funding has caused towns in RSU 19 “to make up the difference, often by raising property taxes, cutting essential services, or both.” The board also makes clear that the failure is “preventing RSU 19 from recruiting highly trained, and qualified teachers; and retaining the excellent teachers already employed by the district.”

    Last night, Rep. Fredette’s school board said it loud and clear and even put it in writing - enact a budget that funds public schools at 55 percent as mandated by Maine voters to provide vital educational resources and relief to local taxpayers,” said Bartlett. “On behalf his own constituents, I’d encourage Rep. Fredette to heed their advice and support a budget that finally provides the resources necessary for kids and teachers to succeed.”

  • Maine voters overwhelmingly voted for Research and Development bonds

    The official tabulation of votes from the June 13, 2017 Special Referendum Election show that the bond issue was approved overwhemingly by Maine voters.

    The Elections Division has certified the results and Gov. Paul LePage signed the official vote proclamation.

    The certified election results show a total of 63,468 votes in favor of the bond issue, and 39,549 votes in opposition. Voters cast a total of 104,213 ballots in this single-question statewide referendum, with 1,196 blanks.

    Question 1 asked: “Do you favor a $50,000,000 bond issue to provide $45,000,000 in funds for investment in research, development and commercialization in the State to be used for infrastructure, equipment and technology upgrades that enable organizations to gain and hold market share, to increase revenues and to expand employment or preserve jobs for Maine people, to be awarded through a competitive process to Maine-based public and private entities, leveraging other funds in a one-to-one ratio and $5,000,000 in funds to create jobs and economic growth by lending to or investing in small businesses with the potential for significant growth and strong job creation?”

    The funds will support job growth in Maine’s high tech industries, creating good-paying jobs, new products and new services. Mainers will benefit from innovation in biotech, forest products, marine resources and information technologies. New construction projects will create additional jobs for building contractors, tradespeople, equipment suppliers, and professional service providers, increasing economic activity throughout the State.

    The funds will be administered by the Maine Technology Institute (MTI)www.mainetechnology.org and applicants will be selected through an independent, review process to select projects with the greatest potential for return on investment. Applicants are required to match dollar-for-dollar, the amount of the grant award -increasing private sector investments and accountability.

    The Elections Division will post the results online this week at http://maine.gov/sos/cec/elec/results/index.html.

    The legislation will become law 30 days from the date of the official proclamation (July 21, 2017).

  • Maine House advances measure to train educators on youth mental health first aid

    A bill to ensure health educators in secondary schools receive youth mental health first aid earned initial approval from the Maine House of Representatives Monday.

    “I appreciate the bipartisan support this bill has received,” said Rep. Jay McCreight, D-Harpswell, the bill’s sponsor. “It makes sense to make sure our secondary school health teachers, who are already teaching a mental health curriculum, have access to training that provides them with the most up-to-date, non-judgmental information about mental health and substance use disorders.”

    Youth Mental Health First Aid, or YMHFA, is a national, best-practice, evidence-based certification course that empowers people with the information they need to recognize, respond to, and have the information to guide someone with mental health needs to the appropriate help. The standards for the program have been set by the National Council for Behavioral Health and target youth ages 12 to 18. 

    Providing training in Youth Mental Health First Aid for educators who teach health education to secondary school students would ensure that they have access to accurate, un-stigmatized information about what mental illness is and what resources and supports are available locally.

    During the public hearing, McCreight cited data from the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey, the annual, self-report tool used in public schools to track trends in student behaviors and functioning.

    “Only 22 percent of Maine youth report having support from an adult,” said McCreight. “However, one proven way to help youth who are struggling with mental health issues is a relationship with at least one adult who understands what mental illness really is and who can provide adequate support that connects them with help.”

    Funding for YMHFA training would be available through Now Is The Time federal grant monies through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration administered by Maine’s Public Health Regional System, Project Aware grant.  The grant would provide for trainers, materials, payment for substitute teachers and subsidies for teachers who do the training on their own time.  National Alliance on Mental Illness, Maine is currently receiving funding through the federal grant until 2018 and has already trained 105 health educators of the estimated 380 health educators statewide.

    “The goal of this bill is to make sure that every health educator in our secondary schools, and all of their students, have access to the benefits gained by this training,” said McCreight.

    The measure, LD 1335, faces further votes in both the House and Senate.

    McCreight, a member of the Legislature’s Judiciary and Taxation Committees, is serving her second term in the Maine House and represents Harpswell, West Bath and part of Brunswick. She is also the House Chair of the Task Force to Address the Opiate Crisis.

     

  • Students welcome spring with orchard plantings across Maine

    Hundreds of students at eight Maine public schools got their hands dirty in orchard plantings this spring. Thanks to the nonprofit ReTreeUS, these grade school, middle, and high school students are leaving their mark for years to come. The organization, in its fifth year of planting, is dedicated to promoting an environmentally sustainable, socially-just food system through education, practical resources and mentorship. It lives up to its mission: before each planting is a lesson.

    “We believe that by engaging students in the process of growing their own food and caring for trees, we can create lasting change,” says Richard Hodges, ReTreeUS Program Manager. This spring, a variety of 128 apple, peach, plum and pear trees were dispersed among the eight school orchards: Manchester Elementary, Oxford Hills, Walker Elementary, Ellsworth, Pownal, Connors Emerson, Newport, and Bath Middle School. Schools become eligible for their own orchard by applying to participate through ReTreeUS, and at no expense.

    The trees provide shade, look better, provide a habitat for animals and birds, and provide food for the cafeteria,” said Pam Lanz, school garden coordinator at Manchester Elementary. In about five years, these trees will start to produce fruit. For now, it’s an education in sustainability and understanding where your food comes from.

    “I really like educational experiences like this. I've learned a lot already!” says a Bath Middle School student. Twelve varieties of apples and pear trees were planted among the orchards. “Often these kids think that the apples they see in grocery stores are the only varieties,” Hodges explained. “We are teaching them that types like Liberty, Enterprise, and Wolfe River also exist, and can be grown right here in Maine.”

    The mornings began with the dormant trees soaking in water while students dug holes. They then mixed compost into the piles of soil from each hole and pushed the mixture over the roots to plant. “These are your trees,” Hodges says to the students at the end of each planting. The orchard is made complete with ReTreeUS signs about apple history, pollination, and its environmental impact to make the space accessible for self-guided tours.

    The eight schools that participated in this spring’s planting have ended their day with a new orchard for all to enjoy. “Each orchard is a legacy in the school,” Hodges says. “Fruit trees take awhile to come into production, students watch the trees grow over time and know that they will be giving back to future generations.”

    Apply for an Orchard Planting: ReTreeUS is now accepting applications for Spring 2018 school plantings. If your school is interested, learn more at retreeus.org or by emailing richard@retreeus.org.

  • A professional stone masonry career in 9 months with training from Maine School of Masonry

    Chandler Ellis takes a look assessing his brickwork at the Maine School of Masonry in Avon. After nine months Chandler will be trained in a profession for life.

    Article and photos by Ramona du Houx

    Nestled in the hills along the rolling river Avon just outside of Farmington is a hidden gem of a school, Maine School of Masonry.

    The country’s only private non-profit masonry school continues to be a dream come true for its founder, Stephen D. Mitchell, who opened its doors in 2005. Since then, Mitch has taught hundreds of students the fundamentals of laying brick and stone work empowering every one who graduates with the skills to start their own masonry business — just after 9 months of intensive hands-on instruction.

    “It’s hands-on from the beginning,” said Mitch. Students must complete 1,350 hours of coursework, including 35 or more assigned projects.

    The art of masonry is tragically becoming a lost skill in a time when the demand for masons is incredibly high. The school has begun to change that by teaching new generations in the craftsmanship of stone masonry.

    “The demand for masons is far greater than how many of us are out there,” Mitch said. “This is a trade that has been handed down from generation to generation. But within the last 30 years, kids have turned away from the profession. We’re losing 2,000 masons a year throughout the United States and only training 200 a year. We’re doing our part but really want to do more.”

    In Maine mill closures have become all too regular. Big retail chains are also leaving the state at alarming rates. Automation is throwing good workers out of jobs. Masonry is a skilled trade, a traditional honored trade — one that could lead to a life long profession. Students who want them have jobs lined up through the school before graduation.

    Photo: Andrew Ryba worked as a professional landscaper in Mass., after graduation from the Maine School of Masonry Andy will be able to offer landscape clients stone and brick work options for their properties.

    Ancient pyramids, the Washington Mt., Maine’s State Capitol or any other stone or brick building that marvel visitors never could have been built without experienced masons. The level of complexity involved in masonry work varies from laying a simple wall to installing an ornate exterior, patios, brick ovens, garden walls, the perfect chimney, ornamental stonework or a high-rise building, and always will require the skill and precision of a mason. No automation here.

    “We’ve got so many talented workers out there looking for a good life long job. Masonry gives them that opportunity. They can take that skill anywhere and set up shop,” said Mitch.

    Being able to offer new generations a future in an age-old profession is a passion with Mitch who travels to schools throughout the state.

    “We give a four-day course on masonry,” Mitch said. “There is always a demand for skilled masons, anywhere in the world. Plus, the higher the level of craftsmanship the higher the pay checks.”

    Not long ago the school received an inquiry from Long Island, New York asking for graduates to come work and earn $65 an hour.

    Becoming a quality mason is more than ensuring a plum line is exact when leveling out a brick or stone walls, although every student has to learn these basics. It’s a craft that requires sensitivity to the materials and that only comes from good training and experience.

    Like any other art, the mason has to have an instinctive feel for the craft. Mitch has a talent of bringing out those innate abilities in his students as they build different projects in the workshop.

    “The more artistic the work is, the more money there is to be made,” said Mitch. “It’s a physically demanding job as well as being very creative. It’s a rush when students realize they are creating something that can last through history.”

     Photo:William Ellis, an instructor with a professional engineering background, stands in front of a fireplace he designed and built at the Maine School of Masonry.

    The future masons come from right down the road or as far away as Texas, Wyoming and Montana. Mitchell accepts up to 12 students every year from various backgrounds and all ages.

    Most days, inside the 4,000-square-foot building students are eagerly building different projects in the workshop. Their fireplaces, chimneys, walls and archways will be taken down in the fall brick-by-brick to be used by the next class. Class work mortar lacks an element that cements it, making it easy to take apart.

    Recently the school expanded its programs and out reach to offer historic stone/brick renovation and preservation classes.

    Restoring historic buildings is a specialized skill that demands good wages.

    All across the country historic buildings are in need of renovation. But while the materials for historic renovations are readily available, there is a shortage of trained quality craftspeople, masons, to do the needed repairs and restoration work.

    The new courses take students through materials and processes of proven methods to conserve, repair, and preserve stone and brick buildings, statuary, and monuments.

    Photo:“It’s hands-on from the beginning,” said Mitch, founder and instructor at the school. Students must complete 1,350 hours of coursework, including 35 or more assigned projects.

     In partnership with the owners of historic landmarks and with the state’s approval, Mitch and his students have begun work on restoration and preservation projects at the Kennebec Arsenal, Fort Knox, The Old Wiscasset Jail and Rangeley’s Historical Society this spring.

    Students at Maine School of Masonry also learn the value of volunteer work and have given their talents and time to community projects in Phillips, Farmington, New Sharon, Madrid and Wilton. They’ve left their mark on churches, community buildings and town halls.

    “This trade is not just to make money, but also to help people,” Mitch said. “Buildings help create the foundations of communities.”

    The school and dormitory are located at 637 Rangeley Road. For more information call 639-2392, or visit masonryschool.org or their Facebook page. Enrollment for the fall is now open.

     

    The North Burleigh building at the Kennebec Arsenal where instructors and students from the Maine School of Masonry have started renovations.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Support rural Maine by investing in schools, broadband

    Editorial by Representative Dave McCrea from Fort Fairfield in Aroostook County

    It’s easy for an elected official to promise the world during a campaign. It’s another thing entirely to deliver on your promises and honor your word in a divided government.

    You may have heard Democrats promising a lot this past election. We told voters we’d fight to lower taxes for every Maine family, create better schools by finally ensuring the state pays its fair share,

    invest in safer infrastructure and the workers of Maine who build it, and bring high-speed internet access to rural areas to help our families and businesses compete.

    I’m proud that since day one of this session we’ve been pushing to do just that, because we know that Maine’s success depends on investing in our families and communities.

    Two examples of the ways we put our money where our mouth is happened this month in fact.

    Believing that the zip code you grow up in shouldn’t dictate the type of education you receive, voters supported Question 2 last fall, which created a funding stream that would make the state’s contribution to public education the full 55 percent as is current law. That referendum identified a 3 percent tax increase on the wealthiest in Maine as the source of funding.

    Despite the governor’s budget proposal, which seeks to ignore the new law, and a handful of other bills seeking to roll back Question 2, Democrats have stood strong, refusing to defund our schools to give yet another tax break to the wealthy. 

    The other example that makes me proud this week is the widespread support of my bill to expand rural access to high-speed internet. 

    Much has been said about the need to improve Maine’s business climate. If passed, LD 421 will spur Maine’s rural economy by supporting existing businesses as well as attracting new businesses that need high-speed internet to compete. 

    For those that don’t understand how important high speed internet access is to our communities, I suggest you try to complete a task using slow, or non-existent internet.

    For example, I am a recently-retired school teacher. At my school, due to dependable high-speed broadband internet, I could post a set of twenty Human Anatomy and Physiology grades into a  large program used by my school system in about a minute.

    If I were to attempt that same task at my residence in a more rural area of Fort Fairfield, it would often take me fiveminutes or more before I could upload one grade for one student.   

    When the weather is warm and when school is out for the day or for the summer, you can’t drive by our public library without seeing kids on the steps doing their homework I’m sure. There are also adults parked in their cars along the street, taking advantage of the dependable, high-speed internet access available at this location.

    My bill will go to the committee work session, likely pass through committee and then face a vote in the full Legislature. 

    Investing in our communities by protecting the quality of our public education and the tools our families need to succeed like high speed internet will strengthen Maine’s rural economy, its families and its businesses. 

    That’s a fight Democrats will lead and it’s fight we can proud of.

  • Former CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project will lead MECA

    The Maine College of Art’s (MECA) Board of Trustees has announced the appointment of Laura Freid, Ed.D., as the 18th president of the 135 year-old institution.

    Freid comes to MECA as a passionate and proven advocate for the arts and education, most recently serving in partnership with internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, as CEO and Executive Director of The Silk Road Project, a global cultural arts organization based at Harvard University.

    Silkroad works to connect the world through the arts, presenting musical performances and learning programs, and fostering radical cultural collaboration around the world to lead to advancing global understanding.

    Her prior leadership experience includes serving as Executive Vice President for Public Affairs and University Relations at Brown University and Chief Communications Officer at Harvard University where she was publisher ofHarvard Magazine.

    Led by alumnus Brian Wilk ’95, incoming chair of MECA’s Board of Trustees, and Vice President at Hasbro Toys, MECA’s presidential search process officially started in August  2016, when a search committee composed of a diverse group of representatives from within the MECA community convened to discuss and understand the most essential attributes needed in the College’s next leader.

    In announcing the choice, Wilk remarked on the thorough and extensive nature of the selection process. “It was clear to the entire search committee that we needed someone who has the skills, experience, and appetite to continue building our mission of educating artists for life while expanding our reputation as an international destination for world-class arts education. After carefully considering our impressively deep pool of seasoned candidates from all over the world, our search committee unanimously agreed that Dr. Laura Freid was the right person to guide MECA through our next critical period of growth.”  


    Debbie Reed, chair of the MECA Board of Trustees, described Freid as “an exceptional leader who understands MECA’s mission and the importance of creativity.” According to Reed, “From the moment we met Laura, we were interested in learning more about her demonstrated track record of engaging multiple constituencies while serving in senior leadership roles at multiple institutions. The Board of Trustees looks forward to an exciting future under Laura’s leadership as we move the College forward.”

    “I am grateful for the dynamic leadership that has guided MECA to date and to the entire College community and the city of Portland for creating such an exciting American center for the arts, culture and entrepreneurship,” Freid said. “In times as rife with international, political, and economic tensions as we are experiencing today, I believe investing in the arts has never been more imperative. Art gives us meaning and identity, helping us reflect on and shape our lives; it is fundamental to our well-being. That is why I believe providing artists with the education they need to succeed is such a critical and vital mission.”

    Freid’s educational background is rooted in the philosophy of aesthetics and in the history of reputation in higher education. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Washington University, an MBA from Boston University Graduate School of Management, and an Ed.D. from University of Pennsylvania.

    Freid will take office on or before July 1st, replacing Interim President Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine’s Poet Laureate and former Director of the Haystack Mountain School of Arts. Kestenbaum stepped in to lead during a transition year after Don Tuski, Ph.D. accepted the position of President at Pacific Northwest College of the Arts in Portland, Oregon, on the heels of six years of continuous enrollment and endowment growth at MECA.

  • Maine Democrats try and address opioid crisis within supplemental budget

    On February 24th, members of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee voted unanimously in favor of LD 302, "An Act To Make Supplemental Appropriations and Allocations for the Expenditures of State Government and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2017." This bill will now proceed to the full legislature for a vote.  

    After a push from democratic leaders, specifically an amendment offered by Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, the supplemental budget bill now contains nearly $5 million in state and federal funds to provide opioid addiction treatment to Mainers most in need of help — the uninsured and those with low incomes.

    “Drug addiction strikes without prejudice and is affecting every community in our state. Overdose deaths are happening in our cities, our small towns and our rural communities,” said Sen. Breen. “We have to work together to address this crisis. I’m pleased to see bipartisan support for expanded treatment, and I’m hopeful we can continue to work together to save Mainers’ lives.”

    This $29 million dollar spending package also contains:

    • $7.1 million in funding to keep tuition low at the University of Maine,
    • $7 million to the Maine Military Authority in Aroostook county, and
    • $4.8 million to rehabilitate fish hatcheries in our Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Department.

    Additionally, the package moves $35 million to the state’s Rainy Day Fund. 

    “The problems we need to solve are bigger than this supplemental budget, but I am heartened that we are moving forward with a unanimous vote from this committee,” said House Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, Rep. Drew Gattine. “We will remain steadfast in our focus on long term solutions that strengthen middle class families, schools, and seniors, while growing good paying jobs and a strong economy.” 

  • Legislation in Maine could help keep children out of harms way of led in water

    By Ramona du Houx

    Citing growing evidence of pervasive lead contamination in schools’ drinking water, Environment Maine launched a new Get the Lead Out campaign in February of 2017.  

    An analysis by Environment Maine Research and Policy Center gave Maine a grade of F to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school. The Maine Public Health Association, Prevent Harm, and State Senator Rebecca Millett all joined Environment Maine in calling for swift action to ensure lead-free water in Maine’s schools and daycares.

    “Schools should be safe places for our kids to learn and play, but state is failing/not doing enough to protect our kids from lead in drinking water said Laura Dorle “Kids’ developing brains are especially susceptible to highly toxic lead so it’s time to get the lead out.”

    As more Maine schools test their water, they are finding lead.  For example, last year officials in the Yarmouth School District found lead levels above the EPA’s standard of 15 parts per billion (ppb).

    Yet a new report Get the Lead Out: by Environment Maine Research and Policy Center shows that such confirmed cases of lead-laced water are likely just the tip of the iceberg.  For example, the report cites new data from Massachusetts, where half of more than 40,000 tests conducted last year showed some level of lead in water from taps at school.

    “Lead is a potent neurotoxin, affecting the way our kids learn, grow, and behave,” said Rebecca Boulos of the Maine Public Health Association.  “There is no safe level of lead for children.”  

    All too often, schools (and homes) have pipes, plumbing and/or fixtures that leach lead into drinking water.   In some cases, old service lines – the pipes that brings water from the mains in the street into buildings – are made entirely of lead. 

    Unfortunately, current state law does far too little to prevent children’s drinking water from becoming laced with lead at school.  Maine law only requires testing of water at schools that draw their water from non-public sources and does not require remediation.  In Environment Maine Research and Policy Center’s comparison of 16 states, these shortcomings gave Maine a GRADE OF F.

    “We were disappointed to find that Maine’s efforts are a GRADE at the back of the class for protecting children from lead at school.  Our kids deserve better,” said Environment Maine Research and Policy Center’s Laura Dorle.

    LD 40: An Act to Strengthen Requirements for Water Testing in Schools, introduced by State Senator Rebecca Millett, who represents South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and part of Scarborough would help to change that by starting a system that would require all schools are rigorously testing for this issue.

    ““All families deserve to know that the drinking water at their children’s schools is safe,” said Sen. Millett. “We cannot have a strong set of standards for some schools and a lesser standard for others. Lead poisoning can have disastrous effects on children, and it is our responsibility to protect all of them, regardless of where they live. We have got to do better than that.  We owe it to our kids.”

    These efforts have wide support including from environmental health advocacy group Prevent Harm, Toxics Action Center, the Maine Academy of Pediatrics, the Maine Public Health Association, and more.   Parents are especially eager to see the bill move.

    (PHOTO: press conference at the state house about LD 40)

    “Do we really want to wait for more tests to show that our kids have been drinking lead?” asked Gretchen Migliaccio, UMaine Augusta student and parent whose daughter attends Laura E. Richards Elementary School in Gardiner.  “It’s time to get the lead out.”

    Parents in other states are demanding action too.  Environment Maine’s counterparts are working with doctors and parents and community leaders in seven other states to advance policies that Get the Lead Out of schools and daycares.

  • Scientists call on Collins

    The Penobscot is polluted with mercury - we need the EPA

    Editorial by Dianne Kopec and Aram Calhoun,

    As the name implies, the goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to protect our environment, and it has worked toward that goal since it was created in 1970. That start date is important to the people and the environment of the lower Penobscot River, for in late 1967, the HoltraChem chlor-alkali plant began operating in Orrington on the banks of the river. In the first four years of the plant’s operation, waste mercury was routinely discharged into the river. Much of that mercury continues to contaminate the Penobscot.

    We ask that the community, and Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King — who will soon vote on the nominee to head the agency, Scott Pruitt — consider the value of the EPA and the critical importance of appointing a director who embraces the mission of protecting our environment.

    Senator Susan Collins – (202) 224-2523 Senator Angus King – (202) 224-5344

    We are scientists. We examined the impact of the mercury discharges into the river as part of the Penobscot River Mercury Study, an independent court-ordered study of mercury contamination of the Penobscot River from the HoltraChem plant. This work gave us first-hand knowledge of the value of the EPA and of the environmental consequences when regulations are absent or not enforced.

    One of the first actions of the EPA was a thorough revision of water pollution laws and the creation of the Clean Water Act, which was passed by Congress in 1972.

    For the first time in our history, the government began regulating pollutant discharges into surface waters. It was no longer legal for the Orrington chemical plant to dump its waste mercury into the Penobscot. Instead, HoltraChem began storing the waste mercury in landfills that greatly reduced the amount of mercury entering the river. Yet, roughly 90 percent of an estimated nine tons of mercury that was ultimately released into the Penobscot River was discharged before the EPA began regulating pollutant discharges into our rivers, streams and lakes.

    Today, the evidence of those mercury discharges can be seen in the sediment of the Penobscot River. Buried 16 inches below the surface of the sediment is a layer of extreme mercury contamination, deposited during the early years of plant operation.

    The sediment deposited after EPA was created is less contaminated.

    Yet, buried contaminants do not always remain hidden. River and slough channels can change course, releasing long-buried mercury into the surface sediment that is swept up and down the river with the tide. So in some parts of the lower Penobscot the most contaminated sediment is not buried, but near the surface, where it enters our food web and accumulates in our fish, birds and lobster.

    Now 50 years later, we have mercury concentrations in waterfowl almost four times greater than the Maine action level for mercury in muscle tissue, prompting the state’s first health advisory on the consumption of breast meat from ducks. Migratory song birds arrive in marshes along the lower Penobscot with low mercury burdens, but quickly accumulate mercury concentrations in their blood that exceed levels known to cause reproductive failure. Average mercury concentrations in lobster living near the mouth of the Penobscot River are two to three times greater than the Maine action level, and individual lobster have concentrations over six times greater.

    There is now a state ban on lobster harvesting in that area. Without EPA regulations, the river would be even more contaminated. Finally, mercury concentrations in the surface sediments of the river are seven to 10 times greater than background concentrations in rivers Down East, and we estimate it will take a minimum of 60 to 400 years, depending on the area, for the Penobscot to clean itself.

    Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general, has been nominated to head the EPA, despite the fact that he is a leading advocate against the agency. His history of suing the EPA over environmental regulations, the same regulations that now limit discharges to the Penobscot, should disqualify him from service as the agency’s director.

    This is only one example of the positive role the EPA plays in safeguarding public and environmental health. Environmental regulations save our country money, provide jobs, and ensure the health of all animals, plants and the humans who see clean air, water and soil as an American right. The EPA needs a leader who will defend that right.

    Dianne Kopec is an adjunct instructor in the department of wildlife, fisheries, and conservation biology at the University of Maine in Orono. Aram Calhoun is a professor of wetlands ecology at UMaine. Peter Santschi, a regents professor in the department of marine sciences at Texas A&M University in Galveston, and Ralph Turner, a mercury researcher at RT Geosciences Inc., also contributed to this piece.

  • Impact of the Affordable Care Act in Maine and how Dirigo Health helped

    By Ramona du Houx

    Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 thousands of Mainers have gained coverage, and hundreds of thousands more have had their coverage substantially improved.

    On January 16, 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released an extensive compilation of state-level data illustrating the substantial improvements in health care for all Americans over the last six years.

    The data show that the uninsured rate in Maine has fallen by 17 percent since the ACA was enacted, translating into 22,000 Mainers gaining coverage, some transfered to the ACA from the established state program, Dirigo Health Care. 

    Photo: President Barack Obama came to Maine after the ACA was enacted and praised Governor John Baldacci for his work on the creation of the Dirigo Health Care Act. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    “As our nation debates changes to the health care system, it’s important to take stock of where we are today compared to where we were before the Affordable Care Act,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Whether Mainers get coverage through an employer, Medicaid, the individual market, or Medicare, they have better health coverage and care today as a result of the ACA. Millions of Americans with all types of coverage have a stake in the future of health reform. We need to build on our progress and continue to improve health care access, quality, and affordability, not move our system backward.”

    Photo: Governor John Baldacci with Robin Mills talking about Dirigo Choice in 2007. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Maine was an unusual case, because the state had enacted the Dirigo Health Care Act during the Baldacci administration, and many of the ACA benefits were already apart of Dirigo. Because of Dirigo it was easier to transfer over to the ACA.

    Governor John Baldacci deserves recognition for creating a model for the ACA. Other portions of Dirigo were dismantled by Gov. Paul LePage, who succeeded Baldacci. Never-the-less Baldacci's Dirigo saved thousands of lives by giving people health insurance for the first time, by expanding preventative care, covering more young adults, by eliminating the pre-existing condition and discrimination against women in health coverage.

    Dirigo Choice, the insurance branch of Dirigo Health, insured more than 40,000 Mainers and also became a model for President Obama’s ACA. In 2010 Monique Kenyon said, "We were shocked,” when she found out her husband was suffering from cancer. “Being a middle-income family we didn’t qualify for any assistance. We couldn’t afford all the treatment without insurance, but insurance companies wouldn’t accept him because he has this preexisting condition. He’s still with us because of Dirigo Choice.”

    Signed into law in the 2003 Dirigo Health Care Reform Act was a bold step toward universal health coverage during a time when policymakers in Washington D.C. and in state houses struggled to take even small steps. A few years later Governor Romney of Massachusetts used elements of Dirigo in his health care policies.

    “In many ways, Dirigo was a pace-setter and blueprint to national reform,” said Trish Riley, former director of Maine Governor John Baldacci’s Office of Health Policy and Finance. Riley said the program saved many lives by helping thousands of uninsured gain access to medical care and enabling more than 1,000 small businesses to provide insurance for their owners and employees.

    Baldacci expanded Medicare, covering many more Mainers, but LePage has refused to accept this part of the ACA, so thousands who were on, what the state calls MaineCare were kicked off because of LePage -  too many have died.

    In 2003, Maine ranked 16th healthiest among the states; in 2010 Maine was in the top ten. In 2003, Maine ranked 19th among the states in covering the uninsured; in 2010 Maine was sixth. With Dirigo Health, Maine created an efficient public health system with eight districts that cover the entire state through Healthy Maine Partnerships. During the Baldacci administration the state reached a milestone in healthcare coverage, won awards for Dirigo and became a model for the nation. (photo below taken in 2010)

    The ACA picked up the torch and contained to save the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people in Maine.

    Highlights of theACA  data include:

    Employer Coverage: 702,000 people in Maine are covered through employer-sponsored health plans. 

    Since the ACA this group has seen:

    An end to annual and lifetime limits: Before the ACA, 431,000 Mainers with employer or individual market coverage had a lifetime limit on their insurance policy. That meant their coverage could end exactly when they needed it most. The ACA prohibits annual and lifetime limits on policies, so all Mainers with employer plans now have coverage that’s there when they need it.
    Young adults covered until age 26: An estimated 8,000 young adults in Maine have benefited from the ACA provision that allows kids to stay on their parents’ health insurance up to age 26.

    Free preventive care: Under the ACA, health plans must cover preventive services — like flu shots, cancer screenings, contraception, and mammograms – at no extra cost to consumers. This provision benefits 588,281 people in Maine, most of whom have employer coverage.

    Slower premium growth: Nationally, average family premiums for employer coverage grew 5 percent per year 2010-2016, compared with 8 percent over the previous decade. Family premiums are $3,600 lower today than if growth had matched the pre-ACA decade.


    Better value through the 80/20 rule: Because of the ACA, health insurance companies must spend at least 80 cents of each premium dollar on health care or care improvements, rather than administrative costs like salaries or marketing, or else give consumers a refund. Mainers with employer coverage have received $2,507,067 in insurance refunds since 2012.


    Medicaid: 273,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, including 115,217 children and 52,077 seniors and people with disabilities covered by both Medicaid and Medicare. The ACA expanded Medicaid eligibility and strengthened the program for those already eligible.

    40,000 Mainers could gain coverage: An estimated 40,000 Mainers could have health insurance today if Maine expanded Medicaid under the ACA. Coverage improves access to care, financial security, and health; expansion would result in an estimated 5,000 more Mainers getting all needed care, 5,700 fewer Mainers struggling to pay medical bills, and 50 avoided deaths each year.
    Thousands of Mainers with a mental illness or substance use disorder could get help: Nearly 30 percent of those who could gain coverage if more states expanded Medicaid have a mental illness or substance use disorder.


    Maine could be saving millions in uncompensated care costs: Instead of spending $40 million on uncompensated care, which increases costs for everyone, Maine could be getting $430 million in federal support to provide low-income adults with much needed care.
    Children, people with disabilities, and seniors can more easily access Medicaid coverage: The ACA streamlined Medicaid eligibility processes, eliminating hurdles so that vulnerable Mainers could more easily access and maintain coverage.


    Maine is improving health care for individuals with chronic conditions, including those with severe mental illness: The ACA established a new Medicaid flexibility that allows states to create health homes, a new care delivery model to improve care coordination and lower costs for individuals with chronic conditions, such as severe mental illness, Hepatitis C, diabetes and heart disease
    Individual market: 75,240 people in Maine have coverage through the Marketplace. Individual market coverage is dramatically better compared to before the ACA:

    No discrimination based on pre-existing conditions: Up to 590,266 people in Maine have a pre-existing health condition. Before the ACA, these Mainers could have been denied coverage or charged an exorbitant price if they needed individual market coverage. Now, health insurance companies cannot refuse coverage or charge people more because of pre-existing conditions.
    Tax credits available to help pay for coverage: Before the ACA, only those with employer coverage generally got tax benefits to help pay for health insurance. Now, 63,896 moderate- and middle-income Mainers receive tax credits averaging $342 per month to help them get covered through HealthCare.gov.

    Women pay the same as men: Before the ACA, women were often charged more than men just because of their gender. That is now illegal thanks to the ACA, protecting roughly half the people of Maine.

    Greater transparency and choice: Before the ACA, it was virtually impossible for consumers to effectively compare insurance plan prices and shop for the best value. Under the ACA, Maine has received $5 million in federal funding to provide a more transparent marketplace where consumers can easily compare plans, choosing among 25 plans on average.

    Medicare: 315,160 people in Maine are covered by Medicare. The ACA strengthened the Medicare Trust Fund, extending its life by over a decade.

    Medicare enrollees have benefited from:

    Lower costs for prescription drugs: Because the ACA is closing the prescription drug donut hole, 18,970 Maine seniors are saving $19 million on drugs in 2015, an average of $986 per beneficiary.
    Free preventive services: The ACA added coverage of an annual wellness visit and eliminated cost-sharing for recommended preventive services such as cancer screenings. In 2015, 165,892 Maine seniors, or 71 percent of all Maine seniors enrolled in Medicare Part B, took advantage of at least one free preventive service.

    Fewer hospital mistakes: The ACA introduced new incentives for hospitals to avoid preventable patient harms and avoidable readmissions. Hospital readmissions for Maine Medicare beneficiaries dropped 4 percent between 2010 and 2015, which translates into 232 times Maine Medicare beneficiaries avoided an unnecessary return to the hospital in 2015. 

    More coordinated care: The ACA encouraged groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to come together to provide coordinated high-quality care to the Medicare patients they serve. 6 Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in Maine now offer Medicare beneficiaries the opportunity to receive higher quality, more coordinated care.

    ACA Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)

  • Rep. Devin combats ocean acidification, addresses conference with Gov. Jerry Brown

    Rep. Mick Devin, of Newcastle, ME, joined fellow members of the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification, including California Governor Jerry Brown, at a combat acidifacation launch event in CA. 

    Maine recognized as a national leader in fighting for healthier oceans 

    By Ramona du Houx

    In December of 2016,  U.S. and global leaders launched the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification in Coronado, CA.  Rep. Mick Devin, D-Newcastle, represented Maine at the event and was a key speaker. 

    “It was an honor to show the rest of the country how Maine is a leader when it comes to addressing the quality of the water in our oceans,” said Rep. Devin. “Scientists are working around the clock because they know how many people depend on the ocean to make a living.”

    The oceans are the primary protein source for 2.6 billion people, and support $2.5 trillion of economic activity each year. Maine's lobster industry could suffer greatly from ocean acidification. Catches like this one would only be read in history books. This lobster was put back into the ocean, as it's way beyond the size fishermen can legally catch.

    Maine is seen as the leading state on the East Coast addressing ocean acidification.  Maine was the first state to establish an Ocean Acidification Commission.  As a result of the commission the Maine Ocean and Coastal Acidification Alliance, or MOCA, was established. 

    Ocean acidification occurs when carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use and other carbon sources dissolves in the water and forms carbonic acid. Other sources of acidification include fresh water from rivers and decomposing algae feeding off nutrients in runoff. Carbonic acid dissolves the shells of shellfish.

    Maine’s major inshore shellfisheries, including clams, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins, could see major losses if ocean acidification is left unchecked.

    At the conference, Devin addressed how state leaders are using science to establish priorities in dealing with the rising acidity of the earth’s oceans. He explained how Maine used those priorities to develop a long-term action plan.  

    He stressed the importance of addressing ocean acidification by developing plans to remediate and adapt to it. Devin said that strategy is crucial for Maine to maintain its healthy marine economy, particularly the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries, which are valued well in excess of billion dollars annually. 

    Devin finished his presentation by showing a slide of a boiled lobster dinner and repeating his trademark line about one reason the marine economy matters to so many: “People do not visit the coast of Maine to eat a chicken sandwich.” 

    The Alliance includes several state governments, governments of Canadian provinces, North American tribal governments, and countries as far away as France, Chile and Nigeria. 

    While lobsters are the iconic image of Maine, many other shell fish will be effected, like musscles, and clams. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Members have five primary goals: advancing scientific understanding of ocean acidification; taking meaningful actions to reduce causes of acidification; protect the environment and coastal communities from impacts of a changing ocean; expanding public awareness and understanding of acidification; and building sustained global support for addressing the problem.

    Devin, a marine biologist at the Darling Center in Walpole and a member of the Legislature’s Marine Resources Committee, is serving his third term in the Maine House. He represents Bremen, Bristol, Damariscotta, Newcastle, part of Nobleboro, part of South Bristol, Monhegan Plantation and the unorganized territory of Louds Island.

     

  • The 128 Legislature and how to help the state out of stagnation

     By Ramona du Houx

    Members of the 128th Legislature were sworn into the Maine House of Representatives on December 7, 2016, led by Democratic Speaker of the House Sara Gideon. There are 25 new members and 52 returning representatives in the House, including 36 women.

    “Today, we start out with a Maine economy that is lagging behind New England and the rest of the country in terms of economic growth, recovery of jobs lost during the recession and wage growth,” said Gideon, D-Freeport.  “We lead New England when it comes to the number of Maine children and seniors living in poverty. Those are the facts.  And here is another fact: We have to do better. We will always work together and come to the table in search of common ground to help the 1.3 million Mainers who expect us to rise above politics.” 

    There are issues that could grow Maine’s economy, which haven’t been addressed during the LePage administration. Instead he’s focused on cutting benefits and lowering taxes for the wealthy. in his speach today to the lawmakers he talked about changing the Minimum wage referendum that passed, not about how to grow jobs.

    In a recent interview, Former Governor John Baldacci sited a study conducted by Former Governor King, which listed the top areas in need of investment that still remain areas that need funding.

    "The two leading factors in the study were the education and training of the population and the amount of Research and Development funds invested to help businesses get the latest cutting edge technologies so they can compete successfully with other businesses anyone in the world,” said Gov. Baldacci.

    Maine has suffered under LePage by the lack of Research and Development (R&D) funds that used to spur economic activity as the research, conducted at the University of Maine and other laboratories, was regularly used by start-up Maine companies, there-by growing jobs across Maine. The people have always voted overwhelmingly for R&D bonds in Maine. But LePage doesn’t believe in bond issues and has held bond funds hostage in the past.

    "We've been doing a terrible job at putting resources in Research and Development," said Gov. Baldacci, who invested dramatically in R&D during his administration. "We also need to focus on job training. We're not doing enough to match jobs to the industries established here. Our Labor Department needs to be our Human Resource Department. There are plenty of job opportunities out there that need trained workers and plenty of workers who want the opportunity to work. Our people, families, and small businesses aren't looking for a handout, but are looking for opportunities. Our responsibility is to make sure that happens throughout all of Maine."

    Baldacci started this work with Former Labor Secretary Laura Fortman, but little has been done to progress these job opportunities under the LePage administration.

    The lack of these investments, along with other LePage policies has led to stagnation in Maine.

    “Under Republican leadership, Maine has lagged behind in the national economic recovery. We work longer hours than our neighbors in any other state in New England, yet the purchasing power of our paychecks in one of the lowest in the country. Meanwhile, our governor has turned a blind eye as five of our friends, family members and neighbors die every week from the opioid epidemic. I look forward our leadership team’s work over the next few months to create good jobs and a fair economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top." 

    Members of the House include teachers, small business owners, nonprofit leaders, a former mill electrician, prominent civil rights advocates, farmers, former law enforcement officials, and veterans. 

    “I’m proud of the bipartisan work we achieved last session, particularly to improve services for veterans, but there is more work to be done,” said veteran Marine Rep. Assistant Majority Leader Jared Golden. “In the short term, our first task is to pass a balanced budget that reflects the needs of our state, but we also have to keep an eye on the future. Maine needs to create good paying jobs by investing in the infrastructure our communities need to compete. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these and other challenges facing our state.”

  • Democrats won a battle for greater transparency for LePage's forensic facility plan

    Photo and article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine democrats won a battle for greater transparency to build a secure forensic facility next to the Riverview Psychiatric Center on November 30, 2016. 

    Democrats said the forensic unit project needs vetting by the Legislature’s appropriations and health and human services committees for a range of reasons including the financing, operations and policy matters related to who would be housed in the facility. Gov. LePage intends for the facility to be privately run, which could jeopardize the health and wellbeing of citizens if not carefully monitored. That overseeing duty needs to be clarified by the Legislature.

    “This is a fundamental change in how Maine cares for forensic patients that demands proper legislative oversight and public input.” said Assistant House Majority Leader Sara Gideon “DHHS has never brought this proposal to the Legislature, but is essentially threatening to build the project elsewhere and at greater cost if they don't get their way. We must provide proper care to Mainers with serious mental illness, and we are committed to making this happen with the proper oversight that protects this vulnerable population.”

    The Democrats present at the Legislative Council meeting – Gideon, Speaker Mark Eves and House Majority Leader Jeff McCabe – sought to table the proposal so it could be fully vetted as soon as the 128the Legislature convenes in January.

    House Minority Leader Kenneth Fredette, however, forced a vote to simply approve the project. His motion failed by a vote of 3-3.

    “Let’s remember what got us here in the first place. Three years ago, the feds came in and found that Riverview patients were severely abused – sometimes even with pepper spray and Tasers,” said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook, House chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “As lawmakers, we have a duty to ensure the safety and well-being of the patients in the state’s care. We can’t simply hand a blank check over to the administration.”

     

  • Obama on progress his administration has made in education

    Some remarks from President Barack Obama on progress his administration has made in education-

    The President was addressing a high school asembly at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C. on October 17, 2016:

    We live in a global economy.  And when you graduate, you’re no longer going to be competing just with somebody here in D.C. for a great job.  You’re competing with somebody on the other side of the world, in China or in India, because jobs can go wherever they want because of the Internet and because of technology.  And the best jobs are going to go to the people who are the best educated -- whether in India or China, or anywhere in the world.  

    So when I took office almost eight years ago, we knew that our education system was falling short when it came to preparing young people like you for that reality.  Our public schools had been the envy of the world, but the world caught up.  And we started getting outpaced when it came to math and science education.  And African American and Latino students, in part because of the legacy of discrimination, too often lagged behind our white classmates -- something called the achievement gap that, by one estimate, costs us hundreds of billions of dollars a year.  And we were behind other developed countries when it came to the number of young people who were getting a higher education.  So I said, when I first came into office, by 2020 I want us to be number one again.  I want us to be number one across the board. 

    So we got to work, making real changes to improve the chances for all of our young people, from the time they're born all the way through until they got a career.  And the good news is that we’ve made real progress.  So I just wanted to talk to you about the progress we've made, because you are the reason we've made progress -- some outstanding young people all across the country.

    We recently learned that America’s high school graduation rate went up to 83 percent, which is the highest on record.  That's good news.  (Applause.)  More African American and Latino students are graduating than ever before.  (Applause.)  Right here in D.C., in just five years, the graduation rate in the District of Columbia public schools went from just 53 percent to 69 percent.  (Applause.)  So D.C.'s graduation rates grew faster than any other place in the country this year -- this past year.  That's something to be really proud of.  (Applause.) 

    Now, of course, here at Banneker, you graduated 100 percent of your seniors last year.  (Applause.)  One hundred percent.  It's been a while since I did math, but 100 percent is good.  (Laughter.)  You can't do better than that.  So what all these numbers mean is that more schools across D.C. and across the country are starting to catch up to what you guys are doing here, at this school.

    Now, some of the changes we made were hard, and some of them were controversial.  We expected more from our teachers and our students.  But the hard work that people have put in across the country has started to pay off. 

    And I just want to talk to you a little bit about some of the things that we did.  It starts with our youngest learners.  High-quality early education is one of the best investments we can make, which is why we’ve added over 60,000 children to Head Start.  We called for high-quality preschool for every four-year-old in America.  And when I took office, only 38 states offered access to state-funded preschool.  Today, it’s up to 46. We're trying to get those last holdouts to do the right thing.   And, by the way, the District of Columbia leads the nation with the highest share of children -- nearly 9 out of 10 -- in high-quality preschool.  And that's a big achievement.  (Applause.)  

    We launched then a competition called Race to the Top, which inspired states to set higher, better standards so that we could out-teach and out-compete other nations, and make sure that we've got high expectations for our students.  D.C. was one of the winners of this competition.  It upgraded standards, upgraded curriculum, worked to help teachers build their skills.  And that, in part, is why D.C. has done so well. 

    We realized that in today’s world, when you all have a computer in your pocket in those phones, then you need to learn not just how to use a phone, you need to learn computer science.  So we’re working with private and philanthropic partners to bring high schools into the 21st century and give you a more personalized and real-world experience.  We're bringing in high-speed internet into schools and libraries, reaching 20 million more students and helping teachers with digital learning.  And coding isn’t, by the way, just for boys in Silicon Valley, so we’re investing more in getting girls and young women and young people of color and low-income students into science and engineering and technology and math.  (Applause.) 

    And because we know that nothing is more important than a great teacher -- and you’ve got some great teachers here, as well as a great principal at Banneker -- (applause) -- we have focused on preparing and developing and supporting and rewarding excellent educators.  You all know how hard they work.  They stay up late grading your assignments.  That's why you got all those marks all over your papers.  They pull sometimes money out of their own pockets to make that lesson extra special.  And I promise you, the teachers here and the teachers around the country, they’re not doing it for the pay -- because teachers, unfortunately, still aren't paid as much as they should be.  They’re not doing it for the glory.  They’re doing it because they love you, and they believe in you, and they want to help you succeed. 

    So teachers deserve more than just our gratitude -- they deserve our full support.  And we've got to make their lives easier, which is why we enacted a law to fix No Child Left Behind, which gives teachers more flexibility to spend more time teaching creatively than just spending all their time teaching to a test.  Give your teachers a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  They deserve it.   

    So we've made real progress, but here’s the thing -- and I think all of you know this because you go to this great school-- a high school education these days is not enough.  By 2020, two out of three job openings require some form of higher education.  Now, that doesn’t always mean a four-year college degree, but it does mean -- whether it's a four-year university, or a community college, or some sort of training program -- you’ve got to get a little bit more than just what you're getting in high school. 

    It used to be that a high school job might be enough because you could go into a factory or even go into an office and just do some repetitive work, and if you were willing to work hard you could make a decent living.  But the problem is repetitive work now is done by machines.  And that's just going to be more and more true.  So in order for you to succeed in the marketplace, you’ve got to be able to think creatively; you’ve got to be able to work with a team; you’ve got to be able to work with a machine and figure out how to make it tailored for the specific requirements of your business and your job.  All those things require some more sophisticated thinking than just sitting there and just doing the same thing over and over again.  And that's why you’ve got to have more than just a high school education. 

    And if you doubt that, I just want to give you some statistics.  Compared to a high school diploma, just getting a degree from a two-year school, going to a community college and getting an associate’s degree could earn you more than $300,000 over the course of your lifetime.  And a four-year degree earns you a million dollars more than if you just had a high school degree.  Think about that.  A million dollars -- that's real money.

    So one of the things that we’re trying to do is to make it easier for you to access free money for college -- to figure out how you can pay for your college without having a mountain of debt.  And the key thing, as you know here at Banneker, but I want all the students around the country to do this -- and Michelle and I and others have been really emphasizing this -- is to fill out your FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

    How many people -- how many seniors here have already filled out their FAFSA forms?  (Applause.)  All right.  How many seniors here have not filled out their FAFSA forms?  Fess up now.  (Laughter.)  You sure?  All right, I just want to make sure now.  And, juniors, you can start getting ready now.

    Because what the FAFSA does is it puts you in the running for scholarships, grants, loans, work-study jobs, all to help you pay for college.  And we've made it simpler than ever.  And it's available right now at FAFSA.gov -- FAFSA.gov. And since this is one of the most important investments of your life, next year's FAFSA is also going to direct you to something we created, called our College Scorecard. 

    Now, here's what this is.  It gives you comprehensive information on every college in America.  Now, some of you who have started applying for colleges, you know about these college rankings, right?  It's like, oh, this is the best school.  And some of that information is useful; some of it not so much.  But unlike traditional rankings that focus on which school has the fanciest dorm or the nicest football stadiums, or is the most expensive or the most exclusive, what our College Scorecard does is it focuses on some of the things that really matter for your future.  Things like how many students actually graduate from the school -- because it's not enough just to enroll in college; you've got to graduate from college.  How much money do their alumni earn?  What percentage of their students can pay back their loans?  And what we’ve done is we've worked with companies like Google to put this information right at your fingertips. 

    So for a decision this important, we want you to be able to comparison shop to figure out how do you get the best value for your money, just like if you were buying something on Amazon.  If you were buying a car or you're buying a phone or you're buying anything, especially if it's a pretty big purchase, you want to know ahead of time, is this legit.  And what this does is makes you think about what your options are. 

    Now, you've got some great counselors here.  Obviously, you should work with them.  But not every student may be going to a school like Banneker that has as many good counselors to think about their college education.  And using this College Scorecard is going to be helpful for them to do a little comparison shopping.  Because you don't want to go to the school just because it's the closest one, and it turns out it's more expensive and doesn't do as good of a job as if you were willing to maybe travel someplace else, and it turns out that you could get the financial aid you need to go to a school that's more suited toward your needs.

    So we also reformed, by the way, the student loan system.  When I came into office, you had tens of billions of dollars that were going to big banks, serving as middlemen for your student loans.  We said, well, let's cut out the banks.  Let's give the money directly to the students so they can afford college and we can make the loans cheaper, and we can expand Pell grants. 

    And now, what we're trying to do is to push to make two years of community college free for every responsible student all across the country.  All across the country.  (Applause.)  And we're starting to work with colleges and universities around the country to bring down the cost of college so that at the end of four years of college you're not saddled with a whole bunch of debt -- because nobody should be priced out of a higher education.  (Applause.) 

    So bottom line is:  higher graduation rates, higher college attendance rates, more money for Pell grants and work to make sure that the interest rate on student loans haven't gone up; working to expand early childhood education and preschool; continuing to watch and work with states as they try to implement reforms to make K-12 better; holding colleges more accountable for giving information so that students can make good decisions.  We've made a lot of progress.  We have made a lot of progress in terms of making sure that young people across the country get the kind of great education that you're getting here at Banneker.  And I am really proud of what we've accomplished.  I'm proud of what the District of Columbia has accomplished.

    But I just want to be honest with you:  We've still got more work to do.  So as I go, I'm giving you kind of a final report card, transcript on what more we’ve got to get done.

    There are still too many states that are cutting back on public education.  And part of the reason tuition is going up is because states aren’t putting as much money into state education, universities, community colleges as they used to.  That’s why, if you’re 18, by the way, you’ve got to vote to make sure that the folks who represent you actually deliver.  (Applause.)

    We’ve still got too many states that have not really worked in a serious way to raise standards and improve performance.  In too many school districts, we still have schools that, despite the heroic efforts of a lot of great teachers, are not fully preparing our kids for success because they just don’t have the resources to do it or the structure to do it.  We’ve still got too many high schools where a third of their students do not earn their diplomas on time.

    For too many students in America, zip code still determines how far they’ll go.  And that’s not acceptable.  Some of you probably have friends or family who are just as smart or talented or as capable as you, but they didn’t have the same support or the right opportunities or didn’t get in the right school, and so now don’t have the same shot at success.  Am I right?  Because I know that’s true in our family.  Michelle and I, we’ve got cousins and friends who we’ve known since they were shorties, little kids -- (laughter) -- and they -- we know how smart they are because they were just as smart as we were, but just the luck of the draw was they didn’t get the same chance as we did.  And that’s not right. 

    So that’s why I started something called My Brother’s Keeper initiative, because what we want to do is help more young people, especially kids of color, get mentorships and the resources and the guidance they need to succeed.  And I’m going to stay involved with that even after I’m done being President.  (Applause.)  Because we all have a part to play in making sure every single child has every single opportunity to achieve his or her dreams.

    That’s what Banneker is all about.  That’s what you can see in somebody like Ifunaya.  I mean, that’s an incredible young lady who’s going to succeed because she has an incredible school in addition to an incredible family.  (Applause.)  And so we’re so proud of her. 

    There’s another person I want to just call out -- Amari McDuffie.  Where’s Amari?  Where’s Amari?  There she is right there, right in front.  (Applause.)  So, hey, Amari.  I’m going to talk about you for a second.  (Laughter.) 

    So Amari was born with a heart and a lung condition.  And sometimes she had to miss a lot of school because of her illness.  And you know, Banneker is a pretty rigorous school, so she was worried about staying on top of her work.  But everybody in this family rallied around her and made sure she was keeping up.  Her history teacher, Mr. Goldfarb -- where’s Mr. Goldfarb?  (Applause.)  Is he here or did he cut assembly?  (Laughter.)  So Mr. Goldfarb came to visit her when Amari was in the hospital for weeks, brought a card from the whole class.  And so Amari, she was talking about the support everybody here gave her, and she said, “I believed in myself because my teachers believed in me.” 

    And that’s the kind of community that we want in every school -- where you’re looking out for each other and you’re taking care of one another.  And so now Amari plans to be a doctor so she can help kids who had illnesses like hers.  And that’s what’s possible -- (applause) -- that's what's possible when we’re all committed to each other’s success; when we understand that no matter what you look like, where you come from, what faith you are, whether you’re a boy or a girl -- that you should have great opportunities to succeed.  And that requires you to put effort into it.  

    Michelle and I talk a lot because we travel around the world and sometimes we forget that there are places around the world where people have so little but the kids are so hungry for an education.  And they don’t even have an actual roof over their head in some of their schools.  And so even if you’re really poor in this country, you can succeed if you want to invest in the teachers and the community, and everybody raises standards and believes in each other.  And that’s what we want all of America to believe, in every kid -- because there’s magic in each and every one of you.  And we just have to help you unleash it and nurture it and realize it. 

    And, by the way, it’s because of young people like you that I leave the presidency never more optimistic than I am right now, because I’ve met so many young people around the country whose energy, and excitement, and how you treat each other, with respect.  That gives me a lot of confidence, a lot of faith for our country. 

    So I know you guys are going to keep on working hard.  You’re going to keep making our communities proud.  If us adults do our part and we stay focused on making sure every school is as great as this one, and that every young person has those same opportunities, and everybody has a teacher like Mr. Goldfarb looking out for them, I’ve got no doubt that we're going to continue to build a country where everybody has the chance to make of their lives what they will.  And that’s what America is all about.

     

  • Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment - A Maine Exhibit

    Justice?, by Ramona du Houx
     
    Maine's Equal Protection of the Laws: America’s 14th Amendment exhibit opens on Thursday, September 22nd and runs through December 22nd, 2016
     
    The exhibit will be at the Michael Klahr Center on the campus of the University of Maine at Augusta, 46 University Drive in Augusta.
    Featured are 36 works by 17 Maine artists who were inspired by the rights granted by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
    Themes depicted relate to many areas of American society covered by the amendment: including due process, liberty, gender and sexuality, race, legal protections, equality in the workplace, housing, education, law enforcement, rights of the incarcerated, tolerance, and local, state, and federal representation
    The exhibit is being hosted by the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine, in conjunction with the Harlow Gallery of the Kennebec Valley Art Association, with support from the Maine Humanities Council and associated program support by the Maine Arts Commission.
     
    The Holocaust and Human Rights Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. or weekends and evenings by appointment or when other events are being held.
    People Power, by Ramona du Houx
     

    Participating artists are listed below alphabetically by town:

    Augusta: Anthony Austin
    Bangor: Jeanne Curran
    Biddeford: Roland Salazar
    Brunswick: Mary Becker Weiss
    Camden: Claudia Noyes Griffiths
    Falmouth: Anne Strout
    Gardiner: Allison McKeen
    Hallowell: Nancy Bixler
    Lincolnville: Petrea Noyes
    Manchester: Bruce Armstrong
    Solon: Ramona du Houx
    Tenants Harbor: Otty Merrill
    Town Unknown: Julian Johnson
    Waterville: Jen Hickey
    West Rockport: Barbra Whitten
    Wilton: Rebecca Spilecki
    Winslow: Mimi McCutcheon

    There are several events planned in association with this project, including the Pride Film Festival – a series of four free films held Friday nights in October at 7 p.m. The films this year are The Boys in the Band (10/7), Fire (10/14), Paragraph 175 (10/21), and The Danish Girl (10/28).
     
    Mike Daisey’s one man play The Trump Card had sold out runs this fall in Washington and New York and is now touring throughout the country. With special permission from the playwright, HHRC Program Director and UMA adjunct professor of drama David Greenham will read the hard-hitting and hilarious monologue on Saturday, October 22nd at 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 23rd at 2 p.m.
    The Trump Card reminds all of us of the role we have played in paving the way to create one of the most divisive presidential campaigns in recent memory. Tickets for The Trump Card are $15 and proceeds benefit HHRC’s educational outreach programs.
    As the Stage Review put it, “Daisey breaks down what makes Trump tick—and in doing so illuminates the state of our American Dream and how we’ve sold it out.” 
     
    14th Amendment by Allison McKeen 
    The HHRC is also pleased to host Everyman Repertory Theater’s production of Lanford Wilson’s Talley’s Folly November 17th, 18th and 19th. The Pulitzer Prize winning play is a love story set in Missouri in 1942 and addresses issues of prejudice and the injustices that caused many to flee Europe in the years leading up to World War II.  
    The New York Times said about the play, “It is perhaps the simplest, and the most lyrical play Wilson has written—a funny, sweet, touching and marvelously written and contrived love poem for an apple and an orange.”   Tickets go on sale September 27th.
     
    Also in November, a group of UMA drama students under the direction of adjunct drama professor Jeri Pitcher will present a reading of their work in progress called Created Equal. The project, created in partnership with the HHRC, the UMA Writing Center, and UMA students will focus on the importance of the 14th amendment today. A full performance of the piece is planned for the spring of 2017.
  • Sen. Millett: Early childhood programs are crucial to our kids' futures — and to Maine

    Editorial by Senator Rebecca Millett

    When I think about the future, I think about what we are doing for our children, and whether we are doing the hard work to ensure their future is a prosperous one.

    Today, we know more than we ever have about how children grow and how to address factors in early childhood development that lead to long-term problems when those kids become adults.

    Consider the example of pre-k education. In years past, formal education generally began when kids were about five years old. In some communities, kindergarten was only a half-day program, meaning kids didn’t get a full curriculum until age six, sometimes even later.

    These days, we know that getting a jumpstart on education pays huge dividends. Pre-k is linked to lower rates of unemployment and violent crime, higher earnings and even higher IQs.

    Those benefits are shared by all children, regardless of their background. But they are particularly important for students who experience high levels of stress during their early, formative years.

    We know that a child’s development is shaped by experience, relationships and environmental factors. Positive experiences, healthy relationships and a supportive environment help build the developmental foundations for success, while stressors such poverty, insufficient food or an unstable family life risk pulling children in the wrong direction.

    Those forms of chronic or persistent stress are linked to lower educational achievement and riskier behavior such as drug use. They also cause an exaggerated stress response that has a physical effect on a child’s health, weakening their defense system against diseases from heart disease to diabetes and depression.

    Children exposed to these conditions need the kinds of intervention provided by supportive and consistent relationships with adults and their peers. That’s why it’s so crucial that we work together to design community safeguards and interventions to make sure all of our children have the same fair shot at healthy, prosperous lives.

    Pre-k is just one example. Other initiatives can also offer strong foundational supports necessary to help the next generation succeed. Whether it’s pre-k, increased access to childcare, support for new parents,  or job training for mom and dad, we can create smart, effective policies that create the environment for kids to thrive, from the home, to the classroom, and into adulthood.

    States and communities that have taken innovative approaches like these have reaped the rewards of their hard work. They’re not only good for individual kids; they’re good for the economy, and for the taxpayer, who will shoulder lower costs for interventions such as law enforcement and welfare in the long-term.

    That’s thinking about the future. That’s seeing the big picture. For all of our sake, let’s keep it in mind when the next Legislature returns in January.

  • ME's proceeds from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s close to $82M

    Maine makes over $2,270,635in 33rd auction

    Article by Ramona du Houx

    Maine brought in $2,265,634.20 from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), 33rd auction of carbon dioxide (CO2) allowances.

    RGGI is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector. 

    The program, first started in Maine when Governor John Baldacci pushed for it’s implementation and had a bill introduced. The legislation won unanimous support in Maine’s Senate and House. To date RGGI has brought in $81,837,449.15 to the state for weatherization and alternative energy projects, for businesses and homes. 

    “RGGI is working. It is helping Mainers reduce our energy bills and reduce emissions. It is a win-win and a model for the entire nation," said Former State Representative Seth Berry, who sat on Maine’s legislative committee that approved the final RGGI rules.

    States sell nearly all emission allowances through auctions and invest proceeds in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other consumer benefit programs. These programs are spurring innovation in the clean energy economy and creating green jobs in the RGGI states.

    14,911,315 CO2 allowances were sold at the auction at a clearing price of $4.54.

    The September 7th auction was the third auction of 2016, and generated $67.7 million for reinvestment in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance, and GHG abatement programs. Cumulative proceeds from all RGGI CO2allowance auctions exceed $2.58 billion dollars.

    “This auction demonstrates RGGI’s benefits to each participating state, helping to reduce harmful emissions while generating proceeds for reinvestment. Each RGGI state directs investments according to its individual goals, and this flexibility has been key to the program’s success across a diverse region.” said Katie Dykes, Deputy Commissioner at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Another key RGGI strength is our commitment to constant improvement, as exemplified in the program review process. The RGGI states are continuing to evaluate program elements and improvements as part of the 2016 Program Review, with the goal of reaching consensus on program revisions that support each state’s unique goals and priorities.

    Governor John Baldacci led the effort in Maine to join RGGI and had a comprehensive energy plan similar to Cuomo. Baldacci's clean energy plan focused on how to get Maine off fossil fuels and bring clean energy jobs to the state. His administration created grants to help new innovations like the floating offshore wind platforms and windmills developed at the University of Maine under Dr. Habib Dagher's leadership. (photo: by Ramona du Houx. Dr. Dagher talks with Gov. John Baldacci about the next steps for wind farm implementation offshore. The prototype of the floating windfarm is the firs photo on the page)

    Nine Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).        

    “Independent reports have found the reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is creating jobs, reducing consumers’ utility bills, and boosting state economies while driving down carbon emissions,” said Jared Snyder, Deputy Commissioner at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Vice Chair of the RGGI, Inc. Board of Directors. “Our reinvestment of RGGI proceeds is supporting Governor Cuomo’s transformational clean energy and energy efficiency goals to generate 50 percent of New York’s energy from renewable sources and reduce carbon emissions 40 percent by 2030, ushering in the low-carbon economy essential to the wellbeing of future generations.”

  • Republican legislators that voted against property tax relief, students and factory workers exposed

    By Ramona du Houx

    The Maine Senate Democratic Campaign Committee launched a series of digital ads challenging four Republican state legislators for their key votes against property tax relief, teachers and working Mainers.

    “These four Republican legislators have repeatedly voted against the interests of hardworking Mainers, and these ads call them out by name,” said Maine Democratic Party Chairman Phil Bartlett. “Mainers deserve to know where their legislators stand, and these ads show just that. We will continue to hold Republicans accountable for failing to fight for the people they are supposed to serve.” 

    Workers at Kennebec Lumber in Solon, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    Maine Senate President Mike Thibodeau of Winterport, Sen. Scott Cyrway of Benton, Sen. Rodney Whittemore of Skowhegan, and Rep. Ricky Long of Sherman all voted against major bills:

    1. to provide property tax relief for seniors, 
    2. to address Maine’s dire teacher shortage,
    3. a “Buy America” bill that would have required state contractors to use materials made in the United States.

    Wielder in Waterville, Maine. Photo by Ramona du Houx

    “Voters need senators who will work every day to give them a fighting chance, so that people who work hard and play by the rules can get ahead,” said Senate Democratic Leader Justin Alfond. “Our candidates are committed to an economy in which everyone has a fair shot at success. These ads highlight the simple question Mainers all over the state have for Republicans in the Legislature: Where were you when Maine’s seniors, students and manufacturing workers needed you?”

    Maine is one of only ten states in the nation that have not recovered all the jobs it lost in the recession. The state continues to lag behind the rest of New England economically. 

    The digital ads can be found at the links below:

  • The University of New England to get $2.5M for rural community health partnership

    The University of New England, in Maine, has been awarded a $2.5 million federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to partner with Penobscot Community Health Care. The grant, spread out over five-years, will boost the primary care workforce in rural and underserved Maine communities.

    Approximately 225 UNE students — 160 medical, 25 physician assistant and 70 pharmacy students — will receive interprofessional, team-based training at Penobscot Community Health Care. The training will focus on developing skills needed for community health outreach, including social determinants of health, oral health knowledge, health literacy and shared decision making with patients.

    "As Maine's largest educator of health professionals, UNE holds national and international reputations for teaching comprehensive, team-based care, also known as interprofessional education," Dora Anne Mills, UNE's vice president for Clinical Affairs, director of the Center for Excellence in Health Innovation and the grant's principal investigator and chief author, said in a statement. "These funds will equip both today's and tomorrow's health care providers with team-based skills as well as other tools needed to engage effectively with patients and populations to improve health."

  • Wasco gives $76 thousand to York County Community College Capital Campaign

    July 18, 2016, Wells, Maine: Wasco Products CEO, Jeff Frank; Wasco COO, Sara Havard; and Wasco’s President, Christian Magnuson recently presented York County Community College (YCCC) President, Dr. Barbara Finkelstein and York County Community College Foundation (YCCCF) Chair, Marc Brunelle with a gift of $76,000 in support of YCCC’s Capital Campaign for its new academic building.

    “Wasco’s support of YCCC is based in the belief that access to an affordable, quality higher education is essential to workforce and economic development as well as life enrichment.” said Chris Magnuson.

    Maine's Community College system started in 2003 when Governor John Baldacci transitioned the techical schools into community colleges thereby expanding course offerings and accredidation. Since then enrollment has boomed and there are now waiting lists at many of the state's community colleges.

    The York Community College has outgrown its current 78,000 square foot building which opened its doors in 1995.  The new building will provide much-needed instructional space through eight state-of-the-art classrooms, independent and group study areas and a Developmental Mathematics and English Lab. The building will house a 140 seat lecture/performance hall and attached flexible classroom/backstage area allowing the College to hold larger classes as well as host community events.

    The YCCC “Changing Lives & Strengthening Community” Campaign is now in its public fundraising phase. For more information about the campaign or to make a donation please visit www.yccc.edu