Three Maine School Districts to Benefit from $600,000 in Education Reform Awards | Business

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Three Maine School Districts to Benefit from $600,000 in Education Reform Awards
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Three Maine School Districts to Benefit from $600,000 in Education Reform Awards

Grants from Nellie Mae Education Foundation will support efforts to put students at the center of learning 

Portland/North Berwick/Sanford, Maine – In an effort to prepare all of New England’s learners with the skills and knowledge they need for full participation in postsecondary education, work and life, the Nellie Mae Education Foundation promotes the integration of Student-Centered Learning across the region. Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (for work that will be done in partnership with Portland Public Schools), Maine School Administrative District #60 in North Berwick, and the Sanford School Department have each been selected to receive one-year, $200,000 planning grants from the Foundation. With these grants, the districts and their respective communities will collaboratively design strategies for implementing  student-centered education systems that meet the needs of all learners.

Student-Centered Learning is characterized by education that takes place both in and out of the classroom; focuses on the needs and interests of learners; finds innovative uses of time; includes a wider variety of adults in all aspects of learning; and measures skills and mastery of content using a combination of demonstration and traditional testing.

The grants are among the first made through the Foundation’s new District Level Systems Change  initiative which is designed to promote the integration of Student-Centered reforms by working simultaneously across three areas: education practice; policy; and public understanding and demand. The Foundation believes that by utilizing this three-part strategy, districts can achieve and sustain the type of change necessary to dramatically improve education.

Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (JMG) is collaborating with Portland Public Schools and LearningWorks - a nonprofit that works with youth, the immigrant community, and low income families - to provide Portland's public high schools with an overlay of support to wrap around, strengthen and diversify the ways students are engaged.  The partnership will use the planning year to seek further input from students, parents and community members to develop a replicable model of personalized learning opportunities that can serve students system-wide.    

“This opportunity is about ensuring that all students are given the support they need to graduate, develop career aspirations, and pursue continued education,” said Craig Larrabee, CEO of JMG. “The investment from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation will allow this Portland-based partnership to bridge classroom learning with private-sector, real-life experience and activities, to expose teachers and students to more opportunities.”

Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) #60's goal in implementing the grant is to create stronger relationships between the schools, our community and businesses. The district will use the planning grant to focus on developing curriculum geared toward rigorous, real-life applications. MSAD #60 is committed to collaborating with the entire community to build a better education system that prepares all students for future success and serves as a model for others.
“We are very excited about the support that has been pledged to our district,” stated Paul Andrade, MSAD #60 Superintendent of Schools. “In order to prepare students to succeed in an ever-changing and increasingly complex world, educators must develop a rigorous framework of Student-Centered Learning and build our schools around it. We are thrilled to be part of this process.”

The Sanford School Department will be using the planning grant funding to: promote out-of-school-time learning; build leadership for change across the community; work with the Safe and Healthy Sanford Coalition to promote and foster positive youth development; and ultimately move toward a Student-Centered, performance based system through continued professional development and by piloting a learning management system called E-ducate.

 “Sanford is working to transform our educational system to one where students move forward when they can demonstrate they have learned,” said Betsy St. Cyr, Superintendent of the Sanford School Department. “I believe this is what education could look like were we to design a system that would help more students achieve at higher levels while honoring their individual learning styles and abilities. We look forward to partnering with our community to establish a Student-Centered, performance-based educational system in Sanford.”        

“These grants represent a significant step for education reform and, ultimately, the well-being of our region,” said Mary Sylvia Harrison, Vice President of Programs for the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.  “We believe that integrated Student-Centered Learning at the district level will prepare more young people with the tools they need to succeed.” 

Throughout the planning year, the Foundation will work with the organizations and districts to design and develop plans to transition to Student-Centered approaches to education.  Following the planning grant period, the Foundation anticipates that it will award up to six planning grant recipients with multi-year grants of $800,000 to $1,500,000 annually to implement their Student-Centered Learning plan.

The other schools, districts and organizations selected to receive District Level Systems Change planning grants from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation are: Burlington/Winooski School Districts, Burlington, VT; Central Falls School District – Central Falls, RI; Pittsfield School District, Pittsfield, NH; and the Randolph School District, Randolph, MA.

Jobs for Maine’s Graduates (JMG) is a private non-profit that partners with public schools across the state to assist students who have been identified as facing barriers to success and helps them reach their full potential. For more information on JMG, contact Kimberley Lipp at or 207-512-0199.
Maine School Administrative District #60 serves 3081 students K-12 from the three towns of North Berwick, Berwick and Lebanon ME.  The schools are the focal point of the community with many events held in our buildings on a daily basis.  MSAD #60's mission is to foster a life long love of learning, develop responsible decision makers, teach the essential skills necessary to meet the demands of a changing world and develop caring, and contributing members of a multicultural world.  For more information about MSAD #60 contact Susan Austin at or 207-676-2234. 

The Sanford School Department serves 3,280 students, K-12, from Sanford and Springvale, ME.  Sanford students and those from seven surrounding towns have the opportunity to attend the Sanford Regional Technical Center (SRTC) as part of their high school experience. The schools work closely with the Safe and Healthy Sanford Coalition to promote positive youth development. For more information on the Sanford School Department, contact Betsy St. Cyr at or 207-324-2810.

The Nellie Mae Education Foundation is the largest charitable organization in New England that focuses exclusively on education. The Foundation supports the promotion and integration of student-centered approaches to learning at the middle and high school levels across New England. To elevate student-centered approaches, the Foundation utilizes a three-part strategy that focuses on: developing and enhancing models of practice; reshaping education policies; and increasing public understanding and demand for high quality educational experiences. The Foundation’s new initiative areas are: District Level Systems Change; State Level Systems Change; Research and Development; and Public Understanding.  Since 1998, the Foundation has distributed over $123 million in grants. For more information, visit

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