ABOUT

OUR VISION:

We envision a Maine with a thriving ecosystem of diverse and inclusive educational environments that enable all children and youth to learn in ways that are meaningful to them and allow them to find their place in their communities.

OUR MISSION:

We provide a forum for creative collaboration among all stakeholders
to enable an on-going renewal of education in Maine to meet the common and diverse needs of children, families, education professionals, and communities in Maine now and in the future.

Why does Ed Forum exist?

Ed Forum exists to bring people together around the urgent need for the renewal of our Maine system of education. No matter one’s politics, listening to educators, young people, and employers tells us that we can do better. We need to do better. This doesn’t take away from the hard work of educators and others who have dedicated their professional lives to nurturing the younger generation in schools. In truth, there are many successes. Yet, why are so many educators and district leaders leaving the profession? Why do so few of our students feel their education is preparing them for life? These are urgent questions that need not only to be asked; they need to be answered and addressed, along with questions around topics such as equity in funding, schools shouldering society’s burdens, and the purpose of education. Only by addressing issues and obstacles can we overcome them.

Maine needs and deserves a world-class education system. Building it will take creativity, collaboration, and sustained attention. Let’s get started.

What are our shared beliefs?

Polarization and partisanship are an unfortunate part of our national civic life. However, our commitment is to work in good faith with anyone and everyone who shares these guiding beliefs.

  • An effective preK-12 education system* is critical to American society and our democratic way of life.
  • We must acknowledge that our current preK-12 system is not meeting the needs of too many students, families, and communities. Maine needs to ask hard questions about why.
  • Renewal of the system is urgent.
  • Controversial issues in education need to be discussed, and the respect, empathy, and open-mindedness we teach in school should prevail.
  • The best paths forward will emerge from the collaboration of a diverse set of stakeholders. Parents have a crucial voice in the conversation.
  • Professional educators and educational leaders at all levels are a key to thriving schools and a thriving system.
  • Students learn differently from each other and are born into a great variety of life circumstances; therefore, a variety of approaches and environments are needed for all students to thrive and become contributing members of society. 
  • While meaningful renewal takes time, we need to make room for those who want to move ahead more rapidly. We can learn from their experiences.
  • We must be comprehensive and inclusive in our search for what works. Promising new ideas and practices can be found within Maine’s full preK-12 landscape and across the world.

* Maine’s prek-12 system includes local public district, public charter, and public magnet schools, as well as homeschools, independent schools, and town academies.

How do we see our work impacting Maine’s education system?

We can’t be what we can’t see. We need to see renewal as necessary and possible, and we need to see specific examples of what school could be in Maine to inspire local visions and the hard work of realizing them over time. Education-focused organizations also need a way to network locally and statewide to learn, avoid duplicative efforts, and collaborate on larger scale projects. Below is our theory of action the drives our work.

Ed Forum of Maine

    • facilitates a healthy dialogue about the need for renewal,
    • holds space for stakeholder learning and collaboration, and
    • promotes a variety of promising solutions from Maine’s schools and across the world.

We do this so that education stakeholders may have

    • an understanding of the need for educational renewal,
    • a supportive network to leverage strengths and build capacity, and 
    • access to a variety of promising solutions.

With the result that students will

    • experience school as meaningful and beneficial,
    • graduate better prepared for college, careers, and civic life, and 
    • contribute to a healthy Maine community and economy.

Our Executive Director Speaks on Collaboration

Listen to our executive director, Jennifer Chace, talk about how the future of education is in collaboration and the need to take action to renew the education system.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

John Bird, Chair

John Bird, Chair

John Bird spent the last eighteen years of a forty-seven-year career in the non-profit world as a leadership and management consultant to non-profit organizations across the country and internationally. He retired as President of a ten-partner firm, Educator’s Collaborative, in July 2007. His clients included 268 independent schools and other non-profit organizations located in 41 states and five foreign nations and territories. Before beginning his consulting career in 1989, John spent 29 years in independent education, five years in full-time teaching, five years as a senior administrator and teacher, and 19 years as a head of school. In addition to his long career working directly with schools, John served for nine years on the Maine Charter Schools Commission and five years on the Maine State Board of Education. He currently serves on the boards of the Strand Theater and the Penobscot Bay YMCA, and is an honorary trustee of the Island Institute. John grew up in Rockland, Maine, and received his B.A. degree from Bowdoin College. He also has an M.A. from George Washington University. John and his wife, Mary Alice, now live in Rockland. They have three grown children and five grandchildren.

Judith Jones, Founder

Judith Jones, Founder

Judith Jones has a B.A. from Middlebury College, an M.A. from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and a Ph.D. from the City University of New York Graduate Center. She began her career in International Relations and worked for the US Agency for International Development and the State Department. Following her passion for education, Judith switched careers and became program analyst for the NJ Department of Education when community colleges were initiated and teachers colleges were transformed into liberal arts programs. While living in Washington DC, she became involved with the emerging “Six School Complex” and documented this innovative public school choice program in her 1987 book, Six School Complex: A Successful Innovation in Washington, D.C.’s Public Schools. This led to a dozen years of working with the DC Public School system in a variety of facility planning, education planning, and policy positions.

She became involved with the early efforts to create “public autonomous schools” in DC, leading to the passage of enabling legislation for public charter schools by the DC Council in 1994 and by Congress in 1995. As co-founder of FOCUS, she worked with founders, authorizers, and others to develop a high-quality charter school movement in DC, now serving 44% of all public school children.

In 1998, Judith’s personal focus shifted to the state of Maine, where she and her husband Bill retired. At the time, Maine was one of the 10 states without an enabling charter school law. Judith quickly began working to bring public charter schools to Maine, leading a group in forming the non-profit corporation Maine Association for Charter Schools (MACS) in June of 2000. MACS was instrumental in finally convincing Maine legislators to enact enabling charter school legislation in June 2011.

In Judith’s words, “Access to good education is an avenue out of poverty, but the existing American system denies this access to many children. It gives school districts almost complete control over taxpayer dollars and resources. Personal experience has persuaded me that better education outcomes will come only with basic structural changes, including allowing parents to choose schools that meet the needs of their children, with the money following the child, not the political winds of the day.”​

 

Jana F. Lapoint, Treasurer

Jana F. Lapoint, Treasurer

Jana Lapoint recently completed 11 years on the State Board of Education with two years as Vice Chair.  She also served for 11 years on the Maine State Charter Commission with two of those as Chair.  Prior to the Commission role, she was appointed a trustee of the State of Maine Community College Board, again serving two years as chair and led the college from vocational to community college status.  She has also served as a trustee of Dean College in Franklin, Massachusetts and Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine.

Jana graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Bridgeport with a BS in History and a MS in Business Education.  Before moving to Maine she taught in the business department at New Canaan High School.  She served as President of UF Strainrite, a manufacturing company in Auburn, Maine until it was sold to her two sons. Jana lives in Falmouth.

Shelley Reed, Secretary

Shelley Reed, Secretary

Shelley Reed is a current member and former Chair of the Maine Charter School Commission. MCSC is charged through legislation with the authorizing and oversight of up to ten public charter schools including any virtual charter schools in Maine. She is a Board Member of the Education Action Forum of Maine which seeks to provide a forum for creative collaboration among all stakeholders to increase high-quality public education options.

Working in the career of education for thirty-eight years Shelley retired from the Department of Education in 2011 as the consultant for Truancy, Dropout, Alternative Education, and Homeless Youth. This work with students-at-risk led to membership on Keeping Maine’s Children Connected, Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, Shared Youth Vision Council, multiple task forces, and preparation of legislation on behalf of Maine’s youth. Before DOE experience, Shelley taught first and second grade in Auburn and was an elementary school counselor in Lewiston.

Recent past affiliations include the Restorative Justice Institute of Maine developing trainings to support the work of communities initiating restorative practices, and Secretary for the Androscoggin Yacht Club in Wayne, as well as holding state and national leadership positions in professional organizations for School Counseling and Homeless Education State Coordinators.

Shelley is currently active with community work in her church where she serves as First Reader preparing the Wednesday and Sunday Services, the Androscoggin Yacht Club, the CODA Community Chorus and the Cary Library.

She enjoys kayaking, gardening, the beach, and diving into a good book. Wayne is home to her and husband David. Her three grown children reside in Vermont, New York (recently returned from Uganda), and Taiwan.

Tonya Arnold

Tonya Arnold

Tonya Arnold currently serves as the Superintendent for RSU 2 in Hallowell.  She has also been Superintendent on the islands of Monhegan and Vinalhaven, serving their small rural island schools and pursuing her passion for the rural living, learning and service to community that is prevalent in many such small towns.

Tonya served as Head of School for Maine Academy of Natural Sciences during the 4 years that it grew from a small startup with about 60 students to its size of nearly 210 through the development of its home visiting Threshold program and expansion of its agricultural, community service oriented project based learning, and teacher leadership components.  She has served as a district and school leader for 7 years, building level admin for 5 years, and taught for 13 years from pre-k through middle school.  She is passionate about innovation, social emotional learning, project based learning, and brain science while collaborating with others through her work in education.

She has served on Boards that support career and technical training, address hunger and poverty, and work to expand universal access to pre-k for the young families of Maine.  On weekends and vacations, she spends as much time as she can with family and friends enjoying outdoor activities or projects.

Tonya Arnold

Stephen Bowen

Stephen Bowen currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director for State Leadership at the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). At CCSSO, Steve oversees the development and implementation of programs and services designed to support the Council’s member state chiefs and agency leaders. In this capacity, he and his team provide leadership development to state commissioners of education and their senior teams to support their professional growth, and help them build agency capacity to increase effectiveness and deliver results.

 From 2011 to 2013, Steve served as the Maine Commissioner of Education. During his tenure there, he led the Department to better target its supports to schools and school districts; enacted and implemented public charter school legislation and expanded other school choice options; implemented innovative schools legislation, including new early college options; and worked to improve transparency in reporting of student outcomes. Before joining the Department, he served briefly as the Senior Policy Advisor for Governor Paul LePage, joining the LePage administration in 2011 after serving as Education Policy Director at the Maine Heritage Policy Center (now the Maine Policy Institute), a state-based public policy think tank. While at the Center, he authored more than 30 policy papers on education and other policy matters, including detailed reports on school consolidation, charter schools, online learning, state education funding and school choice. He joined the Center in 2007, after serving two terms in the Maine House of Representatives and after ten years in the classroom as a middle and high school social studies teacher.

 Steve holds a BA in political science from Drew University and an M.Ed in secondary education from George Mason University. He lives in Rockport, Maine with his wife and daughters.

Tonya Arnold

Kylie Bragdon

Kylie Bragdon is the Graduate Program Coordinator/ COBRE Grant Administrator at the MDI Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) in Bar Harbor.

STAFF

Executive Director

Jennifer Chace

Jennifer Chace

Jennifer attended Mount Holyoke College (A.B. Art) and Antioch University New England (M.Ed.). She earned a certificate in School Management and Leadership from Harvard Business School / Harvard Graduate School of Education and is currently enrolled in USM’s doctoral program in Public Policy with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy. Jennifer is also a member of the Institute for Civic Leadership (ICL) Omega class (2016-2017).

Jennifer moved to Maine 1997 and spent the next many years as a community volunteer and full-time parent of three. She spent over 12 years at Maine Coast Waldorf School in Freeport, as an educator and art therapist. Jennifer went on to lead Mountain Phoenix Community School in Colorado, as the Director of Education, and New Amsterdam School in NYC, as the School Director.

In Fall 2020 Jennifer co-founded The Source School, a nonprofit and an international team working through U.Lab 2x at the Presencing Institute to be a force for positive systemic change in education. The Source School offers programs in Maine and Los Angeles that support teachers and youth in making and maintaining connections to themselves, their communities, and the environment.

Jennifer’s passion is creating the conditions for long-term systemic change toward community-designed, co-creative learning environments that center equity; transformation literacy; and freedom of thought, feeling and will. In this, she is inspired by her mother, a district school special education teacher in Brooklyn, NY, and her maternal grandfather, a superintendent of schools and former camp director at Camp Kawanhee in Weld, ME.  When she’s not working or studying, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her three adult daughters and walking the trails and beaches of Maine with her husband, architect Jason Donahue, and their tripod chi-weenie, Joey.

EMAIL JENNIFER

 

Program Coordinator

Jennifer Chace

Luke Suttmeier

Luke holds a B.A. in History (Gordon College) and an M.A. in Archaeology (Newcastle University, UK), and is currently completing an MS in Project Management (The Roux Institute, Northeastern University).  

Luke was born and raised in New York’s Hudson Valley before arriving in Maine in 2011. Luke spent ten years working in Maine’s schools, first in behavioral health, and then in Social Studies and Alternative Education. Luke served as the Director of Lincoln Academy’s Alternative Education program, now known as Ed Lab, and also as a regional representative for Maine’s Alternative Education Association. He recently completed a co-op with Portland Public Schools in 2022 as a part of his studies at The Roux Institute, melding the two worlds of education and project management.

While working in Alternative Education, Luke learned from his students that we needed to think critically about how we “do education.” Additional conversations with parents, local business owners, and community stakeholders convinced Luke that there was an appetite to rethink our approach to education in Maine. As a student of history and culture, Luke loves looking to the past and around the world for inspiration.  All societies educate their children differently and, in many cases, education is more experiential and tailored to the individual than it is in the United States. Luke’s role on the Maine Education 2050 project is to coordinate stakeholder input into the rethinking of our Maine system of education. He hopes to meet you in a conversation some time soon!

Luke enjoys spending his free time with his wife and three young children in and around their midcoast Maine home. He has a lifelong love of history and culture and is on the Board of the Lincoln County Historical Association. Luke also loves writing and spending time outdoors and is a passionate supporter of Premier League soccer team Newcastle United.

EMAIL LUKE

 

Administrative and Communications Coordinator

Jennifer Chace

Maria Landry

A native Mainer with a penchant for the written word, Maria earned a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Maine at Farmington.  

Maria has worked as a project coordinator for a consulting firm, an executive assistant and editorial assistant in Colby College’s Communications Office, and associate director of Main Street Skowhegan, a small nonprofit focused on community revitalization in Skowhegan, Maine. In addition to her work at Ed Forum, Maria currently does freelance editing and writing and serves as finance manager for a condo association.

In her free time, Maria loves to read, write, hike, and spend time with her family. She is in the editing phase on two novels that she hopes might be published one day. She lives in central Maine with her husband, Sean, and an adorably nervous 14-pound cat named Edith.

EMAIL MARIA

 

COLLABORATORS

Education Action Forum of Maine partners and collaborates with individuals, schools, non-profit organizations, the Maine Charter School Commission, and the Maine Department of Education. We co-sponsor events and activities as well as collaborate on initiatives. Helping to strengthen the network of individuals and organizations working in education in Maine is one of our key activities. Contact us to learn more, share an idea, or just to introduce yourself.  We’d love to hear from you!

Education Innovators Series
The Source School
Educate Maine

NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE

Our newsletters are a chance to find inspiration, updates, and ways to get involved—all at a glance. Hear from our executive director, experts, and other stakeholders involved in all areas related to education, and learn ways to have your voice heard by legislators.

If you have ideas for newsletter topics or would like us to feature your innovative school or program, please be in touch!