By Sara Pinette Contributing Writer
The Aspiring Educators of Maine Club give hands-on experience and professional connections to pre-service teachers at UMF.
The club welcomes early childhood, elementary, secondary and special education majors to attend their weekly meetings and occasional events that give students inspiration and a chance to learn more about their profession.
“We’re really big on the idea of giving perspective and inspiring teachers,” says President of the club Bryan Eldridge. “Giving hands-on experience to understand what the profession might look like and feel like through different conferences, activities on campus, and tangible advice in our meetings.”
An event that was popular last year, according to Vice President Carson Hope is “Tales from the Classroom”. It was such a success that the club decided to host the event again this year.
“Tales from the Classroom” will take place on November 1st and have a panel of new and experienced teachers talking about the realistic and sometimes amusing aspects of being an educator. “[It’s purpose] is to give advice to pre-service teachers,” Hope said.
The club also hopes to get more involved with the town of Farmington, instead of just the campus. They are partnered with local businesses and schools to do food drives a few times a year.
They already have plans set in motion to start a mentoring program with the Mt. Blue school district, where club members would tutor middle and high schoolers. Another idea they plan to initiate is a “Parent Night Out”. Hope describes the idea as “kids from the community would come and we would provide free childcare for the night.”
The Aspiring Educators Club is also involved in professional development opportunities outside of the local community. Anyone who is willing to sign up for a student Maine Education Associate (MEA) membership, which costs $28, will be able to go to a fall and spring conference which the majority of the association attends. “Typically we have about 20 and 30 UMF students who go,” said Hope.
These conferences offer many sessions, put on by various educators, about professional development and how to be a better teacher. There will be educators from all over the state gathering at the Fall Conference on October 19-20th to make connections and learn about new developments in the profession. Since the MEA is a full supporter of the Aspiring Educators Club, most of their members will be attending.
On October 18th, the club is hosting the President of the Maine Education Association, Lois Kilby-Chesley at their weekly meeting. She is coming to meet with the group to talk to about the profession and gain insight into how the UMF Aspiring Educators club operates.
Anyone interested in joining the club or just attending a meeting is more than welcome. “It’s really open to anyone who wants to come,” said Eldridge. The club meets every Tuesday night at 8:30 in the Ed Center.
Students can contact the club through their Facebook page or contact the President at firstname.lastname@example.org if they have any questions about the club or the education profession in general.
Eryn Finnegan – Assistant Editor
On Tuesday, Sept. 12th, the proposed Regional School Unit 9 (RSU9) district budget for the 2017-2018 school year was rejected for the third time in a row, much to the relief of many community members in Farmington.
Before the vote, the district was looking at a budget of $32.7 million, over a million dollar cut from the initial proposed budget of $33.9 million.
Part of the community’s relief comes from the potential elimination of funding for the district’s special education programs, a move which is illegal.
According to Scott Erb, a UMF political science professor and member of the school board, “we could have lost federal funding, could have possibly even [been] sued.” Erb is also a father of two children who currently attend school in the RSU9 district.
UMF sophomore Adrienne Chandler, who attended school in the RSU9 district, states that special education classes benefited her and prepared her for higher education.
“I grew up in the Title 1 Special Ed program… without it, I would have been held back so many times” Chandler said. “Without that focused attention and one-on-one time, who knows how many other kids could fall behind.”
If this budget had passed, up to thirty teaching positions could have been cut, including nine full-time positions. Because the number of educators would have decreased, the average class sizes would have increased from eighteen students per teacher to twenty-five.
After school programs and various clubs were also at risk of being cut, such as sports, band, and theatre. According to Erb, this is because “the money for special ed programs and teachers would have had to come from somewhere else, such as those programs.”
Another concern many residents had was an increase in taxes. Leah Brackett, the UMF assistant director of athletics, expressed her sympathy for those with this worry.
“I do believe we need to reach some sort of a compromise,” Brackett said. “People have to be able to pay their bills, but the reality is, while the municipal taxes have gone up, school allocation has not increased.”
According to a graphic made by UMF geology professor Julia Daly, taxpayer contributions to schools would actually go down about $547,000 in 2017 from 2015.
Dawn-Lei Harris-Leyton, a UMF sophomore and mother with two boys in the school district, said, “the impact of these cuts would have been felt throughout the town for years,” adding “if we don’t have the funds, if we can’t have functioning buildings and keep students and teachers here, then we’re just gonna get shut down, and that’s not fair to the students or teachers.”
One of the elements that made this vote noteworthy was the presence of UMF students. Brackett was particularly proud of students for showing up to the vote.
“This is their community too,” Brackett said. “They pay a lot of money to go here, they put money into our businesses, and through this, they can really get a sense of how government works.”
Erb and Harris-Leyton also echoed this sentiment. “This is such a tight-knit community, and the schools really reflect the community,” Erb said.
“If our school system is poor, then people will leave and no one will want to move here,” Harris-Layton said. “That impact would hit UMF for sure; what potential professor would want to move here if they have kids and can’t rely on our school district?”
According to Erb, because this budget was rejected, a new proposal must be drafted and presented for another vote. Erb, Chandler, Brackett and Harris-Leyton all said that this issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
“We’ll keep voting, over and over again, until a decision has been made,” said Erb.
By Gavin Elliott – Contributing Write
After the recent name change approved by Student Senate, UMF Aspiring Educators, previously known as Student M.E.A. (Maine Education Association), seem to be growing in popularity.
Last year, the UMF Aspiring Educators were down to seven to ten members. The level of involvement was higher in the past, according to Beth Evans, a professor at UMF and faculty advisor for Aspiring Educators.
“When I first started teaching here at UMF around 20 years ago, just about every undergrad Ed Major was a member of at least one of the two education clubs,” Evans said.
This year at the first meeting, numbers had tripled when compared to the amount of members last year. This success is partially due to the club’s recent name change.
UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine at the Fall 2017 Club Fair
(Photo by Mitchell Agailb)
According to Stephen Riitano, the president of the Aspiring Educators, “the change was to align with the N.E.A. (National Education Association),” and to “let the students of UMF know that a membership to the student M.E.A. is not necessary, although UMF Aspiring Educators is still affiliated [with them].”
Aspiring Educators also held an Informational Meeting in the Ed Center along with Advocates for Disability Awareness Club (ADAC) and UMF Association for the Education of Young Children (AEYC). Through this meeting, the members of it are very much clubs hoped to inform new students, as well as current students, of what they each do.
Members of Aspiring Educators will often find themselves brainstorming and discussing upcoming events, fundraising, looking at poverty’s impacts on schools, connecting with other educators and learning skills they may not typically receive in their regular classrooms to aid in their professional development.
Professor Evans elaborated, “It is imperative to know what everyone else is doing in this profession. Early childhood to middle to special ed, etc. and this club does a great job of preparing ed students to do just this.”
Evans went on to say “The club is great because the movers and shakers of the professional life we call teaching.”
The treasurer of Aspiring Educators, Carson Hope, says, “The club is great because you get to network with other educators and clubs, and learn about the community part of teaching.” This networking can also impact more people by allowing them to pool their resources, said Evans.
According to Riitano, an example of the clubs pooling of their resources will be seen on September 26th when Kelly-Anne Rush, more commonly known as Crafty Teacher Lady, will be speaking at 5:30 pm in the Landing about how “teachers can be financially smart while providing meaningful and engaging lessons for their students.”
Later in October, they will be hosting Scare Fest, where “a panel of current teachers and administrators come to UMF and discuss the real side of teaching,” Riitano said.
For more information or any questions on the Aspiring Educators, like them on Facebook at “UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine,” or drop into any of their meetings on Wednesdays, room 106 of the Kalikow Education Center at 7:30 pm
By Savannah Bachelder, Contributing Writer
The Farmington Public Library on Academy Street. (Photo by Savannah Bachelder)
While the Farmington Public Library looks the same on outside, regular patrons will find both organizational changes and improvements within. However, there will be less time each week for visitors to enjoy these changes after weekly hours of operation were recently cut to make up for the rising employment costs associated with the statewide minimum wage increase among other issues. The library staff and board of directors are currently working to organize fundraising and grant-writing efforts to compensate for the funding shortage.
In a recent effort to open up more space, the genealogy room was moved upstairs in order to bring the young-adult section, which is in higher demand, to the first floor. Maurie Stockford, the director of the library, said that everything was moved around to help increase the use of the library. “There was no place for them to just be, to hang out. So we had to move the young adults section,” she explained.
There is tons of open space to walk around and sit at tables in both rooms, with their own study space. The library also received assistance reorganizing the section according to first year staff member Elena Kohout. “They are categorized by genre now, thanks to the Upward Bound students,” Kohout explained.
Other changes were made for the new children’s room as well. Along with the computers and magazines, the old children’s area, is now called the Computer Cafe Room. “The new children’s section used to be the staff’s private room and storage, so now we don’t have a staff room,” said Kohout.
Harley Davis, a senior at UMF, used the library a few times for college work last year, before the changes. “I’ve used the library for their children’s books,” said Davis. “They have a great selection in there, and there’s so much to choose from.”
In addition to these new improvements however, budget constraints have been posing a challenge for the library as of late. Hours of operation were recently decreased due to rising employment costs associated with the statewide minimum wage increase and rising health insurance prices. “The town of Farmington pays for staffing and health insurance,” said Stockford. “Currently, they could not cover for that. So we had asked for more money to cover for it.”
Originally, the library had requested $209,990 to help meet these costs and pay for utility problems, but they were allocated $196,029 instead. While this figure does represent an increase from last year’s budget and the revised budget submitted earlier this year, the difference is not enough to cover the rising employment costs. It was between the beginning of the budget process and the final vote that the library preemptively choose to reduce hours in anticipation of not receiving the full amount of their request.
There were two options of working with a lower budget: to either decrease staff, or to reduce the hours that the library would be open. Already short-staffed, the latter option prevailed. While the $209,990 figure would have covered the elevated employment expenses, the final budget does not, therefore the reduced hours remain.
From Tuesdays through Saturdays, hours changed from 9:30 in the mornings to 10:30 a.m. While in the afternoons, Thursdays have changed from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Saturdays were changed from 2:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. The rest of the afternoon times remain the same.
Despite the funding situation and reduced hours, library staffers are keeping their hopes up, and finding more ways to bring in money. “Our board of directors is working on raising activities, like fundraising,” said Stockford. “Another goal would be to write more grants. We are already on the register for historical buildings.”
Kohout mentioned that last year in December, the library also received a generous donation from the Libra Foundation, of $5,000 worth of new computers for the new Computer Cafe Room. “We’ll be setting them up this week,” Kohout said.