Centerpiece, Education

From a whisper to a bullhorn

Pender Makin: From a whisper to a bullhorn

Better pay for teachers. Pre-kindergarten programs for all children. More money for local schools.

New Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin vows to push for these initiatives and said she faces another challenge – fighting the perception that Maine schools underperform, a frequent talking point of former Gov. Paul LePage.

“It harms everybody,” Makin said in an interview with Pine Tree Watch. “This myth about failing public schools ... it harms students and the institutions. It harms economic development in those communities. The truth is, given what resources schools have, school systems are incredibly successful and are creating miracles every day in schools.”

Makin, 54, received bipartisan unanimous support from the Legislature’s Education Committee last month and was confirmed by the Maine Senate in early February. She’s spearheading a key part of Gov. Janet Mills’ agenda – a renewed focus on improving education in Maine that’s bolstered by significant proposed increases in funding for both K-12 education and the University of Maine System.

The True Climate Corridor – and the Risks of Severing an Ecological Artery

Photo by Nick Sarro on Unsplash

Maine’s elected officials are wrestling to make the right decisions about climate change, knowing that past choices overlooked critical environmental consequences – and led to the looming crises we face today.

Whether the proposed New England Clean Energy Connect transmission line can cut global greenhouse emissions is an open question. The state Legislature may soon vote on LD 640, a bill to require further study of that matter. Its Environment and Natural Resources Committee will hold a hearing on the bill on Friday.

The transmission line raises other climate concerns that generate less press. If we look, as wildlife ecologist Aldo Leopold did, at the whole “biotic community,” we see not one corridor but two.

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Maine Trust Project: Deon Lyons



Deon Lyons has cancer. It’s advanced and the outlook is anything but cheery. But he’s not letting that get him down. His attitude is not surprising given one of his favorite words is “opportunity.”

“Opportunity” is a much better way of looking at what life has handed you then, say, “challenging,” which is the word most people would use to describe what he has faced over the course of his life.

Get to Know Deon Lyons

Maine Trust Project: Amanda Huotari



When physical comedian Amanda Huotari was about 10 years old, in her hometown of South Paris, she saw an ordinary man transform himself.

You could argue that this man – the late master mime artist Tony Montanaro – was anything but ordinary. But, alone on the stage, dressed totally in white, without props, there was nothing to suggest what was about to happen.

Before Amanda’s young and amazed eyes, and without uttering a word or sound, he morphed from human-ness to rooster-ness.

Get to Know Amanda Huotari

Maine Trust Project: Joseph Reagan



Joe Reagan was just 22, a new graduate of Norwich University (a private military academy in Vermont) and had just completed 10 months of training as a second lieutenant in the Army when he arrived in Afghanistan for his first tour there with the 10th Mountain Division.

As a leader of a platoon of 28 men (women weren’t allowed in combat roles at the time) that scouted locations in advance of the rest of the division, he felt “extremely underqualified” for the role, he says. He was in a place that was unlike anything the Massachusetts native had experienced before.

Get to Know Joseph Reagan

Maine Trust Project: Myron M. Beasley



When Myron Beasley moved to Maine 11 years ago to take a position teaching African American studies and American cultural studies at Bates College in Lewiston, he was determined to reach beyond the borders of the Bates campus to make connections with people in his new community.

As someone who has lived in and traveled to many places across the globe – Myron grew up in Israel, was schooled in Europe and the United States, and has done ethnographic field work in Haiti, Brazil, Morocco, and the United States, including here in Maine – he knows how to create community wherever he is.

Get to Know Myron M. Beasley

Maine Trust Project: Marie Harnois of Jackman



Four years ago – during the “coldest December ever” – Marie Harnois found herself doing something she couldn’t have imagined before: installing hoses to collect sap from sugar maple trees.

If you didn’t count the time as a child when she’d helped a friend’s family with their 30 buckets, Marie had not run a maple sugaring business before, and yet, here she was trying to do just that – and freezing her fingers in the process.

Get to Know Marie Harnois
Maine Trust Project: Joe Black of Bath



Joe Black is a man living his dream. With a light in his eyes, a quick smile and a sense of humor that invites you in, he stocks shelves and engages customers at Renys department store on Front Street in Bath. He’s been doing his dream job for more than 20 years and says it’s the perfect job for him.

“I’m a firm believer that there are different kinds of dreams,” he said. “Some people want to be rock stars. Some people … want to be president. These are big, huge dreams – and big, huge dreams are awesome – but there’s nothing wrong with little dreams.”

Get to Know Joe Black
Maine Trust Project: Joe Black of Bath



Finding common ground and engaging in civil conversations about important issues facing our communities, our state, our country and our world can seem elusive, if not sadly impossible.

In our second installment of "The Maine Trust Project", we speak with Mike Douglas of Augusta, for whom trust is about wholeheartedly investing in relationships, believing he'll get out of them what he puts into them.

Get to Know Mike Douglas
Maine Trust Project: Joe Black of Bath



Every day, 83-year-old Mary Betterley and her border terrier Raymond, aka, The Mayor, walk down the hill from their condo in Damariscotta to Main Street. Having lived in town for 40 years, Mary is greeting or greeted all along her way by most of those who are out and about.

Trust, for Mary, is a default position – she trusts unless given a reason not to. This attitude extends even to taking a risk with her life, as she did at age 65, when she found herself placing her toes on the edge of Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge at A.J. Hackett’s Bungy Centre outside Queenstown, New Zealand.

Get to Know Mary Betterley


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