By taking “three steps back,” Maine legislators give local school districts more power to decide what works best in their communities.
Centerpiece

If everything had gone according to plan, all Maine high school seniors would now be graduating with diplomas based on their ability to show they were proficient in math, English, science and other subjects.

No longer would diplomas be a reflection of how much time a student spent in school. Instead, students simply had to show they learned the information before they were promoted to the next grade. If they had to retake a test, it wouldn’t matter as long as they eventually learned the idea or mastered the skill. If they finished class assignments early, they could move on to the next grade level. They could learn at their own pace.

“Maine is truly leading the nation in its efforts to scale up standards-based education adoption statewide as well as mandating proficiency-based high school graduation requirements,” read the conclusion of a 2016 report by the Maine Education Policy Research Institute.

But the major education reform passed by the Legislature in 2012 didn’t go according to plan. With little funding from the state, a failure to get buy-in from parents and uneven implementation from district to district, lawmakers kept pushing back the deadline for diplomas to be issued, then decided to make it optional and now have removed references to proficiency-based diplomas from state law.

Sea Change by Marina Schauffler

Speaking of climate

“It’s not climate change – it’s everything change.”
– Margaret Atwood, Canadian novelist and poet, in a 2015 essay

Rapid. Far-reaching. Unprecedented. When international scientists wrote last fall in a U.N. report of the societal change needed to halt catastrophic climate consequences, those are some of the words they chose.

The “rapid” part they quantified: 12 years remain in which to overhaul global energy systems so as to slash carbon emissions. Unless we apply the brakes in that timeframe, we risk going off a climate cliff.

The choice of language in that U.N. report was notable because scientists traditionally communicate in studiously neutral terms. And in climate matters, members of the media have generally followed suit.

But that’s changing as more people recognize the urgent threat of a planetary mutation in the making. The Guardian recently jettisoned use of the terms “climate change” and “global warming,” deeming “crisis,” “emergency” and “breakdown” more accurate.

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The Maine Trust Project

Maine Trust Project: Kathleen Swinbourne

INSTALLMENT 11: KATHLEEN SWINBOURNE

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Topsham resident Kathleen Swinbourne resisted doing anything with and wanted to deny her psychic abilities for most of her life – until she got an enormous sign.

Get to Know Kathleen Swinbourne

Maine Trust Project: Bobby Bergeron

INSTALLMENT 10: BOBBY BERGERON

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For Bobby Bergeron, trust can depend a lot on where you live and how comfortable and confident you are with yourself.

Get to Know Bobby Bergeron

Maine Trust Project: Dona Emerson

INSTALLMENT 9: DONA EMERSON

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Dona Emerson picks up hitchhikers. Most people, especially women, have been schooled in the dangers of giving strangers a ride, and Dona was no exception. “My (85-year-old) mother,” she said, “would kill me if she knew how many I’ve picked up.”

And yet, she still does it.

Why? Because Dona Emerson understands the importance of reaching out to people to create connections, and she values the role of trust in that endeavor.

Get to Know Dona Emerson

Maine Trust Project: Deon Lyons

INSTALLMENT 8: DEON LYONS

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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

INSTALLMENT 7: AMANDA HUOTARI

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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

INSTALLMENT 6: JOE REAGAN

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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

INSTALLMENT 5: MYRON BEASLEY

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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

INSTALLMENT 4: MARIE HARNOIS

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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

INSTALLMENT 3: JOE BLACK

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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

INSTALLMENT 2: MIKE DOUGLAS

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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

INSTALLMENT 1: MARY BETTERLEY

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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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