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Pender Makin nominated for DOE Commissioner – December 26, 2018

Brunswick Assistant Superintendent Pender Makin, the former director of the alternative REAL School, has been named Commissioner of Education by incoming Gov. Janet Mills, who cited her innovative approaches to reaching all children.

Makin has been in Brunswick since 2015 and brought in house a student-centered approach to alternative learners who weren’t succeeding in traditional settings.

She is a member of Maine’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Group and early in her career was the lead teacher in Westbrook Junior High’s Alternative Learning Center. She was named Principal of the Year in 2013 as head of the REAL School, where she served as director from 2003 to 2015. She also was honored with a Milken Educator Award while in Westbrook.

Mills described Makin as “well respected and an innovative thinker…with a strong sense of compassion.”

Makin spoke about her goals for the department at a press conference today in Augusta where her nomination was announced by the governor-elect.

A strong advocate of public schools, Makin said she wanted to “leverage the collective wisdom of superintendents and school boards” to do what’s best for students.

“We need to move away from using a few test scores to evaluate success. Our schools do so much more and our students are so much more than their test scores,” she said. “We need to rebuild the climate of respect and pride in our teachers and in our schools.”

Makin and Governor-Elect Mills both made reference to the need to raise teacher salaries, with the goal of a $40,000 starting pay.

Makin spoke of the importance of equitable opportunities for all students to learn and succeed, calling public education “one of the true, great equalizers.”

She also expressed support for expanded pre-kindergarten programs and greater access for students to Career and Technical Education.

Makin said rebuilding the Department of Education, which has seen five commissioners over the eight years of the outgoing administration, is critical to her goals.

“We need to rebuild trust — first in the Department of Education, in school districts, and in public education,” she said, and counter the “false narratives”.

Maine School Management Association Executive Director Steve Bailey said Makin brings with her “a genuine belief in the potential of all students.”

“We are excited to begin our work with the new commissioner. She is a recognized educator and advocate for public education and an innovative instructional leader. We are eager to enter this next journey with her and her department,” Bailey said.

Makin’s appointment will be reviewed by the Education Committee and sent to the Senate for approval when lawmakers return to Augusta in January.

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