A new partnership between the University of Maine and the Rural Schools Collaborative will seek to strengthen the preschool through 12th grade workforce in six New England states and provide further opportunities to raise the profile rural schools and teachers in the region.

RSC’s New England hub, which includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, will now be based in UMaine. Regional hubs allow the SRC and its partners to share stories and information; work together on programs and projects; explore funding opportunities to support rural schools; and network and collaborate with other organizations and schools both in specific regions and in other centers across the country.

Catharine Biddle, Associate Professor of Instructional Leadership at UMaine College of Education and Human Development, is the resource person for the RSC New England hub. It will aim to advance the work of the hub, which includes programs focused on school-community engagement, support for rural educators and place-based education.

One of Biddle’s first priorities will be to map the regional landscape for rural education workforce development by connecting with leaders working on these issues. She is also working to form an advisory council made up of representatives from each of the New England states to guide the work of the hub.

“I look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with other RSC hubs and share the incredible work teachers and leaders across the region are doing to support rural New England students,” says Biddle.

UMaine College of Education and Human Development has a strong rural focus with the goal of cultivating partnerships and educational practices that support healthy and equitable development ecologies for rural youth. The college has a number of projects and programs that support this goal, including STEM-focused rural education projectsan initiative to train early childhood educators and other Maine professionals to serve preschoolers with intense communication needsa rural leadership program in partnership with the University of Maine at Près Islea growing program outdoor leadershipaccessible, hybrid and online literacy and social-emotional support programs graduate programs for educators and a teacher training program dedicated to geographically diverse placements.

“Every student, regardless of location, deserves exceptional teachers and administrators. Likewise, all educators deserve access to the resources, supports and working conditions necessary to provide exceptional teaching and social-emotional support to every child,” says Scott Harrison, RSU School District Human Resources Director. 21 in Kennebunk, Maine.

Harrison studied with Biddle while earning his Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) at UMaine, graduating in May 2022. For his dissertation, he studied human resource practices in Maine school districts , seeking to identify ways in which rural districts can take advantage of their unique opportunities and minimize challenges by investing in more strategic approaches to workforce development and management.

“I’m excited to see how UMaine’s rural school hub is solving some of the place-related issues that we face as educators in Maine and throughout New England,” says Harrison.

“The University of Maine has long been a pillar of rural collaboration and leadership.” says Taylor McCabe-Juhnke, executive director of the Rural Schools Collaborative. “Our network will greatly benefit from their expertise, and we look forward to supporting their work, both regionally and nationally, to strengthen rural communities.”

The RSC is a national non-profit organization launched in 2015 to build sustainable rural communities. With a focus on place, teachers, and philanthropy, the collaboration’s signature efforts include The network of places, Corps of Rural Teachers, Subsidies in place and Impact Philanthropy.

More information about the New England Center for Rural Education is on line.

Contact: Casey Kelly, [email protected]