LIVERMORE —During the board comments period at a brief Regional School Unit 73 board of directors meeting Thursday night, March 23, Director Holly Morris of Livermore expressed concern over comments Commissioner Pender Makin made during a recent legislative hearing.

Morris said Commissioner Pender Makin told at a legislative hearing last week that social-emotional learning, gender and race, and diversity, equity and inclusion will take priority over academic subjects such as math, reading and science.

“I find this very concerning,” Morris said.

Maine is seeing a huge increase in mental health, a huge increase in a crisis of disengagement, students aren’t showing up, are otherwise occupied, Makin said. They have missed at least a year and a half of development, critical skills for life and learning in the classroom. There is a lack of practice, a lack in routine, she added.

The prefrontal cortex in the brain is where short-term memory information is taken in, Makin said. When kids are under stress, they aren’t able to develop the brain architecture to support academic learning until they feel safe, until they are healthy, until they are engaged. In order to be successful academically, space in the brain must be freed up, she said.

“As (an educator), I know the time restraints,” Rep. Sheila Lyman, R-Livermore Falls said the March 15 hearing when Makin spoke before the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.


Lyman said she worked with many children who had huge emotional needs. Awesome ways to get children to move forward must be found while leaving the parenting to parents, she said. There are a lot of parents concerned with the academic piece, the social piece and what is going to be the priority, she added.

In a phone call after the meeting, Lyman said, “This falls under the umbrella of feeling safe in school. We are talking about some serious issues on the direction of education. As a teacher of 36 years, I had students who had major behavior, emotional challenges. I had to do whatever I could so students could move forward. My job was to teach. Teachers have limited time.”

Lyman said she never had issues expressing to parents what her training was. “I always respected my parents, that they wanted to know about what their children were learning,” she said.

During her campaign for the Legislature, education was what parents were concerned about, she said. Public education can be quality, municipalities pay for education, folks should be able to weigh in, the representative said.

There are a lot of emotional things on both sides, Lyman noted. She said she doesn’t think the federal government should be involved; parents need to be involved.

“We are in a very difficult world, YouTube, TikTok, etc. has more impact on students’ lives; they are being brought into the classroom,” Lyman said. Her message is to respect and honor parents’ voices on their children’s education.

“I do believe it is the parents’ job to look out for their children’s education, it is their right,” she said.

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