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Commission Minutes

June 21, 2019

Present: Ed Barrett, David Burns, Peter Doak, Elizabeth Hite, Jamie Logan, Nicole Pellenz, John Portela, Joe Schmidt, Luke Shorty, Maria Staples, Jenifer Tilton-Flood.

Commission met in room 110 at 19 Elkins Lane, Augusta.

Public Comment:

  • Bryan Roche introduced himself indicating that he was visiting to learn more about the Commission and how it works.
  • Ray Estabrook and Patricia Estabrook gave a brief report of success in the mentoring program the AmeriCorps members are implementing.
  • Andy Bezon from Midcoast Conservancy reported about their AmeriCorps program and indicated that recruitment is down for community volunteers.
  • Erin Merrill, with Educare indicated she was present to learn about the grants.
  • Kristina Cannon with Maine Street Skowhegan spoke the success of the 3 enrolled AmeriCorps members.

   
Convene. The meeting was called to order at 10:12am by Commission Chair-elect, Nicole Pellenz.  After introductions, the first item was the commission quiz. Ed Barrett and Luke Shorty submitted correct answers. The question posed related to the state budget. On June 15, Maine legislators approved the state government biennium budget and appropriation for the next two fiscal years. The general fund request submitted by MCCS was included. The appropriation was $94,000 for the first year with a slight increase for the second year. This allows us to make the Commission’s Communication position full-time.

Announcements and Appreciations.  Commission members were asked to send Dept. of Education Commissioner Pender Makin an email thanking her for her support of the state funding request.  John Portela shared an article from Portland Press that featured Commission member Jenifer Tilton-Flood and her work with dairy famers in Maine. Luke Shorty let Commissioners know he was hearing the public service announcements on the radio. 

Agenda Approval. There were no additions, deletions, or changes to the agenda.  Moved by Pellenz to approve the agenda as published. Second by Shorty and Barrett. Vote on the motion: In favor - unanimous. Motion carried.

Consent Agenda. The consent agenda was approved in the previous motion.  It covered minutes for the May 17, 2019 Commission meeting and Executive Committee meeting on June 4, 2019.

Planning and Future Initiatives  

Commission retreat. The 2019 retreat will be September 26 and 27. Members should save those dates to participate. Pellenz asked for members to serve on the planning committee. There were no immediate volunteers but she indicated people could contact Celeste Branham after they think it over.

Celeste emailed Commissioners asking specific questions about the retreat content. Members can comment now or use reply by email over the next week. Immediate responses were to devote time to these:

  1. in light of the May presentation on federal agency reorganization, what are the implications for the Commission?
  2. a “walk-through” of the re-branding process including a timeline, understanding of the scope and who has what responsibilities in the change.

There was a request that a copy of last year’s agenda be sent to the members. It was noted that the dates of the retreat would mean the staff will be able to share updates from the annual conference with CNCS in Washington.

Summer/early fall schedule. The Commission does not meet in July and August.  The September meeting will be just prior to the retreat (Sept 26). For the rest of the year, meetings will be the 3rd Friday of the month.  Also, if you have not held October 11th and October 15th in your calendar, please do.  October 11th is the 25th Anniversary and October 15th is the Maine Volunteer Leadership Conference. 

Report on May 17 meeting with Maine Volunteer Foundation. Libby Hite, John Portela, and Ed Barrett met with representatives of the Maine Volunteer Foundation. The representatives were Bill Birney, Ron Holmes, and Lisa Laflin. The primary discussion item was fundraising for the Maine Service Fellows. To date, potential funders in Maine are organizing funding around specific problems. The Commission task force had been briefed by MVF board member, Orion Breen, and were prepared as a result of the May Commission vote. All present agreed the pilot phase would focus on ‘aging in place’ and Service Fellows would help communities develop and implement solutions.  MVF members felt it they could now revisit some funders whose interests align with this. The group also discussed the anniversary celebration in October and MVF’s role. It was agreed that the Foundation would put any net proceeds towards its work. is reaching out to funding sources. 

A request for a joint meeting was made. The suggestion to have MVF members join Commissioners for the retreat was accepted as the best solution.

Champion of Service Award Nominations. This award will be presented at the anniversary celebration this year. Unlike other awards, nominations and selection is done internally by the Commission. Please review the award criteria and send nominations to officers and Maryalice. 

Business Reports

Financial Oversight. At the May meeting, the task force distributed a prototype scorecard for the Commission’s operating funds and members were asked to review the format. Today the request is for feedback which will be used to finalize the format and extend it to the other sources. Discussion followed and these points were made:

The prototype scorecard is based on the Commission support grant but the same format will be extended to the Volunteer Generation funds and training and technical assistance funds. There should be explanations for discrepancies, as well as have an indication if budget to actual is on target or if not, to point out any issues.  It will be good to have an early warning system.  The Commissioners should be more engaged in development of the in-kind and cash match for federal dollars. The scorecard will be distributed to the full Commission quarterly. The new general fund appropriation can be used as match on the Commission operating funds. The current match is heavily dependent on in-kind from the public service announcements ($180,000 +/- depending on the year). Cash match is from activities like the statewide conference, online course fees, and awards programs. In years where we know the match will be greater than required, it is possible to request supplemental (one-time, project) funding. Typically CNCS awards the supplements in September and gives Commissions 3 months to spend it so the projects have to be very focused.

The task force will prepare the full set of scorecards. In September, the quarter ending July 31 will be shared.

National Public Policy Issues. Good news from Washington DC.  The 2020 federal budget process is underway in Washington.  Wednesday, the House passed a package of 4 appropriation bills.   Labor, Health and Human Services, Educationhas the CNCS funding.  It suggests a $55M increase over previous year. The bills are now at the Senate.  They will start looking at the budget after the July 4th shut down for the holiday.  The House appropriations bill includes language about the Corporation reorganization plan. 

Maine Service Fellows. Update from 6/20 meeting. Hite: Met yesterday.  Working on an updated fellow description to identify next steps and create a site application.  Will meet throughout the summer.  Notes from 6/20 meeting are available on the table.

Grant Selection and Performance:

Recommendations for AmeriCorps Formula Continuation Awards. Ed Barrett first acknowledged the help of Joe Schmidt and external peer reviewers. With so many rural-model grantees, the task force work has grown exponentially. It was determined that there should be a motion for each continuation award.

Trekkers. The Task Force recommendation is to award positions and continuation funding with no conditions. The program has full enrollment and retention, is on target to meet or exceed performance goals, and to-date any operating concerns are routine in nature for a sponsor with no AmeriCorps experience.

Moved by Barrett that Trekkers AmeriCorps program be funded for year 2 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $30,294 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $38,009 in local funds, supporting 2 member service years distributed over 2 slots. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,147. Second by Shorty. Vote on the motion: In favor – unanimous of those present; Opposed – none. (Burns not present.) Motion carried.

Maine Youth Alliance. The Task Force recommendation is to award positions and continuation funding with one condition. The program has full enrollment and retention and to-date any MCCS staff concerns are routine in nature for a sponsor with no AmeriCorps experience in its first quarter of operation. Corrections to budget need to be made before June 28 submission to CNCS.

Moved by Barrett that the Maine Youth Alliance AmeriCorps program be funded for year 2 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $30,140 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $31,051 in local funds, supporting 2 member service years distributed over 2 slots with the stipulation that budget corrections are made. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,070. Second by Shorty. Vote on the motion: In favor – 10. Opposed – 0. Abstain – 1 (Burns). Motion carried.

Midcoast Conservancy. The Task Force recommendation is to award of positions and continuation funding with no conditions. The program has full enrollment and retention and to-date any MCCS staff concerns are routine in nature for a sponsor with no AmeriCorps experience in its first year of operation. Minor correction to budget needs to be made before June 28 submission to CNCS.

Barrett moved that the Midcoast Conservancy AmeriCorps program be funded for year 2 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $60,061 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $110,620 in local funds, supporting 4 member service years distributed over 2 slots with the stipulation that budget corrections are made. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,015. Second by Portella. Vote on the motion: In favor – unanimous. Motion carried.

Colby College. The Task Force recommendation is to award of positions and continuation funding with four conditions:

  • Revise performance measure targets to reflect actual experience in year 1. A number of targets in the first year have been exceeded by a significant amount. There is no indication that year 2 would not reach the same or greater targets.
  • Clarify how the outputs are defined in the performance measure addressing increased services. The number reported as accomplished seems excessive.
  • The program has some compliance issues that must be corrected and it needs to submit reports on time. The program director or an appropriate designee must participate in technical assistance and training for grantees.
  • Corrections to budget and performance measures need to be made before June 28 submission to CNCS.

 Moved by Barrett that the Colby College AmeriCorps program be funded for year 2 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $30,384 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $111,677 in local funds, supporting 2 member service years distributed over 2 slots. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,192. Second by Tilton-Flood. Vote on the motion: In favor – 10.  Opposed – 1. Abstain – 0. Motion carried.

Seeds of Hope. The Task Force recommendation is to award positions and continuation funding with one condition:

  • The Commission applauds the dedication and effort of this tiny nonprofit. That said, the AmeriCorps members need adequate supervision when/if the Executive Director is unavailable. The organization needs to identify a skilled volunteer or board member who will be the back-up supervisor with an adequate understanding of the program goals, requirements, and member assignments.

Barrett moved that the Seeds of Hope  AmeriCorps program be funded for year 2 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $29,772 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $30,178 in local funds, supporting 2 member service years distributed over 2 slots. The proposed cost per member service year is $14,886. Second by Pellenz.

In discussion, a question asked whether there were any grants that were not approved. It was explained that these are continuation awards for the three-year grants approved at the end of earlier competitions. Proposals are approved for 3 years of operation but reviewed annually and positions as well as funds are awarded in annual increments. For continuations on a January-December cycle of operation, if the funds to support them are not part of the grants submitted to CNCS on June 28, Maine loses the funds. The Commission can – and has – not executed awards if performance suddenly changes or doesn’t merit continuation.

Vote on the motion: In favor – 10.  Opposed – 1. Abstain – 0. Motion carried.

Main Street Skowhegan. The Task Force recommendation is to award positions and continuation funding with one condition:

  • Grantee contributions from general operations are mistakenly listed as in-kind rather than cash under Source of Funds. This minor correction to the budget needs to be made before submission to CNCS on June 28.

Barrett moved that the Main Street Skowhegan AmeriCorps program be funded for year 2 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $45,575 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $58,627 in local funds, supporting 2 member service years distributed over 2 slots. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,192. Second by Shorty.

During discussion, the chair asked the program director to give an overview of the program’s accomplishments. Kristina Cannon responded that all three positions were filled and the program activities started three weeks ago. The purpose of the program is to connect residents in Skowhegan and surrounding towns with outdoor activities. There is a community effort to reduce/prevent obesity and related health conditions. Main Street Skowhegan’s contribution is through this program. MCCS staff added that with the rural model programs, the priority focus is on building the agency’s capacity to engage volunteers, access public funding including National Service.

Vote on the motion: In favor – 10.  Opposed – 1. Abstain – 0. Motion carried.

Maine School Administrative District #70. The Task Force recommendation is to award positions and continuation funding with two conditions:

  • This rural school district has individuals in leadership filling multiple roles, each very demanding. As a condition of the continuation, MSAD 70 must present a reasonable staffing plan for the AmeriCorps program and a transition plan that ensures transfer of all critical information to the incoming program director (proposed to be the new superintendent but not a reasonable plan). There must be adequate time dedicated to the program to ensure member support, supervision, and timely reporting.
  • Budget corrections need to be made before submission to CNCS on June 28. Source of Funds does not account for all of grantee share.

Barrett moved that the Maine School Administrative District AmeriCorps program be funded for year 2 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $47,794 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $22,459 in local funds, supporting 3 member service years distributed over 3 slots. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,931. Second by Shorty.

Discussion led to a request that MCCS staff give an update based on their site visit to the district 24 hours earlier. Both the Grant Officer and Training Officer met with district leadership. The new superintendent as of July 1 is Steven Fitzpatrick. He recognizes it is not wise for him to be the program director and there is a plan to change involvement. Recruitment for positions is revitalized. A corrective action plan is due in a few days. Two commissioners asked about the potential for displacement given that the school district is so small. Ashmore responded the member assignments have not been carried out by staff before. The district is very aware of displacement and has safeguards.

Vote on the motion: In favor – 10.  Opposed – 0. Abstain – 1 (Staples). Motion carried.

Axiom Education & Training Center. This program has some significant issues with compliance and their member selection process. These were summarized for the Commissioners.  They need to hire staff to deal with the HR issue.  Need to change the model to bring AmeriCorps members to one site.  The selection criteria need to be revised so that they hire people that have skills required to do the job.  Performance measures need to be met. The program also has an Economic Development Administration Share grant application that has not been awarded.  The program model as described in the proposal is still valid. 

The Task Force recommendation is to award positions and continuation funding with conditions:

  • The EDA grant funding or an equivalent amount from one other source must be secured before the award for year 2 is issued.
  • The program annual cycle be changed so it begins on October 1 and ends September 30. This will give the program staff more time to correct issues related to member management including selection and onboarding. (Start date now is August 15.)
  • Performance measure targets need to be reset to more attainable goals and may not be increased.
  • The grantee organization needs to add as staff an individual with the type of human resource experience that leads to appropriate selection of members based on more than technical proficiency or personal need for the skills. The staff person should be skilled in team development; committed to fostering teamwork, peer respect, a sense of membership in the program, motivation; and be able apply basic volunteer management principles to AmeriCorps member management.
  • The program will change its model to have partner host sites in each region with an identified supervisor at the partner organization. The members can still be organized in teams under leadership of a team leader and provide classes in regions but the site supervisor provides the routine support and advising.
  • Program staff must participate in a peer exchange with an AmeriCorps program known for high quality member development. The Commission will orchestrate and support this learning arrangement which may be in-person or virtual. The exchange should be completed before September 1.
  • Selection criteria for AmeriCorps members needs to be revised and applied to the recruitment process. Selection and onboarding as well as member development during the year need to be revised. In particular, member development needs to use a balanced mix of weekly virtual team meetings and periodic in-person meetings that foster positive relationships among program participants and staff.
  • Program staff must meet with the MCCS Training Officer for regular technical assistance sessions to address member onboarding, training, supervision, and site selection, agreements, and supervisor training issues. (These will be independent of the monthly group sessions for all grantees). The MCCS Training Officer may identify an experienced but not active AmeriCorps program director to serve as coach/mentor if the program needs exceed available time.

Moved by Barrett that the Axiom Education & Training Center AmeriCorps program be funded for year 2 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $243,072 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $1,181,864 in local funds, supporting 16.2 member service years distributed over 26 slots providing the specified conditions are met. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,004. Seconded by Portela.

In discussion, MCCS staff confirmed the program director met with EDA about the grant that would fund the added staff. The meeting was within the last 10 days. They expect the decision will be announced at the end of July.  Staff reported the program realizes they need a recruiter and have identified someone.  Member monitoring is good. Commissioner observations were that the organization is known to take on more than it has capacity to do but the need exists, they have to find the right people to do the job. The organization has indicated that, if they are not awarded an EDA grant, they will not continue with the AmeriCorps program. Commissioners requested an update in September. It was noted a representative of the grantee was not present.

Vote on the motion: In favor – 10.  Opposed – 1. Abstain – 0. Motion carried.

Recommendations for new AmeriCorps Formula award. The competition held this spring had a single applicant. After peer review and task force review, the applicant is recommended for a three-year award to operate an AmeriCorps program on the condition that narrative, performance measure, and budget corrections listed in the full report to the Commission are made before June 28.

Kennebec Valley Community Action Program/Educare Central Maine proposes to have fifteen (15) AmeriCorps members (five (5) full time and ten (10) half time members who will be embedded into over thirty (30) early care and education classrooms at Educare Central Maine, throughout classrooms in our service area and in classrooms operated by our community partners. At the end of the first program year, the AmeriCorps members will be responsible for having a better understanding of trauma-informed teaching practices, Adverse Childhood Experiences and be able to support social-emotional development in children. In addition, the AmeriCorps members will leverage a minimum of 200 parents who will be engaged in Conscious Discipline training and Adverse Childhood Experiences awareness. This program will concentrate on the CNCS focus area(s) of improving school readiness for economically disadvantaged young children. The CNCS investment of $151,920 will be matched with $68,275, $44,275 in public funding and $16,000 in private funding.

Moved by Barrett that the Kennebec Valley Community Action Program/Educare Central Maine AmeriCorps program be awarded a 3-year grant and funded for year 1 of the 3-year grant at the requested level of $151,920 Federal Share, to be matched by at least $68,275 in local funds, supporting 10 member service years distributed over 15 slots providing the specified condition is met. The proposed cost per member service year is $15,192. Seconded by Tilton-Flood.  Vote on the motion: In favor – unanimous. Motion carried.

Communications Task force. Jeni Tilton-Flood reported. The task force is proposing “A Stronger Maine Through Volunteerism” as the new tagline for the Commission. Those present were asked for feedback. There was some discussion but no changes were suggested or recommended. The tagline completes the first phase of the branding project.  The members also had made the suggestion for the retreat about a walk-through of the brand rollout.

MCCS Staff Reports.  Maryalice Crofton shared an update on the Maine Volunteer Leadership Conference, noting the name change and that registration was opening in July.  Commissioners will be sent a discount code to use. Date is October 15th in Orono on UMaine campus.

Communications Officer hiring process. Crofton noted that no suitable candidates were found in the initial rounds of applicant search. Given the critical need for this position as the anniversary and other key fall events approach, her plan is to find someone who will serve in Acting Capacity through end of October. Then reopen the search process for a permanent appointment. The accidental benefit of this strategy is that the person can determine if the position is a good match and apply through the regular process.

Other – no questions were received regarding published staff reports

CNCS Update. Libby Hite shared two updates. First, as part of the reorganization implementation, CNCS has announced it will enter a shared-services agreement with US Treasury. Treasury will take on the budget, procurement and human resource functions for CNCS. (The arrangement is not unlike Maine government service centers.)

Four new positions were announced – Director of Regional Operations and 3 Regional Administrators for the Northeast (Maggie Garvey), North Central and Mountain regions. Hiring for the new regional structure is moving quickly.

Focus on Mission Responsibilities 

Report on May 21 meeting with CNCS leadership.  JTF reported out on her takeaways from her meeting with CNCS leadership during the New Hampshire Regional National Service Conference. Four state service commissions participated and two had Commission board members in attendance. She noted that she asked specifically about the metrics that will be used to determine the success of the restructuring plan but CNCS was not able to describe how they were planning on determining the success of implementation. It seemed clear to her that CNCS was unaware of its own failure to communicate and be transparent in the process.

Motion to adjourn by JPortela, seconded by PDoak. Vote on the motion: In favor – unanimous.

The meeting adjourned at 12:31 pm.