Extension Leadership Team Meeting Minutes June 4, 2020

Extension Leadership Team Meeting Minutes
June 4, 2020
Virtual Meeting

Facilitator: Lisa Phelps
Note taker: Hannah Carter

Please note: Due to the confidentiality and sensitivity of some agenda items, these ELT minutes do not represent the full content of each meeting.

EPC Annual Conference

From the Extension Professionals Committee (EPC) proposal: “After discussion and thought, the EPC has decided that we would like to plan our fall meeting in a virtual format. Due to the uncertainty around the budget and our ability to meet in large groups this fall, and the fact that this meeting has already been postponed several times, we want to put our efforts towards a format that we know for certain will work.

Our first step would be to announce, via our newsletter, the transition to a virtual format and include a survey to gauge interest in specific formats and topics. We are currently imagining monthly sessions (short, 60 to 90 minutes each), starting mid-summer, and running as long as interest and our capacity lasts.

The two things that we’re asking from the ELT are:

  1. Input on and support for announcing the transition to virtual format;
  2. Revising our budget request. We would like to request $500 (<20% of our original budget) to be put towards incentives for attending virtual sessions (similar to the All Staff Organizational Conference).”

The ELT is supportive of this request and of the revised budget request.  We look forward to this conference and applaud the efforts of organizers to create a virtual opportunity.

Gary Anderson’s Retirement

With Gary’s announced retirement on June 30, the ELT discussed the need to address the gap in programming that will result.  There are just over 200 dairy farms in Maine, and they are an important and large part of the Maine agricultural economy.  The other faculty who work with the dairy industry are either on phased retirement or have a split appointment.  This position will need to be highly considered as positions are discussed in the future.  We acknowledge this is a priority, and that we cannot do anything currently due to budgets and the hiring process.

Maine Families Program Staffing

Rebecca Koller has resigned from her position as Parent Education (PE) Professional serving Knox, Lincoln, and Sagadahoc counties.  This position is 100% funded (salary, fringe, and indirect), through a contract with the Maine Children’s Trust, as part of a federal grant from the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV).  PE Professionals are part of a statewide network of Maine Families Home Visiting Programs. The contract to Extension is for $600,000 annually, and has strict staffing and programming requirements.  This grant/contract has been in place for over 25 years.  This is a fully functioning program now using virtual service delivery so we have not cut back any services due to COVID.  The program must be fully staffed to provide our services and meet our contractual obligations.  If we are unable to hire for this position, we jeopardize our current and future contract funding by not allowing us to meet our grant obligations, or being able to serve all current families or eligible families referred to our program. Also noteworthy:  This year, Extension will be applying to expand its contract with MCT to include Waldo County which would be an additional $300,000 contract, again paying 100% of  salary, fringe and indirect costs.

These positions are revenue-funded positions (positions are reimbursed through the grant).  The concern is that the grant obligations will not be met.  The ELT agreed to include this position in the next position request when announced by the Provost.

Staff Development Funds

Some staff have been asking if the ELT might consider some flexibility in how we handle professional development funding, in light of their plans having been short-circuited and/or canceled due to the pandemic.

First year professional funds – We provide $1,000 of “start up” funds for new staff; these funds must be used within their first year. Would we consider giving these staff a one year extension on using these funds?  The ELT decided that for first year professionals, we will give them an extension on using these funds for a year from the time that UMaine allows for purchasing to resume.

Flexible Staff Development – We provide annual FSD of $300 for hourly staff and $500 for professional staff and faculty.  Our policy has been that these funds must be used before October 1 each year.  Would we consider carrying over these funds for our staff?  Given budget challenges, we might at the same time consider whether to suspend next year’s FSD.  The ELT decided that for flexible staff development, these funds will not carry forward. If there are unique funding requests, they will be entertained by the ELT.

Support for Professional Development in Online Teaching

Recently, Interim Provost Gilbert announced that UMaine faculty will be given $500 if they engage in PD this summer to support their online teaching.  We clarified with the Provost that this includes Extension faculty who are engaged in quality online programming.  We are awaiting details on what the criteria will be for this payment.  The ELT addressed the equity issue by also offering $500 to Extension Professionals as an “add pay” for their on-line programming efforts, following the same criteria that is being established for faculty.

Promoting Programming to Administrative Specialists (Support Staff)

Some Extension support staff may not be knowledgeable of our upcoming programs, although they need to be aware of them in order to announce them to other staff and the public (via posts, newsletters, and other methods).  Hannah usually includes these news releases at the end of her emails to update “all staff.” We discussed various other options for sharing upcoming program information.

  • We could ask Dana Rickman to include all support staff on every news release that she disseminates for Extension, although there is a concern about inundating staff with these emails.
  • We could create a listserv of people who would like to “opt in” to receiving these announcements.
  • We could encourage support staff to check the news feed on Extension’s homepage (it’s also on Plugged In’s homepage): all media releases are there, along with news stories and mentions. The direct URL is https://umaine.edu/news/blog/category/cooperative-extension/.

Camps Update

Summer camp guidance from UMS includes no day camps for 2020.  Camp staff are contemplating going through the University’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) process to provide some limited programs.  The camps are not licensed for daycare operations and do not fall under that guidance.  This is part of a larger discussion that needs to occur as far as Extension’s plans for July 2020 and beyond.

Extension “Restart” Plans

The ELT discussed much in regard to re-opening:  supplies such as masks and barriers, what questions need to be addressed in each office/unit as far as social distancing, etc.  A shared drive has been created for guidance that has come from the State of Maine, the CDC and the UMS.  This topic will be a part of every meeting and updates will be communicated with the organization regularly.

Reassigning Sheila’s Roles

Given her recent retirement, Fran has redistributed most of Sheila Vaillancourt’s roles, with many items going to Angela Hart and Carol Jipson, and one going to Michele Lodgek, who will utilize Carol for support (time and effort).  That leaves technology.  Derrick Husson is part of the bookstore, where he does the purchasing of computer equipment and IT work.  He will help Extension staff with their computer needs and purchases.  He can help make decisions in regard to technology requests. Fran will serve as Extension’s point-of-contact. The other need is maintaining inventory of our equipment to keep track of what we have and where it is located.  Carol Jipson will complete these tasks. There are those with special software that we purchase on a regular basis that also needs to be coordinated. In summary, Sheila’s work has been divided in the following ways:

  • HR paperwork and support for the PA’s – Angela Hart
  • Years of Service Recognitions, Libby keys, Google Email Group creation and maintenance, Tracking computer inventory – Carol Jipson
  • Time and Effort Reports – Michelle Lodgek and Carol Jipson
  • Student Hiring – Hiring Supervisor in consultation with Operations (for account # confirmation)
  • Technology Purchases – Fran

Organizational Survey

The ELT reviewed an organizational survey prepared by Hannah, and will give final feedback by June 5.  Hannah will send it to a volunteer group for their review and feedback.  She will then send it to Cindy to turn into an online form

Messaging on Equality and Inclusion

The ELT reaffirmed our commitment to equality and inclusion to organization, volunteers, stakeholders and clients.  We discussed the content of a message to be sent to the organization and volunteers to include:

  • Acknowledge what is happening and our values of the organization.
  • Include civil rights message.
  • Share resources, including the book club.
  • Support non-violent protests.
  • Pull from President Ferrini-Mundy’s message?

Draft Message:

Dear Extension Staff,

Those who joined me in the recent Extension Connections heard me speak to my sadness over the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police just over one week ago. The fact that this incident was not isolated has sparked protests and unrest. We seek justice, not just for the Floyd family but for so many families before them. We hope this incident can bring about positive change.

The killing of George Floyd, the isolation caused by the pandemic and the unrest in our country has caused sadness and stress. You know that I am the type of person who turns to learning as a way to cope with difficult times. I will be hosting a book club discussion of “How to be Anti-racist” by Ibram X. Kendi. If you are interested in joining this discussion please contact me. Here are some resources you may find helpful for yourself, your family and in your work. This google doc has been circulating on social media, and looking it over- it’s comprehensive. There are books, articles, shows, podcasts. It also includes resources for teaching children to be anti-racist.


In closing, Extension has strong ties in communities across Maine and one way that we can continue to be a positive force is to fully embody the principles of diversity, equity, respect and inclusion in all of our programs. This is not new; this is who we are as an organization. I thank you for all of the ways that you carry out these principles in your work every day.

2020 ELT Meeting Dates

Meetings are from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm, unless otherwise noted

Dates Facilitator Notes Location
June 25 Carter Prichard Virtual
July 8 Prichard Harrington Virtual
July 29 Harrington Brzozowski Virtual
August 19 Brzozowski Sulinski Virtual
September 2 Sulinski Phelps Virtual