UMaine now the hub for Rural Schools Collaborative in New England

A new partnership between the University of Maine and the Rural Schools Collaborative will seek to strengthen the K–12 education workforce across six New England states and provide other opportunities to raise the profile of rural schools and teachers in the region.

The RSC’s New England hub, which includes Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, will now be based at UMaine. Regional hubs allow the RSC 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 within specific regions and at other hubs across the country.

Catharine Biddle, associate professor of educational leadership at the UMaine College of Education and Human Development, is the RSC New England hub contact. She 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 who are working on these issues. She also is working to form an advisory board with representatives from each of the New England states to guide the work of the hub.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate with other RSC hubs and sharing the incredible work that teachers and leaders across the region are doing to support rural students in New England,” Biddle says.

UMaine’s College of Education and Human Development has a strong rural focus with a goal of cultivating educational partnerships and practices that sustain healthy and equitable developmental ecologies for rural youth. The college has a number of projects and programs that support this focus, including STEM-focused rural education projects, an initiative to train early childhood special educators and other professionals in Maine to serve preschool aged children with intensive communication needs, a Rural Leadership Program in partnership with the University of Maine at Presque Isle, a growing program in Outdoor Leadership, literacy and social-emotional support programs, accessible hybrid and online graduate programs for educators, and a teacher education program dedicated to geographically diverse placements.

“Every student, regardless of place, deserves outstanding teachers and administrators. Likewise, all educators deserve access to the resources, supports, and working conditions needed to deliver exceptional instruction and social-emotional support to every child,” says Scott Harrison, director of human resources at the RSU 21 school district in Kennebunk, Maine.

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

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

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

The RSC is a national nonprofit launched in 2015 to build sustainable rural communities. With a focus on place, teachers and philanthropy, the collaborative’s signature efforts include The Place Network, Rural Teacher Corps, Grants in Place and Impact Philanthropy.

More information about the New England Rural Education Hub is online.

Contact: Casey Kelly,