The Commission consists of 7 members. Three members must be members of the State Board of Education, appointed by the State Board for 3-year terms, and the other 4 members are appointed by the Governor, subject to review by the Joint Standing Committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over education matters and to confirmation by the Senate, for 4-year terms.

Here is the current Commission membership along with contact details:

Seat Number Name Term Ends Email  Phone
1 Dr. Fern Desjardins ** Term Ends 6/30/22 (207) 543-6005
2 Wilson G. Hess, Chair** Term Ends 6/30/23 (207)249-7670
3 Cynthia Murray-Beliveau ** Term Ends 6/30/24">cmurraybeli (207)215-6118
4 Nichi Farnham, Vice Chair Term Ends 6/30/22 (207) 990-2011
5 Shelley Reed Term Ends 6/30/20 (207) 685-5522
6 Jim Rier Term Ends 6/30/21 (207) 729-0155
7 VACANT      

** Also State Board of Education

Dr. Fern M.Y. Desjardins

Fern Desjardins Portait

Dr. Fern M.Y. Desjardins - (Seat 1) is a resident of St. Agatha. Dr. Desjardins had a 43-year career in PK-12 education as an elementary school teacher, principal, and Superintendent of Schools in the rural, small school system of MSAD 33. Under her principalship, Dr. Levesque Elementary school was designated a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Desjardins is a life-long learner who holds a Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership and a Master’s Degree in Language Arts from UMaine, a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Educational Leadership from USM, and a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from UMFK. She has taught graduate level courses for UMaine as an adjunct faculty member in their outreach programs in Aroostook County, served on UMFK’s Board of Visitors (one year as President and two as Vice-President), Northern Maine Medical Center’s (NMMC) Board of Trustees, and she has been an active member of numerous educational associations and committees. Since her retirement, Dr. Desjardins maintains educational affiliations by working as a facilitator for school systems and by serving on various committees or special projects of the Maine DOE. She volunteers at her local church, parish, and at the diocese level. Dr. Desjardins and her husband, Francis, have three grown children and three grandchildren.

Wilson Hess

A picture of Wison Hess

Wilson G. Hess, Chair (Seat 2) is a resident of Freedom. He and his wife Ellie maintain their home in Freedom where, since 1978 they have raised a family of three daughters on 100 acres of scattered woodland, fields and lakefront. Wilson has over 40 years' experience in higher education, including over 20 years as a college president in private independent, two-year public, and four-year public institutions. He has also been privileged to serve as a professor of history and thinks of himself first and foremost as an educator. Wilson holds a deep personal commitment to community service and has a broad range of experiences with public service, economic and community development organizations, and community betterment issues. Illustrations of his leadership in statewide educational initiatives include service as president of the Maine Independent Colleges Association, appointment by Governor Angus King to the Maine Higher Education Achievement Task Force, and being the immediate past-president of the Maine Higher Education Council. He currently serves as University of Maine System Research Professor and Senior Advisor to the Chancellor. Wilson currently serves as Chair of the State Board of Education.

Cynthia Murray-Beliveau

Cynthia A. Murray-Beliveau is a resident of Portland, ME. Ms. Murray-Beliveau is an independent philanthropy professional. She is an alumni of Saint Joseph's College where she is also the former President of the Board of Trustees. Her volunteerism and advocacy on behalf of women and children earned her the Catherine McAuley Award in 2017.



Nichi Farnham

Nichi Farnham Portait

Nichi Farnham, Vice Chair (Seat 4) is resident of Bangor. She graduated from the United States Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree and received her master’s degree from Webster University. After serving 6 years in the Air Force, she and her husband Doug (the current Adjutant General of the State of Maine) decided to return to Maine to help grow the family business, Getchell Bros., and to raise their family. Nichi has served as State Senator in the 125th Legislature, as a City Councilor and Council Chair (Mayor) of Bangor and as a Bangor School Committee Member. Her Board involvement, past and present, includes the Bangor Y, United Way of Eastern Maine, Eastern Maine Healthcare System, Bangor Nursing and Rehabilitation, Bangor Library and the State Board of Education.

Shelley Reed

Shelley Reed Portait

Shelley Reed (Seat 5), working in the career of education for thirty-eight years, retired from the Maine Department of Education in 2011 as the consultant for Truancy, Dropout, Alternative Education, and Homeless Youth. This work with students-at-risk led to membership on Keeping Maine's Children Connected, Juvenile Justice Advisory Group, Shared Youth Vision Council, multiple task forces, and preparation of legislation on behalf of Maine's youth. Previous to DOE experience, Shelley taught first and second grade in Auburn and was an elementary school counselor in Lewiston. Recent past affiliations include the Restorative Justice Institute of Maine developing trainings to support the work of communities initiating restorative practices. Shelley currently serves as President, Sunday School Superintendent and Teacher at her church, and is Secretary for the Androscoggin Yacht Club and is active at the Wayne library. She enjoys kayaking, gardening, the beach, and diving into a good book. Wayne is home to her and husband David. Her three grown children reside in Vermont, Uganda, and Taiwan.

James E. Rier

Jim Rier Portait

James E. Rier (Seat 6) was employed for over 10 years, until 2015, as an employee of the Maine Department of Education. He began as the Director of Finance and Operations and in 2011 was appointment Deputy Commissioner. Jim’s final year at the DOE was as the Commissioner of Education. Jim is known as one of the state’s foremost experts on education funding and worked on several high-profile initiatives such as leading reforms to the state’s 2005 school funding law, child development services and the essential programs and services model. Jim earned a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering from the General Motors Institute in Flint, Michigan. He was a senior project engineer for Buick and for 25 years was president of Rier Motors Co. in Machias, Maine. He also served on the Maine State Board of Education and on the boards of directors for Bangor Hydro Electric Co., the Maine Community Foundation, the Regional Medical Center at Lubec and the Washington County Education & Economic Development Alliance. Jim lives in Topsham with his wife Linda.