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As any good Maine educator knows, the idea in the title of this paper, that "we're from the state and we're here to help" is an oxymoron. In a part of the United States that defiantly prides itself on perpetuating traditions like town meetings and other versions of direct or almost-direct democracy, being told what to do by someone else, particularly by someone pulling rank, is viewed skeptically-- to put it mildly (Ruff, Smith, & Miller, 2000). Yet on school visit after school visit, we heard a staffer of the Center for Inquiry on Secondary Education (CISE), which is centrally involved with Maine's high school improvement effort, repeat this phrase. Was he being naive or self-defeating? To the contrary, he was proving his credentials as an insider. Said with the right mix of sarcasm and twinkle in the eye, this line was a way of marking familiarity with local cultural convention. Something akin to "I know rhat you think this proposition is absurd. I think it is often absurd too, because I recognize that too often your sensibility seems to be cavalierly overlooked by state bureaucrats. So I'll say it, we'll laugh, and then we'll get down to business."