Friday, October 18, 2019

Production begins on Mary Poppins, Jr. with new Drama Director at Windham Middle School

Suzy Cropper
By Elizabeth Richards

Suzy Cropper is no stranger to the drama scene in Windham. In addition to owning and operating a performance studio, Cropper was the musical director for Windham Middle School’s annual musical for the past eight years. Now, she has stepped into the position of Drama Director for Windham Middle School.

Cropper has been teaching both theater and voice for close to 25 years. Her studio, MainStage
Academy, was based in Windham for several years before she closed it. For three years, she was the chorus teacher at the Manchester School.  “I’ve done a lot of directing kids for a long time. I’m excited to be able to work with these kids in this capacity,” Cropper said.

Working alongside the director for eight years means that the structure and kids are familiar to Cropper, and she has a good understanding of what is involved for the director.  In addition to guiding students towards a great performance, Cropper said, she is helping them develop other important skills that they can carry with them throughout their lives.

“There are a lot of students that really find out more about themselves when they are given an opportunity to perform or stretch themselves a little bit,” Cropper said. She added that it’s exciting to see students discover that they can be good at many things, rather than only focusing on things they have done before, such as athletics. enjoys middle school students, she said, because they are teachable, excited about learning new things, and willing to try things they haven’t done before. “They’re just at a time of great exploration, so it’s nice to give them lots of opportunities while they’re still trying to figure out what they love,” she said.

Every student who wants to participate will have a role of some kind, whether a small role in the ensemble, or a major role with a lot of lines to learn. Students who have never done theater before
often participate, as do students who have been performing for much of their lives, she said. “It’s a good variety of different skills, levels and experience.”

Cropper, who has five children of her own, said she enjoys helping students discover talents they didn’t realize they had, and watching them develop new skills. “It’s been a joy to me to be able to see how their theater experience has helped them in their everyday school life, their confidence in the classroom, and learning how to be responsible about their own schedules and everything they have to do to be prepared for the production,” she said.

Some of the skills students gain include responsibility and accountability, learning to pay attention, how to be respectful of their peers, and learning to project their voices so they can be heard.
“It really does make a big difference in all aspects of their life,” Cropper said, because these skills tend to roll over into other areas of their lives, such as class presentations, communication with adults, and other life skills. “There are a lot of things more than just the actual story,” Cropper said.

That doesn’t mean the story suffers, however. “Of course, we love to put on a great production,” Cropper said. “They get very excited about it and are very proud of their work. It’s exciting to work with them and see them be really proud of what they do.” on a production of this size takes a whole team of volunteers, mostly parents of students in the production. In addition to six to ten hours of rehearsal time each week, the team puts the set together, learns lighting and sound cues, creates costumes, and attends to all the details necessary to
pull the show together. Although the director position comes with a stipend, “Most of the people who participate and help with the program are volunteers, so it’s really a tremendous undertaking and very exciting for our community,” Cropper said.

“Our community has really learned to look forward to these productions,” she added.  “I’m excited to keep it moving.”

This year’s Windham Middle School musical is Mary Poppins, Jr. Auditions took place on October 16th and 17th, and the show is scheduled to open on January 16th.

Katie Frost Franzoni inducted into the USM Sports Hall of Fame

Frost Franzoni in an NCAA game v. Bowdoin
Photo by USM Athletics 
By Matt Pascarella

For the past 12 years, Katie Frost Franzoni has been a sixth-grade teacher at Windham Middle School. Franzoni is a graduate (2006) from the University of Southern Maine (USM) and played basketball for the Huskies during her time there. Last month, she was inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame, for her accomplishments on and off the court.

Created in 1985, with the first inductees in 1986, to honor coaches, administrators and former student athletes, the Husky Hall of Fame identifies excellent athletic achievement by graduates of USM and its predecessor institutions.

Katie Frost Franzoni was a four-year starting guard for the Huskies’ women’s basketball team. She helped guide Southern Maine to a record of 118 wins 11 loses from 2002-2006.

When Franzoni played for the Huskies, the team captured four Little East Conference Championships and went to the NCAA Division III National Championship four times. During their four trips to the NCAA, Franzoni and the team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight each time and twice made it to the Final Four. In 2006, the Huskies finished as the national runner up and set the program record for season wins with a record of 32-2.

Franzoni earned her Bachelor of Science degree in sociology in 2006 and her Master of Education in 2009.
“It is an honor to be recognized and inducted into the Husky Hall of Fame,” stated Franzoni. “ I am joining many other athletes who have achieved high levels in their sport while at USM. I have wonderful memories from both on and off the court that will last a lifetime. I have been playing
basketball for about 27 years. Basketball and sports were a huge part of my youth.”

Her mom was a physical education teacher and her dad was an athletic director and coach. Surrounded by sports, Franzoni longed to compete on a team. She loved going to the basketball games and cheering on the Blue Devils in her hometown of Calais. She couldn’t wait to wear the Blue Devil Jersey and represent her town.“My experience playing for USM was unbelievable,” added Franzoni.  “The successful women’s basketball program and Coach Fifield is what drew me to USM.  I wanted to play for the best and with the best. Coach Fifield, Coach McDevitt and the other assistant coaches I had throughout college were without a doubt the most knowledgeable and the most prepared coaches I have ever had.

The coaches and the women’s basketball tradition is what brought me to USM.  It was one of the best decisions of my life.”

Franzoni’s teammates made a lifelong impact on her. They played hard in practices and made each
other better. They spent time together on and off the court. Teammates became family. And that bond continued after graduation; from bachelorette parties and weddings to baby showers, they continue to support each other. No matter how much time has passed, they pick up where they left off. is the math and science teacher on the sixth grade FranDido team.  “I have had the privilege of teaching sixth grade in Windham since 2007. I love working with middle schoolers. They are eager to learn and fun to teach. They have great personalities and every day is different.  Playing basketball and being a part of a team has helped me become a successful middle school teacher.  It has taught me leadership skills, work ethic, adaptability and time management.  It has taught me the importance
of pushing yourself to do your best and learning from your mistakes.”

Franzoni lives with her husband, two children, and a dog in Windham. She states Windham is an amazing community who supports and encourages one another.

When she is not teaching, she is spending time with her family. They love being outside and playing sports. They support the New England sports teams and enjoy spending time at their camp in Calais.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Author Anna Crowley Redding shares her wisdom with middle school students

By Matt Pascarella

Since elementary school, Anna Crowley Redding has always had an interest in writing and literature. She was naturally curious and liked asking lots of questions; this later served her very well when she became an investigative TV reporter.

However, she had always dreamed of becoming a writer for young readers. After her children were born, she used her knowledge as an investigative reporter to uncover stories for kids.

She brought her knowledge to Windham Middle School on Friday, September 27th. Students had the opportunity to hear about her experiences, her writing process and participate in problem-solving activities as well as a mock press conference. started out writing articles for her college newspaper, the Northeastern News. “Learning journalism in Boston was a fantastic experience,” stated Crowley Redding. “I felt that every day I was learning from the best in the business. I worked off-air as a field producer, intern, and associate producer for NECN.” Crowley Redding became a TV reporter in Utica, New York; then Syracuse; then Charlotte, North Carolina. “Every station taught me so much about writing, investigative reporting, and on-camera presentation,” she added.

Her reporting did not go unnoticed. She has won Edward R Murrow awards which honor outstanding achievements in broadcast and digital journalism. Crowley Redding has been recognized by the Associated Press and has an Emmy for an investigative piece she did about an ice storm.

Investigative reporting allows you to make a meaningful difference in your community and in people’s lives. It’s hard work and often stressful. When you can produce results that matter to the people most’s a very fulfilling experience.”

Crowley Redding decided to switch career gears after becoming a mom. She was always reading books to her boys about following their dreams and writing for young readers had been a dream of hers since she was old enough to remember. Eventually she went for it. Her debut book, ‘Google It’ tells the story of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Stanford College students who created what today is the most used search engine. ‘Elon Musk: A Journey to Save the World’ is a biography of the struggles Musk has gone through and his big dreams for the future. ‘Rescuing the Declaration of Independence’ (out in 2020) is Crowley Redding’s first picture book. It tells the true story of a man who risked it all to save our founding documents.
Autumn Wood, Tiffanie Scott and Mia White
work together on the domino challenge

During Crowley Redding’s presentation she spoke about the power of problem solving and the role failure plays in accomplishing your goals. Although it may look like it, success isn’t something that just happens – people have to work at it. “Don’t give up, you are enough” she stressed.

To help illustrate problem solving and failure, students had to work together in groups to stack dominoes around a large table. The goal was to be able to set them off and have the oval go successfully around the table. The students were given three tries to do this and it is a much tougher challenge than it sounds.

Another class held a mock press conference about a pretend fire that had happened in Windham. Each group had to take and sort the information given and then write a news report for the station they worked for. Each station had a different spin to their stories, e.g. appeal to a young audience, sensationalistic journalism, or Big J journalism, which focuses more on the quality of the story.“I hope that in talking to students today, they’ll feel inspired to follow their own dreams, to believe that they are enough, and that when problems and obstacles appear (and they will), that they are capable of finding a way to overcome setbacks.”

Seventh grader Fletcher Vopal observed, “It was was cool how she started out small and it’s inspirational for people who want to start doing big stuff. I learned if something fails you have to keep getting back up...keep trying and trying until you succeed.”

Seventh Grader Mia White remarked, “I learned a lot because I am starting on a graphic novel and it was a lot of good feedback about what I need to be thinking of if I do want to publish it. I was really inspired by the fact that Crowley Redding had struggles and she got up and blew everyone away. Anyone can really do anything if they set their mind to it.”

Friday, October 4, 2019

Town revitalizes former Raymond Road Runner concept to begin October 25 in The Windham Eagle newspaper

Kaela Gonzalez, Community Communication
Coordinator, will be writing and editing
the monthly newsletter that will be the center
of The Windham Eagle newspaper 
By Lorraine Glowczak

The last edition of The Raymond Road Runner, a 20-page monthly newspaper created by the Town of Raymond, was published on June 2008. It was directly mailed to the homes of Raymond residents to provide information about town happenings – including everything from municipal discussions and budgetary matters to local events and calendar items.

However, due to a significant increase in printing and distribution costs, the decision was made by the
Board of Selectmen at the time to discontinue the Road Runner newspaper after ten years of publication. According to the town’s website, “This wasn’t an easy choice, but the cost of producing the newspaper was weighed against two counterbalancing factors: the taxpayers’ need to fund essential town services and the several alternative opportunities Raymond residents have for getting news and information.”

The alternatives included emailed newsletters, reader boards, the website and cable TV. Although the substitutes were available, the direct mailing of the Road Runner was missed by many and, as such, the newsletters, etc. were often overlooked.

Fast forward 11 years and the Raymond Road Runner concept is being resurrected.

The idea began earlier in the year. It had come to the attention of the current Raymond Select Board that residents were not aware of major issues occurring in the town. “People were telling us that they weren’t getting the news they needed to make informed decisions and to be active participants in the community,” stated Select Board member, Teresa Sadak. “We wanted to find a way to bring the news to people so they could be aware of what was happening on an ultra-local level.”

As a result, Select Board Member, Rolf Olsen suggested a doing a survey. Sadak took the idea and put it together with all the different ways people could possibly receive news. The survey included questions on how people preferred to get local news and suggestions as to how to obtain information as it affects the town’s people.

“The feedback we received was varied, but the two most popular responses included: The Windham Eagle newspaper is where most people read their local news and many suggested bringing back the Road Runner,” explained Sadak. “As a result, we are bringing the two concepts together in the form of a monthly newsletter that will be a published as the center two pages of The Windham Eagle.”

The first Road Runner newsletter will be published in the October 25th Windham Eagle newspaper edition and will be written and edited by Kaela Gonzalez, Community Communications Coordinator, who also works part time in the Raymond Assessor’s Office under the direction of Curt Lebel as well as an assistant to Town Manager, Don Willard.

“Kaela has been a part time employee for the past three years. With the additional ten hours a week dedicated to the monthly newsletter, she will now be full-time,” explained Willard.

Willard went on to state that Gonzalez was chosen to write and edit the newsletter, not only due to her professionalism and experience, but due to the fact that she is an active member in the community who has a passion to serve in a variety of ways to help Raymond continue as a successful small town.
Gonzalez moved to Raymond with her husband in 2014. They have three children. Wanting to get to know the community – especially the school system in which her children would attend, Gonzalez got involved immediately.

An original copy of The Raymond Road Runner
“When we first moved here, I heard that there was a RSU14 Withdrawal Committee, so I joined just to see what it was about,” explained Gonzalez, referring to the first RSU14 withdrawal discussions that occurred six years ago. “It wasn’t that I was for or against the separation. In fact, I didn’t know what it meant. I wanted to find out, so I got involved. There are so many good things happening in Raymond, it is truly a great community to be a part of.” 

You will also find Gonzalez active in the Raymond Parent Teacher Organization, fulfilling the role as Vice President. Being involved in her multiple roles also makes her a great choice to gather pertinent news, informing the citizens regarding the latest happenings in much the same way as the original Road Runner, albeit in a more condensed version.

“We will include public notices, calendar items and reoccurring events,” stated Gonzalez. “Other article items will include municipal issues, school updates and organizations that will offer events of interest to the public.”

Since it will be a two-page newsletter, Gonzalez admits that it will be a challenge to get as much news into the space as possible. This is where The Windham Eagle newspaper will continue to offer larger article and feature stories for the town.

Willard stated that when the Raymond Road Runner newspaper discontinued, there were many disappointed residents. Long-time Raymond resident, John Manoush, was among them. “I remember John, in particular, who told me that he would greatly miss reading the Raymond paper every month,” Willard continued, smiling as he explained further. “He told me that he would even miss the excruciating detail of the Town Manager’s report.”

Manoush admits that he did miss the Raymond Road Runner when the publication ended and is
looking forward to having it reestablished.

“It is a great opportunity for the town,” Manoush said. “I look forward to reading it every month. I’ve always been a big fan of The Windham Eagle newspaper and the way it supports community and organizations who all struggle for attention and membership. This is a big step to help the Town of Raymond get the word out about what is happening in the town, how our tax money is being used and the various community events that occur. And then – of course, it will be great to get an update again on how the Town Manager is doing.”

For all Raymond residents, town offices, schools and organizations who wish to share a brief update or event in the monthly newsletter, contact Gonzalez at or by phone at 207-655-4742, ext. 133. For article length feature stories and news events, continue to contact The Windham Eagle newspaper at

Lifelong love of local library inspires Eagle Scout project

Jamie Louko (photo by Tammy Louko)
By Briana Bizier

Not many seniors in high school can say they have led a construction project, submitted building permits, or faced the town board. Yet Windham High School student and Raymond resident, Jamie Louko has done all three as part of his process to become an Eagle Scout.

Think of getting the rank of Eagle Scout as going through high school with a very big project at the end,” said Dr. Nick Bizier, Eagle Scout and Windham High School chemistry teacher. “By the time you apply for an Eagle Scout, you have to have shown proficiency in many different areas.”

That big project at the end must be a contribution of value to the community. Prospective Eagle Scouts must propose their project to the BSA and then execute the project themselves by leading other scouts and members of the community.

There was no doubt in my mind that my Eagle Scout project would be at the library,” Louko told an audience of over sixty community members at the dedication of his completed service project, an outdoor gazebo dedicated to the memory of Raymond volunteer and community leader Betty McDermott. Louko spoke to the audience at the gazebo’s dedication, he shared fond childhood memories of reading the Warriors children’s book series in the back of the Raymond Village Library while his parents browsed the adult sections. With his Eagle Scout project, he hoped to share his childhood love of reading with the next generation of Raymond children. Inspired by the gazebo in the Raymond community garden, Louko decided to build a similar structure closer to the library. Louko presented his service project plan to the Raymond Library Board of Trustees in May of 2018 and received their enthusiastic approval.

However, as Louko discovered during the course of the gazebo’s planning and construction, building Louko’s original plan for the gazebo proved to be too close to a land lot line, and his application for a building permit was turned down by the select board. This setback forced a creative reevaluation of his original plan.
projects are rarely straightforward.

We were forced to move to the front of the library, which ended up being an even better place to build,” Louko told me. “I am very thankful because I think it was for the better.”

After submitting his revised plans to the select board and finally acquiring his building permit, Louko needed to contact donors willing to provide supplies for the actual construction. Several organizations generously agreed to provide the building materials, including P&K Sand and Gravel, Hancock Lumber, Roosevelt Trail Garden Center, Machine Lumber, and Louko’s neighbor David Lind.

In order to turn a pile of donated supplies into a beautiful gazebo, Louko turned to the other members of Troop 800. “The only workers I had to help build my project were either scouts or scouts' parents,” Louko said. “Leading my fellow scouts is an important step in doing my project because it teaches me so much about how to lead effectively and what my leadership style is.”

The Eagle Scout project gets at the heart of what experiential learning really is,” Dr. Bizier added. “It teaches you to make lots of those little adjustments that are necessary to bring a complicated project to life.” the case of Jamie Louko’s Eagle Scout project, his gazebo both embodies and honors the spirit of community service. Before construction began on the gazebo, the Raymond Village Library Board approached Jamie about dedicating the structure he planned to build to Raymond resident and longtime volunteer Betty McDermott. Louko agreed, adding that the McDermott family are his next-door neighbors.

This is a great example of how Eagle Scouts can honor the past and contribute to the future through service to their community,” Dr. Bizier, Louko’s former chemistry teacher, adds. “I think it’s a wonderful thing to be an Eagle Scout.”

The new gazebo is open to the public and can be found just outside the Raymond Village Library at 3
Meadow Road.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The Healing Tribe offers complementary therapy for those in need: Fundraiser next Friday

By Lorraine Glowczak

In the conventional sense, a tribe is described as a social and/or cultural group who have something in common. Urban Dictionary approaches the word with a more contemporary viewpoint; “A group of friends that become your family. The people that will be there for you no matter what…”

The Healing Tribe, a new Windham non-profit organization established approximately one year ago, offers free massage, energy therapy, and Bowenwork®* as complementary service to those in need who are engaged in traditional treatment and analysis and suffer from anxiety, depression, and/or chronic pain. The Healing Tribe is like a group of friends who will be there for those who most need it but cannot afford it.

“The Healing Tribe is a group of massage therapists, energy workers and a Bowenwork® practitioner that work in conjunction with social workers and other clinicians who recommend alternative therapies to their clients in order to help aid the process of recovery and emotional healing,” explained Lisa DeFosse of Windham, the brainchild of the non-profit. “There are a number of individuals who can afford the healing benefits of massage, energy therapy and Bowenwork®.
However, there are many others who could gain additional recovery and therapeutic advantages from alternative medical practices who cannot afford it. That is where The Healing Tribe comes in.”

This is not the first time DeFosse has participated in the complementary therapy concept. When she was working as a massage therapist in Saco, she worked alongside a grant funded program that provided the same services as The Healing Tribe offers today in the greater Windham area. “When I
worked for that program, it felt very rewarding to help people heal on a deeper level. I was amazed at how body and energy work assisted in the healing of the more conventional and clinical therapies.”

DeFosse, who is certified in massage therapy and Bowenwork®, now owns her own business in Windham. She wanted to bring the same experience and opportunity to the Lakes Region.

“Since we have begun working with the medical professionals, clinicians are telling us they see positive results,” DeFosse said. “It helps make the client more relaxed and breaks down walls. As a result, the individual is able to speak more clearly about the issues they face and are able to approach it in a more mindful manner.” participants in the program have been in chronic pain and experienced migraines for many years. In one case, an individual saw changes within in three weeks after receiving services from The Healing Tribe. She has eliminated a majority of her pain medications and is now able to sleep through
the night. The headaches are gone. (For more testimonials, go to The Healing Tribe website at

In the event the massage, energy work and Bowenwork® open unexpected emotional discomfort that may require immediate clinical therapy, The Healing Tribe practitioners are able to communicate directly with the clinicians. “We are prepared in the event that deep emotional wounds may surface,” explained DeFosse. “This is a safe environment, and everyone involved is dedicated in taking the best quality care for all clients.”

The massage and other healing modalities, offered free of charge, doesn’t come without a cost.
“Bodywork practitioners are very skilled, educated and passionate about offering their services, but it is very costly to do so for free,” DeFosse stated. “Bodyworkers must keep up and continue education credits and meet state certifications, must pay for office rent or mortgage and this service is most often their primary source of income. As a result, The Healing Tribe raises funds and is in the process of writing grants in order to pay those therapists who offer the ‘free’ service.”

tombiczak@allstate.comOne newly established annual fundraising event to help with the cost of this free service is a spaghetti dinner and silent auction that will take place next Friday, October 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Windham Veterans Center, 35 Memorial Drive. The dinner will include a salad, garlic bread and
dessert. The cost for the dinner is $8 for adults and $5 for children 10 and under.

If you are unable to make the event, you can make a financial donation to The Healing Tribe at For more information, contact Lisa DeFosse at

*According to AmericanBowen.Academy, Bowenwork® is a system of touch that initiates a series of responses through stimulation of the nervous, musculoskeletal, and fascial systems and the energetic pathways. Practitioners perform a sequence of small movements on specific points on the body, interspersed with rest periods.

Raymond residents honor Betty McDermott at dedication ceremony

Eagle Scout Jamie Louko, who built the gazebo in
Betty McDermott's honor, shared his memories of the well loved volunteer
By Briana Bizier        

Can one person truly make a difference in their community? Last Saturday, the answer to that question was a resounding yes as the Raymond Village Library dedicated their new gazebo to the memory of long-time Raymond resident Betty McDermott and the spirit of community service that she embodied.

A devoted volunteer and advocate for Raymond, McDermott served the town in many capacities. She was a member of Raymond’s Board of Selectmen for nine years, serving as the Chair for two of those years. She was also a charter member of the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, and she served as the Treasurer of the Raymond Women’s Club, which built and ran the Raymond Village Library.

kmorrellandsons@gmail.comThis library exists because of Betty,” Sheila Bourque, head of Raymond Village Library’s Board of Directors, told a crowd of over sixty people at Saturday’s dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony. Sheila praised the efforts of local volunteers not only in the library by also in the Raymond Recreation program, the Raymond Lions Club, and the Raymond Arts Alliance.

These programs are all made possible by the efforts of our volunteers,” Sheila said.

Maine State Senator Bill Diamond and state Representative Jessica Fay also praised Betty’s service.

To be honest, I was pretty intimidated by her,” Fay admitted as the audience laughed. “Betty was smart, powerful, and had the courage of her convictions.” Fay also applauded Betty’s extensive service. “Volunteers hold our community together,” she concluded.

Don Willard, Raymond’s current Town Manager, echoed Jessica’s assessment that Betty McDermott could be intimidating. However, he also spoke of his close relationship with the McDermott family. “I consider myself a surrogate McDermott,” Willard said.

Willard recounted several of the many projects McDermott helped to advance, from extending the water line to improving Route 302 to constructing the new fire station and elementary school. “Betty loved the town, she had a vision for the town, and she wanted to move the town forward,” Willard told the crowd as he stood in front of the gazebo dedicated to McDermott’s memory. “She really tried to make a difference.”

Frank McDermott remembers his wife
This new gazebo was built over the summer by Raymond Scout Jamie Louko, along with the members of BSA Troop 800, as part of Louko’s Eagle Scout project.

When I thought about my childhood,” Louko said at the dedication, “I spent every weekend here at the library. There was no doubt in my mind that my project should be here. I want kids to have the same great experience I had.”

Betty McDermott was also a part of Louko’s childhood. Louko lives next door to the McDermott family, and he told the audience that he remembered selling popcorn to Betty as a Scout fundraiser.
We live in a very rural part of Raymond,” Frank McDermott, Betty’s husband, explained. “And Jaimie was the only kid who ever came to our house for Halloween.”’s oldest son, George also recounted his memories of her involvement in the library, from organizing rummage sales to their family’s frequent visits to the library’s previous location. Just like Jamie Louko, the Scout who built the gazebo, George shared fond memories of childhood afternoons spent at the Raymond Village Library looking for the newest Hardy Boys book. Thanks to the efforts of Betty, Jaime, and the many volunteers who are following in their footsteps, the next generation of Raymond children will be able to enjoy their favorite books in the shade of the library’s outdoor gazebo.

This gazebo is not just for Betty,” Frank McDermott declared shortly before cutting the red ribbon and officially opening the new structure. “This is for anyone who’s ever donated their time. People ask, ‘What can I do?’ You tell them: ‘You can volunteer.’”

The Betty McDermott Memorial Gazebo outside the Raymond Village Library at 3 Meadow Road is open to the public. If you would like to check out a book to read while you enjoy the gazebo, the library is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Historic Casco schoolhouse rises from the ashes and now is open to the public

Photo courtesy of Rose Andrews-Symonds
By Walter Lunt

After more than a year of resolute and reverent reconstruction, a replica of Casco’s old Quaker Ridge Schoolhouse, or Friends School, was opened to the public this week on the grounds of the Casco-Raymond Historical Society museum.

Nearly 100 visitors attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the museum complex on Route 302 in Casco. Society curator Rose Andrews-Symonds said she heard the comment “How beautiful” numerous times during the three-hour open house event. Andrews-Symonds, who also curated the original building before it was destroyed by fire in 2018, continued, “It’s quite breathtaking to it see (back) almost in its original state.”

Few who gathered for the occasion failed to notice the front steps. The imposing granite treads seemingly invite the visitor to enter. Some were retrieved from the debris of the former structure, and some were donated by Society member Louise Lester.
Upon entering, just past the cloak room, one knows for sure they are stepping back in schoolhouse time. Rows of old-fashioned desks in long, straight rows await scholars of an earlier day (two of the desks are originals from the old building). Benches, a faded globe outlining countries long ago renamed, an original 1861 wall map of Maine, a standing bookshelf containing atlas’, early grade-readers and other books dated in the 1800s, a large teacher’s desk, an American flag and a wood stove complete the experience.

The old-style interior construction, including walls, trim and floor was completed entirely by Tim Symonds, with assistance from grandson Daniel.

“We’re filled with history,” said Andrews-Symonds, “it’s important to preserve where we’ve been (in order) to know where we’re going.”

The original Quaker Ridge Schoolhouse was built in 1849 on Quaker Ridge Road by the son of a founding settler in what was known as Quaker Hill, or Quakerville. Run by the Society of Friends (Quakers), it operated continuously until 1942, except for the year 1920 when it closed temporarily due to low enrollment. Also, around that time, indoor toilet facilities were added. An open house was held in the 1950s; it was reported that scores of former pupils and teachers attended. 1971 the schoolhouse was acquired by the newly formed Raymond-Casco Historical Society and moved from its prominent perch on Quaker Ridge to a spot next to the fire station in Casco Village. The structure secured a listing on the National Register of Historic Places in the late ‘70s. Long range plans for the building included restoration and moving to the RCHS museum complex on Route 302. That was just about to happen when arsonists destroyed the building last year. Also consumed by the flames were irreplaceable books and documents dating to the 18th century, including an official proclamation announcing the election of George Washington as president. Plans to build the replica in the new location began almost immediately.

Resources for the reconstruction of the Quaker schoolhouse, including money donations and in-kind services, came from dozens of businesses and residents. Andrews-Symonds said the town of Casco, Hancock Lumber (especially employee Bob Thibodeau), and Society members Skip and Zeena Watkins were just a small fraction of the volunteerism and donations received for the project.
Asked how the new schoolhouse would be utilized, Andrews-Symonds said it now becomes a part of the regular tour of the museum complex, which includes three other buildings. She said the museum is now closed for the winter but will open for school groups this fall, adding “It’s important for the kids to understand the progress of life.”

New organization’s mission to “Move Windham Forward” provides candidate forums for fall elections

By Lorraine Glowczak

It all began as a fun and casual conversation among a group of individuals at a monthly networking Business Break event hosted by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. The conversation consisted of various matters of concern expressed by Windham community members. Topics discussed included residential and commercial growth, civility among elected officials, tax increases as well as environmental concerns. The conversation turned serious and it was decided then to be proactive and do something about the concerns expressed.

“We need to move Windham forward in a positive way,” stated Maggie Terry, during that impromptu discussion. Terry is a chamber member and owner of Legal Leaf, LLC and Legal Label, Inc.

It turns outs that Terry had been thinking about this idea for a while – the idea that would unite Windham in a positive and solution-based way. “It seems we’ve been divided for a number of years and I want to change that,” Terry said. forward three months. Terry along with fellow chamber member and Licensed Insurance Agent with MetLife, Jonathan Priest, have been working together ever since to “Move Windham Forward”, making the thoughts and concerns discussed at the beginning of the summer, a reality.

The organization, Move Windham Forward (MWF) is a non-profit, non-partisan group of residents and taxpayers that have come together for what has been identified as common goals and interests of the residents of Windham. The mission as is stated on the website: “We seek to have a better understanding of the issues we face as a community while we contemplate our decisions on leadership, community planning, land use, infrastructure, taxes and technology changes.”

The group offers an educational approach for all residents who wish to get involved but are not sure how to go about it. The website includes the proper way to address the Town Council regarding any issue that one deems important as well as background information about each elected official.
But perhaps just as importantly, MWF will offer two “meet the candidates” gatherings. Windham residents will have the opportunity to meet, speak to and address concerns with the candidates running for Town Council office. The purpose of these meetings is to allow residents to get to know
the individuals they are voting for so they can make their own personal and well-informed decisions at the local election in November.

The first gathering will occur on Monday, September 30th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Microtel Inn and Suites’ Roosevelt Room at 965 Roosevelt Trail. The second “meet the candidates” gathering will occur again at the same location from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, October 10th.

“We want to make it clear that Move Windham Forward is a non-partisan organization,” began Priest. “We do not endorse or oppose any candidate running for Town Council. We just want to provide the opportunity for residents to ask questions in order to be well informed as they vote in the elections this fall.”

“We also want to eventually hold Town Hall meetings to provide ongoing conversations in a positive way,” Terry added. “This is a future goal we are working on. Right now, we want to focus on our meet and greet gatherings so they can be as successful as possible.”

MWF emphasizes a core set of concerns that include: Unity, Growth, Taxes and Environment., and as stated on their website:

1)     Unity: North Windham. South Windham. East Windham. West Windham. In such a geographically large town made up of a growing, diverse population it is often easy to fall into our divisions and not feel as one. Especially over the last few years. It is important that we remember that mostly - we all agree on more than we disagree on starting with this; we all love Windham.

2)     Growth 1: Everywhere we look something new is being built; a house here, a subdivision there. It all adds up. What brings many people here is the rural feel but, ironically, as they come that rural feel disappears a little more for someone who was already here. What is the answer? Unfortunately, this is not an old question, it has been around for decades - but to date has been without a real solution. Some say stop growth completely, some say have zero regulation and let landowners do as they wish. The answer is somewhere in the middle.

3)     Growth 2: Windham is one of the fastest growing towns in Maine for residential housing but is significantly lacking in commercial development. Commercial development such as retail, service businesses, restaurants, office space, manufacturing and high density residential are the keys to our economic future. This development would benefit our town, by bringing more of a sense of community and a place people want to be, by helping create new revenues to offset the residential tax burden and by encouraging growth in the places we want, instead of the places we don’t want.
4)     Taxes:  We can’t seem to avoid them, but we can certainly have more of a say in how they are spent. The town budget should reflect the needs and goals of the taxpayers, for today and tomorrow.  Our elected officials and town staff should be constantly working to maximize the return on every tax dollar by spending wisely for today and investing smartly for tomorrow.

5)     Environment: Our environment in Windham is our greatest treasure and must be protected. Windham has some of the most beautiful farm space, open space, forests, water bodies and animal habitats; it’s a large part of why many of us chose Windham. These assets need to be protected, especially our lakes, streams and ground waters, many of which are already on state impaired lists. It is in our control and our responsibility to preserve our environment for Windham’s next generations.

For more information, peruse the Move Windham Forward website at

Friday, September 13, 2019

Raymond Elementary School dedicates new playground

Ribbon Cutting ceremony on the first day of school
By Briana Bizier

The first day of school is always exciting, but last week students at Raymond Elementary School and Jordan Small Middle School had an especially memorable event to mark the beginning of their academic year. As the bright September sun glittered off Panther Pond and Sebago Lake in the distance, students left their classrooms and walked to a new fenced field behind Raymond Elementary School.

Randy Crockett, the principal of Raymond Elementary School, welcomed students from both the
elementary and the middle school. After offering his heartfelt thanks to the community, parents, and local businesses whose generous donations helped with fundraising events such as last summer’s ice cream social and the annual holiday pie sale, Crockett described the elementary school’s new playground and play field.

We’ve installed a new balance apparatus,” he told the assembled crowd of teachers, students, parents, and community members, “as well as a climbing Webscape and two new sandboxes.” towering blue Webscape, which immediately drew the interest of many of the children walking past the new playground, has an especially touching story. The entire structure was made possible by a generous gift from Raymond Elementary School kindergarten teacher Stephen Seymour, his wife Karen, and their family. This journalist can confirm that both the balance apparatus and the climbing Webscape appear to be much more fun than anything found on school playgrounds when I was
growing up.

The elementary school’s new sandboxes were built as an Eagle Scout project by Alex Brooks, who was once a student of Raymond Elementary School and now attends Windham High School. A second Eagle Scout project is planned to replace the playground’s storage shed that holds jump ropes, sporting equipment, and sleds.

Principal Crockett also took time to generously thank the Maine National Guard. Members of the 262nd Engineer Company (Horizontal), which is based in Westbrook, did the original earth work to clear the new play field, hauled in over 500 loads of gravel, and turned what had previously been a steep, forested slope into a grassy, level field.

It’s always great to give back to the community that supports us,” Major Kerry Boese of the Maine National Guard said at the opening ceremony.
Alissa Messer, a parent volunteer who was instrumental in overseeing the playground’s construction, emphasized gratitude as she spoke to the students. “This playground is a labor of love,” she said. “Today, we are grateful for what we’ve been given.”

As the crowd applauded enthusiastically, the speakers held out their scissors and cut a wide, red ribbon, officially opening Raymond Elementary School’s new playground. The air filled with cheers as the students followed their teachers for tours of the playground equipment.

If you’d like to view Raymond Elementary School’s new playground and play field for yourself, it is open to the public after school hours and on weekends.

Senator Bill Diamond helps to pass law to keep hands on the wheel

Pat Moody of AAA, Sen. Diamond and Rep. Mark Bryant.
Can you tell the difference if the driver of this car
was intoxicated or intexticated
By Matt Pascarella

Distracted driving is unsafe and has been a problem for a while. And it’s only getting worse. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA) website, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates distracted driving kills an average of nine people and injures 1,000 every day.

Recently, Senator Bill Diamond introduced and passed LD 165, a bill “To Prohibit the Use of Handheld Phones and Devices While Driving.” This bill will go into effect on September 19, 2019.
The bill was created out of a similar law that Senator Diamond sponsored in 2011, that made texting while driving illegal. However, while it was illegal to text and drive, it was not illegal to use your phone or have it in your hand.“We talked with law enforcement and the biggest problem is texting while driving; the crashes, the injuries are just exponentially increasing,” stated Senator Diamond. “What this says is you cannot have your phone or device in your hand. Everything in this bill is all about hands-free. You look down for two seconds, often times it’s three or four seconds – and in that short amount of time a lot can happen. And that’s a problem. This fixes it.”

This bill allows law enforcement to stop an individual if they are holding a phone in their hand, no matter what they’re doing. Diamond reminds the reader that you can attach your phone to your dash with a clip and if a call comes in, tap the button and talk or talk through Bluetooth.

We use the phone for so much more than calling people, and the temptation is there to use it. Senator Diamond goes on to say, “Just like we did with seatbelts; when we passed the seatbelt law people said, ‘you can’t make people put on a seatbelt.’ With public awareness and education, we did. It’s to the point now where, if you’re in a car without a seatbelt, most of us feel weird, and secondly, we got kids in the car who say, ‘hey dad, you don’t have your seatbelt on.’” Like the seatbelt law, this hands-free device while driving law is a cultural change.

What happens if you still do it? The first time is a $50 fine and every time after that is a $250 fine.
 “All Law Enforcement is going at this full speed; they’ve all become frustrated with the needless accidents because someone was distracted; and most of that distraction was with a phone,” added Senator Diamond. “It’s going to be very aggressive, and people need to know this. If they can break this culture, break this habit, they’re going to literally save lives.”

Pat Moody, Manager of Public Affairs for AAA of Northern New England has met with Senator Diamond and AAA has a campaign centered around not driving ‘intexticated’.

“AAA is an advocate for traffic safety. We do a lot of research on distraction in all facets of driver safety, we survey our members, then we also do research through the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety to better understand those aspects of driver safety. Specifically, we’ve done some work on distracted driving...the one big thing that comes out of this is that cognitive distraction is real. With this specific law it’s going to get that device out of their hands, so people are less likely to do things like Snapchat, check Facebook, send a text message – all those things that take your eyes off the road.”

The essence of AAA’s slogan; ‘Don’t drive intoxicated, don’t drive intexticated’ is both these driving behaviors end up with the same result. “A lot of people would never think of drinking and driving; dropping the kids to school and taking a sip of beer but they don’t think twice about sending a text,” added Moody. Texting and driving have become a habit, and come September 19th, people are going to have to think twice when they’re in their vehicle. driver and 16 year old junior at Windham High, Hayleigh Moody stated, “You will be hard pressed to find a teen without a cellphone these days. When your phone “pings” and you know you have a text, it is really temping to take a quick peek and check it. Unfortunately, it only takes a glance away from the road for really bad things to happen. I think parents are key; the more they demonstrate that texting while driving isn’t appropriate then their kids will be more likely to follow their example. My dad uses the “do not disturb while driving” feature of his cell phone so it temporarily holds text messages until he is parked. The new “hands free” law...will help change behavior of adult drivers and when a teen sees that their parents are less distracted by their phones while driving, hopefully they will follow their example.”

“This is one of the most important bills I’ve ever passed because of the result of saving lives and injuries. I’m proud of this because I think it’s one of those things where an immediate difference can be made,” concluded Senator Diamond.