Friday, November 15, 2019

Eight-year-old Odyssey Angels on the move to raise funds and make a difference

Windham Odyssey Angels, from left to right: Aislin McDonald, 
Harlie Menard, Aubrey Galipeau, Garrett Chandler, Chad Cleaves, 
Lily Cooper, Carrie Menard, Zack Welch, Max Robinson, Madison Daigle.
By Lorraine Glowczak

There is a new group in town that recognizes a recent community problem and is taking action to create change. Known as the Windham Odyssey Angels, this organization consists of seven eight-year olds from Windham Primary School. They are teaming up with the Windham PTA and Raymond PTO to not only help raise awareness about adding stop arms to school buses but are determined to help raise the funds too.
Windham Odyssey Angels became an official organization at their first meeting a little over a week ago on Monday, November 4th and they are taking immediate action. In fact, this past Monday, November 11th you may have seen these young students as they hit the ground with their first fundraising launch by going business to business, requesting donations to help purchase 15 extended stop arms for the RSU14 buses. This motivated group of angels began their day at 11 a.m. and ended at 5 p.m., stopping for a bite to eat at Pat’s Pizza.

There is a reason for their enthusiasm. “Right now, the stop signs on the buses only stick out about
two feet,” explained one Windham Odyssey Angel, Harlie Menard, “The stop signs we are trying to raise money for will come out six feet which will make it harder for cars to pass the bus.”

As stated in an article in last week’s edition of The Windham Eagle, children’s safety has become an issue in the Windham and Raymond communities as students wait at the end of their driveways and roadways to enter the buses that take them to school. In recent weeks, parents have recorded on their cell phones and shared on social media – the many drivers who have sped past a stopped school bus. bus, with its blinking lights and stop sign extended, is indicating the driver to stop so young students can cross the road safely and enter the bus. Unfortunately, many drivers have not stopped, as required by law – putting our children’s well-being at risk. 

Windham Odyssey Angel member, Aislin McDonald was one such student. “One morning when the bus came to pick me up, three cars zoomed past before I could get on,” she stated. “If I was younger, I may not have known better and would have walked out in front of the cars – or my brother would have had to grab me and pull me back to keep me safe.”

It is for Aislin’s safety as well as for the safety of all other students in the community that inspire this new group. But what exactly are Odyssey Angels? It is an international program that challenges students to use unique creative problem-solving techniques while at the same time helping some aspect of their community that would otherwise be overlooked.

According to the Odyssey Angels website, anyone can participate in the program. “The only limitation is that one person in the Odyssey Angel group is on an Odyssey of the Mind team. The group can be of any size and made up of any individuals with no age limitations. It can be a family, a class, a team, a group of friends – anyone who wants to help their community.”

The website also states that participating in an Odyssey Angel group gives students a chance to utilize their strengths and help others while learning important lessons in teamwork, compassion, and more.’s first fundraising effort was met with success. “After going out ALL day today, the students were able to raise $5,000 for their first time out in their community,” stated Carrie Menard, a parent and one of the sponsors of Windham Odyssey Angels. “This is huge for a group of eight-year olds!”

The group explained that anyone can make any type of donation and it doesn’t necessarily need to be monetary as projects, goods and services can also be contributed. “We will also take objects like
crafts and then raffle them to help make money too,” explained Windham Odyssey Angel, Aubrey Galipeau.

Although the Windham Odyssey Angels are focused on serving their community, making it a safer place to live, there is a possibility that their project could be entered into a competition for creative problem solving. As the national website states, “Odyssey Angel teams will explain their charity project and results. Then one will be chosen that is considers to be not only creative, but beneficial to the community. Up to five representatives of that group will be invited to World Finals as special guests and be able to present its experiences at the Creativity Festival.”

It is a part of their mission that every person in their community become an angel with them. “This is very exciting for the kids,” stated Carrie Menard. “These kids are amazing and want to make a difference in our community. I could not be more proud of them.”

“We want everyone to join us to be an angel; not just us,” Galipeau said.

For more information or to make a donation to the Windham Odyssey Angels, contact the group at

WCCG TV-7 offers much more than the average local access television station

Producer, Brad Saucier
By Matt Pascarella

When you think of local access television, what goes through your head? Maybe meetings, meetings and more meetings. Producer of WCCG TV-7, Brad Saucier wants the town of Windham to know that TV-7 isn’t all meetings. There’s children’s programming, cooking shows, movies, even a Maine based paranormal show, along with information and more. There is so much local access can offer the community of Windham.

Saucier has been working for TV-7 for roughly 15 to 16 years. He’s principally responsible for the programming of the station and is the one that puts on the town meetings as well as finds and schedules the programs that appear on TV-7.

In 2014, Saucier reached out to a website called, that houses shows across the world. He can download a wide variety of programs, from children’s entertainment to political screenings to movies. Saucier changes the programming and the content twice a year. All content comes from

“I try to do a broad range on our station,” explains Saucier. “I personally think there are some outstanding shows that we show on our station.” are a variety of programs that appear on TV-7 that can accommodate the whole family that include the following:

A children’s show based on “The Slouch in The Couch” book series.

“Bridging Cultures” - a show based upon English professor, Kathy Najafi, as she introduces viewers to different cultures around the world.

A cooking program entitled “Eat Well Be Happy”.

A show providing education to parents, for children from 18 months to 18 years.

An entertainment piece about the history of television and technology and a paranormal show set in Maine. TV-7 also shows movies.

Saucier offers some of the local access’ regular shows like “Speak out” currently hosted by Representative Patrick Corey, which has been showing in Windham for over 30 years. Saucier now produces the program.

TV-7 is a wealth of information regarding the town, as well. Saucier has a bulletin board that runs all the time. It displays services and events you may not have known were available in Windham.“TV-7 can help the average individual get in touch with how the town of Windham works,” explained Saucier. “For people who don’t have that much time, we’re a good conglomerate for that information. If someone needs to know what the town offices do, we have that information playing all the time.”

The best way to watch WCCG TV-7 is to go to:; scroll to the bottom and you’ll see an icon that looks like a TV with a play button on it, there you get a live feed of the station itself. If you are a Spectrum Cable subscriber and live within Spectrum’s area in Windham, TV-7 is found on channel 1303.

The town meetings are also on Facebook. Simply, ‘like’ the Town of Windham and you’ll get a notification one minute early, telling you the meeting is available to watch.

Saucier is always looking for people who may want to create content with/on TV-7, whether it be entertainment or information to the town of Windham. “For those people interested in creating their own show, this is a diamond waiting to take place. They should contact me and let’s get some ideas together.”

If you or someone you know may have an idea for a program, contact Saucier

Friday, November 8, 2019

New administrative team hard at work for RSU14

Christine Frost-Bertinet and Christopher Howell
By Elizabeth Richards

On July 1st, 2019, a new administrative team took the reins at RSU 14. Christopher Howell stepped up from the assistant superintendent position he had held for a year to become the district’s Superintendent and Christine Frost-Bertinet stepped into the role of assistant superintendent.

Howell has a long history in the district, having been in several positions throughout the district since 1996. “This is just a great opportunity to now lead a district that I’ve been a part of for so, so long,” he said.

His history with the community made the transition easier since he didn’t need time to learn who people were, what the community is all about, or time to understand the community issues, Howell said.  His awareness of certain issues and scope of work made it possible for him to move forward a little faster than if he’d come into a new community, he said. 

Frost-Bertinet worked in both RSU57 and the Gorham School District prior to becoming assistant superintendent for RSU14. Her experience includes five years as an elementary school principal, as well roles as an assistant principal and as a teacher of English Language Arts at the middle and high school levels. 

Because she was new to the district, Frost-Bertinet spent much of her summer meeting people and making connections. “I could tell from the onset of starting in July that this was a very child centered, learner centered school community of bright, caring innovative educators,” she said. 

“I was overwhelmed by the welcome I received. So many people reached out from a variety of roles within the district and the community to say welcome, which says a lot about the pride and the dedication to making sure this is a wonderful school community,” she added. of the things Howell has been working on recently is the Windham Middle School building project. The district is fifth on the list of state projects. RSU14 has already begun the visioning process, Howell said.

Staff from both Windham Middle School and Jordan Small Middle School have worked together to determine a vision for middle school education in the district.  Being clear about the vision, which is being developed with the help of a national expert, will guide the building design, Howell said.  

“We’re trying to get as much work done prior to official working with major construction project so we’ll be ready to go – that’s why we chose to do the visioning now,” Howell said.  With continued growth on the horizon, careful planning of space in the building is essential.

Frost-Bertinet has been working from the current strategic plan, which is in its final year, with a focus on the design for learning and the environment for learning.

On the environment for learning side, social-emotional learning has been a big part of the conversation. The district has come together as a team, with community representatives, board representatives, and teachers from all levels coming to the table to talk about current practices, areas of growth needed for social-emotional learning, and what the next steps should be.  “We’re going to be working on that throughout the year, and that work will inform the next strategic plan,” she said. 

This is the first time that the district has come together with many voices at the table to examine the work already done and plan the direction for making sure each child is getting their academic, social and emotional developmental needs met, she said.  “We’re examining great practice and looking to go to the next level.”

On the design for learning side, she added, they are working as an administrative team through a grant that involves many districts. “Our team is really examining what are those instructional practices that speak to the design for learning part of the district’s strategic plan,” she said.

Howell said it’s important for the community to know that the administrative team loves working with their students. “I know that Windham and Raymond are very special places to raise kids,” he said. “We really enjoy being a part of that process. We’re going to do whatever we can to make sure that every kid has every opportunity to be successful,” he said.

He added that in RSU14, they take instruction seriously. “We want to make sure that what happens in our classrooms is best practice, and those best practices then lead to opportunities. We want kids, when they leave this district, to have choice.”, he said, he wants people to know that “We don’t always get things right, but when we don’t we want to hear about it so we have the opportunity to fix it.” Feedback helps the district look at policies and practice, and they are open to making changes if necessary.  “We want to be kid focused, we want to make sure that their needs are being met, because that’s why we’re here,” Howell said.

Outside of work, both Howell and Frost-Bertinet have a passion for the outdoors, albeit in different ways. Howell spends time rebuilding and refurbishing old boats and getting them on the water, while Frost-Bertinet loves camping and hiking. Both have children of their own, as well. 

Howell, who lives in West Cumberland, has three sons. Being a visible, present part of their lives is important, he said. Frost-Bertinet, who lives in Gorham, has two children, one who graduated from high school last year, and one who is a senior. Being involved in their lives and helping them get to their next phase is a big focus presently, she said.

Howell said the combination of their experiences make he and Frost-Bertinet a great team. With experience at different levels of education, they can be more efficient, he said.  They both appreciate the opportunity to work in the district, and feel the community support they receive, he added.

Local volunteer project part of nationwide Celebration of Service campaign for improving the homes and lives of veterans

On Friday, November 1, The Home Depot Foundation partnered with the Windham Veterans Association to transform the Windham Veterans Center, which serves local veterans and the community as a whole. More than six members of Team Depot, The Home Depot’s associate-led volunteer force, supported the project on their day off.

The repairs to the Windham Veterans Center have upgraded the building so that it is more attractive
Thanks to the volunteers!
for the community to host various events and functions in the space. The venue rentals will in turn support the association’s mission to help local veterans and provide scholarships to youth in the community.

This project in Windham is part of The Home Depot Foundation’s ninth annual Celebration of Service season to improve the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and aid communities affected by natural disasters. From September 19 to Veterans Day, members of Team Depot are pledging 100,000 hours of service and planning to activate more than 600 volunteer projects across the country.

“I would just like to convey what an honor it is to work for a company that makes it a priority to give back to its community and the veterans we have, and continue to make it possible for us to safely live and operate our businesses this country every day,” stated Bruce Calmes, the Team Depot Store Captain and Store Manager of North Windham’s Home Depot. “This project at the Windham Veterans Center is particularly important to our community and the Veterans it serves, as this facility houses three separate Veterans Organizations and the local Scouting Troop.  The building serves as home for the American Legion Post 148, Ladies Auxiliary Post 148,  VFW Post 10643, Boy Scouts Troop 805 and also serves the Lions Club and Sebago Rotary as well as other smaller community organizations.
Calmes continued. “Due to the extent that this building serves the community, coupled with the aging membership and limited funds these organizations traditionally have, made it a great venue to have a Celebration of Service Team Depot project this year.  We sincerely appreciate the service that these men, women and families have given to our country and hope that this small effort and investment in our community helps them continue to serve this community in which we live.  I encourage all the members of this community, and others, to join our Home Depot associates in giving back at our next Team Depot event.”

cstlouis@spurwink.orgThis year, the Foundation is unveiling a new theme – Operation Surprise – that celebrates the selfless spirit of our veterans by surprising them with life-changing moments. The community is invited to visit to nominate a deserving veteran to receive a home repair grant for up to $25,000. The winner will be announced Veterans Day.

Since 2011, The Home Depot Foundation has transformed more than 45,000 homes and facilities for veterans across the country. Giving back to veterans is personal to The Home Depot, as more than 35,000 of the company’s associates have served in the military.

The Veteran’s Center is also in need of a new roof. The estimated cost to replace the roof is between $16,000 to $17,000 of which $9,000 has been generously donated by current American Legion members. To make a donation, one can send a check or money order made out to WVA/Roof and send to P.O. Box 1776, Windham, ME 04062 or call Mel Greenier at 207-892-7449. Be sure to check out the fundraising efforts by local businesses on pages 12 and 13 of this week’s publication.

Friday, November 1, 2019

A local tale of a Maine moose hunt

By David Field

Being drawn for the moose hunt is like winning the lottery to those chosen. After being drawn this past June for the second season moose hunt for Zone 11, the planning began. First, I called a butcher to reserve my spot. This is a necessary action as a lot of butchers only take so many animals in a season.

Secondly, I got my team assembled. We have a group of guys that has the moose hunting challenge down to a T, no matter who holds the permit. So, besides me, I had my long-time friend and moose magnet, Cliff Knight as my sub-permittee, Ron Richards of Windham and Todd Hunter of Raymond. The four of us previously did a moose hunt in 2017 and brought home a 675-pound bull on Ron Richards’ permit.

Thirdly, the scouting began. I follow Maine Moose Hunting on Facebook and it amazes me at the number of hunters asking for moose locations before and during the hunt. Accommodations weren’t an issue as we have a hunting camp in the zone. and I went to camp in June and deployed a handful of game cameras. We made trips north every few weeks during the summer to collect photos, assess activity and develop our plans.

We went up to the camp the last weekend in September to assess rutting activity and signs and to hopefully nab a grouse or 2. We didn’t nab grouse, but we did learn some things. In the area of the camp, we encountered 5 moose hunters looking to fill their tags. In the first season for Zone 11, only 11 out of 25 tags were filled. I attribute this to a handful of reasons. 1) The rut hadn’t really started, 2) plenty of food in the woods (is your yard filled with acorns?) 3) hunters were driving the roads hoping to fill their tag and not actually hunting the woods.

So, with the second weekend of October upon me, I begin packing. The trailer gets loaded with a 300-foot spool of rope, the 4-wheeler, propane tank, water, coolers full of food and of course, clothing and guns. At camp, we use an old Sears John-Boat to haul moose out of the woods. Very effective tool.

We get to camp and check the cameras for the almost final time. The camera located in the spot we call Moose Alley has 3 different bulls on it. Another camera has 2 bulls on it and a third has a cow. Another location has a moose wallow and becomes our Number 2 spot. Moose Alley is number one. 

Sunday afternoon to sunset, we go and check a few spots out. We had a cow moose come out at Moose Alley after sunset. I was so pumped for the 12 hours to pass!

The author, David Field and Cliff Knight with
the 680 pound bull.
Sunrise Monday morning finds us at Moose Alley. 33 degrees. We hear a bull grunt in the distance and the excitement jacks up a notch. We enter the woods and begin calling. We get a response, but from a different direction. The bull answers the call, but doesn’t come in. We stay in place until late morning. Frustrated, we head to camp for lunch. We try our second spot after lunch. Bright sunshine a stiff south breeze and 64 degrees are the conditions. We are set up at a T location of logging roads. I was on the south side of the truck when a bull appeared on the north side 20 minutes after arriving. I didn’t have a shot and the bull took off. We pursued but he escaped deep into the woods. We went to another spot and did some calling and then went back to Moose Alley to finish the afternoon. A day in the books and we were facing an incoming weather system on Thursday that we didn’t want to hunt in.

Tuesday morning, we went back to the spot that we were at Monday afternoon. We parked away from the area where the bull appeared. Again, walking in, we heard a bull grunt off in the distance. We set up and began calling. After a few hours, we explored. We walked down a logging trail that became a wide-open field. The beaten down path through the field showed the animals had been there. After exploring, I got a text from Todd to “Get Back ASAP”.  Ron and Todd had stayed back while Cliff and I explored the field. When I got the text, we got back and the guys told us that they heard a bull grunt 4 times off to the southwest. We worked our way back up the trail. About two-thirds of the way back, Ron made a grunt on the can call. There was a response that seemed to come from the road we had started on, very close. I worked up to the road and peeked up and down. Empty. A few more calls and the bull had gone silent. With the late morning approaching lunch, we headed back to camp to reassess.

So, Cliff and I decided to go back in the early afternoon and Ron and Todd would drive and scout with the rendezvous to be around 4pm at Moose Alley. We stuck to the plan. No action at the first stop, then back to Moose Alley. We set up in our parking spot. I had a feeling that the moose would be out and about this area as opposed to deeper in the woods where we had been on Monday., Todd and Ron took turns with cow calls and bull calls. Every 10-15 minutes, a new chorus and answers would occur. Forty minutes later, about 300 yards away, the young cow we saw Sunday night emerges from the woods. She is followed by the crotch-horn we had on camera from the previous week. In a bolt, we jog/creep down the road doing our best to stay out of sight. We get to 75 yards from the animals and the cow takes off. The small bull seems oblivious and slowly meanders to the cutting on our left. Sighted in on him, there is movement to the right. A much larger bull appears and the focus changes. One shot and the bull dropped just feet from the logging road. A final shot finishes him off.

With the easy part of the hunt done, the work begins. Ron goes to camp to get the trailer, tow strap and beverages. I have my gutting kit with me and change clothes and ready the knives. I use a forked branch to hold the rear leg out of the way and we tie off the front leg to Cliff’s truck. Todd watches me in amazement as I eviscerate the beast. He quickly nicknamed me the “Ginsu-Man”. As I am finishing the gutting, Ron returns with the trailer and goodies. We quickly fashion a drag to pull the moose up into the trailer. It took us 2 hours from time of shot to driving off with the bull to get this done.

So, the final weight was 680 pounds. I netted just over 300 pounds of meat. The final harvest for Zone 11 was 32 moose out of 50 permits issued.

Many thanks to my friends on this trip. Couldn’t have done it without them and the memories! Until next time.

Public comments highlight need to prioritize maintaining private roads in Highland Lake watershed

Heather True-Huntt speaking to members of Highland Lake
By Lorraine Glowczak

Approximately 15 Highland Lake residents, two Windham Town Council members, (Jarrod Maxfield and David Nadeau – also a Highland Lake resident) and a Planning Board member (Nick Kalogerakis) attended the Highland Lake Watershed Management Plan meeting and presentation that occurred last Wednesday, October 23 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Cornerstone Church, 48 Cottage Road.

Heather True-Huntt from the Cumberland County Soil and Water Conservation District (CCSWCD) who is also member of the Highland Lake Leadership Team explained to all present, “The purpose of this public meeting is to gather feedback from residents regarding the proposed Action Items of a 10 year Watershed Based Management Plan for Highland Lake.”  

First, a brief reminder about the environmental concerns regarding the health of Highland Lake. In 2017 it was brought to the attention of the Towns of Windham and Falmouth as well as to the Highland Lake residents that Highland Lake was experiencing a sudden change in water clarity. The culprit had been identified as a form of algae. Although these algae are microscopic, they are growing in such large populations that they drastically reduce water clarity, thus not only causing detrimental environmental impacts and quality of the water, but a grave financial effect on both the town itself as well as to property owners.
It was from that point that immediate and sincere efforts have been made to safeguard the lake – and thus the financial investments of all who live in the greater Windham area. The concern was what Highland Lake was/is experiencing and its potential impacts on other lakes in the Sebago Lakes region including Sebago Lake - the source of drinking water for the Greater Portland area and beyond.

In order to safeguard the lake and the financial investments of property owners, the Highland Lake Leadership Team was developed, with support of the Windham and Falmouth Town Councils. Windham Town Councilor, Donna Chapman, along with other town officials and Highland Lake leaders, lead the charge to identify the reasons for the recurring algae bloom and to rectify potential hazards.  

In 2018, the HLA conducted a Watershed Survey, which documented sources of erosion in the water shed.  The Watershed Management Plan, once adopted, will serve as a road map for applying to the EPA for funding to remediate problematic erosion sites within the HL watershed. 

For the past 2 years, the Highland Lake Association in collaboration with  the Department of Environmental Protection, University of Southern Maine, University of New Hampshire, University of Maine – Orono and Bigelow Labs have gathered extensive data in the effort to discern the causes of the picocyanobacterial blooms – a phenomenon unique to lakes in  Maine. 

Huntt invited attendees to give feedback to the action items “We want to know thoughts: Do you think we’ve captured it all? Is there more we could do? What might we have missed? Where should we focus first?” Councilor, David Nadeau focused on the steps that the Town of Windham has taken in the effort to preserve Highland Lake including the institution of a point system for all development in the Highland Lake watershed.  He then engaged the group with the complex, and yet absolute prioritization of the need for private roads to be maintained – as private roads are a major contributor to erosion into Highland Lake. Councilor Nadeau has a proposal in front of the council, already accepted, that would require any public easement road plowed by the town to put the equivalent cost of plowing into road maintenance every year. The figures were presented to the council and these roads should be hearing from the town in the spring. The details are being worked out. The costs are defunded for each road in the proposal. If you have questions, contact councilor Nadeau at 892-7192.

The issue of septic systems and how they may impact Highland Lake is also of concern. Real Estate Broker, Nicole Foster stated that it is Maine law that all septic tanks be inspected during a real estate transaction. The bill (LD 216), entitled, “An Act to Protect Water Quality by Standardizing the Law Concerning Septic Inspection in the Shoreland Zone” will be enacted on January 1, 2020.

“An expansion of the already existing requirements has been extended to include inland shoreland areas as well,” stated Foster. “As of January 1, 2020, buyers for properties where septic systems are located within a shoreland area will be required to hold a septic inspection by completed by a person who is certified by the Department of Health and Human Services to do so. Exceptions will be available if there is evidence this inspection was done by the seller or the system was replaced within the previous 3 years. If the weather conditions do not allow for the inspection to be completed prior to purchasing, the buyers will be responsible for holding the inspection within 9 months of the transfer. If the inspection finds that the system is malfunctioning the system must be repaired or replaced within one year of transfer.” consideration was suggested that the HLA help raise funds for individuals who might need financial assistance in the case of septic tank repair or replacement.

Heather’s presentation included the fact that the total estimated cost for the implementation of the Watershed Management Plan over the next 10 years could reach $854,120.  Where is this money going to come from? Nick Kalogerakis, of the Windham Planning Board Member  suggested the following: “Of the 1500 residents who live on the lake watershed, a $50 a year in-kind donation by all the residents is all that is needed to help improve the quality of the lake and meet the financial needs in the next 10 years.” That would only be $10 per month for five months. This could be a simple solution to a complicated environmental issue.

A resident suggested that state representatives may be a potential resource in helping solve the water quality issues at Highland Lake. 

Several emphasized the importance of collaborating with local school districts in the effort to engage young people in ongoing environmental challenges of preserving natural resources. 

“There was an overall very positive response to the Action Items as presented,” commented Rosie Hartzler, President of the HLA.  Rosie is part of the Technical Assistance Committee (TAC) tasked with drafting the Watershed Management Plan, which will be reviewed by the DEP in early 2020.  Once accepted, there will be an application to the EPA for funding which is hoped to come online in 2021. 

“The protection of our natural resources is implicitly tied to the overall economic viability of this community; we all need to continue to participate in the ongoing effort to preserve and protect Highland Lake” said Rosie Hartzler.

New librarian brings love of books and artistic talent to JSMS

Mari Dieumegard with the two
books she has illustrated
By Briana Bizier

Not many librarians can showcase their own work in their library’s collection. Yet this is true for Jordan Small Middle School’s new librarian, Mari Dieumegard, who has also illustrated two children’s books.

I’ve always loved books,” Mari Dieumegard, with a smile. “I love reading young adult books, and I love making children’s books. This job is really the best of both worlds.”

Originally from Alaska, Dieumegard has fond memories of visiting her grandparent’s camp in Monmouth, Maine over the summers. She attended Lewis and Clark College, located in the other Portland, before moving to Maine to attend the Maine College of Art. After graduating with her BFA, Dieumegard began teaching in an independent school in Portland.

My mom was a teacher,” Dieumegard stated, “so working with kids came naturally.”

While teaching, Dieumegard was also developing her career as an independent artist and illustrator. In a process familiar to many who work in the arts, she sent out innumerable query letters and samples of her illustrations to publishers and agents. She also moved away from the independent school in Portland and began working as a substitute teacher in the RSU14 system of Windham and Raymond.

When a position opened up in the Raymond Elementary School library, Dieumegard applied and was hired. Then, three years after sending out her many query letters, Mari was contacted by Islandport Press of Yarmouth. Would she be interested, they wondered, in providing the illustrations for a new children’s book written by Jean Flahive? Dieumegard accepted their offer, and her first publication, “The Old Mainer and the Sea”, was released in October of 2017.

We had a book birthday party at the elementary school,” Dieumegard recalled. “It was really fun.”
My personal Raymond Elementary School insider, Sage Bizier, still remembers this book birthday party, so I can verify that it was indeed very fun. Dieumegard’s collaboration with the author Jean Flahive resulted in a second children’s book, “The Canoe Maker”, which was released earlier this year. Naturally, both books are available at the Jordan-Small Middle School library and the Raymond Elementary School library. You can also find signed copies of both books at Mari’s website:
Although her illustrations focus on children’s books, Dieumegard’s love of young adult literature shines through her thoughtful book recommendations. She gave me a tour of the library while Lisa Schadler, the previous librarian at Jordan-Small Middle School, re-organized the book selection by genre to make it easier for young readers to find the books that appeal to them.
offering several recommendations for the voracious nine-year-old reader at my house.

I personally like fantasy and realistic fiction,” she said, “but I am trying to push my boundaries and read more horror and spooky stories so I can help the kids find what they want.”

Dieumegard also brings her considerable artistic talents to her position as a librarian. As the advisor to the Jordan Small library club, the LitWits, Dieumegard is currently sponsoring a logo design contest for the middle school students. She plans to teach students in the library club how to use Google Draw to create their own logo for the library. In a process that is a bit similar to Dieumegard’s own experiences submitting her illustrations to publishers, the students’ designs will then be posted online, and the school will vote to choose the winner.

This library is really a community space,” Dieumegard said. “Teachers will send their classes down here to work on projects, or students will come down with a library pass.” She smiled as a few young library lovers poked their heads into the sunny, open room.
It’s a job that doesn’t feel like a job.”

Friday, October 25, 2019

Windham Center Stage delights audience with “Annie”

Grace (Kristen Ciampa) introduces Annie (Meghan Rivard)
to Oliver Warbucks (Randy Hunt)
By Elizabeth Richards
Windham Center Stage Theater’s (WCST) production of “Annie” was enthusiastically received by a full house on opening night, Friday, October 18th. 

“Annie” hit the movie theaters when I was a pre-teen, and my friends and I were instantly obsessed with both the movie and the soundtrack. Hours were spent acting out the plight of the little orphan and her friends, each of us taking a turn as the notorious Miss Hannigan. More than 35 years later, I can still sing every word to every song.

It’s risky seeing a production of such a beloved show – you run the risk of being severely disappointed if the cast doesn’t bring it to life in the way you envision it. But that was not the case at WCST last week. The talented cast created lively, engaging scenes that pulled me in and made me forget everything except what was happening on stage – exactly the way a live production should.

tombiczak@allstate.comThe show centers around Annie, a girl of 11 raised in an orphanage who believes with all her heart that her parents will be coming back for her someday. The orphanage, run by drunk, harried, nasty Miss Hannigan, is a dismal place, which Annie escapes temporarily by running away. The police bring her back, but in a lucky break, she is spotted by the secretary of wealthy Oliver Warbucks, who wants to host an orphan for the holiday season. 

Annie and Warbucks hit it off so well that he wants to adopt her, but before he can tell her, she tells him how much she wants to find her parents, and he vows to do everything he can to help. Hannigan, her con artist brother and his girlfriend cook up a scheme to pose as her long-lost parents and take the money Warbucks has offered if they are located. It looks as though they might succeed – until Warbucks’ resources uncover the truth.

Ultimately, this show is about hope and optimism, and the idea that dreams can come true – even if it’s not quite the way you think they will. WCST had a large, diverse cast that conveyed these themes well.

All the characters, big and small, were brought to life with perfect details interspersed throughout the production. Annie was portrayed perfectly by Meghan Rivard, a young girl with a powerful voice and just the right blend of optimism, mischief, and grit. Randy Hunt convincingly transformed Warbucks from “all business” to a caring man who would do anything for the young girl who stole his heart.

“It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Easy Street” were particularly fun to watch, but all the musical numbers were lively, engaging, and entertaining. “Annie” at Windham Center Stage is a show well worth seeing.

The show runs through November 3rd, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door.

Gonzalez family from Raymond create memories with Halloween costume tradition

This year, the family’s Halloween costume
theme is all about bugs
By Lorraine Glowczak

It all began in 2013 with a simple hand-me down costume. It was Isabelle Gonzalez’s second Halloween and she dressed up as Jessie, a character from Pixar’s “Toy Story” films. What was missing from the costume ensemble, however, was the infamous red hat and red braided hair. That’s when Isabelle’s mother, Kaela, decided to complete the Halloween outfit by making the hat and hair herself. “For Isabelle’s first Halloween, my mother made her a Grover costume. I figured I could at least pull off a hat”, stated Kaela.

“From that point I was hooked on the idea of making costumes, and since, it has morphed into a full-blown Halloween adventure for the whole family, creating a tradition I never intended to begin,” Kaela stated of her exceptional creative outlet.

Now, the whole Gonzalez family gets in on the Halloween fun by dressing up in theme inspired costumes that are cleverly created and hand-made by Kaela and her family. In Halloween pasts, the Gonzalez clan – which has grown to include a son Alex, age six, a daughter, Lilia, age two and Kaela’s mother, Jo-Ann Laggan - have been a family of porcupines, characters from the book, “Where the Wild Things Are” and a family of chickens.“That costume took a lot of white boas to make up the feathers. I think I bought out the company in Canada that sold them,” Kaela joked about the chicken family costumes. “Lilia was just a baby then, so she was a little chick coming out of a hatched egg.” Dad and husband, Miguel, who was dressed as the farmer carried their “little chick” as the family of chickens walked from door to door along Raymond’s main street.

“I remembered that when we were chickens, I found feathers on the library lawn a week or so later.  So, we left a lasting impression,” Kaela laughed. She has also made the Halloween bags the children use every year.

This year, the family’s Halloween costume theme is all about bugs and will include a butterfly (Isabelle), praying mantas (Alex) and a monarch caterpillar (Lilia). Dad, mom and grandmother will be the entomologists, dressed in field vests carrying their magnifying glasses, insect nets, notebooks and writing utensils – because after all – entomologists always need to be prepared for scientific study.

Kaela admits that the Gonzalez family Halloween tradition can be a bit daunting and overwhelming at times, acknowledging that it takes a village to create costumes of this extent. “I was having some difficulty making the butterfly wings; I couldn’t get the two wings to stay upright and stiff. I asked around to see if anybody had any suggestions and a co-worker suggested using epoxy. And it worked! The wings remain open and stiff – just like I envisioned.”’s mother and husband help, too, whether it’s sewing or other creative undertakings. “My husband helped me hand paint Isabelle’s butterfly wings,” she said. “That was a very tedious task so having his help expedited the process and my mother made the green pants and shirt for the praying mantas.”

There are times, between the demands of her job with the Town of Raymond and raising three children, when the intensity that comes with creating the costumes can almost bring her to tears. “One day, I called my husband at work and told him I just didn’t think I could do it this year,” she explained. “This was after we purchased all the material – which can be expensive - and I had already spent a lot of time on them. He told me to take a break and spend some time with Lilia before I made my decision to continue or not. That small break is all it took and was back at it the next day.”

The costumes must be tested before the big Halloween celebration to make sure all parts are in working order. “The other day, we put Lilia in her caterpillar costume so she could walk around on the driveway and the grass to see how the wheels on the lower part of the costume would work on different surfaces,” Kaela explained. “Sure enough, a wheel came off and we had to reattach it more securely. The one thing I didn’t think of when making the caterpillar costume was how Lilia will go up and down steps.”

Despite the sometimes-overwhelming tasks that comes with such an extensively creative endeavor, Kaela stated that seeing her family all dressed up for Halloween is very rewarding and worth it in the end.“I’m creative by nature and this is one way I get to use my imagination and produce something meaningful to me; creating memories for my family,” Kaela said. “It takes perseverance, the ability to rethink and regroup when things aren’t quite working out as I envisioned and asking for help, but it is all worth it. It’s something my children can look back on and reminisce – sharing their memories of a crazy mom and her need to create - with their own families when they’re adults.”

Kaela also hopes that this Halloween family tradition imparts on her children the importance of making hand-made gifts for others and taking time for those they love and care about. “I hope my children will see the value of giving to others and how it can make others happy.”

So? What will the Gonzalez family’s Halloween theme be next year? Kaela will start thinking about it on November 1st. “As soon as Halloween is over, I begin to think about next year’s costumes. It takes me a couple of months to determine exactly what I want to create and once I do, I begin purchasing the items needed and start creating them. It literally takes a year from conception to a finished product.”

“But,” Kaela quickly added with an exhausted smile. “I just may take a break next year.”

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.