Friday, October 23, 2020

RSU 14 middle school music programs shift focus during pandemic

Seventh-grade students rehearse for an upcoming
video concert with Applied Arts Coordinator
and Music Teacher Morgan Riley during band
class at Windham Middle School on
Wednesday morning. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Elizabeth Richards           

Middle school music programs in RSU 14 have been altered this year because of the pandemic and CDC guidelines, but that’s not stopping students from learning and creating music in innovative ways.

Chorus has been put on hold at both Windham Middle School and Jordan-Small Middle School.

"According to the guidelines, if we were to sing together, we would have to have the kids spaced 14 feet apart, all wearing masks, and all facing the same direction. And if possible, be outside," said JSMS Chorus and Orchestra Director Rose Underkofler. "Singing in a mask is also very difficult as it's hard to take a very deep breath with masks on, and it's hard to hear yourself sing because there's really no place for the sound to go."  

General music and band classes have a different focus this year, since wind instruments can’t be played inside and sharing instruments isn’t possible. Morgan Riley, Applied Arts Coordinator and music teacher at WMS, said students are learning how to play percussion instruments one day each week.

In these classes, students work on rhythm, playing as part of an ensemble, and performing, essential aspects for all musicians, Riley said.  

In addition, Riley creates lessons/play along videos for students to use on days they are at home, to
allow students to play their wind instruments and keep their skills sharp.

JSMS music teacher Alex Adams also said band students are working on their instruments at home. On Fridays, they have a private lesson via video chat to help meet individualized goals.

“Some of that has been really great for individual attention and differentiation for students but for some kids it takes away the experience of being in a band with others and the joy of making music in school on wind instruments,” Adams said.

Instead of choosing instruments this year, JSMS fifth-grade students are learning pre-band skills through a curriculum based around learning popular music and rock band instruments, Adams said.

These unique times have led to a broader focus in music education.

“Music isn’t just Band or Chorus, though we hope those will be back soon,” Adams said. “It’s all
around us all the time and there are hundreds of ways to be a part of music.”  

Students are learning the technique and art of recording and editing sounds by working to create oral history podcasts as a class, Adams said.

“Students are going to be interviewing each other about the current moment in history and editing together a podcast with a script, student generated score and interviews that tell their own perspectives in their own words about this remarkable time we’re all living through,” he said. “Our work not only allows us to master some skills that are essential to recording and making music in a modern context, it also allows for some curricular integration with History and English.”

Underkofler said that sanitizing challenges that make teaching instruments difficult have led to more creating and composing in general music classes.

“Asking students to think outside of the normal general music box has been really interesting, not only
for the students, but for me too,” she said.

Orchestra classes are being held as usual, with students safely distanced. The biggest difference, Underkofler said, is the goal the orchestra is working towards, since they know there’s no safe way to have an in-person, live concert.

“We're working on these pieces and learning all of these new skills with the questions looming over our heads of ‘how do we showcase this to the community?’”

Underkofler said her goal is to have a virtual concert around the holidays to showcase student work and show the community that they are still making music during the pandemic. They may even create a combined piece with the orchestras from both middle schools, something a typical year may not have allowed for, she said.

In addition to a  fifth to eighth-grade video concert that will include filmed in-class performances of rock band songs and virtual bands made up of at-home recordings, they plan to release the oral history podcasts on streaming sites so the community can hear both the perspective about the world today and the audio craftsmanship of the young folks at JSMS, Adams said.

Riley said he plans to use the district videographer several times throughout the year to record
performance videos to share with parents.

While the pandemic has presented many challenges, educators also look for the positives.

“We've gotten the opportunity, even during this awful, uncertain time, to look at our program through a different lens,” Underkofler said. “We're getting to do these creative and new activities with our students that's giving them new knowledge of what music can be and how we can experience and create! We aren't trying to put a square peg in a round hole. We've just changed the board.”

Adams said students say the smaller class sizes are helping them understand the material better and have better class experiences.

“One student told me last week that they wished that school could be back to full time but with the same sized classes because they got more teacher time and felt like they understood the material better,” he said.

“The bottom line is that the student musicians of WMS are being given an outlet in music, whether they are playing the instrument they started with or not, and are eager to share their progress with staff members who pop in to class,” Riley said. “They are ecstatic to be able to make music with their peers
again. COVID-19 won't stop music at WMS.”

“Students are creating great work even while coping with an entirely new school experience. Parents, students, and teachers are all in a new and difficult situation and from my perspective we’ve come together as best we can and are doing some amazing things both in spite of and because of the situation before us,” Adams said. “I would say a big thank you to the community for rising to these challenges and supporting our programs.” < 

Windham driver a formidable force on racetracks in 2020

Bobby Timmons III of Windham competes
in a Super modified race at Star Speedway
in Epping, New Hampshire. He is a third-
generation auto racer who is making his
mark on the racing scene in New England.
Timmons won the 350 Super modified race at
Thompson Motor Speedway Motorsports
Park in Connecticut over the Columbus
Day weekend.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE ROTHWELL 
By Ed Pierce

As far back as Bobby Timmons III can recall, he’s had a need for speed and 2020 has proven to be an unqualified success for the 27-year-old driver from Windham.

A third-generation racer, Timmons, 27, launched his career while competing in go-karts at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough after watching his father, Bobby Timmons, Jr. and his grandfather, Bobby Timmons, race Super modified automobiles at racetrack in both Maine and New Hampshire. His devotion to living up to their legacy has led to numerous racing victories, including taking the checkered flag in September’s Star Classic at the Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire and winning the 350 Super modified race at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut over the Columbus Day weekend.

“I admire my dad and his work ethic toward racing cars and life in general,” Timmons said. “Growing up I was a fan of local guys that were friends with my dad, Scott Mulkern, Gary Drew, and Larry Gelinas. I was also a big fan of Ben Rowe. On the NASCAR end of things, I was huge Kevin Harvick fan. He filled in for Earnhardt after he died and was a rookie the same year that I was a rookie in go-karts.” 

Currently Timmons competes in two different super modified cars, which are a class of open wheel race cars that compete on paved short tracks throughout the U.S. and Canada.

“The car I drive predominantly is a 350-super modified. It has a 350-cubic inch Chevrolet small block engine that produces a little over 400 horsepower and 10-inch wide tires,” Timmons said. “The other car I have is an ISMA (International Super Modified Association) super modified. That car has a 468-
cubic inch Chevrolet big block that makes around 800 horsepower and has tires that range from 13- to 18-inches wide. They are considered the fastest short track racecars in the country.” 

During the season, Timmons races weekly at Star Speedway in New Hampshire on a one quarter-mile banked track. Races are typically 35 to 60-laps in length. In winning in his final race of the year in Connecticut, Timmons raced on a 5/8 of a mile track with the most banking out of any racetrack in New England. This summer he also raced in three ISMA events and in the past has raced in the Oxford 250 in Maine.

“The challenge of trying to make a car go faster than everyone else in the garage and on the track, the friends I've made along the way, and the shear aspect of driving a car that fast are the best things about  the sport for me,” Timmons said. “At the last ISMA race I competed in, we were reaching speeds of 150 mph.”

A 2011 graduate of Windham High School, Timmons says that the worst part of auto racing for drivers is the money it takes just to be there, let alone to be competitive

“We are very fortunate to be able to build a lot of the things we need to race in-house, but the costs of everything that we can't build or the things that we have to have continue to go up in price every year,” he said. “We have a couple of small sponsors that help us out with the weekly costs of new tires or fuel,
but my dad and I fund the majority of it out of our own pockets.”

He’s worked for his father since he was 12 and is a machinist and a welder at his father’s shop, Timmons Machine & Fabrication Inc. of Windham, when not racing Super modified cars.

“My dad built his first super modified when he was 19-years-old,” Timmons said. “Buying equipment and tools to do so is what eventually led to him starting his own business in 1985 that we have still going today. But it’s an entire family affair for us. My dad works on the cars with me. My mom and sister are at just about every race to support me. My sister’s husband helps us out and races go karts himself. My last remaining grandparent, my grandmother on my dad’s side, is my biggest fan and never misses a race. She owns the ISMA big block super that I race.”

His advice for others wanting to become a racer is to just enjoy the experience and have fun.

“Racing has given me a lot of great moments in my life and I've made plenty of lifelong friends from it,” Timmons said. “I just want to keep having fun.” <

Windham family aims to preserve Halloween tradition for area children

Volunteers and donations being accepted

By Lorraine Glowczak

Many lessons can be learned through times of challenge and the pandemic is no exception. Today, individuals are confronted with unusual circumstances and make every effort to adjust. Some adjustments require new and expanded points of view as well as increased adaptability and innovative approaches to the way life has become.

The world has made many modifications in the past seven months and now with the holidays approaching, another set of adjustments may be required.

Nikki Taiani of Windham and her family have decided not to be beaten by the present circumstances. They are determined to rise up against the challenge, taking the initiative to keep the Halloween tradition of handing out candy to children on Halloween night, but with a safe and unusual twist.

“We will be delivering candy and toys to the mailboxes and doorsteps of area children on the evening of Oct. 31,” Taiani said. “We delivered Easter Baskets in the same way back in April and have decided to do the same for Halloween.”

Taiani recognized how COVID was taking a toll on families in the early months of the pandemic and
decided to help relieve some of that stress on Easter Sunday.

“COVID hit everyone hard and we were still in the early stages of it, not having answers or a direction,” Taiani said. “I saw a lot of families struggling with the isolation, the quarantine (the lack of toilet paper) and figured this would be a nice way to bring some smiles to those families.”

Easter was six months ago. The virus has not stepped back and neither has the pressure faced by many. As a result, Taiani and her family have decided to act once again.

“COVID is still here, it’s still causing a lot of stress and fear,” she said. “Halloween is a big tradition for a lot of families, and some aren't ready to go out, door to door, so I want to bring a little something to them.”

This time around, however, she wants to expand her deliveries to bring happiness to more people. As a result, she shared a Facebook post on Oct. 4 on the Windham Maine Community Board, letting others know she was in the process of making “boo-bags” that will include candy and toys which would be delivered to area children and inquired to see if others wanted to help.

“We have received a lot of support from that one post,” Taiani said. “We have enough to make 150 ‘boo-bags’ – but there is always room for more.”

As of this printing, the Taiani family and volunteers will be delivering to children in Windham, Hollis and Gray but want to deliver the boo-bags to as many children as possible.

“I would love to reach other communities,” Taiani said. “Although we have volunteers to deliver to the
Hollis and Gray areas, we would love to be able to deliver to Raymond too.”

If your family wishes to receive “boo-bags” from the Taiani family or would love to donate time, candy or toys, please contact Nikki Taiani via social media such as Facebook or email her at nicoletaiani@gmail.com.

Even on a dark, cold and scary night, the Taiani family and volunteers will shine some light, warmth and reassurance to many this Halloween.<

League of Women Voters of Maine distributing election voter guide

A comprehensive voter guide
publication compiled by the League
of Women Voters of Maine is now
available and contains helpful
nonpartisan information about
candidates and election details.
COURTESY PHOTO
By Ed Pierce

Before heading to cast a ballot on Election Day or completing an Absentee Ballot, voters may want to review a handy new publication issued by the League of Women Voters.

Last week, the League of Women Voters announced they have printed and are distributing more than 120,000 copies of a new informative and nonpartisan publication to voters. About 90,000 copies of the publication will be direct mailed to state residents, with the remainder to be distributed statewide by volunteers and partners of the organization.

“There isn’t a better nonpartisan resource out there for voters to learn what they’ll see on their Nov. 3 ballot,” said Anna Kellar, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of Maine. “I hope every voter will arm themselves with this information as they head to the polls between now and Nov. 3.”

Kellar said this will be the widest distribution of an election publication that the League of Women Voters of Maine has ever attempted.

Paper copies of the voter guide are also now available at the Raymond Village Library and the Windham Public Library.

For years, the Maine League of Women Voters has created and made available to the public its popular guide to voting and this year is certainly no exception, said Ann Luther, Treasurer of the League of Women Voters of Maine.

“The League's Easy-to-Read Voter Guide is an election-year tradition,” Luther said. “People love its large-print format and its plain-English explanations.”

According to Luther, the new voter publication is filled with information about the U.S. Presidential election, Maine U.S. Senate and Maine U.S. House candidates. It also contains general information about how to vote in person or via absentee ballot, various election processes, a review about how Ranked Choice Voting works in Maine, and a sample ballot.

The League has also launched a digital version to share on its website, www.lwvme.org/guide, Luther said.

In addition to the new election guide, voters in Windham and Raymond may consider visiting vote411.org/ballot online to learn more about all of the state legislative races, along with Cumberland County candidates, the Windham Town Council candidates, RSU 14 school board candidates, and a number of referendums, including the RSU 14 withdrawal referendum in Raymond.

“Good democracy requires good information, and voters deserve a nonpartisan guide to help them make informed choices this election,” said Evan Tess Murray, the Education and Engagement Projects Manager for the League of Women Voters of Maine and lead author who helped create the voter guide.
 

Residents of Maine and individuals can request a bundle of voter guides for their school, business, faith community, nonprofit organizations and more and they are also available in bundles of 50 upon request.

Besides the voter guide, the League of Women Voters of Maine has launched a new hotline this fall to help voters find answers to their questions about voter registration, absentee ballots, and understanding Ranked Choice Voting.

“Voters have a lot of questions and uncertainty about voting this year, and we have trained volunteers, who are standing by, to ensure everyone can quickly get answers they can trust,” Kellar said.

Call or text the hotline at 207-558-3333 or send an email to vote@lwvme.org for more information about the hotline. The League of Women Voters of Maine is partnering with other non-partisan Maine organizations to answer questions on Facebook at the “Help ME Vote” page.

The League of Women Voters of Maine is a public policy organization. As a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, the League does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Membership in the League of Women Voters of Maine is open to anyone age 16 or older.

For more information, go to https://www.lwvme.org/ <n, the League does not support or oppose candidates or political parties. Membership is open to anyone 16 years of age or older.

Windham Legislative Delegation honors late union official


The Windham Legislative Delegation presented a Legislative Sentiment in Memoriam to honor Wayne Russell Poland, Southern Maine Labor Council’s beloved and long-time treasurer who died in August. 

They are shown presenting this honor to Wayne's widow, and SMLC Vice-President, Doris Poland, with family members and members of SMLC's Executive Board members in attendance. 

Such presentation ceremonies are typically held at the State House, but because of the pandemic, it was instead held in the Poland's back yard in Windham. 

From left are Senator Bill Diamond, Representative Patrick Corey, Representative Mark Bryant, and Doris Poland.

SUBMITTED PHOTO


‘Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Carving Day’ set for Saturday

Camp Sunshine, an award-winning retreat in Casco for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families, has announced plans for Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Carving Day.

The “Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Carving Day” is a free, national initiative that calls for people of all ages to carve, paint or decorate pumpkins at home on Saturday, Oct. 24 and share their images on social media using the Instagram hashtag #CarveforCamp.

Organizers hope to connect with more people than ever before, as plans for the annual Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Festival, which has been a fall tradition throughout the Northeast since 2003, had to be restructured this year because of the pandemic.

"Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Carving Day was designed to be a fun and festive way for communities across the country to come together and show their support for the families Camp Sunshine serves," said Michael Katz, Camp Sunshine's Executive Director. "This event will also help us continue to reach new families

who may be able to benefit from our programs."

Everyone who participates in Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Carving Day and submits a photo of a pumpkin that they've carved, painted or decorated using the hashtag #CarveforCamp on Instagram will be automatically entered to win a $100 L.L. Bean gift card.

It's entirely free to participate in Camp Sunshine Pumpkin Carving Day. For more information and ways to support Camp Sunshine's mission, visit www.campsunshinepumpkinfestivals.org.

Founded in 1984, Camp Sunshine provides retreats combining respite, recreation and support, while enabling hope and promoting joy, for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families through the various stages of a child's illness.

Camp Sunshine's program is offered year-round and has the distinction of having been designed to serve the entire family in a retreat model.

The program is free of charge to families and includes on-site medical support. Bereavement sessions are also offered for families who have experienced the death of a child from a supported illness. www.campsunshine.org. <


Friday, October 16, 2020

Raymond residents weigh withdrawal from RSU 14

If approved by Raymond voters in a referendum
on Nov. 3, Raymond would withdraw from RSU 14 and
form a new school district. Under the proposal, Jordan-Small
Middle School and Raymond Elementary School would separate
from RSU 14 and the new district would hire a new
superintendent and create a new school board.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Briana Bizier
For more than a decade, students at Raymond’s elementary school and middle school have been part of the RSU14 school district, sharing their school administration, buses, and educational resources with the neighboring town of Windham. This November, however, Raymond voters will decide if they wish to withdraw from RSU 14 in order to oversee their own schools.
Under the proposed withdrawal plan, known as Question One on Raymond
’s November ballot, the town of Raymond would form its own SAU, or School Administrative Unit. Raymond would lose its seats on the RSU 14 school board, and Raymond’s new SAU would form an independent school board that would then hire a superintendent on a three-fifths position to administer both Raymond Elementary
School and Jordan Small Middle School. Although a three-fifths superintendent position might sound odd, it is how Raymond schools operated before consolidating with Windham in 2008. The new Raymond school board would be responsible for everything from bus schedules to classroom technology to negotiating with the teachers’ union.
Raymond’s high school students can currently choose which school they wish to attend, and this would continue under the proposed withdrawal plan, as long as the chosen high school is able to accept the
new Raymond district’s tuition payment. Currently, 80 percent of Raymond’s high school students attend Windham High School. There is no plan to build a new high school for Raymond.
If the withdrawal plan is approved by voters, RSU 14 would transfer six buses and four vans to the new Raymond school district. RSU 14 would also continue to provide transportation for students who live in Raymond and choose to attend Windham High School.
In some ways, the seeds of this proposed withdrawal were sown back in 2008 when Windham and Raymond first merged as part of a state-wide initiative to consolidate school districts. For some Raymond students and their parents, this process did not go smoothly.
Frank McDermott, who came to Raymond in 1968 to serve as the principal of Jordan-Small, which was then then Raymond’s only school, praised Raymond’s school system.
“We were a Blue Ribbon School,” McDermott recalled, referring to a national educational award

granted to Raymond in 1988. “We had the opportunity to send teachers to national conferences and bring back great ideas. For a school system as small as it was, we really were very fortunate. That helped us do what we needed to do. It helped change the view of what Raymond schools were and could be.”
McDermott also confirmed that the 2008 transition from being an independent school system to being part of RSU14 was rocky. When the two school districts merged, McDermott recalled that Raymond lost funding for some of its programs, including a teaching position in Raymond’s computer lab.
Yet Jani Cummings, a longtime Raymond resident who taught at Raymond Elementary School for 38 years, said there were also benefits when the Raymond schools merged with Windham. “Raymond teachers used to buy our own paper,” Cummings said. “We had a very limited amount of supplies. I spent an average of $1,400 a year on my classroom, every year. The first thing that happened when we merged with Windham is that every teacher got the Reading Street series, which was $5,000 worth of books and equipment per classroom, just for reading.”
Students attend an outdoor class at Raymond Elementary
School in September. SUBMITTED PHOTO
It’s like any marriage,” Cummings continued, referring to the educational partnership between Raymond and Windham. “There’s the honeymoon stage, and then there’s the ‘you don’t make rice like my mother stage.’ But you learn to work together, and then you can’t imagine not working together.”
If the union between Raymond and Windham schools is a bit like a marriage, then it also has hit a few rough patches, especially with regards to spending. According to a “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the Town of Raymond’s RSU 14 Withdrawal webpage, Raymond was initially slated to fund 45 percent of the construction of a new     middle school in Windham.
The RSU14 school board also broached the idea of closing Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond if a new middle school was built. However, that plan was abandoned when the RSU 14 school board reached a new agreement where Raymond’s share of the school budget is based on Raymond’s population, and any new construction will be funded entirely by the town doing the construction.
Proponents of Question One worry that this agreement is not being upheld. They point to the construction of a new town garage in Windham as evidence that Raymond taxpayers are being asked to fund projects which do not support Raymond students. In addition, the FAQ document continues, RSU 14 purchased modular units for classroom and office space in Windham instead of using available rooms in Raymond schools.
However, despite the partnership ’s rocky start 12 years ago and the recent spat over funding, many Raymond parents and educators argue that Raymond’s educational union with Windham is highly beneficial for students of both towns.
Raymond students have a lot more opportunities as a result of Raymond merging with Windham,” said Susan Brackett, a fourth-grade teacher at Raymond Elementary School whose two daughters attend
Windham High School and Jordan-Small Middle School. “For example, Windham and Raymond currently share a variety of positions, such as a superintendent, literacy coach, math coach, specialist teachers such as P.E. and music, and numerous special education positions. This means our students are taught by highly qualified full-time staff.  Before the merger, we were only able to hire part time specialists, which resulted in a lot of turnover.”
Cummings, who is currently serving as a member of the RSU 14 school board but emphasizes that her opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board as a whole, agreed with Brackett’s assessment.
“Having taught at RES when Raymond was a standalone district and then when it was part of RSU 14, I know that we are currently getting the best of both worlds,” Cummings said. “Small class sizes at community schools with access to the wide-ranging resources of a large district, all at a lower cost than if we were to withdraw.”
The costs of Raymond’s withdrawal from RSU 14 are a concern for both parents and non-parents alike. The proposed school budget on the Town of Raymond’s webpage shows a slight decrease in the town’s overall budget if Raymond forms an independent school district. However, this number does not include the estimated transition expenses of the withdrawal, which are slated to cost the town $600,000 in the first year.
Additionally, some Raymond residents expressed skepticism about the proposed budget.
Parent Kaitlin LaCasse noticed that the proposed budget does not include funds to address the many challenges of COVID-19, and Cummings expressed concern that the budget does not include a fulltime facilities director or an administrative assistant for the new three-fifths superintendent position.
Similar towns that have withdrawn from larger school districts have seen an increase in their property taxes. In 2014, the towns of Old Orchard Beach and Dayton voted to separate from the Saco school district. Both Old Orchard Beach and Dayton saw tax increases the following year, according to an article in the Portland Press Herald. The town of Sebago also withdrew from its school district in 2017. Subsequently, Sebago’s 2020-2021 tax budget rose by 4 percent to support their increased school budget.
An increase in property tax rates was also an issue in the 2015 election when Raymond residents first voted not to leave RSU 14. In that election, 71 percent of those who cast ballots opposed the 2015 withdrawal proposition.
“I served on the Raymond Withdrawal Committee in 2015, and it was as clear then as it is now that Raymond students would have more educational opportunities by remaining in RSU 14,” said Raymond resident Bob Gosselin. “Additionally, as the chairman of the Raymond Budget and Finance Committee, I can’t in good conscience support an effort that will in all likelihood raise costs for the town and for our taxpayers.”
However, not everyone is opposed to an increase in Raymond’s tax rate if the funds go to support the new, independent SAU.
“We have the tax base,” said McDermott. “Raymond can afford anything it wants. I don’t want to pay any more property tax than I have to, but I’m willing to pay it for the greater good.”
That greater good, McDermott continued, would include a world-class school system. “The reason I support this withdrawal,” he explained, “is that I hope it will allow Raymond to go back to what we were. I could see us having almost an Academy-type school in which every student was taken care of to give them the best education possible. Raymond is in a position where it could be a beacon, the leading town, in the Lakes Region. And to do this, you build the best school system possible.”
Cummings, however, expressed a different set of reservations about shifting the funding of Raymond schools solely onto the Town of Raymond. Town budget meetings can be notoriously contentious. Cummings recalled one year when two gentlemen almost came to blows over the school’s proposed budget.
“We went to the Town Meeting every year, and it was always scary,” Cummings told me. “The budgets got less and less because we were worried they wouldn’t pass. It was very stressful. We didn’t know until the budget passed if we would have a job next year.”
She admits that the school budget for the combined district still needs to be approved every year, and a degree of annual uncertainty persists for the faculty and staff of RSU 14.
“But the stability of our district now is something to fall back on,” Cummings said. “We have a larger population, and the taxation can be spread farther.”
Several Raymond residents expressed a sense of irritation as they experienced the déjà vu of explaining their opposition to the same withdrawal proposal that local residents rejected in the voting booth four years ago.
"I, along with my friends and neighbors, am frustrated that we are once again needing to explain to the Raymond Withdrawal Committee that RSU14 is working well for all parties involved,” said Alissa Messer, a Raymond parent and community volunteer.
Messer spearheaded the five-year effort to install the new playground at Raymond Elementary School, a project that involved cooperation at all levels of the district and incorporated the U.S. military. Messer was also the first to approach the RSU 14 board and request that stop-arms be installed on district buses, a concern that sparked a tremendous amount of collaborative fundraising work by the Windham PTA and the Raymond PTO. Numerous businesses, families, and a terrific group of children from Windham Odyssey Angels worked hard to raise a great deal of money in order to install the stop-arms.
“I have seen firsthand how the entire Raymond/Windham community works to support each other, from coming together to build a playground that generations of students and community members will be able to enjoy, to working to install stop-arms on our buses to keep kids safe,” Messer said. “It would be a mistake to think we could meet our community's needs while going it alone. I support our teachers and our kids, and I feel we are better together.”
Teachers also expressed concern about what Raymond stands to lose if the current partnership with Windham breaks down.
Brackett worries about the potential loss of Title 1 funding for Raymond schools. Title 1 funds are now used at Raymond Elementary School to support reading and math coaches in the classroom because RSU 14 as a whole qualifies for the federal assistance program. Alone, Raymond would not qualify for Title 1 funding and would need to either increase the town’s funding to the schools or eliminate those classrooms and reading and math coach positions.
For some parents and teachers, the current COVID-19 pandemic makes this difficult decision a bit easier. This September, when many schools around the nation were either converting to distance learning or offering in-person classes on adjusted hybrid-type schedules, all of the families in RSU 14 were given the choice of attending school either in person on a hybrid schedule or joining the district’s new online distance learning program.
“The district basically set up an entirely new school for remote learning,” said Raymond parent Kaitlin LaCasse. Her son Charlie is in a remote education second-grade class composed of students from both Windham and Raymond. Kate Griffin, who leads the virtual second grade classroom, is a teacher at Windham Primary School.
In Charlie’s half-hour reading group, there are three teachers split between 22 kids,” LaCasse said. “Raymond on its own would not have the resources to offer this option. One of the biggest benefits of being part of an RSU is that ability to share resources.”
Brackett echoes that sentiment.
“Separating from Windham results in a lot of unanswered questions, because we will have to start all over again,” she said. "Due to the unpredictability of our current world, I do not think it is beneficial to add one more unknown circumstance that will directly impact the lives of our children and students.”
Parents, teachers, and community members on all sides of this debate clearly have the best interests of Raymond students in mind.
For former superintendent McDermott, withdrawing from RSU 14 is the superior option.
“I really think that we owe our children the best possible education,” McDermott said. “I can see the difference education makes in people’s lives, and I want to see Raymond go back to the way it used to be.”
I have five kids,” McDermott continued. “Betty and I were and am so proud of our kids because of who they are and what they’re able to do. A lot of it, I give credit to the Raymond school system. My kids got a tremendous education here. They went out and made a mark in the world, and they started in a small, rural school system.”
Cummings, however, believes withdrawing from RSU14 is not the answer.
“I spent 38 years of my life teaching the kids of Raymond, and I’ve spent four years on the RSU 14 school board,” Cummings said. “So I’ve spent 42 years of my life caring for the kids of Raymond. If I thought this was a better idea for the kids of Raymond, I would be on my knees crawling to get this option. But this is not a good idea for the kids, and it’s not a good idea for the teachers.”
For Kaela Gonzalez, a Raymond resident and the mother of three young children, the choice is anything but clear. 
“I have followed the informational meetings closely and those who oppose the withdrawal have brought up valid points,” Gonzalez said, voicing concerns shared by many parents with children in the Raymond school system. “On the other hand, the proposed additions with withdrawal such as free lunch for pre-K through 4th grade sound like a good step forward. There are so many factors to consider and with so much at stake for my family, it is a hard decision to make.”
It’s a hard decision that all Raymond residents now face as Question One on their ballots next month. If the union between Raymond and Windham schools truly is like a marriage, it’s no wonder the question of withdrawing from RSU 14 quickly becomes emotional for proponents of either side.
 And, as with a marital breakup, the residents of Raymond must ask themselves: What’s best for the children? <

Windham responds to community regarding Lowell Preserve and clarifies misunderstandings

The Windham trail bridges that are
built either by town staff or in
conjunction with volunteer groups
are built to be safe for all trail users
(bikers, hikers, ATV users and horseback
riders) and are denoted on trail maps. 
The bridge shown was replaced
in 2019. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
By Lorraine Glowczak

The Town of Windham Parks and Recreation Department hopes to correct the misperceptions that were the result of a Facebook post written on Wednesday, Oct. 7. In that post, the department was looking for information about who built a bridge over a small stream at Lowell Preserve.

If you were involved with constructing this bridge and/or attempting to create trails in Lowell Preserve, or if you have any information about those who were, please contact Windham Parks and Recreation,” is a portion of the post written.

The response from the community were many and often comprised of misapprehensions. They included a variety of concerns with more popular comments stating the department did not express gratitude for the person who built the bridge, or the supplies donated. But Linda Brooks, Director of Windham Parks and Recreation said they are always appreciative of any help they receive.

“We are most grateful for any assistance individuals or groups are willing to provide and will often provide supplies or materials for any larger projects that need to be accomplished,” Brooks said. “In the past few years, we have worked with several entities to assist us in maintaining or improving our trail network, including local scout groups, civic organizations, church groups, trail groups and trail enthusiasts. We are grateful to be working with Boy Scout Troop 51 on a Community Service project scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 17.”

During this Community Service Project, the boy scouts will erect colored trail markers and signs on the trails since using paint to mark the trails fades over time. This brings up another topic of conversation determining which are the official Preserve trails and which are not.

“The Lowell Preserve has four major trails and have been color coded in either blue, red, green and yellow on early trail maps created in 2003,” Brooks said. “By 2010, the trail map had been updated with those four trails being named.”

These paths are named: the Libby Hill Loop, the Roscoe Loop, the Virginia Trail, the Deer Run/Moose Track Trail, with connector trails (designated as orange on the trail map). The bridge and trail in question is not a connector nor a part of the designated trail system and thus not on the map provided to hikers. This particular connecting trail was not created by the town.

“We have received several suggestions by trail users asking for more trail markings, and have also
received complaints by trail users who have gotten confused by trails or intersections that don’t seem to be designated on the trail map,” said Brooks. “These are the trails that we are trying to address, because when they have been created by others and have been blazed orange, our trail maintenance person has then needed to take efforts to close off those trails so as to minimize confusion. In the past few years, the department has been taking steps to improve the signage along the trails and establish distances between various sections of each trail so that trail users can make decisions as to which trail they wish to experience.”

Brooks also said the bridges that are built either by town staff or in conjunction with volunteer groups are built to be safe for all trail users (bikers, hikers, ATV users, and horseback riders) and are denoted on the trail maps. 

As for another concern mentioned by the community was that of staff members who are working the trails, there is only one position that maintains all the recreational property responsible by the town.

“I give much credit to our Parks Maintenance Foreman who not only manages the 308 acres at Lowell Preserve, but also manages an additional 191 acres at eight other parks and trails throughout the town for year-round use,” Brooks said. “Prior to 2020, we had a seasonal, part-time Park Ranger responsible for patrolling all of the parks and trails, inspecting trails and park areas for safety issues, damages or vandalism, and interacting with parks and trail users.”

The newly originated Windham Open Space Plan has opened discussion about creating a Windham Trails Committee to work on and be in the forefront of keeping all the trails and other open spaces in safe, full working order.

“This committee would be comprised of representatives from all of the stakeholder groups who have a vested interest in providing land stewardship guidance for existing open space lands and identifying opportunities to expand connectivity between open space assets, neighborhoods and trails,” said Brooks.

The Lowell Preserve offers a lot of wildlife to enjoy and contains a story walk for the young hikers in the family. Hunting is allowed on the Preserve, so it is highly recommended that all trail users wear orange. The start of the trailhead is found behind the East Windham Fire Station on Falmouth Road. <

 

Windham resident reaches 100-year birthday milestone

Dorothy Fiske celebrated her 100th
birthday on Oct. 3 surrounded by
friends and family at Ledgewood
Manor in Windham. She was born
Oct. 3, 1920 in Westbrook and
moved to Windham with her
family at the age of 2 in 1922 and 
has lived here ever since.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Ed Pierce

Longtime Windham resident Dorothy M. Fiske attributes her faith in God as the key to reaching a milestone very few attain as she celebrated her 100th birthday earlier this month.

Born Oct. 3, 1920 in Westbrook, Dorothy’s family gathered at Ledgewood Manor in Windham on her birthday to reminisce and honor a remarkable woman who has lived through some of the most memorable events in American history. She was just 9-years-old when the stock market crashed in 1929, was 21 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor leading to America entering World War II, and was 48 when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the surface of the moon.  

For about 98 of her 100 years of life, Dorothy has called Windham home, moving here from Westbrook at the age of 2 as the only child of Harold A, and Velma M. Hooper. She revels in being called a “centurion” for living for more than a century but says the title that she prefers the most is “mom” or “grandma.”

After graduating from Windham High School in 1937, Dorothy attended the Maine School of Commerce in Portland and then performed secretarial duties for Beneficial Finance Company, the Rumford Falls Power Company and NT Fox Lumber Company.

While working for Beneficial Finance, she met fellow employee John H. Fiske, Sr. and that changed the direction of her life. In 1943, they married and were blessed with two children, Susan F. Attwood and John H. (Peter) Fiske, Jr. while setting up their home in Windham.

Over the years the couple’s daughter, Susan, and son Peter, both graduated from Windham High School and began raising families of their own. John, Sr. died in 2007 at the age of 87 but he and Dorothy’s family grew to eventually include five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Through the years, Dorothy has remained active and involved with Merchant’s Reporting Service of Maine, Inc., the family’s business. In fact, she still sits on that company’s board of directors.

Her son Peter said his mother is devoted to her family.

“My most vivid memory of mom is she was always there for me,” he said. “Mom is happiest hearing stories about the kids and grandkids Most friends and family are amazed to know a centurion.”

Peter Fiske said that his mother enjoyed spending time at a family cottage in Bristol, Maine and winters in Florida when she got older.

“She liked to interior decorate, work her flower beds, read, make the holidays festive and cooked a very yummy chocolate cake,” he said.

Dorothy said many of her cherished memories of growing up revolve around time spent with her


family.

“I remember the simpler life, the patriotism, the courage of the men who fought in the wars,” she said. “People seemed to take time to interact more and help each other out more.”

She said to her the most significant event in her 100 years of life was her marriage and the birth of her two children.

As far as the best invention introduced during her lifetime, Dorothy mentioned the many space launches she and her husband watched in Florida which she thinks were wonderful.

She also remembers riding in the first car her family purchased, pointing out though that the automobile was an invention that came about prior to her birth.

Fiercely independent, Dorothy lived in the family home on Route 302 in Windham near the Westbook town line right up until February when her health prompted her to move to Ledgewood Manor in Windham for their excellent care.

The Ledgewood staff also celebrated her milestone birthday with Dorothy throwing her a special luncheon and birthday party for which she said she was very grateful.

A longtime Congregationalist, she says the secret of her longevity is really God’s doing.

“I believe my faith in God got me to my 100th birthday,” Dorothy said. <

U.S. Postal Service announces price increases

WASHINGTON, DC — The United States Postal Service has filed notice with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) of price changes to take effect Jan. 24, 2021.

The proposed prices, approved by the Postal Service Board of Governors, would raise Mailing Services product prices about 1.8 percent for First-Class Mail and 1.5 percent for other categories. Although Mailing Services price increases are based on the consumer price index, competitive International Shipping Services prices are primarily adjusted according to market conditions. The governors believe these new rates will keep the Postal Service competitive while providing the agency with needed revenue.

The price of a First-Class Mail Forever stamp
 will remain at 55 cents, despite the U.S. Postal
Service filing notice of their intent to
raise prices for certain mailing services to
take effect Jan. 24, 2021. COURTESY PHOTO
If favorably reviewed by the PRC, the new prices will include no increase in the price of a First-Class Mail Forever stamp, which would remain at 55 cents. The single-piece letter additional ounce price would increase to 20 cents, the metered mail 1-ounce price would increase to 51 cents and the prices of postcard stamps would increase to 36 cents. Single-piece 1-ounce flat prices will remain unchanged at $1.

The Postal Service has some of the lowest letter-mail postage rates in the industrialized world and continues to offer a great value in shipping. Unlike some other shippers, the Postal Service does not add surcharges for fuel, residential delivery or regular Saturday delivery.

The PRC will review the prices before they are scheduled to take effect. The complete Postal Service price filings with prices for all products can be found on the PRC site under the Daily Listings section at prc.gov/dockets/daily. For the Mailing Services filing, see Docket No. R2021-1. For the International Shipping Services filing, see Docket No. CP2021-15. The price change tables are also available on the Postal Service’s Postal Explorer website at pe.usps.com/PriceChange/Index.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

For U.S. Postal Service media resources, including broadcast-quality video and audio and photo stills, visit the USPS Newsroom. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Subscribe to the USPS YouTube channel, like us on Facebook and enjoy our Postal Posts blog. For more information about the Postal Service, visit usps.com and facts.usps.com. <

Friday, October 9, 2020

School Age Child Care Program a valuable ally for families during pandemic

The Windham/Raymond School Age Child Care
staff gathers before the start of another day of
work. SACC is a high-quality, engaging safe
place for children, offering before- and after-school
programs as well as full-day programs during
remote learning days at Windham Primary School,
Manchester School and Raymond Elementary School.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Ed Pierce

For students and parents in a school year rather unlike anything ever seen before, a trusted partner that they have come to rely on is the nonprofit Windham/Raymond School Age Child Care Program.

In operation since 2002, SACC operates before- and after-school locations at Windham Primary School, Manchester School, and both a Kindergarten to Grade 4 program and a Café Teen for fifth- through eighth-grade students at Raymond Elementary School. SACC strives to provide a high quality, engaging and safe place for children to attend before- and after-school programs as well as its full day programs during remote learning days this year.

The educators at SACC love what they do and are engaged with providing activities that promote well-being and confidence. We are being rigorous in promoting health and safety and have been taking extra measures to sanitize and disinfect the spaces we use for our programs.

“It gives us great joy to have our previously enrolled and newly enrolled children attend our program,” said Amanda Pinkston, SACC program director. “Having them back after all these months and hearing their conversations and laughter makes us excited to come to work.”

Pinkston said that the educators at SACC love what they do and are engaged with providing activities that promote well-being and confidence.

"We are being rigorous in promoting health and safety and have been taking extra measures to sanitize
and disinfect the spaces we use for our programs,” she said. “Currently our most significant challenge is navigating and updating our policies due to COVID-19. Thankfully, we have exceptional employees who are amazing at adapting to our policies in order to provide a safe and healthy place for our children in our program to attend. Besides following Maine CDC guidelines, we also consult with our childcare licensing specialist as well as our health care consultant to make sure we are always updated on the latest policies.”

SACC can employ up to 20 employees depending upon enrollment, which ran between 120 to 140 last year, but is expected to rise this school year because of remote learning days for RSU 14 students because of the pandemic. The program is open for all full days, vacation weeks, workshop days, and storm days, weather permitting.

It offers homework time where nutritious snacks are provided, outside time, enrichment time, as well as
free choice. Operating locations on school campuses means that students have an opportunity to participate in after-school activities and sports. SACC’s goal is to never have to have a child go home alone and being located in the schools also helps many of the children in their daily transitions from place to place.

SACC President Donna Cobb has been associated with SACC since its inception in 1990 along with SACC Board Member Jeanette Lamb and says that childcare has always been a part of their lives.

“I ran my own home family childcare for over 50 years and Jeanette did also,” Cobb said. “We both feel childcare is so very much needed at the school age level. Being the president of the board, this very successful program gives me a great feeling of accomplishment.”

Being a nonprofit, fundraising activities help defray some of the program’s expenses, but the pandemic forced a lot of the nonprofit’s fundraisers to be scrubbed earlier this year.

“When the pandemic hit in March, we were in the registration process of enrolling for our annual childcare conference we hold at the high school every year, so that was cancelled. We also cancelled our annual shredding event we hold every May,” Cobb said. “Because we were not able to be open in the schools, we laid everyone off except the program director. In August we rehired everyone back and
proceeded with reopening for school. There have been no fundraisers yet. Our next fundraisers tentatively planned are the childcare conference in March and shredding on May 1.” 

SACC Business Manager Julia Trepanier said childcare is about as essential a service as it gets, and SACC is an invaluable resource for this community.

“I think SACC, as well as all of the childcare providers in Windham and Raymond, are important to the community,” Trepanier said. “SACC is very appreciative of RSU 14 for allowing is to operate in their facilities since 2002. I think many families appreciate that their children can walk from their classrooms after school right to their childcare program. Students not having to take a bus to their childcare facility is something parents have explained is a major bonus for them.”

She said that the most gratifying aspect of her work has been seeing all of the students, the students’ families and SACC team members enjoying the program.

“We are a nationally accredited program and that takes a great deal of work and maintenance,” Trepanier said. “We are so lucky to have such a dedicated, hard-working team to ensure we can offer a quality program.”

SACC Board Member Pam Whynot served as a kindergarten teacher in Windham for 40 years. After
her retirement, she worked for Learning Works in an after-school program at Reiche School.

“Donna Cobb, who I had known for a long time, contacted me to see if I would be willing to fill a board position that had become available. She thought my experience with Learning Works would be beneficial for the board,” Whynot said. “The most rewarding part was seeing what it takes to be an accredited childcare both state and national. It was impressive for me to see the benefit of those accreditations for the children and their parents.”   

Whynot said that a big challenge for SACC is providing full-day childcare currently as it has always been just before- and after-school care.

“Helping children with distance learning is challenging, as we serve many ages and grades. Finding space in the school is always a challenge as schools need many spaces for their needs also,” Whynot said. “Advertising is a must but at this time with limited income coming in, funds are tight. We need parents to know we are available for them.” 

Cobb said she’s sure that SACC has the right policies, staff and leadership to steer the nonprofit through the pandemic and they are grateful that the community and parents consider them to be a valuable ally at such a difficult and challenging time.

We try very hard to be accommodating in all circumstances,” she said. “That includes being open if possible, having hours that are accommodating and costs that are affordable. Pass the word that we are open and there are openings at the program.” <