Friday, December 8, 2023

Windham High students practice real-world science through salmon spawning

By Lorraine Glowczak

The fishery on Mill Street in Raymond was swimming with hands-on science in late November as ecology and recently arrived immigrant students from Windham High School helped Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) scientists weigh, measure, and spawn Sebago Lake land-locked salmon from Panther Run.

Students from WHS experienced science at
work while helping Maine IFW spawn
salmon late last month. Here student Riley
Mobley presses eggs from a salmon while an
IFW field biologist looks on. 
The students assisted IFW field biologists extract eggs from female salmon that were immediately fertilized by the male salmon. They helped to weigh, measure, and return the fish into the Sebago Lake watershed.

The aim of salmon spawning along the shores of Sebago Lake is to support Maine ecology and replenish healthy salmon numbers for fishing purposes. The late chilly November morning provided the students with an essential hands-on adventure, giving them a chance to see ecological purposes and science at work.

“When students graduate from WHS, we hope they are leaving with skills and practices of science that they can carry into any field they enter,” WHS science and ecology teacher Lindsay Hanson said. “The experience highlighted the importance of asking good scientific questions, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations in science.”

According to Hanson, the participating students observed these skills being used in a real way.

“We were able to listen to the IFW biologists discussing new trends they were seeing in this salmon population and posing new questions they would later investigate using the data they were gathering,” she said. “Scientific curiosity at work.”

It was also a special treat for the new Maine students from Angola, The Democratic Republic of Congo, and France, who all had a chance to connect their learning about Maine outside of the classroom setting.

“It provided the opportunity to see how academic language and the content and skills they learn in school are used professionally,” Elizabeth Moran, RSU 14’s Teacher of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) said.

Moran also said that her students were excited to hold the fish, strip the salmon for fertilization, and help collect data.

“They enjoyed being a part of the actual process of helping to produce the next generation of salmon in Maine,” she said. “This kind of work is authentic and contagious, and it inspires students to learn in a creative and fun way.”

The spawning of salmon from Sebago Lake has been happening for many years and occurs every fall in conjunction with the fish’s natural cycle to swim upstream. In this case, into Panther Pond from Sebago Lake.

“During the second week of November, we open up the dam on Panther Pond to draw the fish up the river from Sebago Lake,” Stephen Twemblay, IFW Fish Culturalist supervisor said. “Since they can’t get through the dam, the salmon swim up a fish ladder into the fish hatchery. We then separate the male and female fish. Both are differentiated by fin clip class or fins clipped in different areas depending upon the year, denoting the age of salmon. We do this so we always know how old that fish is to provide the best genetic variable.”

After the eggs are spawned and counted, they are transported to the fish hatchery in Casco where they are incubated through the winter. In the spring, most of the salmon are returned to Sebago Lake to keep up with the demand for fishing. The rest of the eggs are sent to other hatcheries around the state and to other state agencies in the U.S. and Canada as needed.

This real-world experience was intended to show students the various ways that science plays a role in our lives.

“I always tell my students that loving science doesn't mean you need to be a scientist,” Hanson said. “There are environmental lawyers, policymakers, and computer engineers working in science-based companies, etc. Pairing an interest in science with a focus on another sector can be an avenue to explore. It is difficult for students to see how science incorporates into real-life situations or see what careers related to science might look like. Most scientists don't wear lab coats and it was great to see that scientists also wear Muck boots and go fish.” <

American Legion Color Guard visits Raymond Elementary students

By Ed Pierce

Patriotism is a feeling of pride in what this nation stands for, what it has accomplished through the years, and what it is still hoping to do, both as a beacon of liberty for all American citizens and a shining example for the rest of the world.

American Legion Field-Allen Post
148 Americanism Officer John 
Facella presents a Certificate of
Appreciation to Raymond
Elementary School teacher Susan
Brackett as part of the school's
Veteran's Remembrance 
Celebration on Nov. 29.
Every day, members of the military show their loyalty to the United States by sacrificing for its ideals at home and on duty around the world.

Those ideals include what our nation’s founding fathers wrote and signed to in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

To that end, Windham’s Field-Allen Post 148 strives to teach and lead children through its Americanism Program what it means to be an American and to serve our nation with distinction. Such was the case on Nov. 29, when a contingent of veterans from the post under the direction of Post 148 Americanism Officer John Facella of Raymond visited Raymond Elementary School.

In a special remembrance celebration at the school, the veterans posted the colors in the school gymnasium. Students sang patriotic songs and performed skits related to military service.

During the ceremony, Facella presented American Legion Certificates of Appreciation to several school staff members who helped coordinate the event.

Those receiving certificates included Beth Peavey, Raymond Elementary School Principal, and RES Fourth Grade teachers Susan Brackett and Tracy Doyle. Also recognized for her years of support for veterans in her classroom was RES Second Grade Teacher Aileen Pelletier, who is a member of the Post 148 Auxiliary and whose son serves in the U.S. Air Force.

Following the ceremony in the gymnasium, the Post 148 Honor Guard members spent time with the second and fourth grade students for a Question-and- Answer session in the classroom and they discussed what it is like to be a U.S. military veteran.

Members of the American Legion Post 148 Color Guard who were part of the event were Officer in Charge Arn Heggers, Dick Graves, John Facella, and Craig Pride.

The purpose of the event was to show students that to be patriotic, they must learn as much as they can about our nation and to read and speak to others, especially veterans, about what American means to them.

Above all else, the Americanism Program encourages students to think about their own feelings for their country and to respect the history and ideals that make our nation strong. <

Friday, December 1, 2023

East Windham Conservation Area officially opens Saturday

By Ed Pierce

A dream more than three decades in the making is about to be realized when the East Windham Conservation Area officially opens to the public at noon on Saturday.

Ceremonies for the long anticipated opening of the East 
Windham Conservation Area will be at noon Saturday,
Dec. 2 at the Lowell Preserve Trailhead in Windham. The
site includes 661 acres of forested land and undeveloped
water frontage on Little Duck Pond as shown in this photo.
It also features the 150-acre Deer Wintering Area and the
580-foot Atherton Hill, the tallest hill in Windham.
Land at the site is 99 percent forested and includes 661 acres with 1,545 feet of undeveloped water frontage on Little Duck Pond, some 38 acres of wetlands and numerous headwater streams. Through its conservation the area will directly help protect the water quality for Little Duck Pond, Highland Lake, Forest Lake, and the Pleasant River.

Creating the conserved area has been accomplished as a partnership between the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and the Town of Windham and a special dedication ceremony will be held at noon Saturday at the Lowell Preserve Trailhead in Windham featuring several guest speakers.

About 10 miles of new multi-use trails have been built at the site by the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and the land also includes a 150-acre Deer Wintering Area, a traditional site for hunting by permission, and the 580-foot Atherton Hill, the tallest spot in Windham.

With its completion, the East Windham Conservation Area will directly abut more than 1,000 acres of other conserved land in Windham and Falmouth, including Lowell Preserve, North Falmouth Community Forest, and Blackstrap Hill Preserve, providing 20 miles of interconnected trails and five trailheads for public access. It will become part of the largest wildlife habitat and trail access corridor in the Greater Portland area, providing 2,000 acres of conserved land and a 30-mile trail network connecting Lowell Preserve, North Falmouth Community Forest, and Blackstrap Hill Preserve.

Funding to create the area was about $3.7 million and included a $1 million grant from the Land for Maine’s Future initiative. In 2021, voters from Windham approved a $1.8 million conservation bond using open space impact fees and another $400,000 raised privately from public donations. A Land and Water Conservation Fund federal grant for $500,000 was obtained to pay for the infrastructure improvements at the site.

A town-wide survey in Windham conducted over a six-month period in 2021 and 2022 concluded that conserving the land to remain undeveloped for wildlife habitat, water quality protection and rural character was the top benefit to be derived from the project. The second-highest ranked community benefit was to provide multiple-use outdoor recreation and create access for the whole community.

Rachelle Curran Apse, executive director of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust says that the outdoor experience offered by the East Windham Conservation Area will make it a destination for walking, hiking, mountain biking, trail running, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and bird and wildlife watching.

“This regional scale project, which is both a destination for outdoor recreation and critical for wildlife habitat, has only been possible due to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Land for Maine’s Future Program, the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Town of Windham’s conservation bond, lead business partner Gorham Savings Bank, numerous private foundations, and over 400 local individuals and families donating to make this project a reality.”

Land for Maine’s Future officials say it was exciting to be part of such as expansive and significant conservation project which will provide recreational opportunities for future generations of Mainers.

“We have been excited about this project since the Town of Windham and Presumpscot Regional Land Trust first brought it to our attention in its exploratory phase,” said Steve Walker, Director of the Land for Maine’s Future. “This project embodies the best of public and private partnerships working together to protect the places that support our wildlife, our quality of life, and our economy.”

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said the town is grateful to the Lands for Maine’s Future organization for helping to fund this project.

“The timing of this land being available to be conserved for the future with recreational usage combined with the state’s renewed commitment to funding with the Land for Maine’s Future program has been ideal,” Tibbetts said. “The LMF Board’s award to grant the town nearly $1 million for the acquisition of this property is an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up.”

Windham’s Open Space Plan identifies developing and maintaining open space partnerships and relationships as key mechanisms to grow conservation efforts in the town. When the Windham Town Council formally adopted the Open Space Plan, Windham reached out to the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust in 2021 to be an open space partner by holding a conservation easement and sharing responsibility for the trail management on the adjacent 308-acre Lowell Preserve.

During a Windham Town Council meeting in 2022, Linda Brooks, Windham Parks and Recreation Director, said that the creation of the East Windham Conservation Area would expand the town’s growing tourist economy by creating a new outdoor destination with miles of accessible forested trails and a spectacular 360-degree view from which will be the only observation tower from on top of one of the highest points in the Greater Portland area.

"Four season recreational opportunities will help local business realize benefits from tourists throughout the year,” said Brooks. “Acquisition of this property will protect resources for hiking, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, skiing, mountain biking, picnicking and other recreational activities. In addition to all the recreational benefits for all ages, there are educational benefits to be considered as well. We do have members from RSU 14 who will serve on the steering committee to help us with educational development. The East Windham Conservation Project offers a unique opportunity for K to 12 educational activities in a large and diverse outdoor classroom setting.”

The project will dramatically expand and diversify recreational opportunities in Windham with the purchase and conservation of 661 acres of land. Currently less than 4 percent of Windham is conserved with recreational access.

In addition to holding the conservation easement, the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust will have a shared management agreement for the project land with Windham.

The East Windham Conservation Area’s Phase Two opening will take place in the fall of 2024 once the remaining five miles of trails are built, including a universal access trail, which can be navigated by those with limited mobility and will lead to the scenic overlook and pond views. A third phase of the project is planned for future years and will include an observation tower.

Since the 1990s, Windham residents have identified the East Windham Conservation Area as an important area site to conserve during increasing concerns about local development. It features large undeveloped habitat blocks and superior water quality protection.

Tibbetts said conserving the land ensures that it remains undeveloped as future wildlife habitats and to preserve the town’s rural character while providing a multiple-use outdoor recreation site. <

Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital benefits from WMS Altitude Program book donation

By Matt Pascarella

Windham Middle School’s Altitude Program strives to have students become significant community members with a goal to create hands-on learning opportunities, which aim toward students reaching their highest potential. Last year, the program donated books to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center in Portland and this year the group, composed of seventh and eighth graders, decided to do it again.

Windham Middle School eighth graders make a book donation
to Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center
in Portland on Tuesday, Nov. 21. Back row, from left, are
Marcus Farinella, Jo Ricker, Mallory Clement, Jovie 
Jauregui, Sophia McGovern, Mr. Sean Mains, Gloria
Veilluex and Melonie Blackey-Marsh. Front, from left, are
Mrs. Lisa Anderson, Matt Denslow, Sam Day, Mrs. Autumn
Carlsen-Cook, and Miss Bry Warren.
Seventh and eighth graders from the program dropped off a large box filled to the top with books on Tuesday, Nov. 21.

“It really is so important to have gotten all of these incredible books,” said Dana Fadel, Hospital Teacher and School Liaison for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital. “They will go into the hands of every patient that we have; and all the patients that we see always ask for books, so this is really critical. It’s much appreciated and will go a long way.”

The patients at Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital get to keep the books which are used sometimes in an educational setting or to just pass the time. Fadel asks every student she sees if they’re interested in reading and what they’re interested in - many times, it’s books about subjects she received in the box from Windham Middle School, like Bluey, Taylor Swift, Hardy Boys, or graphic novels.

WMS eighth grader Otis Jordan said donating these books made him feel like he was making a difference.

“I’m helping out kids,” said Windham eighth grader Marcus Farinella. “It feels great.”

The Altitude Program heard that Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital needed books, so they put up posters around Windham Middle School and had boxes where students and staff could donate books. They also made announcements stating there were boxes around the school where books could be donated. Some of the books were donated from members of the Altitude Program, but some also came from a book fair at Windham Middle School where individuals could buy a book and donate a book.

“I wanted to help because I want the kids to be happy and if it means bringing in a few books then I will do it,” said Windham seventh grader Khloe Hardy who helped with the book drive by putting up posters and boxes around the school. “I felt really happy when I helped the kids and that I made a difference.”

According to Farinella, the goal of the Altitude program is to try to bring out the best in every kid in the program and do fun activities, raising their spirits while raising their outlook on life.

“It felt great because you got to give people stuff who might not get stuff all the time,” said Windham eighth grader Julez Jeasey.

WMS eighth grader Jo Ricker agreed.

“When you give, you feel a lot better,” Ricker said. “I like taking time out of my day to help people.”

The goal of the Altitude Program is to try to bring out the best in every kid in the program by performing community building activities, like going shopping or going to the Windham Food Pantry, ice skating or to the Windham skate park. The program teaches life skills and helps them accomplish as much as possible.

“This year we partnered with Ripple Effect ... a kind of outdoor adventure leadership program,” said Altitude Program science teacher Autumn Carlsen-Cook, who is in her second year of the Altitude Program. “We took the seventh and eighth graders to Cow Island last year and they did different outdoor leadership activities where they would challenge themselves to a level of their comfort, so climbing wall, zip line, different games to show working together.”

In partnering with Ripple Effect, the Altitude Program will do monthly excursions during this school year. They take grades outside of the classroom for a full day of community building activities, but also learn applications from these activities.

Every student involved with the Altitude Program say they should continue donating to the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital because it feels nice getting a gift from someone your age who knows what you might like to read.

“We came here to help these kids ... they should benefit from our kindness,” said Ricker. “It makes me feel wonderful. If we give them a book, it keeps their mind occupied, it keeps them happy. It would cheer me up if I was in the hospital and I read a book I really enjoyed.” <

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Local boxer overcomes crippling injury to win New England Super Welterweight title

By Ed Pierce

All Casey Streeter can do is smile when he thinks about how far he has come in a few short years. He was rising through the ranks as a professional boxer in 2017 and was looking forward to starting a new job as a correctional officer at the Maine Corrections Center in Windham, but on his final day of work as an arborist, he almost lost his life and his right leg in an accident.

Boxer Casey Streeter, left, beat Joe Farina of Massachusetts
to win the New England Super Welterweight title during
a championship fight at the Portland Expo on Nov. 11.
He had to overcome a crippling injury to his right leg
in 2017 from a logging accident to come back and 
continue his professional boxing career.
Originally from Portland, Streeter has been boxing since the age of 9 and turned professional in 2014. He had started in boxing to overcome a challenging and traumatic childhood and was well on his way to achieving his dreams with a record of 9-1 as a professional.

“I became part of Bobby Russo’s Portland Boxing Club in order to have an outlet,” Streeter said. “It literally saved my life.”

But it all came to a screeching halt in August 2017 when a log truck’s grapple suddenly clamped down on his leg.

When the accident happened, Streeter was working dragging logs with a log chain from a ditch in North Yarmouth. He had wrapped one end of the chain around a tree trunk and was walking the other end of the chain up to the log truck’s grapple from a ditch when his co-worker lost sight of him, and the grapple suddenly closed and clamped onto his leg.

His femur and knee were shattered, he sustained a compound fracture, and a chunk of his leg was also torn away by the grapple. Blood erupted from his wound and the grapple’s claw had just missed his femoral artery by a quarter inch. He stumbled down into the ditch and didn’t know if he was going to live. He thought of his wife Abby and his children and wondered if this was the end of his life.

Streeter’s co-worker found him in the ditch, tried calling for help on his cell phone but there was no cell service available. He then ran to a nearby home and used their telephone to summon help.

Rushed to Maine Medical Center, his leg was so mangled that doctors were unsure if they could save it. But his orthopedic trauma surgeon was a military veteran who had worked with soldiers on the battlefield in Iraq. He assured Streeter that he would not lose his leg and reconstructed it carefully using more than 20 metal pins and rods. A severe wound infection and post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the accident also had to be overcome by Streeter.

He then began walking again with the aid of crutches and following months of difficult physical therapy, he felt that he had turned a corner and might be able to box again.

Slowly recovering, Streeter returned to his gym in 2019 at the Portland Boxing Club and started working out for his longtime trainer Russo who had known him for decades. He then vowed if he had made it this far in his recovery, he was bound and determined to win a championship and he adopted a new “Comeback Kid” nickname.

“During a training camp, I work six days a week, up to two to three hours of a workout routine,” Streeter said. “I spar, do mitt work, work on strength and conditioning, and can run multiple miles in a week. This is after I’ve already worked a nine-hour shift.”

On Saturday, Nov. 11 at the Portland Expo in Portland, Streeter, 32, fought Joe Farina of Massachusetts for the New England Super Welterweight title at 154 pounds.

Farina entered the bout with a record of 11-1 and the fight went a full eight rounds. It was a tough fight, but Streeter’s strong combinations came out on top, and judges awarded him a majority decision and the championship belt. His record now stands at 11-2-1 and his professional career is back on track.

“What I like the most about boxing is it’s something that helps keep my mental health in check,” he said. “I like the handwork and dedication and my gym family is what I value most.”

Streeter said that he hopes to fight again early in the New Year but in the meantime, he’s enjoying spending time with his family and reflecting on his title. <

Windham dancers to perform in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City

By Ed Pierce

As millions will be watching on television across America, five girls from Windham will be performing Thursday as part of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Five Windham dancers will be performing in the Macy's
Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City on Thursday
as part of a group of 19 dancers from the Drouin Dance
Center in Westbrook. From left are Ellen Woodside,
Autumn Wood, Claire Chartier, Juliana Gagne, and 
The Windham girls will be part of a group of 19 dancers from the Drouin Dance Center in Westbrook who will be joining 680 other dancers from across the country performing a dance routine produced by Spirit of America Productions for the parade.

Ellen Woodside, Autumn Wood, Claire Chartier, Juliana Gagne, and Lily Lundberg are all juniors at Windham High School and say they are excited to travel to New York City to perform with the Drouin Dance Center group.

“We have been rehearsing for the event for the past few weeks, after learning in February that our dancers would be performing in the parade,” said Danielle J. Drouin, the owner and director of Drouin Dance Center. “We are very excited to be part of this monumental event, and our dancers have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and experience.”

She said that performers from Drouin Dance Center were first invited to participate in the 2011 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and have performed in the 2011, 2014, 2017, and 2021 parades prior to this year.

Woodside said that the routine she’s had to learn for this year’s parade performance in New York City has been formidable.

“We have to know every single detail and pinpoint off of it in three different parts,” she said. “It has been so exhausting but so much fun at the same time.”

She is the daughter of Chanda Turner and Ryan Woodside of Windham.

“The thing I like most about dancing is getting to express myself through the movement and the fun of a high energy performance,” Woodside said. “I am most looking forward to seeing Broadway shows with all of my friends as well as getting to meet the 700 dancers we will be working with in the routine.”

Chartier is the daughter of Amanda and Geoff Chartier of Windham.

“I'm most looking forward to seeing the Rockettes at the famous Radio City Music Hall,” she said. “I'm also looking forward to seeing SIX the musical.”

She said the most difficult routine that she’s had to learn so far is the dance she’ll be performing in New York City this week for the parade.

“I had to learn it through a video, and it includes different parts with different choreography,” Chartier said. “What I love about dancing is not only the community surrounding it, but it's also rewarding. I feel accomplished and refreshed after a long day of classes. Ballet is my favorite because the gracefulness and strength it requires is very therapeutic to me.”

Gagne said she’s looking forward to just being in New York City overall, being in all of the busy streets and seeing all of the tall buildings, but also being able to meet 700 other dancers and making friends with people from all over the world.

She is the daughter of Krystal Williams and Thomas Gagne of Windham.

“The thing I like most about dancing is all of the opportunities that come with it like being able to perform in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and having this opportunity to meet choreographers from around the United States and seeing the Rockettes,” Gagne said.

Since she first started dancing, Gagne says the most difficult dance routine she’s had to learn has been the dance used for this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

“It has been fun to learn the dance, but it is very stressful because we have to learn it in such a short time,” she said. “We have to have every movement sharp, and we have to learn all of the formations perfectly for when we get to New York so the choreographers can make sure they can make changes if they have to and make sure everyone knows what they are doing.”

Wood is the daughter of Raymond and Irrae Wood of Windham.

She said she loves how dancing has given her such a creative outlet.

“I cannot think back to which routine was the most difficult because with enough practice, one can have the routine as close to perfect as possible,” she said. “I have never been to New York, so I am excited to see everything that I can. The things I am most excited about are the Broadway shows and seeing the balloons in the parade in person.”

Lundberg is the daughter of Gretchen Lundberg of Windham.

She said that she’s most looking forward to seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall during her trip to perform in the parade.

“When I am dancing, I feel like I can express myself in different ways than I could verbally,” Lundberg said. “I also enjoy the friends that I have made from dancing.”

According to Lundberg, one challenging dance routine she’s learned stands out above all the rest.

“The most difficult piece that I have ever had to learn was the 19-minute-long piece choreographed by Barbie Diewald that I learned at the Bates Dance Festival for the Young Dancers Workshop in 2022.”

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the second-oldest Thanksgiving parade in the United States and along with towering balloons and colorful floats, it also features live music and other performances and is broadcast live on NBC Television. <

Friday, November 17, 2023

Windham salutes young ‘Patriot’s Pen’ essay winners during annual Veterans Day observance

By Ed Pierce

Veterans Day is an acknowledgement that those willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our nation deserve our admiration and respect and several area students have done just that by submitting this year’s winning essays in the Patriot’s Pen and Voice of Democracy contests sponsored by VFW Post 10643.

The winners of this year's local 'Patriot's Pen' essay contest
for students in Grade 6 to 8 were honored during the VFW
Post 10643's Veterans Day observance at the Windham
Veterans Center on Saturday, Nov. 11. From left are  
first-place recipient Shea Carey, an eight-grade student
at Windham Middle School, and second-place recipient
Lance Lake, a homeschooled seventh grader.
Shea Carey, an eighth grader at Windham Middle School, was honored at the VFW’s Veterans Day observance as this year’s first-place recipient in the local Patriot’s Pen competition. Carey’s 400-word essay on the topic "How are you inspired by America?" was singled out by judges to be the best this year and qualifies her for the upcoming district competition.

The essay contest encourages young minds to examine America’s history, along with their own experiences in modern American society.

District winners compete in the VFW’s annual state competition while trying to secure a berth in the national competition with a chance to win thousands of dollars in college scholarships. The first-place VFW state winner also receives a four-day trip to Washington, D.C. to compete in the national Patriot’s Pen contest.

“I thought it was such an amazing thing to be recognized in this way,” Carey said. “I have always loved writing and because many of my family members served in the Army, I wanted to express my gratitude to them through this essay.”

She said that her best friend Taylor encouraged her to enter the contest and encouraged her as she was writing it.

It took about three days to compose the essay and almost a week to read it over and make revisions before submitting her entry.

“I’m not sure what my chances will be in the state because there are so many amazing writers in Maine,” Carey said. “I am fully committed to doing this and am grateful to have won and to have had a chance to read my essay at this event today.”

Carey said she enjoys writing to express her creativity but thinks she may ultimately pursue a career in teaching and education when she is an adult.

She received a check for $200 for winning the local contest and intends to save the money for when she attends college.

Lance Lake, a seventh grader from Gray who is homeschooled, took home second place in the local Patriot’s Pen competition for the second consecutive year. In 2022, he won second place as a sixth-grade student at Windham Christian Academy.

Lake said it took him about a week to come up with an idea for his essay and he wanted to enter the contest again this year because it has helped him grow as a person.

“It’s important because it proves responsibility and maturity,” Lake said. “I had my grandparents read it before I turned it in though.”

In his essay, Lake mentioned how the sacrifices made by veterans and military members inspire him daily.

“I’d like to serve in the U.S. Air Force someday myself,” he said. “I would like to be a USAF pilot.”

He said that in writing essays for the contest over multiple years, he’s learned that it’s a process that requires effort.

“It takes a lot of patience and a lot of thought put into it,” Lake said.

The VFW Post 10643 winner of this year’s Voice of Democracy contest in Windham is Anna Seavey, a senior attending Windham Christian Academy. Because of a previous commitment, Seavey was unable to attend the event, but her essay was read aloud to the audience attending the VFW Veterans Day festivities and she was awarded a check for $200 from the VFW.

The Voice of Democracy competition is open to all high school students from Windham and Raymond, in Grades 9 to 12, including those who are home-schooled. Students are asked to write and record a 3- to 5-minute essay (on an audio CD) on this year's theme " What are the greatest attributes of our Democracy?"

Like in Carey’s case in the Patriot’s Pen competition, Seavey’s Voice of Democracy audio essay will advance to the district-level and if successful there, she would qualify for the state-level contest hoping to secure a berth in the national Voice of Democracy contest. The first-place VFW state winner earns a four-day trip to Washington, D.C.

Each year, nearly 25,000 students in grades 9 to 12 from across the country enter to win their share of more than $2 million in educational scholarships and incentives awarded through the Voice of Democracy program.

The first-place winner nationally receives $5,000 for the Patriot's Pen winning essay and the first-place winning essay nationally for the Voice of Democracy receives a $35,000 college scholarship.

Prior to the essay awards, retired Air Force Colonel Bob Chapin delivered the keynote address to those attending the Veterans Day observance.

Chapin told the audience that Veterans Day is more than just a day off from work.

“It’s a day of action,” he said. “Former President Barack Obama said that our debt to these heroes can never be repaid but we can honor their sacrifice, and we must. We must honor it in our own lives by holding their memories close to our hearts and heeding the example they set.”

Members of Windham’s delegation to the Maine Legislature attended the Veterans Day observance including State Senator Tim Nangle and State Representatives Jane Pringle and Barbara Bagshaw. Windham Town Councilors David Nadeau and Bill Reiner were also on hand, as was former State Senator and State Representative Gary Plummer of Windham.

The Windham Chamber Singers under the direction of Dr. Richard Nickerson provided patriotic songs during the observance and scouts from Windham Boy Scout Troop 805 served handed out programs and delivered the colors at the event.

Before concluding the event with a luncheon donated by Chick-fil-A of Westbrook and Kentucky Fried Chicken of Windham, the American Legion Post 148 Honor Guard played “Taps” and fired a 21-gun salute. VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman and Legion Post 148 Commander Tom Theriault placed a wreath in the Windham Veterans Center Memorial Garden to pay tribute to veterans from Windham who have served in the armed forces of the United States through the years. <

JSMS student broadcasters air ‘What’s the News?’ reports

By Lorraine Glowczak

The airwaves are busy over Raymond as a group of sixth-grade students prepare news reports on the latest developments at Jordan-Small Middle School (JSMS). Whether the young reporters and anchors are interviewing teachers, students, or staff, Jennifer Potter’s English Language Arts class is having fun while learning written and verbal communication skills through an innovative curriculum based upon the everyday tasks of broadcast journalists in their new school show, “What’s the News?”

A new English Language Arts hands-on curriculum in
broadcast journalism not only teaches Jordan-Small 
Middle School students written and verbal communication
skills, but is helping students master the art of filming and
editing videos and learning to collaborate with others.
On air, reporting the news are, from left, Jordan Buxton,
Franklin Murray and Araia Peterson.
Potter was inspired to create this curriculum after her son graduated from Windham High School.

“I was reflecting on his valuable experiences in middle school,” she said. “He loved using technology to create iMovies and news shows. I then started brainstorming how to bring broadcast news to the sixth grade at Jordan-Small.”

She mentioned the idea to Richey Vickers, Windham Middle School’s Instructional Technology Leader. He also wanted to create a news show at the middle school level, and they decided to work together.

“At the start of the unit, I posed the question to my students – ‘what is broadcast news, and how do we as viewers stay informed?’” Potter said. “We watched three short local news stories and analyzed their overall structure and how anchors transitioned between stories.”

The students also learned a few tips from two guest speakers, Jessica Conley, a former WCSH 6 meteorologist who is now a math teacher at Windham High School, and former WMTW 8 meteorologist Matt Zidle, who is currently a Windham Middle School math teacher.

After the students gained an understanding of broadcast journalism, the class brainstormed topics they were interested in reporting for JSMS. This activity helped students develop their critical thinking and writing skills and gave them a better understanding of how the news is created.

Each student journalist is assigned work based on their strengths and interests, whether it be as a news reporter or a behind-the-scenes creator.

Sixth grader, Miles Moreau is a news reporter and he interviewed Jed Bloom’s science class students about their rocket launch experiments.

“We reported on why some rockets went farther than others and why some didn’t go very far,” he said. “We learned that the rockets made of card stock and smaller nose cones went farther than the ones with printer paper and bigger nose cones. We had to try a lot of times to make the news story because we kept on messing up and saying the wrong words. We solved it by memorizing the script.”

Poppy Macijauskas, also a student in broadcast journalism, works on the animation part of the news.

“It took some time to finish my storyboard and start animating, but I created my first full-color animation, and I am very proud of that,” she said. “I am very excited about what I am doing next.”

Besides learning verbal and written communication skills, students acknowledge that they are learning much more.

Sixth grader Addy Elwell said that learning about the tasks involved with broadcasting taught her valuable lessons in unexpected ways.

“You must be educated on the topic you are learning about and speaking on,” she said. “I also learned about the five W’s (Who, What, When, Where and Why), and that really helped me while filming my part of the newscasting show.”

Vickers pointed out that students are also learning about time management.

“They are learning that they must prioritize and make choices on how to spend their time,” he said.

Other lessons learned have come from challenges faced and finding ways to overcome them. The use of technology has been one of those obstacles.

“Technology is always challenging when starting something new,” Vickers said. “Students have learned to record and edit their videos. This includes the visual and audio portions of the project. Sometimes speaking loudly or more clearly is what is needed and other times noise cancellation from the software is needed. Students are learning how to balance these to get the product they approve.”

Potter shared a moment when the student anchors of an hour-long news show filmed all their story transitions on a student's computer.

“Unfortunately, the computer was damaged, and they lost all their hard work,” she said. “The students were understandably disappointed, but they took it as an opportunity to learn an important life lesson – to always back up their work. This experience taught them the importance of being prepared and adaptable, and they emerged from it stronger and more resilient than ever before.”

Challenges or not, all lessons are lessons learned for a lifetime.

“From learning how to film and edit videos to collaborating with others, students are gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience that will serve them well in the future,” Potter said. “Not only will they be able to communicate their learning in an additional mode, but they will also have an infinite number of ways to be technologically creative, something that they will use in their personal and professional lives. By mastering these skills, students are setting themselves up for success and are better equipped to navigate the changing world of technology.” <

Friday, November 10, 2023

Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame inducts Windham racer for three decades of excellence

By Ed Pierce

One could say Bobby Babb Jr. of Windham was meant to be an auto racer. His dad, Bobby Babb Sr., won a feature race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway the very night he was born and passed on his love for racing to his son. That love for racing has led Bobby Babb Jr. to enshrinement in the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Retired auto racer Bobby Babb Jr. of Windham
was enshrined in the Maine Motorsports
Hall of Fame during a ceremony on 
Oct. 22 at the Augusta Civic Center.
Babb's racing career spanned  more than
three decades and included numerous
victories at racetracks in the state.
Babb Jr. was inducted into the Hall of Fame at an event in Augusta on the evening of Oct. 22, capping an illustrious career spanning more than three decades on racetracks in the state. He’s lived his entire life in Windham and graduated from Windham High School in 1981.

“I started racing the night that I turned 16 on July 3, 1979,” Babb Jr. said. “I drove through 2008 and again in 2012. I raced for 31 years, and my son Brad is in my car now.”

With his induction into the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame, Babb Jr. joins his late father who also was inducted for his career accomplishments in 2007. He is the 10th racer from Windham to be inducted into the group of storied racers.

Babb Jr.’s own racing history is the stuff of legends. He raced at the Beech Ridge track in Scarborough from 1979 through 1982, and then competed on the NASCAR North Tour in 1983 and 1984. From 1985 through 1987, he competed at the Oxford Plains Speedway before returning to race at Beech Ridge from 1988 through 2008 and one final time in 2012.

All of Babb Jr.’s races came in the Late Model Sportsman Class, which eventually became what is known today as the Prostock Class. He was no stranger to taking the checkered flag, winning numerous races, and racking up five seasonal championships at Beech Ridge in 1998, 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2006. Babb Jr. was honored with two “Driver of the Year” titles at Beech Ridge and was awarded as the “Driver of the Decade for the 2000s” there. He was previously inducted as the 50th member of the Beech Ridge Hall of Fame and took home five Maine State Championship NASCAR trophies during his long career.

“My biggest win was every one of them,” Babb Jr. said “It wasn’t easy to win any of them because of the competition. I competed against my father, Dick Wolstenhume, Homer Drew, Ralph Cusack, Bob Randall, Mike Maietta, Mike Johnson, and Bub Bilodeau, to name just a handful of them. They were some of the toughest racers anywhere.”

For role models he credits his father, Bobby Babb Sr., and Dick McCabe, as the inspirations whose path he wanted to follow during his racing career. McCabe is a retired NASCAR Busch Series winner, and he also won the Molson Tour twice and the NASCAR Busch North Series championship twice. He also competed in races at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire and in the Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. During a 30-plus year driving career, Bob Babb Sr. won two track championships at Beech Ridge and finished first in more than 80 feature races through the years at Beech Ridge, Oxford Plains, and the Arundel Speedway.

As a young man, Babb Jr. started working for his father’s business, Robert Babb Logging, in 1981 and he still works there today and is part of the crew team for his son, Brad Babb, who is a Super Modified racer competing at the Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire. His daughter, Kelsey, also has raced at tracks in Maine.

In reflecting upon his career in racing, Babb Jr. says his most rewarding victories came when watching his children, Kelsey and Brad, and his son-in-law, Mike Ordway Jr., win races.

“I miss trying to outthink and outdrive someone for the win, but I still live it now watching Brad going for wins, trying to figure out his next move,” he said.

According to Babb Jr. his induction to the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame was bittersweet.

“Bruce Elder called me last October and told me I was going into the Hall of Fame. It was just over a month after my dad passed away,” he said. “It was very emotional for me that night but my wife Carla had known about the Hall of Fame induction and had let my dad know about it when he was in the hospital. Before he passed, he knew about it, so I want to thank her for that. I’m very proud of being put into the Hall of Fame with my father who was inducted in 2007 and I’m honored to be in the Hall of Fame with McCabe, Drew, Wolstenhume, Seavey, Maietta, Johnson, Randall, Bilodeau, all of them.”

His advice to young drivers looking to launch a racing career is simple.

“Watch and listen to older more experienced drivers, stay focused, be determined to make it and have fun doing it,” Babb Jr. said. <

Newly elected American Legion national commander pays visit to Windham post

By Ed Pierce

Since the National Commander of the American Legion Daniel J. Seehafer of Beaver Dam, Wisconsin was elected to the position on Aug. 31, he’s only slept in his own bed at home for a total of three days. The remainder of his time has been spent on the road attending meetings and visiting posts like on Saturday, Nov. 4, when Seehafer and an entourage of Legion officials stopped in Windham and had lunch with Field-Allen Post 148 members and the Post 148 auxiliary.

The new National Commander of the
American Legion, Daniel J. Seehafer,
visited Field-Allen Post 148 in Windham
on Nov. 4 and had lunch with post and
auxiliary members. He also met with
World War II veteran Carroll McDonald
and Korean War veteran Walter Braley,
both of Windham, during his visit. 
Seehafer is an ordained minister and served in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve as a military chaplain. He’s a longtime Legion member who has spent time in leadership positions at every level, including as national chaplain and as the commander of the Legion’s Department for Wisconsin.

He succeeded Post 148’s Vicent J. “Jim” Troiola as the National Commander for the American Legion and spent time during his visit speaking with World War II veteran Carroll McDonald, 98, and Korean War veterans Walter Braley, 92, both of Windham.

Post 148 members offered Seehafer traditional Maine favorites for lunch including authentic Italian sandwiches from Amato’s, two different kinds of whoopie pies and Moxie soft drinks. He said he enjoyed the sandwiches and whoopie pies but passed on sampling the Moxie.

According to Seehafer, he’s known for many years what his role would be in life and how happy he is to be leading a national veteran’s organization.

“I stopped saying ‘thank you for your service’ to veterans a few years ago,” Seehafer said. “Now I say to veterans ‘thank you for our freedom’ and I truly mean it. I’m grateful to veterans every single day and it’s never too late to tell them how much you appreciate what they have done for this nation.”

The American Legion’s mission of serving veterans and their families is personal to Seehafer and he’s embraced the Legion’s “Be the One” initiative to thwart veteran suicide in America. The national “Be the One” campaign strives to destigmatize veterans asking for mental health support, create opportunities for those with mental health issues to speak freely and get the support that they need; to provide peer to peer support and resources in local communities; and to identify issues affecting veterans and find resources for supporting veterans who may be struggling.

“We know that outreach saves lives,” he said. “Nothing is more important than our effort to reduce the number of veterans who die by suicide. We can’t stop. Not now, not ever.”

Nationally about 17 veterans or active-duty military members die by suicide every day and Seehafer says that number can be fewer if every Legion member makes a concerted effort to stay in touch and listen to veterans they know through the “Be the One” program.

“The life of one veteran saved makes all the difference in the world,” he said. “That gets to the heart of the ‘Be the One’ mission. While the initiative was only launched two years ago, it is already starting to make a difference. Somebody might be having a rough day, but you can change somebody’s life.”

Seehafer says that by helping to build on the momentum of ‘Be the One’ by raising awareness of the issue of veteran suicide, guiding them to resources to help and eliminating the stigma associated with mental health counseling, the veteran suicide rate nationally can be reduced.

“We are not just an organization, we are a family,” Seehafer said. “We’re a family that changes lives and saves lives.”

He also said he was saddened when he first heard about the mass shooting in Lewiston in October that claimed 18 lives.

“You always think that it couldn’t happen here in Maine, but sadly it did,” he said. “We’re doing all we can to assist the families of the victims and praying for the recovery of those who were injured.” After the lunch, Seehafer presented certificates to McDonald and Braley and had his photo taken with them before departing to visit the American Legion Post in Scarborough. <

Friday, November 3, 2023

Windham shows support for Maine community suffering from tragedy

By Matt Pascarella

After Maine’s deadliest mass shooting rocked the community of Lewiston and the country, all over the nation people have tried to comfort the town. Closer to home, RSU 14 Grounds Coordinator Michael DiDonato wanted to show support from one community to another in the wake of these horrific events. Windham High School’s stadium athletic field, where many sports take place and the Windham community spends much of its time cheering on our various teams, “LEWISTON” is stenciled across the mid-field.

Windham Grounds Coordinator Michael DiDonato
stenciled 'LEWISTON' in the midfield of Windham
High School's stadium athletic field after the mass
shooting that took place on Wednesday, Oct. 25. 
DiDonato finished the stencil on Friday, Oct. 27 in
support of Lewiston from one community to another.
“I was hoping, as I am sure many were, that a tragedy like this would never happen in the state of Maine,” said DiDonato. “Now that it has, it is more important than ever to show support to those affected. We all want to help but may feel helpless in what to do, so I thought this could be a way Windham as a community could show their support for our neighbors.”

The stencil was made with a robot called a Turf Tank, which is a new device that DiDonato has used since August of this year. Using the Turf Tank, it took him about 30 minutes to stencil “LEWISTON” in the middle of the field, it then took another hour for DiDonato to fill it in with blue paint and white trim. The stencil was completed on Friday, Oct. 27.

“Our district’s amazing grounds crew, led by Mike DiDonato, shows how we stand together,” said Windham resident Krista White Gerrity. Their tribute to the Lewiston tragedy, shared by so many people, helped to strengthen our support. Bad things aren’t supposed to happen here. After this week, the world knows Maine, but for all the wrong reasons. The light during this tragedy is the love that flows through our communities. The support we have for each other is stronger than ever.”

In past years, DiDonato has paid tribute by stenciling the varsity letters of Windham’s senior athletes on the field, he also honored beloved former WHS administrator Deb McAfee when she was diagnosed with cancer. DiDonato says he thinks it’s important to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, so he always does the pink ribbons as well as pink paint on some of the fields during October.

After stenciling “LEWISTON” on the WHS athletic field, DiDonato then posted his work to Facebook, with the caption “we are one” and his post received an outpouring of support and positive comments.

According to DiDonato, while Maine is a large state, it’s a small community and he says that when one part of the state is affected, it affects all of us.

“I think it was a nice gesture on Mike’s behalf to do this,” said RSU 14 Athletic Director Rich Drummond. “It’s a very sad and tragic situation and it’s a sign of support for that community during a very tough time. It’s nice that we have helped garner support in our community for the Lewiston/Auburn area.”

The “LEWISTON” lettering will be left up for the remainder of the fall sports season. DiDonato will repaint it and it should hold over until the spring season.

“I was very proud and honored to be a part of such a great community,” said Windham resident Dick Drapeau. “Maine is a very small town. We were all affected by what happened in Lewiston that day. Well done Windham High School … what an exceptional thing to do.”

Upon seeing DiDonato’s work, many surrounding Maine communities including Gorham High School, Gorham Youth Football, and South Portland have reached out to him to show their support for Lewiston on their fields.

“When I first saw “LEWISTON” on our home athletic field it gave me a great sense of pride to be part of this community,” said Windham resident Maureen Flaherty Janvrin. “I have always felt a strong sense of community within Windham but every tragedy we experience we come together and show support in every way; this exemplifies what our community represents. As a community I know we all hold our loved ones a little closer and tighter; we will continue to support the Lewiston community as they begin to process grief and healing.” <

Windham attorney wins crown in 2024 USOA Mrs. Maine Pageant

By Ed Pierce

Competing in the United States of America’s Mrs. Maine 2024 Pageant on Oct. 21 in Augusta was the realization of a dream for Windham attorney Katie Winchenbach. Her confidence and enthusiasm were on full display as she won the state crown and now advances to compete in 2024 USOA Mrs. America Pageant next July in San Antonio, Texas.

Windham attorney Katie Winchenbach was
crowned as the winner of the 2024 USOA
Mrs. Maine Pageant in Augusta on Oct. 22.
She will represent Maine in the 2024 USOA
Mrs. America Pageant in Texas next July.

As a corporate attorney and a champion for women’s rights, Winchenbach was a first-time pageant participant in the USOA Pageant, which was created to encourage women to strive to achieve their hopes, dreams, goals, and aspirations, while making them feel confident and beautiful inside and out.

“I have never done a pageant before,” she said. “When the USOA Pageant Director, Christie Hines, reached out to me to see if I would be interested in competing, I really thought she had the wrong woman. Once I learned how much of the pageant was focused on community involvement and championing causes close to your heart, I knew I had to say yes.”

Winchenbach currently serves as the Program Director for Ms. JD, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to the success of aspiring and early career women attorneys. She has also served as the Vice-President of The Maine Women's Conference, where she contributed to the strategic direction and planning of an influential one-day conference to empower and uplift Maine’s women.

Recently Winchenbach joined Women Standing Together, an organization that supports women leaders in various professional fields. Her role with that group will allow her to better advocate for emerging women leaders in Maine's business community. She’s also a published writer with her articles appearing in publications such as Fashion Republic, Gladys Magazine, Marie Claire, Long Island Bride and Groom, and Chicago Style Weddings.

She says that she intends to use her title as USOA Mrs. Maine 2024 to advocate for women’s empowerment, provide critical leadership opportunities, and to break down barriers to women’s success.

"It’s important for me to empower and inspire women to dream bigger and boldly pursue these dreams,” Winchenbach said. “This passion is at the heart of everything I do. I’m honored to be representing Maine as USOA’s Mrs. Maine 2024 and to be able to positively impact Maine’s young women leaders. I believe in empowering and inspiring women to dream bigger and boldly pursue these dreams. As the Program Director for Ms. JD, a national nonprofit dedicated to the success of aspiring and early-career female attorneys, I am able to impact over 800 women per year. More locally, I am partnering with the Compassionate Leadership Project to create a one-day conference for Maine’s emerging female leaders. The conference will provide attendees with access to prominent female leaders from Maine, practical training on key leadership skills, and the opportunity to build their networks. The conference will be live streamed, to provide this critical resource to women from all over the State of Maine, and eventually, across the United States.”

Along with her husband, Jared, Winchenbach moved to Windham two years ago and grew up in Milford, near the University of Maine Orono. She earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Maine, a Juris Doctorate law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hofstra University. In her free time, she enjoys paddleboarding, and spending time with her husband and their rescue dog.

She hopes her pageant experience will help her to grow both personally and professionally.

“Upon starting this journey, I was surprised by how much it pushed me outside of my comfort zone and how many opportunities there were for me to grow as a person,” Winchenbach said. “Already, I've been able to become more confident in the way I carry myself and in the way I speak publicly. I work as a corporate attorney and a non-profit program director, so these are skills that are going to help me immensely even once the pageant is over.”

Winchenbach said that competing in the USOA Pageant also helped her to honor the memory of her late mother.

“My mom competed in a Mrs. Pageant when she and my dad were just married,” she said. “She passed away from cancer last November, so this is a really nice way for my family to be able to come together again.” <

Friday, October 27, 2023

Maine Lab Rescue closing its doors after 11-plus years of helping dogs and cats

By Masha Yurkevich

Seeing a need and taking it into your own hands is not something everyone can do, but it was something that Erlene LeBorgne of Windham, the founder, owner, and director of Maine Lab Rescue has devoted herself to. But because of many difficulties encountered in the last year, the shelter has decided to close its doors after 11 years of helping dogs and cats.

After 11-plus years of helping dogs and cats, Maine Lab
Rescue is closing, but the organization encourages the
community to continue to support animal rescues, shelters,
and animals in need and to consider fostering, volunteering,
donating and supporting them any way they can.
Maine Lab Rescue was a foster based rescue organization based in Windham and dedicated to helping prevent euthanasia of dogs and cats in kill shelters in the south. It was licensed as a shelter in both Maine and in Georgia, with fosters in both locations. It served as an all-breed dog and cat rescue, with a focus on labs and lab mixes.

“We would rescue dogs and cats from the kill shelters in Georgia and place them in foster care there,” said LeBorgne. “We then would see to any medical needs, provide core vaccination and heartworm and other testing if old enough, spay and neuter them and then transport them here to Maine. The animals would then be available for adoption once their import quarantine was completed. At times we would have more foster availability in Maine than in Georgia; when that happened, we would partner with other rescues in Georgia, as well as Mississippi and Puerto Rico to bring their pets to Maine for adoption.”

From the beginning MLR has been a private rescue, not governed by a formal board of directors, rather it’s always being run collaboratively with LeBorgne, its assistant director, Deb Cote and Stacey Nestor, who oversaw their Georgia operations. Their fosters and volunteers also had great input into the organization and operations.

It all started in November 2011 when LeBorgne adopted a kitten from a shelter in Georgia, and once fully vetted, the kitten was transported to Maine.

“In doing so, I learned about the plight of animals in kill shelters in the south and elsewhere. It naturally made me want to help,” she said.

Prior to starting her own organization, LeBorgne helped start another animal rescue.

“In May 2012, I formally started Maine Lab Rescue after deciding to branch out on my own. My goal was to help two or three dogs every two to four weeks. Although I knew it wouldn’t make a big impact, I knew that any lives saved would help,” LeBorgne said. “I never imagined that it would grow to be such a large organization or that I would leave my position with Maine Cancer Foundation to run the rescue full time.” .

In the 11-plus years that MLR was actively rescuing, more than 5,500 dogs and cats were placed in adoptive homes in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. At one time, MLR was one of the state’s largest rescue groups, placing more animals than many smaller shelters.

“At any given time, we used to have about 100 folks actively involved in fostering and providing care for the animals, volunteering, transporting, providing administrative support and the like,” LeBorgne said. “Our fosters and volunteers are the backbone of rescue organization, and were especially important to ours.”

The pandemic and the ensuing economic conditions brought many challenges to the rescuing and sheltering world, both in Maine and across the entire country.

“After much consideration of those and other factors over the last several months, we concluded ceasing operations was the best course of action for our organization,” said LeBorgne. “While this was not an easy decision, we felt it was necessary. We are not alone in making this difficult choice, many rescue groups across the country have ceased operations or are currently grappling with the decision.”

Deciding to cease rescue operations for Maine Lab Rescue was among the most difficult decisions LeBorgne says that she’s ever had to make, particularly where it meant that she would no longer be helping medically needy animals. Helping dogs and cats in crisis was one of the most personally fulfilling aspects of rescue work for her and she’s not planning on leaving her gift of helping animals.

“I realized I needed to continue with this kind of one-on-one care for both me, and for the animals that need it. Providing crisis care is something I excel at and is a gift that should not go to waste,” she said.

After a lot of consideration, and speaking with Maine Department of Agriculture about continuing as a licensed entity, she has decided to continue caring for medically needy/in crisis animals.

“It’s going to be very small,” LeBorgne said, “Just myself providing crisis care, with perhaps a small handful of fosters who take over care when the animal is healthy. Intake will be a one on one, case by case basis. Once healthy and fully vetted, they will be placed for adoption, which is where the license from Department of Agriculture becomes necessary.”

The new project will be called MLR Crisis Care. While MLR Crisis Care may only be able to help 20 to 25 animals a year, it will help those who may never have otherwise had a chance.

“While the news of our closing will bring sadness to many hearts, please know that your stories, photos of adventures and the love that we have all shared as MLR family are a strong testimony to our shared love of animals and the desire to rescue and adopt those in need,” said LeBorgne. “The need to rescue, rehome and repeat does not end when we close our doors. It is our fervent hope that you continue to support animal rescues, shelters, and animals in need. We encourage you to consider fostering, volunteering, donating, and supporting them any way you can. They and the animals need you more now than ever. They are counting on you.” <

Windham Town Council approves hire of new Public Works Director with Fortier retirement

By Ed Pierce

A familiar face will be returning to serve the Town of Windham as Jon Earle has been hired as the town’s new Public Works Director, succeeding Doug Fortier, who is retiring in early November.

Jon Earle, left, has been hired by the Town of Windham as
its new Public Works Director. He will succeed Doug Fortier,
right, who is retiring in early November after 31 years
with the department. COURTESY PHOTOS 
Earle emerged as the leading candidate for the job from a field of seven candidates with an interview process held to identify a candidate with the background, skills and experience that would be a good match for the position. The Public Works Director has primary responsibility for the organization, operation, and overall performance of the town’s Public Works Department. Duties include oversight for the department and administration of the departmental budget and the supervision of all department employees.

“Jon worked for the town for a little over two years as Town Engineer,” said Phyllis Moss, the town’s Human Resources Director in a memo to the council. “During that time, I had the opportunity to spend time with Jon and I feel confident he will be successful in the role of Public Works Director. My interaction with him demonstrated that he has the real passion for public works and is a clear communicator, ethical, analytical, and has excellent interpersonal skills. The position of Director of Public Works can be challenging, but I believe he has the background, skills, experience, and personal attributes needed for the position. We would be privileged to have him as part of our team.”

He graduated from the University of Maine with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering and has completed graduate coursework at the University of Southern Maine in Public Administration. Earle currently serves as the Supervisor of Engineering Services for the Maine Water Company and is responsible for capital project delivery and oversight in 12 public water systems serving more than 32,000 customers across the state. Earle also obtained a graduate certificate in Public Management from the Muskie School of Public Service.

His work history includes more than 22 years of progressively responsible public and private sector experience, including nine years in management roles. During his professional career, Earle has been responsible for budget management, personnel hiring and development, in both union and non-union environments. He is also a member his local planning board and is currently a board member of the Maine Society of Professional Engineers.

Earle will be responsible for Highway Maintenance, which includes winter plowing as well as maintaining all town roads, ditches, shoulders, drainage and other infrastructures; vehicle maintenance, which includes maintenance of all equipment from excavators and backhoes down to chain saws and hand compactors, as well as the police and town office vehicles; and Buildings & Grounds, which includes care of over 20 town cemeteries, nine municipal buildings, and two intersections. His duties will include budgeting, seeking grant money for roads, working on capital equipment replacement plans, getting bids for anything from equipment purchase to buying winter sand and salt. Another part of his job is hiring when there are vacancies.

Fortier has served as Windham’s Public Works Director for the past 20 years and has been a member of the town’s Public Works Department for 31 years overall. He was first hired in 1992 as a member of the grounds crew but was almost immediately moved into a truck driver position. In 1999, he was promoted to Equipment Operator where he gained valuable supervisory experience. In 2001, Fortier was promoted to the role of Deputy Public Works Director and then appointed as the town’s Director of Public Works in May 2004.

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said Fortier will be missed and what he’s done through the years to help the town is remarkable.

Tibbetts said that Fortier oversaw the construction of the $9.3-million Shared Maintenance Facility which was completed in the fall of 2019 under budget; worked with Gorrill Palmer on the design and bidding and construction for all phases of the Brand Road reconstruction and the Hillcrest Drainage project renewing 28 infiltration bed­ style catch basins; worked with Gorrill Palmer on the design to reconstruct the Route 302 shoulders to create the center turn lane north of the Anglers Road intersection for 7,200 feet and assisted in securing a contractor for the $1.5 million dollar project; secured an additional $50,000 from the Maine Department of Transportation to help with the expense on the Route 302 turn lane; worked with Gorrill Palmer on the design for reconstruction and pedestrian enhancements for Depot Street; and worked with the town engineer in securing a Maine DOT MPI grant of up to $625,000 for the Route 302 North smart signal and intersection improvements, among many projects he has been involved with.

“These accomplishments only touch the surface,” Tibbetts said. “Doug has taken an active role in union negotiations, interviewed, and hired candidates for positions throughout Public Works, provided learning opportunities and encouragement to employees, and let's not forget Merry Christmas Trees, his business located here in Windham. Speaking for the entire town, I would like to thank Doug publicly for his years of dedication and wish him a very merry retirement.” <

Friday, October 20, 2023

Referendum seeks voter approval to build new middle school

By Ed Pierce

With Election Day nearing on Nov. 7, a referendum is asking voters in the towns of Windham and Raymond to approve a proposal to construct the proposed Windham/Raymond Middle School at 61 Windham Center Road in Windham.

A referendum seeking approval for RSU 14's proposed new
Windham/Raymond Middle School will be before voters
on Nov. 7. Clockwise are sketches of the school's outdoor
learning area, front entrance, a classroom and a
team-teaching area. SUBMITTED PHOTOS
The total cost of the new school is estimated to be $171,563,889 and the state of Maine would pick up $131,725 million, or 76.8 percent of that amount. That leaves 23.20 percent, or about $31,870,755 remaining with voters in Windham asked to OK gradually funding 80 percent of what’s left or $25,496 million. Raymond voters will be asked to approve gradually funding 20 percent of the remaining cost or about $6,374 million.

RSU 14 Superintendent Christopher Howell said that if the referendum passes, the school district is anticipating that the Windham/Raymond Middle School project will be financed through either two or three separate bonds during construction.

“The stair step approach to financing will provide a gradual increase to the mil rate in both communities,” Howell said. “With updated interest rates, we are anticipating a 28-cent increase in the first year in Windham and a 33-cent increase in Raymond. In the second year, it would roughly increase an additional 41 cents in Windham and 19 cents in Raymond. This is assuming that town valuations remain the same. If three bonds are issued, the steps towards the final mil impact would take place over three years and not two.”

Howell said the district is seeking voter support because both Windham Middle School and Jordan-Small Middle School are older schools and are both in need of significant upgrades in continue to be used as educational facilities into the future.

“The district has the opportunity to develop a new campus with a new energy efficient and secure building that will cost the local taxpayers far less than a renovation project in both buildings. The opportunity is being provided by the Major Capital Construction Program run by the Department of Education,” he said. “Seventy-four schools were rated by the Maine DOE in 2018 and were placed on a priority list that is based on need. Windham Middle School scored fifth on the list. The high rating for WMS was due to several factors that included structural issues in the roofing system of the classroom wing, outdated/inadequate electrical and HVAC systems, and that the building is undersized with one-third of the student population and several applied arts programs taking place in a separate building.”

According to Howell, besides addressing the shortcomings in the current facilities, the project will also help to address areas of programming that are currently lacking in both buildings.

“This will include a science lab for each science teacher, project spaces for students, classroom spaces for academic interventions and special education, increased safety and security for students and employees, classrooms that meet state requirements for minimum size, adequately equipped technology classroom and art rooms, music and performing arts spaces that match current programming, and additional play and competition space outdoors,” he said. “Outside of the direct impact to the middle level, the change in grade configuration will provide the opportunity for the district to provide universal Pre-k for any families that are interested in accessing this service. The facility will be an asset for both communities in the spaces that are provided. The project includes walking trails as well as access to the neighboring Pringle Preserve. The large gym and auxiliary gym spaces provided by that state will provide additional play spaces for youth and adult sports including an indoor walking track for community use outside of school hours. Lastly, the project includes an auditorium that will be accessed by students participating in the performing arts as well as our local community theater programs. Lastly, the two current buildings are slated to be returned to both towns for future community use. In discussions with the leadership in both communities, there has been interest in turning the two schools into community centers.”

The original Windham Middle School was built in 1977 and intended for a capacity of 483 students. That number has grown in the last year to 555 students this year, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949. Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond was built in 1960 and currently has an enrollment of 184 students.

More than 132 potential 35-plus acre sites were originally identified for review by the RSU 14 WMS Building Committee and then ranked according to transportation accessibility, utility availability, environmental impact, and a range of other factors. The RSU 14 Board of Directors entered into an option-to-purchase agreement with the owner of 61 Windham Center Road in Windham and the owner agreed to take the property off the market for a period of up to two years in 2021.

As part of the proposal to build the new Windham/Raymond Middle School, Windham and Raymond students in Grades 5 to 8 would attend classes there. Windham fifth graders currently attending Manchester School would instead attend the new school, as would Jordan-Small Middle School students from Raymond. The new school is being designed for a capacity of 1,200 students.

Lavallee Brensinger Company of Portland is serving as architects for the construction project and Howell said that the new school is being designed to accommodate teams of two to four staff members.

“The teaming structure will give students the feel of being in a smaller school within the larger school. Each team will have spaces that are dedicated to each of the core subject areas,” he said. “In addition, the building will be structured to allow for the integration of some of the applied arts within the team. The development of the team structure will serve to bring the best possible facilities to each team. In contrast, the original Windham Junior High School, now Windham Middle School was built as a departmentalized Junior High School.”

Howell said that under provisions of the State of Maine Construction Program, school districts must pass a referendum within six months of having the concept for the school approved by the Maine State School Board.

“If a district fails to have a positive referendum within the time frame, the project can be removed from the state funding list,” he said. “The concept for this building project was approved on Sept. 13. In the event of a no vote on this referendum, the building committee and school committee would need to reconvene and look at a revamped project that could be sent out to voters. The additional constraint that we are also working under is the land purchase. Our option to purchase 61 Windham Center Road will expire on Dec. 31 of this year. If a project cannot be passed, any future projects would have to be locally funded.” <