Sunday, April 28, 2013

Keeping teens safe and healthy by Michelle Libby

Tuesday a panel of experts was assembled because they know what’s going on with teens in the community better than anyone else. DARE officer Matt Cyr, who had been doing community policing in the town for 18 years, School Resource Officer Jeff Smith, Liz Blackwell-Moore from the Opportunity Alliance Communities Promoting Health Coalition, Douglas Daigle RSU 14 clinical social worker, assistant principal Kelly Deveaux and Windham Middle School health teacher Eliza Adams, spend most days watching what happens with students in the schools of RSU 14.

Cyr said that this year the presentation would be led by Blackwell-Moore and instead of talking about where they are hiding the drugs, they would focus on what parents can do to combat the issue of drinking and drugs in the community.

“It takes a lot of people to make (prevention) happen. Not just school or just parents,” said Blackwell-Moore.

Media messages, cultural messages, adult messages and stars that have influence over teens send the idea that drinking, drugs and having sex are okay. “It’s an expected thing,” said Blackwell-Moore.
In 2011, 30 percent of Windham High School students reported drinking in the last 30 days. That’s 8 students in a class of 25. Almost half of middle school students and 70 percent of high school students said it would be easy to get alcohol. Most get it from their own homes, said Cyr.

Students pour alcohol into a soda bottle and bring it to school concealing it that way, said Deveaux.
The statistics are staggering. Teens who abuse drugs and alcohol are much more likely to be victims of crime, to have addictions later in life and have lower IQs.

Marijuana use has just crossed the point where students in Maine think it’s bad to smoke cigarettes and okay to smoke marijuana. In 2011, half of WHS believed there was no harm in smoking marijuana regularly compared with one-third of students who thought the same thing in 2009, according to the surveys taken in those years.

“Statistically, they’re going to get offered drugs some time in their lives, by friends, kids, cousins,” said Cyr.

“I’m told, ‘It’s not a drug. It’s medicine,’” said Deveaux. “If it’s good for someone who is sick, imagine what it can do for someone who’s healthy,” someone else told the assistant principal.
At the middle school one child asked Adams, “Doesn’t that cure cancer?”

“Marijuana is the most difficult thing I have to deal with as a DARE officer,” said Cyr. He no longer mentions it to fifth-graders unless they bring the topic up. The other issue with today’s marijuana is that it is 500 percent more potent now than it was 30 years ago.

“The perception of risk is directly related to use,” said Blackwell-Moore. Many students with mental health issues are using the drug to self-medicate for anxiety and depression.

“We can’t know which kid is susceptible (to addiction). You can’t really see it until it happens,” said Blackwell-Moore.       

Marijuana users are more likely to have suicidal thoughts, double the risk of depression later in life and have an increase chance of having schizophrenia, according to studies.

Another problem is prescription drugs that are taken without a prescription, most obtained from homes. Eighteen percent of WHS students said they have taken medication without a prescription.

“Our job tonight is to arm parents first, before the kids get here. If they’re already here – we’re already behind,” Deveaux said.

“We’ve done a tremendous job with cigarettes. Kids are really onboard with that,” said Adams. Now getting students to focus on other substances is next.

“It isn’t everybody,” said Cyr. “Seventy-five percent of kids don’t (use).” When a teen says, “everyone is doing it” it’s not true, he said.

Brain development was another topic discussed. Reasoning and judgment centers in the brain are not developed until 25 and even then some of the wiring can be faulty when put in heightened social or emotional situations.

“Develop thrill seeking in a safe way,” said Adams. “It’s best for kids who were engaged over break, not the ones sitting home gaming.”

Windham High School has a tip line (892-1810 x555) to report risky behavior or to squash a party before it even happens. The line is anonymous. The key word is prevent, said Blackwell-Moore.
“We’ve been very successful at stopping parties,” said Smith.

“In trouble is a lot better than hurt or dead,” said Cyr. 

Blackwell-Moore gave parents six tips.

1.Talk to your teen. They can use parents as scapegoats. “Man, my dad would kill me if I…”

2.Limit access. Keep track of alcohol and lock up or dispose of medications.

3.Have clear consistent rules. Have consequences.

4.Check in often. Electronic devices are a wealth of information. Have them plug in downstairs or by their parents’ bed at night.

5.Talk to the parents of your teen’s friends. Keep communication wide open. Back each other up. Check out

6.Be up and be ready when they come home.

“The best thing you can do as a parent is team up. You’ve got to have these conversations,” said Cyr.

“The best place to have a conversation with a teen is in a car where they can’t jump out,” said Deveaux.

Despite the offer of prizes, only 18 people attended the workshop.

Gem and Minerals shine at St. Joe's by Michelle Libby

The Maine Mineralogical and Geological Society held their annual mineral and gem show at
Saint Joseph’s College last weekend. The goal was to increase membership and visibility for the vendors and rock-hounds in attendance. The event is their largest fundraiser.

The Maine Mineralogical and Geological Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to all education and cultural aspects of geology, mineralogy, lapidary arts and related subjects.
“For about $30 you can get into (panning for gold),” said Martin. Every time he goes out to look for gold he finds some, he said. “There’s no better way to spend a 90 degree day than sitting in a swift moving stream looking for gold,” he added.

At this event, vendors sold finished, polished minerals and gems. Some sold grab bags of rocks and bundles of stones, others sold rare stones found around the world. Touching was not always encouraged. 

The society meets once a month in Portland and in the summer months they take field trips to areas rich in, well, riches. Some of the areas are only accessible to society members because they have insurance, said Coral Hume who has been into gem hunting for five years and encouraged her husband, Rob, to get involved as well.

The Hume’s had two stations set up, one was a wheel of fortune game. When the wheel stopped whatever color it was on determined the prize. There were crystals, earrings and bundles of specimens up for grabs. Rob Hume had two “digs” set up in plastic swimming pools, where children could sift though the sand to find polished stones.

“We’re here for the kids. It’s our yearly fundraiser,” said Coral.   

A family membership costs $17 for a couple and their children under age 18. FMI, visit

Moses Greenleaf settling and creating Maine by Michelle Libby

To a packed room at the Windham Historical Society, over 40 attendees gathered to hear Holly Hurd, an American & New England Studies graduate student at The University of Southern Maine, present a talk on the life of Moses Greenleaf, who is best known for surveying and settling parts of Maine as well as being the State of Maine’s first mapmaker. The presentation was one of the monthly programs sponsored by the Windham Historical Society.

Hurd works as education coordinator at The Osher Map Library (OML) and Smith Center for Cartographic Education in Portland. To aid in her talk, she showed pictures and text from a book she wrote called “The Moses Greenleaf Primer” released in 2010. Her daughter Lena Champlin illustrated the book.
“Greenleaf was a state-maker of Maine,” said Hurd. 

Moses Greenleaf was born on October 17, 1777. There are no pictures of him, but there is one of his brother, and there is a silhouette of him. He was born in Newburyport, MA. He was good at math and drafting. His father, Captain Moses, knew George Washington and moved the family to the New Gloucester in the District of Maine when Moses, Jr. was 13 years old.  

Moses tried running a store, but once he accumulated $10,000 in debt, which was considerable for the time period, he got rid of the store and became a resident land agent for William Dodd and moved his family to Williamsburg above Bangor, near what is now Milo. 

His job was to settle the area and get people to move there. He built a house and then moved much of the house and his family to the other side of the township to a place called Greenleaf Hill. That house still stands today and Moses and his family are buried in the backyard though no one knows exactly where. 

Greenleaf was a member of the Masons and was the first Master Mason in the Piscataquis Lodge #44, which still exists in Milo.

Greenleaf had a tough job selling Maine when in 1816, there was a foot of snow in June. It was called “The year without a summer” and “eighteen hundred and froze to death.” He began looking for natural resources that could become an industry. He founded Katahdin Iron Works, which provided 50 years of jobs in that region. He also found slate in that area and many homes had/have slate sinks and slate roofs.

The whole time he was exploring and expanding his community, he was investigating, doing extensive correspondence and using existing maps to create his own maps. His first map was published in 1815. 

Maps at that time were made by etching in copper and then rolled with ink and printed. If there was a mistake or a correction to make, the copper was pounded out and re-etched. The first published map of the State of Maine was in 1820 and was a colored map that people bought to hang on their wall. It had nine counties. 

In 1820, Williamsburg became a town and Maine became a state. In 1829, a new version of a state map was released called the “Survey of the State of Maine.” 

Greenleaf was instrumental in getting the mail to Williamsburg, a stage coach to come to town(although it took eight days to get from Wiliamsburg to Boston) and constructing the road from Bangor to Katahdin Iron Works, the current Route 221. 

“He never wanted any of his own fame or reward,” said Hurd at the presentation.  

Greenleaf died of typhoid fever in 1834 at the age of 56.

Hurd discussed a few maps showing Windham. Each map showed a few different roads through the town. 

Greenleaf was a visionary, although that vision didn’t always jive with reality. He thought that by 1870 Maine would have 933,000 residents, but that took until 1970. He also thought that the State of Maine would be completely settled, but it has never been. Much of Maine belongs to timber companies who use it for the lumber. 

Greenleaf’s maps and guides can be found at OML and some information on maps can be found at

Sunday, April 21, 2013

DARE to Adventure has lifelong effects by Michelle Libby

DARE to Adventure is an experiential leadership experience for seventh and eighth graders at Windham Middle School. Led by DARE and Windham Police Officer Matt Cyr and skate park manager Lynn Bucknell, the group learns lifelong outdoor and leadership skills through adventures such as kayaking, rock climbing and white water rafting. 

Each year seventh graders are nominated by their teachers for the program. There is an interview, then an oral board made up of former DARE participates and current eighth graders. There are a total of 22 students in the program including some high school leaders who have recently graduated from the program.  

“It’s not just DARE,” said Cyr. Every fifth and seventh grader participates in the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, however this is different, he said. “It’s important because of the mentoring and leadership,” he added. 

Dana King spent four years in the program and still talks to Cyr even though he is at Assumption College. “It gave me confidence to be a leader. I was a shy kid,” he said. “I know now I can do what I want to do and get people to follow me if I should choose to do so.”

When Cyr does interviews he attempts to choose kids from each social group. “We look for leaders, fence walkers and at risk kids,” said Cyr. “We bring in the kids that have the potential for leadership.” 

Aaron Murray came into the program at a time when he was going through some tough family issues. “Aaron benefitted the most. DARE came at a time when I was diagnosed with cancer,” said Aaron’s mother Kim Murray, whose daughter also went through the program. “He was able to stay at the skate park when he was old enough to stay there without an adult and they kept an eye on him,” she said. Cyr brought Aaron back as a leader and he was able to help another child that was dealing with cancer in his family. 

“It’s a mix of everybody, athletes like me, music and chorus kids,” said King. “He does really well to get a mixture of kids and have them come together. By the end they all have similarities and all work together to go on that year end trip.”
Sergeant Peter Fulton began the program in 1997. Back then they did a lot of winter camping, white water rafting, horseback riding and canoe trips, said Cyr.
“It didn’t make any sense to me to sleep outside in a tent in the winter,” Cyr said with a chuckle, so he tweaked the program some. 

One of the first participants in the program was Pat Hanson. “They put students in a group together to overcome differences to work together with share experiences,” said Hanson, who is now a first lieutenant in the Air Force. For Hanson, it was the leadership skills that he walked away with that were the most important. “It had a really big impact on my life. At a young age to have a leadership role and fine tune those skills. I went into a leadership role after college,” he said. He also said it gave him more of an interest in alternative sports. 

The ultimate goal is to teach the participants what some of the alternatives are, rather than getting involved with drugs and alcohol. 

“It shows the kids there’s another way to get that rush that other kids are getting from drugs and alcohol,” said King. 

“We are teaching lifelong sports that are a good alternative,” said Cyr. “I hope they go on and make good decisions.” 

“Aaron has earned a lot of respect in the community,” said Kim Murray. “I wish there were more Matt Cyrs in the world and more programs like this,” she said. 

One of the highlights of the program is rolling white water kayaks at Saint Joseph’s College. The kayaks were purchased through a Carol M. White PEP Grant along with the DARE trailer to carry the gear. 

Now the participants learn swift water rescue, rock climbing, use the ropes course and take a white water rafting trip in June. 

Doug Loftis’ son Nick was in the program for two years and has come back as a high school mentor this year. “He had a very good time. It gave him some confidence. He really enjoyed working with Matt,” said Loftis. Nick’s favorite part by far was the end of the year white water trip, said Loftis. 

“He enjoys being an example to the kids by enjoying what he’s doing for the kids in the program,” Loftis said. 

“Every kid is one dumb mistake from being at risk,” Cyr said. His job is to make sure they have a clear head to make good decisions. 

Cyr’s success rate with the kids is undocumented, but he keeps in touch with most of them, he said. Aaron Murray is studying criminal justice at Plymouth State University, most likely because of the guidance and support from Cyr and the program, said Kim Murray. 

“They became who they are because of Matt and our parenting and the people who supported us in the community,” said Kim Murray. “I call (Aaron) the DARE to Adventure kid.”

Sure Fire Music by Michelle Libby

Windham, Maine isn’t the first place people think of when they hear Grammy nominee, but Sterling Brunsvold and Jerry Edwards are making their presence in the music industry known as a part of Sure Fire Music Group, and their studio is in Windham. 

“Most don’t know we are here as a resource,” said Brunsvold, at his studio. “Most think Maine is a dead place. We prove they don’t have to run away to New York to find success,” he said. 

The studio is in a non-descript house in a small room. However, one can sit in the studio and forget that this is Maine. There is a sound booth, computer screens, good sized speakers, a keyboard and a microphone locker as well as a couch and a few chairs. Mr. Butters, the studio cat, saunters through and into the booth where he will often times sit while a session is happening, according to Brunsvold. 

Sure Fire Music, which started in 2003 outside of Boston, is best known for its urban music and its big sound. Creating musicians from soup to nuts is what Brunsvold likes to do. “We try to help local artists. Helping people develop a career in the industry – develop personality,” he said. They get much of their business from referrals, or if an artist happens to find the company on the Internet. 

The mentor and guidance offered by Edwards and Brunsvold is something unique with studios. Some just want the artist to pay their hourly rate for studio time and that’s it. Although there’s nothing wrong with that, Brunsvold has a different vision. “I want to build connections with people and not be a revolving door. Come in and shut the door,” he said. 

Brunsvold majored in physics at Montana State University, but his father was a professional musician. “Music was always in my home,” he said. “I had a come-to-Jesus-moment and realized my undergrad was as far as I can go. I wanted to try to do the music thing.” He tried to be an artist, but he realized that with the crowds and the lack of original music, he liked the part where he was able to create his own music. 

“It’s a young person’s game,” Brunsvold said. He decided to become a producer because it didn’t matter how old he was, he could still do it. 

“It’s about relationships. That matters more to me,” said Edwards, who has loved music since he was little and won an award in seventh-grade for music. He was a rapper in high school and realized he had a natural ear for music. “I was told my flow of creativity was brilliant,” he said. Despite that, Edwards majored in Africana studies at Bowdoin, where he found his voice as a writer, he said.

Through a lot of trial and error as well as reading, watching video tutorials and listening, he has developed his mix engineering skills. Edwards, from Scarborough, does a lot of his mixing at home on his Apple computer using speakers and a keyboard. He called it his pre-production studio. 

“I do it because I love to do it,” said Brunsvold. “I’m doing something I love – touching people’s lives,” he added. 

“They can’t teach you how to be creative,” said Brunsvold. “Just do it, don’t sit in a classroom. Do it, live it and be a part of it. It’s a culture,” he added.
“We are scholars of this,” said Edwards. “We have been developing our own style. Big, with hard hitting drums,” is how Edwards described their sound. 

Sure Fire Music Group has a large studio in Lowell, Massachusetts, and is in its seventh year of business at that location. The other parent company owners are Jared Hancock, Brendan Brady and Stephen Saxon. According to Brunsvold, it was Hancock’s cousin that brought the whole group together. It grew quickly and in 2005 they incorporated and found a commercial space that was designed specifically for the needs of artists. 

“The artists like coming to get away from the city. There’s safety in the community where the space exists,” Brunsvold said. 

Sure Fire Music Group has earned accolades from Dove, BET and Soul Train as well as being nominated for a Grammy Award. They also did the mixes on a project that ended up winning a Grammy.  “It’s a good success for all of us,” Brunsvold said. 

Brunsvold has worked on albums for Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, where Sure Fire produced nine of the 14 songs on her posthumous album. He worked on an album for Brooke Hogan from “Brooke Knows Best,” and a hip hop album for DBlock. Sire Fire did a year’s worth of commercials for Under Armor and the theme song from Yu-Gi-Oh! The list of artists goes on from tracks for Missy Elliot and NEO to Freeway and Bobby Valentino. They also did the sound design for Red Dead Redemption, a Grand Theft Auto in the Old West, according to Brunsvold. 

“We have an incredible team of people and are one of the best resources in the New England area,” he said. 

Brunsvold and Edwards are interested in working with local artists from Maine and New Hampshire to help shape careers. They sell music, lyrics, tracks and the time to work with them in the studio. “We’re not a record label,” said Edwards. The musician still does most of the promotion for a song. 

Sure Fire has also started doing video production. One of their most recent projects is with Makio, a Kenyan artist who was on “Making the Band 4” from MTV. The song “Digital Love,” can be found on iTunes, YouTube and on Sure Fire’s website.  

Brunsvold is looking for late high school to college students to be interns at the Windham studio. If they are interested in entertainment, being exposed to this environment and have time to donate, they should contact us, Brunsvold said.
For more information on Sure Fire Music Group visit or email

Spring cleaning does include your meds by Michelle Libby

Spring cleaning shouldn’t only apply to closets and cabinets, it should also include expired prescription medications, according to DARE and Windham Police Officer Matt Cyr. On Saturday, April 27, there will be an opportunity to dispose of unused, expired medication in a proper way at the Windham Police Department from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Really, medicines are just like our food, they all have expiration dates. The medicine could change into something else once it expires,” said Cyr.

Windham participates every time there is a national drug take back day, once in the spring and once in the fall. “It’s a multi-direction diversion, taking (the drugs) off the streets and out of houses and safely disposing of them,” said Cyr. The old way of disposing of the drugs was to flush them down the toilet, but now the medications are getting into the ground water supply and showing up in fish, said Cyr. That was definitely the old way to dispose of them.

“Don’t keep pain meds or antidepressants in the house,” he said, noting that break-ins occur because thieves are looking for drugs. 

Drugs collected on April 27 will be shipped to DEA headquarters and incinerated out-of-state. 

Last spring the Windham Police Department collected just over 100 pounds of pills. 

“It’s a great program. Just drop and run,” Cyr said. The only things they won’t accept are hypodermic needles or other sharps. 

Cyr is hoping to be able to collect pills all year long in a locked container in the police lobby, but he is waiting on a decision from the administration and a funding source, he said. 

For a list of locations that are participating in the drug take back day visit,

Monday, April 15, 2013

Hold on Molly! by Elizabeth Richards

Photo by Francine Morrissette
The Schoolhouse Arts Center in Standish comes full circle this weekend, opening its 25th season with “Hold On, Molly”.  The show, written by Schoolhouse founder Hank Beebe and based on true Maine historical events, was the very first production at the theater when it first opened in 1988.

Beebe had a successful 26 year career in New York theater before relocating with his wife, Nancy, to Maine.  While they were ready to give up the fast track, Beebe said, they did not want to give up musical theater.  The Beebes brought musical theater to a variety of stages, including churches, the City Theater in Biddeford, the State Theatre and even in their home.  In 1988, they discovered the Johnson School in Standish, which had once been the high school.  The location worked well, Beebe said, because it not only had a space for the theater in the gymnasium as well as classroom space, but also a huge unused baseball field.  This solved a common problem for community theaters – that of where patrons will park.

Photo by Francine Morrissette

The theater has gone through ups and downs over the years, but Board President Kristen Watson says they are on stable ground now. When she discovered the Schoolhouse Arts Center in 2010, she gravitated toward the board, which is the group that makes sure all the work gets done.  “I fell in love with the place and haven’t left,” she said.  One of her responsibilities as president is to keep things running smoothly and in a forward direction.  Watson said she hopes to accomplish this by generating excitement for volunteering, in whatever capacity people wish.  “I don’t want anybody to do anything that they’re not going to be happy doing,” she said.

Terri Plummer, general manager of the Schoolhouse Arts Center, said the theater is moving in a good direction.  However, she said, she knows that could change in a heartbeat with a few poorly attended shows or an unexpected major repair.  “We are in an old building, anything can happen.  When we have those major repairs that are five or ten thousand dollars, that’s what could really put us under.” There are some big capital expenses on the horizon, including painting the building, paving the parking lot and some interior repairs.  The theater has a fundraising committee that is looking at ways to fund these projects, including seeking out grants, corporate sponsors and special events.
Watson wants to get the surrounding communities excited about the theater, and its location in Standish.  “This is the community’s building,” she said.  “We’re here for them, they’re here for us, and we all win.”  Participants are welcome from all surrounding communities, and no experience is necessary to get involved.  “It’s a really great place to bring kids, it’s a family place.  We have a lot of families who are in shows together,” Watson said.

Plummer originally became involved nine years ago, when her children were auditioning for a show.  She auditioned as well and has been there ever since, serving as education director for several years before becoming the general manager.  “It’s a community, and it’s just a wonderful thing to be involved in,” she said.

“Hold On, Molly” director Harlan Baker has been involved in local theater for many years, but this is the first show he has directed for Schoolhouse Arts Center.  Through a lot of hard work, the show is shaping up nicely.  “There’s a lot of people who are very enthusiastic about doing the show,” he said.  “It’s a very fun show.  You can’t dislike this show.  It’s impossible,” he added.

Both Watson and Plummer are excited about being part of the 25th anniversary season.   Plummer said she’s seen volunteers come and go, but currently there is an enthusiastic, hard working group on the board.  “That makes all the difference,” said Plummer.  “It’s nice to have the new energy and new enthusiasm from a bigger board.”

Beebe said it’s wonderful to see the Schoolhouse Arts Center still in operation after all these years.  “These people have gotten the bug, they love the theater and they have kept things going and built upon what we started.”  The theater has grown substantially, and offers a lot more opportunities for children, he said.  “One of the things I love is when I go up there, children show me around,” he said.  “The children feel like they own it, it’s their place.”

“Hold On, Molly” opens on April 12 and runs for two weekends, with Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday Matinee at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students and seniors.  For reservations, call 642-3743 or visit

Local businesses help support Fit4Summer by Michelle Libby

Jumping off the proverbial fitness bridge can be a scary endeavor, but the rewards according to the owners of Balanced Ground, 21st Century Family Fitness, PFN and Planet Fitness can be limitless. People who register for the challenge get discounts at four area fitness locations, special classes and workshops, and can even win cash by being the person who loses the biggest percentage of weight loss.

“Discounts are great, even if they don’t win, as long as they come together as a community, especially if they find out they like one of (the classes), they become part of your life, they become a process,” said co-owner of Balanced Ground Sarah Charles.

Each gym and center sponsoring the fit4summer challenge, offers something special for the beginner athlete to the seasoned athlete. Balanced Ground is offering 50 percent off a $100 punch card, good for 10 classes, either yoga or mixed-martial arts/kickboxing. Each member of the fit4summer gets a one on one session with Sarah, who teaches yoga, or Nate Charles, who does the MMA/kickboxing classes.

“If they’re trying to get in shape, the challenge would only benefit them,” said mother of four Sarah. She uses yoga as stress reduction instead of going to the gym all the time. “I need something that’s about lengthening, stretching and focusing on breath in a calm, soothing way,” she said. “It helps to bring a sense of balance in the chaotic life we have right now."

Balanced Ground has classes every night including classes for children in yoga and kids MMA.

 “Sometimes they need to drive by the gym and it’s that little extra thing that gets them in the door,” said John Booth, owner of 21st Century Family Fitness. Family Fitness is offering a special $49 rate for 12 weeks plus a free one-time workout and customized plan lead by a certified trainer. They also offer classes, babysitting, a basketball hoop and a separate free weight section. “We offer as much as we can,” said Booth.

“Anything that can promote health and wellness is always a good thing,” said Booth. “It’s easy to make excuses. You’ve got to sit down and write down your schedule. Treat it like a part-time job,” said Booth. “I know people who are my age, who look like my father. I can find the time (to hit the gym.),” he added.
At Planet Fitness, working out is a community affair, according to owner Eric Giguere. “It helps both the physical and mental aspects,” he said. Clients at Planet Fitness range in age from 13 to 103. For the fit4summer challenge, they are offering $10 down and $10 a month including unlimited free training with their trainers. They can help design a custom program for each member.

“We offer a welcoming gym, judgment free, no intimidation,” Giguere said. “The challenge is great for the community to come out and experience the gym. We try to pull those reasons (why they can’t workout) right out of them.”

PNF, which has been in business for a year and a half does personal one-on-one training and classes all by appointment only. At their studio, members can buy a punch card for $50 and attend 10 classes. This week they just added spinning classes to their repertoire. “Accountability is a huge thing,” said Whitney Sullivan, who co-owns the gym with Mark York. They train everyone from University of Southern Maine athletes to high school athletes and people who are homebound and need help with their activities of daily living.

“(The challenge) brings the community together and it’s about the fitness. It’s not about the competition between the facilities, but helping people to reach their goals,” Sullivan said.

Registering is easy. Sign up at any of the four sponsoring gyms, Balanced Ground, 21st Century Family Fitness, Planet Fitness and PNF, or The Windham Eagle office, then use whatever means necessary to get in shape. One does not have to use one of these deals to be a part of the challenge, said Kelly Mank, organizer of the challenge. But, a $50 membership card is necessary to win the prizes.

WMS students give books to Bush Children's Hospital by Michelle Libby

Photo by Michelle Libby
The Windham Middle School cafeteria was packed with second-graders, seventh-graders and grandparents on Tuesday morning as Pam Mallard and Lisa Hodge’s seventh grade class celebrated their collaboration to collect books for the library at The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital with students in Gail Small and Elaine Hawthorne’s classes.

Abby Snyder, a teacher for children in the children’s hospital, attended the celebration and received 148 books. “I can’t stress how important it is to have good books for the kids to read. It’s great to get lost in a great story. There’s nothing I like more than looking through a story with a kid and letting them get lost in their story.”

Snyder then told the students about a girl who was in a skiing accident a few weeks ago and is still unresponsive, except when someone reads her a book.
“You should be really, really proud of your hard work,” Snyder told the students.
In addition to the presentation of the books collected in the year-long project, and seventh-grader Annie Denbow, sang “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera a cappella, the students interviewed the grandparents in the crowd asking them questions like “When you were in second grade, what kinds of books did you read? What happened when you were naughty? Did you have TVs in your home?”  Finally, a large group of students co-read a poem to honor the grandparents.

In past years, the middle school students have collected cans for the Windham Food Pantry and sent Christmas cards to the troops overseas. This year they followed the journey of a pre-schooler who was waiting for a heart transplant and the students decided to collect books for the hospital library. The project was spearheaded by Darren Emerson and Skylyn Vokey, according to Mallard. 

Third grade chorus sings at State Legislature by Elizabeth Richards

Photo by Angela White
Windham Primary School third grade chorus members from JanWillem Musters’ and Lila Cancelarich’s classes sang the Star Spangled Banner at the opening of the State Legislature on Tuesday. “The singers did a fabulous job,” said chorus director Nancy Cash-Cobb. The students were met by State Senator Gary Plummer and State Representative Jane Pringle, both of whom live in Windham. They explained about state government and the legislative chamber.  The students visited the Maine State Museum and attended sessions on relief rubbings, wool carding and life under a log.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Implants allow sixth-grader to hear by Elizabeth Richards

Madison Mooradian is a lot like any other sixth grader, with one key exception – she was born profoundly deaf.  With the help of cochlear implants, Madison can hear and speak clearly.  She is an honor roll student and on the student council at Windham Middle School.
Born deaf due to a genetic disorder, Madison wore hearing aids until she was approximately 12 months old.  When her parents realized there was no benefit to the aids, they began to explore other options.  After visiting an auditory oral school, and hearing the deaf children speaking, they learned of cochlear implants, and decided it was the right choice for their family. “We are a verbal family.  We don’t have any other deafness in our family, so we thought cochlear implants were the best way to go,” said Madison’s mother, Robbyn Mooradian.

At the time, in 2001, cochlear implants were in clinical trials.  When Madison was implanted at 13 months, she was one of the youngest cochlear implant candidates in the United States.  She was activated at 14 months, and began the long trek towards spoken language, which included a 140-mile round- trip drive three times a week for essential follow up speech and language therapy. 

When the Mooradians moved to Maine in 2006, they continued Madison’s services through hear ME now, a Falmouth based auditory oral education center.  Maddison has attended Windham schools since Kindergarten and is mainstreamed. The only services she currently receives are two hours per week  with her auditory-oral teacher of the deaf, Katelyn Driscoll, M.E.D., provided through hear ME now.  

Madison said she’s had very few issues around her deafness in school.  Her parents say she has a strong personality, and her confidence shines through as she talks about what she likes to do – including fishing, spending time with her family and playing with her pets.  

Madison and her family volunteer their time to raise awareness on hearing loss.  Madison is a patient advocate for MED-EL, the company that makes the implants she has.  About twice a year, she is flown to national conferences to sit on a patient panel.  When asked how she feels about speaking in public, Maddie said, “I feel comfortable with it because I’ve done it before, and I feel like people should know about it. It’s important.”

Robbyn added that the parents of newly identified deaf infants are often delighted to meet Madison.  “When they meet Madison and see that she’s a normal functioning kid, and has beautiful spoken language - she doesn’t really sound deaf because she had her implants so young - I think it gives families hope and I think they like that,” Robbyn said.

They also represent MED-EL in their booths at the Hearing Loss Association of America  (HLAA) Walk for Hearing events.   Robbyn said that everything they do can make it a little easier for someone behind them dealing with similar issues.

Last year, Maddie went to the State House to speak when funding for hear ME now was in jeopardy, and the bill she was speaking in favor of passed.  “She doesn’t ever stop fighting for things she believes in – and I don’t think she ever will,” Robbyn said.

Visitors flock to North Star Sheep Farm by Leah Hoenen

Noah Hallward-Rough, 9, of Saco helps bottle feed a lamb at North Star Sheep Farm in Windham. On Saturday, March 30, farm owners Phil and Lisa Webster opened their doors to visitors, welcoming them to tour several barns and to take part in question-and-answer sessions, covering all aspects of raising sheep on both large and small scales. Many of the visitors who took advantage of the open house are participants in Emerging Maine Sheep Entrepreneurs program, an effort of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and the Maine Sheep Breeders Association, offering 30 months of educational opportunities to those who want to become shepherds or expand their sheep-farming businesses. Farm visitors who own or plan to develop their own flocks took advantage of the time to tour North Star’s facilities and quiz the experts on good husbandry. Learn more about the Websters’ farm online at Cooperative Extension is online at or

Adult education director elected to national board by Elizabeth Richards

Tom Nash, Director of Windham Raymond Adult Education, has been elected President-Elect to the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) board of directors, to start in July 2013.  This position represents a six-year commitment, two years each as president-elect, president and immediate past president.  The commission, which provides leadership, communication, professional development and advocacy for adult education and literacy practitioners, has close to 12,000 members.

Nash began his career as a fourth grade teacher, but quickly moved into the adult education field.  He earned a Masters of Science in Adult Education from the University of Southern Maine in 1992.  He has worked in four adult education programs in Maine, landing at RSU 14 nine years ago. Nash said that one thing he appreciates about RSU 14 is that he has been part of the administrative team right from the beginning. “I’ve really worked hard promoting a K to adult system, rather than just K-12,” he said.

Nash said he’s had tremendous support from both the Windham and Raymond communities.  He has also established a positive relationship with the business community, including working with the chamber of commerce and the Rotary club.  

Nash has been involved in the Maine Adult Education Association for many years, including being past conference chair and past president.  “I feel, for both myself and my staff, it’s important to be involved beyond the four walls of our learning center.  I think we have a lot to share with others in terms of the quality of work we do, the types of programming and the creativity we bring to adult education.”  

After attending COABE conferences for years, Nash ran for the position of Region One (New England and New York) Representative as a write in candidate, and won.  In that position, he found himself sometimes stepping up to ask the tough questions.  “I’m not afraid to ask anyone, regardless of who they are on the board, to provide more facts, provide more information, to challenge their thinking so it moves us forward,” he said.  

The president-elect position will be all about learning the ropes, supporting the president, and serving on the executive committee which sets the tone and agenda for the board.  Nash said he wants to get input from everyone – not just the board, but members as well.  “I think that’s an asset I bring to the position is that I’m very inclusive in my decision making.”

Nash expects to be challenged over the next few years, particularly with federal funding issues, including sequestration and possible immigration reform.  One challenge will be to ensure that people understand what the needs of adult learners around the country are, and make sure appropriate services can be provided.  He believes that his current involvement with COABE as well as his presidency will help the local program and Maine.  “I can bring a very different small program, rural perspective and a small state perspective to that discussion.”

Nash was recognized last year with the Maine Adult Education Gerald LeVasseur Award, given to a citizen of Maine who has performed outstanding work in the field of Adult and Community Education.  While it’s nice to be recognized, he said, that isn’t why he does the job.  “I love the work, I love the students,” he said.  “It’s just wonderful seeing people come back because they want to be there.”  

He ran for COABE president because he thinks he can make a difference in how the organization is run and perceived.  “I have a genuine interest in people and I have an ability to engage people in meaningful conversation, and they know that I’m interested,” he said. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Maple Weekend draws crowds by Leah Hoenen

A long line of maple sugar enthusiasts led to the sugar house at Cooper’s Maple Products in Windham. At the end of the wait: ice cream with maple syrup, maple cotton candy and other tasty treats made from the sparkling amber liquid.

Scenes like this played out across the state as Maine sugar houses opened their doors for the 30th anniversary of Maine Maple Sunday, a long-standing family tradition. People gathered around plates of pancakes doused with syrup before exploring the ins-and-outs of maple syrup production and grabbing treats to take home, from jugs of syrup to candy and baked-bean mixes.

Dewey Lloy, co-owner of Balsam Ridge Farm in Raymond, stood in front of a steaming vat of maple sap that bubbled away on a bright, brisk morning as people walked through, asking him about the production of syrup before tasting and buying it.

Bob Leger, of Scarborough, started the day with his family at Merrifield Farm on North Gorham Road before heading to Balsam Ridge. “We love Maine Maple Sunday. I’m really glad they extended it to Saturday and Sunday,” he said.
Lloy agreed. “We’ve always done Saturday and Sunday,” he said. The Lloy family began tapping trees as a hobby 15 years ago and opened their sugar house to the public eight years ago. A two-day event gives people the option to pick the better weekend day, or the chance to participate even if they have to work one weekend day, he said.

Cassie, Mark and Regan Johnson of Lewiston started their first-ever maple weekend at Balsam Ridge on Saturday, March 23. “This is our only one today; we’ll go to some tomorrow. This is our first year and its fun so far,” said Cassie Johnson.

Lloy said it can take anywhere between 40 and 50 gallons of raw sap to make a gallon of syrup, depending on the sugar content of the sap. Measured by a hydrometer, the sugar content of sap decreases throughout the season, which normally runs about six weeks. As the amount of sugar decreases and it takes longer to boil away the water, the end product darkens.

Lloy said he expects this year to be a good one for syrup production. Ideal weather is freezing nights followed by thawing days, which increases the pressure inside the tree, he said.

The Lloys use a vacuum pump to help create that pressure change. “The pump does not suck out the sap, it just causes the tree to have a differential in pressure to cause the sap to flow,” he said.

As an average tree can produce 1,000 gallons of sap each year, and syrup makers take 20 gallons to 30 gallons from each tree, the process is harmless, he said. “It’s like giving a pint of blood a year. There’s a tiny hole that heals the same way and leaves a small scar,” Lloy explained.

Lloy pauses and points to a heavy, rusted chain used for oxen teams to pull sap from the woods. Harvesting maple sap in the spring is an old rite here; Lloy has found sites on his property where people built huts to boil sap in the woods, he said.

Plastic tubing connected to vacuum pumps and stainless steel pans for evaporating may seem a far cry from boiling syrup in the woods, but in many ways, production of this early-season commodity is quite the same as it was when sap was boiled in the woods, or pulled from the woods in tubs by teams of oxen. People still gather each year early in the spring to boil the water out of sap to create sweet, golden syrup.

“This is a traditional thing people have a connection to,” Lloy said. “Anything with agriculture that can garner interest and get people out is a great thing.”

At Smitty's almost time for curtains up by Michelle Libby

Smitty’s has never claimed to be an ordinary theater. They have popcorn, slushies and screens, but they also have pizza, fries, beer and comfortable chairs…and they’re coming to Windham.

“Most is done. We have to wrap up the details and clean up,” said Smitty’s partner and manager Tucker Smith about the progress at the Windham Mall location.

Beginning April 9, Smitty’s will have a soft opening. By April vacation the theater will be running at full capacity, ready for their grand opening celebration.

This isn’t Smitty’s first time in Windham. In 2005, Smitty’s also known as Chunky’s left town when 5 Star Cinema moved into the Windham Mall. The Smith’s now have signed a 10-year lease for the vacated cinema. Tucker and his uncle, Milton Smith, have been working on the $1.5 million renovations, including updating all seven theaters to digital picture and sound, redesigning the theaters so each has four platforms each one higher than the one in front. Patrons can choose to sit at a bar table facing the screen or at a smaller table with a group. Seating varies by theater, but they seat between 50 and 115 people. 

A new kitchen was added to the adjacent storefront for their pub-style menu and they are using a new computer system for taking orders. They are considering building a new larger theater when the lease on part of the Big Lots store comes up for renewal in the next few months.

Smith said they had hired between 50 and 60 people. They are still considering applications for experienced servers, but there are only a few openings. Some of the staff they have hired are training at the Biddeford store so they’ll be ready to open, Tucker said. “Most of the (Chunky’s) waitstaff is coming back seven years later. They waited seven years for us,” said Tucker.

Having digital film allows one manager to run all of the theaters. “They play according to schedule,” said Tucker. Everything is set, no need for feeding film or worrying about hotspots, he added.

Smitty’s does more than show movies. All Patriots football games are shown on the big screen with free admission and free popcorn. There are also daily specials during the week. Mondays are $2 margaritas. Tuesday is two for Tuesdays. Guests can buy one appetizer and two entrees for $20. Wednesday is family night where for $25 movie-goers can get a large pizza, wings, soda and fries. Thursday is $2 domestic drafts and a wing special. Friday nights are for the new releases. College students get a discount for showing their college ID. Smitty’s will also have birthday parties. Their first one is already scheduled.

This will be Smitty’s fourth store. Other locations are in Sanford, Biddeford and Tilton, NH.
The Windham theater expects to open on April 9. “Whatever is new that week we’ll have,” said Tucker. “The summer looks good (for movies),” he added.  For more information, visit Smitty’s Cinema on Facebook or 

RSU 14 seeks volunteers to ease school crowding by Leah Hoenen

Windham Primary School is at capacity, while its sister school in Raymond is about half-full. District officials have reached out to Windham parents, asking if they would volunteer to send their children to Raymond Elementary School to ease crowding at Windham Primary.

So far, the district has not seen much interest in the plan.

Superintendent Sandy Prince sent a letter to parents in mid-March, suggesting the district could create consolidated stops, possibly along Route 302 in Windham or on the Windham/Raymond town line, where students could catch the bus to Raymond Elementary School.

“The challenge is that it’s not on the way to Portland, so parents could drop off on their way to work,” he said.

Windham Primary School now houses 130 students more than it was intended to hold when it was built 20 years ago, Prince said. “We know on paper we are over capacity – there is no more additional space to use,” he said. There are enough classrooms now, but the district has made office space out of closets.

“We are watching enrollment carefully. We have another school that can take more students, so we are looking at creative ways to get them up there,” he said.

The plan was briefly discussed at the Board of Directors workshop meeting Wednesday, March 20. Board Chairman Catriona Sangster and Transportation Director Mike Kelly confirmed the students would be transported from Windham to Raymond by an existing bus on its regular route.

Kelly said he and Prince discussed the cost of the proposal, which would range from $25,000 for a van to $35,000 for a bus.

“The existing fleet that I have today cannot accommodate this,” he said. The district has no wiggle room on buses, he said.

Kelly said there is no transportation plan in place yet, because the district is still trying to measure community interest. Cost would vary depending on the level of participation, he said.

Prince said if enough families decide to have their children attend school in Raymond, the district would ask the board for funding.

But, he said, “At this point, we are not seeing interest.”