Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Exotic animals in Raymond - By Walter Lunt

The Raymond Parent-Teacher Organization, Raymond Village Library and Engineered Construction Services (ECS) of Raymond teamed up to bring area children a close encounter with exotic animals over April vacation.
The program, Wildlife Encounters of Rochester, New Hampshire, was an obvious thrill for the more than 100 children and adults in attendance at the Raymond Public Safety Building last Monday. The program also carried a serious message.

Derek, the Encounter’s presenter, treated area preschool through elementary-aged kids and their families to several non-native animals and was rewarded with reactions ranging from awe to squeals of delight.

First up was Sid, a white cockatoo with funky feet, who performed a table-top dance that prompted a chorus of cheers and laughter. The delight, however, died back significantly when Sid demonstrated its ear-piercing warning cry of the jungle. Sid, Derek explained, was actually a descendant of ancient crocodiles and dinosaurs. Feathers replaced scales in the slow process of adaptation. Pointing to the large black eyes on each side of the bird’s head, he had the kids repeat a learning rhyme:  “Eyes on the side, I like to hide. Eyes in front (like an owl) I like to hunt.”

As the 90-minute presentation progressed, kids got a close-up look at creatures more commonly seen in magazines and on the National Geographic channel.  

The African hedgehog, resembling a large, fur-lined pin cushion, hid his face when curled up for protection. Derek challenged a front row attendee to flip the animal onto its back. The attempt, although cheered on by the audience, met with no success. The Komodo lizard, known as the alligator’s evil cousin in its native land, mimics the Gila monster for protection. Joey, the wallaby, licks soil while leaning out of its mother’s pouch to absorb nutrient rich microbes. 
Some of the animals, explained Derek, are threatened species. 

The discussion centered on how people can live their lives in ways that help animals survive. One example involved the southwest king snake, which emerged from a carrier wrapped around the presenter’s hand and wrist. Ranchers and farmers import the reptiles. King snakes main food source is other snakes and helps rid the ranch land of threatening species, such as rattlesnakes. The practice, known as bio-mimicry, is environmentally friendly. 

Other practices, such as carbon sequestration, mentioned but not explained in depth (due to the limited age and experiences of the young audience) deal with using the earth’s own resources to solve the problems of modern humanity. As Derek put it, “It’s not ‘save the earth,’ it’s ‘promote a human life support system’.”

Following the presentation, audience members got the chance to pet the hedgehog and the king snake. There was less interest in the snake.

Photos were submitted by Lisa Davison.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dancers bring the energy for the Dancing with the Staff finale - By Michelle Libby

Night two and the finale of Dancing with the Staff, the fundraiser for Project Graduation 2015, started off with a lot of excitement and friendly competition between fans in the audience rooting for their team to take home the trophy. 

Judges Kim McBride, Jennifer Breton and Ted Becker (a former Dancing with the Staff winner with the trophy to prove it) were not important for the scores they gave, but for the laughs they provided after every dance. The top teams going into the second night of competition were student teams Melissa Agneta and Griffin Jacobson (Griff J) and Meagan Griffeth and Matt Roy. The teacher teams were Danielle Burian and Michael Martin and Bill Diamond and Karen Tocci. 

Local dance schools, Dance Moves ME, Center of Movement and Center Stage, showcased their talents throughout the evening. 

The dancers blazed through their performances with energy and spark. “Emily, your hair should have its own zip code,” Breton said to dancer Emily Gagne. 

“Mrs. Breton, you have so much street cred, you are my most gangster friend,” McBride said eliciting laughter from the audience.

Favorites Martin and Burian had amazing lifts and throws and from the green shirts in the audience, they might corner the popular vote. “I hope they follow their hearts and vote for you,” said McBride.
Hawar Haddadi busted out the worm during his dance with Aiyanna Maciel. 

Adam Manzo and Kelly-Anne Rush did a sweet number that told a story about boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl.  

Pat Leavitt and Eliza Palow wrapped up the first half of the show with a “strangly aggressive dance,” according to McBride. Becker suggested a “worm-off” between Leavitt and Haddadi. 

“I like the interaction between the students and the teachers,” said Lee Anne Carver from Westbrook.
“I think the judges are a hoot,” said Nancy Gonska of Windham. 

Student Taylor Mains liked that there were students in the competition this year. “It’s a lot of fun,” she said. 

Tom Nash, the master of ceremonies, and his former dance partner Debbie Hall danced a tribute to the late Toby Pennels. It was a serious, poignant moment in the competition. 
Matt Roy and Meagan Griffeth took to the stage and did an energetic dance. “Matt, you look like you’re good at picking things up and putting them down. Put in more lifts,” said Becker. 

A pregnant Tianna Burton and Beth Bubier danced to “Uptown Funk” gaining great comments from the judges. “You’re dancing is smoother than a fresh jar of skippy,” said Breton. 

Cassidy Mullins and Madi Roberts were very limber and since they are cheerleaders, Breton did a quick cheer for them complete with pomp oms. Becker added, “Cassidy, you have a quiz tomorrow, so you really should go home and study.” 

Bill Diamond and his daughter Karen Tocci went country with cowboy hats and boots to TROUBLE. “Leave it to a former educator to choose a song with spelling all the way through,” Breton said. 

Griff J and Melissa Agneta closed the show with their rendition of “You’re the one I want,” from Grease. It was entertaining and the audience loved it as much as the judges. Voting them the top student team. Top teacher dancer honors went to Manchester teachers Burian and Martin. 

The top people’s choice winners as determined by donations were Emma Gresh and Emily Gagne and Bill Diamond and Karen Tocci.

“I don’t think we even had to remember to smile,” said Burian, a teacher at Manchester School.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Windham Police Department honored at Sea Dogs double header - By Michelle Libby

Last Saturday, The Portland Sea Dogs held their season opener, a double header against the Reading Fightin Phils. The night was in honor of hometown heroes and the Windham Police Department was selected to be the honor guard for the night. Members (left to right) were Officer Eric Quatrano (guard), Officer Josh Katuzny (American flag), Det. Gene Gallant (Maine State flag), Sgt. Jason Andrews (Commander, rear of formation), Officer Matt Cyr (Windham PD unit flag), Officer Jason Burke (Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Flag), Det. Rob Hunt (guard) . 
In addition to the honor guard, three Windham Police officers were nominated as hometown heroes. Friend and family from the police department, including soon to be new police chief  Kevin Schofield and his family attended the game, in support of Rob Hunt, Matt Cyr and Paul Cox (who couldn’t be there.). The three honorees were recognized for their work on the case involving the threats to the school back in December. 

“It’s nice someone nominated us,” said Cry, who had never been to a baseball game before.
“It’s a nice feeling to be able to recognize the Windham Police Department in this manner. I was just one of the pieces to that cog,” Hunt said. He noted that between patrol, criminal investigations division, Maine Computer Crimes Task Force, the care was able to come to a swift and safe conclusion.
“I live in town. My kids are a part of the school. There’s a level of intimacy to it. There was an urge, need, a desire to get it solves so the kids could get back to school and get on with their education,” Hunt concluded. 

Other public safety officers were recognized at the game from Raymond Fire/Rescue Department (Nic Davis, Ben Fox, Hunter Holt) and Windham Fire Department (Mike Benecke, Dale Doughty, Steve Stackhouse). 
The Sea Dogs won the first game 4-2, but didn’t win the second of the double header. 

Community Day at Mancehester School showcases volunteerism - By Michelle Libby

Manchester School celebrated Community Day on Wednesday. This day is a celebration of what kids can accomplish when working toward a mission. The theme of the event is “kids caring for the community,” said teacher and organizer Stacy Sanborn. “We keep getting better at it. It’s amazing what the kids take with them after they’re done [at Manchester].” 
All year, the classes at the school have worked on projects from taking care of the Presumpscot River to the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals to birds and Veterans. 

Keynote speaker, high school principal, Christopher Howell, said that it was his 10th Community Day. “I’ve never missed the chance to celebrate the community and all the things that happen here at Manchester School,” he said. “Our community depends on you.” 

Howell also issued a challenge to the students and parents in the room. “Listen with your ears and look with your eyes. Be aware of people around you,” he said. He encouraged the students to get involved and have fun. If they find someone in need, they should find an adult and do something for them. 

The other is what he calls “stealth community service”. Do something for someone else without them knowing it was you. He gave the example of paying for someone’s dinner at a restaurant. 

Two AmeriCorps volunteers who work at the REAL School and are now volunteering at Manchester more than 40 hours a week, spoke. “Our students have taken ownership of these things,” Robert Deakin said. He told the kids that he has a few things he tries to do every day. “Try to make someone laugh, say thank you, help someone and do the best you can do every day,” Deakin said.  

Local law enforcement and veterans were honored including Game Warden Pete Herring, who patrols the area. “I work with landowners keeping the land open for you folks,” he said. Eighty-five percent of land in Maine is privately owned. Those landowners often open their land for people to recreate on. “It’s not a right,” he told the student. “It’s a privilege. If it’s abused it goes away.” He also mentioned that this is “baby animal season”. He encouraged the kids to leave animals alone, even if it looks like they may be without their mother. 
Teacher Sabrina Nickerson was named the 2015 Educator of the Year from the American Legion post 148. Pam Lantz, the former guidance counselor, was acknowledged for her help with the community gardens. 

Another class donated $751 to the MSSPA for the care of two horses, Penny and Marley. Officer Matt Cyr organized a drive for non-food items for the food pantry in Windham. A competition between the fourth and fifth grades was fierce. With a tie being declared, just before a last minute donation from a fourth grader put that class over the top. All together the school collected 2,888 items. 

“Isn’t this place awesome,” said superintendent Sandy Prince, who reiterated Howell’s challenge of being kind and doing random acts of kindness. 

The event that started at 7:30 a.m. with breakfast for 270 people, ended with the announcement that principal Cindy Curtis will be retiring after 10 years at Manchester School. Some of the students that were in the school when Curtis took over, have gone on to the military or college. She loves to see what becomes of the students. “It has been an honor. I will be watching,” she finished.