Friday, August 26, 2022

Ukrainian family fleeing invasion, war finds refuge with Windham couple

Former Windham High School foreign exchange student
Kyrylo Perederli from Ukraine returned to Windham on
July 14 with his mother, Olene Kriutchenko, and father, 
Andrli Perederli, to escape their war-torn city. They were
invited to stay and live with Kyrylo's host family, WHS 
teacher Pam Carter, and her husband, Bill Allen, until they
feel safe to return to Ukraine.
By Lorraine Glowczak

When 16-year-old foreign exchange student Kyrylo Perederii arrived in Windham in 2018 to attend Windham High School, he never envisioned returning with his mother, Olena Kriutchenko, and father, Andrii Perederii due to life-altering circumstances.

But that is what happened to Kyrylo, now 20, and his parents, who lived in Melitopol, Ukraine, one of the first cities to be invaded by Russian armed forces earlier this year.

Fortunately, Krylylo and his parents kept in contact with his Windham host family, Pam Carter, a WHS teacher, and her husband, Bill Allen. The communication between the families continued in earnest during the early days of the war.

“When we decided it was time for us to leave Melitopol and we were trying to figure how we would do that, we asked Pam and Bill if Krylylo could stay with them while we were in transition and found a safe place until the war was over,” Olena said. “But Pam and Bill offered their home to all of us. We are very grateful for their kindness in allowing the three of us to stay together.”

However, the decision to leave their home bore relentless challenges.

Before the invasion, Kyrylo was attending Erasmus+ program, a university student exchange curriculum in Turkey. The program began in the fall of 2021 and ended in February. He arrived home on Feb. 12. However, just before his arrival, he started to receive alarming texts from friends in other countries. 
“My friends were asking me how I was doing, and I had no idea what they were talking about,” said Kyrylo, who has known Ukraine to be a sovereign nation since birth. “We had Ukrainian tanks passing through our streets in 2013 when the war started in the Eastern part of Ukraine. However, we saw no military activity near our city this time, so we didn’t think it was an actual menace.”

When one friend told him that she had heard men 18 years old and older would be called to serve the Ukrainian forces, Kyrylo and his parents became alarmed, and the uncertainty began.

The day after receiving these alarming texts, Russia started a full-scale invasion on Feb. 24.

“The next day, on Feb. 25, we were without electricity and running water and there weren’t cell phone connections for long periods at a time,” Olena said. “We didn’t know how our relatives were doing, they lived on the other side of the city. A lot of tanks were rolling through the city, bombing buildings. Going outside was unsafe, and we had no clue how long we’d have to stay inside our home.”

Olena said that looting became a problem, and food was becoming scarce.

“Luckily, Dad went shopping for food just before the invasion, so we had something to eat for a while,” Kyrylo said. “But when we ran out, we had to stand in long lines to purchase foods from the businesses that officially remained opened.”

Olena said that the Russians helped the shoplifters by ensuring that the “looting happened in an orderly fashion.”

During these early war-torn days, the uncertainty increased, and Kyrylo experienced an epiphany.

“Everything I was working toward, things that I thought were valuable, didn’t mean a thing anymore,” he said. “My plans to make my city a better place didn’t matter, no one will care about being proactive or volunteering now that everything is destroyed. When I made that realization, I just started to cry.”

Leaving family, friends, and their cat and dog added more heartbreak to this crisis, and it took extra strength knowing that the travels to the U.S. would be wrought with more challenges and intimidation. They prepared the best they could by deleting all calls, texts and social media posts that would raise suspicion. 
“To leave the city, we had to go through a lot of checkpoints,” Olena said. “You experience humiliation and interrogation by Russian officials, and often you never know if you will come out alive or what will happen next.”

Kyrylo and his parents described intimidating and degrading incidents Ukrainians experienced while crossing the checkpoints.

“There were no toilets and very few bushes to hide behind, so people went to the bathroom at the side of the road without getting too close to the land mines,” Olena said. “People had to wait in line for long periods in 100-degree weather, and Russian soldiers often took personal items that included money, laptops, cell phones, and jewelry without explanation.”

Repeatedly, Ukrainians were asked to remove their clothing so officers could inspect tattoos and hidden items that would favor Ukraine.

The family’s long and risky travel to safety, which began on June 7 and cost the family $1,000, eventually led them to Turkey on June 18 where they stayed with friends for three weeks while they waited for the proper paperwork to live temporarily in the U.S. and at the home of Carter and Allen.

Once the paperwork was filed and all was in order, Krylylo and his parents arrived in Windham on July 14, five weeks after leaving the city they love and call home. But gratitude is their focus.

“It was an amazing feeling to finally reach where we were trying to all this time and actually with people who have helped us so much,” Olena said.

Now that they are here, they are anxious to find work and be contributing members of the Carter and Allen household but must wait once again for the proper paperwork before they can begin working legally.

Krylylo continues to work on his college degree through online coursework while Olena and Andrii, a builder by trade, work to help the Carters with their house and camp projects.

“We always wanted to travel more after we retired, and visiting Maine was at the top of our list,” said Olena, a teacher. “But it was never in our plans to do it this way.”

They were very clear about their next steps and goals.

“To find a job, help people in our country, and return home as soon as the war is over,” Olena and Andrii said.

For others, like Carter and Allen, who may be interested in helping a family from war-torn Ukraine, you can do so if they legally reside in the United States. They can apply to sponsor Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members if they can prove they can financially support them for up to a two-year period. For more information, contact the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Department’s “Uniting for Ukraine” website:

Individuals may also contribute financial donations. Although there are many venues to choose from, one option to consider is United24,, a website launched by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to support Ukraine. <

Windham’s Keddy Mill site to be cleaned up, demolished

By Ed Pierce 

A long awaited project to tear down the former Keddy Mill
industrial building at 7 Depot St. in South Windham along
with cleaning up the site and removing contaminants there
will be starting this fall. The site work will be funded by a
federal Superfund program administered by the EPA to
safeguard human health and the environment

An agreement has been reached to clean up and demolish the old Keddy Mill site in South Windham under an initiative to protect human health and the environment.

Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and ITT LLC, the company responsible for the 6.93-acre site and structure off Depot Street in South Windham, say that the former industrial building on the site will be razed and contaminated materials there will be removed.

Testing has determined that the two-story concrete industrial structure on the property contains elevated levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, and other contaminants known to pose a risk to human health and the environment.

Located at 7 Depot St., the crumbling two-story concrete building at the site is thought to have been built in the early 20th century, although mill operations at that location date to the mid-1800s. Throughout the site’s history, several buildings have been constructed there and added to the mill complex.

Originally the mill was used as a grist and carding mill before being converted to a pulp mill, a box-board manufacturing facility and a steel mill. The site is in a mixed commercial/residential area in South Windham and is bounded by Depot Street to the north, a former Maine Central Railroad right-of-way to the east, and undeveloped property and the Presumpscot River to the south, and by Route 202/Main Street and an operational hydroelectric facility to the west. 

Use of the site for various industrial activities began in 1875, with its primary industrial use being for metal fabrication starting in 1945. The Keddy Mill Company began a metal manufacturing operation there in the 1960s which continued into the 1970s. Through the process of transforming scrap metal into products, electrical capacitors and transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were used there.

The building itself at 7 Depot St. sits on a concrete/soil foundation and contains a full basement. The EPA reports that no wells or known private drinking water sources are situated close to the location.

Under the Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent reached between the EPA and the responsible party, the cleanup work will be done in compliance with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, commonly known as the "Superfund," and ensures that the cleanup will protect human health and the environment. Cleanup work is expected to be phased, initially consisting of pre-design investigation activities, beginning this year.

"EPA is very pleased that after years of assessment and discussion with the community, we are moving into a significant stage of recovery and reclamation of this site," said EPA New England Regional Administrator David W. Cash. "The upcoming building demolition and removal of contaminated materials is an important step in the lengthy process of returning a Superfund site to productive use in a community."

The property was first listed on the National Priorities List of Superfund sites in 2014. The Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled, or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country to protect people's health and the environment.

Initial EPA actions there were launched in the 1980s. Data was collected during these investigations, as well a fuel oil spill, resulting in two previous cleanup actions performed at the site. In 1997, an action to remove nearly 11 tons of petroleum-impacted soil from the north-central portion of the property was conducted in accordance with Maine Department of Environmental Protection requirements. In 2010, a second cleanup action removed accessible PCB-contaminated fuel oils in piping and PCB-contaminated sludge, dirt, debris, and oil materials within the buildings on the site.

EPA completed a thorough site investigation in January 2013 and a Hazard Ranking System package in April 2013. Following that, the Keddy Mill site was placed on the NPL Superfund list in May 2014. A Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study was initiated there in 2015 to determine the nature and extent of contamination and the risks posed to human health and the environment and evaluate alternative cleanup measures if necessary.

An Action Memorandum for a Non-time Critical Removal Action was signed by EPA and ITC LLC in 2018. That required that contaminated building materials must be removed from the site and sent to an off-site licensed hazardous waste site facility. The primary building contaminants exceeding acceptable human health standards included polychorinated biphenals (PCBs) and asbestos.

Windham Town Council Chair Jarrod Maxfield said the cleanup announcement is welcome news for South Windham residents.

“Ever since I started in town government, I have been hearing about the Keddy Mill and the eventual cleanup that will happen,” Maxfield said. “This is the first of many steps to clean that site, redevelop it and open more opportunities for South Windham to become the vibrant, mixed-use community it once was and will be again.” <

Friday, August 19, 2022

State public administrators honor Tibbetts with 2022 Leadership Award

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts, left, accepts the
Maine Town, City and County Management Association's
2022 Leadership Award from MTCMA President Jey Feyler
during the association's convention Aug. 10 at Sugarloaf.
By Ed Pierce 

Windham’s Town Manager Barry Tibbetts was honored with the Maine Town, City and County Management Association’s 2022 Leadership Award during the association’s convention Aug. 10 at Sugarloaf.

The annual award is presented to recognize a Public Administrator in the state for a particularly bold and innovative project or for solving an unusually difficult problem. The recipient must have played a key role in developing the project as well as in implementing it. Over the past year, Tibbetts has played a substantial and pivotal role in Windham’s wastewater treatment solution for North Windham, development of a connector road system to alleviate traffic congestion in the Route 302 corridor and Windham’s approval of the East Windham Conservation Project where hundreds of acres were conserved by the town for recreational use.

In nominating Tibbetts for the prestigious award, Windham Town Council members and Bob Burns, Windham assistant town manager, representing Windham town staff, wrote that Tibbetts stepped up and led the way for Windham in getting these major projects off the ground in the last year.

“These achievements that needed Barry’s motivation, tutelage and leadership are wins for him and major wins for the Town of Windham and its residents,” Burns said. 

Jarrod Maxfield, Windham Town Council chair, agrees with that assessment.

“For too long Windham has been stagnant in terms of progress and development for success. We would often remark we are the ‘Town of Studies because we would study projects for years and then shelve them or not get the project over the finish line for one reason or another,” Maxfield said. “This pattern over the decades was not a positive thing for Windham and held us back from moving forward and creating opportunities. The day Barry showed up, that attitude and pattern ended, and we have not looked back as we move forward.”

Maxfield said Tibbetts’ wisdom and experience is exceptional in his role as Windham Town Manager.

“It is hard to think of how one man can move a boulder that has sat for so long but in Barry’s case it comes down to leadership, energy, out of the box thinking and a positivity that gets things done, not just talking about getting things done, but actually getting them done,” he said. “He helped foster a better environment for Windham employees after some years of turmoil and empowered them to finally get those things done. He gave them the foundation to know that if a roadblock occurred, as it will, they had his support, and he would help find a solution. He is a kind, positive and energetic person who makes those around him better and creates success by being there.”

In June, Windham voters attending the Annual Town Meeting approved a proposal for the town join a partnership with Presumpscot Regional Land Trust to purchase and conserve 661 acres near Little Duck Pond in East Windham in a project called the East Windham Conservation Project. It will acquire forested acreage for recreational opportunities in Windham while also adding 1,545 feet of undeveloped water frontage on Little Duck Pond, the 150-acre Deer Wintering Area for hunting, and the 580-foot Atherton Hill, the tallest hill in Windham. As part of the project, Lands for Maine’s Future awarded Windham $998,000 to help fund the initiative and voters approved a bond to match the LMF award with town open space impact fees so there will be no impact upon the mil rate for local homeowners.

Also in June, a town referendum for a proposed $40.4 million sewer and wastewater treatment project for North Windham was approved by 71 percent of voters after a different sewer proposal was rejected by Windham voters 10 years ago. The project will not raise taxes and all but $500,000 is covered to pay for the initiative through a combination of grant funding, a $38.9 million award by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and North Windham TIF funding supported by North Windham businesses. Under the project, a new wastewater treatment facility on the grounds of Manchester School will be built and addresses pressing environmental issues by removing thousands of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus being dumped by septic systems into the aquifer and watershed. It also is intended to stimulate significant economic growth and development in the North Windham area from industry and businesses not willing to locate there previously because of septic system issues and associated costs.

As town manager, Tibbetts also is leading an effort to alleviate persistent traffic congestion in North Windham along Route 302 through creation of a system of new access roads and sophisticated high-tech traffic signals. In January the Windham Town Council adopted a study that puts forward a phased plan to build connector roads in the next few years. For years, heavy traffic during peak travel times remains a problem along Route 302 from the intersection of Route 115 to Franklin Road and causes congestion, motorist delays and a high accident rate for motorists in the town. The issue has been studied repeatedly for years, but now a potential solution is at hand.

Tibbetts has served as Windham’s Town Manager since November 2019, first on an interim basis and then was made the permanent town manager since March 2020. He has extensive municipal experience and experience in local government, administrative operations, budgeting, regulatory functions, and community relations and served as the Kennebunk Town Manager through 2017.

Upon his retirement with Kennebunk and coming to Windham, Tibbetts worked with a small energy start-up business and developed a consulting business in energy and governmental services. He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Maine, and he also earned an MBA degree during his career in government. He also holds credentialed certifications from both the ICMA and MCTMA.

In learning he had won the award, Tibbetts said he was humbled and caught off guard.

“I was totally surprised by the Windham team, they did a great job in keeping it undercover until it was announced,” Tibbetts said. “It was an honor to receive this statewide award from the MTCMA with the recognition of the Windham Town Council and town staff. Since beginning in Windham two years ago, the council and staff as a team has been working toward addressing critical infrastructure needs which have been accumulating over the past. The timing is right, and Windham has great staff and council to get the work done. It been a pleasure to serve the council, staff and residents. <

RSU 14 students preparing for return to school

Students in RSU 14 start back to school on Aug. 309 through
Sept. 6, depending upon their grade level.
By Ed Pierce

Words that every parent in Windham and Raymond has come to appreciate are about to be spoken yet again as the final days of summer are ending for students with school back in session in just a matter of days now.

Classes in RSU 14 resume for Grades 1 to Grade 9 on Tuesday, Aug. 30 with Windham High School students in Grades 10 to Grade 12 returning to the classroom on Wednesday, Aug. 31. Depending upon notification from the school principal, students in Pre-K and Kindergarten have their first day of the 2022-2023 school year on Thursday, Sept. 1 or Tuesday, Sept. 6 with classes split in half on those days.

All students will be off on Friday, Sept. 2 and Monday, Sept. 5 for the Labor Day holiday.

Orientation for new staff members and teachers is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 24, and will be followed by two days of teacher in-service training on Thursday, Aug. 25 and Friday, Aug. 26.

All school principals in RSU 14 are returning this fall, with the exception being at Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond, where Michelle Brann has replaced Randy Crockett as principal. 

Ryan Caron is the principal of Windham High School, with Drew Patin returning as the principal at Windham Middle School. At Windham Primary School, Dr. Kyle Rhoads is the principal and Danielle Donnini leads Manchester School as principal. Beth Peavey is the principal of Raymond Elementary School.

Christopher Howell is the RSU 14 Superintendent of Schools and Christine Frost-Bertinet is the assistant superintendent. Kate Brix serves as chair of the RSU 14 Board of Directors.

Other key positions for the school district for the 2022-2023 school year include Director of School Nutrition Jeanne Reilly, Director of Facilities Bill Hansen, Adult Education Director Thomas Nash, Director of Transportation Mike Kelly, Director of Technology Robert Hickey, and Director of Curriculum Christine Hesler.

For parents of student-athletes participating in fall sports at Windham High School, a “Meet the Coaches” night will be held at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31 in the high school auditorium.

Windham Middle School sign-ups for student-athletes will be conducted on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, with tryouts and practices for WMS fall sports scheduled to open Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Following the Labor Day holiday break, the next scheduled day off from instruction for students will be Monday, Oct. 10 to observe Indigenous People’s Day.

According to information contained in the latest RSU 14 newsletter, district schools will continue to be mask optional and will follow the CDC current recommendation of a five-day quarantine, followed by five days of masking for individuals who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Individuals must be fever free for at least 24 hours prior to their return to school. Enhanced cleaning and sanitizing practices as well as enhanced ventilation adopted during the pandemic will continue to be followed.

The district remains committed to supporting students and staff members who wish to continue to mask while at school and district events and a supply of high-quality masks are available at each school.

Heading into the new school year, numerous job opportunities are available for employment with the school district. For more information about vacancies, call RSU14 Human Resources at 207-892-1800, ext. 2009 or visit <

Friday, August 12, 2022

Windham resident turning 100 in September shares tales from her life

By Ed Pierce 

Else Brown of Windham turns 100 on Sept. 9 and
has survived war, starvation, refugee camps, 
extreme poverty, separation from her daughter and
the death of her husband during her lifetime. She
remains in good spirits and has devoted much of
her life to helping others. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE 

Life was never easy for Else Brown of Windham, but she made the most of it and next month, she will celebrate her 100th birthday.

Born in what was then Konigsberg (now called Kaliningrad) in Prussia on Sept. 9, 1922, Brown survived a Russian invasion of her city, World War II, extreme poverty, starvation, life in a crowded refugee camp, learning a new language, emigrating to America, separation from her daughter, and the death of her husband. Through it all, she has retained a unique sense of humor, an indomitable spirit, and a strong desire to help others who are in need.

She was the only child of parents who had moved from a farm to Konigsberg when her father had landed a job caring for horses. That was shortly before the outbreak of World War II and her life suddenly changed when Russian troops seized Konigsberg, the easternmost German city located between Poland and Lithuania. Her mother fled to live with her sister near Berlin and Else went to live out the war in a refugee resettlement camp in Germany.

Life in the refugee camp was harsh and both money and food were scarce. Refugees were so poor that they did what they had to do to survive, including stealing food when opportunities were presented rather than starve to death. She never forgot that feeling of poverty and to this day has a soft spot in her heart for those less fortunate than she is.

After the war ended in 1945, Brown went to work for a U.S. military family stationed in Germany, first as a babysitter and then as the maid in charge of caring for the household. It was while working that job, she met her husband, Lawrence Brown, a U.S. Army staff sergeant who was a friend of the family she worked for.

“I thought he was unusual but good looking,” Brown said. 

The couple married in 1955 and her husband adopted Else’s mentally challenged daughter. In 1957, her husband was transferred by the military back to the U.S. but wasn’t allowed to take Else’s daughter because of immigration rules. She was left behind in a facility for mentally challenged children and remains under care in Germany today at age 76. That enforced separation still hurts Brown years later.

Now living in America, Brown’s husband was discharged from the U.S. Army and then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. Else slowly learned English and got a job working at the Base Exchange at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts. 

“I wanted to work but my English was not so good,” Else said. “I was assigned to work in the military uniform section. A major came in and asked for a muffler and I told him that we didn’t sell them and that he needed to go to the auto repair shop on base instead. A few minutes later he came back with the manager, and I was told it wasn’t the muffler for a car he was looking for. The manager said this time I really did it, the muffler that the major was looking for was a scarf. I told him, “Why don’t they just call it a scarf then?”

The Browns then moved to Maryland when Lawrence was transferred to a post in Washington, D.C. Else found work at Raleigh’s, a fashionable men’s and women’s clothing store in Washington. She spent 13 years handling the accounting books for Raleigh’s and says she loved her work there.

After 46 years of living in Maryland, the couple thought about moving to Florida after visiting there on vacation. In 2001, while preparing to move, Else’s husband, who was already in Florida looking for places for them, called her and asked if she would go to Windham to help his brother, who lived here and was very sick.

“It was a bad situation,” she said. “He had about 40 cats and his house was really a mess inside. There were cats and cat litter everywhere. It took me a while to get it all cleaned up.”

Then came another blow for Else when she received a phone call that her husband was in the hospital in Tampa and was dying of cancer. 

“I think now that he knew he was dying, and he sent me to Windham where his brother was,” she said. “Lawrence died and a year later I bought a trailer home and have lived here for 20 years.”

Else took up crocheting and started making blankets for friends and for veterans and firefighters when she had time. Once she crocheted 26 blankets for veterans in wheelchairs to use and drove away quickly from the Windham Veterans Center after they were brought inside by a worker there.

“I drove off because I didn’t want them to know who made them for them,” she said. “I didn’t do it for the glory, I did it because I wanted to.”

Over the years, she’s also crocheted quilts, snowmen, and other household items for her friends working at Windham Town Hall.

With her eyesight failing and her hearing not being very good, Else stopped driving just a year ago at age 98 and isn’t able to crochet anymore. She now has help and transportation thanks to her caregiver and friend, Rose Milliken of Windham.

According to Else, Milliken is kind and a throwback to days long ago.

“Where I was born, everybody knew everybody and helped each other,” she said. “People are so different now and they are more about themselves and what they can have rather than being about how they can help others.”

Brown says she isn’t dwelling much about her upcoming birthday and turning 100.

“I don’t really care about having a birthday cake or a birthday party,” she said. “Of course, I’m always looking for a man.” <

Editor's note: An effort is underway to send Else Brown 100 birthday cards for her 100th birthday on Sept. 9. The public can mail the cards to Else Brown c/o Rose Milliken, 45 Pope Road, Windham, Maine 04062.

New JSMS principal brings 20 years of experience to RSU 14

New Jordan-Small Middle School Principal Michelle Brann
is committed to providing each students with an excellent
education and many opportunities to learn and grow as
young adults. During her spare time, she enjoys fishing
and boating on Casco Bay with her family.

By Lorraine Glowczak

Michelle Brann officially began her new post as the Jordon-Small Middle School principal on Wednesday, Aug. 3, when the RSU 14 Board of Directors formally accepted the hiring committee’s nomination of this experienced educational leader.

For the past 21 years, Brann, who replaces former JSMS Principal Randy Crockett, has been a classroom teacher in the Lake Region School and Wells-Ogunquit School Districts, with her most recent position being as assistant principal at Lake Region Middle School.

RSU 14 Superintendent Chris Howell had the opportunity to speak with her former colleagues at Lake Region Middle School, who spoke of Brann with high regard.

“Each individual described Michelle as an accomplished educational leader with a strong personal, moral/ethical compass,” Howell said. “In addition, they shared that she is a strong communicator who has consistently demonstrated an ability to build strong relationships with students, staff and the community.”

One of Brann’s visions for JSMS students is to provide the best educational opportunities available while at the same time acknowledging there is not a “one size fits all” instructive approach.

“I hope to prepare students by readying them for a successful high school experience,” Brann said. “Student success is recognizing that no two students are alike and meeting them where they are by building relationships. Once you build strong bonds with students, they feel supported in learning and growing authentically and in personally meaningful ways.”
Brann also said that encouraging students to explore their interests contributes to educational success.

“Middle school is that time in students’ lives to learn about themselves, knowing what feels comfortable in moving forward – not just academically but through extra-curricular opportunities as well.”

Along with embracing student success, Brann said that she also intends to spend her first year understanding the JSMS community’s tradition and culture. She will begin by being an active listener.

“Listening to all the voices in the community – staff, teachers and parents – and learning their needs and goals will be among my priorities as JSMS principal,” she said. “I have a very collaborative approach to leadership, and I believe it is important to have conversations to gather an understanding of all involved to move forward positively and cohesively.”

Brann said she envisions her role as the JSMS principal as a bridge between all community partners.

In addition to her teaching and leadership experiences, Brann has an impressive resume full of training and advanced degrees that she will bring to the position.

After graduating from the Extended Teacher Education Program at the University of Southern Maine, Brann began her teaching career in 2001 as a social studies teacher at Lake Region High School, transferring to Wells High School two years later, teaching there until 2017. 
“While there, I worked with students of varying needs and abilities,” she said. “I co-taught classes and was the social studies teacher for the alternative education program. I have been the Assistant Principal at Lake Region Middle School for the past five years. In May of 2021, my love of life-long learning led me to obtain my Certificate of Advanced Studies in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Maine. I continuously seek opportunities to learn and grow as a school leader and look forward to learning and leading JSMS.” 
When Brann, who lives in Falmouth, is not busy taking classes or working as a collaborative leader, she is engaged in fun adventuresome activities such as boating and fishing on Casco Bay with her husband, son and daughter. Her family is also busy with high school sports.

“I am very much a hockey mom,” Brann said, whose children both attend Falmouth High School. “My daughter is the athlete in the family, playing hockey and lacrosse. I am a member of both the Hockey Board and Boosters Board in Falmouth since we are so involved with sports and travel to so many games.”

Brann’s family shares their home with a Maine Coon mix cat and two dogs. “One of our dogs is 90 pounds. It’s like having a horse in the house so there is never a dull moment in our family,” she said.

Despite her busy schedule, Brann finds the time to exercise. She walks five miles daily with a supportive group of friends as often as possible and has run the Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth five times. “I am not going to run it this year but have plans to do so again in the future.”

Brann said she feels extremely fortunate to have been selected to become part of the RSU 14 community.

“In the short time that I have been here, I have been immensely impressed by the dedication, professionalism, and kindness that has been demonstrated by the administration, staff and the community,” she said. “I am excited to be here and am committed to providing each student with an excellent education and many opportunities to learn and grow as young adults.”

With this same excitement, the community and staff of Windham and Raymond look forward to the opportunities that Brann will provide for the district.

“It is without a doubt that Lake Region is sad to see Michelle leave their district, but we are delighted and fortunate to have her join RSU 14,” Howell said. <

Friday, August 5, 2022

Fuller Center cyclists pedal 3,900 miles to assist Windham resident with ALS

Fuller Center for Housing cyclists gather before a leg of their
3,900-mile coast-to-coast journey that took six weeks to
complete this summer. While in Windham, the riders helped
build a new porch for a resident who has ALS and assisted
in making other home improvements for local seniors as
volunteers for the Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center
for Housing. COURTESY PHOTO       
By Ed Pierce

It’s said that when you give of yourself, that is when you truly give. For 21 cyclists completing a 3,900 mile ride from Seaside, Oregon to Maine on behalf of the Fuller Center for Housing last weekend, they gave everything they possibly could by finishing their journey.

Fuller Center cyclists rode from Fryeburg to St. Joseph’s College in Standish on Thursday, July 28 and then enjoyed a police escort as they made their way to an overnight stop at the North Windham Union Church. There they teamed up with a group of volunteers from the Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing on Friday, July 29 for a building project to add a new front porch for John and Linda Gregoire of Windham and other projects.

John Gregoire is wheelchair bound and paralyzed and is unable to speak. He communicates through a laptop and has been suffering from ALS for the past 15 years. In creating the new porch for the family, Fuller Center cyclists and local volunteers updated the Gregoire home to make it safer and more accessible for John, who is now able to roll out onto the porch for fresh air when needed.

“Thank you to the Sebago Fuller Housing Foundation for helping those who can no longer care for their homes and just need an extra heart and hand to bring their home back to its glory,” said Linda Gregoire. “All with consideration of John’s needs, nothing has been overlooked to make this project safe and comfortable for him. This group has given us more than a porch with a second means of egress, they’ve given us a feeling of being cared for and loved. John and I are beyond grateful, humbled and in awe of the kindness showered on us.”

In all, the cyclists and Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center volunteers worked on eight different housing projects while in Windham before the remaining riders departed for Portland on the final leg of their six-week cross-country ride on Saturday, July 30.

In reaching the Atlantic Ocean, the cyclists wrapped up a coast-to-coast adventure that spanned 14 different northern-tier states and included visits to all of the Great Lakes and an array of locations such as Glacier National Park in Montana, Niagara Falls in New York and Lake Champlain in Vermont.

In Burlington, Vermont, Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center President Diane Dunton Bruni of Windham joined the group of cross-country cyclists and rode with them on the final trek over to Maine.

The Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure was founded in 2008 as a way to raise funds for The Fuller Center for Housing’s work of partnering with families in need to help them have simple, decent places to live through home repairs and new home construction – through dozens of Fuller Center covenant partners across the United States and in 20 different countries.

Since its inception, the Fuller Center Bicycle Adventure has raised more than $3.8 million for the Fuller Center’s work through the years, including more than $500,000 raised in 2022. Riders also are instrumental in bringing attention and public awareness about the nonprofit’s work through speaking engagements, media coverage and simply by talking with people they meet along the way.

The Fuller Center for Housing was founded in 2005 by the late Millard Fuller, who also created the Habitat for Humanity International initiative. It seeks to end substandard housing and improve the lives of those who may never have owned a home. The group partners with local agencies and volunteers to build or repair homes with partner families who participate in the work and pay the costs forward on a no-profit, no-interest basis that they can afford.

During this year’s cross-country ride, the orange-clad cyclists participated in seven build days at stops they made at Fuller Center locations. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 80 Fuller Center sites, and the number continues to grow every year.

To learn more about project eligibility, to become an active volunteer or to make a charitable donation, visit the Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing’s website at, send an email to, or call 207-387-0855. <

Healthy Pickins Garden at JSMS provides not only vegetables, but life lessons for students

The Healthy Pickins Garden was created at Jordan-Small
Middle School in Raymond in 2010 as a way to foster
community involvement and provide students with a 
better understanding of gardening and the work that is
involved in growing produce. PHOTO BY JOHN  KELLER
By Andrew Wing 

Vegetable gardening is a rewarding activity that can provide fresh, flavorful produce and it also offers the benefits of exercise, fresh air, and learning more about how these important nutrients are grown. At Jordan-Small Middle School, that’s exactly what they have shown the students there for over a decade with its Healthy Pickins Garden.

Healthy Pickins Garden was built in 2010 and that along with the adjacent greenhouse has been active since then. It came about through a grant that Dennis Woodruff and John Keller had obtained that furnished the funding to build the greenhouse and furnish supply tools, bags of soil, fencing, and seed packets. Lori Dibiase-Gagnon also played a key role in getting the first vegetable garden started and since 2010, thousands of pounds of vegetables have been grown for the school lunch program with lots of help from the JSMS students.

Physicians say that fresh vegetables are a central and integral part of any healthy diet. Vegetables are loaded with essential nutrients that promote better health, including antioxidants and vitamins. And as many benefits as vegetables provide to one’s health, there are also benefits of growing the vegetables in a vegetable garden as having a vegetable garden can save hundreds of dollars on groceries.

Over the years, JSMS students and staff have grown many varieties of vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, beans, carrots, beets, onions, garlic, spinach, lettuce, eggplant, collard greens, potatoes, cabbage, kale, cucumbers, broccoli, melons, and a variety of herbs. These fresh organic grown vegetables have provided hundreds of healthy and delicious meals to the students and staff at JSMS over the years and when there has been a surplus of harvest, the vegetables have been donated to the Raymond Community School and other schools in the district, as well as the Raymond Food Pantry. 

The greenhouse at JSMS is active from September to November, and then again from March through May. Some of the cooler weather crops such as spinach and lettuce are grown in the greenhouse raised beds and are used in the JSMS lunch program salad bar. The greenhouse also has a cooling fan that was installed by former student, Al Potter, which is powered by a battery and solar panel which former JSMS applied tech students helped construct.

Keller, one of the men who helped start the garden, has been involved since its inception. He just retired following 26 years working in Special Education at JSMS. He was also the school’s cross-country coach for over 20 years, and despite his retirement, he will return this fall to co-coach alongside John Powers and plans to substitute teach when needed. Most importantly, Keller plans to still watch over the Healthy Pickins Garden as he plays such a key role performing the summer care for it until the students and staff return this fall.

All in all, Healthy Pickins Garden is a big deal at JSMS, and the students there play an integral role in it.

“The majority of the students that help with the vegetable garden are primarily 5th grade science students, but the sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students have helped as well during the school day and in the after-school garden club,” said Keller. “The students do the majority of the work preparing the garden in the spring and harvesting crops when they return to school in late August through the final harvest in late October.”

When Healthy Pickins Garden was created back in 2010, those at JSMS were hoping that it would provide food for not only the school, but the community as well, and more than that, they wanted the students to take something away from working in the garden, and Keller believes that they have done just that.

“There are so many benefits for these children at JSMS being involved in a gardening program,” said Keller. “Vegetable gardening teaches students about agriculture, nutrition, and life skills as they can learn how to grow vegetables for the rest of their lives. Also, school gardens just help promote healthy lifestyles.”

Now, 12 years after it began, there is no denying that Healthy Pickins Garden has been a success, and Keller says that he wants to thank everyone who has contributed to that success.

“The success of the school garden over the years has truly been a school and town community effort,” said Keller. “It would not be possible without the support of the fifth-grade teachers Lynne Latham and Kelly Crockett, kitchen staff Jamie Harmon, Scott Walsh, and Santa Rodriquez-Lopez, Chef Ryan Roderick, former Chef Samantha Cowens-Gasbaro, RSU 14 Director of School Nutrition Jeanne Reilly, special education staff Erika Greene, Moira Case, and Kim Hutchins, occupational therapist Lori Fletcher and her daughter Emma, JSMS head groundskeeper Tom Gumble, longterm and now former principal Randy Crockett, master gardener Sheila Frappier who has also led the after-school gardening program, Lyndsay Stretch of Petals Farm and Garden, school custodians, and community volunteers April Fey and Mary Thornton, but most importantly the students of JSMS.” <