Friday, October 27, 2023

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

By Masha Yurkevich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Ed Pierce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 20, 2023

Referendum seeks voter approval to build new middle school

By Ed Pierce

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Windham’s ‘Trunk or Treat’ promises to be an event full of spooky fun

By Masha Yurkevich

For those who love Halloween, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for fear and if you haven’t already selected a costume, time is growing short as Windham’s annual Halloween extravaganza known as “Trunk or Treat” is approaching.

Windham Parks and Recreation will be hosting its annual
'Trunk or Treat' event for kids from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday,
Oct. 28 behind the Windham Mall in North Windham.
Registration is required for participants at 
North Windham. Registration is required for participants at
Windham’s Parks and Recreation Department will once again be hosting the spooky and social event behind the Windham Mall from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28 and it promises to be an evening filled with fun, treats, and spooky beats.

Trunk or Treat has become a popular event nationwide, either as an alternative to or in addition to conventional trick-or-treating to neighborhood homes. For those who choose to host a trunk, they decorate and serve candy out of the trunk of their vehicles.

For the businesses and community organizations that participate, it is a way to spotlight their mission and give back to their communities. For individual families, it is often their way to give candy to trunk-or-treaters who might not otherwise visit them if their homes are in a rural setting, or they just want to have fun.

In Windham, trunk participants are judged for creativity, originality, and effort, and it is amazing to see what some of the trunks end up looking like.

“The department had been hosting Windham’s Halloween Adventure for a number of years at Manchester School for children in third grade and below,” says Linda Brooks, Director of Windham Parks and Recreation. “In 2016, in an effort to expand upon this event, we moved it to the Windham Middle School, opened it to grades 8 and under and in addition to the Trunk or Treat, added a haunted house, games, refreshments and a Costume Contest.”

In 2016 there were 10 trunks and by 2019 the number had grown to 24 trunks with an estimated 700 children in attendance, so the Parks and Recreation staff knew that they had outgrown the Middle School and the format for the event. With the arrival of COVID-19 in 2020, Parks and Recreation was forced to modify the event to be a Drive-Thru Trunk or Treat at the Windham Mall. By 2022’s Trunk or Treat, the number of trunk hosts had grown to 32.

“Our event is always held the Saturday evening before Halloween so that it doesn’t interfere with anyone wishing to go Trick-or-Treating in their neighborhoods,” says Brooks.

While the event is free, people do need to register in advance, both to host a trunk or to attend as a participant. Registration can be done by visiting or in person at the Parks and Recreation Department at Windham Town Hall. Registration for Trunk Hosts ends Wednesday, Oct. 25 and children and families must pre-register for a specific time frame to visit the Trunk or Treat event through Thursday, Oct. 26.

Brooks said the event will be held in Windham but is open to residents outside of Windham, as long as they register in advance.

“This year we will return to a walk-thru event which allows more direct contact by both the participants and the trunk hosts,” says Brooks. “If the weather is poor, the event will move indoors at the Windham Mall. This is a wonderful community event that brings so many different groups together to celebrate Halloween in a safe way. The event is co-sponsored by the Sebago Lakes Chamber of Commerce and Smitty’s Cinema, and we will have entertainment provided by the Maine Dance Center.”

According to Brooks, among the comments received from one of the 2022 trunk hosts when asked what they like about the event, they replied, “The kids and how happy they were plus the comradery amongst the trunk hosts. Music's playing, everyone singing along. So much fun!”

Although attendance is free, participants are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to Trunk or Treat or to make a monetary donation to the Windham Food Pantry.

For event registration to host a trunk or to attend the event as a participant, go to <

Friday, October 13, 2023

Bubar closing out 2023 racing season in winner’s circle

By Ed Pierce

Auto racer Corey Bubar of Windham is finishing the 2023 season with a flourish by winning the finale for the Granite State Pro Stock Series in New Hampshire on Oct. 1 and will compete Sunday in his final race this year at the Oxford Plains Speedway.

Auto racer Corey Bubar of Windham takes the checkered flag
for winning the Bosowski Properties 150 Pro Series Race,
the final event of the 2023 Granite State Pro Stock Series, at
Lee USA Speedway in Lee, New Hampshire on Oct. 1. 
Bubar's victory earned him a first-place check for $8,500.
In winning the Bosowski Properties 150 Pro Series Race and the $8,500 first-place check at the Lee USA Speedway, Bubar continues to impress after a handful of races there this year. Earlier this summer, he finished third and fourth in the races that he entered there.

“We built a new car this year, so it took a while to figure it out and all of those good finishes were in the last three races there,” Bubar said. “We just have worked really hard on trying to improve it little by little and slowly we kept getting closer to where we needed to be and had a race where everything went our way.”

Bubar, 31, was second in time trials for the Bosowski Properties 150 Pro Series Race in New Hampshire, and that gave him a good feeling about his chances to win the race that night.

“We time trialed second, and I knew we had a good car because I suck at time trialing,” he said. “We had a couple of good battles with Jimmy Renfrew Jr. and Ryan Green but ended up with the big check. Thank you so much to my crew, Dan Bubar, Alan Berry, Karen Salvo Bubar, Dylan Bilodeau, Tinker Doughty, and Michael Landry. We lost a clutch in the second practice, and they all busted their butts to get it changed in time to make it out there for the scuff session. Thank you to Ryan Green for letting us take his spare clutch.”

During the race, Bubar held off challenges from drivers Ryan Green and Jimmy Renfrew Jr. to pull away down the stretch and win his second Granite State Pro Stock Series event.

His passion for racing began at a young age when he started competing in go-kart races at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough in 2004. His father Dan started racing at that track in the 1980s and as his racing career was wrapping up, he stepped up and helped his son launch his own career.

Bubar moved up to auto racing in the Sports Series division in 2007 at Beech Ridge, and then just a year following his graduation from Windham High School, he won the championship in the Sports Series division at the Beech Ridge track in 2011. He raced there in the Pro Series division in 2012 and enjoyed breakout success, winning more NASCAR Night races than any other racer at Beech Ridge and was eventually honored with the “Driver of the Decade Award” at Beech Ridge for the 2010s.

A key to his continued success on the racetrack is his knowledge of mechanics and being able to quickly size up problems with his car as they arise. He started working as a used car mechanic at Lake Region Imports in Westbrook while still in high school and in 2020, Bubar started a new job at Viking-Cives in Lewiston building plow trucks and performing welding there.

By 2021, he had built a solid Bubar Motorsports racing team and Bubar won three different races that year along with his first touring series race. He narrowly missed winning the championship in the last year of racing at the Beech Ridge racetrack, trailing by only four points in the standings. Last season was tough for Bubar, but he’s rebounded in 2023 and appears to be back in business and aiming at another title.

He debuted his new car in April built by Berry Racecars and Customs during a race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon and Bubar says he’s grateful to everyone who has helped him get to this point in his career, including his wife, Ashley, and daughters Kinsley and Gracey.

“Thanks to my sponsors, Jef Simpson from J.A. Simpson, Strictly Roofing, Union Wharf Market, and T&L Racing,” he said. “And thanks to Tom Mason, and Alan and Stefanie Berry. Thank you to Robbie Harrison for all the help he's been this year.”

As far as the future goes, Bubar said he takes it one race at a time but will be back racing again next year.

“We don't have plans for next year yet,” he said. “I think we will wait until the schedules come out to decide but we will probably race some at Lee and some at Oxford again.” <

WPS Summer Technology Program motivates student learning, improves comprehension

By Lorraine Glowczak

According to ID Tech, research indicates that about two months of reading and math skills are lost by students over a single summer. Often referred to as “summer slide” or “summer learning loss,” the students most affected by this educational shortfall are in Grades 1 through 8. Many elementary school teachers across the nation find that they need to re-teach basic math and reading skills when students return to classes in the fall.

WPS Principal Dr. Kyle Rhoads initiated a summer
technology program to keep students excited about learning
during the summer, preventing possible summer learning loss.
Students Leah Leighton, and her sister, Addison, stayed on
track with math and reading skills and show off their
certificates of completion. PHOTO BY BETH LEIGHTON 
However, that is not the case for many students at Windham Primary School (WPS) who have participated for the past three years in the free Summer Technology Program there. The students not only gain learning targets once school begins in the fall but develop a love of learning and can easily engage in the regular classroom setting.

WPS Instructional Interventionist Debbie Greenlaw has led this innovative summer program since its inception. She said that students who participate in at least 35 to 60 minutes a week of reading and math exercises during the summer months continue to make great educational strides.

“Since starting this program, I have noticed that students are more inspired to stay engaged in the classroom and the overall testing scores have improved,” she said. “Students have also increased in phonemic awareness, meaning they can recognize and master the spoken parts of words, syllables, etc.”

Students can choose to participate from among one to three online summer classes. Two include reading programs, one known as Lexia and the other as Raz-Kids, and one math program known as I-Ready.

“Part of the reason why the Summer Technology Program works so well is because the three online curricula promote fun learning adventures with computer-generated animation that young students love,” Greenlaw said. “They don’t even know they are learning, improving their math and literacy skills. Also, each program creates personalized learning paths for students with scaffolding activities to use at their own pace.”

There are several reasons that parents encourage their children to participate in the program. One parent, Beth Leighton, had both of her daughters, WPS second grader, Addison and her sister Leah, a fourth grader at Manchester School, join the summer program because they were receiving additional help during the school year and had made considerable progress.

“I didn’t want them to lose it over the summer and thought this would be the best way to keep them going since they both enjoy the online programs,” Leighton said.

Leighton believes the summer program prevented her daughters from summer learning loss.

“I do believe the program helped them when it comes to being excited and engaged in the start of the new school year,” she said. “In the past years there was a lot of anxious feelings about starting back up and struggles in getting back on track with the reading and math, and this year they were both excited to start school and so far, no emotions over school being ‘too hard.’”

WPS Principal Dr. Kyle Rhoads initiated the idea for promoting the Summer Technology Program and reached out to Greenlaw to lead it.

“We experienced that during the school year, the use of academic technology programs by many of our learners was a motivating learning tool,” he said. “Many of our learners were engaged by the gamified nature of the programs. We believed there was an opportunity to expand the use during the summer and at home. We felt strongly that we would need a staff member to oversee and facilitate the use by families and Mrs. Greenlaw was just right for leading this program.”

Greenlaw said she enjoys observing the triumphant feeling that the students experience.

“Every student has their unique way of learning, and it is my personal goal to figure a way to help the students become more confident with their reading,” she said.

Greenlaw is quick to point out that the success of the summer technology program is a team effort.

“I had a lot of support and assistance from the WPS Technology Department and teachers Matt Calder and Rebecca Miller. I couldn’t have done it without their assistance. I also want to give a big shout-out to Kellie Sampson at Central Office who helped me stuff all the envelopes with gifts for the students and mailed them out for me so efficiently,” she said. “And of course, the parents who supported their children along the way. But most of all, it was the students themselves who worked so eagerly on their own literacy and math skills during the summer months that moves me most of all.” <

Friday, October 6, 2023

Grand Opening nearing for East Windham Conservation Area

By Ed Pierce

Generations of Mainers will someday look back on efforts made to protect the East Windham Conservation Area as key to preserving recreational lands and ecosystems to be enjoyed in the future. According to officials from the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust and the Town of Windham, an area roughly the size of Bradbury Mountain State Park has now been conserved for open space and outdoor recreation and is the largest wildlife habitat filled with sparkling clean water and recreational trail corridor in Greater Portland.

Little Duck Pond in Windham is part of the 700 acres being
preserved and protected in the new East Windham
Conservation Area which will hold a Grand Opening 
Event on Saturday, Dec. 2. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
A Grand Opening Event has been scheduled for the public on Saturday, Dec. 2 for the East Windham Conservation Area and work is proceeding for construction of the area’s parking lot and trails. The Grand Opening Event will serve as the Phase One opening for the project and will include creation of a trailhead parking area, signage, five miles of trails, and views of the western mountains.

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

In June 2022, Windham residents voted during the Annual Town Meeting to allow the town to enter a partnership with Presumpscot Regional Land Trust to purchase and conserve 661 acres near Little Duck Pond in East Windham. The project acquired the 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 Atherton Hill.

Last year, the Lands for Maine’s Future organization awarded the East Windham Conservation partners $998,000 to help fund the initiative. The project directly abuts more than 1,000 acres of other conserved land in Windham and Falmouth, including Lowell Preserve, North Falmouth Community Forest, and Blackstrap Hill Preserve, providing 20 miles of interconnected trails and five trailheads for public access, and amounting to one of the largest unfragmented forests in the Greater Portland region. Windham voters also approved a bond to match the LMF award with open space impact fees, so there will be no impact upon the mil rate for local taxpayers.

Once finished, the entire East Windham Conservation Area project will preserve a part of Windham that residents have identified is an important area to conserve during increasing concerns about local development and it offers scenic views of the western mountains and a place for outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

In the development of the town’s Open Space Plan, Windham surveys identified this area of East Windham as important to conserve for its large undeveloped habitat blocks and water quality protection. It also suggested conserving the land so it could remain undeveloped as future wildlife habitats and to preserve the town’s rural character. Another community benefit was identified for the area was to provide multiple-use outdoor recreation and creating access to the land for the community for walking, hiking, visiting an observation tower with 360-degree views, and experiencing scenic views of the White Mountains.

The conserved area includes Atherton Hill, which at nearly 600 feet, is the largest hill in Windham. It also features 2,000 feet of frontage along Little Duck Pond and 1,500 feet of pristine headwater streams that lead to Forest Lake, Highland Lake, and onto the Presumpscot River and an excellent wild brook trout habitat. Lowell Preserve, a 300-acre site owned by the town and for which the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust holds a conservation easement, is adjacent and includes an additional five miles of multi-use trails. The area will provide programming opportunities for school and afterschool groups and create an accessible one-mile trail for people of all ages to walk, push a stroller, and bike to visit Little Duck Pond.

“The purchase of this property and the open space it provides is consistent with our long-term comprehensive plan to preserve Windham’s rural character,” said Windham Town Councilor Brett Jones. “When you combine its 700 acres with other already established preserves, it will provide Windham and surrounding area residences with access to 2,000 acres of unspoiled nature and four seasons of outdoor recreational activities.”

Rachelle Curran Apse, executive director of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust says that the outdoor experience offered by the East Windham Conservation Area will be second to none in this part of Maine, making a destination for walking, hiking, mountain biking, trail running, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, and bird and wildlife watching.

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

Last summer, the land trust received nearly 400 gifts for the East Windham Conservation Project, and the State of Maine also recognized the significance of the conservation project by approving a Lands for Maine’s Future grant which was matched by a bond created by the town.

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

Linda Brooks, Windham Parks and Recreation Director, said that the town is excited about the multitude of outdoor recreation opportunities being made available by the acquisition and development of the properties creating this conserved area.

“Many partnerships have been formed already to see this project through to completion, and this unique outdoor recreation destination will be such an asset, providing opportunities for walking, hiking, mountain biking, wildlife watching, snowshoeing, hunting, fishing, and cross-country skiing,” Brooks said. “ATV riding and snowmobiling will also be available on designated trails.” <

To learn more about the Grand Opening Event for the East Windham Conservation Area and review an overview of the project, go to and <

WHS counselors create four-year plans for students to guide them to success

By Kaysa Jalbert

It’s hard enough being a three-sport-juggling, chess club-playing, my-mom-can’t-pick-me-up-so-I- need-a-ride teenager, so the last thing most high school students want to stress about is life after high school, and that’s why Windham High Schools counselors focus their efforts in working with students from before they enter high school, to create a plan that shapes their current goals and guides them to a future of success.

Members of the Windham High School
Counseling Department are, from left,
Steve Ginn, Kerry Kowalczyk, Christa
Haberstroh, Megan Fleming and 
Building a path to a promising future starts in the eighth grade when students first meet with both their middle school and soon-to-be high school counselors where they start the process of registering for courses. Before this, students are given presentations and meetings to discuss the importance of high school, and the different courses offered for college and career paths they can explore.

Freshmen students begin meeting with their counselors discussing topics such as what they look forward to in high school, what they might want to accomplish as a student and what are their professional aspirations now.

“We preface everything to say that as a 14-year-old, changing your mind a million times is normal and expected and that’s part of what is the fun of being in high school is finding interests and passions and we want to encourage that,” says Meghan Fleming, the School Counseling Director at Windham High School.

In the meetings with first-year high school students, counselors aim at developing a four-year plan with students that is based on their current future aspirations. Fleming repeated that it is normal and encouraged for students to change their mind over the course of four years, but the plan helps maintain students on a track that will keep them interested in their courses and meet requirements to graduate.

The WHS Counseling Staff works with college and career specialists to develop programs for students throughout the school year. Students also have access to a variety of tools to explore their post-secondary options. A program called Naviance is one of these tools that helps align students’ strengths and interests with post-secondary goals. Students are first introduced to this tool as freshmen to start making informed choices about their futures.

In the spring, sophomores take part in college and career fairs and field trips to introduce themselves to different options available to them and their futures. They also view vocational presentations and take tours of the vocational centers in the winter.

During junior year the plan gets more in depth, said Fleming. Students and their families are invited to junior meetings that begin in January, where they discuss future goals, how to prepare for the college application process, building resumes, and other post-secondary goals.

“The goal at this time is to typically have a plan,” says Fleming. “We don’t want to pressure one way or another about college or career training or two-year or four-year schools, but rather just making sure each kid is working on a plan that works for them so we can support that plan however we can and need to.”

Building the plan to follow your dreams is just the first step, but the biggest concern for many of these students and their families is the financial aspects of executing their plans, that’s why Windham High School works with the Finance Authority of Maine to put their costly concerns at ease.

“Being cost conscience is always the goal,” said Fleming. “Since community colleges are now free, a lot of students are now seeing college as more of a possibility, or even post-secondary training is available at some of those schools. Our goal is just to make sure students and their families are aware of their options.”

During a student’s senior year, counselors and college and career specialists work closely with students on college applications, or meeting the requirements of military, apprenticeship, and training programs.

Tuesday, Oct. 3 was financial aid night at Windham High School where students and their families discussed the new financing guidelines and the steps that they will need to complete applications. The college-bound student uses net price calculators to help them figure out how much a school might cost them. Fleming says this can be helpful tool especially for lower income families to prepare for how much colleges might cost and explore their more affordable options.

Windham High School’s College and Career center grants students the opportunity to talk and work with college and career specialists that help guide them through the college search and application process, financial aid, military enlistment, career exploration, job shadows and apprenticeships, job search, application, and interview help. <