Showing posts with label RSU14. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RSU14. Show all posts

Friday, December 22, 2023

Preliminary work proceeding for new Windham/Raymond Middle School

By Ed Pierce

RSU 14 in in the final stages of real estate closings for three parcels of land that will make up the new Windham/Raymond Middle School site and while that is taking place, work is ongoing to finalize site layout work and obtain permits prior to the building’s construction.

RSU 14 has entered the final stages of real estate closing on
three pieces of land making up the site of the new
Windham/Raymond Middle School. 
In November, a plurality of voters in the school district, which encompasses Windham and Raymond, approved a referendum to build the new school with about 77 percent of construction costs paid by the Maine Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Program. In Windham, voters supported the middle school construction referendum voters with 3,769 voting yes and 2,257 voting no. Raymond residents opposed the referendum with 975 voters to voting no and 739 voting for the referendum.

The new school will use a team-teaching concept where students will be divided into 12 teams to provide personal connection and then broken up into smaller instructional teams. Incorporating Integrative Project Based Learning, Team Teaching is a method of instruction where a group of teachers work together to plan, conduct, and evaluate learning activities for the same group of students and the school’s design takes all of that into account with the team areas of the building allowing for a science teacher, math teacher, social studies teacher, and an English teacher to be in the same teaming area. Research has shown the delivery of content through integrated units and projects increases student engagement and ultimately student achievement.

Christopher Howell, RSU 14 Superintendent of Schools, said plenty of work has been done since the referendum was approved last month.

“Within the next few weeks, we will have closed on the property at 61 Windham Center Road, 77 Windham Center Road, and a one-acre parcel on River Road,” said Christopher Howell, RSU 14 Superintendent of Schools. “We are underway with the financing of the project. This process has included the selection of a bond broker and an initial credit rating for the district. We are pleased to announce that the district received the highest possible initial rating that an organization can receive for a first rating.”

Howell said that the first bond anticipation note for initial project costs was acquired last week. The proceeds from the sale will pay for the land, initial Department of Environmental Protection permit fees, architectural fees, as well as other expenses that the district has incurred to date.”

The civil engineering firm for the project, Stantec, has been working to finalize the site layout for the project and have been working to finalize our permit for the Department of Environmental Protection,” Howell said.

“We are anticipating that we will be able to submit the permit to the DEP on Dec. 22,” he said. “The DEP permit takes roughly 180 days to process. We are hoping to have the site development portion of the project out to bid in April.”

Along with that, Howell said that the architectural team from Lavallee Brensinger Architects has been holding stakeholder meetings with administrators, teachers and support staff who will be staffing the new buildings.

“The meetings are feedback sessions on previous concept layouts to ensure that we have the best possible design layouts prior to the development of construction drawings for the project,” he said.

According to Howell, Bill Hansen, the district’s Director of Facilities, Property Services and Special Projects, has been working with the HVAC engineers and electrical engineers as they work to design a building that operates efficiently and economically for years to come.

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 636 students, 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.

RSU 14 first applied for the Maine Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Program in 2016 for funding for construction and was ranked as the fifth-highest priority among 74 proposed school construction projects statewide each year before eventually gaining approval in March 2021. Once a district applies for funding, Maine Department of Education reviews and rates the projects based upon need. The State Board of Education then funds as many projects from the list as available debt limit funds allow. Working with the State Board of Education, Maine DOE establishes both size and financial limits on projects.

Local school districts may exceed these limits at local expense through municipal bonds, but the state bears the major financial burden of capital costs for approved school construction projects. As such, Maine DOE first looks at the possibility of renovations or renovations with additions and new school construction projects are only considered in instances in which renovation projects are not economically or educationally feasible, which was the case with Windham Middle School and Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond.

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. RSU 14’s 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.

Under the project plans for the new middle school, the school would educate Windham and Raymond students in Grades 5 to 8, meaning Jordan-Small School would close. Windham fifth graders currently attending Manchester School would 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.

Howell said that it is anticipated construction on the new Windham/Raymond Middle School building would be completed by the fall of 2027. Windham and Raymond students who will be entering grades 1 to 4 this fall will be the first classes to occupy the building. <

Friday, June 24, 2022

Beloved RSU 14 music teacher sails into retirement

By Lorraine Glowczak

After inspiring students in music education for 43 years, and 41 years devoted to RSU 14, Nancy Cash-Cobb is shifting her youthful tomfoolery from the classroom to retirement. She plans to spend time with family and friends and her husband, Jerry Cobb, on their lakeshore home on Crescent Lake in Raymond during the summers while hitting the road in their RV to the warmer climates of Florida and Texas during the Maine winters.

After 41 years of teaching music to students in Windham and
Raymond and 43 years overall as a music educator, Nancy
Cash-Cobb has officially retired from RSU 14. Through the
years she has inspired thousands of children to enjoy music.
“I have a whole list of things I plan to do during my retirement,” said Cash-Cobb, whose small physical demeanor explodes with a big personality. “I plan to meet with friends for lunch, spend time floating on our newly purchased pontoon boat, babysitting my grandson, and exploring the U.S. in the RV my husband and I purchased last fall.”

Her petite but mighty 4-foot, 9-inch presence has impacted the Windham/Raymond community in many ways, including her recent induction into the Maine Music Educators Hall of Fame on May 19 at the Maine Music Educator’s Conference in Orono.

Dr. Richard Nickerson, Windham High School’s Music and Chorus teacher and conductor of Windham Chambers Singer, presented the award to Cash-Cobb during the induction ceremonies. Before delivering the award, he told a crowded room of admiring contemporaries that Cash-Cobb’s classroom is a place of comfort, exploration and wonder.

“Nancy offers encouragement as she helps her students find their voice,” he said. “Her classroom is a safe space where students are free to take chances without any fear of judgment. The mention of her name brings a smile to anyone who has had her as a teacher, even if it has been decades since they were in her classroom.”

Nickerson’s observation about Cash-Cobb’s past students and their love for her was apparent in a recent community Facebook post where people were allowed to share their memories of her. In addition, one parent and student shared their stories in another venue.

“She was my first music teacher, and I had her until third grade,” said former student Jane Davis, whose 20-year-old daughter, Emma, was also a student. “She was the best. I remember being very excited when we grew to be as tall as her, we truly thought we had arrived when we grew to be her same height.”

Jane Davis’ fond memories grew even more warmhearted as she recalled her daughter’s experiences as Cash-Cobb’s student.

“Emma was in first grade, and for some reason, she had a really rough time and did not want to go to school,” Jane Davis said. “But she really loved Mrs. Cash-Cobb’s classroom, and the only way we could get her to school was reminding her that if she went to school, she would get to be in the music classroom. We would say, ‘only one more day, and you’ll get to be in music.’ It was truly the only way we could get her to school.”

Jane Davis said Cash-Cobb could make her daughter feel special and gave her daughter encouragement to overcome her fears and Emma Davis continued her mother’s sentiments.

“Mrs. Cash-Cobb was critical in my education,” said Emma Davis, now a dance instructor and the lead dancer for the Maine State Ballet in the Nutcracker. “She was the only thing that got me through school and nurtured my interest in the arts from a very young age. Even to this day, she supports me; she always makes an effort to reach out to me. She is the best teacher ever.”

Cash-Cobb said she loves every student she has met and does it with unique joy.

“I have always said that I go to school every day and act like an idiot, and they pay me for it,” she said. “I’m silly. It’s part of my personality. I believe that teaching style brings the kids to the teacher and provides an atmosphere of home in the classroom.”

Nickerson backs up her philosophy of education as he witnesses her students’ enthusiasm when they arrive at high school and in his classrooms.

“Her spitfire personality created a safe space for students to be weird themselves,” he said. “When I ask those students who become Chamber Singers what brought them here, they always respond that it was Nancy’s third-grade chorus.”

Cash-Cobb has made many impressions on third-grade students’ musical lives by providing opportunities to perform at many events and venues. These include Windham’s Christmas Tree Lighting, WPS Color Run/Walk, Naturalization Ceremonies, Memorial Day events, the SeaDog’s home games at Hadlock Field, nursing home performances, and opening for the WHS art shows and spring concerts, as well as many performances at the Capitol in Augusta.

Her impact has also gone beyond the classroom. She is actively involved in many statewide and national organizations that include the following: the Maine Chapter of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association for music and movement, spent many years as a Sunday School teacher, was a board member of Maine Music Educators, was a Girl Scout leader, taught Vacation Bible School, was a teacher at the New England Suzuki Institute and is the treasurer for the American Legion Auxiliary.

Cash-Cobb, who grew up playing the violin and was part of the Christian folk/rock group “Free Spirits,” graduated from the University of Southern Maine in music education in 1979. She began her career as a music teacher that same year, where she taught Band, Chorus, and General Music at Sacopee Valley for two years before landing a teaching job in Windham.

Dr. Kyle Rhoads, Windham Primary School principal, said that Cash-Cobb will be greatly missed and speaks highly of her role with the students.

“Mrs. Nancy Cash-Cobb has splendidly taught music education at WPS for over 40 years,” he said. “She has touched the lives of generations of Windham students with her enthusiasm for music and her kind soul. As Nancy prepares to retire, she will be greatly missed by the entire Windham community. Thank you, Nancy!” <

Friday, October 23, 2020

RSU 14 middle school music programs shift focus during pandemic

Seventh-grade students rehearse for an upcoming
video concert with Applied Arts Coordinator
and Music Teacher Morgan Riley during band
class at Windham Middle School on
Wednesday morning. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Elizabeth Richards           

Middle school music programs in RSU 14 have been altered this year because of the pandemic and CDC guidelines, but that’s not stopping students from learning and creating music in innovative ways.

Chorus has been put on hold at both Windham Middle School and Jordan-Small Middle School.

"According to the guidelines, if we were to sing together, we would have to have the kids spaced 14 feet apart, all wearing masks, and all facing the same direction. And if possible, be outside," said JSMS Chorus and Orchestra Director Rose Underkofler. "Singing in a mask is also very difficult as it's hard to take a very deep breath with masks on, and it's hard to hear yourself sing because there's really no place for the sound to go."  

General music and band classes have a different focus this year, since wind instruments can’t be played inside and sharing instruments isn’t possible. Morgan Riley, Applied Arts Coordinator and music teacher at WMS, said students are learning how to play percussion instruments one day each week.

In these classes, students work on rhythm, playing as part of an ensemble, and performing, essential aspects for all musicians, Riley said.  

In addition, Riley creates lessons/play along videos for students to use on days they are at home, to
allow students to play their wind instruments and keep their skills sharp.

JSMS music teacher Alex Adams also said band students are working on their instruments at home. On Fridays, they have a private lesson via video chat to help meet individualized goals.

“Some of that has been really great for individual attention and differentiation for students but for some kids it takes away the experience of being in a band with others and the joy of making music in school on wind instruments,” Adams said.

Instead of choosing instruments this year, JSMS fifth-grade students are learning pre-band skills through a curriculum based around learning popular music and rock band instruments, Adams said.

These unique times have led to a broader focus in music education.

“Music isn’t just Band or Chorus, though we hope those will be back soon,” Adams said. “It’s all
around us all the time and there are hundreds of ways to be a part of music.”  

Students are learning the technique and art of recording and editing sounds by working to create oral history podcasts as a class, Adams said.

“Students are going to be interviewing each other about the current moment in history and editing together a podcast with a script, student generated score and interviews that tell their own perspectives in their own words about this remarkable time we’re all living through,” he said. “Our work not only allows us to master some skills that are essential to recording and making music in a modern context, it also allows for some curricular integration with History and English.”

Underkofler said that sanitizing challenges that make teaching instruments difficult have led to more creating and composing in general music classes.

“Asking students to think outside of the normal general music box has been really interesting, not only
for the students, but for me too,” she said.

Orchestra classes are being held as usual, with students safely distanced. The biggest difference, Underkofler said, is the goal the orchestra is working towards, since they know there’s no safe way to have an in-person, live concert.

“We're working on these pieces and learning all of these new skills with the questions looming over our heads of ‘how do we showcase this to the community?’”

Underkofler said her goal is to have a virtual concert around the holidays to showcase student work and show the community that they are still making music during the pandemic. They may even create a combined piece with the orchestras from both middle schools, something a typical year may not have allowed for, she said.

In addition to a  fifth to eighth-grade video concert that will include filmed in-class performances of rock band songs and virtual bands made up of at-home recordings, they plan to release the oral history podcasts on streaming sites so the community can hear both the perspective about the world today and the audio craftsmanship of the young folks at JSMS, Adams said.

Riley said he plans to use the district videographer several times throughout the year to record
performance videos to share with parents.

While the pandemic has presented many challenges, educators also look for the positives.

“We've gotten the opportunity, even during this awful, uncertain time, to look at our program through a different lens,” Underkofler said. “We're getting to do these creative and new activities with our students that's giving them new knowledge of what music can be and how we can experience and create! We aren't trying to put a square peg in a round hole. We've just changed the board.”

Adams said students say the smaller class sizes are helping them understand the material better and have better class experiences.

“One student told me last week that they wished that school could be back to full time but with the same sized classes because they got more teacher time and felt like they understood the material better,” he said.

“The bottom line is that the student musicians of WMS are being given an outlet in music, whether they are playing the instrument they started with or not, and are eager to share their progress with staff members who pop in to class,” Riley said. “They are ecstatic to be able to make music with their peers
again. COVID-19 won't stop music at WMS.”

“Students are creating great work even while coping with an entirely new school experience. Parents, students, and teachers are all in a new and difficult situation and from my perspective we’ve come together as best we can and are doing some amazing things both in spite of and because of the situation before us,” Adams said. “I would say a big thank you to the community for rising to these challenges and supporting our programs.” < 

Friday, October 2, 2020

The Katahdin Program seeks monetary donations for their ‘Food for Thought’ initiative

By Lorraine Glowczak

Almost 80 percent of the student population
at The Katahdin Program qualifies for free
or reduced lunch. This alternative high school,
which is part of RSU14 and includes therapeutic
and adventure-based education as its core
curriculum, seeks to meet the primary needs
of their students who face food insecurity by
offering a 'Food for Thought' program.

According to the American Youth Policy Forum, about 50 million people across the nation are currently experiencing food insecurity and most of those individuals are families with children. The experience of reduced availability to healthy foods or the lack of food altogether does not escape many families right here in Windham and Raymond.

“Almost 80 percent of our student population qualifies and is on a free or reduced lunch program,” said Craig Haims, Director of The Katahdin Program. “Due to the recent health crisis, it has become more challenging for our students to have access to healthy foods. As a result, the staff here is working to fill that void with the ‘Katahdin Food for Thought’ program.”

The Katahdin Program is an alternative learning school that focuses on integrated, relevant learning and restorative practices as a part of its educational approach. Katahdin currently serves 22 students from grades 10 through 12 and, although the school is located at the Windham High School (WHS), The Katahdin Program is unique in its approach to meeting the needs of its student population.

“As an alternative school, it is important for Katahdin to do things differently to engage learners who have demonstrated less interest in traditional approaches,” Haims said. “To illustrate that point, Katahdin has its own unique schedule, separate from the WHS schedule, that provides for integrated learning blocks, service learning, and dedicated time for vocational and career exploration. The alternative schedule means that Katahdin, while on the WHS campus, has the spirit of an independent program.” 

This is one reason why Katahdin has developed its own supplemental food initiative.

“The Katahdin staff wants to make food accessibility as easy as possible to our students who already face significant challenges,” Haims said. “We want to be able to supply our student’s families with important staples such as bread, eggs, fresh produce and canned goods.”

It has long been known that students who grow up with food insecurity often lag behind their food-secure peers in terms of cognitive, emotional, and physical development. 

“We all have primary and secondary needs,” said Haims. “The primary need of being well fed will always exceed secondary needs of learning and cognitive growth. If we can provide the basic need of healthy food, then our educators can help students succeed academically and behaviorally.”

In his announcement last week asking the community for assistance, Haims stated students will self-select food items and take them home on a weekly basis and, in some instances, a social worker will select food for students to ensure everyone in need obtains the important nutrition they need.

“In order to make the ‘Katahdin Food for Thought’ program a reality, we seek monetary donations
sufficient to fund it for the current school year,” Haims wrote in the press release. “One hundred percent of the funds will go directly into providing weekly food staples for food insecure students who attend The Katahdin Program.”

Within 48 hours of publishing the press release on social media, Haims’ call for action was adhered.

“I am so very pleased at the quick response for my request,” Haims said. “I am grateful to this community that comes together to serve others.”

In addition to community individual, business, and nonprofit responses, the Windham Food Pantry is making significant weekly donations as well.

“I am very thankful for the Windham Food Pantry’s partnership with us,” Haims said. “Their assistance in providing weekly food staples to us is an incredible addition to what we are trying to do for our students. We couldn’t do this without them or the help of our community. The staff and I are so very thankful.”

To help The Katahdin Program continue with their ‘Food for Thought’ initiative, please make a monetary donation and send it to: RSU14, 228 Windham Center Road, Windham, ME 04062, Attn: Stacey Webster. Checks should be made out to RSU14 and write ‘Katahdin Food for Thought Program’ on the memo line.

For more information, contact Craig Haims at 207-899-8311.<

Friday, August 21, 2020

Childcare centers adapt to support remote learning days for students

The preschool area at A Joyful Noise
Christian Day Care and Learning Center
in Windham is ready for more students
this fall. Because of RSU 14's decision to
start school next month on a hybrid model
because of COVID-19, local daycare and
childcare centers are trying to adapt
to increasing numbers of students being
enrolled this fall. COURTESY PHOTO
By Elizabeth Richards
Childcare directors have been as eager as families to hear what the plan for school in RSU 14 will look like this fall. Now that a hybrid model has been announced, centers are scrambling to create plans that will best support working families and their school-aged children.
With traditional before- and after-school care programs, space is often shared with other programs while children are at school.  With the hybrid plan in place, local centers will have two different groups of children attending full days on their remote learning days, all children on the third remote day, and children joining them for before and/or after school hours as well.
This means those childcare spaces will be used all day, and the overall number of school-aged children each center can accommodate will typically not increase.
Local childcare directors said the hybrid model has changed their programs in a variety of ways. 
Diane LaPierre, the owner of Creative Kids in Raymond, said the hybrid model will mean groups are not consistent, and staff will both be tutoring and caring for children. 
Brianna Hillock, director at All About Kids in Windham, said their program will be changed drastically.“We were just before and after care before, with an occasional snow day, early release day, and summer camp/school vacations, but now we must accommodate for 10 or more combinations as far as full day care for three days, and then a mix of before and after care on those other two days,” she said.
Connie DiBiase, director of Birchwood Day Nursery School, said that their morning preschool classes had to be moved to the main building since the school age children will be in the other building all day.
Jennifer White, the owner of A Joyful Noise Christian Day Care and Learning Center said that with two different groups of children, they are waiting to see where their numbers end up. 
She said that the RSU 14 superintendent Christopher Howell is trying to work with childcare centers in the district to try and even the numbers out, so one group isn’t very large while the other two days have very low numbers.
According to White, they plan to accommodate the same number of children as they had last year, which will work if it’s balanced.
“It will be a little bit tricky, but we’ve had all summer to be thinking about this and be preparing for it. Even though there’s a lot of unknowns, we’ve had some time to really give this some thought,” White said.
Hillock said it was difficult to get notice of the final plans three weeks before the start of school.
As a director/childcare provider who is a planner, it’s extremely frustrating to me because I felt like I was behind on the plan, and when I had parents approaching me asking about our pricing, plan, etc, I couldn’t give them a straight answer. We felt this was too much of a time crunch to make accurate plans,” she said.
She feels that there has been little guidance from the superintendent, school district, or anyone else for childcare providers. It was frustrating, she said, to receive a call from the bus garage on Aug. 18 letting her know she only had until Friday, Aug. 21 to notify them who would be attending before- and after-care.“How is that remotely possible when we don’t know what parents are committing to what, and some of the parents still have no idea what they’re doing?” she asked.
While hours and number of children remain the same for most centers, additional staff is required to hold full day programs for school-aged children.
DiBiase said they have hired two fulltime staff to be with children on remote learning days. At Creative Kids, the summer school-age teacher will now work fulltime throughout the year. Hillock has also hired more staff for their school-aged building.
 There will be many times when we have to have extra staffing in there for certain parts of the day which is above state ratios for childcare centers,” White said. 
In addition to their usual activities, teachers in school-aged programs will be helping students with their remote learning when possible.
“We will help with their packet of learning and we are thinking we will split that into 30-minute work times and do other activities in between,” DiBiase said. “We are also hoping to create individual workstations so children can do some work outside, especially independent reading.”
LaPierre said she hasn’t developed a concrete plan for helping students with remote learning yet both because things keep changing, and because needs will depend on the individual child. 
A Joyful Noise stayed open throughout the pandemic and developed a model to use for helping with distance learning back in March when schools closed. White said they are continuing with that model and adding to it, since it’s unknown how long remote learning will last. 
“It could be a month, it could be the school year, we have no idea,” she said.
For in-home childcare providers, who have less children and less staff, supporting remote learning can be especially challenging.
Tamara Gallagher, owner of The Growing Tree Childcare and Preschool in Westbrook near the Windham town line said she has two children currently enrolled who will be staying with her part time during remote learning, along with her own three children. 
“We have set blocks of time we are working on to help them,” she said. “What makes it really tough is that it requires extra time and staff, which puts a strain on finances. I have to hire extra help for the school age, so I’m spending a lot more money and not making any more.”
With the very different look of school aged childcare this year, one thing that is essential is for families to be upfront about possible exposure to COVID-19. 
“We want to keep everybody safe, and we can only do that if parents will partner with us in doing that,” White said. <

Friday, June 12, 2020

RSU14 faces challenges in addressing student summer food insecurity

Jeanne Reilly, left, the Director of School Nutrition for RSU14
and David Boger, Windham Middle School kitchen manager,
prepare to give out food to families as part of the district's
last distribution of the school year for its backpack program
at Windham Middle School on June 9.
By Elizabeth Richards

RSU14 is in a tight spot when it comes to providing summer meals for students who are experiencing food insecurity. 

None of the school sites are eligible to provide free meals for all students, since they do not meet the benchmark of over 50 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced meals.

Since schools closed in March for on-site instruction, the district has been operating as an emergency food pantry through their backpack program said Jeanne Reilly, Director of School Nutrition for RSU14.  Initially, there was a lot of food they needed to be put to use, since school had closed so abruptly because of the COVID-19 crisis. 

“At first, they were fruits and vegetables that we had to either send home or throw away,” Reilly said. time went on, she said, funds from the backpack program were used to continue sending families home with a supply of groceries that included produce, milk, cheese and yogurt, as well as some of the traditional shelf stable foods typically provided by the backpack program.

Summer meals, however, pose a considerable challenge, she said.  Dundee Park, which has been a traditional summer meal site in years past, was not a viable option this year, said Reilly.

The district looked for other places, but no locations in Windham or Raymond qualified. 

“Right now, we just don’t have an area where we could feed all families for free,” Reilly said.

Although they can’t provide free meals through a designated site this year, the district is still committed to helping find solutions to food insecurity for students.

An end-of-school year update for families lists open meal sites in other school districts, including Westbrook, MSAD15, and the Lakes Region Schools.

According to Reilly, at an open meal site, children from anywhere can go to get a meal. 

She said that this summer the open meal sites will provide both a lunch and a breakfast to go for families, but the process is a bit different because of COVID-19 protocols and restrictions.

“It used to be that students had to be present and meals had to be consumed on site,” Reilly said. “This year, the parents have to be there to pick up and the meals cannot be consumed on site.”

As additional resources, Reilly said that food pantries in both Windham and Raymond will operate over the summer for families as well.

Windham residents can call the RSU14 food pantry for an appointment at 892-1931 and get food once per week, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Raymond will offer a Summer Backpack Food Program at Jordan Small Middle School on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. where families can pick up a supply of shelf stable food, and possibly some produce.

The program also is working with St. Joseph’s College to potentially get produce from their gardens, Reilly said.

Families should also be made aware of the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefit, Reilly said, which provides additional grocery funds to families who qualify for free and reduced meal prices.

If they previously may have qualified or think they may qualify now as a result of a job loss or an employee furlough, families should fill out the free/reduced meal application, she said.

This application can be filled out and submitted online, or families can contact Reilly by sending an email to for assistance. 

Although the P-EBT benefit is scheduled to expire at the end of June, there is legislation currently in front of the Maine Senate that could extend this through the summer when schools are closed, Reilly said.

Districts like RSU14 are in an awkward position, with not enough families eligible for free and reduced meals to qualify for programs that can help those in need, Reilly said.

But with some families in the area still in need of help, the school district has been searching for ways to be of assistance. 

“We’re left struggling with how to provide for those families in the best way possible,” she said.

Food insecurity has often been cited as one of the most important public health problems currently facing children in the United States. Numerous studies and previous surveys conducted from 2013-to 2019 reveal that food insecurity has negative impacts on the health of children.
In data collected in 2016 by the National Health Interview Study, there is a direct correlation between household food insecurity and significantly worse general health in children, including some acute and chronic health problems, and heightened emergency room hospital visits.

The study found that compared to rates in homes that are not food insecure, children in food-insecure households had rates of lifetime asthma diagnosis and depressive symptoms that were 19.1 percent and 27.9 percent higher, with rates of foregone medical care that were 179.8 percent higher, and rates of emergency department use that were 25.9 percent higher.

The organization No Kid Hungry estimates that because of the COVID-19 crisis and pandemic this year, as many as one in four children in the United States could face food insecurity issues.

In April, a national survey of mothers with young children commissioned by The Hamilton Project reported that the pandemic was responsible for significant food insecurity in America.

Survey results showed that 17.4 percent of mothers with children ages 12 and under reported that since the pandemic started, “the children in my household were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.”

Of those mothers, 3.4 percent reported that it was often the case that their children were not eating enough due to a lack of resources since the coronavirus pandemic began.

That same survey revealed that food insecurity in households in America with children under the age of 18 has increased about 130 percent from 2018 to 2020. <

Friday, May 29, 2020

Windham to keep taxes flat for the next fiscal year

Windham’s municipal budget for the
 2020-2021 fiscal year will have a
 zero increase as a result of
the pandemic.
By Lorraine Glowczak

The most recent word in today’s repertoire is ‘flatten’ – as in ‘flatten the curve’ relating to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Town of Windham is using the term as it relates to the town budget.

“The town’s municipal budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year will have a zero increase as a result of the pandemic,” said Barry Tibbetts, Windham Town Manager. “Basically, the town’s fiscal budget will remain flat and the majority of planned building remodels and additions, paving and improvements to dirt roads along with other needed items have been placed on hold. There will be no tax increases from the town’s municipal budget.”

The town has postponed the hiring of additional needed staff as well as building renovations and expansions necessary at the Town Hall. A few much-needed items will be purchased and be obtained, and the public safety building located on Windham Center Road will undergo some expansion, but residents will not see an increase in taxes this year or the future for that project.

“We will be purchasing one pickup and a smaller dump truck, a new ambulance and must make necessary additions/remodeling to the public safety building in order to comply with the safety regulations as a result of COVID-19,” Tibbets said. “When the public safety building was built in 1989, there were only 22 employees. Now, we have more than doubled the number of staff with 48 employees and the officer and emergency medical providers are extremely cramped and unsafe. These modifications to the building with the new addition will be absorbed within the budget by using  a bond. There will not be an increase in the mill rate or the town’s taxes, as a result.” will still see an  increase in taxes, however, due to standard and projected RSU14 budgetary items and the slight rise of Cumberland County budget in the mil rate. The projected mil rate increase for the RSU budget, should it be approved, will be 47 cents while the County impact will be 4 cents. Another quick way to calculate that for individual impact would be a $51 increase per $100,000 in valuation.

Cumberland County was scheduled to convert from a calendar year to a fiscal year but has decided to hold that change so as not to adversely affect the towns financially. The shift from a calendar year to a fiscal year would equate to about 17 cents on our mil rate. This is a tremendous help for our Town.

As for the RSU14 budget, the increases taxpayers will see are the necessary union negotiation changes per the recently agreed contracts along with continued special education prerequisites.
“The school board is obligated to pay staff the required contractual employee pay increase in addition to adhering to State of Maine special education standards,” Tibbetts said. “The school board must adhere to these predetermined requirements.”

RSU14 School Superintendent Christopher Howell echoed Tibbetts statements.
As for RSU14, taxpayers will see an increase due to negotiated contracts, special education programming and positions to support increased enrollments at the elementary level,” Howell said. “The board is committing $900,000 from carryover funds to help offset the impact to tax increases. The RSU is legally obligated to meet the special education needs of students.”

For more information regarding the fiscal year 2020-2021 budget, please contact the Town Manager’s office at 207-892-1907.

Be sure to keep informed by watching recorded Town Council meetings at

Friday, January 31, 2020

Windham’s new public works building is cost-effectively increasing safety, efficiency and morale

Aaron Gant, Michael Constantine, Doug Fortier, Brian Morin, Nate Johnson, Mike Doucette and Ethan Gladish (sitting)
By Lorraine Glowczak

Public facilities are important to municipalities and their citizens as they ensure basic needs are met with the goal that it is done so in the most affordable manner. The new public works building, located on 185 Windham Center Road, officially opened its doors in April 2019, and is already demonstrating the positive economic impacts to the Town of Windham. With that comes other important contributions to both the residents and its employees.

“Since we’ve been in this new building, we’ve seen an increase in efficiency, safety – and even morale,” stated Doug Fortier, Public Works Director.

Fortier further explained that with the 30,000 square foot building which includes, but is not limited to, the wash bay, maintenance garage, men and women’s locker room, RSU14 and Public Works offices have improved productivity in more ways than one. example, Highway Supervisor, Michael Constantine’s major focus for the winter is the plow trucks. He explained how the addition of the garage has contributed to quicker response time during the start of snowstorms.

“Before the new building, we had to first load the trucks with salt, let the truck idle to warm up and defrost the windows and clean the snow off the truck,” began Constantine. “With the new building, we can have the salt loaded and parked in the bay. As soon as we get in to work, all we need to do is start the truck and leave. It could take up to or over an hour before the new building, but now we can get on the road much more quickly and do so without wasting diesel fuel by idling the trucks or damaging cold hydraulic systems. It’s a win-win situation.”

Another positive contributing factor is the large fuel tanks. “We now have a 10,000-gallon fuel pump on site,” began Constantine. “Before, we only had a 3,000-gallon tank. With larger fuel tanks, the chance of running out of fuel has been eliminated.”

The cost-savings in this upgrade has made a big difference. “Now the town is able to purchase a larger quantity of fuel at a cheaper rate,” said Fortier. “The cost-savings in just this area alone has been substantial.”

Safety is another profitable and efficiency factor as a result of the new facility. The garage is large enough to not only house a crane that moves heavy equipment but there has been the addition of vehicle lifts. “We used to crawl under the vehicles with a ‘creeper’ and lay on our backs for hours,” explained Nate Johnson, Fleet Maintenance Supervisor. “Working on a creeper underneath the vehicles was not as efficient as having a vehicle up on a lift.”

Johnson went on to say that now the maintenance crew can easily access needed tools immediately and are able to assist one another when met with challenges. “There is so much to know about mechanical repair that not one person can have all the knowledge,” Johnson said. “Now, the RSU14 and town mechanics can collaborate our expertise in a certain area and share specialty tools, which is another cost-savings to both the school and the town.”

As for the crane that has been added to the garage area, it comes with many benefits besides safety. “The most important benefit with the addition of the crane is that it only takes one person to move a heavy object,” began Johnson. “Before, we had to use either a forklift or a bobcat, which would require between three or four people to help guide the driver. Now, we can move heavy equipment quickly and safely.”

Another time and cost-saving addition to the new facility is the indoor vehicle wash. Since the public works building sits next to a waterway, the runoff from washing vehicles outside is environmentally detrimental and is against DEP standards. Therefore, the town made arrangements with the Town of Gorham Public Works to occasionally wash vehicles in their wash bays.

“Now that we have our own wash bays, we able to clean the vehicles much more frequently, thus potentially extending the life of the vehicle and helping to eliminate premature repairs due to rust and corrosion.” Stated Fortier. Gant, Assistant Transportation Director for RSU14 added that the mechanics for both the RSU14 and public works are able to do more inhouse repairs on the buses due to having more workspace, relying less on outside vendors. Some outside vendors can charge up to $120 per hour.
The Building and Grounds Department is also seeing the benefits of the new facility. “The town is able to purchase product in bulk due to the fact there is more storage space, leading to a better price” stated Building and Grounds Supervisor, Brian Morin.

Perhaps the most unexpected positive outcome of the public works building is increased morale among the employees. “There are so many ‘little’ things that have contributed to increase self-esteem and optimism,” began Constantine. “There are now male and female bathrooms, the addition of locker rooms that come with mesh lockers that will help dry our clothes when they get wet – and most of all – we now have showers. During long duration snow storms of up to 20 to 40 hours, crewmembers can take showers and change into fresh clothes. Mechanics can also shower when they are exposed to contaminants, such as oil and gas, during repairs. 

Constantine added that even having a breakroom has increased morale. “We actually get to communicate with one another and help each other out when there are work challenges. No one feels isolated. We’ve become almost like a family and this has made a lot of difference in our working lives.”

Nadeau continued, “We are investing in our future, creating a blueprint of success for the town and those who live here.”

Friday, November 8, 2019

New administrative team hard at work for RSU14

Christine Frost-Bertinet and Christopher Howell
By Elizabeth Richards

On July 1st, 2019, a new administrative team took the reins at RSU 14. Christopher Howell stepped up from the assistant superintendent position he had held for a year to become the district’s Superintendent and Christine Frost-Bertinet stepped into the role of assistant superintendent.

Howell has a long history in the district, having been in several positions throughout the district since 1996. “This is just a great opportunity to now lead a district that I’ve been a part of for so, so long,” he said.

His history with the community made the transition easier since he didn’t need time to learn who people were, what the community is all about, or time to understand the community issues, Howell said.  His awareness of certain issues and scope of work made it possible for him to move forward a little faster than if he’d come into a new community, he said. 

Frost-Bertinet worked in both RSU57 and the Gorham School District prior to becoming assistant superintendent for RSU14. Her experience includes five years as an elementary school principal, as well roles as an assistant principal and as a teacher of English Language Arts at the middle and high school levels. 

Because she was new to the district, Frost-Bertinet spent much of her summer meeting people and making connections. “I could tell from the onset of starting in July that this was a very child centered, learner centered school community of bright, caring innovative educators,” she said. 

“I was overwhelmed by the welcome I received. So many people reached out from a variety of roles within the district and the community to say welcome, which says a lot about the pride and the dedication to making sure this is a wonderful school community,” she added. of the things Howell has been working on recently is the Windham Middle School building project. The district is fifth on the list of state projects. RSU14 has already begun the visioning process, Howell said.

Staff from both Windham Middle School and Jordan Small Middle School have worked together to determine a vision for middle school education in the district.  Being clear about the vision, which is being developed with the help of a national expert, will guide the building design, Howell said.  

“We’re trying to get as much work done prior to official working with major construction project so we’ll be ready to go – that’s why we chose to do the visioning now,” Howell said.  With continued growth on the horizon, careful planning of space in the building is essential.

Frost-Bertinet has been working from the current strategic plan, which is in its final year, with a focus on the design for learning and the environment for learning.

On the environment for learning side, social-emotional learning has been a big part of the conversation. The district has come together as a team, with community representatives, board representatives, and teachers from all levels coming to the table to talk about current practices, areas of growth needed for social-emotional learning, and what the next steps should be.  “We’re going to be working on that throughout the year, and that work will inform the next strategic plan,” she said. 

This is the first time that the district has come together with many voices at the table to examine the work already done and plan the direction for making sure each child is getting their academic, social and emotional developmental needs met, she said.  “We’re examining great practice and looking to go to the next level.”

On the design for learning side, she added, they are working as an administrative team through a grant that involves many districts. “Our team is really examining what are those instructional practices that speak to the design for learning part of the district’s strategic plan,” she said.

Howell said it’s important for the community to know that the administrative team loves working with their students. “I know that Windham and Raymond are very special places to raise kids,” he said. “We really enjoy being a part of that process. We’re going to do whatever we can to make sure that every kid has every opportunity to be successful,” he said.

He added that in RSU14, they take instruction seriously. “We want to make sure that what happens in our classrooms is best practice, and those best practices then lead to opportunities. We want kids, when they leave this district, to have choice.”, he said, he wants people to know that “We don’t always get things right, but when we don’t we want to hear about it so we have the opportunity to fix it.” Feedback helps the district look at policies and practice, and they are open to making changes if necessary.  “We want to be kid focused, we want to make sure that their needs are being met, because that’s why we’re here,” Howell said.

Outside of work, both Howell and Frost-Bertinet have a passion for the outdoors, albeit in different ways. Howell spends time rebuilding and refurbishing old boats and getting them on the water, while Frost-Bertinet loves camping and hiking. Both have children of their own, as well. 

Howell, who lives in West Cumberland, has three sons. Being a visible, present part of their lives is important, he said. Frost-Bertinet, who lives in Gorham, has two children, one who graduated from high school last year, and one who is a senior. Being involved in their lives and helping them get to their next phase is a big focus presently, she said.

Howell said the combination of their experiences make he and Frost-Bertinet a great team. With experience at different levels of education, they can be more efficient, he said.  They both appreciate the opportunity to work in the district, and feel the community support they receive, he added.