Showing posts with label Raymond Elementary School. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Raymond Elementary School. Show all posts

Friday, May 10, 2024

Wellness Walk inspires students at Raymond Elementary School

By Ed Pierce

Outdoor experiences have been proven to help improve academic and physical performance for many students and that’s the concept behind RSU 14’s Wellness Program. To demonstrate the benefits of being outdoors, Raymond Elementary School hosted a special Wellness Walk and Nature Talk on Tuesday, May 7.

Loon Echo Land Trust Executive Director
Matt Markot leads Raymond Elementary
School students on a Wellness Walk
and Nature Talk around Frog Pond in
Raymond on Tuesday, May 7. His visit
to the school is part of an effort by the
RSU 14 Wellness Program to inspire
children to get outside and love nature.
According RSU 14 Wellness Coordinator Donna Morton, Loon Echo Land Trust Executive Director Matt Markot led students on the walk and promoted the idea that being outside is one of the best things that students can do.

Morton said Markot guided the students around Frog Pond near the school and answered their questions about the environment surrounding the pond and how it affects all of them every day.

“Not only did they learn about the eco system, but they also learned about how nature makes them feel better,” Morton said. “Hopefully it builds a lifelong love of the outdoors for the students.”

Markot was a great choice to lead the walk for the students. Prior to joining Loon Echo Land Trust in 2017, he worked for the Nature Conservancy in Maine as its Northern Maine Lands Steward, and he served as an AmeriCorps Environmental Steward with the Maine Natural Areas Program, and as an environmental educator at Kieve-Wavus. He’s been the land trust’s Executive Director since 2019.

The intent of having him come and talk to the students about nature and the outdoors is to have them love and care for nature,” Morton said.

The Frog Pond Trail at Raymond Elementary School is a family trail about 1.93 miles in length of easy to moderate terrain centered around a scenic nature pond. The trail offers a short walk to a pond with easy access for the whole family that connects to a trail network extending into the woods.

During the pandemic, the school set up an outdoor classroom space near the pond and other spots for teachers to gather with students for learning activities outdoors and Markot’s walk with students fit right into that outdoors theme.

The RSU 14 Wellness Program strives to show that time spent learning and playing in nature benefits the whole child and can help children attain their full potential.

Spending time in nature enhances educational outcomes by improving children’s academic performance, focus, behavior and love of learning, Morton said.

“Get Outdoors is the RSU 14 Wellness Theme for May,” she said. “There are so many benefits to bringing nature into wellness. Time outside brings mental and physical health. It elevates our moods while lowering blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stress. Being outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping to build strong bones and our immune systems. It just feels good.”

For children, access to safe, natural areas can enhance children’s physical and mental health, from improving cardiovascular vitality and weight management to reducing stress and ADHD symptoms. In addition, regular access to high-quality green space inspires strong connections to the natural world.

Morton says that outdoor play is not only beneficial, but also crucial for the brain's healthy development. Research studies have shown that the frontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling emotions and problem solving, is activated during playtime and imaginative play and child development go hand in hand.

Another area addressed by children being outdoors is childhood obesity. Morton says children playing outdoors are running, jumping, climbing, squatting, and rolling which are great forms of exercise and assist in motor skills development, a better sense of balance, and enhancing bone strength. And safe and protected exposure to sunlight helps keep children’s immune systems strong, Morton said. <

Friday, April 19, 2024

Penobscot leader inspires RES students about Maine’s native history

By Lorraine Glowczak

To gain a better understanding of indigenous history and culture, Raymond Elementary School invited John Bear Mitchell, a Penobscot Nation citizen and lecturer specializing in Wabanaki and Multicultural Studies at the University of Maine in Orono, to speak with each class from kindergarten through third grade on Friday, March 29.

Penobscot Nation citizen and UMaine lecturer Jon Bear
Mitchell speaks to a room full of Raymond Elementary
School students last month. He was invited to the school
with the hope to dispel myths and stereotypes about
Native Americans. PHOTO BY GARY HARRIMAN  
Susan Brackett, a fourth-grade teacher at RES who led the project, said the purpose of the presentation was to educate RES students from an American Indian’s perspective and how their life is today.

“We hope to dispel myths and stereotypes about Native Americans and to ignite an interest in students to learn more about past and present Native Americans in Maine,” Brackett said.

Through interactive music and the art of storytelling, Mitchell engaged RES students, offering insights into Maine's indigenous heritage, and addressing concerns regarding the stereotypes and myths people may have about his culture. As a former elementary school teacher and principal, Mitchell has years of experience connecting with students on their level.

The Penobscot leader and educator began each presentation with a call-and-response chant. Mitchell explained why he always begins with this interactive chant when speaking to his audiences, especially young children.

“This gets the students involved, creating a comfortable space for them,” he said. “By engaging children with the chant, they can better immerse themselves in the cultural experience, preparing them for storytelling and singing. When a person feels the experience first, they are more comfortable hearing and listening to it.”

After the chant, Mitchell shared a story that is still taught to Native American children today.

“Long ago, the people of the land experienced a 48-hour snowstorm,” he began. “Realizing they only had three days of food left, the hunters were sent out to search for food. They hunted for a very long time without seeing any signs of animals. They returned to their families, feeling disappointed. The hunters did this the second day. Again, no signs of animals. The third day, the same thing. Feeling sad, they didn’t want to return to the village, disappointing their families who relied upon them for survival.”

He related that the hunters came upon a group of dancing rabbits who seemed to be celebrating. Curious, the hunters asked what they were doing. The rabbits said that their dancing promoted community with each other while celebrating the impending arrival of spring. The hunters, desperate for food, pleaded with the rabbits to help them. Moved by their plight, the rabbits agreed to share their lessons. Guided by the rabbits' counsel, the hunters finally succeeded in their quest, bringing food home to their village.

“The story of ‘The Dancing Rabbit’ teaches lessons about resilience, cooperation, and the importance of respecting nature,” said Mitchell. “It emphasizes the connection between humans and the natural world, highlighting how working together and respecting the rhythms of nature can lead to abundance and prosperity.”

During his presentation, Mitchell also introduced elements of his ancient Passamaquoddy language which included singing songs with rattles and drums all naturally made by hand and spoke to the students about names given to us by our parents.

“How many here have three names, a first, middle, and last name,” he asked the students.

Everyone raised their hands. But only one hand was raised when he asked if their middle name was an animal.

“The purpose is to emphasize our shared humanity. Despite the diversity in our middle names, whether they're uncommon or familiar, we remain a part of today’s modern society,” Mitchell said. “Alongside our Christian names, we still carry on our traditional cultural names, celebrating the richness of our heritage in today's world.”

He also pointed out other ways in which Native American culture integrates into contemporary society.

“We go to movies, we travel to different countries, we are educated, we are like all people with the same needs and wants,” Mitchell said.

Brackett agreed.

“Mitchell’s presentation showed students that Native Americans today are just like them,” she said. “This helped to dispel any misconceptions or stereotypes that the students may have had before his visit.”

RES third grader Shyanne Normand shared what she learned from Mitchell and why.

“It’s kind of cool to learn about his culture because you get to know people differently and get to know what happened in their life.” Normand said. “It was really fun to speak an ancient language, too.”

She said that she realized from attending Mitchell’s presentation that Native Americans are fun teachers who dress in modern clothing.

The students' learning about Native Americans will not stop with Mitchell's presentation.

“To expand upon the students’ education of Native culture, John Bear Mitchell is providing the school with a variety of lesson plans and information that we will be able to use in the future,” Brackett said. <

Friday, March 22, 2024

Author’s visit ignites literary and artistic excitement in elementary students

By Lorraine Glowczak

Two weeks ago, the second- and third-grade students at Raymond Elementary School (RES) and Windham Primary School (WPS) hosted a distinguished guest, John Patrick Green, the author and illustrator of the beloved graphic novel InvestiGators and Agents of S.U.I.T series.

Through engaging storytelling and illustration, Green not only entertained but sparked enthusiasm for reading among the students.

Windham Primary School third grader Carter
Caswell has eight books by graphic novelist
and illustrator John Patrick Green, who recently 
visited Raymond Elementary School and WPS
and gave a presentation to students. Carter
was able to have Green sign one of his books
RES third-grade teacher Carolynne Bacon said that Green engaged the audience by weaving humor into his stories, describing his early experiences of reading and illustrating during his elementary school years.

“The story of his youth resonated with the students, who recognized a few parallels between John's journey and their own, inspiring them to embrace their passion for graphic novels while fostering a love for reading," she said.

Bacon explained that Green promoted graphic novels as an authentic reading experience that enhances their vocabulary, improves reading appreciation, and helps to understand plot and character development like any other novel.

“Students experienced a boost of confidence upon realizing that graphic novels are also considered as ‘real’ literature,” she said. “They are often told that graphic novels are not ‘true’ books.”

Amy Jorgensen, a WPS third grade teacher agreed, sharing an additional way Green connected with the students.

“He engaged the students through illustrations, beginning with a drawing of Garfield while telling his origin story,” Jorgensen said. “Many students in the audience enjoy reading his books and his story made an impact. Some students bought signed copies as part of the event.”

One of those schoolchildren was WPS third grader Carter Caswell, who reads about two hours per day. He said that Green is one of his favorite authors, boasting a collection of eight books from Green's two prominent series.

Caswell shared a few highlights from the author’s visit.

“He told us that when he was a little kid, he was sick, so he drew a lot,” Caswell said. “He really liked to draw Garfield. He said he got so good at it that he started selling his drawings of the cat to his friends at school. The author got in trouble because his friends were spending their lunch money on his artwork. But he got in the most trouble because he did something called ‘copyrighting.’”

The author confirmed Caswell’s recollections.

“During my talk, I mentioned I had terrible asthma, and my allergies were really bad,” Green said. “I was diagnosed at 3 months old, spending a lot of time in emergency rooms throughout my youth with severe asthma attacks.”

Until medical advancements allowed him more freedom outdoors, Green spent most of his youth indoors reading and drawing his favorite comic strip character, Garfield.

“I got really good at drawing Garfield,” Green said. “Carter is right, my friends purchased my drawings with their lunch money. When the school called my mom to tell them that the children were spending their lunch money on my pictures of Garfield, she was a bit more concerned about another offense. She had to explain to me about copyright infringement.”

Jorgensen said that Green’s jovial authenticity and skill of connecting with youth inspired creativity in her students.

“He made them feel like they could write and draw comics because his passion for the arts was so contagious,” she said. “He highlighted the process of editing your work. Editing and revising is a difficult skill for learners at this age and he made it ok to rewrite a whole book, pictures, and all.”

Jorgensen also incorporated some of the inspiration of Green’s visit into her lessons for her students.

“I added some autographed copies of the "InvestiGators" series to my collection which they are welcome to put into their book boxes and use with care,” she said. “I also used his passion for editing and revising while finishing up publishing our recent books. Many learners were inspired to push through and really make it their best work.”

Caswell said he is currently working on a new project and could not contain his excitement about the way meeting his favorite author has inspired him.

“At school me and my friends are working on a project in art class and are making a comic called, “Gary and Grape,” he said. “I think we can make a really good comic strip out of this. We are even going to sell it just like the author did when he was a kid.” <

Friday, December 8, 2023

American Legion Color Guard visits Raymond Elementary students

By Ed Pierce

Patriotism is a feeling of pride in what this nation stands for, what it has accomplished through the years, and what it is still hoping to do, both as a beacon of liberty for all American citizens and a shining example for the rest of the world.

American Legion Field-Allen Post
148 Americanism Officer John 
Facella presents a Certificate of
Appreciation to Raymond
Elementary School teacher Susan
Brackett as part of the school's
Veteran's Remembrance 
Celebration on Nov. 29.
Every day, members of the military show their loyalty to the United States by sacrificing for its ideals at home and on duty around the world.

Those ideals include what our nation’s founding fathers wrote and signed to in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

To that end, Windham’s Field-Allen Post 148 strives to teach and lead children through its Americanism Program what it means to be an American and to serve our nation with distinction. Such was the case on Nov. 29, when a contingent of veterans from the post under the direction of Post 148 Americanism Officer John Facella of Raymond visited Raymond Elementary School.

In a special remembrance celebration at the school, the veterans posted the colors in the school gymnasium. Students sang patriotic songs and performed skits related to military service.

During the ceremony, Facella presented American Legion Certificates of Appreciation to several school staff members who helped coordinate the event.

Those receiving certificates included Beth Peavey, Raymond Elementary School Principal, and RES Fourth Grade teachers Susan Brackett and Tracy Doyle. Also recognized for her years of support for veterans in her classroom was RES Second Grade Teacher Aileen Pelletier, who is a member of the Post 148 Auxiliary and whose son serves in the U.S. Air Force.

Following the ceremony in the gymnasium, the Post 148 Honor Guard members spent time with the second and fourth grade students for a Question-and- Answer session in the classroom and they discussed what it is like to be a U.S. military veteran.

Members of the American Legion Post 148 Color Guard who were part of the event were Officer in Charge Arn Heggers, Dick Graves, John Facella, and Craig Pride.

The purpose of the event was to show students that to be patriotic, they must learn as much as they can about our nation and to read and speak to others, especially veterans, about what American means to them.

Above all else, the Americanism Program encourages students to think about their own feelings for their country and to respect the history and ideals that make our nation strong. <

Friday, August 25, 2023

School bell about to ring for students in Windham and Raymond

By Ed Pierce

As parents in Windham and Raymond exhale a sigh of relief that summer is winding down, students have just a few days left of vacation until classes resume next week.

Students in Windham and Raymond are preparing to return
to classes next week as school reopens for the
2023-2024 school year for all age groups.
At the six RSU 14 schools, teachers, staff members and administrators have been preparing to welcome back students for the 2023-2024 school year. And with children out and about on their way to classes, drivers need to be extra careful and pay attention in school zones and around school buses carrying students to and from school.

Preparing for the first day of class may seem daunting for parents who have endured registering their children for another year of school, purchasing new clothing and footwear, gathering school supplies, planning lunches, coordinating after-school care, and arranging transportation, but now that those tasks are completed, the countdown to the first bell of the school year is at hand.

In Raymond, elementary and middle school students will either attend Raymond Elementary School or Jordan-Small Middle School. Raymond students in Grade 1 to Grade 4 go to Raymond Elementary, while students in Grade 5 through Grade 8 attend Jordan-Small Middle School.

Beth Peavey is entering her fourth year as the principal at Raymond Elementary School and was the school’s assistant principal for three years prior to becoming principal.

Jordan-Small Middle School is led by Principal Michelle Brann, who is entering her second year in a leadership position there. Brann formerly served as the assistant principal at Lake Region Middle School.

The first day of school for Grades 1 to 4 at Raymond Elementary School is Tuesday, Aug. 29. Half of Raymond Elementary kindergarten students start classes on Thursday, Aug. 31, while the remaining half of RES kindergarten students will start school on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

In Windham, students in kindergarten through Grade 3 attend Windham Primary School. Grade 4 and Grade 5 Windham students attend Manchester School, while students in Grade 6 to Grade 8 go to Windham Middle School. High school students in Grade 9 to Grade 12 in both Raymond and Windham attend Windham High School.

Dr. Kyle Rhoads leads Windham Primary School as principal and has served in that role there for 16 years. Danielle Donnini is entering her 27th year of working at Manchester School and she has led the school as its principal since 2015.

This year, Windham Middle School has a new principal, Greg Applestein, who joins RSU 14 after serving three years as the principal at Bonny Eagle High School. Ryan Caron is entering his sixth year as the principal at Windham High School and formerly served as the principal at South Portland High School.

Christopher Howell has led RSU 14 as Superintendent of Schools since 2019. Christine Frost-Bertinent is the RSU 14 assistant superintendent and Christine Hesler is RSU 14’s Director of Curriculum.

The first day of school for Windham Primary School students in Grades 1 to 3 will be Tuesday, Aug. 29. Half of WPS kindergarten students begin school on Thursday, Aug. 31 and the remaining half of Windham kindergarten students start school on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

Windham Middle School classes will begin Tuesday, Aug. 29. The first day of instruction for Windham High School students is Wednesday, Aug. 30.

For parents, RSU 14 uses Parent Square for school-to-home communications including mass notifications and urgent alerts, language translation for multilingual families, and to schedule parent-teacher conferences. The district also uses the Ride 360 app to view a student’s transportation assignment or to request changes to a student’s scheduled transportation. The Ride 360 app may be downloaded by visiting

Aaron Gant and Sharon Leeman serve as co-directors of transportation for RSU 14, while Jeanne Reilly is the RSU Director of School Nutrition.

Windham Christian Academy

All students attending Windham Christian Academy in kindergarten through Grade 12 will return to classes on Tuesday, Sept. 5. The first day of school for students in WCA’s Pre-K3 is Tuesday, Sept. 5 while the first day for students in WCA’s PreK4 will be Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Jackie Sands is in her 11th year of working for Windham Christian Academy and has served as the school’s principal since 2018. <

Friday, July 1, 2022

Student sendoff moves retiring school secretary

By Briana Bizier 

Known to generations of children and their parents as 'Miss
Mindy,' longtime Raymond Elementary School secretary 
Malinda McKinney will retire at the end of August.

Raymond Elementary School looked a little different this month as students, faculty and staff prepared to end the school year with flocks of pink plastic flamingos decorating the grounds outside the school and the walls of the front office. These flamingos even made it onto the heads of the elementary school students, who wore handmade pink flamingo hats to an event on their last day of school with the flamingos and a special ceremony meant to honor “Miss Mindy” Malinda McKinney, the beloved longtime school secretary, as she prepares for her retirement.

Originally from Wilmington, North Carolina, McKinney fell in love with Maine at a young age. Her family vacationed in Nova Scotia when she was growing up, and on those trips, they passed through Camden. The Pine Tree State made a big impression on her.

“I decided at age 12 that I wanted to move to Maine,” McKinney said. “So 30 years ago, I picked my kids up and moved to Maine not knowing a single solitary soul.”

She held several jobs before accepting her current position at Raymond Elementary, where she has greeted students and staff for 16 years.

“She’s the first person you see at the school,” RES Principal Beth Peavey explained. “She’s the gatekeeper, making sure the right people are in the building, and she’s so welcoming and helpful.”

Peavey has worked with McKinney for five years and, like many Raymond residents, she’s known her since her own children were students at RES.

“We’re going to greatly miss her,” Peavey said. “Her unique personality just brings joy to those around her.”

Peavey’s sentiments were echoed by Deborah Hutchinson, the former Assistant Principal at RES who worked closely with McKinney for seven years.

“Miss Mindy always put people at ease with her southern hospitality and her accent,” Hutchinson said. “She’s a wonderful, welcoming presence when you first come into the building, and she takes her responsibility very seriously. She would be like a mother bear if someone came to get a student who wasn’t supposed to, even to the point of chasing them down the hall to make sure they were supposed to be there. No one gets past Miss Mindy.”

During the last week of classes, McKinney’s front office was decorated with sparkling fairy lights and dozens of hand-drawn illustrations of flamingos from the students, including one bright pink flamingo with tears in its eyes and a speech bubble reading “We will miss you!” These colorful sketches shared space with three computer monitors, one laptop, two telephones, and a walkie-talkie.

“And I use them all,” McKinney said, gesturing toward the vast array of screens and buttons on her desk. “The end of the day is priceless. You’ve got phones ringing, the walkie-talkie going off. It’s organized chaos, and it’s so much fun.”

Fun seems to follow “Miss Mindy” wherever she goes. Her love of flamingos, the color pink and flamboyant outfits brings a welcome dose of levity to the school’s front office. 

“I act silly,” she said. “I wear my pink tutu and my headband. You’ve got to bring some oomph to it.”

This silliness is also accompanied by a genuine concern for the students that shines through each of her 16 years at RES. 

When she first accepted her current position at RES, McKinney said that she was given some advice: If you don’t know a student’s name, just call them sweetie. It was advice that “Miss Mindy” carefully disregarded.

“I said, I’m going to learn all their names,” she said and according to Principal Peavey, McKinney knows more than just the students’ names. “She knows all the names, and she also knows all the families,” Peavey said. “She’s a wonderful asset because she knows how to connect with the families. They trust and respect her, and for many families, they love her.”

This love was reflected in the many celebrations for her retirement. During the last weeks of school, there was a retirement celebration at RES’s Frog Pond Pavilion where parents and other members of the community were invited to celebrate “Miss Mindy” as well as a surprise school-wide assembly where students sang a song written by music teacher Patricia Gordon honoring her time at RES.

McKinney said that leaving her position at RES has been emotional.

“I’ve been crying,” she said. “It’s really bittersweet, I’ll miss the kids, my babies. And they really are my babies. Even the ones that can be a little naughty, every single one of them are precious.”

After moving to Maine decades ago and not knowing a single solitary soul, it’s safe to say that “Miss Mindy” has become a part of every family in Raymond. She will continue to work at Raymond Elementary School through August, and then she plans to enjoy her retirement in the state she first fell in love with at age 12. <

Friday, August 6, 2021

She touched many lives: Windham and Raymond remember educator Jani Cummings

 By Brian Bizier

Longtime educator taught first grade and second grade for
38 years at Raymond Elementary School and later became
a member of the RSU 14 Board of Directors. A memorial
service will be held on Sunday afternoon at Jordan-Small
Middle School for Cummings, who died in April of 
respiratory failure at age 67. COURTESY PHOTO 
Every town holds its share of inspiring citizens who seem to know everyone, who manage to stay in touch with friends and relatives all over the world, and who have a gift for bringing the community together. For Windham and Raymond, Janis Elizabeth Cummings was that amazing person.

Born April 9, 1954 in Beaufort, South Carolina to Samuel Cummings and Lou Nerren, who were both U.S. Marines, Janis, known to her friends and family as Jani, and her brother, grew up traveling all over the world. Her family eventually settled in Raymond, and Jani attended Windham High School, where she was very active in drama productions. Upon graduation, she enrolled at Westbrook College and the University of Southern Maine, where she received her teaching degree.

For Jani, teaching meant following in her family’s footsteps.

“In my first year of teaching, Jani’s mother, Lou Cummings, was also a teacher,” said Bill Diamond, Maine State Senator’s from Windham. “Lou was a former Marine, she was someone I respected, and I always did whatever she told me.”

Upon earning her teaching degree, Jani joined Raymond Elementary School, where she taught first and second grade students for 38 years. She was a beloved teacher with a gift for bringing community members into her classrooms and interacting with students.

“She had this amazing way of getting you outside your comfort zone and encouraging you to just be better, in a way,” said Jessica Fay, a Maine State Representative from Raymond. “Jani was one of the first people that I met after we moved here and I opened the flower shop, so we met because of flowers. She loved flowers, and I was a florist. I didn’t have a lot of experience with young children, but one of the things that she did, is she said, ‘I would love for you to come to my class and teach Japanese floral design to my first-graders.’ Which was terrifying! She encouraged me, she kind of told me that this was something she’d really like to have happen.”

Eventually, Fay did agree to join Jani’s classroom.

“I did it,” Fay said. “I went into the class and taught the kids while they were studying Japan. That was how Jani taught. She was a teacher of young students, but she was also a teacher for the adults around her.”

Diamond shared similar memories of Jani’s classroom.

“She was a teacher in Raymond when I was Maine Secretary of State,” Diamond said. “And she’d invite me down to talk to the students. Even when I finished as secretary, I kept visiting her class.”

Fay recounted that Jani was an amazing teacher.

“She had this way with kids, and adults too, and their parents,” she said. “I think a teacher needs to be able to have a relationship with an entire family, and she really did.”

Deborah Hutchinson, former principal of Raymond Elementary School, agrees with Fay’s assessment.

“She could make the school come alive,” Hutchinson said.

Jani’s ability to form relationships extended far beyond the walls of Raymond Elementary School.

“Something that was super sweet with Jani, on a personal note was that out of the blue, you’d get a note from Jani that she was thinking of you or just wanted to encourage you” said Chris Howell, RSU 14 Schools Superintendent. “She really cared about those personal relationships and did all she could to foster them.”

For Jani, those personal relationships took many forms. She was very active in the local Democratic Party, and very supportive of women in politics.

“I can’t remember who encouraged who to run for office, but she was always very supportive of and encouraging of me when I decided to run, and when she decided to run for School Board,” Fay said.

For many, Jani was also a part of many Raymond residents’ more romantic moments.

“She was a notary public, so she married many of the people in town,” Hutchinson said. “She married my daughter and her husband and she performed the ceremony.”

Once she retired from teaching, Jani opened a bed and breakfast in her Victorian home, which was across the street from the Raymond Village Library. She loved connecting to visitors from around the world, and she also loved welcoming Raymond’s children into her yard on Halloween.

“Halloween will never be the same down in the village,” Hutchinson said. “Jani would have 300 or more kids come to her house, and she always made sure she had enough candy for everyone.”

Jani also continued her involvement in education by becoming an active and vital member of the RSU 14 School Board following her retirement.

“She had an absolute love of children,” Howell said. “She would do anything possible in her power to help a kid out and to make sure that a kid succeeded and, to go along with that, to make sure the teachers had everything they needed. It didn’t matter if it was in her classroom or doing policy and procedures for the School Board.”

Her commitment to caring for others continued throughout her entire life, even toward the end. Howell described School Board leadership meetings on Zoom which Jani attended from the ICU when she became ill.

“She couldn’t speak, because she was on a ventilator,” Howell said. “So, she wrote messages on a whiteboard.”

Jani also expressed concern for the hospital’s staff during her stay.

“Even in the ICU, Jani was thinking about the staff at the hospital,” Hutchinson said. “She asked me if I would go out and get some ‘fancy candy’ for them. So, I got a couple dozen boxes of fancy candy and passed them out.”

Jani Cummings passed away on April 24 after a courageous battle with respiratory failure. She was 67 years old.

“Jani was our conscience,” said Diamond. “No matter who you were, she was a consistent conscience for all of us. She was an example of how to live right and care for others. When she passed away, and I think a lot of people feel the same way, we lost a piece of what’s really good.”

Fay agrees.

“It’s very difficult for me to imagine Raymond without her,” Fay said.
“She really was one of those people who connected different people in different parts of the community and brought them together. She taught us the importance of community and connection. I think when we are committed to each other, and to our community, we’re honoring her.”

Howell said that he’ll miss Jani’s dry sense of humor, which he appreciated.

“I’ve heard, since her passing, just countless people in the community who’ve said she was able to touch their lives over the years,” he said. “She was wonderful presence for both communities, Windham and Raymond. I definitely will cherish the time that I had with her. And I miss her.”

A celebration of Jani’s life will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8 at Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond. The event is open to the public, and everyone is invited.

Additionally, Jessica Fay is inviting members of the community to donate flowers from their garden to make community flower arrangements to honor Jani Cummings through the flowers that she so dearly loved. Please call Fay at 415-4218 if you have flowers to share. <

Friday, February 12, 2021

Raymond club crafts warm hats, mittens for local students

Members of the Raymond Community Knitting
and Crocheting Club made and donated 25 pairs
of mittens and hats to students at Raymond
Elementary School. SUBMITTED PHOTO
By Ed Pierce

When the pandemic arrived in Maine last March, a devoted group of Raymond knitters and crocheters just weren’t ready to put down their needles and find another hobby. In fact, they saw the pandemic as an opportunity to continue doing what they love while helping others at the same time.

While practicing social distancing and wearing masks, the dozen or so members of the Raymond Community Knitting and Crocheting Club have kept on meeting twice a month at the Raymond Village Community Church, sharing camaraderie, cups of tea and a love for the craft of creating projects that keep others warm in the winter. The club started three years ago and not only is an outlet for creativity, but also to keep friends and neighbors busy and engaged in life.

“It’s really about getting to know other people person to person,” said Brenda Olsen, a member of the Raymond Community Knitting and Crocheting Club. “People come here as much for socialization as much as they do to knit and crochet.”

The club is open to anyone with an interest in knitting or crocheting in the Raymond and Windham communities and meets from 2 to 4 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month.

“I really like crocheting,” Olsen said. “It keeps my hands busy and I’m able to make small projects fast. All of the projects I make I then give away as gifts.”

According to Olsen, even though the Raymond Community Knitting and Crocheting Club meets at Raymond Village Community Church, it’s not a religious organization.

“Everyone is invited, regardless of skill,” she said. “It is nice to meet and get new ideas and help with projects.”

She said that some club members are experienced at knitting and crocheting while others are just learning.

“We can teach you how to do it if you would like to learn,” Olsen said.

After decades of decline, knitting and crocheting is enjoying a revival in popularity as the internet has made it easier to share patterns and connect with others worldwide who are passionate about making items by hand and crafts in general. Yarn and craft shops are rebounding as sources for material and interactive ideas for new projects.  

In case you were wondering, knitting and crocheting are vastly different activities. Knitting uses a pair of long needles to form loops, moving a set of loops back and forth from one needle to another while the stitches are held firm on the needle. Crocheting is a bit simpler, using a single hook to hook yarn loops together directly, making crocheting a great deal easier to perform than knitting.  

Olsen herself became interested in knitting and crocheting after attending a beginner’s class at Rosemary’s Yarn Shop in Windham a few years ago.

“Knitting and crocheting is sort of an underground activity, she said. “Many people first hear about it through word of mouth. I tried it and was hooked. It’s a great pursuit.”

Last year club members made several hats and gave them to the Seafarer’s Mission, which were then distributed to sailors from all over the world, who come to Portland or other ports along the coast of Maine.

“This year an idea was presented from a member of our group, Sarah Allen, who told us about her friend, a teacher in Norway, who said that children were coming to school last fall without hats and mittens.

“We realized that this probably happens a lot in our communities,” Olsen said. “We checked with the Raymond Elementary School and they were delighted to have us make hats and mittens for the young school children.”

Last week the club presented the school with 25 sets of hats and mittens for students with most made from donated yarn.

“On average it takes about an hour to make a hat,” Olsen said. “It runs about an hour to make a pair of mittens.” 

She said club members were happy to work on such a meaningful project and see their handiwork be used to keep children warm.

“Everyone who worked on these hats and mittens had fun doing it and we’re pleased they will be used by the children,” Olsen said.

Raymond Elementary School Principal Beth Peavey said that the school is appreciative of the donation.

It's heartwarming to have a thoughtful community organization such as the Raymond Community Knitting and Crocheting Club donate 25 handmade hats and mittens,” Peavey said. “Each student who has picked out a hat or mitten walks out of the office with a big smile and is ready to brave the winter air. We are so thankful and grateful for the generous donation.”        

For more information about the Raymond Community Knitting and Crocheting Club, call 207-655-7749 or send an email to < 

Friday, February 5, 2021

GoFundMe campaign set up for new Raymond Elementary laminator

By Daniel Gray   

A GoFundMe campaign has been created to help Raymond Elementary School purchase a new laminator for documents.

The campaign was launched in December by Karlie Rouzer, a resident of Raymond since 2016 and the treasurer of the Parent Teacher Organization for the Raymond school district.

The staff at Raymond Elementary School had reached out to the PTO in hopes that they would create something that could help get them a laminator for the students.

According to Rouzer, a laminator helps in the process of keeping students and staff safe, since laminated paper can be easily wiped down and disinfected from spreading germs.

Rouzer said the addition of a new laminator would be another tool that teachers could use with their students to keep everyone happy.

However, not everyone was overjoyed hearing about the campaign.

Weeks into January, a Raymond resident of 11 years and GoFundMe donator, Stephanie Burke, shared the link on Facebook. Many commentors on the post were supportive of the needs of the school and pitched their own money in to help out, while others weren't too keen about the school needing money at all.

"I was surprised at all the negative feedback on my post, especially it being a local school," she said.

It didn't take long for the post to gain a lot of negative attention, which put a damper on both Burke and Rouzer.

However, the post was not deleted and the two were determined to spread the word still.

Many donations were gained and the GoFundMe for the new school laminator is sitting just a little under halfway to their $2,500 goal.

"I know times are hard, and maybe you feel like the cost of things like a laminator should be included in the school's budget,” Rouzer said. “But personally, and as part of the PTO, I want to support the community, and that includes the schools, and I feel like the schools don’t reach out and ask for much so when they do, it's important to me to do what I can."

The practical applications for the new laminator for Raymond Elementary School are endless and cost-effective. Since young students often use workbooks to learn things like numbers and letters, instead of paying for additional pricey workbooks, pages can be copied and laminated for use by many different students.

Lamination also can be used for math and teaching basic reading such as making reusable flash cards and letters of the alphabet. It can be used to make flash cards of the U.S. states, for labeling student artwork or even for identifying parts of a sentence like verbs.

They have applications for art classes and for making and preserving simple and memorable student holiday crafts.

If you would like to donate to the Raymond Elementary School's laminator fund, please visit

Even if you are unable to donate right now, clicking the share button and posting to one of the preset social media sites does help spread the word, Rouzer said. <

Friday, November 20, 2020

Raymond firefighters continue Fire Prevention Month tradition adjusting for pandemic

Raymond Elementary School students visit with
Raymond firefighters on a visit to the school
during Fire Prevention Month. PHOTO BY
For almost 100 years, firefighters across America have a week every fall to observe Fire Prevention Week, an initiative designed to show children, adults, and teachers how to stay safe in the event of a fire.

Raymond firefighters use the opportunity to provide lifesaving public education to try and help drastically reduce casualties caused by fires.

“For us, this has always been Fire Prevention Month, because we have a lot of activities each year that just don’t fit into one week” said Raymond Fire Chief Bruce Tupper.  “But because of the pandemic, we had to change some of the ways we had been doing things.  All our members wore masks, and we maintained social distancing with the children.”

Because of the pandemic, the Raymond Elementary School requested training videos be created to avoid having firefighters in the classrooms. 

With the help of Bill Blood, Raymond’s videographer, two videos were created:  one for the younger grades emphasized that ‘firefighters aren’t scary’ and told the children not to hide from firefighters during an emergency.  The other video, for grades 3 to 4, emphasized kitchen safety and how to escape from their bedroom at night.

School administrators reported that the videos, which were shown by the teachers in the classrooms, helped the children have sufficient time to digest the invaluable lifesaving information. 

Each class then went outside, and all the grades got to see some of the tools in ‘the big red truck.’  The
children were provided with Halloween trick-or-treat bags with fire safety information for their families.

The videos are available for families to view.  For Kindergarten to Grade 2 students, there is an under six-minute video showing a firefighter suiting up, and why he is “not scary.”  To see the video, go to

For students in Grades 3 and 4, an under 12-minute video discusses kitchen safety, and how children should escape from their bedrooms at night if there is a fire.  See the video at

Fire Prevention Month efforts also included other activities.

Raymond Deputy Fire Chief Cathy Gosselin said that members of the fire department also visited several of our day cares, and the Raymond Village Library, in order to connect with younger children and their parents. 

“We have been doing that for many years and the children look forward to it,” Gosselin said. <

Friday, November 13, 2020

Art classes provide creative outlet for elementary students during pandemic

RSU 14 Art Teacher Julie Clark gives an outdoor
art lesson about contrast to fourth-grade students
at Manchester School on Tuesday. School
administrators say art is an important subject
for students right now as it provides a type of
learning that may keep them more engaged during
the pandemic, PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
By Elizabeth Richards

For many young students, art classes are a safe space where they can create and explore. In this unusual school year, providing these opportunities remains a priority for the elementary schools in RSU14.

“The value of art in challenging times is especially important,” said Manchester School Principal Danielle Donnini. “When planning our return to school this September we never considered not providing access to the arts and physical education for our students. We quickly began to plan for how we could bring art to our students with all the CDC guidelines in place and focused on providing materials so each child could have the art supplies needed to reduce sharing.”

Other school administrators agree. 

“Art can be a passion and outlet for some of our learners,” said Windham Primary School Principal Dr. Kyle Rhoads. “We can’t always predict what kids are going to latch on to and have a passion for,” he said, so providing opportunities that allow that passion to grow is important. “Art is something they can be involved in their whole lives.”

With so many things happening that can cause a child to disengage from school right now, he said, it’s important to provide as many opportunities as possible for the types of learning that may keep them more engaged.

Kids are bringing a lot of anxiety and worry to school in these uncertain times said Raymond Elementary School Principal Elizabeth Peavey. Art classes are a calm, peaceful setting where students can set that aside and be creative, she said.

“Artistic exploration and creating offer a positive outlet for children, some of whom are experiencing
significant stressors since COVID disrupted schools, families and the economy last spring,” Donnini said.
Our art classes this fall have helped our students to feel connected to the school community as they collaborate on projects that support our whole-school culture and identity,” she added.

With the hybrid model and CDC guidelines, there have been some big changes and challenges for art teachers, which administrators say they are handling well.

Rhoads said teachers are doing a great job keeping things as normal as possible, while knowing they need to operate differently due to the guidelines.

One of the challenges, Peavey said, is teaching while staying physically distant.

Typically, the teacher would be close to students helping them through their challenges, but because they need to stay distant as much as possible, children need to use verbal communication a lot more, Peavey said.

Julie Clark teaches art at the Manchester School, as well as two classes at WPS. Space issues at Manchester do not allow for classes to be held in the art room. Instead, she takes an “art cart” to the student’s classrooms.

This changes my curriculum quite a bit as many of our art projects in the art room encouraged collaboration between students, shared materials, as well as providing enough space to work on larger projects,” she said.

Another big change for all the elementary schools is that art classes are rotating in six-week blocks between two groups of students. Typically, students have art class once a week all year long, so this is a significant reduction in the time they have in class.

Both not having students in class for a full year and the inability to share materials due to COVID guidelines, are big challenges, Clark said.

“It greatly limits their experiences with a wide variety of art materials and the depth in which I can teach a project. I have less time to teach and they have less time to create.”

To address the diminished time that students have in class, teachers have also recorded video lessons that both remote only and hybrid students can access, Rhoads said.

Remote students also received art kits at the beginning of the year so they would have the materials
they needed at home to create, Clark said.

Rhoads said he is excited that they’ve been able to continue their annual Silver Graphics fundraiser, which puts student artwork on products like mugs, pillows, and this year even masks. The limited amount of art that children are currently producing at school created a challenge, he said, but the company sent directions for families to do it from home. WPS art teacher Jennifer Vasiliauskas also created a step-by-step video lesson of a project for students to complete and families can upload.

An electronic flyer will go out to families about this fundraiser, Rhoads said, and the store will open this week.

Even with all the challenges, Clark said, students have stepped up and adapted to the new expectations and changes.

They are amazing, and I have been so impressed by their attitudes and efforts to make the best out of this situation,” she said.

Art classes continued even at the beginning of the pandemic last spring. Art teachers, like classroom teachers, had to quickly adapt to new technologies available to reach out to their students, Clark said.

We created engaging projects that students could do at home with limited supplies and provided digital resources for them to explore more if they chose. This has been a learning curve, but I feel like it has prepared us for a variety of situations that might arise for learning and creating in the future,” she said. <

Friday, October 16, 2020

Raymond residents weigh withdrawal from RSU 14

If approved by Raymond voters in a referendum
on Nov. 3, Raymond would withdraw from RSU 14 and
form a new school district. Under the proposal, Jordan-Small
Middle School and Raymond Elementary School would separate
from RSU 14 and the new district would hire a new
superintendent and create a new school board.
By Briana Bizier
For more than a decade, students at Raymond’s elementary school and middle school have been part of the RSU14 school district, sharing their school administration, buses, and educational resources with the neighboring town of Windham. This November, however, Raymond voters will decide if they wish to withdraw from RSU 14 in order to oversee their own schools.
Under the proposed withdrawal plan, known as Question One on Raymond
’s November ballot, the town of Raymond would form its own SAU, or School Administrative Unit. Raymond would lose its seats on the RSU 14 school board, and Raymond’s new SAU would form an independent school board that would then hire a superintendent on a three-fifths position to administer both Raymond Elementary
School and Jordan Small Middle School. Although a three-fifths superintendent position might sound odd, it is how Raymond schools operated before consolidating with Windham in 2008. The new Raymond school board would be responsible for everything from bus schedules to classroom technology to negotiating with the teachers’ union.
Raymond’s high school students can currently choose which school they wish to attend, and this would continue under the proposed withdrawal plan, as long as the chosen high school is able to accept the
new Raymond district’s tuition payment. Currently, 80 percent of Raymond’s high school students attend Windham High School. There is no plan to build a new high school for Raymond.
If the withdrawal plan is approved by voters, RSU 14 would transfer six buses and four vans to the new Raymond school district. RSU 14 would also continue to provide transportation for students who live in Raymond and choose to attend Windham High School.
In some ways, the seeds of this proposed withdrawal were sown back in 2008 when Windham and Raymond first merged as part of a state-wide initiative to consolidate school districts. For some Raymond students and their parents, this process did not go smoothly.
Frank McDermott, who came to Raymond in 1968 to serve as the principal of Jordan-Small, which was then then Raymond’s only school, praised Raymond’s school system.
“We were a Blue Ribbon School,” McDermott recalled, referring to a national educational award

granted to Raymond in 1988. “We had the opportunity to send teachers to national conferences and bring back great ideas. For a school system as small as it was, we really were very fortunate. That helped us do what we needed to do. It helped change the view of what Raymond schools were and could be.”
McDermott also confirmed that the 2008 transition from being an independent school system to being part of RSU14 was rocky. When the two school districts merged, McDermott recalled that Raymond lost funding for some of its programs, including a teaching position in Raymond’s computer lab.
Yet Jani Cummings, a longtime Raymond resident who taught at Raymond Elementary School for 38 years, said there were also benefits when the Raymond schools merged with Windham. “Raymond teachers used to buy our own paper,” Cummings said. “We had a very limited amount of supplies. I spent an average of $1,400 a year on my classroom, every year. The first thing that happened when we merged with Windham is that every teacher got the Reading Street series, which was $5,000 worth of books and equipment per classroom, just for reading.”
Students attend an outdoor class at Raymond Elementary
School in September. SUBMITTED PHOTO
It’s like any marriage,” Cummings continued, referring to the educational partnership between Raymond and Windham. “There’s the honeymoon stage, and then there’s the ‘you don’t make rice like my mother stage.’ But you learn to work together, and then you can’t imagine not working together.”
If the union between Raymond and Windham schools is a bit like a marriage, then it also has hit a few rough patches, especially with regards to spending. According to a “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the Town of Raymond’s RSU 14 Withdrawal webpage, Raymond was initially slated to fund 45 percent of the construction of a new     middle school in Windham.
The RSU14 school board also broached the idea of closing Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond if a new middle school was built. However, that plan was abandoned when the RSU 14 school board reached a new agreement where Raymond’s share of the school budget is based on Raymond’s population, and any new construction will be funded entirely by the town doing the construction.
Proponents of Question One worry that this agreement is not being upheld. They point to the construction of a new town garage in Windham as evidence that Raymond taxpayers are being asked to fund projects which do not support Raymond students. In addition, the FAQ document continues, RSU 14 purchased modular units for classroom and office space in Windham instead of using available rooms in Raymond schools.
However, despite the partnership ’s rocky start 12 years ago and the recent spat over funding, many Raymond parents and educators argue that Raymond’s educational union with Windham is highly beneficial for students of both towns.
Raymond students have a lot more opportunities as a result of Raymond merging with Windham,” said Susan Brackett, a fourth-grade teacher at Raymond Elementary School whose two daughters attend
Windham High School and Jordan-Small Middle School. “For example, Windham and Raymond currently share a variety of positions, such as a superintendent, literacy coach, math coach, specialist teachers such as P.E. and music, and numerous special education positions. This means our students are taught by highly qualified full-time staff.  Before the merger, we were only able to hire part time specialists, which resulted in a lot of turnover.”
Cummings, who is currently serving as a member of the RSU 14 school board but emphasizes that her opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the board as a whole, agreed with Brackett’s assessment.
“Having taught at RES when Raymond was a standalone district and then when it was part of RSU 14, I know that we are currently getting the best of both worlds,” Cummings said. “Small class sizes at community schools with access to the wide-ranging resources of a large district, all at a lower cost than if we were to withdraw.”
The costs of Raymond’s withdrawal from RSU 14 are a concern for both parents and non-parents alike. The proposed school budget on the Town of Raymond’s webpage shows a slight decrease in the town’s overall budget if Raymond forms an independent school district. However, this number does not include the estimated transition expenses of the withdrawal, which are slated to cost the town $600,000 in the first year.
Additionally, some Raymond residents expressed skepticism about the proposed budget.
Parent Kaitlin LaCasse noticed that the proposed budget does not include funds to address the many challenges of COVID-19, and Cummings expressed concern that the budget does not include a fulltime facilities director or an administrative assistant for the new three-fifths superintendent position.
Similar towns that have withdrawn from larger school districts have seen an increase in their property taxes. In 2014, the towns of Old Orchard Beach and Dayton voted to separate from the Saco school district. Both Old Orchard Beach and Dayton saw tax increases the following year, according to an article in the Portland Press Herald. The town of Sebago also withdrew from its school district in 2017. Subsequently, Sebago’s 2020-2021 tax budget rose by 4 percent to support their increased school budget.
An increase in property tax rates was also an issue in the 2015 election when Raymond residents first voted not to leave RSU 14. In that election, 71 percent of those who cast ballots opposed the 2015 withdrawal proposition.
“I served on the Raymond Withdrawal Committee in 2015, and it was as clear then as it is now that Raymond students would have more educational opportunities by remaining in RSU 14,” said Raymond resident Bob Gosselin. “Additionally, as the chairman of the Raymond Budget and Finance Committee, I can’t in good conscience support an effort that will in all likelihood raise costs for the town and for our taxpayers.”
However, not everyone is opposed to an increase in Raymond’s tax rate if the funds go to support the new, independent SAU.
“We have the tax base,” said McDermott. “Raymond can afford anything it wants. I don’t want to pay any more property tax than I have to, but I’m willing to pay it for the greater good.”
That greater good, McDermott continued, would include a world-class school system. “The reason I support this withdrawal,” he explained, “is that I hope it will allow Raymond to go back to what we were. I could see us having almost an Academy-type school in which every student was taken care of to give them the best education possible. Raymond is in a position where it could be a beacon, the leading town, in the Lakes Region. And to do this, you build the best school system possible.”
Cummings, however, expressed a different set of reservations about shifting the funding of Raymond schools solely onto the Town of Raymond. Town budget meetings can be notoriously contentious. Cummings recalled one year when two gentlemen almost came to blows over the school’s proposed budget.
“We went to the Town Meeting every year, and it was always scary,” Cummings told me. “The budgets got less and less because we were worried they wouldn’t pass. It was very stressful. We didn’t know until the budget passed if we would have a job next year.”
She admits that the school budget for the combined district still needs to be approved every year, and a degree of annual uncertainty persists for the faculty and staff of RSU 14.
“But the stability of our district now is something to fall back on,” Cummings said. “We have a larger population, and the taxation can be spread farther.”
Several Raymond residents expressed a sense of irritation as they experienced the déjà vu of explaining their opposition to the same withdrawal proposal that local residents rejected in the voting booth four years ago.
"I, along with my friends and neighbors, am frustrated that we are once again needing to explain to the Raymond Withdrawal Committee that RSU14 is working well for all parties involved,” said Alissa Messer, a Raymond parent and community volunteer.
Messer spearheaded the five-year effort to install the new playground at Raymond Elementary School, a project that involved cooperation at all levels of the district and incorporated the U.S. military. Messer was also the first to approach the RSU 14 board and request that stop-arms be installed on district buses, a concern that sparked a tremendous amount of collaborative fundraising work by the Windham PTA and the Raymond PTO. Numerous businesses, families, and a terrific group of children from Windham Odyssey Angels worked hard to raise a great deal of money in order to install the stop-arms.
“I have seen firsthand how the entire Raymond/Windham community works to support each other, from coming together to build a playground that generations of students and community members will be able to enjoy, to working to install stop-arms on our buses to keep kids safe,” Messer said. “It would be a mistake to think we could meet our community's needs while going it alone. I support our teachers and our kids, and I feel we are better together.”
Teachers also expressed concern about what Raymond stands to lose if the current partnership with Windham breaks down.
Brackett worries about the potential loss of Title 1 funding for Raymond schools. Title 1 funds are now used at Raymond Elementary School to support reading and math coaches in the classroom because RSU 14 as a whole qualifies for the federal assistance program. Alone, Raymond would not qualify for Title 1 funding and would need to either increase the town’s funding to the schools or eliminate those classrooms and reading and math coach positions.
For some parents and teachers, the current COVID-19 pandemic makes this difficult decision a bit easier. This September, when many schools around the nation were either converting to distance learning or offering in-person classes on adjusted hybrid-type schedules, all of the families in RSU 14 were given the choice of attending school either in person on a hybrid schedule or joining the district’s new online distance learning program.
“The district basically set up an entirely new school for remote learning,” said Raymond parent Kaitlin LaCasse. Her son Charlie is in a remote education second-grade class composed of students from both Windham and Raymond. Kate Griffin, who leads the virtual second grade classroom, is a teacher at Windham Primary School.
In Charlie’s half-hour reading group, there are three teachers split between 22 kids,” LaCasse said. “Raymond on its own would not have the resources to offer this option. One of the biggest benefits of being part of an RSU is that ability to share resources.”
Brackett echoes that sentiment.
“Separating from Windham results in a lot of unanswered questions, because we will have to start all over again,” she said. "Due to the unpredictability of our current world, I do not think it is beneficial to add one more unknown circumstance that will directly impact the lives of our children and students.”
Parents, teachers, and community members on all sides of this debate clearly have the best interests of Raymond students in mind.
For former superintendent McDermott, withdrawing from RSU 14 is the superior option.
“I really think that we owe our children the best possible education,” McDermott said. “I can see the difference education makes in people’s lives, and I want to see Raymond go back to the way it used to be.”
I have five kids,” McDermott continued. “Betty and I were and am so proud of our kids because of who they are and what they’re able to do. A lot of it, I give credit to the Raymond school system. My kids got a tremendous education here. They went out and made a mark in the world, and they started in a small, rural school system.”
Cummings, however, believes withdrawing from RSU14 is not the answer.
“I spent 38 years of my life teaching the kids of Raymond, and I’ve spent four years on the RSU 14 school board,” Cummings said. “So I’ve spent 42 years of my life caring for the kids of Raymond. If I thought this was a better idea for the kids of Raymond, I would be on my knees crawling to get this option. But this is not a good idea for the kids, and it’s not a good idea for the teachers.”
For Kaela Gonzalez, a Raymond resident and the mother of three young children, the choice is anything but clear. 
“I have followed the informational meetings closely and those who oppose the withdrawal have brought up valid points,” Gonzalez said, voicing concerns shared by many parents with children in the Raymond school system. “On the other hand, the proposed additions with withdrawal such as free lunch for pre-K through 4th grade sound like a good step forward. There are so many factors to consider and with so much at stake for my family, it is a hard decision to make.”
It’s a hard decision that all Raymond residents now face as Question One on their ballots next month. If the union between Raymond and Windham schools truly is like a marriage, it’s no wonder the question of withdrawing from RSU 14 quickly becomes emotional for proponents of either side.
 And, as with a marital breakup, the residents of Raymond must ask themselves: What’s best for the children? <