Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Friday, June 21, 2024

Windham Raymond Adult Education graduate shows what determination can do

By Masha Yurkevich

On June 13, Windham Raymond Adult Education celebrated their 2024 graduates who persevered through all the challenges that came their way and who stood strong in their determination, not giving up until they reached their goal.

Through all the challenges and obstacles that came his way,
Matthew Ostiguy's determination led him to finish what he
started and to graduate and follow his dreams. Ostiguy, right,
shows his high school diplomas to Cathy Giuffre-Renaud
of Windham Raymond Adult Education.
Matthew Ostiguy was one of this year’s graduates of the WRAE program and a patient of the Neurorestorative Rehabilitation Clinic of Standish Maine who provided a shining example of determination and willpower.

Ostiguy is originally from Fairhaven, Massachusetts where he lived for 25 years until moving up to Maine.

“During my stay there, I had only made it to junior year in high school before dropping out,” said Ostiguy. “I couldn't say I really had any plan in life yet other than spending time at the skatepark trying to make something of myself thinking I could take that to a level where I could get paid for it.”

Ostiguy chose to complete his education at WRAE because he was feeling left out.

“Seeing most of my friends, my younger cousins, my family and people I looked up to, having degrees and or still completing school made me so much more motivated to buckle down and attain my diploma,” he said. “I felt like I had something to prove by finishing what I had started.”

This promised to be a difficult journey.

During his time in the adult education program, Ostiguy found it extremely challenging to relearn some of things that he was taught because the material felt foreign after being out of school for such a long time.

“I had never thought it would be so difficult to relearn,” said Ostiguy. “It definitely required practice and studying, or I don't think I would've gotten through it at all.”

Ostiguy had many obstacles on his way, but he was determined to finish what he started. He said he was determined to show everyone what he was capable of and that he could actually get it done once he set his mind to it.

“School was always very hard for me, so it came as a surprise to my family and even myself when I decided to start attending the program,” he said.

After graduating, Ostiguy says he couldn't help but feel a great sense of personal accomplishment wash over him as he had completed what he had originally set out to do.

“The fact that I could show everybody that I had completed high school even after 12 years and having a hemorrhagic stroke, relearning basically everything from talking to even being able to walk short distances, and then to go on and finally graduate. I really did feel amazing.”

One of Ostiguy’s favorite parts of acquiring his education was the feeling of regaining knowledge from the past and the feeling of actually attending school again.

“It may sound odd, but it really does feel good to be learning again after a long hiatus. Especially going to a graduation ceremony for the first time, it really was the most rewarding feeling I've experienced in a while.”

After graduation, Ostiguy plans to return to his home state and get a place of his own and look for work until he can acquire a college education, get himself situated and get things in order until he opens the next chapter of his future.

“As for advice to all those who are trying to pursue or already pursuing a high school diploma or thinking about it, I'd really like to try to persuade you to give it your all,” said Ostiguy. “Every little bit of effort is worth the result in the end, and you'll unlock so many doors by doing so. The reward really is worth the cost of commitment everyone puts in. To anyone reading this, know that it is never too late, and there is never going to be any judgement on when or how you accomplished your goals. The point comes down to the fact that you got it done, and that is all that will ever matter.”

Ostiguy is very grateful and thanks his mother, his father, the many therapists he had helping me out from Day One, Cathy Giuffre-Renaud of Windham/Raymond Adult Education, and the many people from Windham/Raymond Adult Education for allowing him to attend the program to achieve my goals.

“I really could not have done any of it if it weren't for the many people who have offered me support of any type, it really meant the world to me,” said Ostiguy. <

Friday, January 28, 2022

Bagshaw looking to bring fresh ideas to House District 24 election

Barbara Bagshaw of Windham is running for
the Maine House District 24 seat as a 
Republican and will oppose former State Rep.
Tom Tyler in a June primary for the 
nomination. District 24 Democrat incumbent
Mark Bryant is term limited and the fall
election will determine who will succeed him 
representing Windham in Augusta.
By Ed Pierce

Barbara Bagshaw may be somewhat new to politics, but she’s hoping that voters view that as an asset when determining who to support for the Maine House District 24 Republican primary race this year.

Bagshaw, who was a first-time candidate last fall for a seat on the RSU 14 Board of Directors, is a former educator who led a non-profit arts organization for 10 years as president. She’s lived in Windham for more than 35 years and says that she wants to give back to her community through service as state representative.

“I am running because I am very motivated and inspired to do the hard work to represent the people of Windham,” Bagshaw said. “I know I will make myself available to the needs of the people in order to help and assist in any manner this office would allow. I am doing this to better my community, not just to hold a position.”

In June’s primary, Bagshaw will oppose former State Representative Tom Tyler for the Republican nomination for the November election to succeed current District 24 State Rep. Mark Bryant, a Democrat, who is term limited.

“My strengths are in networking and problem solving. Serving people is the heart of what I do,” Bagshaw said. “I believe people who vote for me need to know this. I want to find out what the people in my district are concerned about. I would love to get them involved in being part of the change they would like to see.”

She said that over the past couple of years, she’s reached out to local, state and federal government officials and many of them sent her back a canned response, suggesting that she contact someone higher up whom she had already reached out to or blamed another political party for the issue or didn’t even respond to her at all.

“These are good examples of what not to do,” Bagshaw said. “I prefer the human touch with a timely honest response.” 

According to Bagshaw, she’s running as a Republican because she strongly believes in supporting small businesses, parents’ rights, and supports providing an effective education for children to achieve the brightest future available to them. 

If elected to serve as a state representative, Bagshaw said she will do what is needed to build a consensus on behalf of all Maine residents. 

“Respect, honor and dignity are attributes I live by. I have many friends who are Democrats,” Bagshaw said. “We honor and respect each other’s differences. We work together beautifully. My friends may have a strength where I may have a weakness and vice versa. I don’t think everything needs to be divisive. We all bring a lot to the table.”

Knowing that Augusta is all about politics, Bagshaw said her skills working in the community will help her there.

“I’m a networker and enjoy working with different people,” she said. “I’m confident that I’ll figure it out to get things done. I want to serve the people and I’ll figure out how to do it. As a consensus builder, I know that our differences make us special. We need to have respect for each other.”

Her life’s passion has been about serving the community and she says that was inspired from watching her mother help others as a school board member in Gorham.

“I have traveled to 24 countries as an international speaker, volunteer in orphanages and done relief work,” Bagshaw said. “Commitment and follow-through are extremely important to me.”

She said she decided to run for the Maine District 24 House seat because she’s deeply concerned about the economy, education and the rule of law.

Her legislative focus if she’s elected will be improving the educational system in the state.

“We have a lot of very talented teachers, and they need to be supported,” Bagshaw said. “Everybody needs to work together. We do need more collaboration with parents and families though. We need to learn what their concerns are and have a deeper level of communication with them.”

Being new to running for elected office, Bagshaw says she places working for residents of the community above all else and pledges to do just that if voters elect her to serve as District 24 state representative.

“We need to support our small businesses and be thinking of how we can get able people back to work,” Bagshaw said. “I want to know what the people in the community are interested in and how I can be of assistance to them. I truly want to serve the community." <

Friday, January 14, 2022

Tyler hoping voters send him back to Augusta this fall

Former State Rep. Tom Tyler of Windham will campaign 
for the Republican nomination for the Maine House District
24 seat to succeed Rep. Mark Bryant, a Democrat, who is
term limited. Tyler formerly represented Windham in the 
117th and 126th Maine Legislatures. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
By Ed Pierce

Tom Tyler knows that when it comes to serving as a state representative, experience matters.

Tyler, a Republican and a lifelong resident of Windham, has decided to campaign for the House District 24 seat currently held by Democrat Mark Bryant of Windham, who is term limited. He formerly represented Windham in the 117th and 126th Maine Legislatures and stepped aside in 2014 to help his business, Hidden Brook Associates, to grow and prosper.

Now retired from a long career in sales, Tyler is asking voters to send him back to Augusta where he can serve as a champion for the Windham community and bring common-sense solutions to difficult issues facing the state.

“There is indeed something to be said for experience,” Tyler said. “To represent Windham properly you need somebody up there who knows how to work the system so Windham and Southern Maine don’t lose out.”

If other challengers for the seat file papers, Tyler will be entered in a primary in June for the Republican nomination for the fall election.

He says that if he is eventually elected to represent District 24, his focus in Augusta will vary.

“In the 126th Legislature, I introduced a bill allowing for a child to testify outside of the courtroom,” Tyler said. “If elected, I’d like to continue some of the work that has been done to reform Maine’s Child Welfare System. I just don’t think we do a good job with that in the state of Maine.”

Other areas of interest to Tyler are making possible reforms to the state’s education system and finding new ways to retain great teachers and compensate them fairly.

“I also want to tap in to create ways to get businesses to come to Maine,” Tyler said. “I’d like to see more startups locate in Maine and help the students who graduate from the University of Maine to stay here. By creating a business-friendly environment in Maine, we can keep our young, educated college grads here.”

Lending a hand to Maine’s elderly residents is also a priority for Tyler.

“We have to find a way to have our elderly stay in their homes,” he said. “Whether it be by creating some sort of tax-incentive initiative to keep them there or something else, we need to do what we can for those who are facing having to give up their homes and moving to a nursing facility.”    

Besides his previous experience of serving as a state representative, Tyler knows Windham and he knows Maine very well.

“Having represented Windham before in Augusta, I know my way around,” he said. “Solving the big issues is one thing, but for me, the behind-the-scenes stuff of helping local residents who have a question or need assistance is the most gratifying.” 

He serves as president of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and is chairman of the Board of Trustees of Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Tyler earned an associate’s degree from Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute in South Portland after graduating from Windham High School in 1966.

Married for 54 years to his high school sweetheart, Sandra, the couple has two children, James and Julie, and several grandchildren. Tyler also learned a great deal from his mother, who worked for the U.S. Post Office for more than 30 years. He’s been a deputy fire chief in Windham and volunteered as an assistant coach at Windham High and at his church and with the Boys Scouts.

“At heart I really am a conservationist and truly believe in the Lands for Maine’s Future Program,” Tyler said. “We have such a beautiful state and one of the safest states to live in too. Maine has a lot to offer people and I’d sincerely like to help. I have no problem sitting down with the other party to get things done in a bipartisan way.”  < 

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, August 14, 2020

Windham Raymond Adult Education prepares to offer online classes this fall

Windham Raymond Adult Education will transition to online
classes and online registration because of COVID-19 restrictions.
A digital catalogue of courses offered by the program this fall will
be available for the public at the end of August.
By Ed Pierce
Across America and even right here in Windham and Raymond, a movement is under way for adults to learn new career skills and knowledge and transform their lives, especially as the country struggles in the age of COVID-19.
Through the years, Windham Raymond Adult Education has been a path taken by thousands of adults by providing a range of instructional services to help them develop skills for further educational opportunities, job training, find better employment, and to realize their full potential as productive workers, family members and citizens of the community. As the fall term nears, many Windham Raymond Adult Education classes will be offered online because of COVID-19 but it hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for the program.
“We provide a safe place for students to learn, to get back on their path. We also help them to continue to navigate that journey, helping them to overcome barriers to their persistence with us. All of which helps to assist with their social and emotional well-being,” said Thomas Nash, director of Windham Raymond Adult Education. “Adult education not only contributes to our adult students’ educational attainment, but their employment options, their health and family development.”
Nash said that the program sees its students as the original ‘interrupted education’ population.“Adult education supports parents/caregivers role in their child’s education, helps train essential workers, assists in creating digital literacy and equitable digital access, assists with immigrant integration and ‘poverty reduction’ getting adults of all ages the skills they need for new jobs or moving up the career ladder as the economy shifts,” Nash said.
He said that some students take classes to transition to new careers more relevant in the 21st century, while others are looking to prepare to take the HiSET, the high school equivalency exam. Others have enrolled to better their computer skills, to earn their high school diploma, to complete English as a Second Language classes or for health and recreational purposes.


With a staff of about 75 instructors, Windham Raymond Adult Education was offeri8ngt about 300 different classes each year before the pandemic struck.
Nash said that many of those classes will continue to be offered to adult students except during the pandemic, they are being shifted online.
Along with online classes, registration for fall classes offered by the program will be available only online this fall.
“Our entire catalogue of fall classes will be available online at the end of August,” Nash said. “We will not be mailing out a catalogue this fall. We used to conduct in-person registration, but because of COVID-19, we changed that to strictly online registration.”
Because of the shift to online classes and online registration, Nash said Windham Raymond Adult Education is striving to stay as connected as possible to students without seeing them in person every day.
“Establishing relationships during the day and age of COVID is a challenge,” he said. “Some students preparing for the HiSET may not do as well need away from the classroom and need all the support and encouragement we can offer to them. We are trying to do the best we can given the circumstances related to the pandemic.”
Nash also said many in the community enjoy Windham Raymond Adult Education classes, such as yoga, so it’s disappointing to the staff not to see those people. It takes away opportunities people had, but it is a reality that we have to deal with.”
For many adult students, making the transition to online classes won’t be new.
“We transitioned to online classes in the spring because of the pandemic,” Nash said. “Some classes continued that way this summer.”
According to Nash, the feedback Windham Raymond Adult Education has received about online classes has been mixed.
“Some had reservations at first,” he said. A lot depends upon the level of the course they were taking. But other students were accustomed to learning online and were fine with it. The verdict is still out if many of the fall classes will lend themselves to that format.”
He said that the program is doing all it can to provide the best experience for adult students this fall and believes that this could be a genuine opportunity for some students to continue to explore what courses are available at Windham Raymond Adult Education or through other nearby schools online.
“Some students may find classes elsewhere that we do not offer and discover they are able to sign up for those classes through the remote option.” <      

Friday, August 7, 2020

RSU 14 proposes hybrid plan for school reopening

By Ed Pierce
In the wake of COVID-19 restrictions, RSU 14 Schools Superintendent Christopher Howell has recommended that the school district adopt a hybrid model for the start of the school year for students in Windham and Raymond.
To comply with Maine CDC social distancing requirements
during the pandemic, only 26 RSU 14 students can be transported
to school on board a district school bus. That and the number
of students allowed inside a classroom at any given time are
factors that has led RSU 14 Schools Superintendent Christopher
Howell to recommend starting school under a hybrid plan
next month. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
In a Zoom presentation made to the RSU 14 Board of Directors on Wednesday evening, Howell proposed starting in-person instruction for students in Grades 1 to 9 on Sept. 1, with students in Grade 10 through 12 starting in-person classes on Sept. 2.
Using the hybrid model, students would be grouped alphabetically with last names from A to K having in-person classes in school on Mondays and Wednesdays and those with last names from L to Z attending in-person classes in school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the days when students are not in school, they will be following up online with their teachers to the best extent possible,
Howell told the board that making the decision about proposing a hybrid model was not easy and took into account that Maine Center for Disease Control health restrictions limiting the number students on school buses to 26 and no more than 50 students in a group factored in this decision. Typically, about 60 students are transported aboard each bus for the trip to school.“When the state announced its model for reopening schools, it was released prior to health considerations issued by the Maine CDC,” Howell said.   
On July 31, Maine’s Department of Education recommended that all school districts in the state could reopen for in-person instruction if health and safety guidelines were adhered to.  
The RSU 14 board is expected to vote on Howell’s proposal at its Aug. 19 meeting.
Besides proposing how and when to bring back students to school, Howell said many other issues had to be examined, including how exactly to transition students back into in-person instruction after spending the spring receiving instruction from teachers online using Zoom.
“Our challenges mean every student and every staff member has to wear a mask,” he said. “We’ve also had to undertake the challenge of managing and ensuring that the district has a sufficient supply of personal protective equipment ready and available.”
He said right now RSU 14 has obtained 600 gallons of hand sanitizer and thousands of masks.        
“Like everyone else this summer, we’ve been thinking about what school will be like this fall and will students be safe,” Howell said.
Students attending classes in-person will start at school each day with hand sanitizer, but temperature checks and self-health assessments will be performed at home by families. 
During his presentation, Howell shared results with the board of a survey of RSU 14 parents about how to best instruction this fall.
“Over 80 percent of parents said that they want their children back in school,” Howell said. “They also said they will accept other models if necessary.”
According to Howell, RSU 14 also is planning to offer students a remote-only learning option if families do not feel comfortable with the proposed hybrid plan for the start of fall classes. said that the foundation of the reopening proposal is to ensure the safety, equity and accessibility for all Windham and Raymond students.
Because of additional cleaning requirements for schools as a result of COVID-19, some additional daytime custodians will be deployed to help cleanse hard common surfaces. The district also is exploring different scenarios for student lunches, ranging from eating in the classroom to finding larger spaces in the schools for lunchrooms to accommodate social distancing mandates. For some schools, RSU 14 has purchased additional picnic tables for students to eat lunch outdoors.
School administrators also are looking at giving students multiple mask breaks during the school day and how to best do that.
“We recognize kids can’t spend all day in the classroom,” Howell said. “We’ve also looked carefully at classroom space to keep students 3 to 6 feet apart and only 10 students in a classroom.”
Howell said many of those social distancing mandates will be met by adopting the hybrid model until such a time when COVID-19 restrictions are eased to allow for all students to resume normal in-person instruction at some point in the future.
At the RSU 14 main office building, plexiglass barriers have been installed to limit COVID-19 transmission.
Howell said he’s aware of the uncertainty regarding the virus and that like countless others across the country, RSU 14 staff is doing it all it can to keep everyone as safe as possible during the pandemic.
“We’re all feeling the strain of distancing requirements and we’re all trying to return students to school safely,” he said. “It will definitely be a different school setting than what we’ve come to expect.” < 

Friday, June 14, 2019

So long, farewell and good luck to Superintendent Sandy Prince

By Lorraine Glowczak

In about two weeks and after 16 years at the helm, RSU14 Superintendent Sandy Prince will move on to new territory and adventures, handing the baton to Assistant Principal, Chris Howell.

Prince has spent the past 39 years of his career in education, first obtaining his degree in education at the University of Maine in Farmington. His initial foray in education, a vocation near and dear to his heart, was at the Spurwink School in Portland, working with students with special needs. At that time, Brown Elementary School, which was (and still is) part of the South Portland School System, rented classrooms from Spurwink, so Prince gained additional experiences in the public special education sector.

“While I was there, I picked up six college credits towards a master’s where I finally obtained my graduated degree in Exceptional Student Education at USM,” Prince said, further explaining that ‘Exceptional’ Education’ was the term used for Special Education at that time.

Soon upon his completion of his master’s, he taught educational leadership courses at the University of New England. In 1981, he was hired as Windham’s first full-time kindergarten special education teacher. “Sue Gendron was the teaching principal at that time, and she was like a mentor to me,” 

stated Prince. “I learned so much from her - I was only 26 years old. She was a great thinker and had a sensible approach to educational administration. I admired her ability to work with people and not micromanage them. I have always tried to emulate her leadership style.” Gendron eventually became the RSU14 Superintendent of Schools until Prince took her place 16 years ago. about four years in his teaching role, he became Director of Special Education services in Gorham. “I was hired by Dr. Connie Goldman,” stated Prince. “Connie led by example where she always made her decisions based on what was right for students. She hired some of the best educators and everyone admired Dr. Goldman who was a Harvard graduate.” 

While with the Gorham school system, Prince filled the role of principal at Rock [elementary] School as well as Gorham Falls, a kindergarten center. He also held the role of interim middle school principal for approximately three years. 

It was during his time there that he once again experienced and witnessed great leadership in action with Tim McCormick, who replaced Dr. Goldman. “He could not only think well and have great vision, but he was a genius at implementing that vision. It’s one thing to say you will execute an idea, but it is quite another to carry through and do it well.”

Prince moved on to Portland where he was the Principal of Lyseth Elementary for a couple of years and then accepted the position of Assistant Director of Educational Planning at Portland’s central office. Once again, he was guided by great leadership who helped pave the way to his own role as superintendent. “In Portland, MaryJane McCallum was the superintendent who hired me to be Principal of Lyseth School. An amazing leader who had great vision and was able to build a K- Adult school system that was well aligned for the 21st century.” After 16 years, he returned to Windham where, he has admitted is the “home of his soul.”
When asked about fond memories of the community he stated that he loved working in special
education and really enjoyed his contact with both students and parents. As far as successes, he points to the teachers and staff who made the biggest impact on students’ educational achievements. “I have been amazed at the high quality and passionate educators, staff and parents who provide a fun, learning atmosphere for our students,” he said. “I’m truly amazed and grateful.”

Prince admitted that it is the nature of the job to take a hit once in a while. “But I have always tried to make the best decision for kids – and I always tried to listen and respond with understanding in challenging circumstances.”

As Howell steps forward this fall, Prince offers a few words of wisdom. “First, I must say I am wicked excited for Chris,” he began and then continued. “As for advice I would remind him to also stay focused on the children and do what you morally believe is right. I know without a doubt that he will do well as the new superintendent – and will take it further, creating more successes.”

Next fall, Prince will take on a temporary position at the Scarborough School District. As far as retirement? “I’m keeping my options open.”

Good luck and farewell, Mr. Prince – and thank you for your dedication to the Windham and Raymond students. You will be missed.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Birchwood Afterschool Summer Program focuses on the meaning of community by Elizabeth Richards

This summer, children attending the Birchwood Afterschool Summer Program are gaining a greater understanding of what it means to be a member of a community. The teachers are accomplishing this goal by asking members of the Windham community to visit and share how their role or occupation contributes to a healthy community. The program is also engaging in weekly community service projects.

Heather Marden, one of the Birchwood Afterschool Summer teachers, said that the idea behind helping children grasp stronger concepts about how communities function, and how they can be active members in a community, came from reading a book. The story, “Roxaboxen” by Alice McLerran, details the author’s childhood experiences with neighborhood friends. These children built their own community, which they called “Roxaboxen,” with found materials like rocks, crates, and sticks. In the story, there are examples of children developing a monetary system, transportation, and community services found in real neighborhoods.

This book inspired the staff to block out a section of a wooded area behind the school to allow children to create their own “Roxaboxen.”  Marden said, “The students have created bakeries, restaurants, hospitals, homes, a police station, town hall, auto shop, and even a baseball field. This small version of a community is allowing them to explore different roles as well as strengthen their social skills needed for problem solving, negotiating, and compromise.” 

Watching how motivated the children are to play in their “Roxaboxen” community are some of the teachers’ favorite moments, Marden said. “The children are eager to share this area with parents at the end of the day. We often find parents reminisce about their childhood memories of those special places they created as children that mimicked community concepts for them. Many children have built their own “Roxaboxen” communities at their homes,” she said. attending the summer program showed great enthusiasm when talking about the “Roxaboxen” area. Lincoln Rulman shared some of what they do in the area: “We play in “Roxaboxen,” and we have built houses…we use rocks as money. A lot of people sell chicken[s]…we have a nurse there too…we have signs out there that tell the rules.” 

Like in any community, disagreements can arise, and helping children learn to solve those problems is all part of the experience. Marden said they sometimes hold town meetings to work out issues, allowing the children to take the lead.

While some of the kids said the process was boring, they admitted that it worked to help them solve issues that arose.

One thing that teachers have seen since the creation of their “Roxaboxen” is that the temperaments of children have changed with the extra time spent outdoors. “And, it’s a space where we can really give them freedom to resolve their problems on their own,” said Marden. Sarah Murray says the children are very imaginative in “Roxaboxen,” and they spend a couple hours each day in the area. “They beg to go out there,” she said. “It’s just their zone. That’s where they just know that they have their own control.”

The “Roxaboxen” area has been in use at Birchwood for at least four years now, Marden said, and this summer the teachers decided to take the concept of community a step farther. That’s when they began to invite members of the community in to visit – either in person or via technology. “We have so many resources in our town, and you can bring so many people in during the summer,” she said. “Our entire goal is that they understand how a community functions and that it’s a system that works together, that it takes a lot of compromise to work together.”

Visitors have included members of the fire department who did some CPR training for the children, a Skype visit with a geologist from Casco who is in Hawaii studying the volcanoes, and myself. I visited to help children understand the role of the press in a community.

Often, Marden said, projects will evolve from the visits. After my visit, for example, children wrote their own articles and produced a Birchwood Daily Newspaper. August, Senator Bill Diamond will speak about his role as a legislator. The children will then be led through an activity on how to change rules in your community, as they examine rules in the classroom community and propose rule changes that will go through a mini legislative process at Birchwood, Marden said. A karate instructor will be visiting to lead a series of four karate sessions, focusing on working together and the social and emotional concepts learned through karate.

In addition to the visitors, the school has been doing weekly community service projects to express thanks to members of the community for their important roles. Recent projects have included: bringing a full meal to the fire department, bringing muffins to employees at the post office, making artwork for a nursing home, and making kindness rocks to place into the community to brighten someone’s day.

We are proud of how the children have embraced our summer of building our community concepts,” said Marden.