Principal Updates

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Mt. Ararat Middle School

66 Republic Avenue, Topsham, ME 04086

Phone:  (207)729-2950     Fax: (207)729-2964

Website:  mams.link75.org

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June 5, 2017

 

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We now have only three weeks of school left and we are gearing up for a great end of the school year.  I have a few items for you: Last Day of School. Our scheduled last day of school if FRIDAY JUNE 23.  School will let out AT 11:00 AM that day.  For your family’s advance planning HERE is our school calendar for next year.  The first day of school next year is Tuesday, September 5.

Our Students’ Safety and Well Being.  Recently, we have been hearing news about the death by suicide of a middle school student in Lewiston.  We are greatly saddened and concerned when we hear of anything of this nature.  We are also made more keenly aware of the vulnerability of our children, the difficulty of being a middle school student, and the need to do everything that we can to keep our children safe.   Many of our children have been exposed to the recent online television series 13 Reasons Why. This series references the issues of bullying and teen suicide.  Some students have also made us aware of an internet game, The Blue Whale, which encourages  kids to complete escalating dares culminating in suicide.  

Many students have questions and concerns about the topic of suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among Maine residents ages 10-25 and the number of suicides among adolescents in Maine has increased.   The National Association of School Psychologists is advising that vulnerable students with any degree of suicidal ideation do not watch the 13 Reasons Why show.  If you haven’t already spoken with your child about this topic, we encourage you to do so. Additionally, it is strongly recommended that if students insist on watching, they should do so in the presence of an adult.  In addition, research shows that exposure to another person’s suicide, or to graphic depiction of such events, can heighten the risk for students who are struggling with mental health conditions.

We are always mindful of the safety needs and well being of all of our students.  We hope that through a strong student, parent, school connection and through open communication we can do the utmost to address these situations.  We ask that you let us know when you have any concerns regarding peer issues at school.  We can only address a situation that we know about.  We are not perfect, but we will work as hard as possible to resolve the situation in a way that works best for your child.  

The middle school years can be dynamic and challenging as young people are figuring out who they are and how to get along with others.  We have many initiatives at our school that draw attention to the positive values of kindness, respect, and inclusivity that we want for everyone in our school.  We know this is a tough time for young people.  

We want to make you aware of the many resources that are available to support you as parents.

Mt. Ararat Middle School is committed  to providing a safe and supportive environment for your children.  If you have any concerns or questions please reach out to your child’s teachers, counselor, or administration.



[IT’S FINALLY ON!!!] “We All Belong Walk”  The original walk was canceled twice due to weather.  The weather on Wednesday afternoon is forecasted to be 70 and sunny, so the event is on!  This date is after the Spring Sports season, so we are hopeful there are no conflicts with other events.   We are hoping to have many parent volunteers attend this event to walk with the students.  If you are able to help with this event, please report to the front of the school building by 2:10 PM.  We will meet with all the parent chaperones before the walk begins to go over the logistics.  

 

 

 

Seussical Pics.  We held the performances of Seussical The Musical in April.  Our actors, crew, and choreographers were phenomenal!  HERE is an online photo album of the performance, courtesy of parent Teri Schultz.  Thanks to all the parent volunteers and to Directors Adam Blaise and Kristen Thomas for all their efforts to make this performance such a success!

 

We are planning on holding our final Parent/Principal Coffee of the year on Tuesday June 13 at 6:00pm in the MAMS Learning Commons.  The goal of the parent coffees is for parents to be able to learn more and share their feedback on educational issues happening at the school.  The focus of this session will be to debrief our school’s first year with a proficiency-based grading system, as well as to share a summary of the parent survey feedback.  Looking forward to it!  

MSAD 75 District-wide Parent Involvement Survey.  As a school district, we recognize that our schools are only as strong as they are because of your involvement. We want to ensure that you feel invited and involved in our schools to the degree that you are able to be. We also want your feedback on how we send invitations to you. Please take a few minutes to complete a very brief district-wide survey:

https://goo.gl/lIWVmK

 

After School App.  We are hearing reports of a potentially harmful phone app, After School, used by some of our students.  This app claims to be a place to post funny messages, but there are reports that it can be used to for anonymous cyberbullying.  The app is used by students outside of school on their phones, so we encourage all parents to talk to their child about the potential harmful capability of this app.  HERE is a Washington Post piece on the app.

 

Sunblock Application at School.  With the warmer and sunnier (hopefully!) weather in full swing, Nurse McGovern wants to remind parents to send sunblock in with their child.  School staff cannot readily provide sunblock to students because of the district over-the-counter medication policy, so students will need to bring it and apply it themselves.  Any questions, please contact Nurse Patty McGovern at mcgovernp@link75.org.

 

Merrymeeting 8th grade social studies classes have just finished competing in a tournament to learn more about the Constitution. About 30 students participated in a double elimination tournament to see which law firm would prevail. The winner was Winston Zhuang beating Sebastian Scherry by 200 points in the finals. Other place winners were Bode Matthews 3rd, Zander Chown 4th, Nathan Mao 5th, and Luke Curnin 6th.

Winston Zhuang describes the game:  “The iCivics tournament for the game called 'Do I Have A Right?' is a game where you own a lawyer firm and try to win cases using lawyers you unlock over time by earning points for every case you get right. The cases deal with the amendments and you try to figure out which amendment goes with which issue one of the characters have. This game teaches us all about the different amendments and how people's rights are protected by them. Playing this game for a couple of weeks has improved our knowledge of the amendments as almost everyone that's played their score for the game has increased which is evidence that we are learning. Overall 'Do I Have A Right' is a very fun informational game and is a great tool to teach kids about the different amendments.”

 

Our Approach to Math Instruction. Here at MAMS, we do the best we can to group our students for math instruction based on the Learning Goals they need.  We understand that all children can learn math at high levels, but not every child is ready for the same skills and concepts at the same time.   We want to provide the right amount of challenge for each student.  That means finding the right balance between rigor and frustration.  So, within the resources we have at hand, we do our best to meet all of our students’ needs.

Over the past two years we placed incoming 6th graders in math groups based on their Learning Goal needs particularly around fraction and decimal concepts.  We had found that this is an area which many students need to focus on in middle school in order to guarantee success later on.  With the implementation of the Empower grading system this year, we are able to see which students have met the fraction and decimal Learning Goals in 4th and 5th grade and can place them accordingly in 6th.  Most students will start 6th grade with 6th grade Learning Goals.  But some, who need more time, will continue with 5th grade Learning Goals.  Because we have several teachers beyond our core teams helping to make our groups smaller, some students move off their team to receive instruction.  We keep our groups somewhat flexible, so that if we see a student who really needs to be with a different cohort of students to work on a different set of Learning Goals, we are able to make that placement throughout the  year.  

 

In 7th and 8th grade, most students stay on team for math instruction.  Each math teacher has 4 sections of math classes, and so is able to group students according to Learning Goal needs.  Students with a GT identification  leave the team for math instruction and work with the GT teacher.  We may place other students who are not identified as GT, but exhibit similar learning needs, in this group as well.  In 8th grade, students who are ready for a fast pace and the Algebra I high school curriculum are placed in such a class.

We do our best to use multiple indicators to determine the best placement for each of our students.  Standardized test scores (NWEA, MEA),  Learning Goals completed in Empower, and the teacher’s recommendation all go into the decision making.  

We appreciate hearing from parents about our process, with questions you may have about the math program or your child’s placement.  For more information contact Peggy Brown at brownp@link75.org , Kim Emerson at emersonk@link75.org, or Josh Ottow, ottowj@link75.org



Summer Activities and Free Meals for Children. The Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program is offering summer-long fun and free meals for children in multiple locations in the greater Topsham and Brunswick area. Many children who receive lunches during the school year have a difficult time finding a nutritious meal during summer vacation. Through the federally funded Summer Food Service Program, free meals will be served at open sites on weekdays all summer to any child 18 years of age or younger - no questions asked. At the meal sites, different activities will be offered daily such as outdoor games, arts & crafts, and even wildlife presentations with live animals! Breakfast (9-10am) and lunch (12-1pm) will be served Monday through Friday starting June 26th and ending August 25th at the Mt. Ararat Middle School. Other locations in Brunswick and Lisbon will be available as well. For more information, please contact Hannah Vilas at hvilas@mchpp.org or (207) 725-2716 x312.

 

Reminder Re/ Parent Pick Up Area.  If you are picking up your child after school, please refrain from parking in the yellow marked curbing areas. This is designated as no-parking areas. Parking in these areas makes it very difficult for cars to leave as buses are coming in, when the two lane drive is being blocked by parked cars. There have been several near accidents. Please park in the drop off and pick up area or one of the many parking lots around the school. If you are using the front lot, please honor the entrance and exit posted areas. Your cooperation and help with this ongoing issue will help in keeping our school dismissal safe for all.

 

“Create-A-Play” Theater/Art Summer Camp at the Orion.   This unique summer camp invites 20 middle-school-age students to develop characters, write their own play together, create all the scenery, and perform the play.  Half of each day will consist of theater activities—character development, scene-writing, acting skills, projecting the voice, theater games, and more.  The other half of the day will be creating visual arts such as set design/building, props, costumes, self-portraits, painting, and other art activities.  Theater Director is Kathleen Nation and Art Director is Martha Truscott.  Both directors have wide experience in the performing and visual arts fields, and have worked frequently with middle-school students.   Camp will take place Monday- Camp will take place Monday-Friday, July 18-22, from 9 am to 4 pm.  The play will be performed on Friday, July 22 at 3 pm, followed by a cast/family party.  Camp is open to all students finishing grades 5 through 8 in June.  Registration brochures are available online at www.orionperformingartscenter.org and at Mt. Ararat Middle School office.   Sign up now—limited space available! Friday, July 18-22, from 9 am to 4 pm.  The play will be performed on Friday, July 22 at 3 pm, followed by a cast/family party.  Camp is open to all students finishing grades 5 through 8 in June.  Registration brochures are available online at www.orionperformingartscenter.org and at Mt. Ararat Middle School office.   Sign up now—limited space available!

 

If any questions, comments, or suggestions arise, please feel free to call the school at 729-2950 or send me an email at: ottowj@link75.org.



Sincerely,

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Josh Ottow

Principal

 

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