MAMS Update October 5, 2016

MAMS Exterior

Mt. Ararat Middle School

66 Republic Avenue, Topsham, ME 04086

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


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October 5, 2016

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We are now into our second month of school and we have had a great start!   Every three weeks or so, I send out these “MAMS Updates.”  These are also posted on our website for your reference.  I have a few items for you today:

Progress Reports.  We are now halfway through the first quarter.  We encourage all parents to log on to Empower, our brand new grading program.  Once logged in (see below), parents can find updated work habit scores, based on our school wide Code of Cooperation:  Focused, Respectful, and Responsible.  Empower will also contain scores for any learning goals that have been assessed and graded, although there will be relatively few of these at this point in the year.  As our school transitions to this new grading program, we will be adapting to how we keep parents informed of how their child is doing at school.  At Progress Report time, you will be receiving an email from me prompting you to check your child’s progress in Empower.  At the end of the quarter, you will receive similar email notification, as well as a paper Report Card sent home with your child.  We will have more information about the Report Card format near at the end of the quarter.

Empower Logo

Empower Parent Login Information was mailed to your home address and should be arriving imminently, if it hasn’t already.  This mailing contains your assigned username and a temporary password.  Please take a moment to login to Empower, select a password, and explore this program.  Each parent/guardian has their own login and with it they can view every child they have at MAMS through one portal.  Parents may also see their other children at elementary or high school, but only the middle school is actively using Empower for grading at this time.  If you have any questions about logging into Empower, please email

Learning About Empower.  This is an exciting time at MAMS!  Just like Empower is new to parents this fall, it is also new to teachers and students as well.  We are all learning together!  Our school has been focused on proficiency-based learning for a number of years.  Now with Empower, we can fully involve students and parents in the learning process.  Empower is a grading program that allows the school to report student progress on learning goals.  It gives more detailed information than traditional report cards with letter grades.  It clearly allows everyone (students, parents, and teachers) to see where they have been in their learning, and where they are going next.  

We invite you to attend a Drop-in Parent Workshop focused on learning more about Empower.  These sessions will be held Monday, October 24, 11:30-1:00 and Wednesday, October 26, 5:00-7:00.  Feel free to drop into either of these workshops at any point during the allotted time.  Students and staff  will have various stations set up focused on learning about the different functions of Empower.  We hope you can come out and learn!

Interim Assistant Principal.  Our assistant principal, Megan Hayes Teague, is preparing to go out on maternity leave in the new few days.  We are excited to announce that George Jenkins, the retired former principal of Bowdoin Central School will be filling in for her.  While we will miss Megan, we are lucky to have such an experienced and respected school administrator at MAMS.  The tentative plan is that Megan will be out on leave from October 7 through January 16.

School Pictures.  School picture day was on September 29.   For those students that ordered prints, they will be receiving picture packages later this month.  Retake day is November 8.  We will not be doing Spring pictures this year, so this is your opportunity to order school pictures.  Please contact Geskus Photography for more information or to order pictures at this link and use the key: 768P4EH9

New School Website.  We recently changed to a new school website design and layout.  The new website address is, but an old version of the website still works for the time being as well.  We appreciate your patience as we are in the process of moving the old site content to the new site.  We are excited about the new site and look forward to it reaching full capability.  

A Lock-Down Drill will be held on Monday, October 17 at 7:50 am with cooperation from local police/fire departments.  Team teachers will notify and prepare our students in advance of this drill.  State law requires that we hold a number of fire/evacuation and one one lockdown drill per year and we want parents to be aware of this upcoming drill.

Mind of a Middle Schooler Poster

Placement in 6th Grade Math.  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.  Last spring, while in 5th grade, our current 6th graders took a test assessing their skills and understanding of fractions and decimals.  We have found that this is an area which many students need to work on in middle school.  Based on this “fraction test”, and other assessment data, we have placed students with others who will be working through a similar range of learning goals.  There will still be a range of learning needs in each group, but that range will be narrower.  We believe this will allow the teacher to better provide students with the right level of challenge for each group. Some students were not in our district when the fraction assessment was given or they happened to miss the fraction test and we are seeing that we need to adjust their placement.  If that is the case, and we have determined that your child's placement is not the best for his or her needs, I will be calling home to let you know that we are planning to make a change.  Changes will only be made to math placement and will not affect other aspects of the student's team placement or schedule. For more information contact our Math Teacher Leader, Peggy Brown at

High School Building Project.  We are encouraging all our middle school parents to get involved in the Mt. Ararat High School Building Project.  This is especially important since by the time the new building is completed, it will be the current MAMS student body that will make up most of the student body of the high school.  Please visit this link to learn more about the building project and to get involved.

Health Office News. Nurse Patty McGovern has a few health-related announcements/reminders:

  • Medications. No student is allowed to carry medication while at school. It needs to be kept in the health office. A signed parental permission is required and a small bottle of the medication in the original bottle should be supplied by the parent and accompany the permission form. The nurse is permitted to administer a dose of Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen with a one-time verbal permission of the guardian.

  • Dental Hygienist Judi Jones will be coming the end of October and November. She added days in November due to the overwhelming response.  Please send a check prior to her visit if insurance doesn't cover the cost. 
    Vision testing for the 7th graders is a State mandated screening. It will occur in early November. A letter will be sent home prior to the screening.

  • The Flu Shot Clinics are scheduled for Saturday October 22 - 9 am to 12 pm,  and Tuesday  November 29 - 3:30 pm to 6 pm  in our cafeteria. Nasal mist will not be offered this year. This clinic is sponsored by CHANS, open to the public, and free. Donations are accepted.

  • Food celebrations in the classroom will occur throughout the year.  Please check with the teacher before sending in a food item that will be shared with the class. With severe food allergies and medical conditions on the rise, being mindful ahead of time will make us better prepared to assist the student and have a safe celebration!
    Diabetic students must know the grams of carbohydrate per serving. 
    Students with a severe allergy or Celiac disease~ etc. need to know the ingredients in the food item.

  • Allergy Awareness.  An allergic reaction can be life threatening. Eight foods account for 90% of all food allergic reaction: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, pecans), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. (Food Allergy Research and Education).

  • If your child has a temperature of 100 or greater please keep them home.  The student should remain home until fever free 24 hours and without the need for medication.  Please do not medicate them and send them to school with a fever or severe cough and cold symptoms. We do our best to maintain a healthy learning environment.

Art Field Trips. Students that are in 7/8th grade who have art this quarter as one of their Exploratory classes, have the opportunity to attend a field trip through their art class to the Farnsworth Museum and Wyeth Center in Rockland, ME on Friday, October 14. Students interested should make sure to return their permission slip ASAP. Also, if there are any artsy parents/guardians out there, chaperones are also needed for a 1:10 adult/student ratio in the museum. Please contact your child's art teacher Maura McHugh or Ms. Michel if interested in coming along as a chaperone!

Scholastic Book Fair is coming!  Join us in sharing a love of reading with our students at the Mt. Ararat Middle School Book Fair from October 11-17. We open at 7:30 each morning (8:30 on Wednesday) and will be open until 3:30 pm on Wednesday, Friday, and Monday. We'll be open until 6:30 pm on Parent/Teacher conference nights.

Books that can make a difference

Please help by volunteering at the Book Fair -- volunteers who work 2 hours or more will receive a coupon for the Book Fair. Sign up HERE.  We hope to see you at the Book Fair!

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


Josh Ottow Signature.jpg

Josh Ottow



Josh Ottow
Mt. Ararat Middle School
66 Republic Ave. |  Topsham, ME  04086  |  729-2950
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