Posted on 02/08/2019

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Mt. Ararat Middle School

66 Republic Avenue, Topsham, ME 04086

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


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January 30, 2019

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope everyone is having a great start to the new year.  Hard to believe it’s almost February. I have a few items for you:

Quarter 2 Report Cards. Quarter 2 ended last Friday and gradebooks will be finalized by this Monday afternoon, so we encourage all parents to go online and view grades within the Empower Program any time after that.  Paper copies of report cards will either be sent home with students by Tuesday next week, or will be provided at Parent Conferences (varies by team -- check with your child’s homeroom teacher).  Mid-year is an exciting time as teachers spend a significant amount of time measuring and reflecting on the progress your children have made since the last report card.  Please contact your child’s teacher(s) with any questions you have after reading the report. Our report cards are designed to be a mere snapshot of where students are at this point in time with scores for learning goals and work habits.  All our teachers are happy to spend as much time with parents as needed to help you better understand the whole picture of how your child is doing in school.  Speaking of that...

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on the week of February 4 through Thursday, February 8, 2:30-7:00 pm.  You will be hearing from your child’s team teachers to schedule these conferences. Students are encouraged to attend with their parents.   If you also wish to conference with your child’s exploratory teachers (Health, P.E., Art, Music, Learning Commons, Culture/Languages, STEM), please contact them directly to schedule your conference with them during one of these evenings.  Their contact information can be found on our staff directory.

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Catch Up Growth and Target Time. As our school is committed to giving students and parents clear information on how students are doing on the important knowledge and skills, aka. our Learning Goals.  For some students, this means they may not always meet their grade levels’ learning goal the first time. This can be seen clearly on each student’s report card, as well as by clicking on the “Goal Browser” in Empower.  For students who have not yet met learning goals, we are also focusing on efforts to catch them up as much as possible. One of the ways to work on this Catch Up Growth is through a period in our school day called, Target Time.  For 45 minutes, four days a week, students engage in targeted, teacher-directed instruction to maximize their growth.  In addition to Empower, our STAR universal screening tests, given three times a year (including earlier this month), helps us get an accurate sense of the learning level students are at and allows us to provide appropriate interventions to maximize this Catch Up Growth.   This time is also used to extend the learning for students that may have already shown proficiency.  If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask your child’s teachers at upcoming parent/teacher conferences, or our school’s Student Intervention Specialists, Rebecca Singleton (Reading/Writing) at and Mary Beth Latti (Math) at  Our efforts with Catch Up Growth and Target Time are part of how we make our vision of Fueling Hope Through Learning a reality for all students.  

Staff Spotlight. One of the greatest resources at Mt. Ararat Middle School is our amazing staff. HERE in the Staff Spotlight, you will get to know some interesting information about a member of our faculty! Staff members are chosen at random and will be featured on our website. We hope you enjoy this extra look inside our community and that you learn something new about the people that make MAMS such a special place! This month is Sixth Grade Math/Science Teacher Amy Brown (above)!

It’s All About Relationships!  Many of our staff took notice of this recent NY Op-Ed piece by columnist David Brooks, Student Learn from People They Love, so I thought I would share it with you.  The column speaks to the importance of the relationship between student and teacher in the learning process.  This theme affirms our school's mission statement, which includes a focus on "positive relationships."  My favorite line from the article: "Social and emotional learning is not an add-on curriculum; one educator said, “It’s the way we do school.”  

Exploratory Class Changes.  With the new semester starting this week, students will see a change in many of their Exploratory classes.  Please click HERE to learn more about what is happening in your child’s exploratory classes (Health, P.E., Art, Cultural Literacy/World Language, Learning Commons, Music, and STEM).  The vision of our amazing Exploratory program is for students to discover their particular interest, talents, values and preferences. The intent of the program is to acquaint students with enriching, healthy pursuits in order for students to become well-rounded adults.  I encourage you to talk to your child about their new exploratory classes!

The Maine Education Assessment will occur during the week of March 18-22.  The MEA is the State’s test that measures  our students’ achievement in mathematics (grades  6-­8), reading, writing, and language, (grades 6-­8), and science  (grade 8). Our goal is for every student to engage in these assessments  and put forth their best effort. While it is true that State and federal  laws require that we test all students, for us it means more. When all students participate,  the results of these tests help us to inform our programming for students, reflect on our teaching, and  they serve as one of the many ways that we are accountable to our community. Though students take the test  on a computer, we will provide allowable supports ­ in multiple formats based on our students’ needs ­ during  testing. During this time your child’s normal schedule will be modified  in  order  to accomplish  the testing. We are still finalizing this schedule, but it will likely be very similar to last year’s schedule, HERE for reference.  We have arranged  the testing to maximize  student readiness by distributing  the sessions and including motor breaks.   If a student is absent during testing, make­ups  will be scheduled to allow for all students to complete  the tests. We have posted some frequently asked questions  HERE.  If you  have other  questions or concerns  about your child’s testing  experience, we ask that you  contact me before testing.

Last Year’s MEA.  If your child completed the MEA last year, either here or in 5th grade, we have received their score reports from the State of Maine Dept of Education. We will be happy to share these results at the upcoming parent conferences if you would like that to be part of the conversation, or we can easily print them for you in the main office; just let us know if you would like these reports. Overall results by school, district and state are also available HERE.

Here is a snapshot of overall results:

  • In ELA/Literacy 50.24% of Maine students scored at or above state expectations – and 52.80% in our district.

  • In Mathematics 37.05% of Maine students scored at or above state expectations – and 39.94% in our district.

  • In Science 58.88% of Maine students scored at or above state expectations – and 67.30% in our district.

While no single test can give a complete picture of a child’s achievement, the MEA, combined with other information, can help students, teachers, and families have a clear understanding of where a student’s learning is, and where it is headed. In order to make thoughtful decisions about what each child needs, we use multiple sources of assessment data together (see diagram above).

If you have questions or concerns about your child’s performance, please reach out to your child’s teacher(s).  We are very proud of our students and their teachers; and we are always seeking improved outcomes for our learners.  Along with your help, we can support our students in continuing to grow in their learning and overall success. Thank you for partnering with us.We  are proud of our students, and we thank you for your support.

GeoBee Champion, Parker Bate(center), with social studies teacher Jon Beede (right),

principal Josh Ottow (left), and runner-up Brady Yazwinski (far left)

GeoBee.  Parker Bate, an 8th grade student on Team Casco, won the Mt. Ararat Middle School competition of the National Geographic Bee and a chance at a $50,000 college scholarship. The school Bee was held in front of an all-school assembly on Wednesday, January 23, 2019.  Parker and the rest of the field of finalists, including 6th graders Islah Godo and Caleb Galgovitch, 7th graders Folsom Streeter and Maggie Whalen, 8th graders Gavin Gaydos and Ella Bergeron, and runner-up 6th grader Brady Yazwinski, answered questions on geography as part of the first round in the 31th annual National Geographic Bee.  Good luck at the next level, Parker!

The Intramural Basketball season has come to an end. Coach Mike Toomey had a great turnout. Athletes were able to learn and develop a variety of different basketball skill sets (ball handling, passing, shooting) while participating in a number of different practices and competitive games (layup contest, foul shooting contest, Hot Shot contest, and 5 v 5 games) All participants worked very hard while having some fun on the basketball court.  There is a planned Intramural program coming again in the Spring, so please contact Mr. Toomey with any questions at

MAMS RESPECTful Student of the Week.  Because of the great value we place on respect in our community, we have established a new program to recognize our most respectful students. Each Friday, teams are asked to submit the name of one student whom they believe most exemplifies the team's definition of respect. Those students are called to the office, presented a certificate, and entered into a monthly drawing for a gift certificate. Additionally, Ms. Hayes Teague calls the families to describe the behaviors that led teachers to their choice!  Congratulations to our December/January RESPECTful Students of the Week!

Sophia Perow (Androscoggin)

Ariana Portaluppi (Kennebec)

Makeda Berhanu (Exploratory)

Avery Beal (Cathance)

Keenan Sweeney (Androscoggin)

Jocelyne Coombs (Exploratory)

Aidan Gomez (Carrabassett)

Cassidy Ruggles (Magalloway)

Ellie Young (Cathance)

Lydia Hiltz (Cathance)

McKenna Lamoreaux (Kennebec)

Tristan Rines (Merrymeeting)

Ashlynn Baker (Merrymeeting)

Colby Bleau (Carrabassett)

Liam Monks (Cathance)

Gage Taylor (Magalloway)

Andrew Yenco (Merrymeeting)

From the Learning Commons.  The American Library Association just announced the 2019 best books for children and young adults, including the Newbery Medal for outstanding contribution to children's literature. Two of our students were happy to borrow the Newbery Medal winner and a Newbery honor book from the MAMS Learning Commons (above).  Also, Please help us remind your student to keep food and drink away from their school laptops. Alas, liquid damage often results in expensive repairs. Please encourage your student to stop by the Learning Commons if they have any questions or concerns about their devices.

Is Your Child a Phone Addict?  Being a parent of an adolescent can sometimes be tough!  This is especially true when it comes to the role that cell phones can play in their lives.  In the updates, I will often share resources that may benefit parents (and teachers!) in better understanding how to support our adolescent child in their growth and development.  HERE is an interesting New York Times article that helps us all better assess the extent to which children may have a healthy relationship with their cell phone device.

Pennies For Patients.  Be Amazing!  Collect Change and Save Lives! It's time for the MAMS Student Council's annual Pennies for Patients fundraiser! The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society  is the world’s largest nonprofit health organization dedicated to finding cures for blood cancers.  Our Student Series’ Pennies for Patients program helps raise money to fund research for therapies that save the lives of blood cancer patients. Students can make a difference in helping save the lives of blood cancer patients! You can learn more here. In a nutshell, students bring in change, or whatever they wish to donate, and add it to their homeroom box. Alternatively, donations can be collected online.  You can even set up a donation account for your child. If you have questions, please contact Student Council Advisor  Kym Granger.

BrightBytes Survey.  As part of our participation in the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, the Maine Department of Education requires that we administer the “Clarity Brightbytes” survey to our 7th-12th grade students. This brief (10-15 minutes) survey is designed to measure how our students’ use of technology is affecting their learning in school. Our students will be taking this survey on Wednesday, March 6 during Advisor Group.  According to Board Policy parents/guardians may inspect a survey before it is administered to students. Please contact our technology integrator, Ryan Palmer ( if you wish to do so. In addition, parents/guardians may request that their child not participate in a particular survey. Please contact me if you would like your child(ren) not participate in the survey. We appreciate your ongoing support of our schools. Please to not hesitate to be in touch with any  questions.

MIYHS Survey. Every two years, all middle school students in the state participate in the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS).  We will be conducting this survey with our students on Wednesday, February 13. The results from this anonymous survey are made available to the school and community and they guide health and wellness programming.  HERE is a detailed letter regarding this state survey.  Please contact me if you have any concerns regarding your child’s participation in this survey or if you would like to opt your child out of the survey.

Region Ten Tech Visit.  On January24th all of our eighth grade students attended an exploratory program at the Region Ten Technical High School.  The goal of this program is to provide students with an understanding and appreciation of vocational/technical education.  When students enter the high school, they can choose to take some of their coursework/program at Region Ten. This 8th grade visitation program is just one part of our ongoing exploration of the many course and career options available to students as they transition to high school and beyond.

From Nurse Naomi to Parents of 8th grade students. Last Thursday, January 24, 2019, your student may have been exposed to pertussis (whooping cough) at Voc 10 Regional Technical School in Brunswick. A student from Voc 10 tested positive for pertussis on 1/25/19.  The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating. HERE is a letter provided by the Maine CDC on this pertussis response.   If you have any questions, please call the Maine CDC at 1-800-821-5821, or Naomi Mullane, RN, MAMS school nurse at 729-2950 x3.

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


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Josh Ottow


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