Posted on 10/07/2019

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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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October 4, 2019

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 school’s current 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.   Every Progress Report time (halfway through each quarter), 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.  

Empower Parent Login Information was recently mailed to 6th grade and new MAMS parents’ home addresses.  This mailing contains your assigned username and temporary password. Please take a moment to log into 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.  If you have any questions about logging into Empower, or if 7th and 8th Grade parents need a reminder of your login information, please call or stop by the office, or email  During Parent-Teacher Conferences, parents may swing by the Learning Commons for help with Empower.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held next week Tuesday, October 8 through Thursday, October 10, 2:30-7:00 pm.  If you haven’t already, you will be hearing from your child’s team teachers to schedule these conferences.  If you also wish to conference with your child’s exploratory teachers (Health, P.E., Art, Music, Culture/Languages, Learning Commons, STEM), please contact them directly to schedule your conference with them during one of these evenings.  Their contact information can be found at this link. We are also aware that Tuesday evening is also the start of the Erev Yom Kippur holiday.  If this is a conflict for your family, please let us know and we will happily reschedule your conference to another time.

Our Continued Efforts to Improve Our Grading and Reporting.  Thanks to all the parents who attended the recent Parent-Principal on September 11.  We had a great turnout! It was a positive, productive conversation about what parents value in our current grading practices, as well as ways to improve our reporting system.  We also hosted a parent feedback session last June on this same topic. For those of you that were unable to attend either or both of these sessions, we have captured the notes from the meetings NOTES FROM THE MEETINGS HERE.  We are planning to host another Parent Coffee on this topic on Wednesday, December 4 at 6:00 pm in the MAMS Learning Commons (see below).  At this meeting, we hope to have greater details on our recommended changes, as well as some drafts of the potential report card format for parent feedback.  For those that are unable to attend these feedback sessions, can PROVIDE WRITTEN FEEDBACK HERE.   

School-Parent Outreach Programs.  Our school places a high priority on effective home school communication and  collaboration. In addition to the myriad of ways your child’s individual team teachers communicate with you, our school, at large, has several important outreach events throughout the year.  

“Parent Academy” Program.  Raising (and educating) adolescents is not an easy job!  Did you know that one of the most rapid periods of brain development for humans (second only to infancy) occurs during the middle school years?  This dynamic, fun, and sometimes challenging period of development means that our kids are constantly changing and parenting can feel like a moving target.  Parents are often having to learn new parenting skills as they go along. Fortunately, our MAMS staff is highly experienced in working with this age-group and we want to offer support to parents.  To support this goal, we plan on holding several “Parent Academy” sessions throughout the year. Each session will focus on different topics related to raising adolescents and will be led by highly-qualified staff members and community experts.  Here are the focus topics and times:

  • Supervising Computers in the Home: (September 11, 2019) VIDEO 
  • Screens and Teens: November 20, 2019, 6:00pm in Learning Commons  
  • Vaping: January 29, 2020, 6:00pm in Learning Commons
  • Anxiety: March 18, 2020, 6:00pm in Learning Commons
  • Dating and Relationships: May 13, 2020, 6:00pm in Learning Commons

Parent-Principal Coffee Program.  In addition to the Parent Academies, we will continue to offer “Parent-Principal Coffee” sessions throughout the year, typically once per quarter.   The goal of the parent coffees is for parents to be able to learn more and share their feedback with me and other school staff on educational happenings at the school.  Some sessions might start with a particular focus, but then can be about whatever the parents in attendance want to talk about. Here are the Parent Coffees for the year:

  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, September 11, 7:15-7:45 in Learning Commons
  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, December 4, 2019 6:00 pm in Learning Commons
  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, February 12, 2020 6:00 pm in Learning Commons
  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, April 15, 2020 6:00 pm in Learning Commons

Memorial Tree Planting.  In February, our school community experienced a tragic loss.  Our longtime Cafeteria staff member, Donna Lavigne (above), passed away unexpectedly at the age of 55.  Donna was connected positively to so many students, staff, and parents, so this loss was felt deeply. Donna’s family has partnered with MAMS to plant a beautiful purple beech tree in her memory.  Yesterday, many of our students and staff gathered for a special ceremony for the tree planting near the front of the school (above).

School Pictures.  School picture day was on September 12.   We will be sending home picture proofs and order forms for all students soon.  Students who ordered prints will be receiving picture packages later this month.  Retake day is October 17. Please contact Geskus Photography for more information or to order pictures at this link.

Drop Off Area. We ask any parents who are dropping their child off at school in the morning to use the designated drop-off pull off area (see picture). Please do not stop your car to drop off your child in the crosswalk or area before this spot. By stopping here, it creates a highly unsafe situation for student pedestrians. Also, if you regularly drop off or pick up your child at school, please remind them to only cross the streets at the designated crosswalks.  Thank you for your cooperation in this matter, as it ensures the safety of our students.

Parents Learning More About Region 10.  As you may have seen in previous updates, our school is working to expand access to advanced technology learning opportunities for our students.  This year, we started two new programs for 8th graders. One is a vocational exploratory program where 8th grade students get to experience a variety of vocational programs at Region 10.  The other is a Pre-Engineering Program for advanced math/science 8th grade students. We know that many parents, including parents of 6th and 7th graders are interested in learning more about these programs.  We encourage parents to learn more Region 10 Technical High School.  There are many fantastic programs there that many of our students would benefit from.  We bring our entire 8th grade class to visit the school in January, but we know that more follow up at home will likely help students get a better sense of how Region 10 may fit into their plans.  The Director of Region 10, Nancy Weed, is hoping to hear from more middle school parents. Please contact her at  Finally, Region 10 is hosting their annual Open House on Thursday, November 7 from 5:00-7:00 at the school; open to all MAMS parents.

Boys to Men and Hardy Girls.  Every year, we engage our students through programming around the challenging issues of what it means to be a young man or young woman in our society.  For boys, this work involves the Boys to Men program and, for girls, the sessions use the Hardy Girls Healthy Women curriculum.  In the coming weeks, we will begin this comprehensive 4-week long program with our 8th grade students.  Both programs were featured in the media, and I encourage interested parents to check out these pieces: Hardy Girls & Boys to Men I & II.  We also encourage parents of 8th graders to talk to your child about their experiences and perspectives with this program.  

A LockDown Drill will be held on Tuesday, October 15 at 8:45 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 drills and one lockdown drill per year and we want parents to be aware of this upcoming drill.

Team Merrymeeting took a trip to Bradbury Mountain in September. The trip focused on team-building activities within the houses of Bahari (yellow), Delmar (green), Masika (orange), and Zale (blue) which students were sorted into the first week of school. Students wore their house bandannas for the first time on this trip!

Exploratory Classes Update.   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.  


Clubs!  We have so many different clubs, sports, and activities for students to participate in at MAMS.  A big part of the middle school philosophy is that these three years are the prime time for students to try new things and explore their passions.  We have a rotating set of clubs that meet throughout the year. Many of our clubs rely on parent volunteers, so if you are interested in helping out with a club, let me know. We encourage students and parents to check out our School News page, where announcements about new clubs will be posted. 

Late Bus Info.  Every day (except Friday) there are four late bus runs that depart from MAMS at 4:35.  The runs DO NOT STOP AT THE REGULAR STOPS, but instead use several regional stops throughout the four towns.  HERE is detailed information on these runs or you may contact MSAD 75 Transportation Office at 729-1608.  For our 6th graders and any new students, this may be the first time you have used a late bus from school.  Therefore, we encourage all new and 6th grade parents review the latest procedures and stops with their child prior to taking the late bus for the first time.  Especially before the 6th grade dance….

DANCE! DANCE! DANCE!  We have two upcoming school dances, and we need you!   

Mt. Ararat Middle School relies on parent volunteers to chaperone our dances and we need at least 10 parent volunteers to run a dance.  In addition, we would love to have any parents (whether you are chaperoning or not) to bring in individually wrapped baked goods for a bake sale at each dance.  Please contact the main office at 729-2950 if you are able to help out with this fun event. 

6th Grade Dance:  Thursday, October 24, 2:30-4:00 pm (late bus provided)

7th/8th Grade Dance: Friday, October 25, 6:00-8:00 pm 

Tickets are $5 at the door and students may use “GOLD” Eagle Bucks towards entry.  All proceeds benefit our student activities fund, which is used to support field trips and student recognition activities.  

7/8 Grade Laptop Coverage Form.  All 7th/8th grade parents must return a signed MLTI laptop coverage form. If you have not yet returned your form, please sign and return this form as soon as possible:  Laptop coverage is offered to all students -- whether you will be opting to allow your student to bring home their laptop or not. Please note, accidents happen at school too.


Optional 7th/8th Grade Laptop Take Home Procedure.  While technology is vitally important to the learning process, we know that if adolescents have too much screen time it can be unhealthy to them (lack of sleep, addiction, inappropriate content, social media, etc.)  While there is sometimes homework given to students that requires technology, students may have access to alternative ways to do that work that doesn't require their school laptop going home. This includes using another tech device in the home, accessing files via the cloud, and/or staying after school.  Because of these points, our school is not sending the laptop home for 7th and 8th graders.  However, any 7th and 8th grade parent will have the option to elect to have their child(ren)’s laptop go home with them.  This choice is 100% up to parents, as we know that the role of the parent certainly supersedes the role of the school and we want to honor parent autonomy around what occurs in the home.  HERE is a video of the Parent Academy session we held last month on this topic for those that were unable to attend.   Any parent that is interested in requesting that their child’s device go home, can have their child pick up the  "Laptop Take Home Form" available in the Learning Commons and in the main office. We have communicated this to students as well.  We hope to have participating 7th and 8th grade students start to take their laptops home beginning on October 15.  Forms should be returned to the main office or Learning Commons by Wednesday, 10/9 in order to start taking home the following week.


MAMS Focused--Respectful--Responsible Student of the Week.  Because of the great value we place on focused, respectful, and responsible behavior in our community, we have established a program to recognize our students. Each Friday, teams are asked to submit the name of one student whom they believe most exemplifies the team's definition of focused, respectful, and responsible behavior. 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 September Students of the Week:


Nicholas Brady (Merrymeeting)

Madison Caron (Cathance)

Avery Beal (Androscoggin)

Kaleb Fontaine (Merrymeeting)

Cheyenne Parks (Exploratory)

Sophia Perow (Casco)

Chase Hardee (Cathance)

Jacob Morrell (Magalloway)

Brady Yazwinski (Exploratory)

Ryan Ladd (Sheepscot)

Lucas Pinkham (Androscoggin)

Bradyn Thibeault (Carrabassett)

Jonah Couture (Exploratory)

Marc Hagan (Merrymeeting)

Ben Therriault (Exploratory)

Alex Newman (Cathance)

Gavin Candow (Carrabassett)

Kloee Hasselbacher (Sheepscot)

Emma Berry (Magalloway)

Jasmine Guptill (Merrymeeting)

Sullivan Crowe (Casco)

Bella Bolack (Sebasticook)


Box Tops for Education and Coke Rewards.  Yes!  We do participate in both of these programs as one of our fundraising efforts to support our student activities fund.  Students are encouraged to drop off Box Tops and/or bottle tops in the main office. Our amazing parent volunteer, Debbie Kelly, helps us organize and submit these for rewards for our school.  In addition, we are looking into the possibility of also linking our school with the “Amazon Smile” non-profit fundraising program. More to come on that in the future.  

Scholastic Book Fair is here!  The MAMS Fall Book Fair is open now through Wednesday October 16. Daily hours are 7:30am to 3pm with extended hours (until 7pm) on Parent/Teacher conference days 10/8 and 10/10. The Book Fair will close at noon on the 16th. Did you know you can shop online through October 11th? Do you prefer to pay with a credit card but can't make it to the Book Fair? Click here to learn more about setting up credit card payment for your student. Please sign up here if you'd like to volunteer at the Book Fair.

News from the Yearbook Staff.  Mrs. Rioux (yearbook staff advisor) and Ms. Schultz  (parent volunteer) are pleased with the number of yearbooks that have been ordered in the month of September.  We would like to continue to see that number rise and want to encourage families to order in October to receive a 10% discount.

Options for the 2019-2020 yearbook include:

*Soft or Hard Cover ($6.95 additional charge)

*2 personalized pages in your students yearbook that they and/or you can help create (has to be ordered online to include this special feature)

Please see THIS FLYER with directions on how to order online through our TreeRing account.  *If you prefer not to order online you can pick up an order form in the Main Office and send payment (along with this form) in by the 28th of October (to receive the discount).  *Note that any yearbook ordered directly through the middle school using the order form can not get the 2-additional personalized pages.

Students will receive word soon on who was accepted into the yearbook committee.  With such a large number of students interested we did need to limit involvement due to the limited amount of equipment and specialized work that we need completed. 

For any questions about the yearbook itself or yearbook committee please reach out to Lisa Rioux @ 729-2950 ext. 1403 OR at

Orion Performing Arts Center Update.  October/November Events at the Orion Performing Arts Center—your theater in the middle school.  Contact Coordinator Judy Lloyd with questions and comments. or 729-2950 x7. 

 Fiddle-icious!  Sat., Oct. 19, 7 pm

Fun and lively evening of fiddle music. Maine’s largest fiddle orchestra plays traditional and lively tunes from Celtic and Franco heritage.  Tix at door, $10; student $5. Children under 12 free.  (Not affiliated with or endorsed by school or district.)

  Midcoast Symphony Orchestra, “Delight & Despair” -- Sun.,  Oct. 20, 2:30 pm

Conductor: Rohan Smith. Program:Dvoƙák: Carnival Overture; Prokofiev: Romeo and Juliet Suite 2; Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5.  Tix: Public: $20; Student 18 or under: free. Online  or at door.  (Not affiliated with or endorsed by school or district.)

 Beatles For Sale — tribute band  Fri., Nov. 1, 7:30 pm

Award-winning Beatles tribute band from western Mass.  Lots of favorite tunes. 50th Anniversary of Abbey Road album.  Original instrumentation and great vocal harmonies.  Dance in the aisles! Fundraiser for Orion Performing Arts Center. Tix at door: $20; student $18.  Advance $17 (Credit card) at or (Cash only) at MSAD75 Business Office, or the Music Center, Tontine Mall, Brunswick.

 Mt. Ararat H.S. Fall Sports Awards   Mon., Nov. 4, 6:30 pm

Athletic Director Godo and coaches give out awards for fall sports.  Public welcome. 

Student At Risk of Self-Harm Outside of School Hours?  If you and/or your child become aware of a student that may be at risk of self-harm outside of school hours, please DO NOT attempt to contact school personnel outside of school hours.  Staff are not working and may not be checking email or voicemail during these times. Therefore, vital safety information could easily be missed and students could be placed at greater risk. Instead, please utilize THIS step by step guide for how a parent could respond to such concern outside of school hours.  This guide is placed prominently on our MAMS webpage, as was created in collaboration with local police, mental health providers, and the local Crisis Response Center.

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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