MAMS Update December 19, 2017

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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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December 19, 2017


Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season.  I have several items for you:

Progress Reports. This afternoon your child’s Quarter Two Progress Report is live and up to date on the Empower Parent Portal.  Progress reports contain updated Work Habit scores, as well as any Learning Goal scores to date.  The quickest way to view your student's entire progress report is to click the "Print progress report" link.  We have provided DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS HERE.  As you may know, Empower is a relatively new grading program for us.  Since this is our second year using Empower, we are still learning to use the program to its full potential.  If you feel like you would like to know more about how your child is doing in school as we go through this transition process, feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher(s) directly.  All staff are happy to spend any amount of time with you to ensure that you have a clear sense of how your child’s learning is progressing.  

Parent-Principal Coffee.  Thanks to the parents that attended our Parent Coffee event last Thursday evening.  We were encouraged to hear that all the parents who were there value and appreciate our proficiency-based learning approach and how Empower is used to help parents better understand how their child is doing in school.  This is great to hear!

No Name-Calling Week.  The MAMS Civil Rights Team is excited to announce No Name-Calling Week in partnership with the Maine Attorney General's Office, scheduled for February 5-9. In the weeks leading up to this event, students will be exploring issues related to race and skin color, national origin and ancestry, religion, physical and mental disabilities, gender (including gender identity and expression) and sexual orientation. On February 5, the Civil Rights Team will be asking students to commit to not using bias-based language and insults in our school. More information on the events scheduled for No Name-Calling Week will be available in the coming weeks!

New District Calendar.  As you are aware, the District was closed from October 30 through November 3 due to power outages and unsafe road conditions caused by a wind storm that occurred early that week.  The MSAD 75 Board of Directors approved the following adjustments (below) to the 2017-2018 School Calendar to account for this unexpected loss of instructional time.  HERE is a detailed memo describing the process and changes, including a new printout.  

  • Cancel five late-starts on the first Wednesday morning of the month, January through May, MAMS will start at the regular 7:40 start time on those days

  • Friday, March 16 becomes a half day for students K-12

  • Friday, April 13 becomes a half day for students K-12

  • Tuesday, May 29 becomes a regular school day


Staff Spotlight. One of the greatest resources at Mt. Ararat Middle School is our amazing staff. HERE in the new 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 Karen Thibodeau (above)!

District III Band and Chorus.  The following students were selected to participate in the District III Honors festival.  We are excited to announce that this year’s state-wide festival will be held at Lisbon Junior High School on April 6-7, 2018.  A pat on the back to all our amazing musicians for trying out and a special congratulations to these selected students:

Honors Band

Anya Bachor

Olivia Cox

Emma Hanna

Ben Humphrey

Grace LeClerc

Lucy Nelson

Dash O'Hanlon

Claire Tankersley

Maggie York

Nathan York

Honors Chorus

Ana Coombs

Rachel Eaton

Shelby Myrick

Alyssa Siggins

Nathaniel Smith

Maggie York


“Eagle Cafe”.  This summer, our fabulous kitchen staff re-designed our cafeteria space to be more welcoming and student-centered.  As part of this transformation, our Student Council led a process to engage our entire student body to name the space and come up with a logo.  The chosen name is “Eagle Cafe” and the selected design (above) was from 7th grader Synthia Ladner from Team Merrymeeting.


Increasing School-to-Home Communication.  As I have previously shared, our staff is focused on the goal of increasing communication with parents about what is happening in the classroom regarding learning activities and how parents could use Empower to find more information about how their child is doing on those activities.  Because exploratory teachers are not affiliated with a specific team, they will separately report out what is going on in their classes and I will link them in these updates.  Please click below 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):



STEM Learning.  Students in 8th Grade STEM have just completed building and testing their lego robotic vehicles for our Obstacle Course Challenge.  They had lots of criteria and constraints to follow and consider as they worked and problem solved issues that occurred throughout the process.  We are very proud of what these groups have been able to accomplish, this is not an easy task!  Congratulations to our two winning groups based on design and completing the course: Tori Karcz and Helena Richardson; and Grace Leclerc and Lilly Hanna!!


Drama Club.  Advisor Ms. Thomas and Mr. Blais want to thank everyone who came to auditions for Peter Pan Jr! For more information about the rehearsal and performance schedule please visit HERE.

The Winter Chorus Concert for Mt. Ararat Middle School and Mt. Ararat High School will be held on Tuesday, January 9th at 7:00pm. The snow date is Thursday, January 11th. All middle school singers should arrive in their concert attire (black & white) by 6:30pm. For more information about choral events please visit


Student Council.  Is your child interested in helping make our school a better place?  Does he/she like to be involved in leadership?  If so, please encourage him/her to join the MAMS Student Council.  There are sign up sheets in the office at the Student Center.  We usually meet the first Tuesday of each month from the walker bell until 4 PM.  Your child should bring a signed permission form to his/her first meeting.  Questions?  Please email Mrs. Granger:


Student Comic. Our students are engaged in many talents and interests, including comic art.  The above comic strip is from 6th grader Chase Rioux.  Enjoy!

Laptops Are NOT Going Home over the December, February, and April school vacations.  We will be collecting computers this Thursday at the end of the day.  If your child is planning on not being in that day, please bring their computer to the main office before their last day.  Extended vacations are meant to be a "break" from school.  Because of this, homework is not given over breaks.  We want our students to relax and refresh and come back ready to learn after vacation.  Because we provide laptops to students for an educational purpose, it makes sense to keep them at school during a long period of time when there is no educational activities required, just as we do over the summer.  Vacations are a time to be with family and friends.  We encourage all our students to "unplug" and enjoy this time with loved ones, without electronic interruptions.


Pajama Drive.  The MAMS 6th grade is partnering with Scholastic to give the gift of a cozy pair of PJs and a new book to children living in shelters. Every new pair of PJs that are donated will be matched with a brand new book donation in order to give children in need a warm and reassuring bedtime.

Science Learning.  One of the 7th grade learning goals is focused on meteorology.  To address this learning goal, Merrymeeting Science Teacher Mr. Jason Knight worked with students to create a real weather data station at MAMS.  This new weather station is online and sending data to the well known weather site, Weather Underground HERE. ​Happy weather watching!

The Interact club is starting a project where we are helping the elementary schools in gathering cans for Can-Struction. They're partnering with Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program to fill their shelves with food donations. These donations that we will collect in the middle school will become sculptures. The elementary students will be implementing STEAM (STEM with an addition of art) to create their sculptures. After they finish, all food will be donated to local hunger relief organizations.

Intention (and Ocean Currents). The following is a story from our school social worker, Judy Maloney:  I was cleaning my desk and found a letter from Luke Ellingworth of Somerset, U.K. dated 05/April/2005. Back then I worked as a social worker in a small, experientially-based alternative program at Mount Ararat High School. The teacher collected wine bottles from a caterer friend. The students wrote and placed this message in a bottle:

“As members of Mr. Campbell’s 2000-01  9th grade general science class we have decided to study and map out ocean currents. Like scientists of the past we too have decided that using messages in bottles would be the most effective method of mapping such currents for our classroom as we lack current scientific technologies demanded for such a task. Starting September 28, 2000 we have begun sending our bottles on voyages.”

“Three bottles will be sent out each week for the next five weeks. Upon receiving your response we plan to chart the bottle’s journey and pinpoint its resting place. In order to better our results we ask that you take the self addressed stamped envelopes, fill out the information card contained within the envelope and mail your response as soon as possible.”

The students had a great time on our weekly trips to Popham Beach where they flung the bottles far into the ocean. We received only one response, approximately five years later. Mr. Ellingworth found the bottle off Windermere Island of Eleuthera, Bahamas, on the east (ocean)side. I contacted the students in the classroom, who were thrilled to see the letter.  As a social worker, it made me realize that I should never give up on intention; it may not come back to you in the quantity or on the timeline you want, but it will happen.


Cell Phones at School.  I wanted to remind parents of our school’s cell phone protocol for students.  All students are expected to keep their cell phone “off and away” in their locker during the school day.  If a parent needs to get a message to their child, for any reason, contact the Main Office at 729-2950 and we have an efficient and discreet way to relay that message.  We ask parents to not text or call their child during the school day.  As you know, adolescents struggle with ambiguity and this may send mixed messages to them about expectations.  

Routines Can Make This Time of Year Less Stressful.  The days before the December winter break can be a busy time of year.  It can also be a challenging time when students miss the routine of school if they are absent.  Routine bedtimes, healthy diets, regular physical activity, and good school attendance all combine to make this time of year less stressful for everyone.  Learning takes place every moment your child is in school.   Our teachers will be teaching, and our students will be learning, right up until vacation starts and on the first day back.  This is healthy and provides students with purpose and direction.  Thank you to everyone who makes it possible for our students to come to school every day, on time, and ready to learn.

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




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