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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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March 5, 2019

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope everyone enjoyed the unanticipated long weekend and snow clean up yesterday.  I have a several items for you:


Progress Reports. This afternoon, your child’s Quarter Three Progress Report are now live and up to date on the Empower Parent Portal.  The quickest way to view students’ entire progress report is to click the "Print progress report" link.  By doing so, you can view the entire report at once and you can print out copies if you wish. By clicking on the “Goal Browser” in the upper right hand corner, you can see a more longitudinal view of the important knowledge and skills that your child is and will be learning.  We have provided DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS HERE.  

MSAD 75 Leadership Transitions. As some of you might have been following in local media, recent weeks have seen many changes among the MSAD 75 Board of Directors and Superintendent’s Office.  We know that these dynamic times can lead parents to wondering how this might impact your child(ren). I want to make clear to all parents that we, the leadership and staff of Mt. Ararat Middle School, are working tirelessly to ensure that your child’s school experience is sound and unaffected by the changes in these leadership structures above us.  While we all look forward to a return to stable and permanent leadership, we are confident that the “State of MAMS” is strong and will continue to be so moving forward. I want to extend a personal invitation to any parent who may be feeling unsettled by recent events in the district to come in and sit down with me and ask any questions that will help them better understand what is happening with their child at this school.


Our Framework for Continual Improvement.  The Mt. Ararat Middle School staff recently developed a framework for how we plan to move forward with improvements to our proficiency-based practices.  Our staff defines proficiency-based teaching and learning as a collection of research-based best practices that have been present in good teaching for decades.  At the heart of these approaches is a focus on high, clearly communicated expectations for all students, knowing the extent to which each student is proficient on key knowledge and skills, and using what we know about each student to instruct and assess their learning. These practices have been a cornerstone of our instructional approach with our students since the 2010-2011 school year.


A whole-child approach focused on the unique needs of middle school age students through:

  • Clear learning goals and daily learning targets
  • A PreK-12 Learning Progression
  • Work habits as separate learning goals
  • Grades showing what students know and what they can do
  • A growth mindset and learning from mistakes
  • Data-informed instruction
  • Targeted intervention and extension opportunitieS
  • Honoring progress, growth, and achievement


  • Strive for a system for grading and reporting that is student, parent, and teacher-friendly (could include averaging)
  • Explore replacing Empower and its report card format with a more effective program
  • Improve the wording of our learning goals to make them more readily understandable for students and parents
  • Ensure that there are always clear opportunities for students to exceed expectations
  • Match learning goals in the grading system with what is taught to students
  • Explore the report card calendar and how often we report progress to parents
  • Collaborate with elementary and high school colleagues to ensure that the transition between the school-levels and their grading practices (including late work, revisions/retakes) lead to a smooth transition for students
  • Continue to refine our recognition protocols (honor roll) and ensure that it is based on both work habits and academic learning goals

We expect that these improvement efforts will take considerable time and effort and will be ongoing for this school year and beyond.  Because we are “the school in the middle”, we collaborate with our elementary schools and the high school in ensuring that our practices are aligned as much as possible -- a challenging task given the developmental differences that exist among our students pK-12.  This means that our work as a middle school cannot exist in a vacuum, nor do these improvement efforts fall solely on the middle school staff. Any decision made about changes to practices will likely need to also need be adopted by elementary and high school staff as well.  We look forward to working with district leadership and our elementary and high school colleagues our our path to continual improvement as a school system. As always, I will update parents moving forward and we will continue to rely on student and parent feedback to do this important work.


The Maine Education Assessment will occur during the week of March 18-22, 2019.  The MEA is the State’s test that measures our students’ achievement in mathematics (grades 3-8), reading, writing, and language, (grades 3-8), and science (grades 5 & 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 in grades 3-8, 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.  If you would like to see sample questions, visit HERE  The username is Math6-8 (for math questions) or Reading6-8 (for reading questions), or WriLang6-8 (for writing and language questions) and the password is tutorial.  During this time your child’s normal schedule will be modified in order to accomplish the testing.  We have arranged the testing to maximize student readiness by distributing the sessions and including motor breaks.  If a student is absent during testing, make-ups will be scheduled to allow for all students to complete the tests. We have posted some frequently asked questions HERE. We will make the results of your child’s testing from this as soon as they become  available to us (in the past this has been six months or more after the test). We are proud of our students for participating in this challenging assessment and we thank you for your support.  If you have other questions or concerns about your child’s testing experience, we ask that you contact me before testing.  This will help to ensure that we are all prepared to make testing as successful as possible for your child.    


Student At Risk of Harm Outside of School Hours?  Unfortunately from time to time, adolescents may make others aware (via social media or other methods) their potential intent to harm themselves or others.  If these concerns occur during school hours, please reach out to us right away. If you and/or your child become aware of a student that may be at risk of harm outside of school hours, please DO NOT attempt to contact school personal 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 the THIS step by step guide that we have posted prominently on the front page of our school website.  As we have learned from the recent incident at Bonny Eagle Middle School, it is important that students and parents speak up if they become aware of a safety concern.  Because these social media posts often occur outside of school hours, we wanted to make everyone aware of the best way that they can reach out for help so that no vital information is potentially lost or mishandled.  Thank you for helping keep all our students safe.


Mt. Ararat Civil Rights Team members with Advisor Mr. Beede

The Mt. Ararat Middle School Civil Rights Team organized a successful "Welcome Week," February 11-15.  All students in the school were encouraged to show themselves as welcoming of the groups that are expressly protected by the Main Civil Rights Law by wearing particular colored clothing each day next week to represent one of the protected classes. Hundreds of MAMS students participated throughout the week, and photos were taken of the Advisor Groups with the greatest participation.  These photos will be used to create a "Welcome Wall" that will proudly greet visitors in the MAMS Lobby Atrium. The MAMS Civil Rights Team is made up of dozens of students grades 6-8, led by Social Studies Teacher Mr. Jon Beede and Assistant Principal Ms. Megan Hayes Teague.


Our Quarter 2 Honor Roll has been published on our website and in local newspapers.  Congratulations to all our recognized students!  As a reminder, here are the eligibility requirements for Honor Roll:

  • To qualify for the Honor Roll at the end of the quarter, students must have ALL (but one) of their Work Habits scores as 3 or higher with no 1's
  • To qualify for the High Honor Roll at the end of the quarter, students must have ALL (but one) of their Work Habits scores as 3.5's with no 2's

Updates from Exploratory Classes. All students participate in a diverse and broad-based  exploratory program consisting of Art, Health, Music, Physical Education, Technology, World Languages, and Learning Commons. The program enables 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.  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).


“Pi Day” Social!  The MAMS Math Team is organizing a fun social event for all MSAD 75 Community Members.  The “Pi Day” Event will occur March 14, 2019 from 3 - 5 pm in the MAMS Eagle Cafe. Come enjoy some pizza pie on Pi day with your friends.  Music, games and PIE! $5 admission and proceeds benefit the Math Team to cover expenses to compete in events, pay for admission, travel costs, etc. All are welcome… even if your appetite is never ending, much like Pi itself, 3.14159265359…. (sorry, bad math joke).


Science Teachers’ Professional Development.  This winter, 8th Grade Science Teachers Kirk Niese and Jason Knight had the opportunity to visit the Mt. Washington Weather Observatory, on the summit of Mt. Washington, to get an up close look at the work of modern meteorology and weather forecasting. Ironically, their trip was postponed twice due to bad weather, but they were finally able to make the trip on February 20th. The staff of the weather observatory lives and works in the observatory, on the summit, for seven day shifts. They met the replacement crew at the Mt. Washington Auto Road bright and early that day for the nearly 3 hour snowcat ride to the summit, and rode down the mountain at the end of the day with returning crew. Along the way, they were able to talk with the staff about their work and what it's like to live and work in a place that is known for having the worst weather on the planet. At the summit, they were given a tour of the observatory, the instrumentation they use, and the outside of the observatory. When they were there, it was a comparatively pleasant 3°F, 55 mph winds (windchill of about -30°F), and mostly clear skies. Less than a week later, the staff were observing record setting winds of 171 mph (equivalent to a category 5 hurricane). The experience fits in nicely with our 8th grade science activities around both weather and climate. They had hoped to be able to live stream video from the summit to our classes, but couldn't due to the rescheduling of the trip to our February break, but they hope to be able to video chat with the Observatory staff in the future, so students can talk to the staff and have their own questions answered.

GeoBEE Finalist.  You may remember from my last update that 8th Grader, Parker Bate, won our school’s GeoBee in January.  This week, Parker has been notified by the National Geographic Society that he is one of the semifinalists eligible to compete in the 2019 National Geographic GeoBee Maine State Competition. The contest will be held at UMaine Farmington on Friday, March 29, 2019.  Congratulations Parker!


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 staff! 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 Educational Technician, Tally Brown (above)!

MAMS RESPECTful Student of the Week.  Because of the great value we place on respect in our community, we have established a program this year 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 February RESPECTful Students of the Week!

Abbie Doble (Androscoggin)

Jack Robinson (Cathance)

Cassidy Ruggles (Magalloway)

Calista Kinney (Kennebec)

Payton Hays (Sheepscot)

Nicholas Spencer (Kennebec)

Theo Forcier (Carrabassett)

Nicholas Brady (Carrabassett)

Ethan Palmer (Exploratory)

Jackson Byrne (Merrymeeting)

Maggie Fitzpatrick (Kennebec)

Lily Lewark (Merrymeeting)

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"CAN” We Make a Difference" Food Drive will be starting Tuesday, March 5th. The MAMS Interact Club we will be collecting  non-perishable canned goods such as pasta, pancake mix, canned soups etc. Each team will be competing against other teams. The team that collects the most cans will win a pizza party lunch! All of the items that we collect will be turned into a fun and unique sculpture that will be displayed at MAMS. The more cans that we collect the more exciting the structure will be. After we are done creating our sculpture, all the cans will be donated to the Midcoast Hunger Prevention program.  All cans must be in by April 1st. CAN you make a difference? Interact is a Rotary-sponsored service club that gives young people an opportunity to participate in fun and meaningful service projects while developing leadership skills and meeting new friends. The basic principle of the Rotary Interact is to help others. Every Interact club carries out two service projects a year: one that helps their school or community and one that promotes international understanding. Clubs meet at least twice a month and are sponsored by their local Rotary club. When you sponsor an Interact club, you're helping young people.  --Written by 7th Graders Minna Pratte-Chase and Preston Woodbury



Staff vs. Student Basketball Game.  On Friday, February 15th, we held our annual Staff vs. Student Basketball Game in the gym with the entire 8th grade as spectators in the stands.  As you can see above, it was a tightly-fought contest. While the staff pulled out the win, the real victory was that no one was injured!


Blood Drive.  6th Grade Health classes will be hosting the MAMS Annual American Red Cross Blood drive on Wednesday April 3 from 2:30-7 pm in the MAMS Cafeteria.  Learning about the body’s blood systems is one of the 6th Grade Health Learning Goals. One donation can save 3 lives. Power Reds are accepted at this drive if you wish to enhance the positive impact.  Our goal is collect 100 units of blood. Please help, share this link with family and friends.


Nicholas and Matthew are Special Olympics athletes that took home gold medals representing Mt. Ararat Middle School. (Chris Quattrucci / The Times Record)

MAMS Special Olympics In The News!  Recently our students were featured in a media report.  The story highlights the participation of our students in Winter Special Olympics.  One of the highlights of the year for athletes at Mt. Ararat Middle school is attending the winter Special Olympic games at Sugarloaf. The winter competition provides the opportunity for athletes to compete in speed skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoe and several of our students took home medal from these events.  We are so proud of our students!


Career Aspirations Learning.  Students in Ms. Anderson's class have been learning about different careers and would like to thank MidCoast Hospital nurse Shannon Fitzpatrick for coming in to share her experiences.  Students learned about the skills, knowledge and training that goes into this profession and got to try out some of the exciting things that nurses in the cardiology department get to do each day, including: reading and interpreting EKG's, taking blood pressures and pulses and practicing healthy habits.

Team Androscoggin is beginning an interdisciplinary unit of study, thanks in part to the Trust for Our Future grant money we were awarded this year. Throughout the coming months Androscoggin students will be working with The Brunswick Topsham Land Trust, The Cathance River Education Alliance, Bowdoin College Staff and Students, and assorted members of the Brunswick/Topsham community as they explore topics related to citizenship, community service, economic development, and aspirations. As they immerse themselves in this study they will continue to develop their reading/writing skills through narrative, argument, and research-based informational reading and writing related to “place.”  In addition, they will participate in walking writing marathons, day long writing institutes, and Skype sessions with authors. If you are interested in joining our classroom community for this exciting learning opportunity please contact 7th Grade ELA Teacher Ms. Michele Aronson @


From the Learning Commons.  Hold the date! The popular “BOGO” -- Buy One Get One (free!) Book Fair is coming. The Book Fair will be held in the Learning Commons from April 1-10 and will be open on school days from 7:30AM through 4PM (the Fair closes at 12PM on 4/10). Please visit the Book Fair, sign up to work a shift or two, and consider setting up an “eWallet” to allow your student to charge books at the Book Fair. Click here to learn more!

Also, with Spring coming (soon, we hope!), we ask for your help in reminding students to follow laptop SOPs to minimize the possibility of damage. We’ve seen a recent uptick in the number of repairs that could easily have been avoided. Please remind your student to always carry their laptop in the case and to always zip/clasp the case. Students should never touch or use another person’s device. If your student participates in spring sports, please remind them to leave their device in their locker or classroom during practice and not on the field. Thank you!

NEWS FROM THE EAGLE CAFE  Wow it's hard to believe Winter is almost over and soon we will be Springing ahead! Are you busy in the mornings? Are you struggling to find a healthy breakfast for your child? Next week is National School Breakfast Week. What a great time for your student to try breakfast at MAMS. A healthy breakfast at the start of the day is one way to ensure students are getting the best education they can. We always have a mixture of hot and cold items. If your student is reduced their breakfast is free. Also stay tuned for an Eagles Cafe Facebook page. We hope to posts pictures and changes to the menu or new products for our students to try. It's a great opportunity for parents to see what the Nutrition Staff does everyday to help your child make healthy choices. Are you looking to make a little extra cash? MSAD 75 is always looking for kitchen substitutes. Great hours and no weekends! Contact Katy DiCara at 729-9961 ext 238 for information.

Do You Like Vegetables?  Everyone knows vegetables can help keep you healthy, but what are your feelings about veggies?   Do you eat them because you know you should, rather than because you like them?  Kids can be an even harder sell when it comes to vegetables, refusing to eat them at all. If this sounds familiar, don’t despair. It can take many repetitions before a person will accept a new food, sometimes taking 10 or more tries before it is eaten.  

Here are a few tips if you would like to increase vegetable consumption.

  • Take the vegetable challenge: Prepare a very small "no thank you portion" of a vegetable and then have everyone take a taste and say what they think.  Repeat the taste testing of the vegetable 10 times, keeping a chart of responses to note how they may change and who begins to like the vegetable
  • Start by eating sweeter vegetables like peas and carrots.  Save the stronger, bitter tastes (Brussel sprouts, turnip) for later.
  • Prepare vegetable dishes together with your child.  This allows you to add some of your favorite items, such as grated cheese or garlic, to make it more appetizing.
  • Plan a little garden and grow a few vegetables.  Growing tomatoes, peppers, and onions, you and your child can make salsa together.

Bottom line, be patient and keep exploring the flavors of vegetables. (From MSAD 75 Health Coordinator, Mary Booth @

Snow Day Contingency Plan.  As yesterday proved, being in March (or April, gulp!) doesn’t mean we are done with snow days for the year.  Because of the number of days cancelled due to weather this year, the school district has created a contingency plan HERE.  We have had six closure days so far, which means there is NO CHANGE to the calendar. This currently puts our last day of school as Friday, June 21st with no changes to staff development days or delayed starts. however that will change if we get subsequent days.  

Orion Performing Arts Center Update.  March is busy at the Orion Performing Arts Center.  Hope to see you at an event. The Orion will be fundraising for LED theatrical lighting, with a raffle and concession sales at the All-District Band concert March 26th, and other events in April-June.

“Chicago, High School Edition”  Mt. Ararat Stage Company Spring Musical

Fri, March 8, and Sat, March 9, at 7:30 pm  and Sun., March 10, at 3 pm

Razzle-dazzle musical!  Director: Adam Blais. Producer: Kristen Thomas.


Mt. Ararat H.S. Winter Sports Awards -- Mon., Mar. 11, 6:30 pm

AD Godo and coaches give out awards for winter sports.


Midcoast Symphony Orchestra --  Sun., March 17, 2:30 pm Magical Movie Music.                              Conductor: Rohan Smith. Program: Music from the Silent Film Era to the Golden Age, and more modern hits like Star Wars and Harry Potter.   Tickets: $20; Students under 18 always free. Available online  or at door. Also, More with Midcoast event:   Meet the Instruments! 1:15-1:45 PM before the concert, in the gym, free of charge. Touch, pluck, blow, and play various instruments, guided by MSO musicians.  (Not affiliated with/endorsed by school or district.)


Fundraiser for Orion—Gelato Fiasco Scooping Event, Tues., Mar. 19 all day

Enjoy gelato at Gelato Fiasco, 74 Maine St., Brunswick, present a voucher, or mention the Orion, and Orion benefits.  Vouchers available at or at the school.


“I and You”— Senior Capstone Project Play, Produced by Mt. Ararat Stage Company

Sat., Mar. 23, 7:30 pm, & Sun., Mar. 24, 3 pm


All-MSAD#75 District Band Concert  -- Tues., March 26, 7 pm. (Snow date: Thurs., Mar. 28)

Bringing back a tradition!  Dawne-Marie Powers, Rachel Williams and Ben Cox conduct all of our young instrumental musicians of the district, from 5th to 12th grades.  


MSAD #75 Art Awards Reception and Ceremony --  Wed., Mar. 27, 5:30 pm (Snow date: Apr. 4)

View artwork created by students from the school district, and attend art awards ceremony at 6 pm.


DownEast Country Dance Festival   -- Fri. & Sat., March 29 & 30

Downeast Friends of the Folk Arts  presents dancing, workshops, music, song, food...  A favorite of contra-dancers in Maine! More info at   (Not affiliated with/endorsed by school or district.)

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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