Principal Updates

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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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November 9, 2018

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We are now into the second quarter of the school year.  Time flies when you are having fun! I have a few items for you:

Quarter One Report Cards will be going home in backpacks on Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.  Our goal with report cards, and with our grading program overall, is to clearly communicate to you how your child is doing with their learning.  This report card is designed to be a mere snapshot of where students are at that point in time with scores for learning goals and work habits. We encourage all parents to reach out to their child’s teacher(s) for more information about how their child is doing beyond these scores.  Parents may also go online and view grades within the Empower Program

Proficiency-Based Survey at Parent Conferences.  Thanks to all the parents who completed our quick survey on teaching and learning and grading practices that we provided at conferences.  The results are below. We heard from a majority of students’ parents, which is awesome! Just like with our students, we, as a group of professional educators, foster a "growth mindset" within ourselves.  We are always trying to improve and we need feedback to do that. We know we are not perfect, but we are always trying to do what is best for our students.  To that end, we plan to respond to this feedback with continued efforts to improve our grading practices so that parents are more clear on what is happening with their child at school.  More to come as those improvements progress.

Message from the HIGH SCHOOL Principal.  Please see this message below from Donna Brunette, Principal of Mt. Ararat High School.  She is looking for feedback on an upcoming decision regarding how diplomas are awarded at the high school.  We are also seeking similar input from students.  This week, I led a focus group feedback session with members of our Student Council and teachers plan to formally solicit feedback from students as well.   While this decision does not directly affect MAMS, it will impact our students once they get to high school. Please see the following message and request for feedback:

Good day MSAD 75 parents and guardians. As you may already know, during the summer months the State of Maine made a decision to rescind the law which required all public schools in Maine to create and implement a proficiency-based diploma system. The new law lets Maine school districts decide the criteria for a diploma. I am writing to ask you for your input.  Your input will be shared with members of our School Board as this dedicated group of individuals works through a process to determine whether the diploma requirements for future high school students will be proficiency-based or credit-based.

Please consider the two options for a diploma:

  • A proficiency-based diploma model which requires a student to demonstrate that he/she is proficient on 80% or more of the learning goals associated with required high school academic courses in all 8 content areas and the Guiding Principles.

  • A credit-based diploma model, such as our current model, would require students to complete 21.25 credits or more of required academic courses and various student selected elective courses with a passing grade (60% or higher).  

Both systems would require students to complete the high school Advisory/Capstone program, and each provides for an offset of the required coursework to account for enrollment in Tech Ten programming and special education programming.

As stated, I am writing to ask that you share your input.  Would you prefer a proficiency-based diploma system or a credit based diploma system?  HERE is a brief survey on this question and HERE is a detailed comparison of the two diploma systems

Thank you in advance for your input.  --Donna Brunette, Principal, Mt. Ararat High School

What do MAMS Teachers See as the Benefit of Proficiency-Based Practices?  Recently, a MAMS parent asked this question and I thought I would share my response to all parents.  We have such an amazing group of talented, highly educated, and dedicated educators! One of the main reasons we are so committed to a proficiency-based approach is because our staff believes it is what is best for students.  On the end-of-year staff survey last June, 86% of our staff were positively in support of this approach. As a leader, I am moved by such passion and commitment and I want to support what our teachers feel is best practice. Recently, our teacher leaders developed a concise list of what our teachers see has the primary benefit of a proficiency-based system and we thought parents may benefit from learning this:

  • Clear learning goals lead to increased student ownership and engagement in learning

  • All students are held to a high academic standard

  • The focus on specific knowledge and skills allows for effective and timely interventions and extension opportunities

  • We have seen a steady increase in student growth in math and reading scores over the past three years (2016 v. 2018 NWEA/STAR & MEA)

  • A clear progression of learning goals throughout K-12 fosters consistency of instructional programming across the grades and between the schools

  • Student work habits are also important learning goals and a strong focus on them during adolescent years is developmentally appropriate and necessary

Parent Coffee. We are planning on holding our first Parent/Principal Coffee of the year on Thursday, November 29th at 4:30-5:30 pm in room 2646, the room across from MAMS Learning Commons.  These are drop in sessions -- feel free to come any point during the session. The goal of the parent coffees are for parents to be able to learn more and share their feedback on educational happenings at the school.  If you cannot attend, I am more than happy to sit down and meet with parents on an individual basis. My door is always open. Looking forward to it!


Our Quarter 1 Honor Roll will be published on our website and in local newspapers by the following week.  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 and have ALL (but one) of their Learning Goal scores from that quarter as 3 or higher with no scores below 2.

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 Exploratory Teacher Michele Crawford (above)!

Winter Athletics.  Our students are encouraged to take part in a variety of sports and activities this season; including basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, nordic ski, and hockey.  The basketball season tips off in coming weeks with many home games throughout December and January. The general public is welcome to attend these games, but any student wishing to attend needs to be accompanied by an adult.  Please visit our MAMS Athletics Page or contact our Athletic Director Rick Crawford for more information.  Wrestling season begins after the basketball season ends, in late January.  The school also offers after school cheering and nordic skiing clubs throughout the winter months.  While the school does not offer hockey, there is a community hockey program that our students are welcome to join.  

Sports and Club Participation.  MAMS has so many clubs, activities, and sports for our students to participate in.  There is something for everyone! We are holding a school-wide assembly next week to promote student involvement in extracurricular activities.  Please speak with your child about participation in clubs and activities and reach out to their Advisor for assistance in helping them join any of these activities:

field hockey


cross country





track and field

Cheering Club

Nordic Ski Club

Interact Club

Math Team

Girls on the Run

Rubik’s Cube Club

Science Club

Student Council

Art Club  

Minecraft Club

Eagle Ambassadors

iTeam (computer club)

Musical- Aladdin

Civil Rights Team

School Store

cross country


..and more coming!





New Intramural Sports Program!  We are so excited with the launch of our new intramural sports program.  The program is for any student that wishes to join, grades 6-8. The club meets for a fall, winter, and spring session.  The focus is always fun, inclusivity, and some skill development. We know that some students may not be able to or are ready to join one of our regular sports teams, and this intramural program is designed for all students to get a sports experience, even if they are not on one of our sports teams.  The club is run by Mr. Toomey and he can be reached at

Parent Learning Re/ Vaping.  Our school, in cooperation with Access Health, will be hosting a parent information session about the topic of adolescents and vaping.  The parent information session will be held on Tuesday, December 4, 6:30-7:30 at Topsham Public Library. HERE is the flyer for this event.  We know this is an important issue for parents, so we hope you find this information session helpful.

Community Support and Giving During the Holidays.   With the holiday season approaching, if your family is in need of support or would like to support others, this guide from United Way contains a list of local community resources and organizations.  In addition, there is a new parent-organized support network called, Ararat TEANthat uses social media to match student/family needs to appropriate resources.  If you have any questions about accessing resources in the community or in the school, or if you wish to donate to others please contact your child's school counselor by calling the School Counseling Office at 729-2950 ext. 2603.

Boys to Men and Hardy Girls.  In a previous update, I mentioned the positive, proactive work our 8th graders are engaging with surrounding the important issue of what it means to be a young man or young woman in our society, with a focus on respect, understanding, and empathy.  For boys, this work involves the Boys to Men program and, for girls, the sessions use the Hardy Girls Healthy Women curriculum.  Our 8th graders are currently in the middle of this ongoing work, so I encourage parents to ask their child more about these programs.

(Photo Courtesy of Karyn Rawson Photography)

Spirit Series is Back!  All our 6th graders recently began the Spirit Series “Seeking Socrates” program in their social studies classes.   Spirit Series is a three-week residency in which our students delve into the history, language, art, and philosophy of Ancient Greece in a two-way exploration, both stepping into the sandals of the Greeks 2400 years ago, and bringing the lessons of that time — Knowing Thyself, Following Your Conscience, Doing Nothing to Excess, and Speaking the Truth, to name a few — into their everyday lives here in Maine in 2018. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me, or 6th Grade Social Studies teachers who are collaborating with Spirit Series teachers to deliver this transformational program in our school.

Updates from 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).  We encourage parents to talk to your child about what is happening in these classes, especially since we started a new rotation this week with the start of second quarter.

Does Your Child Walk or Bike to School?  If so, please review the following reminder with your child: Walkers should use the sidewalks only and use crosswalks when crossing the streets.  Bikers should stay on the far right side of the road and cross the street only at designated crosswalks.  With the high school construction going on, there are new traffic patterns for cars and pedestrians. Therefore, the focus should be on safety by all.  We recently reviewed safety expectations with all students, but reinforcement from parents will also be helpful.

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, Assistant Principal Ms. Hayes Teague calls the families to describe the behaviors that led teachers to their choice!  Congratulations to our October RESPECTful Students of the Week!

Lydia White (Androscoggin)

Evelyn Lagrange (Carrabassett)

Taylee Carrigan (Cathance)

Joe Kessler (Magalloway)

Kira Chown (Sebasticook)

Kristina Roscoe (Kennebec)

Ben Chonko (Exploratory)

Alex Durant (Merrymeeting)

Preston Woodbury (Kennebec)

Colby Butler (Sebasticook)

Isaac Ruehl (Casco)

Carly Satterfield (Carrabassett)

Matthew Lemelin (Magalloway)

Selene Goranson (Carrabassett)

Parker Munsey (Cathance)

Sophia Huston (Kennebec)

Vlayta Dubois (Exploratory)

Gavin Burbank (Exploratory)

Kaleb Fontaine (Carrabassett)

Wyatt Kimball (Cathance)

Megan Hughes (Kennebec

Science Learning Update!  7th Grade science students on Kennebec have inventoried and documented several specimens of invasive species on campus, and will be researching strategies for eliminating them, to meet one of the MAMS Science learning goals.  Part of this research will include a visit from the biologist John Pratte (also a MAMS parent) from Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's only wildlife preserve, Swan Island in Merrymeeting Bay.

The Mt. Ararat Stage Company will hold auditions for Disney’s Aladdin Jr. on Wednesday November 28, 2018 and Thursday, November 29, 2018 from 2:20-4:10 PM in the Orion Performing Arts Center. All interested students should plan to attend at least one day of auditions.  All individuals interested in auditioning will be asked to learn and perform both a musical selection from the show and choreography. Please contact Ms. Thomas at or Mr. Blais at or visit this website for more information

Notes from School Nurse, Naomi Mullane.  MAMS will host another flu shot clinic on Tues, 11/27 from 4-6 pm. All community members are welcome (ages 6m and older).  No charge.

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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