MAMS Update December 2016

MAMS Exterior


Mt. Ararat Middle School

66 Republic Avenue, Topsham, ME 04086

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


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December 20, 2016

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope you and your family has a wonderful holiday season.  I have several items for you to add to your holiday reading materials.

Progress Reports. This afternoon, your child’s Quarter Two Progress Report is now live and up to date on the Empower Parent Portal.  The quickest way to view their student's 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.  As you may know, Empower is a brand new grading program for us.  We are still learning about how to use the program to its full potential and this has been an dynamic, exciting, and sometimes challenging work-in-progress.  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 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.  

Are We Still Using the Infinite Campus Parent Portal? A few parents have asked about whether the old grading system, Infinite Campus, is still being used by parents.  The short answer is “not really.”  Parents can still access the Infinite Campus Parent Portal using the past provided logins, but there is no grading function in this system anymore.  This is, however, where we keep your child’s attendance and demographic data.  Feel free to access this database if you would like to see this information.   We are exploring the potential linking attendance data into Empower in the future.  If you would like any assistance logging into Empower and/or Infinite Campus, please email

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.

Teacher of the year

Mt. Ararat Middle School STEM Teacher Named 'Teacher of the Year'!! The Technology and Engineering Educators Association of Maine and the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association have selected Mt. Ararat Middle School STEM Teacher, SANDY BICKFORD (center) as the recipient of the 2017 Teacher Excellence Award.  This is a competitive award given each year to one outstanding Technology and Engineering Educator in Maine.  Ms. Bickford will be formally honored at the Annual Conference of the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association from March 16-18, 2014 in Dallas, TX.  The school held an assembly on November 30, 2016 to recognize Ms. Bickford.  8th Grade students Austin Berry and Colby Merryman presented her with the award.  

High School Proficiency Plan. As you know, our school has been a proficiency-based learning system for a number of years.  With that, our focus is on the development of important knowledge and skills, not merely on the completion of a class with a grade at the end of the year.   Mt. Ararat High School is in the process of developing a plan for what it will look like for students to graduate with a proficiency-based diploma in the coming years.  The class of 2021, our current 8th graders, will be the first class that will be expected to graduate with a proficiency-based diploma under Maine law.  What proficiency-based learning will look like at the high school will likely have some similarities and some significant differences from what is currently at the middle school.  The high school will be ensuring that the post-secondary transition is at the center of any plan that is created.  Our district has a Proficiency-Based Steering Committee, comprised of educators and community members, that will be examining any School Board policies related to instructional practices and graduation protocols.  In April, the high school will conduct formal communication and events related to informing parents on the 8th-9th grade transition.  In the meantime, feel free to reach out to high school Principal Donna Brunette at with any questions.  If you wish to have input in the District’s Proficiency-Based Steering Committee, you may contact Assistant Superintendent Dan Chuhta at  

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.  

screenagers poster

Screenagers.  Speaking of the adolescent struggle with boundaries with technology, we want to offer some support to parents.  We are joining forces with Brunswick Junior High School for another parent learning opportunity.  We will be screening the film,  Screenagers,  on January 12th at 6:00 PM at Crooker Theater, Brunswick High School.  All students, parents, and community members are invited.

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!

New MTA Building Project.  We are excited to announce that with the successful Straw Vote last week, the new Mt. Ararat High School building project is moving ahead.  Several of our students have stepped up to help lead this exciting project!  The following students serve on the New Building Student Advisory Group: Owen Yabsira, Belle Hemond, Mira Rineer, Landen Chase, Meagan Reed, and Olivia Cox.  Please encourage your child to reach out to these student leaders if they have ideas about what they want to see in their new high school building.

Parent Drop-off map

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 above).  Please do not stop your car to drop of your child in the crosswalk or area before this spot.  By stopping here, it creates a highly unsafe situation for student pedestrians.   Thank you for your cooperation in this matter, as it ensures the safety of our students.  

The Mt. Ararat Winter Choral Concert will be Tuesday January 10 at 7pm in the Orion.  Congratulations to the MAMS District III Honor Choir Singers!

Sopranos: Maggie Libby and Rachel Eaton

Altos: Sylvette Dupe-Vete-Congolo and Annie Wilkins

Baritone: Nathaniel Smith

Looking for Parent Artists! We will soon be initiating a student-led project to redesign the look of our school cafeteria.  The project will involve the creation and placement of student art projects related to the themes of community and healthy living.  We are soliciting parent volunteers to work with students on creating this artwork.  If you are an artist or willing to help students with this art project, please let me know.

Art News!  There will be a field trip to Colby College Museum of Art for Qt. 2, 7th and 8th grade art students on Friday 1/20/17. Field trip permission forms will be handed out to art classes on Tues. 1/3/17 so if you have a child interested in going please encourage them to get the form back to Ms. McHugh ASAP, as the trip has limited space.  Also, parents are needed to come along for a 1:10 adult/student ratio in the museum, so if you are interested in visiting this fabulous museum with the group, please be sure to note that on your child's permission slip or feel free to contact Ms. McHugh at

Calling All Student Artists!  The Centre St. Arts Gallery in Bath is looking for student artwork for an upcoming exhibition.  Registration forms are due January 15th and artwork needs to be delivered to the gallery between January 25th-28th.  The opening reception will be Saturday, February 18th from 2-4pm.  Please encourage your young artists to create something special for this exhibition or submit something that they have already made.  If you have any questions please refer to the flyer or registration form.  You may also contact Mrs. Michel or Mrs. McHugh we really hope to have Mt. Ararat Middle School represented at the Student Art Show this Winter!


Slipper and Shoe Clearance Sale Fundraiser! Our Alternative Education students are organizing a fundraiser sale of brand-new slippers and shoes from Acorn Shoe Company.  Acorn donated their model year clearance inventory to our students for this fundraiser.  The SALE will be held this Thursday, December 22, from noon to 4:00 pm in MAMS room 3803.  All shoes will be only $5-$10 and all proceeds will be used to sponsor hands-on experiential learning opportunities for our Alternative Education program.

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.  For boys, this work involves the Boys to Men program and, for girls, the sessions use the Hardy Girls Healthy Women curriculum.  This week, we just finished up this comprehensive 4-week long program with our students.  Both programs were recently 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.  

NAEP Parent Letter. The US Department of Education has randomly selected Mt. Ararat Middle School as a site to conduct the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).  A select number of 8th grade students will take this assessment on February 16, 2017.  HERE is the formal notification letter.  Feel free to contact me with any questions.

science club logo

Science Club Returns to MAMS.  Are you someone that is interested in science and wants to learn more?  A Science Club at MAMS is starting in February. It will meet one Thursday a month for 4 months in room 1327 from 2:20-4.   The Maine School Volunteers (MSSV) will be running the club. MSSV is a group of retired scientists, mathematicians, physicians and engineers that help students better understand science and make it fun.  In over twenty years, they have enriched the science education of thousands of Maine students. They volunteer at no cost in elementary and middle schools, mainly in after-school science clubs.  MSSV offers programs in physical, biological and environmental sciences, engineering, mathematics, and medicine.  Please contact Ms. Vandenberg at with questions.

HELP WANTED:  Trust For Our Future, the educational trust of MSAD #75, is seeking individuals interested in impacting students District-Wide by raising funds via the 4th Annual TFOF Golf Scramble.  TFOF has openings on its 2017 Golf Scramble Committee.  This dynamic group of committed parents and community members will be planning the 4th Annual TFOF Golf Scramble for June 2017.  Member and sponsorship recruitment, silent auction preparation, and golf day logistics are the main tasks the Committee will undertake at its monthly meetings.  FMI:

Rubiks Cube Club

Rubik’s Cube Club Mosaic.   Recently the students in our Rubik’s Cube Club completed a giant mosaic using arranged side faces of over 700 cubes stacked up.  Unfortunately for our students and staff, they chose quite an ugly mug as their subject matter (see above).  They surprised me with this mosaic this week -- I was very humbled and very impressed at their skills.  Way to go Rubik’s Cube Club!

Mumps Awareness.  With some recent cases of Mumps in our surrounding community, we wanted to share with you with Mumps Fact Sheet from the Maine Center for Disease Control.  This guide contains how to watch for potential symptoms and ways to prevent the spread of Mumps.  If we have any confirmed cases of Mumps in our community, we will let you know of our response and follow up at that time.  

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

Principal Attachments: Empower Parent Portal Instructions Shoe Sale Flyer NAEP 2017 Math & Reading Parent Letter Rubiks Cube Mosaic SubjectMumps Factsheet

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