Week of February 27

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GSD Logo

Upcoming Important Dates

Feb 27 – Students and Teacher return from Break
Mar 1 – Spread the Word to End the Word Day
Mar 2 – GHS Chorus Concert in the Gym 12:30 (we will do 2 concerts)
Mar 3 – School Dance sponsored by the 6th grade 6:00 -8:00 pm
Mar 3 & 4 – Southern Maine MS Honors Band and Chorus Concert
Mar 3 & 4 – GHS One-Act Play presentation 7:30 pm MPAC
Mar 7 – 8th Grade Parent Night at GMS 6:00 pm MPAC
Mar 8 – GHS Principal Jandreau speaks to 8th Graders
Mar 10 -12 – GMS School Musical (more info below)
Mar 12 – Daylight Savings Time Begins
Mar 15 – Early Release Day, Students dismissed at 11:10 am
Mar 19 – Winter Fever Reliever GMS cafeteria 6:00 pm

School Vacation

I hope that all of you had a great week of school vacation. I know that some years the weather can really deal a rough blow, but this year was exceptional. For those of you who are skiers, I cannot imagine better conditions than we had this week. And, even wit the warmer weather, there was still some great sledding weather or snowshoeing weather with great conditions.

It was also great weather to take in the championship run of the Gorham High School girls Basketball team at the Civic Center! Best of luck to the girls next week in Augusta as they take on the Vikings of Oxford Hills.

Now that we are at the end of a great week, we turn our sights toward a very busy March with MEA Testing, 8th Grade Transition activities and beginning the planning for the next school year.

Spread the Word to End the Word

Help Spread the Word to End the Word! You are invited to be a fan of respect and join us in an ongoing campaign to stop the use of the R-word. The goal of Spread the Word is an effort to draw attention to the fact that a large population of people are hurt and offended by the use of the R-word. This is more than just eliminating a certain word from your vocabulary, this is about an evaluation of our attitudes towards a population that has been stigmatized throughout their lifetimes. Everyone deserves respect and removing the R-word from our every day speech is one step we can take toward showing respect.

Please make your pledge by going to www.r-word.org. There will be pledge sheets at grade level lunches on Wednesday for students to sign.

GMS Students Present The Little Mermaid

Please circle the dates of March 10 trough March 12 and plan to attend one of the presentations of the annual GMS Musical. GMS students, under the direction of Tana Krohn, will present three (3) shows of the Little Mermaid. Shows on Friday and Saturday evening begin at 7:00 pm and, new this year, a Sunday matinee beginning at 2:00 pm.

We have come to expect from our students some amazing performances, beautiful singing, great acting, lots of laughs and a truly, wonderfully memorable evening. Please make pans to catch at least one show!

Changes in School Nutrition Program

We have been working with our School Nutrition folks to help get a handle on the number of students who are carrying negative balances on the school lunch account.

School lunch at GMS offers a very vibrant array of meals for our students to enjoy that are both delicious and nutritious (I sound like a commercial!). Our Food Service also offers some wonderful items on an “a la carte” basis. Pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, hamburg and cheeseburger as well as a variety of cold sandwiches, salads and snacks. These are priced individually and the students can use their Pre-Paid account to purchase.

Families can use this pre-paid account system so that they don’t have to remember to give their children cash each day to eat lunch. Here is a link to the on-line pre-paid system that families can use to keep track of their account balances and to receive warnings when the account drops to a certain level and needs to be replenished.

We don’t ever want to withhold lunch from a child, and we won’t, however, sometimes, we do have accounts that go seriously into a negative balance. This causes a problem for your child and for the Food Service people, who need to be responsible to the taxpayers of Gorham and not become a burden on the school budget.

We recognize that family situations change over time and the family finances sometimes cause a struggle. We want to be able to continue to provide nutritious lunches for all of our students. There are some programs that can help, and if you give me a call I can confidentially steer you in the right direction to obtain information about these programs.

In the meantime, I will be reaching out to the people who are carrying negative balances to see if we can work out a plan to bring these balances into line with the program, If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call the Food Service staff or me.

Winter Fever Reliever

This information is from Tracy Williamson and has been sent to all of you in an email. This sounds like a really fun evening of music!

On Sunday, March 19th, the Gorham Middle School and High School Steel Bands will be performing a benefit concert with the Portland based steel band, Sister Steel.  The benefit is to raise money for our registration fee for the New England Steel Pan Festival that is to be held at Thompson’s Point on May 7th.
The event is from 6-8:30pm in the GMS cafeteria with a suggested donation at the door.
We are also looking for people to donate food items to a bake sale/snack concessions table for the event.  If anyone would like to contribute something, please let me know!  The steel band parents and Sister Steel are making crockpot meals and traditional foods from Trinidad for the event too.
Come enjoy some steel pan music, food and dancing on the 19th!  Hope to see you there!

Proficiency Based Learning

Imagine, if you will, (cue the Twilight Zone music) you are once again sixteen years old. You are sitting in the driver’s seat of your fathers four-door sedan, with the white walled tires, waiting for the man from the Registry of Motor Vehicles to slide into the passenger seat to administer your driving portion of the test for your first driver’s license.

The palms of your hands are dripping with sweat, so much so that your are not sure that you will be able to hold the steering wheel steady. Your armpits are moist and your heart rate is preparing to break land-speed records. You have studied the drivers manual, taken all of the drivers ed classes and completed at least 30 hours of driving with your mom or your dad, and it seems like years for them. You know you’re ready, but you’re still petrified!

The passenger door opens and the man dressed in the uniform of the Registry of Motor Vehicles slides into the passenger seat and begins to give you instructions about where to go and what to do.

Not ideal conditions for test taking, but it is what it is, and you fail to make a full stop at the stop sign (although, you’re sure you did!) and you FAIL your driving test and do not get your license!

Lots of tears and self doubt but, the world does not end. You go back to a few more driving practices with Mom or Dad, or, maybe that uncle who seems to show a whole lot more patience than Mom or Dad when you downshift to second instead of upshifting to fourth! The practice seems to work, your uncle has given you a pep talk to get you ready, and you return to the Registry of Motor Vehicles for another go at the “TEST”.

Alas, the pep talk didn’t work and you, once again, failed your driving test.

Let’s say you fail this test a third time, and now you’re wondering if driving is something that you really should be doing. You give it one more shot and, you PASS!

The Registry does not place any special restrictions on your license. There isn’t some kind of sticker that says “Took 3 times to pass”. You pass and you now have your license to drive.

Wouldn’t it be silly if the Registry used the average of all of your scores to determine if you could get your license. “Well, you failed the first 3 times you took the test, so you need to pass the test 4 times to get a passing grade on the driving test!”. That would be silly, and a waste of time for all. Or, worse, the Registry decided that your fails were so terrible they determine you will never get a license.

That’s just not the way the real world works, we just don’t average the things that really count. Yet, for more than 100 years, this is what we have been doing to students. One colossal fail on “the test” and you can never get your average up high enough to pass the course.

There are a plethora of examples of how real doesn’t match what we do in schools and, yet we continue the practice because… well, I don’t know because.

Will Richardson is a self-described parent, author, speaker, instigator, blogger about the web and its effects on school and learning. He is the co-publisher of ModernLearning.com and he can be followed on Twitter at @willrich45. I have been following him for several years now, and each time I read one of his blog posts, I am reminded about why I got into education in the first place.

I think the most profound phrase he uses that continues to stick with me more and more each day is “…trying to the wrong things right…”. When you think about our Core Beliefs here in Gorham this is what they say:

Each student is unique and learns in different ways and at different rates.

And yet, we continue to move students through school in similar age groupings. We also provide 51 minutes for math learning, 51 minutes for science learning, and so on. Our Core Beliefs have much more than just this and, I believe that every teacher, support staff and administrator in our district wants for each of our students to be successful in their life.Yet, we continue to try to get better at doing more of the same!

I’ve ranted on long enough. I am including a link to something from ModernLearning.com that came across my Twitter feed over the vacation. This can voice what I am so woefully explaining far better. I hope you enjoy.
https://medium.com/modern-learning/9-elephants-in-the-class-room-that-should-unsettle-us-8335b2cef9aa#.gp35fnw0n

Heading Toward Spring Break!

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Upcoming Important Dates

Tuesday, April 7 – Sebago Team’s Ancient World Museum, 6:00 pm GMS 6th Grade Wing
Tuesday, April 7 – All Gorham Band Concert, GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm
Wednesday, April 8 – School Committee Meeting, Municipal Center 7:00 pm
Friday, April 10 – GMS Dance sponsored by the 6th Grade, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Tuesday, April 14 – All Gorham Chorus night GHS Auditorium 6:30 pm
Wednesday, April 15 – 8th Grade Celebration planning meeting 6:00 pm GMS Library
Friday, April 17 – Spring School Break Begins at dismissal of students, 2:15 pm
Monday, April 20 – Last day to order Yerabooks
Monday, April 27 – 8th Grade students begin the MEA Assessment

Spring Break (Middle School Style!)

OK, let’s get the important stiff out of the way first, all students will begin their Spring Vacation at dismissal on Friday, April 17th (dismissal is at 2:15 pm). The kids will return to school on Monday, April 27.

We all hope that the snow is gone, the golf courses, baseball and softball fields are free from snow and beginning to green under the warm mid-April sun.

If you are traveling to warmer clime, we hope that your travels are safe and on time.

Ordering Yearbooks

YearbookclipartSome years, we get a mad rush from people who forgot to order a yearbook for their child by the due date and they are begging for us to be able to get one for their child. Some years, we are able to have extras ordered, but in the past few years the cost of the yearbook has risen so much that we cannot afford to order extras that will sit, unsold in our storage closet. So, to answer this, we have implemented a system of ordering only enough to cover those actually purchased. We will not have any leftovers this year!!! The only way you can guarantee that your child will get a yearbook, filled with all the memories of their school year, is to order one BEFORE April 20th.

Ordering a yearbook is very easy and there are two ways to do it. We have order forms in the Main Office that you can fill out, put a check in the slot provided on the form and give it to one of the secretaries. Or, you can go online to the Lifetouch web site YBPay.lifetouch.com

Ancient World Museum

The annual presentation by the Sebago Team students of Kim Fotter and Meghan Rounds will be Tuesday evening,Parthenon April 7th beginning at 6:00 pm in the 6th Grade wing of the Gorham Middle School. Parents and relatives are invited to peruse the many wonderful exhibits of the students demonstrating the many interesting facts they discovered in their exploration of the ancient peoples of Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome.

All Gorham Band and Chorus Nights

Also on Tuesday, April 7th, all of the band students from the entire district will be on hand to present a concert of Musicwhat they have been learning all year. There will be students from the Elementary Schools presenting a few numbers,. The Middle School will be represented quite well by our award winning Jazz Band and our Concert Band. The many different ensembles of the High School will present a few numbers of their own.

The evening will culminate with a number of several of the members of the different bands presenting a number for the enjoyment of the audience.

Then, the same night, the following week we will hold the annual All Gorham Chorus Night, again at the GHS Auditorium beginning at 6:30 pm. There will be singers from across the district, at all grade levels, entertaining the audience with the joyful sounds of young voices singing.

Please circle both dates on your calendar for two great evenings of entertainment.

School Dance

Our next school dance is Friday, April 10 in the GMS Gym from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. This dance is sponsored by the 6th grade team with refreshments being sold by the Student Council. As an added bonus for our students, Sophie Gagne, a 6th grader on the Eagle Team will be holding a bake sale. Sophie is quite an accomplished dancer and she has earned the right to compete in a dance competition in Las Vegas this summer. She is holding the sale to help raise funds to defray the cost of the trip. Let’s hope all of her school mates bring their appetites to the dance to help Sophie get the Las Vegas.

Principal for a Day

Each day, Mrs. Hanley, Assistant Principal, Mr. Kilborn, Physical Education Teacher and me greet the students as

Principal for the Day Jacob Polchies greets the students to a new day at GMS.

Principal for the Day Jacob Polchies greets the students to a new day at GMS.

they enter the building for a new day. The idea is to greet the kids each day with a pleasant “hello” and a warm smile as the enter the building for a great day of learning.

On one morning a couple of weeks ago, one student, Jacob Polchies said “Mr. Riley, we should with jobs someday!”. I think I surprised hime when I said yes and that we should do it on April 1st (for all the obvious reasons).

Plans were made, he would come to school wearing a suit (that’s what I wear on most days), and I would come to school dressed as a student and take his place in his class. Since the 7th grade with Sister Genevieve was not one of my best years, I can tell you that I was quite nervous. Jacob, on the other hand, was quite well prepared.

We have some pictures of the day, mostly of him doing a far better job that I do on a daily basis, that are included in this post. The idea has spurned a new idea for us, however.

On May 13, we hold our second Principal for the Day. This time, however, we are going to raffle the day off to the students. The raffle tickets will be $1.00 per chance and $5.00 for an “arms length”. The proceeds of the raffle will be put toward the establishment of a Unified Sports Program at Gorham Middle School beginning next year.

If you are unfamiliar with Unified Sports Programs, they are cropping up around the state.Unified Sports bring together students with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team to promote social inclusion through specific sports training and competitive experiences.

To learn more about Unified Sports Teams, you can checkout the Special Olympics web site. The Lewiston Sun had a great article that ran, Monday, March 9th, just prior to the start of the first ever state championships sponsored and sanctioned by the Maine Principals Association. I think the article speaks volumes as to why we need to get this program started here at GMS.

So, please, encourage your child to purchase a raffle ticket to be Principal for the Day.

8th Grade Celebration Meeting

Kristen Fitz has sent out emails to all of the 8th grade parents to begin the process of organizing the 8th Grade CelebrationCelebration at the end of the school year. It has really worked quite well to begin this process digitally using our BlackBoard notification system and email. However, it is time to hold a meeting in “Reality” to put faces to names and to clarify all of the moving parts of this entertaining evening for our kids.

So, we’ll hold our first “Real” meeting on Wednesday evening, April 15th in the GMS Library. We ask that you bring your creative minds and your calendars so we can finalize some of the plans.

Looking forward to seeing as many people as possible on the 15th!

8th Grade MEA Begins on April 27

When our 8th graders return from their relaxing break, enjoying the sights and sounds of spring (maybe!), we will begin the annual assessment of our students through the Maine Educational Assessment. This is the first time we will be assessing our students via this computer adaptive test and a Performance Task. We plan to use part of the days on Monday through Thursday for all of these assessments with Friday being a day that we will use for make ups for any students who was sick or absent.

The 7th grade and 6th grade will be assessed in the following weeks.

To make sure that all student computers are charged and ready, we are not going to allow the students to bring them home during the school vacation. During the weeks of testing, we also plan to keep all of the devices at school, for all grades. There are significant security concerns that have been conveyed about students having personal devices during the testing. Our plan right now is to have all students leave their cell phone, tablets and IPods, turned off and on the teachers desk during the testing. We are doing this for a couple of reasons, one being the security I just mentioned, and the second is a matter of band-width. The first one I can understand pretty easily, the second is more difficult for me to explain. It has something to do with the amount of information coming ito the school and going out of the school. These assessments take up a fair amount of band width.

If you have any questions about these assessments, please feel free to call me.

PGA Jr. League

PGA LogoThe Gorham Country Club and PGA Pro Rick Altham will be sponsoring a golf team in the PGA Jr. League in Southern Maine. The league will begin on June 14th and it will run for 6 weeks. There will be a clinic with Pro Rick Altham and 6 practices and 6 matches for the participants. Each participant will receive a shirt, balls, a tag for their bag indicating their participation in the PGA. Matches will be held on Sundays. Some of the other courses that are participating in the PGA Jr.League are Val Halla in Cumberland, Webhannet in Kennebunk, Purpoodock in Cape Elizabeth, Dunegrass in Old Orchard Beach and the Woodland in Falmouth.

The League is open to all kids aged 8 to 13.If you would like your child to sign up, or if you have any questions, please call me at the school.

 

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Upcoming Important Dates

Thursday, January 15 – PIE Meeting with School Committee Members
Friday, January 16 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm in the Gym (this is a change!)
Monday, January 19 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday – No School

New Year’s Resolutions

So, I have already broken most of my New Year’s resolutions, and we’re not even at the end of January!

I am sure, OK, maybe I am hoping that there are many others, who are reading this, who have a similar experience with your own resolutions. At least I can hope, anyway.

Chinese Language and Culture Offering

We are very fortunate to be able to offer to our 7th and 8th grade students the opportunity to learn about the culture of the people of China and gain some rudimentary understanding of the Mandarin language. With the help of the Confucius Institute at the University of Southern Maine, we will offer a mini course in Chinese Culture and Language on Thursdays and Fridays beginning with the start of the 3rd quarter, January 26th.

The students will be exposed to many of the cultural mores of China and how the Mandarin language weaves throughout that culture. The students will learn some basic conversational phrases and gain a brief understanding of how the Mandarin language works. They will learn how to write some of the characters of the language and what each stroke means and its importance to that meaning.

This will be the second year that the Confucius Institute will have served our school, introducing our students to a whole new world. Here is an example of some of what the ids will learn:

For more information on this great opportunity for our students, please join us on Thursday evening, January 15 at 6:00 pm in the GMS Library.

 How About a Twitter Slow Chat?

Twitter logoMany of you are aware, probably too aware, that I am an ardent user and believer of the positive power of twitter. I regularly use twitter to keep in touch with some very powerful educators who are willing to share their experiences and knowledge with me. I wish I were a better student for these people, but even I learn a great deal form them each and every day.

On different evenings during the week, different groups of people with a common intent gather in a twitter chat, signified with the hashtag (#) symbol to discuss a particular topic. For example, in Maine we have a chat for Maine educators called #edchatme. #edchatme “meets” every Thursday evening at 8:00 pm and we discuss topics that are pertinent to Maine educators. The really strange thing about the chats is that often times educators from “away”, not from Maine, join in and share their experiences from their states or countries.

A “slow chat” is one that continues beyond the usual hour that most chat go. A slow chat allows folks to check-in whenever they can and make comments, ask questions or offer up resources that those involved in the chat can check when they are free. It allows for those who have kids that need help with homework or have sports practices at all different hours to participate in the chat when they can.

Our hashtag (#) is #gorhamms. It is dedicated to our middle school and it is the hashtag that we put on everything that we put out over social media, e.g. Facebook Twitter or Instagram. So, if you have something that you would like to get out to the #gorhamms community, you can put it in Twitter and add the hashtag and we should be able to have our slow chat.

For those of you who still don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a short tutorial on using hash tag in a twitter chat:

Until next time…

 

The Week Ahead

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What’s Coming Up!

  • January 18 – School Dance sponsored by the Stroudwater Team and the Eagle Team, GMS Gym 6:00 to 8:00 pm
  • January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr Holiday, no school
  • January 22 – National Geographic Society Geography Bee 6:30 pm in the GMS Auditorium
  • January 23 – Faculty meeting, 2:30 – 4:00 pm. This is a breakout session, we will meet briefly in the Library to review the protocol and then head to our groups.
  • January 24 – All Gorham Jazz Festival beginning at 5:30 pm in the GMS Auditorium
  • January 25 2nd quarter and 1st semester ends. Because of the Early release day and Teacher Workshop day on Thursday and Friday, report cards will go home with students on Monday, February 4.

February is Black History Month

Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Since 1926, Americans have celebrated the contributions of African Americans into the fabric of our great country. Beginning initially as a period of one week, between the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas, it was extended to the full month during the time of America’s bicentennial. There are a plethora of resources available through web sites such as History.com, africanamericanhistorymonth.gov and biography.com. If you struggle finding resources for your class as you prepare to celebrate this month, please let me know, I would be more than happy to help out. Here is a brief clip from History.com:

Grab Your Hat

RAA Cat n Hat Logo_2010_mediumFriday, March 1st is the date of Read Across America Day, a day that celebrates the birthday of Theodore Geisel with lots of reading throughout the land. What better way to celebrate the life of the man who gave us characters like the Grinch and Horton and the ever present Cat in the Hat (still my favorite is One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish). The NEA website has some wonderful activities and resources that you can use in your classroom to join in the celebration. If you have any ideas or activities that you will be doing in your class, let Susie and me know, we’d love to stop in and join the fun.

Report Cards for the 2nd Quarter

The 2nd quarter ends on January 25th. Usually, we would send report cards home on the following Friday, in this case, February 1st. However, we have an Early Release Day on January 31st and a Teacher Workshop Day on February 1st, so students will not be in school on Friday.

You can always see your child’s progress at anytime during the school year through the Parent Portal on Infinite Campus. Teachers report each grade that your child receives very regularly and they also report any work that is missing. If you haven’t yet received your login name and password, please call Terry LaMontagne in the Guidance Office at 222-1247.

Zero Waste Challenge

During Lunchtimes at GMS we have several young folks working quite hard sorting trash and helping to make GMS an eco-friendly environment. The students of the Little River Team have accepted the Zero Waste Challenge issued earlier this year by Poland Spring Bottling Company and the Chewonki Foundation. Now, I could try to write about the competition, but why do that when there is a perfectly good video that explains it far better than I could ever possibly do.

The Great GMS “Everything” Drive

The students at GMS are holding an “Everything” Drive beginning January 17th through January25th. Students will be collecting lots of stuff (Everything), winter clothing, toys, non-perishable foods and the donations will be sent to the Preble Street Resource Center and the Gorham Food Pantry. Donations can be dropped off at the lobby of the Middle School, Village School and Narraganset School. Every donation helps and if you ahve any questions please contact Sarah Rubin at the Middle School.

Maine School of Science and Math

The Maine School of Science and Math has a great opportunity for educators who would like to study during the summer months. The STEM MSSMlogoCollaborative Educator’s Camp runs from July 28th through August 2nd. The camp is free, they provide free room and board and no registration fees. The courses will focus on STEM topics and will be released later in March. You can earn 3.0 CEU’s with approval from the district and they are looking for 20 exceptional presenters. You can find out more information about this amazing opportunity by going to: http://www.mssm.org

Learning Teams and Homework

As I have mentioned in the past couple of entries, homework is a big portion of the student experience during Middle School. Some folks think we give too much and some folks think no where near enough. We hear the argument that students need to learn to be responsible and organized, so Digstndt copyhomework can help us do that. Then we hear the argument that if we are trying to teach responsibility, what does that have to do with the content area I am teaching?

As we move closer to a proficiency based environment for our students, an environment where students will be responsible for creating evidence of their learning and evidence of their attaining the proscribed standards, what will the role of homework be?

As we continue the work of the Learning Teams in the coming months, each of the topic groups have  a homework “thread” running through it.

If your group is exploring Assessment Literacy, you would need to examine how homework is, or can be used to assess what is necessary for a student’s success. Certainly, motivation can be affected by what kind of homework is assigned, and how often the homework is given, and what is the intended purpose of the homework and what kind of feedback is associated with the homework. The development of the adolescent brain and understanding where a student is in their development will dictate the kinds of homework assigned and communicating with the parents about student progress always contains an element of how well and how often the student completes their homework.

The work of our Learning Teams is so very important. We all understand that education is changing every day, and that doesn’t include any of the changes we are seeing in our students and their family structures. The better we understand our students and how we can move them forward in their learning, the better our kids will perform in life and the better they will be prepared for the challenges that lay ahead.

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS)

nces-logoIn the next few days you may be receiving a letter, via first class mail, informing you that your child has been chosen to be administered the NAEP Assessment, about 90 8th grade students have been selected. The assessment will be administered on February 14th. NAEP is used by the federal government to determine how each state is doing in the progress with their students towards the standards. The agency responsible for the administration of the NAEP makes the selections of who will take the assessment, we do not have any control over that selection process. The assessment takes about 90 minutes, from beginning to end, and will only interrupt the students day in a very minimal way.

The second letter you all will receive concerns the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey. This anonymous survey will be administered during an MIYHSextended Advisory period on February 6th. This survey will ask questions about health and health related behaviors such as asthma, alcohol consumption, fighting and bullying, smoking and sex. The letter will give you far more detail about the survey, who will use the results and what will they be used for.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call the office.