Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy!

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Upcoming Important Dates

Aug 29 – First day of school for 6th Graders
Aug 30 – First Day of school for 7th & 8th Graders
Sep 2 – No School Labor – Long Labor Day Weekend
Sep 5 – Labor Day No School
Sep 8 – School Picture Day
Sep 8 – Vision & Hearing Screening day
Sep 12 & 13 -MLTI Parent Information Evening
Sep 16 – School Dance

Student Placement

We have completed the placement process for all of our students for the next school year. The process is exhausting and extensive and it is one that we take very seriously. We take information from parents and the students’ teachers to make sure we put together combinations that make sense for the entire school. We also work hard to make sure that students have at least one friend on their team (usually, they have many friends with them!).  In any event, since the 8th grade is housed in one wing of the school, it is very likely that they will still have plenty of time for socializing with friends.

Our goal is to have teams that resemble the grade as a whole, in other words, a heterogeneous group of students with similar strengths and similar challenges. We endeavor to make sure that no one team can be perceived as the team that has far more of one type of student over another.

(Side note: In some of the emails and telephone calls we have received, parents have objected to their child being placed on the team with all of the Special Education students, or the behavior students, or, that another team has all of the “college-bound” students. This is why we do this exhausting process, to keep this from happening)

We also understand that sometimes we don’t get it right. We have set out a protocol for parents top voice their concern and request a change of team. To do so, parents must demonstrate one of the following four possibilities in making the request:

  1. Prior negative experience with the student and a teacher on the team;
  2. Prior negative experience with a sibling or family member and a teacher on the team;
  3. An issue between another student on the team that rises to the level of civil or legal involvement, and;
  4. A teacher on the team who is a relative and placement could cause a problem.

Short of meeting any of these conditions, we are restricted from moving students off a team.

There is a bit of hope, however, we know that over the course of the summer students move in and students move away. We are committed to making our teams representative of the grade as a whole. In late August, when we begin to receive the transfer requests, we re-examine the make up of each team and make adjustments at that time. In the past, we have had to move students to different teams.

What we cannot allow is the idea of “team or teacher shopping”. Making requests for a particular team or teacher would complicate the process to the extent that it would be impossible to keep the mix of students representative of the whole grade.

If I could pass on a little bit of wisdom that I have gained over the years, first as a parent, and then as a middle school administrator, kids are incredibly resilient. What appears to be the crisis to end all crises, can be mollified with time.

Finally, I am happy to meet with any parent to talk about each of the teams at our grade levels. We are incredibly blessed at Gorham Middl School because we have some very talented, dedicated teachers who go more than above and beyond to provide our students with great learning experiences.

 Supply Lists for 2016-2017 School Year

I figured that I would try to beat Staples, Wa;smart and Office Max to the punch and get our supply lists out to all well before the “Back-to-School Sale Season” starts. I want to temper these lists a little bit by reminding you that your child does not need  to have all of these supplies for the first day of school, these are meant to last for the entire year, so you might be able to ease into the purchasing a bit.

I have updated our GMS Webpage with the complete lists for each team. Follow this link to the GMS page and scroll down to “Supplies List” section. Please be very mindful of the amount of supplies your child will need. Also, if you are experiencing financial difficulties, please don’t hesitate to call me. We do have some supplies available for students, if necessary. I will keep any information in complete confidence.

Summer Reading for a Principal

Summer is the time that I can settle in for an afternoon of enjoyable reading. Maybe some history about General George Washington and the American Revolution, or John Sanford novel with Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, those are always interesting, if not a bit gruesome.

But for now, I am elbow deep into Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith’s Most Likely to Succeed (MLS). Tony Wagner has been featured in this blog on a couple of occasions, both in video and in print. I appreciate his take on the challenges we are facing in preparing pour kids for their future. Ted Dintersmith is new to me. The book jacket says he is a venture capitalist who has turned his attention to improving our educational system in a manner that is quite different than other wealthy people are suggesting.

As I said, I am only elbow deep into this book with lots more reading and understanding to do.

About a year ago, Ted Dintersmith was in Fargo, North Dakota, attending a TEDx conference. He delivered this address about his ideas and talked about the documentary he financed about education across the country. So far, I have been completely enthralled with everything Wagner and Dintersmith have said about how our education system needs to be more responsive to the needs of our future. I think we’ll be talking about this more in the coming months. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy his speech from Fargo.

The First Day is Fast Approaching

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Upcoming Important Dates

Monday, August 31 – 6th Graders’ first day of school
Tuesday, September 1 – First day for 7th & 8th Graders
Tuesday, September 1 – GMS Open House 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Wednesday, September 2 – School Pictures
Friday, September 4 – No School
Monday, September 7 – Labor Day Holiday, No School
Monday, September 14 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Tuesday, September 15 – MLTI Parent Orientation Meeting 6:00 pm GMS Auditorium
Friday, September 18 – School Dance 6:00 – 8:00 pm GMS Gymnasium

Getting Ready for the School Year

In mid July, we emailed out to all families the supplies list that your child’s team was requesting that the kids come to school with on the first day of school. Since that time, we have had almost 20 new students enroll in school! We ill be getting updated list back on the middle school web site on Monday, so that everyone will know what they need for the coming school year.

I am going to ask each team, however, try to pare down their lists with an eye towards lessening the burden upon families for a large cash outlay, when some of the supplies may not be needed until later in the school year. Hopefully, our new lists will reflect that reduction.

GMS Open House

We hope to see all of you at the Annual Gorham Middle School Open House on Tuesday, September 1 beginning at 6:00 pm until 7:00 pm. We will have lots of information available to parents about what will be happening during the coming school year for your children.

If you want to volunteer in the Gorham Schools, there is a process that we must follow, For example, if you’d like chaperone at one of our dances, you need to be registered as a volunteer. If you’d like to chaperone a field trip, you need to be registered. You can sign up for the orientation meetings on Tuesday night in our foyer.

Have you ever wondered why your child seems to go through the money in his/her luck account so quickly, or  how can you accommodate your child’s special dietary needs? Our Cafeteria Manager will be present to answer all of your questions.

We will have all sorts of information on the many different clubs we have at the middle school, as well as sign ups for all of the fall sports teams.

And, all of your child’s teachers will be present to meet you and show you their classrooms.

So,please, circle the date on your calendar and stop on by and see us!

School Pictures

We have schedule the folks from Lifetouch to be at GMS on Wednesday, September 2 to take individual pictures of our students. These pictures will be used in Infinite Campus, our Student Information System, our annual school yearbook and for ID cards that will be distributed to the students.

You can order picture now by going to the Lifetouch website mylifetouch.com and using our school code:  LG555444Q0 to complete your order. This will eliminate tyne need to have your child remember to bring in the order form and you can pay online, as well.

New Staff at GMS

It has been quite a summer for us at GMS. At the end of last school year, we said good-bye to some old friends, and now it is time to welcome new faces to our community.

Joining us this year are:

Sarah Collins – Sarah comes back to us from Oak Hill Middle School in Sabattus, Maine. I say “come back to us” because Sarah completed her internship with Kelly Winslow teaching French. Sarah will join the Monhegan Team as an 8th Grade Advisor and she will be returning to her first love of teaching Spanish.

Brett Brown – Brett will be joining the Sebago Lake Team in the 6th grade teaching math. Brett is another familiar face to all of us at GMS, last year, he was an intern with David Palmer in the 8th grade teaching science.

Cathy Loiselle – We are extremely excited to have Cathy join us as our new School Nurse. cathy fills the position long held by Teresa Merrill, who has moved on the be the sSchool Nurse at Great Falls School. Cathy comes to us after several years as a School Nurse at Thornton Academy in Saco.

Beth Orlando – Beth joins us after many years as the School Librarian for the Old Orchard Schools. Beth is a resident of Gorham and she is looking forward to expanding the services offered by our Library. Beth fills the position after long-time School Librarian, Kathy Marquis retired at the end of the school year.

Cynthia Grover – Cynthia will be joining the GMS Staff in a new position of Social Worker for grades 4 through 8. Cynthia has several years experience as a School Social Worker in the Bonny Eagle District and she also has experience as a Substance Abuse Counselor, which should help us and our kids during this very difficult and treacherous stage of their lives.

Mindy Rathbun – Mindy will be the Instructional Strategist for the Middle School Her role will to help our teachers identify and plan strategies for our students who are demonstrating difficulties in learning in the classroom. She will also monitor our Response to Intervention plans as well as test students as part of the IEP Process. Mindy joins us from the Scarborough School apartment and is a Gorham resident as well.

School Supply Lists

I have been promising for quite sometime now, that our individual team supply lists will be available on the Middle School Website. I really hate it when I don’t come through with what I promised, but we do have an excuse… no, reason,… yah, probably an excuse!

When you come into the Middle School this fall, I promise you, you will be amazed. Our Office has been completely re-done by our incredibly duo of Kathy Richardson, Administrative Assistant in Facilities and Dan Despres. In order to complete all of the painting and renovations, our office had to be totally dismantled. (see, I told you this was more of an excuse!) and we had to vacate the premises along with all of our “stuff”, including the lists.

But, we now have them, and I promise, the will be on the Middle School Website tomorrow! (at least, I hope@!)

School Supplies

What a Principal Does Over the Summer

I have spent the summer trying to think of ways that we can help our all of our students be successful. Each year, especially toward the close of the school year in June, we all wonder what we could have done to get “johnnie” over the “hump” and ready for the next teacher and grade.

To help me with this, I went back to my Daniel Pink books on motivation, in particular Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates us. I first read this book a couple of year ago in my feeble attempt to get a better understanding of motivation, for many reasons, to see what would motivate me, my faculty and our students.

As I read Drive, I began to hear the words of Sir Kenneth Robinson and his and his wildly popular TED Talk on Schools Killing Creativity (click the link if you’d like to see the TED video). My mind raced with questions about what we are doing and why we are doing it! Are we, inadvertently, choking the creative life out of our students? Are we seeking to make our kids a one-size-fits-all automaton that will perform the menial tasks of rote memorization and regurgitation for the sake of a good grade on the test?

I am now reading a book by Jessica Lahey, who is a middle school teacher in northern New England and a mother of 2 boys. Her book, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, talks about her discoveries as a middle school teacher and a parent in allowing her kids to struggle with their decisions and the consequences that follow, while guiding and protecting from a distance.

Both of these books and the Ken Robinson video speak at great length about how curious and motivated our kids are… when they were in kindergarten! But, that over time, as they progress through their education, they become far more reluctant to take on challenges out of the fear of failure. The all seem to ask the question “are we bribing our kids into compliance instead of challenging them into engagement?”

This morning, I received a letter from Measured Progress that instructed me how to log on to our account to get the results of the MEA’s that were administered last spring, and I am reminded about the realities of American Public Schools and the mandates for accountability. I will open the files and download the information and try to make the best of the stark amount of data we receive. I will endeavor to make it all make sense for what we need to do next to help our kids be successful. However, I know in my mind and my heart that giving our kids the room for experimentation and failure, and the support to try again is far better than any information I will glean from these reports in helping our kids be successful.

I will be buying several copies of the Jessica Lahey’s book The Gift of Failure. If any of you would like to borrow a copy, or if you would like to start a book group to dissect what it say and means for us, please let me know.

Until next time…

And now, the end is near –Frank Sinatra

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Important Upcoming Dates

Monday, June 16 – 8th Grade to Range Pond
Tuesday, June 17 – K-9 Step up day (more information below)
Tuesday, June 17 – Celebration of Middle School 6:00 pm, GMS Gymnasium
Wednesday, June 18 – Last day of school, students dismissed at 11:10 am
Wednesday, August 27 – 1st day of school for 6th grade only
Thursday, August 28 – All students arrive at school
Friday, August 29 – No School
Monday, September 1 – Labor Day Holiday, No school

Step Up Day for All Students

We will be welcoming our newest students to the Middle School on Tuesday, June 17. The 5th grade students will arrive, via school bus, from their respective elementary schools at 9:30 am and proceed directly to the GMS Auditorium to meet their new advisors. Upon the arrival of the 5th graders, the 8th grade students will board the buses for their second trip to the high school.

The current 5th, 6th and 7th graders will meet their new teams and teachers and be given a very brief look into what a day will be when the arrive on their first days of school. All students will meet their new advisors and get to know those who will be with them each morning for the next year.

The 5th graders will be returned to the Auditorium at 10:45 and all other students will return to their “this year’s” teachers for completion of the rest of the day. The 5th graders will board their buses to return to their respective elementary schools at 11:00 am.

Student Placement

We begin the process of placing students in March by asking for parent input into their child’s learning style, concerns and success. We complete the process on Step Up day when we assign all students to their new advisors and teams. In between those two events there is a considerable amount of work. We include the child’s current teachers, the School Counselors and the School Social Workers. Finally, we ask the administrators to examine the lists to see if there may be something we may have missed.

We know that on Step Up day, students will still come home complaining about their team, not having any friends with them, etc. in spite of our best efforts. There are only four possible conditions under which we may be allowed to switch a student’s team, They are:

Prior negative experience with a particular teacher and your child,
Prior negative experience with a teacher and a sibling,
Significant conflict with a particular student (“significant meaning restraining order, protection for abuse, etc.)
Relative or close friend or neighbor which could cause discomfort in the relationship.

In any event, we will not be doing any possible changes in placement until late August, after we have examined any new student arrivals or departures.

8th Grade Celebration

For the past few months, several groups of parents have been busy planning and preparing for the final Celebration of Middle School for our departing 8th graders. I am excited about the send off for this great class that these folks have planned. I am sure that the kids will have a great time and it will be a fitting lasting memory of their time here at Gorham Middle School.

The evening begins with what I call the “Parent Portion” of the event. We will gather in the Gymnasium, beginning at 5:30 pm with the slide show of pictures submitted by the families of our 8th grade students. Seating is on a first-come-first-served basis and we have always had plenty of space available for all who want to attend.

The formal portion of the vent will begin promptly at 6:00 pm and should last about an hour. After the formal portion, our 8th graders will gather in the cafeteria for one final evening of dancing and enjoying the sounds of DJ Adam Parvanta. There will be food available for the students and lots of sweets and other “teen-like” food.

The dance will end at 9:00 pm and we ask that the students be picked up at that time.

Laptop Turn in and Repairs

The students are currently turning in their laptops for the year. This is a fairly cumbersome process as we ask the students to remove any work that they want to save that wasn’t saved to the “Cloud” and any music or games they downloaded to the device needs to either be saved to their ITunes account or they will lose them. We have give the students time to complete this process and we are now collecting them from each grade level.

Once we collect them, we will examine each device for damage to the case, keyboard, display screen. We will examine the “innards” for damage to moisture sensors to see if any of them may have been tripped by a spill.

If we determine that there has been some damage, we will contact the parents of the students and give them a list of the damages and what will be necessary to bring the device back to working order. This will be done either by phone call or through first class mail.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

GMS Summer Reading List

Each year, GMS School Librarian, Kathy Marquis puts together a list of books that would interest our students for summer time reading.

We all know that summer is filled lots of outdoor activities and family vacations, but we also know there needs to be time to keep the momentum for reading up. I can’t think of a better activity on a rainy day, or first thing in the morning before getting out of bed or in the afternoon after a swim in the lake, and always, before turning out the lights for the night. Here is Kathy’s list:

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library – Chris Grabenstein
When a lock-in becomes a reality game, 12-year-old and his friends use library resources to find their way out of Alexandriaville’s new public library.

Deep Blue – Jennifer Donnelly
Uncovering an ancient evil, Serafina, a mermaid of the Mediterranean Sea, searches for five other mermaid heroines who are scattered across the six seas, to save their hidden world.

Always Emily: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance – Michaela MacColl
Young Emily and Charlotte Bronte investigate a possible connection between series of local burglaries and rumors that a neighbor’s death may not have been accidental.

Ashfall – Mike Mullin
A super volcano erupts in Yellowstone National Park, covering much of North America in volcanic ash and plunging the world into nuclear winter.

The Familiars – Adam Jay Epstein
The young wizards-in-training are kidnapped by an evil queen and their familiars, the alley cat, the blue jay and the tree frog. The familiars set out on a dangerous journey to rescue the boys.

Foul Trouble – College recruiters are trying to sign Terrell Jamerson, the #1 high school basketball player in the country. Not all of these recruiters are straight shooters.

How to Catch a Bogle – Catherine Jinks
In 1870’s London, a young orphan girl becomes the apprentice to a man who traps monsters for a living.

Malala Yousafzai – This is the biography of a Muslim teenage girl from Pakistan, whom the Taliban attempted to assassinate on October 9, 2012.

SYLO – Pemberwick Island, Maine is occupied by a Navy section called SYLO who claim a virus has been unleashed, but Tucker Pierce, who has seen a strange aircraft, realizes something else is going on.

The 5th Wave – Richard Yancey
Cassie Sullivan, the survivor of an alien invasion, must rescue her young brother from the enemy with help from a boy who may be one of them.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures – Kate DiCamillo (2014 Newberry Award Winner)
A girl named Flora and a squirrel named Ulysses team up to conquer villains and protect the weak.

Each of these books are available at the Baxter Memorial Library this summer.

I also follow @pragmaticmom on Twitter and she has produce a wonderfully extensive list of books that are of high interest. She has broken the list down by genre and interest as well as supplying titles for students who may struggle. Please check out her list here. You may also want to follow her on Twitter, she has some great resources for parents of Middle School kids.

Finally…

At the risk of being too commercial and being seen as supporting a particular office supplies store, I offer the following video to celebrate the end of the school year… but remind you of the next school year.