Posted on 01/28/2020

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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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January 28, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,


I hope everyone is having a great start to the new year.  Hard to believe it’s almost February. I have a few items for you:

Quarter 2 Report Cards. Quarter 2 ended this past Friday and gradebooks will be finalized by next Monday afternoon, so we encourage all parents to go online and view grades within the Empower Program any time after that.  Paper copies of report cards will either be sent home with students on Monday or Tuesday next week, or will be provided at Parent Conferences (varies by team -- check with your child’s homeroom teacher).  Mid-year is an exciting time as teachers spend a significant amount of time measuring and reflecting on the progress your child(s) has made since the last report card.  Please contact your child’s teacher(s) with any questions you have after reading the report. All our teachers are happy to spend as much time with parents as needed to help you better understand the whole picture of how your child is doing in school.  Speaking of that...

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be held on the week of February 3 through Thursday, February 7, 2:30-7:00 pm.  You will be hearing from your child’s team teachers to schedule these conferences. Students are encouraged to attend with their parents.   If you also wish to conference with your child’s exploratory teachers (Health, P.E., Art, Music, Learning Commons, Culture/Languages, STEM), please contact them directly to schedule your conference with them during one of these evenings.  Their contact information can be found on our staff directory

School-Parent Outreach Programs.  

REMINDER: Vaping “Parent Academy” This Wednesday at 6:00pm

Our school places a high priority on effective home school communication and  collaboration. In addition to the myriad of ways your child’s individual team teachers communicate with you, our school, at large, has several important outreach events throughout the year.  

“Parent Academy” Program.  Raising (and educating) adolescents is not an easy job!  Did you know that one of the most rapid periods of brain development for humans (second only to infancy) occurs during the middle school years?  This dynamic, fun, and sometimes challenging period of development means that our kids are constantly changing and parenting can feel like a moving target.  Parents are often having to learn new parenting skills as they go along. Fortunately, our MAMS staff is highly experienced in working with this age-group and we want to offer support to parents.  To support this goal, we plan on holding several “Parent Academy” sessions throughout the year. Each session will focus on different topics related to raising adolescents and will be led by highly-qualified staff members and community experts.  Here are the focus topics and times:

  • Supervising Computers in the Home: (September 11, 2019) VIDEO 

  • Screens and Teens: November 20, 2019, 6:00pm in Learning Commons

  • Vaping with Jennah Godo, Access Health: January 29, 2020, 6:00pm in Learning Commons

  • Anxiety: March 18, 2020, 6:00pm in Learning Commons

  • Dating and Relationships: May 13, 2020, 6:00pm in Learning Commons

Parent-Principal Coffee Program.  In addition to the Parent Academies, we will continue to offer “Parent-Principal Coffee” sessions throughout the year, typically once per quarter.   The goal of the parent coffees is for parents to be able to learn more and share their feedback with me and other school staff on educational happenings at the school.  Some sessions might start with a particular focus, but then can be about whatever the parents in attendance want to talk about. Here are the Parent Coffees for the year:

  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, September 11, 7:15-7:45 in Learning Commons

  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, December 4, 2019 6:00 pm in Learning Commons

  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, February 12, 2020 6:00 pm in Learning Commons

  • Parent-Principal Coffee, Wednesday, April 15, 2020 6:00 pm in Learning Commons

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Catch Up Growth and Target Time. As we start a new semester, we are starting a new “rotation” for target time.  Students are placed in four different Target Time classes throughout the year. As our school is committed to giving students and parents clear information on how students are doing on the important knowledge and skills, aka. our Learning Goals.  For some students, this means they may not always meet their grade levels’ learning goal the first time. This can be seen clearly on each student’s report card, as well as by clicking on the “Goal Browser” in Empower. For students who have not yet met learning goals, we are also focusing on efforts to catch them up as much as possible.  One of the ways to work on this Catch Up Growth is through a period in our school day called, Target Time.  For 45 minutes, four days a week, students engage in targeted, teacher-directed instruction to maximize their growth.  In addition to Empower, our STAR universal screening tests, given three times a year (including earlier this month), helps us get an accurate sense of the learning level students are at and allows us to provide appropriate interventions to maximize this Catch Up Growth.   This time is also used to extend the learning for students that may be ahead of their grade level peers.  If you have any questions about this, feel free to ask your child’s teachers at upcoming parent/teacher conferences, or our school’s Student Intervention Specialists, Rebecca Singleton (Reading/Writing) at and Mary Beth Latti (Math) at  Our efforts with Catch Up Growth and Target Time are part of how we make our vision of Fueling Hope Through Learning a reality for all students.  

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 Sixth Grade Math/Science Teacher Mollie Vandenberg (above)!

Math Team Competition.  Congratulations to Ryan Schultz, 6th grade, Team Cathance. Ryan competed along with five teammates at the Southern Maine Math League's second meet of the year on January 21st and placed fourth out of 130 6th graders! Well done Ryan!

Exploratory Class Changes.  With the new semester starting this week, students will see a change in many of their Exploratory classes.  The vision of our amazing Exploratory program is for students to discover their particular interests, 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.  I encourage you to talk to your child about their new exploratory classes!

When Will We Will Ever Use Math?  To answer the age-old question, asked by nearly every middle schooler at some point (in math, STEM but also other classes)! Sometimes it is hard to see the real-life application of the abstract math concepts we practice in school, so we try to remind students that their brain is practicing and developing WAY more than just the specific math skill they are working on each day. By engaging with the rigorous, complex tasks we ask of them everyday, our students are growing as learners, problem solvers, and productive peers in countless ways!  This (above) mural is displayed prominently on Team Kennebec in Ms. Obery’s classroom.

(From left) Bee Master, Jonathan Beede, First place, Brady Yazwinski  Second place, Alex Newman and Principal, Joshua Ottow

GeoBee.  We held our school wide geography bee on January 15.  Eight Top scorers competed for the opportunity to compete at the state level.  The school finalists were Alex Skolfield, Ariana Portaluppi, Chase Rioux, Stanley Spooner, and Nathan Minzer. In 3rd place was Isla Drewette-Card. In second place was Alex Newman, and our school champion was 7th Brady Yazwinski, from Team Androscoggin. Good luck at the next level, Brady!

The Sheepscot Team is excited to share that they were recently visited by Heather Whitaker, the State of Maine's 2020 Teacher of the Year.  Mrs. Whitaker is an alternative education teacher from Gorham Middle School. She visited to learn about the "Sheepscot Model" of project based teaching and learning with the intention of helping to promote project based learning models statewide.  The Sheepscot team is very excited to be recognized by Mrs. Whitaker, and others, for our strategies to deliver grade level content via project based learning opportunities. In line with these efforts, the Sheepscot team is beginning their Drone Unit where we will be applying ELA, math, science, & social studies content while learning to fly drones!

MAMS in the News!  We are so proud of our very own, 7th grader Madison Bleau, who was featured in the January 20, 2020 edition of the Times Record.  As I had previously messaged, the Maine Department of Education (DOE) announced that it is launching its first-ever student cabinet, a group of students that will meet quarterly with Commissioner Pender Makin to discuss educational opportunities, improvements, and policy. The purpose of the Student Cabinet is to provide a forum for Maine students’ voices to be heard.  Student Cabinet members will be selected based on representation of Maine’s geography, with a goal of two students from each county in Maine, based on the pool of applications submitted, and inclusive of the diverse cultural and economic backgrounds of students throughout Maine.  There were hundreds of students who applied for this incredible leadership opportunity. We are so excited to announce that 7th Grader, Maddie Bleau has been appointed the the Maine Student Cabinet!

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, Ms. Hayes Teague calls the families to describe the behaviors that led teachers to their choice!  

Congratulations to our December Students of the Week:


Ben Cearbaugh (Kennebec)

Danny Millson (Magalloway)

Rachel Skolfield (Merrymeeting)

Tucker Wnek (Sheepscot)

Danica Almy (Carrabassett)

Aurora Newcomb (Cathance)

Ryan Sweet (Merrymeeting)

Mikey Dalton (Sheepscot)

Faith Haskell (Carrabassett)

Milania McKinnon (Cathance)

Jackson Haines (Sebasticook)

Brooke Allen (Kennebec)

Jordan Cloutier (Casco)

Jesse Bowker (Magalloway)

Lane Folger (Carrabassett)

From the Learning Commons.  Congratulations to Eben LaRose for correctly identifying the shredded book as Scythe and having his name drawn from the winning entries! He won a copy of the final book in the Scythe trilogy -- The Toll. Congratulations to all those who also identified Scythe -- Gabrielle Chase, Avery Myrick, Claire Caton, David Serson, Josh Jung Dolinger, Mr. Rioux, Sebastian Fiori, Kira Chown, Mrs. Bosarge, Tarynn Keleher, Miriam Kinney, Lyra Legawiec, Carly Satterfield, Brody Parker, Josy Hollenbach, Nolan Greenleaf, Jacob Cardella, and Wesley Hart.  Learning Commons students have been working hard to create book trailers. Please enjoy 6th grade book trailers created using Adobe Spark and 7th grade book trailers created with iMovie and GarageBand.

Region Ten Tech Visit.  On January 23rd all of our eighth grade students attended an exploratory program at the Region Ten Technical High School.  The goal of this program is to provide students with an understanding and appreciation of vocational/technical education.  When students enter high school, they can choose to take some of their coursework/program at Region Ten. This 8th grade visitation program is just one part of our ongoing exploration of the many courses and career options available to students as they transition to high school and beyond.

MSAD 75 Bus Routes Forum.  The MSAD 75 Board of Directors Transportation Committee has scheduled a public forum for Tuesday, February 11th at Woodside beginning at 6:30 pm.  The purpose of the forum is both to educate parents and solicit feedback prior to the Transportation Committee making any recommendations to the full Board of Directors regarding some potential changes to the school bus routs. HERE is the report from the Transportation Committee for further information.

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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