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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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March 3, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,


I hope everyone has been enjoying this warm sunny week we are having.  I have a several items for you:

New “MAMS Parent App”!  We are excited to announce the creation of a mobile app available to you that will give you quick access to helpful school tools and sites, MAMS Daily News, a Faculty & Staff Directory, and school calendars via your smartphone.  All the important info will be right at your fingertips. Simply go to HERE to view the app online and add it to your device.  If you need instructions on how to add the app to your device, go HERE

Changes to Grading and Reporting Next Year.  On January 9, 2020, M.S.A.D. No. 75 School Board meeting school administration proposed the following changes, which were accepted by the Board:

  • K-8th grades will no longer use Empower as a reporting software and will instead use Infinite Campus K-12
  • Eliminate 1-4 grading scale for academics; replace with a letter grade scale 
  • Quarterly Report cards will be organized by course, each with one letter grade. 
  • A high school-style gradebook that interfaces in the Infinite Campus Program, including a Parent and Student Online Portal and smartphone app. 
  • Clear and simple one-page report card with averaged academic grade and work habits, averaged into one Quarterly G.P.A.
  • Continue to use 1-4 scale for Work Habits only, just as the high school does
  • Honor roll will be a combination of course work and Habits of Work using G.P.A.

The above-detailed changes will begin in the first quarter of the 2020-2021 school year. We appreciate all the time that was taken to offer and review feedback and are hopeful the above changes will provide a report card that is easily understood by parents/guardians. Once report cards are issued for the 2020-2021 school year, we will continue to gather feedback on our reporting system as we strive for continual improvement in the way we serve students and families. Thank you for your continued support of our schools and students.

Q3 Progress Reports. This afternoon, your child’s Quarter Three Progress Report are now live and up to date on the Empower Parent Portal.  The quickest way to view students’ 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.  

The Maine Education Assessment will occur March 19-20 & 23-24, 2020.  The MEA is the State’s test that measures our students’ achievement in mathematics (grades 3-8), reading, writing, and language, (grades 3-8), and science (grades 5 & 8).  Our goal is for every student to engage in these assessments and put forth their best effort. While it is true that State and Federal laws require that we test all students in grades 3-8, for us it means more.   When all students participate, the results of these tests help us to inform our programming for students, reflect on our teaching, and they serve as one of the many ways that we are accountable to our community. Though students take the test on a computer, we will provide allowable support - in multiple formats based on our students’ needs - during testing.  If you would like to see sample questions, visit HERE.  During this time your child’s normal schedule will be modified in order to accomplish the testing.  We have arranged the testing to maximize student readiness by distributing the sessions and including motor breaks.  If a student is absent during testing, make-ups will be scheduled to allow for all students to complete the tests. We have posted some frequently asked questions HERE. We will make the results of your child’s testing from this as soon as they become  available to us (in the past this has been six months or more after the test). We are proud of our students for participating in this challenging assessment and we thank you for your support.  If you have other questions or concerns about your child’s testing experience, we ask that you contact me before testing.  This will help to ensure that we are all prepared to make the testing days as successful as possible for your child.    

School-Parent Outreach Programs.  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 of 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
  • The Role Anxiety with Adolescents: 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 room 2643

MAMS Celebration Day.  On Friday, February 14, 2020, Mt. Ararat Middle School teachers surprised students with the school's first ever Celebration Day. Planning for this special event began back in August during a retreat with the school's Behavior PLC, a voluntary group of teachers focused on the latest research in adolescent behavior, student relationships and school climate. This group wanted to plan a school-wide event to recognize students' hard work and academic achievement, and also to celebrate the relationships that make Mt. Ararat Middle School such a special place.

The day began with an all-school assembly, which featured a performance by the house band, After Math, the recognition of student accomplishments and participation in various clubs and activities, and an epic faculty Lip Sync Battle (see above). After the eighth grade team was crowned champion, students were dismissed to their first of two activity sessions, ranging from Japanese Calligraphy to Cake Decorating to Escape Room to Dog Agility. The cafeteria hosted a special lunch featuring a build your own pasta bar with "celebrity" district office staff servers. A second activity session ran in the afternoon. Throughout the day, students were randomly called to the office for gift certificates and prizes donated by local businesses.

Special thanks to the following businesses for their support: Dunkin' Donuts, Domino's, Starbucks, Gelato Fiasco, GameStop, Target, Maine Street Sweets, Wilbur's of Maine, The Dolphin Restaurant, Big Top Deli, McDonald's, Smitty's Cinema, Michaud's Market, The Mix Art Supplies, and Portland Pie.  

HERE is the news story that the Portland Press Herald/Times Record ran on the event. 

Our Quarter 2 Honor Roll has been published on our website.  Congratulations to all our recognized students!  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 2’s. 

Pennies for Patients.  During the month of January, students at Mt. Ararat Middle School participated in a Pennies for Patients Campaign to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This initiative was created and led by the Mt. Ararat Middle School Student Council. This group of student leaders created weekly competitions and rewards to help encourage and motivate the student body to actively participate in the cause. This effort by these outstanding group of leaders resulted in the student body raising $3,871.50 for the LLS. On January 31, Kathleen Moneghan, a LLS volunteer/representative came to school to visit with the Student Council, where the student council unveiled their grand total in the form of a hand-made giant check to Ms. Moneghan. It was a proud day at Mt. Ararat Middle School recognizing the work and effort of our student leaders and the student body that they avidly represent. 

Anonymous Donation.  This week our school received a $400 monetary donation to our school lunch program.  The anonymous donor provided this “so that no child will ever go hungry.”  While we honor the donors request to remain anonymous, I wanted to recognize this person’s (and our community’s) generous spirit.

Battle of the Books! Learning Commons.  Congrats to MAMS team Readersclaw, the new MSAD75/MSBA Battle of the Books champions! Readersclaw members Lydia Hiltz, Elisabeth Kelly, Mira Patterson, and Ellie Young finished a close second last year. They will be competing next month against regional teams from nearby school districts! Let's hope their winning streak continues!  Congrats also to MAMS BookWormsUnited for coming in second. Several BookWorms were members of last year's winning Bowdoinham team. Finishing a strong third were Bowdoin's Rocking Readers. Despite the snow, BOB took place at MAMS on February 6 with 13 teams from MAMS, Bowdoin Central School, Williams-Cone Elementary School, and Bowdoinham Community School. We had a surprise skype welcome from “Bob” co-author Wendy Mass.

GeoBEE Finalist.  You may remember from my last update that 7th Grader, Brady Yazwinski, from Team Androscoggin, won our school’s GeoBee in January.  This week, Brady has been notified by the National Geographic Society that he is one of the semifinalists eligible to compete in the 2020 National Geographic GeoBee Maine State Competition. The contest will be held later this month.  Congratulations Brady!

Coaches vs. Cancer Basketball Fundraiser.  During our basketball season, our 8th grade Basketball Teams partnered with the local chapter of the American Cancer Society for the “Coaches vs. Cancer” fundraiser.  For over 25 years, the Coaches vs. Cancer program, in collaboration with the National Association of Basketball Coaches, has united coaches and fans nationwide to help the American Cancer Society defeat a common enemy – cancer. With this level of student passion and dedicated support, the impact has been felt in communities nationwide.  Through fundraising and education initiatives, the Coaches vs. Cancer program has supported the American Cancer Society in our efforts to save lives from cancer in the US and worldwide. 

Harlem Globetrotters To Visit Our 6th Grade Tomorrow!  MAMS 6th grade class has been selected to be the site of the annual visit that the Harlem Globetrotters does to one Maine school.  They are doing a tour in March of the state, and they always choose one school to visit. The Globetrotter does a presentation about kindness and compassion, and also includes basketball skills to enhance their message.  One of the reasons our school was selected was because of our Chorus Teacher Renovia Day, as she has helped arrange for our MAMS 8th grade chorus to sing the national anthem at the Harlem Globetrotters game on March 19 at the Cross Insurance Arena in Portland.  This visit will occur tomorrow, March 4.

8th to 9th Grade Transition.  During the spring of the 8th grade year, there are several events scheduled that are designed to help students make a successful transition to the High School as they enter ninth grade.  Our counselors and 8th grade teachers will be supporting students throughout these activities by keeping everyone informed of the dates and answering questions as best we can regarding their futures at the High School.  HERE is a brief description of the transition activities to help prepare our eighth graders for ninth grade.  On Thursday, March 5th or Monday March 16, 6:00 in the High school Commons, Donna Brunette, High School Principal will be hosting the incoming 9th Grade Parent Information Night in the High School Commons.  Parents can attend either night and can attend with or without their 8th grader. Ms. Brunette has emailed this information to 8th grade parents, but I am also including it here.  If you have any questions about high school transition events, please contact Ms. Brunette at, or our counselors.

9th Grade Advanced Courses.  As part of the transition activities above, your child will also learn about opportunities to enroll in advanced/honors course options for 9th graders.  The high school offers advanced/honors courses in Math, Science, and English. To be considered for these courses, the high school relies on 8th grade teacher recommendations.  In addition, the advanced/honor 9th grade Science and English courses require a screening assessment. Your 8th grade child’s ELA and Science Teachers should be communicating directly with parents on these opportunities, but we wanted to include it here as well.  If you have questions, please contact your 8th grade child’s teachers.

Attention 8th Grade Parents:  Opportunities for Advanced Technology-Education.  For the past several years, our school has been building a relationship with Region 10 Technical High School so that our students can have earlier access to their phenomenal vocational-related programming.  This year several of our 8th graders participated in programs such as Welding, Building Trades, Certified Nursing Assistant, and Outdoor Power at Region 10 in lieu of their regular MAMS Exploratory Program.  We will send one more group of 8th graders to attend Region 10 school for several weeks during the month of May. Below is a description of the program. We are now fielding applications for this program. If you would like your 8th grade child to participate in this program, please contact your child’s counselor or homeroom teacher.

  • Vocational Middle School Exploratory Program:  Open to any 8th Grader to apply.  This program would occur at Region 10 Technical High School every afternoon.  This would replace the MAMS Exploratory Program for participating 8th graders.  Region 10 was able to hire a new teacher for this “middle school-only” program. Our students would be joined by other 8th grade students from Brunswick and Freeport and engaged in hands-on learning in all of the Region 10 programs.  Students would need to apply for this program and be in good standing to be considered.  This program would be ideal for students who may see themselves going to Region 10 during high school and this would allow them earlier access.  It is also a good opportunity for students who are interested in a career in medical or engineering fields, as this exploratory experience could provide some foundational learning to build from.  Students would take the bus to/from Region 10 with the high school students every afternoon.

6th Grade Fundraiser Update.  The MAMS Sixth Grade is now using CLYNK to raise funds for sixth grade activities and field trips. How It Works:

  • There are green CLYNK bags with our custom ID tags available to anyone interested in participating in the program.
  • The bags are available in the office and from 6th grade homeroom teachers.
  • Participants simply take the green CLYNK bags home, fill them with their empty bottles and cans and return them to any local Hannaford CLYNK drop location.

CLYNK then processes the returned bags and all funds are placed directly into our account! 

You can find more information about the CLYNK for Schools program here.  Have a change in your account that you want to donate to MAMS 6th grade? Here's a tutorial on how to do just that on our website. It's that easy.

MAMS Teacher Wins New England-Wide Award!  The New England Leauge of Middle Schools (NELMS) will announce at its annual conference on March 8 that Doreen Swanholm, 6-8 Health Teacher at Mt. Ararat Middle School, will be awarded the prestigious “2020 Master in the Middle Award.”  MAMS was sending a team of teachers to the NELMS Conference this year anyway, so we are so excited to be there in person when Doreen receives this deserved recognition.  Congratulations to Doreen!

MAMS Focused--Respectful--Responsible Student of the Week.  Because of the great value we place on focused, respectful, and responsible behavior in our community, we have established a program to recognize our students. Each Friday, teams are asked to submit the name of one student whom they believe most exemplifies the team's definition of focused, respectful, and responsible behavior. 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 this past month’s Students of the Week:

Emma Grabenstein (Kennebec)

Josy Hollenbach (Merrymeeting)

Jacob Minet (Kennebec)

Eliza Przybyl (Magalloway)

Emmett Baier (Magalloway)

Erryl Timblin (Carrabassett)

Decosta Jones (Exploratory)

Tarynn Keleher (Merrymeeting)

Daniel Millson (Exploratory)

Chloe Stearns (Cathance)

Genevieve Leonard (Exploratory)

Morgan Gates (Cathance)

Sammantha Moon (Magalloway)


Nick Doughty (Carrabassett)

Cailey Buckner (Sheepscot)

Kloee Hasselbacher (Sheepscot)

Jordan Cloutier (Exploratory)

Josh Baker (Sebasticook)

Marika Ettinger (Carrabassett)

Colby MacFawn (Magalloway)

Elisabeth Kelly (Androscoggin)

Nathan Minzner (Merrymeeting)

Gavin Armstrong (Sheepscot)

Cheyenne Parks (Feiss)

Chandler Robichaud (Androscoggin)


Math/Science Summer Camp Scholarship Opportunity!  I have an exciting announcement that I wanted to share with parents.  Because our school participated in the annual “Bioscience Day” this year, all our students now become eligible for a scholarship to attend a Summer Camp at the Maine School of Math and Sciences in Limestone.   BioME has decided to once again fund four 1-week-long summer science camps at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics in Limestone, ME. BioME will pay in full for 4 students aged 11-14 to attend the camp, room, board and transportation included. Each camp is valued at $750. The scholarships are only available to students whose schools participated in ME Bioscience Day on Nov 21, 2019. All students in our school are eligible, no matter if they personally participated in the presentations or not. Interested students should apply directly with us to by March 27, 2020. The application form is HERE, it needs to be signed by a parent/legal guardian. Winners will be announced in April.

Staff vs. Student Basketball Game.  On Wednesday, February 12th, we held our annual Staff vs. Student Basketball Game in the gym with the entire 8th grade as spectators in the stands.  While the staff pulled out the win, the real victory was that no one was injured! 

Blood Drive.  6th Grade Health classes will be hosting the MAMS Annual American Red Cross Blood drive on Wednesday, April 1 from 2:30-7 pm in the MAMS Cafeteria.  Learning about the body’s blood systems is one of the 6th Grade Health Learning Goals. One donation can save 3 lives. Power Reds are accepted at this drive if you wish to enhance the positive impact.  Our goal is to collect 100 units of blood. Please help, share this link with family and friends.

Special Olympics Achievement!  Matthew Hogan competed in the 50-meter and 100- meter cross country events during the Special Olympics Winter Games at Sugarloaf USA on January 27th and 28th.  He was awarded a gold medal for completing the 100-meter in the fastest time for his division and a fifth place ribbon for the 50-meter race.  

MAMS Teachers ‘Back in the Day.’  The Sheepscot Team has created a hallway display that everyone should see!  We call in "Back in the day." The display is a collection of MAMS staff 7th grade pictures from when and where they were living, "back in the day."  It's located just down the first floor exploratory hallway - take a left after the office. Next time you're in the building, check it out and see if you can find your child's teachers from, "back in the day."

Snow Day Contingency Plan.  Because of the number of days cancelled due to weather this year, the school district has created a contingency plan HERE to make up some of this time.  This currently puts our last day of school as Friday, June 19th with no changes to staff development days or delayed starts. however that will change if we get subsequent days.  The only change right now is that Friday, March 13 is now a regular, full-day STUDENT DAY.  

2020-2021 School Calendar Released.  Speaking of calendar planning, I wanted to share that the School Board just approved the school calendar for next year HERE.  Please note that for the first time since 2015, the school start date next year is before Labor Day.

Interested in Becoming a School Bus Driver? Maine School Administrative District No. 75 Transportation & Merrymeeting Adult Education are now taking registrations for FREE School Bus Driver Training programs! 

  • Don’t have a Commercial Driver’s License?
  • Not sure where to start to get your School Bus Drivers License?
  • Want to know what driving a School Bus is all about?
  • Want to join other skilled professionals, earn good compensation and benefits?

FREE CLASSES! Wednesdays in February and March- Preparatory classes to get your CDL permit. 6-8 pm, Adult Education Building.  Starting February 26, 2020. Come for one session or all. School Bus Driving is a rewarding career,with great benefits, and competitive pay!  MSAD No. 75 Transportation offers paid training and licensing fees in addition to sign-on bonuses and referral bonuses. For More Information or to sign up online: Merrymeeting Adult Education Class Registration 207-729-7273 Or contact Transportation- 207-729-1608 x 202

What’s Coming Up At Orion Performing Arts Center?  


Mt. Ararat Stage Company Spring Musical

Fri, March 6, and Sat, March 7, at 7:30 pm

Sun., March 8, at 3 pm

Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Jack Feldman, Book by Harvey Fierstein.    Newsies is the rousing tale of Jack Kelly, a charismatic newsboy and leader of a band of teenaged “newsies.” When titans of publishing raise distribution prices at the newsboys’ expense, Jack rallies newsies from across the city to strike against the unfair conditions and fight for what’s right! Based on the 1992 Disney motion picture and inspired by a true story, Newsies is packed with non-stop thrills and a timeless message perfect for the entire family.   Director: Adam Blais. Tickets $15, $12, at or at door.


Mt. Ararat H.S. Winter Sports Awards

Mon., Mar. 9, 6:30 pm

Athletic Director Godo and coaches give out awards for winter sports. 


Mt. Ararat H.S. Senior Capstone Project, by Sadie Cameron

Thurs., Mar. 12, 6:30 pm

Sadie presents an event informing the public about  deaf culture and awareness. There will be tables in the lobby, and a brief presentation in the Orion, in which  Sadie will share her story about life as an individual who is HOH (hard-of-hearing), and explain the importance of American Sign Language.  


Midcoast Symphony Orchestra

    Sun., March 15, 2:30 pm

Two Great 5ths --  Guest Conductor:  Jinwook Park

Program: Schubert: Symphony No. 5; Mahler: Symphony No. 5.  Experience symphonies of great contrast. The briefer, light-hearted Schubert work is a fine pairing with Mahler’s highly dramatic expression.  Tix: $20; Students under 18 free. Available online  or at door. 

(Not affiliated with/endorsed by school or district.)


MSAD #75 Art Awards Reception and Ceremony

Wed, March 18, 5:30 pm    (Snow date: Thurs., Mar.19)

View artwork created by students from the school district, and

attend art awards ceremony at 6 pm.


DownEast Country Dance Festival

Fri & Sat, March 20 & 21 

Downeast Friends of the Folk Arts  presents dancing, workshops, music, song, food...  A favorite of contra-dancers in Maine! More info at (Not affiliated with/endorsed by school or district.)


“Alice in Wonderland”

MAMS Drama Club Play

Fri,  Mar. 27, at 7 pm  and Sat, Mar. 28, at 3pm

Middle school drama program presents a beloved story.  Director: Adam Blais.


All-MSAD#75 District Bands Concert, 5th-12th grades

Tues., March 31, 7 pm

Dawne-Marie Powers, Rachel Williams and Ben Cox conduct  all of our young musicians of the district.

Student At Risk of Self-Harm Outside of School Hours?  If you and/or your child become aware of a student that may be at risk of self-harm outside of school hours, please DO NOT attempt to contact school personnel outside of school hours.  Staff are not working and may not be checking email or voicemail during these times. Therefore, vital safety information could easily be missed and students could be placed at greater risk. Instead, please utilize THIS step by step guide for how a parent could respond to such concern outside of school hours.  This guide is placed prominently on our MAMS webpage, as was created in collaboration with local police, mental health providers, and the local Crisis Response Center.

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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