Sunday, August 23, 2015

2015-16 Opening of Schools Letter

August 24, 2015

Dear Parents/Guardians,

It is with great anticipation and excitement that I welcome you back for another great school year here within the Gorham Schools!  The first day of school for students in grades K, 6, and 9 will be Monday, August 31, 2015.  The first day of school for all other students will be on Tuesday, September 1, 2015.  Bus routes have been published in the Gorham Times.  If for some reason you missed that posting, you can find it by going to this link: and then just scroll down to page 8.  I would like to request patience and understanding for the first few weeks of school as we iron out the details of our routes for another new year.  If you have any questions regarding routes, please contact Judy at the Transportation Office (893-2547).

All of our schools are excited to welcome you and your children to another great year.  As always, there are lots of wonderful things happening at our schools!  I would encourage you to check out each school’s website to look for information regarding upcoming events in each school.  You can find each school’s website by going to and then clicking on the appropriate school’s tab. Speaking of our website reminds me to share with you some exciting news!  The Gorham Schools will be working to overhaul our website to make it more user-friendly and more easily kept up-to-date by our individual schools so that parents are able to access more timely information more easily.  Of course, this work has just begun and will take some time, so once again, I ask your patience as we work to make a new and upgraded website a reality over the coming year.

Once again, all of our schools have been busy planning some initiatives that we hope will enhance your child’s educational experiences within our schools.  There are a lot of exciting things going on, none more important than our continued work on creating a Proficiency-Based Learning (PBL) System.  Our focus for this year’s PBL work at each grade level will be:

  • K-5 will be piloting with our teachers the tracking of student progress in ELA and Math performance indicators using a new standards-based reporting software system called JumpRope.  Final student grades will still be reported to parent/guardians using the traditional reporting systems, but how teachers arrive at those final reported grades will be tracked differently in ELA and Math.  Be sure to ask your child’s teacher about this as we move through the school year if you have questions!
  • K-5 will also be working on writing performance indicators aligned to our K-12 Graduation Standards for the content areas of Science and Social Studies.  Additionally, teachers of PE, Art, and Music will revise assessments as necessary to align to their already drafted performance indicators.
  • Work at the middle school will focus on finalizing performance indicators in all content areas and developing scoring criteria for each.  Additionally, we will be asking a very small group of teachers and parents to pilot the use of JumpRope during the second semester.  The specific team and content areas are yet to be determined, but once they are we will be working closely with parents to make sure those involved in the pilot know what it is all about.
  • At GMS and GHS, work will be conducted to review our systems of interventions and propose adjustments and possible expansions of programs that might be necessary to support students that are not demonstrating proficiency.
  • Additionally, our middle and high school staff will begin work to figure out how to emphasize the importance of “skills for life” and to separate these skills from academic proficiency in our reporting processes while still maintaining that level of importance in our work.
  • The high school will be focused on improving assessment literacy among teachers and working together to create summative assessments and rubrics aligned to performance indicators for all core courses offered at GHS in all content areas.

Additionally, a major focus area for the coming year will be to work on community engagement with our PBL work to improve both an awareness of what the work entails and why it is so important for our children, and promote continued support for the work at all levels.  Increased communication with parents will be the focus, so please look for information in newsletters, discussions during parent meetings, and opportunities to participate in committee work or public forums, all aimed at bringing our critical partners – our parents – into the conversation about PBL, especially what it will look like and mean for our students both in the short term and in the long term.

Also on the theme of community engagement, I wanted to remind all parents/guardians of our excellent volunteer program here in the Gorham School System.  The Gorham Schools are well known for our robust volunteer programs where parents and community members are encouraged to actively participate in the educational processes of our schools in various ways.  Each year we welcome new volunteers into our classrooms and work to align the specific skills of our volunteers with the needs of our students.  In order to continue to keep this program vibrant and strong, WE NEED YOU!  In order to make sure our students are safe, and that we are working to help meet the needs of all children through our volunteer programs, we need you to register.  This registration process is required for both short and longer-term commitments. All of our forms can be found on the district website (  When parents/community members click on the link it will take you to the Gorham Schools Volunteer Program website where the process is outlined and the individual forms can be accessed. You may also inquire at your school’s Principals’ office for more information.

In closing, I wanted to take a moment to inform you of an upcoming referendum question that you will be seeing in November regarding our schools seeking to bond with the town for an approximate $1.2 million capital renovations request that would help to fund the following critical needs within the Gorham Schools:

  • GHS partial roof replacement and restoration;
  • Village School partial roof replacement and restoration;
  • Assorted mechanical system equipment replacement; and
  • Interior locks and access control work at GHS and GMS to improve safety and security.

As the November referendum draws closer, more detailed information will be going out to the public to help inform you of the specific reasons this request.

In closing, I would just like to say how excited I am to be starting off my first school year here in Gorham as your Superintendent of Schools.  The focus of my first several months will be on listening and learning about the Gorham Community and its great school system, including its relative strengths and needs, and then using that information to help inform my leadership goals for the coming year and beyond.  My goal is to conduct at least 120 personal interviews with the various school administrators and staff, parents, community members, and students by the end of September.  So far, I have conducted 101 different interviews and have met so many caring, compassionate, energetic, and enthusiastic people that it is clear to me why the community of Gorham has the positive reputation across this state that it does!  I am already beaming with pride at being a Gorham Ram and am ready to roll up my sleeves to continue the great work!  

Thank you,

Heather J. Perry,
Superintendent of Schools