Sunday, October 28, 2018

K-5 Configuration Update and More

Before I jump into an update for parents on some recent decisions made by the school committee regarding K-5 Configurations and discussions regarding the length of the school day - I did want to congratulate ALL of our Fall Athletes for their incredible seasons - a few of which are still going on! 

The way all of our students in all of our programs represent the community of Gorham is to be commended!  Whenever I am "out and about" across the state, people always come up to me and talk about how polite our students are, how hard they compete, what great sportsmanship they demonstrate and how much passion our students have for whatever it is they are undertaking to do.

As we think about the recent tragic events in Pittsburgh, it is important to reflect on the way each of us holds ourselves in relationship to our fellow man.  We are truly blessed by the positive attitude of our incredible students towards one another and others and I know this doesn't happen by accident!  It takes all of us modeling this behavior in all that we do to maintain the strong positive environments we have.  Let's keep those positive attitudes going - not only for our students - but for ourselves and our fellow man!



Update on Recent School Committee Decision Regarding K-5 Configurations

The Gorham School Committee has been having some pretty in-depth conversations over the past two years or more regarding how best to address our increasing student enrollments here in Gorham.  Two years ago, the School Committee established a K-5 configuration study committee.  This committee undertook to study the best ways to address the problems associated with increasing enrollments and the decreasing capacity in our buildings.  This study committee presented its findings to the School Committee last spring.  At that time, the School Committee decided that the best way to move forward would be to develop a long-term K-5 facilities plan first and then use this vision to plan backward for shorter-term action steps.  The School Committee worked with an organization called NESDEC to conduct a long-term facilities study.  This study was conducted over the course of last spring and summer.  A report was developed and shared with the School Committee in late September and just last week the School Committee used that information along with other information collected over time to make at least one small determination as part of the larger work.  The determination that was reached by the School Committee is that our current K-5 community school structure is an important core component of our long-term facilities vision.

At last week's school committee workshop meeting, the school committee agreed that maintaining our K-5 community school structures was a paramount component to the development of our long-term K-8 facilities vision.  They are still working on the details of this long-term vision, but the decision to maintain our K-5 schools as part of that vision was a big step and one that is important to share with parents for sure.  Community members who are interested in viewing the results of the K-5 study committee and the NESDEC facilities study may click below to learn more. 

NESDEC Demographic Study Report
*  K-5 Configuration Study Committee Report
NESDEC Facilities study report

Update on Recent School Committee Discussions Regarding Length of School Day K-12

At the same time that the K-5 Reconfiguration study group was studying the best options for our existing configurations, another study group was created by the School Committee with two goals.  The School Day Committee was tasked with studying two things 1)  The viability of moving start times to later for our middle and high school students and 2) the viability of lengthening our school day across K-12 to address the fact that we currently have one of the shortest instructional days in all of Cumberland County.

The School Committee has decided to discuss these two items separately and to begin their deliberations first on the topic of the length of our current instructional day across grades K-12.  At our last workshop meeting, the School Committee was presented with updated information regarding current K-12 schedules that compared our instructional time with other area school systems.  You can view a summary of that data by CLICKING HERE.  What has become clear is that we are somewhere between 15-20 minutes shorter in our instructional day than other neighboring schools across grades K-12.

Because of this information, and the feedback from staff that annually states they feel as though there simply isn't enough time in the school day to instruct students in the things that matter most, the School Committee will be strongly considering the possibility of adding between 15-20  minutes onto the instructional day across all schools.  The School Committee has sought feedback from staff at this time but has not had an opportunity to gather feedback regarding this topic from parents.  As a means to this end, the School Committee will be using their annual visits to each school's PIE group to gather feedback on this important conversation before making any decisions.  I am currently working with all schools to set up these meetings between School Committee members and parents and will post them broadly once dates and times are finalized.  In the meantime, if you would like to share your thoughts on this topic with the School Committee please feel free to email either me ( or the chair of the School Committee, Darryl Wright (

Again, as mentioned above, the discussion regarding possible later start times has been set aside for the time being as the School Committee works through other priority items such as the creation of a long-term K-8 facilities vision and plan and the decision as to whether or not it would be in our student's best interest to extend our instructional day.  I will endeavor to do my best to keep parents informed as to how you can best participate in these conversations as we move along in the decision-making process.

Thank you!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

October Update With a Focus on Bullying Prevention

Hard to believe we have already gone through more than a month of school in the 2018-19 school year!  I wanted to take a moment and share just a few of the images I have collected from this past month showing what great learning is occurring in our buildings - and outside of them for that matter!



We have such incredible staff and students, which I hope is clear when you view these images.  Our students learn in the classrooms, but they also learn on our playgrounds, our cafeterias, and out in the community! 

One of the things that make our schools great is our focus on our Code of Conduct.  Our Code of Conduct is a set of values and beliefs that staff models for students and that is used as the foundation for all our school culture/climate work across all our schools and classrooms K-12.  The Code of Conduct consists of five key areas:  Respect, Honesty, Courage, Compassion, and Responsibility.  We talk with students about what each one of these traits looks like when they are being done well, and sometimes not so well:

As you may or may not know, October is Bullying Prevention Month across our great nation.  This is a time when communities across the country work together to inspire everyone to unite for kindness, acceptance, and inclusion.  The Gorham Schools has participated in this initiative for several years now during the month of October and this year is no different.  All of our schools have been sponsoring various activities and other learning opportunities focused on Kindness.  I could share lots of stories to provide an example around this, but the one I'd like to share is one that came from our very own students at GHS.  Our football team came up with an idea of their very own, without prompting by teachers or any other adults to honor the kindness of their teachers over the years.  Each member of the football team selected a teacher at GHS to honor by giving them their own (clean) football Jersey for a day.  Each student had to go to a teacher who they thought inspired them to be a great student.  They had to ask the teacher if they would wear the jersey on game day and they had to invite the teacher to come to the game and cheer them on.  I heard stories of football players talking about which teachers they wanted to invite, practicing what they would say with one another, and then drawing the courage to go up to the teacher to ask.  It was a huge success and shows just how much our students care about their school, their teachers, and each other as a team.  The teachers, as you might image were thrilled...and rightly so.  Below is a picture that was taken after the game showing the football players and their teachers together.

What a great night, and a great example of the incredible students, staff, and community we have here in Gorham. 

Are our schools without bullying?  No.  No school, no community, is without bullying...but we work hard to instill within our students a sense of community, a sense of what it means to put our five characters of Respect, Honesty, Courage, Compassion, and Responsibility together and to act on those understandings in the best interest of ourselves and of others we interact with.  We work with young children who are still learning what it means to be any of these five things...and sometimes there are times when we need to reinforce those values...but ultimately, through our system, I am very proud of the students we graduate from Gorham High School.  I am proud of their sense of community.  Their sense of themselves and the types of people they want to be, and their understanding of our Code of Conduct and how exhibiting those character traits will help them after their time here with us.  I am so very proud to be a Gorham Ram!

Here are some additional resources for parents who wish to talk with their children about bullying prevention and the importance of being kind to one another:

National Bullying Prevention Center
Not In Our Town - Building Inclusive Communities for All
US Department of Education Site:  Stop
Stomp Out Bullying - Parent Page

I do have a couple of small items that I wanted to communicate to parents in addition to our focus on Bullying Prevention month.  I know it is hard to believe but it is getting closer and closer to having that white stuff we all love begin falling from the sky.  Because of this, I wanted to remind parents about how we communicate school cancellations, early dismissals, or late starts.  Communication regarding snow cancellations is always sent via our school messenger system.  We typically send an automated phone call, email, and text to parents on these days.  My typical routine is to make the call in the mornings by a little after 5:00 a.m.  I usually will send the automated message out by approximately 5:30 a.m. as to whether the school is canceled, or if we are going to have a 1 hour or 2-hour delay.  I sometimes run a little later than this on particularly difficult to judge days...but that is the usual routine.  If we are considering an early dismissal of students, we usually will make that call by 10:00 a.m.  In addition to the automated message, we post this information on our district Facebook page, twitter, and on our web page.  Finally, we also will make announcements over the local tv news and radio stations.  I will send a letter home to parents within the next few weeks to reiterate these points.

The final thing I wanted to mention in this blog is just a reminder to all parents regarding the importance of stopping for buses with their red lights flashing.  I am sharing this with all of you in hopes you might also share with other community members to help remind everyone of the importance of stopping for school buses who have their red lights flashing.  I was at the transportation garage the other day with all bus drivers and I asked them a question thinking I'd have just a few respond.  My question was this:  Since the beginning of school, how many of you have had cars pass you while you had your red lights flashing?  Every single one of the bus drivers in the room (which was all but a couple) raised their hands, shaking their heads as they did so.  We live in a busy world, where everyone is under a lot of pressure to get to where they need to be and to do about 10 things while they are getting there, but it is important to step back...plan that extra 5-10 minutes in the morning for those buses and make sure that we stop for school buses.  I have also shared this information with our local PD who will be making a special effort in communicating the importance of stopping for school buses as well over the next several weeks.  Whatever any of you can do to help in spreading this message - that would also be greatly appreciated.

Well, that's it for this month!  Next month I'll be sharing information on our GHS building project work among other topics!  As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out!  my email is