Monday, January 21, 2019

January Update

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I have been thinking a great deal about our country's past, the Civil Rights movement, our country's present political climate, and our country's future.  The more and more I think about that future, the more and more I think about the importance of public education and its role in helping to instill basic civic values and responsibility within all our students.  This makes me think of the strength of our Student Code of Conduct.

Our Student Code of Conduct is alive and well across all of our schools in grades K-12.  Regardless of what school your child attends, our Code is always present.  It consists of five core components that I bet most any student (or staff for that matter) can recite if asked.  These are:

*  Respect
*  Honesty
*  Courage
*  Compassion
*  Responsibility

When community members enter our schools, I constantly get feedback that our students are some of the most respectful and responsible students around.  They know what these words mean and they know that it is their responsibility to help us all uphold these words in all that we do.

I mention this code because I am always impressed this time of year just how involved our students are within the community.  For example, recently 40 of our high school students volunteered to participate in our "Adopt A Classroom" program with Great Falls Elementary School students (Village and Narragansett will also have this program implemented later this spring).  This project matches up GHS student with Elementary classrooms within Gorham and asks HS students to share their "Future Stories" (aspirations) with their classrooms in an effort to get our younger student thinking about their own "Future Stories" earlier.  This program is an incredibly powerful program that we will also be spreading to our other two elementary schools later this spring.  Check out this incredible video to see more!

GHS Adopt A Classroom Video

I also personally witnessed GHS students raise $500.00 for their giving tree project to help families in need over the holidays.  GMS students raised another $500.00 for their giving tree project as well.  GHS chorus students went to the Gorham House before the holidays to share their beautiful music, and our students and staff continue to volunteer time to support the Gorham Food Pantry and our very own Gorham Schools Backpack program to help families who may be experiencing food insecurity during this difficult time of the year.  We have the Key Club, Interact Club and National Honors Society as community-oriented clubs at GHS with hundreds of students participating.  Our elementary students help our community by raising funds for the Gorham Food Pantry, American Heart and Lung Association and much more.

Our Code of Conduct is absolutely alive in our schools!  If you want to learn more about our student code of conduct, CLICK HERE!

As we get further and further into another Maine winter, I know that I personally begin to dream of warmer weather!  I wanted to take a moment to bring up another important topic for families this time of year - Attendance.

Are you too thinking about warmer weather and planning a family trip to put your feet in the sand?  As you think about your arrangements, the Gorham School would like to stress the importance of sending your child to school every day possible.  Every year, absences spike over the winter months as families look to plan vacations in warmer weather.  We know that just a few missed days here and there, even if they are excused absences, can add up to too much lost learning time and put your child behind in school.  This is as true in kindergarten as it is in high school.  Put simply, too many absences at any age can affect a student's chances for academic success.

We recognize that vacations are an important time for reconnecting with families.  The costs of plane tickets often influence when you want to travel.  But keep in mind the costs to your children's education if they miss too much school - and the message you will be sending about the importance of attendance.  Even if you've got a homework packet from the teacher, it doesn't make up for the interaction and learning that happens in the classroom.  Our teachers will be teaching, and our students will be learning every day.

So what is a busy family to do?  Please know we are NOT suggesting that you and your family not take important vacation time together.  This time is important!  What we are encouraging families to do, however, is to try and be mindful when planning these vacations to reduce the number of days that your child may be missing school.  Our preference is always that if you can schedule your vacation during already scheduled school vacation time, this is optimal.  If you are able to do this, then you and your family can take several days to travel without the worry of your child missing school.  However, we realize this is not always possible.  When it is not possible, we would then ask you to do whatever you can to minimize the number of days your child is out of school.  Maybe strategically use weekends or Monday holidays to minimize absences.  If this isn't possible, we would ask parents to consider taking two additional steps.  First, please complete the attendance waiver form that is required for families who know they will be taking students out of school for any planned purpose.  The purpose of this form is to ensure that communication takes place between families and school during times when children will be absent for a planned reason.  It gives the school an opportunity to provide homework or other meaningful learning that can help to mitigate lost instructional time for students (although once again, these kinds of homework packets can never replace missed classroom instruction time).  Please know that teachers are not always able to send home packets for children in these cases.  It all depends on timing and what the teacher is working on with students at the time of the requested absences.  If teachers can provide work, they will...just know they may not always be able to do so.  Second, upon return from the vacation, please do whatever you can as a family to discourage any other missed time from school.  Every day is an important learning day in our schools, so if a child must miss these days...let's be sure we work together to minimize additional days out.  If your child is not wanting to go to school for any reason, please reach out and let his/her teachers know.  We will always work with families to do whatever we can to assist in ensuring children are in school.  It is just that important.

If you'd like to learn more about the importance of school attendance, please click on the link below.  The link will take you to national research on the topic.  Check it out!

*  Attendance Research 

Finally, I wanted to remind parents about a few upcoming events that you may want on your calendars!

First, Nationally renowned speaker Peg Dawson will be in Gorham on Wednesday, Jan. 23 to share research and best practice approaches on the topic of executive functioning with parents.  This presentation is for any parent grades K-12.  Click on the link below to learn more!

*  Peg Dawson Flyer

Second, I will be starting my "Dunk and Discuss" series at Aroma Joe's on Wednesday, January 30th at 7:00 a.m. for any parent interested in stopping by to chat about important topics on their mind.  Topics may include:  Gorham's Learning Systems, GHS building project, Budget, School Safety, and much more!  If you can't make the 30th - I've got a few more dates coming up...check them out and hope to see you there!

*  Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 7:00 a.m. at Aroma Joe's
*  Tuesday, Feb. 26 at 7:00 a.m. at Aroma Joe's
*  Monday, March 11 at 7:00 a.m. at Aroma Joe's

Third, I wanted to make sure parents were aware of the upcoming Public Forum on the GHS Building Project.  The purpose of this forum is to share with the public what we have for design plans thus far and to gather feedback from the public.  All ideas and thoughts are GOOD ideas and thoughts!  We need to balance the educational needs of our children with the community's needs...which means we need EVERYONE to be involved in this conversation in order to insure the best possible outcome for our incredible community!  Please plan on attending...Monday, February 4 at 6:00 p.m. at GHS.  Check out the flyer below for more information.

*  Feb. 4 Public Forum Flyer

That's all I have for this month's update!  Lots will be happening this winter for sure, and at a pretty quick pace!  I encourage you to follow us on our website ( or on our social media accounts on Facebook, or on Twitter to stay up on all the various happenings across the district and in individual schools.  You can access all of these various forums from our district website listed above.

Have a great day!

P.S. - GO PATS on Feb. 3rd!  ☺