Monday, September 30, 2019

What is "Aspire Gorham" and Other "Tidbits" of Timely Information

Hard to believe we are already into the month of October!  The school year is already flying by and I haven't even had a chance to "brag" about our opening yet!😀  As a quick means to that end, I wanted to showcase some pictures from our first few weeks of school just so you can get a sense of what a great start to the school year we have had already!





I could keep on a going...but I think that is enough to help you get a sense of what a great start to the school year we have had!  I have to admit - my favorite picture above is the one from the "Inn at Village Square" where some of our senior Gorham residents (and GHS Alumni mind you) are giving our present day students some advice on how to start the school year off right (above, third row, left side).  Sage advice indeed!  THANK YOU!

With this blog and with future blogs, my goal will be to highlight in depth one key piece of information and to then share a few additional "tidbits" of information briefly afterwards.  I will use "subheadings" to help folks navigate what can be a pretty long post so readers can skip around and read just what is most interesting to them. 

For this month's blog post - I want to highlight an initiative in Gorham that is officially being launched this year.  This initiative was begun last year as a planning year so we have already accomplished so much.  As always though - there is much more work to do!  The initiative is called "Aspire Gorham".  Below is more information on Aspire Gorham and then under that are some additional "tidbits" so please keep reading!  Thanks!

Aspire Gorham - EVERYONE Has a Story. . . What's Yours?

The first question I get when I bring up this initiative is "What is Aspire Gorham"?  That's a pretty darn good question! 

"Aspire Gorham" is a community-wide initiative to encourage and support aspirations across ALL Gorham students aimed at helping them answer the question:  "What kind of life do you want to have?  What is YOUR 'FUTURE STORY'"? 

Aspire Gorham is a grant funded through a multi-year commitment from the MELMAC Education Foundation in partnership with JMG with decisions about priorities, goals, and funding being made by the Gorham Schools.  It is built on a foundation of success of the "Future Story" project that was started by GHS several years ago.  It focuses on creating partnerships between our schools and businesses and other community organizations to ensure that our conversations with the children of Gorham about their aspirations begin very early (even before Kindergarten) and continue on through grades K-12 and beyond (into our their post-secondary experiences). 

This initiative supports our District's Mission/Vision specifically in the areas of ensuring ALL our students have access to "meaningful real-world learning experiences" and that learning is "extended beyond our classrooms and into our community" for ALL our students.  We are using this initiative to tie all of our work together across grades K-12 and beyond, "connecting the dots" for our children and families between what they are learning in our schools and how it will "Prepare and Inspire" ALL our children for their futures!

As you might imagine, this is a pretty BIG initiative that will be spread out over several years.  In order to accomplish the work, we currently have have three major focus points:

1.  Increasing and encouraging career and college aspirations for ALL students.
2.  Deepening and strengthening connections with business and nonprofit communities in Gorham to increase student access to and participation in real-world learning experiences at all grade levels.
3.  Deepening and strengthening connections with the University of Southern Maine.

We have already accomplished a great deal in all three areas, with more to come!  Here are SOME of our accomplishments to date:

-  We have hired a full time "Career and Community Coordinator" position that is housed at GHS, but works across all K-12 and in the greater community.  Her major focus has been to create those connections between our schools, local businesses and nonprofits and our overall community.
-  We have hired a full time project manager who has worked to help us identify specific goals and action steps broken out by school for year 1 and year 2 of our grant.
-  We have created specific community partnerships to support the work through creation of a steering committee, re-focus on our strong business roundtable work, and creating a college connections committee. 
-  We gave collected baseline data for our first planning year of the grant (which was 2018-19).
-  Last year more than 600 students were involved in creating individual career inventories, 45 guest speakers visited our schools to speak about careers, and more than 20 career focused field experiences were conducted with our students.
-  More than 75 GHS students visited all three of our K-5 schools as part of our "Adopt-a-Classroom" project which has GHS students literally "adopting" K-5 classrooms to share their own aspirations and encourages our K-5 students to create and share theirs!
-  Career Exploration Days were held at several schools with more to come this year!
-  Increased offerings of Dual Enrollment and other early college courses by USM at GHS.  Just the beginning of some great work moving forward so stay tuned here!
-  Purchase of "Naviance" full suite of software for utilization by students in grades 8-12.
-  Strengthening of relationships and initial partnerships with Early Child Care community in Gorham.  One example:  New partnership with Baxter Library called "Littlest Learners Program".
-  Began new partnership with Junior Achievement to ensure all students in grades 2 and 7 across the district receive specific instruction in financial literacy on top of what we already offer to our GHS students.

Note: If you want to know more about our "Adopt-a-Classroom" program, CLICK HERE to view a brief video of our second year of the program (Scroll to bottom of page).

We have SOOOOOOO MUCH MORE planned for the coming year in our three areas of focus but the bottom line is order to truly make aspirations a COMMUNITY WIDE conversation - WE NEED YOUR HELP!  That's right - you!  When we use the phrase:  "Everyone has a story - What's Yours?" it is because we know everyone really does have a story and we want you to share it with our children! 

Of course we'll be reaching out for help with specific activities we want to do this coming year - but in reality the best way you can help is to make aspirations a "regular" conversation with our children.  Now, does that mean we want you to constantly be asking children what they want to be when they grow up?  No, not necessarily...more powerful than asking that question is to be willing to simply SHARE YOUR STORY with our children!  Children need to know that not only do their parents work in really cool and fulfilling jobs, but so do their aunts and uncles, and their neighbors, and their coaches, and their church leaders, etc.!  Children need to know that most of us likely started out thinking we were going to do one thing and then wound up doing something else that was equally if not even more rewarding than we had anticipated.  Children need to know that they do not have to know the answer to the question of "what do you want to be when you grow up", just yet...and that in fact, there are a lot of adults out there right now that may be just figuring that out, or re-figuring that out!  Let's take a little of the pressure off our children to know that answer, and instead help them to understand that their aspirations are THEIR STORIES, created one chapter at a time with often unexpected, yet equally rewarding results!

When you walk into our schools you should see either a banner or a flag (or both) that say "Welcome!  Aspire Gorham:  Everybody has a story. . . what is yours?"  When you see that banner, use it as a conversation starter with your children and start sharing our incredible stories so that they have a model for how to build their own and then stay tuned for more incredible work on this topic to come!

As always - if you have any questions about this initiative (or anything else for that matter) feel free to email ( or call me (222-1012) anytime!

Now on to other quick "tidbits" of information!

K-5 Attendance Zone Work:

We are still in the process of drafting out options for new K-5 attendance zone maps that will meet our needs for the next 10+ years here in Gorham.  We are right on track with our intended timeline (at least thus far) with this work.  As a reminder, that timeline for information sharing is as follows:

*  September - October, 2019 - Administration will work to re-draw the lines for our newly proposed attendance zones with the goal of reducing overall enrollments at both Great Falls and Village Elementary School and "pointing" growth towards Narragansett Elem. School.  Once these proposals have been created we will bring them to the Gorham School Committee at their workshop meeting in October for review and approval.  We will then share with K-5 parents by the end of October, 2019.

*  October - December, 2019 - Superintendent Perry will host Forums at each school, visit PIE meetings, and host "Dunk and Discuss" events to give parents who may have questions opportunities to ask and discuss.  Also, during this time Administration will work to identify which staff members would be moving to which locations at each of our K-5 schools so we can identify not only which students and families may be moving, but which staff will be moving and where.  This will allow us to conduct meaningful transition activities over the course of the winter/spring of 2020 for those impacted by these changes.  Staffing decisions will be announced to families by end of December, 2019.

*  January - June, 2020 - Specific transition activities will be hosted by the schools aimed at making sure students and families are familiar with new schools and new staff.  Individual students may not yet be assigned to individual classrooms (which typically does not occur until June's step up day regardless), but families and students will know which schools they will be attending and which teams (grade levels) of teachers they will be working with at each of those schools.  Activities may include (but are not limited to) open houses, informational nights, step up days, game nights, playground tours, family pictures, and more.  The focus will be on building up those new strong relationships so that transitions will be as smooth as possible once they occur.

*  August, 2020 - School will begin.  New placements will be in place and we'll be off to another great school year here in Gorham!

Please know that the Gorham Schools understand that the process of changing attendance zones and possibly having to move children (and their families) from one school to another is no "little" thing.  We spend a lot of time here in Gorham talking about and emphasizing the importance of building strong relationships with our students and their families.  To possibly remove a student (and their family) from a school within which they have likely already fostered strong relationships is not something we do lightly.  The fact of the matter is that this difficult transition must be made so that we can address our growing K-5 populations and keep our overall class sizes at the most optimal learning levels.  

The good news is that all of our K-5 teaching staff are incredibly talented staff who care tremendously about each and every child, and each of our K-5 schools are awesome schools containing unique and engaging learning environments.  Additionally, we are going to take the time necessary to do this work right, with the utmost transparency and with the utmost care - paying special attention to ensuring that these positive relationships are built even in the face of a potential significant change.

Please stay tuned!

Update on Narragansett Modular Expansion Project

So we started with a concept drawing. . .

Then we started digging. . .

And now we are pouring foundations and getting ready for modular buildings!

Pretty cool for sure! 

Bottom line, we are right on schedule as we had hoped to be and things are coming along nicely!  Modulars themselves should be delivered by end of October or early November.  Once delivered, we will place them on foundations and get to work on the connectors and interior work needed to ensure they are fully operational by August, 2020.  We anticipate that this addition will be able to serve our students well for the next 10-15 years!

Update On GHS Building Project

For a copy of the slide presentation given to the Gorham School Committee at their workshop held on Sept. 25, 2019 please CLICK HERE.  Next steps are to go back to the GHS Building Committee to get a specific recommendation from them on which option best meets our needs and to compile a list of capital projects and estimated capital renewal needs for all our K-12 buildings and bring that back to the School Committee for their November, 2019 workshop meeting for further discussion.  At that time, the School Committee will then determine next steps for the project.

Substitutes STILL NEEDED Across All Areas!

Just sharing this flyer from September.  We are especially short on substitutes for our classrooms so if you know of anyone interested, please encourage them to go online (web address is on the flyer or folks can CLICK HERE for the link) and complete an application.  We just recently increased our daily rates and through the FY 21 budget development process will likely be increasing them again for the following school year!

Reminder About How to Know If/When Schools May Close due to Inclement Weather

I know, I know...I shouldn't be thinking these thoughts just yet - but I do remember last year we started earlier than expected here so I wanted to make sure folks were reminded about how to access information about weather-related school closures for the Gorham Schools.  Please CLICK HERE for details and then file it away for hopefully much, much later!😃


As I said earlier, its been a GREAT START to the school year so far in Gorham!  We are so happy to have students back in our schools doing the important work we absolutely LOVE to do!  Of course, a good start isn't all there is to a good school year.  We have much more in store!  In fact, I am aware of not one but TWO very exciting things slated to be announced later in October.  I have to keep them a secret for right now...but I KNOW YOU ARE GOING TO LOVE THEM!  Please stay tuned to our social media to find out more! 


Oh, and remember, each of our school's has their own Facebook Page and/or Twitter account.  Plus some "overachievers" (like GHS) also have instagram!  Just be sure to look for our logo to know its the "official" site for our schools!