Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Wednesday April 15 Update

I hope you are all "hanging in there"...just a few more days before we all get a little break and at least a slight "taste of normal"with our regularly scheduled April vacation.  With any luck, mother nature will cooperate and weather will allow us all to UNPLUG for a bit...and enjoy the natural beauty of the great state we live in!  Here is some updated information!

Operation Feed Gorham Reminder

Just a quick reminder that Operation Feed Gorham will be operational during the break, however the distribution days will change due to the holiday and other needs.  All four sites will remain operational and home deliveries will occur - but they will occur on Tuesday and Thursday next week rather than our usual MWF. 

Once we return from the break (April 17)...we will go back to our Monday, Wednesday, Friday distribution days.

Just so you are aware we are now up to 360 meals per day in distribution through Operation Feed Gorham, PLUS another 80-100 "backpacks" distributed to families each week through our Backpack program!  Those that are working in this program are providing such an essential service to our children and to our community.  THANK YOU for all that you are doing!  Keep up the awesome  work!

If you have questions please reach out to

Gorham Business Exchange Launches #GorhamStrong Website 

Our local small businesses have for years carried the community of Gorham through so many difficult times and they have been there with us to help us celebrate the awesomeness that is our community!  Now they need us to return the favor...if you are interested in supporting our small businesses here in Gorham, check out the link below to learn more about HOW YOU CAN!


Revised Learning Guidelines and Expectations Documents

As a result of our announcement last week that our distance learning programs will be extended through to the end of the school year, we have made some important revisions to some of our guidelines and expectations documents that I thought you should all be aware of.

First, we will be strengthening the message for all teachers in grades K-12 that work should be "sent out" to students/families on one day that includes a week's worth of work.  The intent here is to allow students/families to be able to see the whole week's worth of requirements in order to help them plan and map out their week on what may be very different learning schedules.

Then, in conjuction with that adjustment, we are creating a flexible learning day each week.  Now, this may look slightly different and be on a different day of the week for various schools.  Here's the purpose:

Purpose: In order to lessen the burden on students and families, one day per week across all grade levels will
be used as a flexible learning day. No new learning or expectations will be presented as students
are given the opportunity to catch up on work and engage in other optional offerings.
*All support services will continue their small group/individual “Zoom” sessions as needed.

This learning day will allow for the following:

  • Time to Catch-Up on Work 
  • A Social Emotional Connection through a “Zoom” or “Google Meet” Classroom Meeting
  • Participation in a Class Read Aloud
  • Participation in Creative Arts Offerings (k-5)
  • Engagement in Optional Enrichment or Class Challenges
  • Opportunities to Receive Small Group/Individual Interventions

Here are the updated distance learning guidelines and expectations showing these shifts.

K-5 Distance Learning Guidelines and Expectations

GMS Distance Learning Guidelines and Expectations

GHS Distance Learning Guidelines and Expectations

All of this is to make sure we are continuing our focus on providing Social  and Emotional Learning support for our students as a first priority and then providing opportunities to grow academically after these SEL needs are addressed.

I came across this visual used by Gorham High School Principal Brian Jandreau that I believe helps explain why this focus is so important and why we will strive to maintain this focus here in Gorham:

And as if this focus on Maslow's Hierarchy of needs were not enough to make it clear that we are focusing on the right things here in Gorham as we continue our distance learning journey together...a poem written by one of our very own elementary students cemented it for me earlier today when I read it.  I have removed the student's name from the poem and replaced it with their initials...please read and know that this student is incredibly resilient and is being provided all the appropriate supports needed and they are just fine ...they are also clearly a budding poet for having so clearly expressed in words what many of our students are feeling.

Again, reading this poem certainly helps me to clarify priorities in our distance learning work with students.  As educators, our role right now is to provide support, structure, and a helping hand to families as needed.  It is to differentiate the needs of our students and families and to ensure that each student feels connected to our school and our community and most definitely to ensure that we all realize we are NOT ALONE.

FY 21 Budget  Approval Process Update

The Gorham School Committee has been able  to meet to work on the FY 21 budget development process and are now set to meet later tonight to vote on the proposed FY 21 budget.  As of right now, the proposed budget shows an overall increase of 5.10% in expenditures.  "Big" cost drivers for this increase include a 5.5% increase in health insurance premiums, contractually driven increases in salaries and an increase in the Capital Improvement Budget of a little over $250,000.00 to address continuing facilities needs across the district.  The proposed budget would reflect an increase of .45 cents on the mil, the lowest projected mil increase in the past five years for a school budget that continues to try and meet the demands of an increasing student population.  This proposed budget also allows our budgetary fund balance from FY 20 to grow so that it can be used to help address some of the "unknowns" that we anticipate for the coming years due to COVID-19.

The School Committee meeting is tonight at 7:00 p.m.  You can CLICK HERE for the agenda and the link for the zoom meeting is at the top.

Once the School Committee approves of a budget tonight, we will work to get the complete budget booklet to the Town Council by Wednesday, April 22 to meet the requirements of the Town Charter.  This will also be posted online and shared broadly with the public.  Once this is done, a  budget workshop meeting  is set up for May 12th at 6:30 p.m. via zoom. and then a planned vote by the Town Council on the School budget is scheduled for June 2nd at 6:30 p.m. also via zoom.  This last vote MAY have to be adjusted due to the fact  that the state's referendum has been moved to July rather than June so we may have to adjust timelines accordingly.

Also once the budget is approved tonight by the Gorham School Committee, I will send out a complete summary of the changes found within the budget in Friday's blog post update.

I wanted to commend the work of the Gorham School Committee and the District Leadership Team in being able to continue working on this important process even in the face of such uncertainty with COVID-19.  I am pleased with the results of the budget process thus far and have full faith that whatever the final FY 21 budget turns out to be, it will be the right one for Gorham.  Please stay tuned!

Gorham  Middle School 3D Printing Ninjas Update

Our integrationist, Terri Dawson came into school the other day to find 200 "ear protectors"  printed and waiting to be delivered to folks in need!  Fifty were delivered to Maine Medical Center and another 150 were delivered to a local nurse who is headed to New York to help folks there.  Its great to see our 3D printing Ninjas from GMS hard at work supporting our front line medical workers not just here in Maine but in New York as well!  AWESOME!  Here is what they look like when they are printed and in use.

Keep up the great work GMS Ninjas!

More Examples of Distance Learning In Action

Just wanted to share a few "action" photos of our students continuing their distance learning.  One picture below features students from Great Falls Elementary School's Civil Rights team sending some positive messages of hope to their peers.  The second picture shows one of our elementary students wearing her awesome Gorham "swag" reading a book that she will later have to do some reporting on.  Sure does look like a great book!

Update on End of Year Planning Work

Just wanted to make sure you were all aware that our teachers and district leadership team are continuing to work hard to map out how it is we will orchestrate a positive year end given the need to maintain social distancing.  Here are some of the big topics we are wrestling with and should be ready to start sharing information on after the April break:

*  How we will work to allow teachers to celebrate the ending of the year with their current class?
*  How we will work to conduct classroom placement processes via distance and communicate the results effectively to students and families?
*  How we will work to provide specific transition activities for students and families who are moving from one school to another to include incoming K students, students moving from Great Falls/Village Elem. to Narragansett Elem. as a result of attendance zone shifts, students moving from 5th grade to 6th grade, and students moving from 8th grade to 9th grade?
*  How we will work to provide necessary time to wrap up the school year for our GHS seniors and  find a meaningful way to celebrate them and  their families for 13 incredible years of work?
*  How will we collect data that allows us to  understand what skills students have been able to demonstrate via distance learning and what skills students may not have met so we can clearly identify  academic needs of students and put processes in place to ensure students are able to get "caught up" before the end of next  school year?

Just a few small questions to answer right?  No worries...we got this and will begin to communicate some of these answers to families as we come back from the break and move into the last portion of our school year.

Keep those Lines of Communication Open

I just want to take a moment to encourage parents of students  of all ages to please keep those lines of communication  open with your  child's classroom teachers.  As we continue to move through our distance learning  programming, some things  will continue to work and continue  to work  well, while other things may need to change to meet your family's needs.  I have heard from some parents who feel as though their children need more work, while I've also heard from some parents that there is still  too much.  As  you might imagine, that balance point is different for each family and the only way we can continue to strive to find that balance is through communication between  parents/students and teachers.

As you can see from the opening section above, our focus remains on the social emotional needs of our students and families first.  We are not attempting to try and do the "same work" as we would have been doing in "regular school" - we simply can't.  Our teachers are working day and  night to basically re-create lessons in smaller chunks or in different ways that allow students to access their learning via distance, but there is no question that it is not the same as "regular school".  We are also  trying to be mindful of what the "experts" are saying about what our distance learning instruction should look and feel like.  I found this great summary chart the other day that I think sums up what we are trying to do in our  new distance learning lesson planning.  Check it out:

The bottom line in all of this though is that in order for this programming to continue to be successful WE NEED YOU to keep communicating what is working and what isn't and why so that we can continue to differentiate our work to best meet the needs of our students and families.  So please, don't be bashful...reach out to your teachers...they need feedback too! ☺

Some Helpful Resources

Here are a few articles I thought folks might find helpful to review...

In this article, K-12 students are asked the question what's it like to learn from home...and they answered!

On this page, find resources from parents FOR parents to help augment your child's distance learning if that is something you are interested in doing:

Well that is it for today!  I'll send one more blog post out on Friday before the break!  In the meantime - stay well!

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