Friday, November 19, 2021

November 19 Blog Post

Hard to believe that next week is Thanksgiving!  WOW has time flown by this fall!  Of course we all have much to be thankful and grateful for even as we continue navigate this ongoing pandemic.  Much of what I am thankful for can be seen in the pictures below of our students and staff doing what they do best - engaging in meaningful learning within clearly caring and supportive environments.

That's what I'm grateful for...what are you grateful for this week?  HMMMM...

Lots to share let's get to it!


Why do we teach?  Why do we drive buses?  Why do we work in our school cafeterias or in our special education classrooms?  Why do we parent?  Why do we do all the things required to love, nurture, support and engage our children?  Kind of a big question right? 

I'm sure each of us have slightly different versions of the answer, but most responses would likely be something like:  because we LOVE our children and because we want them to grow up to be happy and the best versions of themselves as possible.  

The hard part about this work, either as a parent or as an educator, is that sometimes you don't see the fruits of your labor immediately.  Of course, sometimes you do and that is what sparks us to all keep going.  But more often than not, the impact of our work is cumulative over time and that is sometimes harder to see.  But there is no doubt that you can see it!  You just have to look in the right places.

A great example comes from earlier this month at the Nov. 10 Regular School Committee meeting.  At this meeting, a special presentation was given to the School Committee by our Career Coordinator, Eliza Kenigsberg, two of our incredible GHS students, and one of our awesome community business partners (Doug Carter).  The topic was on our work place learning experiences.  We wanted to hear from our students, how is this program working?  What are they getting out of it?  

WHAT OUR TWO STUDENTS SHARED WAS INCREDIBLE...not just the content, but how they held themselves, their confidence, poise and passion. They were articulate and kind.  They demonstrated the thoughtful, intelligent, and perceptive young adults that they are.  I have seen experienced educators "crumble" at the podium presenting to the School Committee in such a formal setting.  These students didn't blink.  They had something to say that was important and they said it and it was powerful.  They were courageous.

My ultimate point is this...what you see on the video linked below (if you so choose to view it) are two average, normal GHS students showing off the skills that they have built up over time with the incredible support of their families, our schools, and our community.  These two students and this presentation show WHY we all do what we do!  I'd urge you to take a few minutes to listen.

The video is the whole SC meeting so if you want to skip to the "good stuff" to to the 1:06:48 minute mark and then get ready for our students to knock your socks off!  GO RAMS!

Meet Chloe Phee, 2nd grade at Village.  
She and her stuffy are showing off their vaccination sticker 
after having recently been vaccinated at the Village School Clinic.  
Nice work Chloe!

First of all, I want to thank our partners at Maine Health and our incredible school nursing and administrative teams at each of our four schools who recently worked to put on COVID 19 vaccine clinics for our 5-11 year olds.  

Across our four schools we had over 400 students receive their first dose of the vaccine and I am aware of many other families that have chosen to go out and get their children vaccinated through local clinics and Walgreens as well.  I am very hopeful that we will be able to come close to a 70% vaccination rate, which is our local target in order to have the largest impact on the reduction of quarantines for our littles moving forward.

Just to be clear, once students are fully vaccinated (14 days after their second shot), if they become a close contact to a positive case, they would not have to quarantine, but instead monitor for symptoms.  As long as fully vaccinated students remain asymptomatic, they will not need to quarantine.  Definitely a strong reason to consider vaccination as we get closer to the holidays and as we know COVID will continue to be with us for the longer haul.

There are two specific things I wanted to update families on regarding these clinics.  First, I wanted to remind everyone that the 2nd round of clinics will be held in December on the following dates and times:

Second, I wanted to reach out to those families who may have wanted their children to participate in the first round of clinics, but who couldn't due to quarantine restrictions.  We continue to work with Maine Health and are working to provide a pathway to vaccination through our school based clinics.  The likely scenario will be that we would invite those that were unable to get their first shots to get those FIRST shots at the scheduled second series clinics at each school.  Then we would work to schedule a third follow up clinic for families 21 days later for the 2nd shot.  Of course, families that don't want to wait don't have to.  You can reach out to Walgreens or to your PCP to find other local clinics that may better meet your schedules.  But if for some reason that doesn't work,  I wanted folks to know that we will also work with each family to make sure we provide a way to "catch up" if that is what parents wish to do.  If you are in this situation and are thinking about your options, I would strongly encourage you to reach out to your school's nurse to discuss so that we can better understand the numbers that we may be looking at.

I wanted to close this section by just sharing how AMAZING our students were during these clinics.  I made sure to pop in on each one and see how students were doing and once again - just like the above piece - it really shows WHY we do what we do!  Students were a little nervous, but as students got their shots and saw others being nervous they reached out to encourage each other and to say things like, "don't worry it doesn't hurt" or "I just got mine and it didn't hurt!" or "You got can do it!".  All unsolicited by adults.  Our students truly care for one another and model our code of conduct - and that too - does NOT happen by accident.  Once again GO RAMS!


Right now, we are concentrating on making sure our vaccine clinics are well planned and smoothly operated.  After that task is done, we will turn our full attention to rolling out our new BinexNOW testing abilities at each school.  This will likely occur in mid December.

As has been stated previously, once this is rolled out to families, we will be able to conduct rapid antigen testing for students that become symptomatic while at school.  We will be sending out blanket permission slips to families to provide permission for testing up front and then if/when we administer a test we would follow up with families via phone to make sure families remain informed.

The purpose of moving in this direction is primarily to assist our school nurses and others in more quickly identifying possible close contacts to positive cases in our schools.  To be clear, we are not and do not encourage families whose children may be symptomatic to send them to school so that they can be tested.  This testing program is only intended for those students that develop symptoms while at school.  All the same rules will apply as apply now regarding completing your child's health screener each morning and being sure NOT to send students experiencing 1 common symptom or 2 less common symptoms to school.

Again, more information will be coming out to families in December once we have the vaccine clinics fully settled.  Our hope is that with more students becoming fully vaccinated, there will be less positive cases, and less impacts to students who are close contacts.  Vaccination remains the best way to combat this virus.


As the seasons change in Maine and we move from Fall into the winter months, once again the sniffles, colds and other more "typical" viruses come out to play.  We know that makes it hard for families conducting their morning health checks to determine whether or not to send students to school based on symptoms.

I thought it might be worth another reminder as this is always one of those things that until it happens, sometimes we don't remember what the expectations are or what to do.  All of what I am about to write out in a little more "step by step" process below can be found in our COVID 19 Family Handbook LINKED HERE.

First, each morning you should review the health screening questions outlined below.  

Daily self-assessment questions:

  1. Within the past 24 hours have you had a fever or taken fever reducing medication (a fever is 100 degrees F.)?


  1. Do you feel sick, had vomiting/diarrhea, fever, sore throat or felt unwell?


  1. Have you been told to stay home and isolate/quarantine due to COVID 19 Exposure?




  • Keep your child home and call your school’s nurse who will assist you in next steps.

  • (if staff) stay home, call your PCP and follow their recommendations.

Now that 2nd question there can get a little "tricky" right? So we go a little further to assist parents in providing clarity to say if you have 1 common symptom, OR 2 less common symptoms of COVID 19 you should definitely keep the student home. Those Symptoms are defined by the Maine CDC, and can be seen below:


If you decide to keep your child home, please reach out to your school's nurse so they are aware and so that you can ask questions if you have any.

Of course, if you keep your child home, the next natural question is: Well, when can I send them back to school? There are lots of different scenarios here, so again I would urge you to reach out to the school nurse and they can walk you through each based on your specific circumstances...but GENERALLY, Here's what you can do:

You would follow the right hand side of the flow chart found in the handbook linked above:

- If you elect not to test your child, the child should stay home for 10 days since first symptoms, have no fever for 24 hours (without use of medicine) AND symptoms have improved.

- If you elect to take your child to the PCP and THEY elect not to test your child, a note from your PCP stating that they have provided an alternative diagnosis can be sent to the school nurse and your child may return to school AS LONG AS symptoms have improved AND they are fever free for 24 hours without medication.

- If you elect to test your child, they must remain home while waiting for the results of the test. If the results are negative, the student may return to school AS LONG AS symptoms have improved AND they are fever free for 24 hours without medication.

- If you elect to test your child, they must remain home while waiting for the results of the test. If the results are positive, please reach out to notify your school nurse and they will guide you regarding how long the student should isolate and when they can return to school...but generally speaking that would be 10 days since first symptoms, no fever for 24 hours (without use of medicine) AND symptoms have improved.

I would like to once again THANK ALL OF OUR PARENTS for their hard work and attention to following these safety protocols. It is these protocols, combined with masking, hand washing/sanitizing and physical distancing when possible that ensure our schools remain the safe places for learning that they are for our students.

I have said it before and I will say it again...there is no harder job right now than to be a parent. A close second might be to be a public school staff member right now, but it takes ALL OF US working together to ensure our schools remain safe, and remain open. I have great hope that once more students are vaccinated, we will be able to lessen the burden of quarantines and be able to take one step closer to moving this "pandemic" to an "endemic" TOGETHER. Only time will tell if this is the case. In the meantime, it is important to lean on what we know and what we know is that Gorham is an incredible community where each of us cares about the health and wellbeing of each other. Let's continue to lean on each other, be kind to one another, and cheer each other on. GO RAMS!


As you know from recent emails, we continue to struggle here in Gorham (and across the region, state, and country as well) finding enough substitute teachers to support our schools. The lack of substitutes is causing a significant burden on our teachers as they work to cover each other's classrooms when others are out for necessary purposes such as illness, quarantine, required trainings, etc. Recently, our School Committee voted to add two early release days to our school calendar (Dec. 1 and Dec. 15) to try and help reduce the burden to our teachers. The bottom line is that, although that is helpful, it doesn't resolve the underlying issue. WE NEED MORE SUBSTITUTES.

We have done several things to try and address this problem thus far including (but not limited to):

- Hiring 2 full time subs per building
- Removing barriers to applications by not requiring three separate letters of reference
- Reimbursing for costs associated with the required CHRC (fingerprinting) certificate
- Advertising position availability in local newspapers, using social media, on our website, via serving schools, and via school spring. We are also looking to post on the MDOL website, and are exploring posting on Indeed.
- We have reduced min. requirements to allow those with a high school diploma or above to substitute.
- Working regionally to hire substitutes via a common application process and
- Increasing sub rates from previous $100.00 for certified teachers and $95.00 for all others to now a new three tiered system that pays $120.00 for certified teachers, $115.00 for those that participate in a substitute training class and $105.00 per day for all others.

We hope that these actions will improve in recruitment of substitutes for our schools!

One of the items listed above mentions a new substitute training course. We have worked with our Adult Education Program to develop a four evening (2 hours each night) training class that will help those that may feel a little nervous about coming into our classrooms to feel more prepared. I can't speak for other school systems, but I can tell you that our students are INCREDIBLE STUDENTS and that the substitute teacher experience here in Gorham is not at all a negative one. This class will help show that, will bring participants to each school to familiarize them with each site, and will spend time making sure folks have a solid foundational understanding of their roles and responsibilities as a sub. We will also help walk folks through the application process and help get folks registered online for their fingerprinting.

When this course is completed, you will receive a certificate and be eligible to receive the higher daily rate of $115.00 per day for substitute teaching in the Gorham Schools. Check out the flyer below to learn more and please spread widely! We love our substitute teachers...and we NEED YOU!



Do these things sound interesting to you? Do you have a high school diploma? Do you have an interest in becoming a learning facilitator, and perhaps even further down the road a classroom teacher? Do you like getting paid to learn? Well the Gorham Schools might have the opportunity for you coming this spring!

We aren't ready to roll out all the details yet, but we are working with SMCC to develop a course series that will be offered on site at the Gorham Schools (no traveling to Portland) to qualifying applicants. This program will allow participants to become fully certified Educational technicians through the Maine Department of Education. Here's roughly how this pathway will work:

- Interested individuals would apply to become a learning facilitator for the Gorham Schools. These positions would be full time positions with benefits paid at a competitive hourly rate. Individuals would be expected to work Monday through Friday for regular school hours, roughly 6.5 hours per day.

- On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays each week (until required coursework is completed), Learning facilitators would work partial days, ending at 1:00 p.m. so that they can attend their SMCC class from 1:15 - 3:30 p.m. on these days. Individuals will take the equivalent of 9 college credits during their experience. These credits will be FREE to the participants including costs for books.

- Learning facilitators would work full days on Tuesday and Thursdays.

- Learning facilitator job responsibilities will be working with students in the regular classroom and special education classroom setting to support teachers in delivery of quality instructional programming for students.

- Once the certificate is complete, learning facilitators would be eligible for an emergency Ed. Tech. endorsement through the Maine Department of Education.

- Participants would then continue their employment with the Gorham Schools in their new Ed. Tech. roles and be eligible for all benefits associated with full time employment within the schools which includes course reimbursements for continuing education in an education related field.

If this sounds interesting to you, please reach out to Kathy Hamblen ( to let her know. We will be recruiting just 6-8 folks for our first pilot class that we hope to begin this spring (Jan. 19). We will be tightening up all the details with our incredible partners at SMCC between now and then and will put out a more formal notification for applications later in Mid please stay tuned and reach out to Kathy if you are interested! THANK YOU!


Tom Dupuis is hosting another meeting of interested public to share 3 possible design concepts for a Gorham skate park. If you are interested in participating and sharing your ideas, please see the flyer below for more details and reach out to Tom with any questions (

In closing...and in alignment with the theme of being thankful/grateful as we head into the coming week...I thought I'd share some resources about the importance of Gratitude.  Feel free to use or "circular file" anything you see! 

And here are some more resources regarding gratitude (From Maine DOE):

Gratitude & Wellness Resources

And then its also important to note that the holiday season isn't always "jolly" all the time. Here's a few holiday stress management resources - again - taken from our MDOE wellness team!  

Holiday Stress Management Resources... Take Care!

Next Blog Post:  December 3, 2021!  As always though - if you need anything or have questions, please don't hesitate to reach


Friday, November 5, 2021

November 5 Blog Post

Good afternoon everyone!  What a week right!  Believe it or not...even with some of the challenges we worked through TOGETHER this week, our students did have an incredible week of fun and learning.  The picture collage below shows just a few examples...I know as adults, we are all tired...but boy - just look at those students!  It really does make it all worth it - to see our positive impact.  Whether you are a Gorham parent working through quarantine issues, or whether you are a staff person having to cover other duties and responsibilities because of a lack of subs - or whatever else it is we might all be facing.  Those pictures below show WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO.  I am so very proud to be a Gorham Ram with all of you!

Picture collage of the week:

And now on to the important information! 


I wanted to keep the text brief this time and focus in on the human side of our work I thought a quick video message was in order to set the tone for some of the more detailed information you might see below.  Please take a few minutes to watch this short video before skipping on to the other - likely more important - information regarding upcoming events like our vaccine clinics!



First, I want to remind parents/guardians once again that we will be having an informational night on Monday, Nov. 8 at 6:00 p.m. via zoom where folks can come, listen to information and ask all the questions you have in order to assist you in making your decisions regarding participation.  We will have special guests from Maine Med. at this meeting as well as our incredible nursing team from the four schools involved and our administrators.  All questions are welcome ranging from the "bigger ones" like - what is the science behind these vaccines and how do they work to the "smaller ones" like will my child get a goofy bandaid to show off to us when they get home.  There is no question too big or too small to ask, so please avail yourselves of this opportunity if you have any questions at all.  The zoom link we will be using will allow up to 500 participants and I wouldn't mind filling it!  Here's the zoom link information.  It can also be found on our district website...

Join Zoom Meeting

Second, I wanted to share with parents the current schedule of when to expect our clinics will be held at each school. These are approximate times only as a great deal may vary based upon participation and other factors. Remember, there will be a first series of clinics listed and then a second series approximately 21 days after the first. Students are considered "fully vaccinated" 14 days after their second shot. Our goal is to try and have everyone that participates fully vaccinated by the Holiday break. Here's those dates:

First series dates/times/locations:

*. November 17 - GMS @ 8:00 a.m., Great Falls @ 10:00 a.m.
*. November 18 - Narr. @ 9:00 a.m., Village @ 11:30 a.m.

Second series dates/times/locations:
*  December 8.- GMS @ 8:00 a.m., Great Falls @ 10:00 a.m.
*. December 9 - Narr. @ 9:00 a.m., Village @ 11:30 a.m.

Third, I wanted to share with you the process and paperwork required for parents/guardians to complete if you wish to sign your children up to participate in the vaccine clinics.  PLEASE NOTE THAT THESE FORMS ALONG WITH A SCHOOL BASED INFORMATION LETTER WENT HOME TO K-5 STUDENTS YESTERDAY AND WILL ALSO BE SENT HOME FROM GMS FOR 6TH GRADERS TODAY.  

If parents/guardians want to sign their child(ren) up for the COVID 19 vaccine, here's what you need to do:

2.  Print the COVID 19 Parent Vaccination Consent Form (This form was sent home in hard copy by each school. If you cannot print and need a hard copy, please reach out to your school's office).  

3.  Complete the consent form, sign the form and return to each school's nurse's office.  Digital Signatures WILL NOT be accepted so this form must be printed and returned to each school's nurses' office.

4.  Print the Maine Health Covid 19 Vaccine Registration Paper Form (Again, this form was sent home in hard copy by each school.  If you cannot print and need a hard copy, please reach out to your school's office). 

5.  Complete the Registration paper form and return to each school's nurse's office along with the consent form.

Please reach out to your school's office if you have ANY questions regarding these forms and what you need to do.  We will definitely help walk folks through any questions you may have.  

Finally, I wanted to provide a little "insight" into what families should expect for our school based vaccine clinics so that you can ask clarifying questions at our upcoming informational meeting.  Here are a few things that I'm sure parents are thinking about and want to know more about as you work to make decisions about what is best for you and your families.  These are in no particular order of importance:

*. There will be a full team of medical clinicians present at each school to administer vaccines to children.  These folks will be trained and have had experience in working with children.  They will work right along side of our school nurses and school staff to carry out these clinics.

*. Participating students will be called down in grade alike groups so they will know their peers and have familiar faces at all times.

*. Unfortunately, because we do not have the space and capacity, we will not be allowing parents to be present during the vaccination clinics.  I know this is hard - but we simply can't account for that many people in our schools during the school day.  Please know, however that we have a VERY TALENTED Team of folks that will be working with students to make sure the experience is positive for them, at least as positive as a shot can be.  Our Teachers will help, our nurses will help, our admin. team will help...all familiar and happy faces.  I'm already aware of one particular principal that is already planning on breaking out a costume or two to help keep things bright.  Of course, not everyone will be in costumes (or should they be)...but we will work hard to create a positive and upbeat atmosphere for students for sure.  Additionally, we would encourage students to bring a stuffy or other comforting item with them if they feel the need.  

*.We will be using our gyms as the location for the clinics.  After the shot is given, there will be a 15 minute waiting period.  During this time we will have a movie playing and other distractingly fun things for students to do while they wait. Once the waiting period is over students will return to their classrooms and teachers and our nurses will be there to continue to monitor throughout the day.

*. Students who do not want to get the shot after their parents have signed them up for it, and can't be lovingly verbally "persuaded" will not get the shot.  To be clear, we won't be forcing a student that is extremely upset to get the shot while at school.  If this circumstance occurs, we'll be in close contact with parents to advise alternative solutions.

*. Students who become fully vaccinated WILL NOT NEED TO QUARANTINE if they are deemed a close contact with future positive cases associated with the school or community.

Once again, I'd encourage families with questions to please attend the Q&A session on Monday at 6:00 p.m. Links is above.  And of course, you may always reach out to me with your individual questions as well.  


For those families who may also be interested in learning more about the 5-11 year old vaccines, the MDOE is offering a night to learn more about the vaccines from pediatricians from across the state. 

Check out the information linked below:


We realize folks are busy, but WE NEED YOUR VOICE to help inform the future of our school system!  Right now, the Gorham Schools is going through a new Strategic Planning Process to help us move closer to making our vision for our schools a reality for ALL students.  

We know, great timing - right?  In the middle of a pandemic ha?  We get it, but we also know that often times it is during these great challenges that we can learn the most about ourselves and our organization and what is working and what isn't.  Going through a new strategic planning process is a way to RENEW and REINVIGORATE around a COMMON VISION in a way that brings people TOGETHER rather than divides them.  To me, now might be a pretty darn good time to be focused on those things!

So, if you have 10-15 minutes, please take a minute to participate in this important Thought Exchange.  We area asking this same question of our community, our staff, and our students!  WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS to better inform our future!  So far we have had over 500 participants who have shared over 5,500 thoughts!  PLEASE ADD YOUR IMPORTANT VOICE and if you have already participated, remember to go back in and rate the thoughts of others!


The Aspire Gorham newsletter for the month of November is ready to view!  Click on the link below to read about our featured GHS Football players and their incredible work and more!


Looking for some entertainment for the weekend of November 12...GHS theater is performing "Little Women"...see flyer for more details!