December 1, 2023

Windham Town Council fills committee vacancies

By Ed Pierce

During a Windham Town Council meeting on Nov. 14, councilors appointed three Windham residents to town committees and approved spending $580,685 toward the cost of equipment to be used by town departments.

Members of the Windham Town Council vote to adopt
amendments to the town's Industrial Zone in South
Windham during a meeting on Nov. 14.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
Councilors appointed Raeann Haggard of Windham to the Human Services Advisory Committee for a three-year term to expire May 15, 2026. Haggard also was appointed by the council to seats on both the Natural Resource Advisory Committee and Windham Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee for three-year terms to expire Aug. 15, 2026.

Haggard also was appointed by the council to the Windham Library Board of Trustees for a three-year term to expire Feb. 15, 2027.

Council members also appointed Gale Savard of Windham to the Planning Board as an alternate for a three-year term to expire Feb. 15, 2027 and Mike Duffy of Windham to the Substance Prevention Grant Committee for a three-year term to expire Aug. 15, 2026.

The council also appointed Elizabeth Schidzig of Windham to the Windham Economic Development Corporation for a two-year term to expire Feb. 15, 2025.

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts told the council that during the Annual Town Meeting in Windham in June, voters approved requests from town departments for the purchase of certain vehicles and other equipment.

Some of that equipment included A 2023 Ford Interceptor and related equipment for the Windham Fire/Rescue Department; a 2023 Ford E450 Braun Chief XL Chassis Ambulance; A 2023 Ford E-450 Chief XL Remount Ambulance; a Utility Pickup Truck and related equipment for the Fire/Rescue Department; and an International Single Axle Dump Truck with cab, chassis, and related plowing and sanding gear for the Windham, Public Works Department.

Tibbetts said that the Town Treasurer made an original expenditure in the amount of $43,376.80 on Nov. 2 for the purpose of acquiring the Fire/Rescue Department Ford Interceptor and related equipment and the town expects to make additional original expenditures to acquire the vehicle prior to closing on the lease purchase financing,

Councilors voted to declare the town’s official intent within established Treasury Regulations to pay, on an interim basis, up to $580,685 of costs of the Equipment, and which costs the town reasonably expects to reimburse with proceeds of the lease purchase financing to be issued in the maximum principal amount of $580,685, or as otherwise increased by the Town Council.

After receiving a briefing from Amanda Lessard, Windham Planning Director, about proposed amendments to the Land Use Ordinance in the town’s Industrial Zone, in South Windham near Gambo Road between the railroad crossing and the river.

She said in the past year that town staff working with the Windham Economic Development Corporation and several property owners in the Industrial district discussed some opportunities to increase the allowed uses and make some changes in the Industrial Zone in uses in dimensional and performance standards as those found in the Enterprise Industrial District in Windham. The changes were approved by the Windham Ordinance Committee and passed on the Planning Board.

According to Lessard, the Windham Planning Board reviewed the proposed amendments during a public hearing on Oct. 23, suggesting that the 30-foot proposed buffer requirement would be prohibitive for office building and recommending some flexibilty regarding proposed buffer requirements in the Industrial Zone.

After a discussion, councilors voted unanimously for adopting the amendments to the ordinance which include the addition of permitted uses, a reduction of front setbacks, the addition of buffer yards along the street, the removal of open space with new maximum building and impervious area standards, and the screening of outdoor storage from view from public ways. <

WHS feminist club examines women’s advancements in society

By Jolene Bailey

Windham High School offers elective and fine art courses for many diverse interests and one English elective this year is a course in women’s studies. This semester-long class examines women within their experiences and societal advancements throughout American history celebrating their achievements.

Student members of the 'She Speaks Power'
feminist club gather following a recent 
meeting at Windham High School. The club
was formed to support women's studies at
the school and celebrate the achievements
of women. PHOTO BY JOLENE BAILEY 
To provide knowledge and involvement regarding women, this course has taught many students about feminism and a new spinoff club at WHS called “She Speaks Power” devised to foster student interest in the subject.

“She Speaks Power” is a feminist club led by a former WHS women’s studies student, Addison Shanholtz.

“My first interest in bringing the club to WHS began in Ms. Bragdon's incredible women’s studies class. By far it has been my favorite class, and the peers made the course significantly better. As the year progressed, we discussed what we could do in our community,” said Shanholtz.

The specific thing that sparked her interest in starting a club was when in class we were talking about other students having dress codes, she said.

“The discussion was who was getting dress-coded and how we could help,” said Shanholtz. “This was typically directed towards girls. I wanted to help make a difference in the school, but I knew I couldn’t do it alone, so that's what gave me the idea to start a club.”

Club advisor Kelly Bragdon is a WHS English teacher who also additionally teaches Women’s Studies.

“When I first started at WHS, I was the advisor for the GSA,” Bragdon said. “Making sure that everyone feels seen, heard, appreciated, and valued is my main goal as a teacher so I am more than happy to be able to help this club.’"

Last spring, many students expressed an interest in starting a feminist club and to kick off the 2023-2024 school year, “She Speaks Power” offered sign ups at that time. This fall, students may still join and engage in this extracurricular activity at the school.

“There are many different reasons for students to join a feminist club,” said Shanholtz. “A common question asked at the club fair was ‘Can I still join even though I’m not a woman?’ think a huge misconception with starting a feminist club is that only women can join but if you look up the definition of feminism it doesn’t say "just women.”

Club members say that feminism means all genders have equal opportunities and rights and any student who strives for equality can join.

“Women of all races, ages, socioeconomic statuses, and backgrounds have been fighting for their voices to be heard forever. Some more than others. Our goal is to bring awareness to intersectionality and focus on how we can all work together to create equity and justice systems that promote inclusivity.” said Bragdon.

Shanholtz said that students who are not only feminists, but anyone wanting to learn about equal rights should join.

“Joining this club will be a step toward educating our community and creating equality for all,” said Shanholtz.

Meetings for the “She Speaks Power” Club are conducted on the second and fourth Thursdays of every month in Room 120 at WHS during PRIDE. Any student can attend to gain more information about club activities. <

Windham Food Pantry prepares for a busy holiday season

By Masha Yurkevich

As the time nears for another holiday season, not everyone is fortunate enough to put a grand celebrational meal on the table. But the Windham Food Pantry doesn’t want anyone to miss out on a holiday meal and serves everyone from low-income families, single parents, senior citizens, unemployed individuals, disabled veterans, working poor, and anyone else that comes to the pantry.

The Windham Food Pantry is facing a dire
shortage of paper products such as toilet paper,
facial tissues, paper towels and cleaning
products such as dish detergent and laundry
soap. The pantry accepts donations of both
non-perishable goods and money to help
those in need. FILE PHOTO  
Colette Gagnon is the Social Service Admin Assistant at the Windham Food Pantry and says that at this time of year, they are double as busy as they usually are throughout the rest of the year serving families and individuals.

For Thanksgiving, the food pantry made Thanksgiving baskets to hand out to those in need, which typically consisted of turkey, canned veggies, stuffing (boxes), gravy jars, canned cranberry sauce, potatoes, pie, bread, rolls, milk, eggs, Jiffy corn mix, brownies mix, olives and cake mix with frosting. And while making Thanksgiving Baskets is over for this year, putting together and reserving Christmas Baskets has now begun at Windham Food Pantry.

“This Thanksgiving season we have helped more than 90 households,” says Gagnon. “And each year we hope to accomplish what we set out to aim for: Providing those in need a Thanksgiving meal and Christmas meal.”

The food pantry is always looking for help from the public, especially at this time of year and the need is great. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food prices across America are now 13.5 percent higher than in 2022 and the continued increase is driving many who are food-insecure to visit food banks seeking help.

Data collected during the Covid-19 pandemic showed that Maine had the highest level of food insecurity in the entire New England region, with 6.9 percent of older adults in Maine at risk of hunger, and 18 percent of children in Maine living at or below the established poverty level.

But just as food pantries are seeing a greater demand, it happens to be a cutting-edged sword, as rising food costs also impact the amount of food that the food pantries can obtain.

Gagnon suggests that the community can help Windham Food Pantry by making direct donations.

“We accept donations to our food drives, donations of checks to Windham Food Pantry, 8 School Road, Windham, or donations of food directly to the Windham Food Pantry,” she said.

Some of the hardships that the Windham Food Pantry is facing right now is a dire shortage in paper products such as toilet paper, facial tissues, paper towels, and cleaning products such as dish detergent, and laundry soap.

In comparison to previous years, Gagnon says that this year food pantry volunteers have noticed that they do need more donated items than in the past.

As the Christmas season is here, the community can help prepare the pantry and serve the community. Donations are always welcome and encouraged either as donations of food directly to the Windham Food Pantry or donations of checks mailed to the Windham Food Pantry.

Gagnon said that the Windham Food Pantry also has a Toy Workshop for younger children as the Christmas season approaches.

If someone needs help this holiday season, the Windham Food Pantry has its doors open and serves anyone in need, Gagnon said.

Individuals and families seeking assistance are asked to call 207-892-1931 before Dec. 5 to let them know if you are in need of a meal for Christmas. <

The Windham Food Pantry thanks the Windham community for their generosity and for all that they do to help those in need. <

RTT mourns death of popular horse at Windham facility

By Ed Pierce

Officials at the Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center in Windham have announced the death of Babe, a popular horse at the facility.

Babe, the oldest horse in the herd at the Riding To The 
Top Therapeutic Riding Center in Windham, died
Nov. 17. She had been with Riding To The Top since
2012 and was one of its most gentle and popular
horses. COURTESY PHOTO
Babe died Nov. 17 and was the oldest horse in the herd at Riding To The Top, which offers therapeutic riding from its 50-acre farm just off of Route 302 in Windham. It is an inclusive community where people of all abilities are challenged with positive learning experiences through equine assisted activities and therapies and a safe, supportive environment that fosters respect, innovation, and diversity.

“We cannot count the number of lives she impacted. Babe was an exceptional horse for so many here at RTT, and as a lesson pony at another barn before she came to RTT in September 2012,” RTT officials posted on its social media pages.

From RTT’s perspective Babe was the quintessential therapeutic mount, steady as the day is long, with a wonderful set of gears with two speeds at the walk and trot and in her younger years a great canter, moving at quite a fast but easy and comfortable speed.

The horse always loved a good roll in arena dirt at the facility, so much so that she dug a hole in the far end years ago that the facility had to patch and repair.

“She’d been to the beach, gone to a rider’s home whose mom had ALS and couldn’t get to the farm to see her daughter ride anymore, visited nursing homes and been a subject for veterinary tech students, all of this on top of being such a steady force for RTT’s clients,” RTT officials said.

For years even after Babe was retired, she continued to assist participants in RTT’s walking program and served as a role model and a symbol of what RTT means to the community simply by being a constant source of calm and affection for anyone who visited with her.

As it turned out, Babe was a horse who helped participants at RTT to realize who they really are and if anything, that will be her greatest legacy at the facility.

In its social media post announcing the horse’s death, RTT officials expressed their deepest thanks to all who cared for and loved Babe over her long life from RTT clients, volunteers, and staff to all the equine professionals who provided care over the years and to all from the community who spent the last week of her life showering her with all the love she deserved. <

November 22, 2023

Holiday Light Parade to bring Christmas cheer to Windham

By Ed Pierce

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and on Sunday evening, families in the Lakes Region will be able to confirm that fact up close and in person during the Annual Holiday Light Parade in Windham.

The Annual Holiday Light Parade will start at 5 p.m. Sunday,
Nov. 26 and runs from the Windham Town Hall through the 
Windham school campus to Windham Middle School. The
parade will be following by a holiday event for families and
residents in the WMS gymnasium. FILE PHOTO 
Hosted by the Windham Fire/Rescue Department, the Windham Police Department, the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Windham Parks and Recreation Department, the annual parade will start at 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 26 and leaves from the Windham Town Hall, travels through the Windham school campus, and ends at Windham Middle School.

This is the fourth consecutive year this parade will be held in Windham. In 2020, it replaced the traditional Windham tree lighting event which was held at the Windham Public Safety Building on Gray Road.

The tree lighting ceremony had grown so much since it was first launched in 2016 that it was reaching maximum capacity for an event of its kind, and a decision was made by Windham Parks and Recreation to try something new like the Holiday Light Parade, which proved to be instantly popular with town residents and is able to accommodate more families and residents looking to participate.

The best vantage point to view this year’s parade is from the grounds of the Windham school campus where families will be able to gather and see all the floats and to wave hello to Santa and Mrs. Claus during the parade.

The parade will feature an array of brightly decorated Windham Fire/Rescue Department trucks and vehicles, along with Windham Police Department cars, a Windham Parks and Recreation vehicle, and Windham Public Works vehicles.

Each participating Windham vehicle in the Holiday Light Parade will be lit up with hundreds of brilliant electric Christmas bulbs and will include a wide variety of Christmas d├ęcor to usher in the season in style.

Following the parade, participants are invited to gather in the Windham Middle School gymnasium to enjoy hot chocolate, listen to holiday music, make reindeer food, play some holiday games, and to take a photograph with Santa and Mrs. Claus. In lieu of an admission fee to the holiday event, participants are asked to bring a non-perishable food item or items for donation to the Windham Food Pantry.

Handicap parking for the parade and party afterward will be available in the front Windham Middle School parking lot.

No registration is required to attend but no pets will be allowed on the school grounds.

Those looking to attend, can find the parade route and the best spectator locations here: https://tinyurl.com/Spectator-Information

For more information about the 2023 Windham Holiday Light Parade, visit Windhamrecreation.com or call 207-892-1905. <

In the public eye: Assistant Principal supports positive culture at Manchester School

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

By Ed Pierce


Great educators can help students and inspire them in ways that change the trajectory of their lives. Kristal Vargo-Ward of Manchester School in Windham is such a person.

Kristal Vargo-Ward has serves as the Assistant
Principal at Manchester School in Windham
for the past nine years and is responsible for
safety, student learning, teaching, supervision,
hiring processes, and working to ensure the
school has a positive culture.
SUBMITTED PHOTO   
As a former teacher and the school’s Assistant Principal for the past nine years, Vargo-Ward is responsible for all aspects of the educational environment at Manchester School including safety, student learning, teaching, supervision, hiring processes, and working to ensure they have a positive school culture which involves positive communication and collaboration with families and the community.

“The best thing that I do on a daily basis is interact with and support students and staff. I still consider myself a teacher and apply my teaching experience into my work every day,” Vargo-Ward said. “I love going into classrooms and interacting with students, and they love sharing what they are learning and why it is important. I take every opportunity to support them by sharing a strategy or asking a question to prompt their thinking or understanding. Sometimes I do get lost in the moment and have to remember I am not the teacher. I also love supporting teachers and working collaboratively with them to develop authentic and engaging learning experiences for students.”

According to Vargo-Ward, the greatest misconception people may have about her job is that the Assistant Principal is the person who handles all the discipline and that her position is strictly an office job, she said.

“Though there are days I am in the office more than I would like, my goal is to be visible in classrooms and throughout the school communicating, collaborating, and providing support and feedback to staff and students,” Vargo-Ward said. “The district’s strategic plan and vision lays the foundation for all we do. What I get to do with my partner principal and staff is make this a living and breathing vision that supports teaching and learning so that all students grow and achieve at the highest level possible, as well as grow socially and emotionally.”

She was born and raised in Maine and began attending Windham schools in Fourth Grade at Manchester/Arlington School and graduated from Windham High School. After high school, she went to the University of Southern Maine and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in teaching and a master’s degree in educational leadership.

“I began my teaching career at Windham Primary School and taught Grades 1 and 2 for the first nine years, and then moved to Manchester School for two years and then to the middle school for 13 years,” Vargo-Ward said. “I had been a teacher at Manchester 20 years ago as well as a student when it was open concept in the 1980s. The close-knit community and culture of Manchester School is one where everyone feels a sense of belonging and most importantly part of a family that lifts each other up. The students are at the heart of all we do.”

Through the years, she’s experienced many memorable moments at Manchester School, but one that stands out for her took place during her first two years there.

“I remember walking by a classroom one evening during conferences to see a student, their teacher, and their parents and grandparents all sitting together in the room celebrating the student’s strengths and setting goals together,” Vargo-Ward said. “Educating the whole child involves the student knowing themselves as learners, but also knowing they have the support of their teacher, family, and community. This is why I am proud to work in the RSU and why I have chosen to serve in the community I had the pleasure of being educated in.”

The most important thing she’s learned while working for Manchester School is that learning is a lifelong process, Vargo-Ward said.

“The most important learning is done in the company of others as we learn from and collaborate with each other,” she said. “Working at Manchester has allowed me to see this learning in action among students and staff. I have said to myself that if I think I have learned everything there is to learn in education, it is time to retire. I am not quite ready for that yet, as I still have more to learn and more to share with others in my position as a school leader.” <

Windham student a finalist in college’s ‘Elevator Pitch Competition’

GROVE CITY, PA. – Freshman college student Greta Paulding of Windham is a finalist in Grove City College’s Elevator Pitch Competition.

Windham's Greta Paulding, a college
freshman and a 2023 graduate of
Windham High School, is a finalist
in Grove City College's 'Elevator
Pitch Competition' in Pennsylvania.
SUBMITTED PHOTO 
Grove City College students put their ideas for commercial and social enterprises to the investor test at the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation's 17th annual Elevator Pitch Competition finals on Wednesday, Nov. 15 in Sticht Lecture Hall of the Staley Hall of Arts and Letters on campus. The Elevator Pitch Competition (EPC) provides student entrepreneurs an opportunity to pitch their ideas to judges in a two-stage contest.

Each student has two minutes, about the time it takes to ride in an elevator with a deep-pocketed investor, to convince the judges that their ideas have merit and potential.

"The Elevator Pitch Competition finals is an amazing culmination of much hard work from these student finalists. I am so excited to hear their pitches and see who rises to the top. Conveying your business idea in two minutes is a difficult task, but one that prepares students for their future and exercises their public speaking skills. The Center for E+I is pleased to present this year's finals, and I hope everyone will consider joining us in person or via livestream to see the results," said Logan Hammerschmitt, Grove City College, Campus Director for the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation.

This year's competition takes place during Global Entrepreneurship Week at the college.

Paulding, who graduated from Windham High School in June, was one of 132 students from 27 different majors registered for the EPC and submitted video pitches for commercial and social enterprises that were evaluated by a team of 63 reviewers in the preliminary round.

Sixteen finalists were selected for the final round in two divisions, including Paulding, a marketing and graphic design student who competed in the Social Enterprise division of the competition.

She pitched an app that encourages community improvements and gives the public a chance to visualize and share their beautification ideas and designs using augmented reality.

A former intern for the Windham Economic Development Corporation, Paulding wants to return to Maine to work as an advocate for infrastructure reform after graduating from college. She also has been offered an opportunity to apply to serve as an intern for U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine in Washington, D.C. after the senator met her during the dedication of Windham’s Wastewater Treatment Plant this past summer.

While in high school, Paulding participated in an Extended Learning Opportunity which allowed her to receive school credit through a civil engineering internship with the WEDC.

“The knowledge I gained helped me to sharpen my view of my future and set my sights on a career I can use to make a difference in my town and beyond,” Paulding said.

Grove City College’s Elevator Pitch Competition pitches will be evaluated by the judges in such areas as need, clarity, achievability, sustainability, and growth. The winners will be announced by the college soon.

Dorene Powell, vice president of the Grove City Foundation, will determine which enterprise wins the Social Impact Prize. The Fan Favorite award will be determined by a vote of the audience, both in person and online.

The EPC is open to students from all majors and ideas may be at any stage of development, from creation of concepts or ideas to an established venture. The goal is to teach students to communicate effectively and allow their charisma and positive characteristics to shine through in just a short pitch. The competition demonstrates the networking and presentation skills essential to any entrepreneur or business professional.

For more about The Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation, visit gccentrepreneurship.com. <