November 25, 2013

Portland Pipe Line donates trailer and supplies to serve area towns - This story was written by Jim Beers

Christmas came early for the town of Raymond and its residents, in the form of a fully, basic equipped emergency response trailer, donated by the Portland Pipe Line Corporation. Inside Raymond's Fire Department garage bays on Friday, town officials were on hand as Boom Technologies, (a 24-hour emergency response organization), backed in the newly donated trailer stocked full of emergency supplies. The garage was abuzz with fire department employees, firefighters, some EMS personnel, Fire Chief Bruce Tupper, Town Manager Don Willard, and Director of Operations for Portland Pipe Line Corp, Tom Hardison. 

"It’s a much needed resource for the town and surrounding area," Chief Tupper said. "A lot of people live here and even more come thru this area to enjoy this part of the state year round." As part of its ongoing commitment to a safe and environmentally conscious operation, Portland Pipe Line Corp. (PPL) came up with this donation that will not only be a valuable asset to the town of Raymond, but to all other areas in the Lakes Region as well, as it a shared asset. "All hazards, truck rollovers, homeowner spills, water emergencies, oil/hazardous spills, we are happy to be able to donate this to Raymond, it has been a great partnership," said Hardison. 

The trailer came stocked from front to rear, top to bottom. Some of the emergency supplies include: A 10' Jon Boat, 55-gallon open top drums, 600-foot spool of half-inch sink rope, bail absorbent pads, rebar posts, three 100-foot sections of oil containment boom, roll sweeps, bail snares, spill gloves and booties. "It's set up well with the side door and back hatch with ramp to get the boat out quickly," Hardison said. "In the last 40 years there have been no pipeline issues, but with Maine's Department of Environmental Protection's number one call being oil spills, we want to be ready if ever such a situation arises in this area," he added. 

Along its 236 mile route from South Portland, Maine to Montreal, Canada, the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line, (PMPL), runs through the town of Raymond. The pipeline has been in service since 1941, and it has pumped over 4 billion barrels of oil to Montreal refineries. The pipeline is the primary reason that the Port of Portland is the largest volume oil port on the eastern seaboard, as more than 200 tankers deliver oil to the pipeline marine terminal annually. With a focus on safety and environmental responsibility, the PMPL has become well respected in the industry for their commitment to operate with the highest integrity. 

When asked what it meant to the town of Raymond, Willard had this to say, "It enhances our emergency response capabilities. The material is useful for oil clean up, virtually any type of hazardous containment in our water bodies, on our roadways after vehicle accidents, PPL has gifted us this owned asset of the town and we couldn't be happier." With the garage smelling of fresh muffins, donuts, cider and apples, (donated by Raymond Village Donuts and Chipman Farms), the mood was of excitement over the items the trailer came supplied with. 

"Some bundles absorb carbon fuels only and contain the spread of such fuels, while other bundles mitigate the spill. Every inch of space in the trailer is jam packed, ready for any type of hazardous spill or leak, we are hoping for only homeowner issues though," said Tupper jokingly. "This trailer allows us to get equipment and trained personnel to the scene immediately and start working on the issue at hand," he added. 

The mission of the PMPL is to be dedicated to dynamically meeting customer and community needs. They are proud of their 72-year legacy of supporting good jobs, community engagement and providing reliable energy. The PMPL is the 2011 and 2012 recipient of the Distinguished Safety and Environmental Award, given by the American Petroleum Institute for excellence in safe and environmentally conscious pipeline operation. With the donation of this emergency response trailer to the town of Raymond, they are leading the charge in keeping Maine safe in these situations. 

"We've had two major training sessions with PPC," said Tupper, "including Jordan Bay scenarios, where that is the direct feed to Sebago Lake." "It’s great for this region to have a trailer like this housed centrally here," added Tupper. "Again, it's not just for us, it's for all our neighbors too," he said. Tupper also has under ice emergency training sessions scheduled with PPC in January. "Portland Pipe Line Corporation has solidified its great relationship with Raymond and the Lakes Region by donating this valuable resource to us, we are incredibly grateful, and look forward to working with them for many more years to come," said Willard.

Making progress in the fight against milfoil - By Rob McClure

Have you ever wondered why some guy always asks to check the bottom of your boat when you leave your favorite lake or pond? During the summer, you can find such a person hanging out near the boat launches with a clipboard and a lawn chair, courteously requesting to check your hull for invasive aquatic plants or IAPs; commonly referred to as milfoil. These courtesy boat inspectors or CBIs are looking for aquatic plants that attach to your boat and transfer to other bodies of water, which left to their own devices would exponentially multiply. The CBIs are part of a dedicated group of people who are literally at war with these invasive and harmful plants. 

St. Joseph’s College hosted the annual IAP Control Roundtable this week in the Alfond Center. The event was chaired by the Maine Milfoil Consortium and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Representatives from various lake groups were given 10 minutes to present their information. The goal was to share and discuss successes, challenges, innovations, lessons learned, project costs and funding. 

Some of the various water body organizations were present including: Maine DEP, Raymond Waterways Protection Association, Maine Lakes Society, Little Sebago Lake Association, Lakes Environmental Association (LEA), Auburn Water District and others. 

According to Paul Gregory, an Environmental Specialist and Invasive Species Program director for the Maine DEP, the milfoil issue is one of the “largest threats to Maine waterways because it can offset the water chemistry, which then depletes the oxygen leading to an negative effect on the fisheries.” 

“Maine’s waterways generate an annual income of $3.5 billion dollars when factoring in all the components, everything from tourism to fishing bait,” warned Gregory. Apparently there is quite a bit at stake for Maine in this war. The quality of drinking water can be negatively impacted when the plants alter the chemistry or when the bottom is disturbed during the removal process.

“It seems the war on aquatic invasive plants is going our way at the moment. The word is there have been no new infestations for the last two years. Much of this success is do to the hard work and dedication of those involved which at one time was seen as an insurmountable task. The Maine DEP working with only three people assigned to over 6,000 lakes, was able to facilitate some 87,000 inspections, largely through the Lakes Rivers Protection Sticker Program. However, the overall credit for the success has to go to the volunteers who account for 99 percent of the effort,” according to Gregory.

With so many different water bodies in Maine, there is no panacea to apply in every situation. Each individual area or lake organization has to adapt to their specific problem or need. For some, the removal process of milfoil poses a serious threat to drinking water quality where others it may not be an issue, therefore the removal approach will be different. These variables require an asymmetrical approach to the fight, which makes this annual event so crucial to the overall collaborative effort. 

A shared approach of prevention and control seems to be a successful model that most areas have embraced. Part of the control process for some involves using a Diver Assisted Suction Harvester or DASH. These converted pontoon boats are fitted with special water pumping systems that use scuba divers to suction milfoil off the bottom. They are capable of suctioning thousands of gallons of material covering large areas. The group also discussed various materials that are used to cover the bottom to prevent sunlight, thus preventing new growth. 

Adam Perron, LEA education director, talked about his success in running several crews of divers onboard the DASH. “I recruit college kids, they come back every year and I include them in the planning process as well.” Perron discussed other issues such as intensive safety training, including wilderness first aid for his crew.

Others discussed their role in the organization as information hubs and trainers. Some discussed fundraising events and techniques. Overall, judging by the success stories, the event has achieved everything it set out to do and more.

November 15, 2013

Proficiency based grades presented to school board - By Michelle Libby

Last Wednesday at the weekly RSU14 school board meeting, Eric Colby was sworn in as a new member of the board of directors. The board spared no time in putting Colby right to work with presentations from Windham High School principal Chris Howell and vice principal Kelli Deveaux, as well as curriculum coordinator for the district Christine Hesler. 

Howell spoke about the continued work with the proficiency-based grading system that will be put into place for the class of 2018, who are the current eighth graders. The system will be unique to Windham, Howell said. 

“This work is organic,” said superintendent Sandy Prince.

“We aren’t going to adapt someone else’s work. We’re going to do what makes sense for Windham High School and what makes sense for our community and also, lastly, what makes sense for our students and our staff,” he said. “We can be a model for other schools,” he added. The administration has partnered with Great Schools Partnership to help create the model they will use.

Going back to the statute LD1422, he broke down for the board what a proficiency-based diploma means. 

Over all of the years a student is in high school, they must have a math, a language arts/English and a science class. The statute doesn’t specify the number of years a high school education is, Howell pointed out. He did say that only one percent of the student population might need an alternative learning situation. 

Another section of the statute said that students must meet the standards in all content areas of which there are eight (technology, foreign language, career prep, visual and performing arts in addition to math, English and science).

“In order for us to give a diploma, a student must have met particular proficiency in the standards as outlined,” Howell said. He also said that the students must meet the standards set forth in the guiding principles, which is a natural marriage. Guiding principles are also called “soft skills”, like being a clear and effective communicator and being a life-long learner. These skills will continue to go across all eight content areas. One way students are already meeting those guiding principles is through the 40 hours of required community service. Howell would like to see those hours be given more direction and use them toward a capstone project during a student’s junior and senior years. 

He suggests, freshmen and sophomores will volunteer with things that are important to them. From the summer of their junior year to March of the senior year, students would have to find something that’s of interest to them, learn about it and determine a problem surrounding it and do something about it. This helps them to become responsible and involved citizens, another one of the guiding principles. 

Students would complete their capstone project with a public showcase.
Proficiency-based grading “provide opportunities for some and also in some cases presents some challenges,” Howell said. For example, if all students are required to have a foreign language, right now WHS does not have the staffing for every student to take a foreign language over the four years.
 “It’s a change in paradigm and in thinking,” said board member Kate Brix. “We have to be exceptional in our communication.”

At WHS the students will receive grades on a transcript, but in addition to the transcript and a description of the school demographics and class types, the new two-page transcript will identify the standards that the students will have met for graduation. It will not be a 45-page transcript. Howell said he knows that a typical application receives four to six minutes on the desk of an admission counselor at a college. RSU14 wants to provide additional information to the schools our seniors are applying to, without disadvantaging them.

Right now the diplomas mean something different to everyone who crosses the stage. One student went to Yale, another went to work immediately, another went to UMaine. They all had different meaning for the same diploma. “Now, there’s a minimal level to say you’ve earned that degree,” Howell said.     
At this time, Howell and his team have identified all but two graduation criteria and they know the baseline performances. 

“Regardless of what happens with the state we will continue to provide that transcript, which is what every school gets, but in addition we are looking to provide a greater definition of what students can or can’t do,” said Howell. 

“If we’re concerned about our students not getting a diploma and we know they are graduating without meeting these standards, standards necessary to be a successful citizen in our communities, aren’t we doing them a disservice if we don’t stop and say ‘I believe in you so much I won’t let you leave the high school until you have the skills you need to be successful.’?” asked Deveaux.

The benefits of proficiency-based grading are a minimum level of performance. Articulating between grade levels. The staff has scoured the entire curriculum and has looked at units that may not meet standards and then reevaluated those. There will also be better transparency. Communication between teachers and students, and school and parents are important in this time of change, said Howell. The best outcome according to Howell is that there will be multiple pathways to meet the standards. There may be ways to meet standards without taking a particular course, or students may be able to reach the standards in a college level class. 

“We will continue to have grades,” said Howell. It will be a dual reporting system, he added.

Achievement data
Christine Hesler spoke briefly about the achievements of the teachers and students at RSU14. Fifty-two percent of teacher have a Master’s degree or higher, compared to 37.9 percent of Maine teachers. 

RSU14 is seeing an increase in students receiving free and reduced cost lunch and breakfast meals, which speaks to the economics of the community. 

Students completed the NECAP testing in October and the results will not come back to the district until January or February, said Hesler. The NECAP assessment will no longer be used and instead RSU14 will use the Smarter Balance Assessment, which is given in late spring and is taken on a computer.

Hesler will present to the board later when more data is given to her, including RSU14s Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) scores.

New board member Jennifer Fleck will be sworn in at the next board meeting.

Career and college fair brings the real world in - By Michelle Libby

“What lights your fire? What excites you? Get your weird on. Go up to strangers and ask the hard questions,” Bath Iron Works recruiter Mike Ross told Windham High School juniors and seniors last Friday as one of the two keynote speakers for the first career and college fair held at Windham High School (WHS).
Speakers Ross and Vicki Gordan, vice president at UNUM, gave students advice and confidence to reach for their dreams. They also prepared them for walking into the gym where over 50 vendors, from colleges to local business owners were prepared to answer those hard questions. 

“Your foundation should be networking,” Ross told them. As a recruiter, he spends less than eight seconds on each resume. Job applicants have to get in and wow prospective companies right off. 

“It doesn’t get any easier…it just gets different,” Ross added. 

The entire event was organized by Nicole Sturgis, the career and college specialist at WHS. She also works with Jobs for Maine’s Graduates/MELMAC Foundation. 

“Nicole did this as a one woman band,” said Lisa Gardner, from JMG. “She has such a passion for these kids and trying to connect them with great futures.” 

In addition to the vendors, Sturgis also organized a panel of admission officers from CMCC, Saint Joseph’s College, USM and Thomas College. The students were encouraged to ask questions that would help them when applying to any college. The seniors and juniors were split up for the panel and for the fair. 

April Libby, from Maine Medical Center, maintains all the legal aspects of the medical records, including rules and regulations. She and her co-workers were at the fair to show students that there is more to Maine Med than just the medical part. 

Kate Gower from Tyler Industries was “making students aware that there are good technology jobs here in the State of Maine.” Technology is growing and she’d like to see them stay in the state.  

This fair shows the students that they can get their career going if college isn’t for them and it gives the students connections, Gardner said. 

Kris-Way Truck Leasing had a table to “educate the kids that we’re out there, that blue collar is still an option.”

“This is a great way for kids to get in touch with the real world,” said owner of Windham Automotive Ron Eby. 

Senior Danielle Breton, who plans to study international studies and French, thought the fair was “really helpful. They’re giving us a lot of advice.”

“It’s helpful and we don’t have to travel,” said senior Erick Schadler. 

“It’s good to see both sides,” said Jarron Nadeau. “It’s not to know there is an option.” 

Sturgis also had raffle drawings for students after they visited tables at the fair.

Principal Chris Howell summed up the assembly by telling the seniors that in five months they will be marching at graduation. “You have a short amount of time to make some pretty big decisions.”