December 22, 2023

In the public eye: RSU 14 Director of Community Connections prepares future community leaders

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

By Ed Pierce


When it comes to helping students realize their potential and pursue their dreams beyond high school, there is nobody better at it than Lorraine Glowczak.

Lorraine Glowczak is in her third
year as the Director of Community
Connections for RSU 14.
COURTESY PHOTO
Now in her third year as the Director of Community Connections for RSU 14, Glowczak serves as the Senior Capstone Project Coordinator and Extended Learning Opportunity Coordinator at Windham High School and available for other projects across the district.

“I was told once by a fellow colleague that I am a dream maker. And I would have to say that assisting students through the Extended Learning Opportunities to explore and discover their dream jobs is by far the best thing about my job,” Glowczak said. “That, and I love to connect with people from all walks of life and it's been fun connecting with new people, businesses, and entrepreneurs in this and other surrounding communities.”

In her position, Glowczak engages community members and local businesses in the schools to support student needs by providing opportunities to be involved with the school district in multiple ways. She collaborates with multiple stakeholder groups in productive ways, including administration, teachers, and PTA/PTOs, participates in local community networking organizations and community events.

Glowczak also uses print, social media and other communication tools to engage the community with the school system, develops and maintain ongoing relationships with area businesses and nonprofits willing to host students for volunteering, job shadowing, and internships, meets with students and assists them in the process of completing Capstone Project and ELO requirements. As an ELO coordinator, she’s a point-of-contact for ELO students, teachers, and community mentors, internships, and job placements, including follow-up with supervisors and hour documentation. To go with that, she develops curriculum for students receiving elective credit as approved by ELO Team of certified teachers or principals and finds business partners to act as mentors for students for job shadows, internships, and volunteer opportunities.

“The most challenging thing at this point is trying to balance my work between the high school while also meeting the needs of the whole school district,” she said. “The biggest misconception is that I work only for the high school.”

She grew up in Nortonville, Kansas with a population of about 700 located in the Northeast Corner between Atchison and Topeka in Kansas.

Graduating from the University of Southern Maine with a Bachelor of Science degree in Leadership and Organizational Studies, Glowczak worked as a substitute teacher, and at a number of preschools.

“I worked for a STEM Enrichment organization as a workshop, after school program, summer camp, and preschool workshop instructor. I was also an Outreach Coordinator for RSU 14.”

She has a passion for writing and storytelling and that led to her working as the Managing Editor of The Windham Eagle newspaper before she took a position with Be The Influence, a community coalition seeking to eliminate drug misuse in the community.

“My previous job was a work from home job, and I realized that I really enjoyed being with people more,” Glowczak said. “As I was looking for a good fit for me, a friend suggested that I look for jobs as a community connector since she thought I did a good job doing that. So, when this job was announced I applied and was offered the job.”

It turned out to be an excellent fit for her as Glowczak’s congenial disposition and outgoing personality relate well with students and the local businesses she lines up to give students a taste of working in different professions are grateful to be able to help and work with her.

“My husband is proud of my position here with the school district and what he loves most about my job is meeting my students at school events,” she said.

According to Glowczak, many people aren’t aware that RSU 14 offers extended Learning Opportunities for students.

“The public may not know that my position exists and, as a result, they do not know that they can reach out to me for volunteer needs and for job opportunity requests,” she said.

Her most memorable moment of working for RSU 14 so far is difficult for her to pinpoint.

“There are too many moments to share but all those memories pour in each year when the seniors graduate,” Glowczak said. “I've learned so many things but one of the most important things I've learned is that most GEN Z students are more aware, knowledgeable, resilient, and enthusiastic about life than they are given credit for. Each generation offers some important contribution to society, and this generation is no different.” <

Windham resident earns prestigious national baseball honor

By Ed Pierce

If Liam Kalakowsky had his way, right now he’d probably skip Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day and go straight to St. Patrick’s Day as he’s been honored as one of the recipients of the inaugural Irish Baseball Heritage Awards by the Irish American Baseball Society.

Liam Kalakowsky of Windham, a
sophomore attending Cheverus High
School, has been named as a winner of 
the inaugural Irish Baseball Heritage
Awards by the Irish American Baseball
Society. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
The awards recognize middle school and high school baseball players for their achievements on the field, in the classroom, and in the community.

Kalakowsky lives in Windham and is currently a sophomore student at Cheverus High School in Portland after transferring from Windham High School this fall. As a freshman at Windham High School, he played catcher for the Eagles JV baseball squad and demonstrated a knack for hitting, batting.444 for the season. He is the son of Adam and Erin Kalakowsky of Windham.

At Cheverus High this year, he’s been a member of the school’s golf team, basketball team, Chess Club and Key Club. He intends to play baseball this spring for Cheverus and says he’s excited to travel with the team to Florida for April vacation with his new teammates.

His goal is to play baseball beyond high school and to help him become a better player, Kalakowsky also plays catcher for a travel showcase tournament baseball team, the Coastal Riptide 16-Under GOLD.

“What I love the most about baseball is how challenging it is and being able to contribute to my team’s success,” he said. “I love doing whatever I can to help my team and my teammates succeed.”

He was one of three recipients of this honor nationally from the Class of 2026 as chosen by the Irish American Baseball Society, which also oversees the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame. The awards are the latest initiative of the Irish American Baseball Society to recognize the Irish impact on the game of baseball.

“This is an important part of our work to bring together the Irish American community around the game of baseball,” said John Fitzgerald of the Irish American Baseball Society. “We were honored to receive nominations from coaches, teachers, and parents from around the country.”

The awards are open to all players, regardless of their family’s ancestry and if a player doesn’t have Irish ancestry, they can still qualify for the award by volunteering in their community on behalf of an Irish American cultural organization.

Award applications were reviewed by a panel of Irish American Baseball Hall of Famers, including Joe McEwing, Sean Casey, Mike Sweeney, and Steve Garvey.

Fitzgerald said that the Irish American Baseball Society celebrates the Irish impact on the game of baseball and supports the development of youth baseball programs in Ireland and America and these awards are natural progression of that effort.

According to Kalakowsky, he was humbled by this honor, and glad to be chosen as he works very hard on and off the field, in the classroom, and for his community. He said he is also very proud of his Irish heritage.

As a freshman baseball player at Windham High School last year, Kalakowsky was named to the school’s honor roll every quarter, and he finished the year with a 4.0 Grade Point average, while also participating in the Debate Club and Key Club activities. He also played baseball for Windham Middle School and for teams in the Windham Little League. <

Windham’s Katahdin Program a state finalist in 'Solve for Tomorrow' STEM competition

Samsung Electronics America has announced that Windham High School’s Katahdin Program is among six state finalists in the 14th annual “Samsung Solve for Tomorrow” national STEM competition.

Students in Windham High School's Katahdin Program
are among six state finalists in the 14th annual 'Samsung
Solve for Tomorrow' national STEM competition and have
won a package of $2,500 in technology and school
supplies for the program. COURTESY PHOTO  
Representing the best of more than one thousand competition entrants, each state finalist has won a package of $2,500 in technology and school supplies. The finalist schools now advance to additional stages of the competition that will culminate in three schools being selected in May as National Winners and receive $100,000 prize packages.

The annual Solve for Tomorrow competition challenges public school students in Grades 6 to 12 to explore the role science, technology, engineering, and math (the core STEM subjects) can play in addressing some of the biggest issues in their local communities. The competition is designed to engage students in active, hands-on learning that can be applied to real-world problems, making STEM more tangible and showcasing its value beyond the classroom.

“As a company and as individuals, STEM is incredibly important to Samsung – we depend on STEM-savvy people to envision, implement, and engage with innovative STEM-dependent products and services,” said Michelle Crossan-Matos, Chief Marketing, Citizenship and Communications Officer for Samsung Electronics America. "Between 2019 and 2029, the number of STEM jobs are predicted to grow 8 percent, a higher rate than non-STEM jobs."

Crossan-Matos said that while STEM skills are key to a 21st century workforce, we know that national test scores in STEM subjects like Math have fallen by the largest margin in 30-plus years.

"The Solve for Tomorrow competition was designed to provide schools and teachers with an innovative, problem-based learning approach to STEM education to boost student interest, proficiency, and diversity in STEM," she said. "This fresh crop of impressive State Finalists is proof that we’re succeeding.”

Ann Woo, Senior Director, Corporate Citizenship for Samsung Electronics America, said that several significant trends in the program proposals submitted have been observed.

“Every year’s entries provide a window into the concerns and aspirations on the minds of that cohort of middle and high school students,” Woo said. “A common theme this year is ‘connecting’ whether that’s connecting people to people, peer to peer, across generations, or even around the globe. In fact, one school’s entry is based on its connection with a school in Ukraine, proposing a solution for providing solar power to students in a war-ravaged community. Climate change, school/student safety, and mental health are other top issues of concern for this year’s problem-solvers.”

The Katahdin Program uses the classroom, the outdoors, and the greater community and provides alternative education programming for students in Grades 9 to 12 attending Windham High School.

Windham’s Katahdin Program joins Camden Hills Regional High School, Falmouth High School, Fort Fairfield Middle High School, Saco Middle School, and South Portland High School as this year’s state finalists for Maine. The Maine State Winners will be announced in mid-February 2024.

State Winners will receive a prize of $20,000 in technology and supplies and advance to the next phase of the competition. Each State Winner will also be given a video kit to help document their project in action.

Samsung Solve for Tomorrow launched in 2010 to encourage innovative thinking, creative problem-solving, and teamwork to address the most pressing issues impacting society. Today the competition fosters critical thinking and creative problem solving, anchored in problem-based learning.

To date, Samsung has awarded $24 million in technology and classroom materials to nearly 3,000 public schools in the United States. Solve for Tomorrow has been so impactful that it has expanded into a prominent Global citizenship program for Samsung Electronics now running in 33 countries worldwide and reaching over 2.1 million students around the world. <

December 15, 2023

Windham’s new Town Assessor commits to equitable assessments for properties, businesses

By Masha Yurkevich

Anyone visiting Windham Town Hall recently may have noticed that the town has a new Town Assessor. Joshua Houde was hired to fill the assessor’s position in July and began full-time work for the town in September.

Joshua Houde serves as Windham
Town Assessor and in that role,
he is responsible for the valuation
of all taxable property in Windham,
both real estate and personal property.
COURTESY PHOTO
In his position, Houde is responsible for the valuation of all taxable property in Windham, both real estate and personal property.

He grew up in Topsham, and attended college in Ohio from 2003 to 2007, and other than that, has been a lifelong resident of Maine.

“My wife and I met in 2012 and are celebrating our 10th anniversary this month and have four daughters whom we love dearly,” says Houde. “This summer, I was seeking to make a career move that would provide for my family in terms of both finances and quality time. During the course of the town’s search for someone to fill the Assessor position, they reached out to me, knowing I have a background in real estate and management. When I saw that my background, skills, and temperament were well-suited to serve the Windham residents as Assessor, and that it also provided what I was looking for personally for my family’s rhythm and needs, I jumped at the opportunity.” 

Day-to-day, Houde relies heavily on the software and mapping tools at his disposal, as well as in-person site visits.

“We have a powerful computer-assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) program called Vision that stores the property data for each parcel and allows us to compare and contrast similar properties,” he says. “The ability to run reports in Vision allows us to obtain data such as how many properties we have in the Shoreland Zone, what properties have sold on a specific street, or the total number of parcels in Windham. We also have an AXIS GIS mapping system that allows me to click on parcels in a map view to see its assessment data at a glance.”

Visiting a property in person gives Houde concrete, tangible knowledge of the factors that affect its value.

“My responsibilities include reviewing our assessments for accuracy, responding to property owner inquiries, meeting state requirements on reporting, and providing information to other town departments as needed,” says Houde. “This fall, I have really enjoyed working with individual property owners who had questions about their assessments. By listening to their concerns, and analyzing our sales data, I was able to ensure fair assessments for our residents. For some of them, that resulted in a reduction in their assessed value. For others, it didn’t result in a reduction but did entail a clear explanation of what factors went into their assessment that made it fair.”

Houde works with a great team that includes Assistant Assessor Kara Taylor, and appraisers Patrick Mulligan and Teresa Konczal. Taylor records transfers of ownership, manages the business personal property accounts, and processes exemption applications among other things. Mulligan and Konczal do a great job keeping the property data up to date, attending final inspections, and performing site visits.

“I enjoy analyzing the data and noticing trends and patterns that I can then apply to create fair assessments,” says Houde. “I enjoy working with individual property owners to answer their questions and ensure fair assessments for their property. I enjoy visiting properties in person to understand the factors at play in their assessment. I enjoy collaborating with my assessing staff and with the other staff here at Town Hall. I appreciate that the overarching objective for my department in the end is very simple: to establish fair and equitable assessments based on market value. Achieving that sometimes feels like a puzzle or detective work, but it is very gratifying when all the pieces come into focus and I’m able to make a clear and confident assessment for a property or group of properties.”

Houde said that his previous career involved a lot of physical exercise, which he really enjoyed. He misses that but is learning to be intentional about balancing his desk work with site visits and trips to other parts of the Windham Town Hall.

As a property owner himself, Houde understands that paying taxes is not enjoyable. However, in this position, he sees all the infrastructure and important services that our taxes contribute to and is committed to achieving fair and equitable assessments for property and business owners so that the cost of town services is fairly distributed.

“I hope that, as the property owners here in Windham get to know my staff and me, they will sense our commitment and dedication to equitable assessments,” he said. “Concretely, I hope to keep our property and sales data clean and updated so that we can continue to certify an assessed-to-sales ratio of 100 percent with the state, which means that our assessments are in line with the market value here in Windham.”

Houde welcomes all property owners to contact him or his staff with questions or considerations they have concerning their assessments.

“There’s a lot that goes into the assessment, and sometimes a property owner notices a piece of data, a comparable sale, or another consideration that helps us achieve a fair determination of their assessed value,” says Houde. “I’ve really been enjoying this role and look forward to continuing to serve the people of Windham into the future.”<

Maine Community Foundation grant to help fund Age Friendly Windham coordinator

By Ed Pierce

During the Windham Town Council meeting on Tuesday evening, councilors were informed that the Maine Community Foundation has awarded the town a grant of $5,000 to help cover the position and transportation for Erica Bell-Watkins, Age Friendly Windham coordinator.

The Maine Community
Foundation has awarded
the Town of Windham a 
grant of $5,000 to help
cover the position and
transportation for Erica
Bell-Watkins, who has
been the Age Friendly
Windham coordinator
since May.
FILE PHOTO 
In 2018, councilors voted for the town to become an AARP Age-Friendly Community and provide opportunities for residents to age in place, making sure services are available so that elderly individuals can remain in their home and independently as long as possible. In January 2019, the town enrolled in AARP’s Network of Age Friendly Communities.

Bell-Watkins joined Age Friendly Windham in May and has been working so far to offer meaningful solutions for a range of complex issues affecting seniors such as building access, transportation, housing, employment, health services, mobility, and social inclusion, all while aiming to provide a rich intergenerational experience for all residents of the town.

As Age Friendly Windham director, Bell-Watkins supports the organization’s mission of partnering with local and regional organizations and volunteer groups to increase services and programs that make it possible for residents of all ages and abilities to live and thrive in Windham, providing activities geared toward keeping people healthy, active, and engaged in our community and advising the Windham Town Council about infrastructure and policy that will make it easier and safer for Windham residents to live in the community.

When she was named as Age Friendly Windham coordinator, Bell-Watkins said that citizen involvement will be key to the program’s lasting success and she hopes to recruit volunteers for the initiative.

“In order for this initiative to be successful, we need citizens to be involved. I am looking forward to meeting with volunteers to get several programs set up and sustainable,” she said. “Volunteers are key to that. My focus is to increase social opportunities, addressing safety and expanding access to transportation options.”

Her specific goals for the program include having a Morning Call Program in place to stay in touch with house-bound residents, increasing the number of weekly and monthly opportunities for socializing and education for seniors in the community, and creating a pilot transportation program to take older residents in need of a ride to and from medical appointments.

According to Bell-Watkins, she learned of the opportunity with Age Friendly Windham when she viewed a posting on a Windham Parks and Recreation Department webpage earlier this year.

“I was interested in using my various skills to support my community,” she said. “This was of interest to me because of the many opportunities and needs in Windham. I was interested in helping the town enhance the service to our citizens.”

Some of the initiatives that the Age Friendly Windham committee has been working on include the Good Morning Call-in Program with the Windham Police Department, Age-Friendly lunches co-sponsored by the committee and Windham Parks and Recreation, and additional involvement with the TRIAD programing. The committee will also be updating the resource manual that was created a couple of years ago and those printed materials will be made available at various locations around town.

Funding for the position that Bell-Watkins currently holds was through an AARP grant that ran through Sept. 30, so this Maine Community Foundation Grant came at an opportune time.

Additional funding has been provided by the town, and that included $3,010 allotted in the town’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget, along with a carry forward of about $4,000 from Fiscal Year 2023.

Just having Bell-Watkins in place as director has given Age Friendly Windham a much greater presence in the community and a more enhanced profile to help the committee meet its goals, committee members say.
For more information about Age-Friendly Windham, call 207-892-4649, visit agefriendlywindham.org. or send an email to agefriendlywindham@gmail.com <

Windham students assist police officers in bringing toys to children

By Jolene Bailey

Windham High School students from the Class of 2026 assisted Windham police officers in providing gifts to children to celebrate the holiday season with a special shopping initiative on Dec. 5.

Students from the Class of 2026 at Windham High School
joined Windham Police Department officers in shopping
for gifts for children and families in need at the Windham
Walmart on Dec. 5. PHOTO BY JOLENE BAILEY 
Many people consider this time of year the season of giving, however some families may be less fortunate and need some extra support in many different areas. Through the years, the Windham Police Department has made note of families in need with young children and has shopped for them, supporting them with gifts.

This year, WHS students had the opportunity to shop at the local Walmart with officers. The students were divided into small groups of two to four and each got a different name of a child in the community with some of their listed interests.

“I think this would be a good opportunity for Windham to come together during trying times,” said WHS sophomore Lauren Neal, who had promoted an idea of a holiday drive at the school. “People in our town still may be suffering from the impacts of COVID and don't have resources.”

Despite COVID, there are many other reasons some local families may face financial problems. The goal was to collectively find items that a child and their family would need or possibly want to help spread positivity through holiday cheer. This small act can create a larger memorable moment for all involved.

“This is a way we will impact our community as it could bring us together,” said WHS sophomore Ethan Nguyen. “There could always be someone in need of an extra hand.”

And what seems small to one, can be considered extremely impactful to another person. This project of teaming with the police department came from students who were eager to get out in the community.

“This drive may impact me personally, but not as much as the people who will be receiving the gifts because it is about helping them and not helping my image or impression I could make in the process,” said Nguyen.

Volunteering from any age not only can make a difference within how that person feels giving an extra hand, but also others involved receiving that hand to grasp. The RSU 14 school district originally wanted to help out to show appreciation to the rest of the community and to sponsor families.

Rather than students collecting toys at the school, helping the police officers with their shopping initiative was a different method for students to become involved and to have a more hands-on experience outside of the school campus. <

Report explores solutions for DHHS child protection problems

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, the Windham-based non-profit organization “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes” released its report entitled “Unsupported: Key Lessons for Improving Maine’s Child Welfare System by Supporting All Stakeholders.”

Bill Diamond of Windham is the founder of Walk A Mile
In Their Shoes, a nonprofit which has released the findings
of a report about how the Maine Department of Health and
Human Services can better protect children in the state's care.
COURTESY PHOTO  
The report finds that caseworkers, foster parents, children, and other stakeholders are left without adequate backing by the Department of Health and Human Services and examines areas of concern, who is impacted, straightforward solutions, and what success looks like. The report is the culmination of listening sessions and meetings with concerned citizens across Maine interested in providing better and safer outcomes for children in Maine’s care.

The report can be downloaded by visiting: https://walkamilemaine.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/12/unsupported_wamits_report_121223.pdf

Diamond said it’s now up to DHHS to make the necessary changes in their own internal policies and procedures which have been failing children for years.

“This report offers specific solutions to the problems that we all recognize as serious threats to children in state care,” he said.

According to Diamond, the Walk a Mile in Their Shoes organization plans on continuing interviews with stakeholders across Maine to monitor progress on DHHS's efforts to improve a system that many recognize as flawed and sometimes needlessly puts children in danger.

“This report is only the beginning of what needs to be an intensive and determined effort to fix our broken state child protection system,” said Diamond.

Diamond who lives in Windham, is the founder of Walk a Mile in Their Shoes, and said he will now focus on initiating in-depth research on child welfare, holding public forums to promote wide-ranging discussions by experts in the field of child protection, and creating public awareness pertaining to the ongoing problems within the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) under the jurisdiction of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

He said the nonprofit will reach out to all interested people and groups who want to join us in our efforts to protect vulnerable children in Maine.

“We seek advice and support from all; especially those who are subject to State rules and regulations and work directly with OCFS on a regular basis such as foster care parents, childcare professionals, adopters, and others,” Diamond said. “We acknowledge that within the OFCS there are many sincere people who have and continue to dedicate themselves to the well- being of children under their care and jurisdiction. However, we also are fully aware of the serious ongoing problems within the management at OCFS, including their obvious struggle in making appropriate decisions to keep children safe as was illustrated by the record number of child deaths in 2021.” <

Evidence-based Tai Chi classes improve health outcomes for older Mainers

Every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room after experiencing a fall. Older adults are also more likely to experience negative mental and physical health effects resulting from isolation, especially in the winter. Southern Maine Agency on Aging addresses and prevents these issues through its Agewell programs.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging
will offer free Tai Chi classes for older
adults both in person and online
starting in January. COURTESY PHOTO

For years, SMAA has provided evidence-based Tai Chi classes for older adults, and the newest sessions begin in early January 2024. Tai chi is a low-impact exercise performed in slow, fluid movements that puts minimal stress on bones and joints, can be done seated or standing, and has been proven to improve balance, mobility, strength, and psychological health.

Here are some upcoming Tai Chi classes being offered by SMAA this winter:

Tai Chi for Health and Balance Introduction – In person

This class is designed for students new to Tai Chi, or those still learning the movements. Students are welcome to participate in this program more than once to learn and internalize the movements. Offered at the South Portland Public Library, 482 Broadway, South Portland from 11 a.m. to noon Jan. 8 to March 21 on Mondays and Thursdays and at Scarborough Community Services, "The Hub," 418 Payne Road, Scarborough from 1 to 2 p.m. Jan. 18 to March 26 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Tai Chi for Health and Balance Deepening – Virtual

This is an advanced class and will be held virtually on ZOOM. Only returning students who have completed the Tai Chi for Health and Balance introductory class can register for this Deepening class. Offered from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Jan. 17 to March 27 on Mondays and Wednesdays or 9 to 10 a.m. Jan. 9 to March 14 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Pre-registration for all classes is required, as class sizes are limited. Register online at www.smaaa.org/events.html or contact the SMAA Agewell team at 207-396-6578.

The Southern Maine Agency on Aging is the focal point in Cumberland and York counties for resources, services, and information to empower older adults, adults with disabilities, and their caregivers. <

December 8, 2023

In the public eye: WPS teacher handles instructional leader duties with ease

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

By Ed Pierce


A great teacher inspires hope, ignites young imaginations, and instills a love of learning in students and Windham Primary School’s Rebecca Miller is such a teacher.

Rebecca Miller is in her 17th year of working
at Windham Primary School where she serves
as a second-grade teacher and also as an
instructional leader. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Miller is a second-grade teacher and instructional leader at WPS and supports the principal and assistant principal with decision-making, and supervises teachers and students with behavioral, social emotional, or academic needs. She also supports the school’s Foster Grandparents, helps to organize the Backpack Program at WPS and supports school staff and students with technology programs.

“I also work closely with our facilities director, technology department, and custodial staff to allocate new technology and plans for the future needs of our school,” Miller said. “I sit on various teams in the school and district to help support the diverse needs of children in our school.”

As an instructional leader, Miller assists WPS teachers in finding the resources that they require, coaching and mentoring them, and informing them about professional development opportunities, both formal and informal. Her goal is provide clear direction and offer support that will improve teacher instruction at WPS because when teachers feel supported in their work, it has positive outcomes on student learning.

Now in her 17th year at WPS, she did her student teaching and internship at the school while still in college.

“It was a school that immediately made an impression on me,” Miller said. “Although I had experiences in other schools, WPS had my heart from the beginning. I've only ever worked professionally here.”

Born and raised in Manchester, New Hampshire, she attended college at the University of Southern Maine and earned a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Sociology. She went on to obtain a master’s degree in teaching and learning and to earn her Assistant Principal certification. She’s been a second-grade teacher for most of her career but also spent some time as a third-grade teacher.

According to Miller, she says the best thing about her job is she gets to have the best of both worlds.

“I have administrator responsibilities in the school and district which allow me to help lead our school, but I am still face-to-face with a class of children every day making meaningful connections to those learners and their families and supporting their growth as learners,” Miller said. “Sometimes it feels like two full-time jobs, juggling both roles, but I wouldn't change it.”

Her unique position sometimes creates a misconception.

“I have a unique role, with not many schools having similar positions,” Miller said. “So, at times, it may not be easily understood what I do day to day. I fill many different roles and have a lot of different passions at WPS. The school community probably gets a lot of emails and communication from me on a variety of things. A big passion is Odyssey of the Mind and fundraising to support the success of that program here. I love our school and the community and often am involved with several initiatives at one time, doing whatever needs to be done.”

Among Miller’s most memorable moments through the years while working for WPS are the school’s community events.

“The Fall Festival and Family Movie Nights where our families get to come into the building and enjoy something fun with their children is wonderful to experience,” she said. “You get to know the children and families on a whole other level.”

Her family knows all about WPS as her husband teaches third grade at the school and both of their children attended the school.

“They are at Manchester and Windham Middle School now. So, I'm pretty invested in Windham and our school,” Miller said. “My family is lucky to have the same schedule, so we spend a lot of time together traveling all around Maine in the summer times. It's really special.”

Of everything that she has learned about teaching in her years at WPS, Miller says one thing stands out for her above all the rest.

“Teaching is not a job you can do alone,” she said. “It truly takes a team of caring professionals to ensure that all the students thrive. We can't do it by ourselves and I'm so grateful to be surrounded by such a wonderful staff and teaching partners.” <

Home Care and Hospice Alliance salutes Fay for her work to improve lives of older Mainers

AUGUSTA – State Representative Jessica Fay, D-Raymond, received the Advocate of the Year award from the Home Care and Hospice Alliance of Maine on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at the Blaine House in Augusta for her extensive work to enhance the well-being, safety and care of older Mainers.

State Rep. Jessica Fay of Raymond was named
'Advocate of the Year' by the Home Care and
Hospice Alliance of Maine for her work on
behalf of older Mainers. FILE PHOTO
“It is an honor to be recognized by the Home Care and Hospice Alliance for my legislative work,” said Fay. “The policy advances we've made during my time in the Legislature have been significant, but the reason they've been successful is because of the hundreds of people who have put a whole lot of time and thought into how we can make Maine a better place to age.”

During her seven years serving in the Maine House of Representatives, Fay has sponsored and cosponsored legislation to improve working conditions for caregivers, provide food supplements to older Mainers and study the impacts of state-based long-term services and supports currently offered. She has also supported legislation to provide economic justice to historically disadvantaged older Mainers who utilize the Medicare Savings Program.

“As the next session begins, I will continue to advocate for older Mainers, caregivers and their families, and for the implementation of policies that we have worked so hard to pass,” said Fay.

Fay, is the Maine House chair of the Government Oversight Committee and a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs. She serves the community members of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, and part of Poland. <

Maine Audubon reveals results of expansive loon count

It was a milestone year for Maine Audubon’s Annual Loon Count. The count turned 40 in July, and volunteer counters tallied loons on the highest number of lakes since the Loon Count began.

Maine Audubon estimates that 2,892 adult loons and 411
loon chicks were residing on lakes in the southern half
of Maine when the Annual Loon Count was conducted
on July 15. COURTESY PHOTO
On July 15, some 1,503 volunteer loon counters headed out to a record 374 lakes to gather important data, allowing Maine Audubon to calculate a population estimate for southern Maine and keep an eye on trends over time. Although weather, including some pea soup fog in the north, resulted in poor visibility for some, it was a great way to commemorate the 40th anniversary of this statewide volunteer effort.

Though the count itself lasts only half an hour, loon count volunteers and coordinators commit to much more than just 30 minutes. From the Rangeley Lakes region to Moosehead and down to Sebago, coordinators are organizing counters on huge lakes, helping assign people to one of many survey areas, conducting outreach, and tallying up their individual lake numbers. Counters get out on the lakes earlier than 7 a.m. making sure their boat tanks are full and scouting locations and boundaries.

“The continued dedication from loon counters over the last 40 years is a testament to how committed people are to loons and conservation efforts in Maine,” said Maine Audubon Loon Count Coordinator Hannah Young. “Every counter has a unique story about how they became involved or what the loons mean to them — this project is lucky to have such a range of experiences and backgrounds.”

Now for the numbers: Across the 374 lakes included, counters tallied 2,299 adults and 178 chicks. To determine the loon population estimate for the southern half of Maine (south of the 45th parallel, where enough lakes are covered by counters to determine a reliable estimate) Maine Audubon estimates the adult and chick numbers across all lakes in the southern half based on a random sample of those actually counted. Based on those calculations, it projects a population of 2,892 adults and 411 chicks for the southern half of Maine.

This is the second year in a row the estimated population of adults has decreased, but Maine Audubon biologists are not worried. There was a similar drop in adult numbers between 2005 to 2007 and again in 2018 to 2020, but both times were followed by a marked increase in the next year. As a reminder, the estimates look at numbers over time, and since the overall trend has continued upwards over the years, the year-to-year fluctuations are not worrisome.

Generally, changes over a three- to five-year time frame might be cause for some concern, but we’re not there yet, especially noting the increase in chicks.

As with the adult numbers, year-to-year fluctuations of the chick population are not unusual but the marked increase this year is exciting. In addition, this will hopefully result in higher adult numbers down the road as these chicks reach breeding age (in six or seven years). So. Maine Audubon is celebrating this 113 chick increase, up from 298 chicks estimated in the 2022 count to 411 chicks in 2023, with the understanding that it expects to see these ups and downs.

There is not enough coverage in the northern portion of Maine (north of the 45th parallel) to confidently provide an estimate of the loon population for that part of the state. However, volunteers are counting lakes there; of the 374 lakes counted, 69 of those were north of the 45th parallel, and on those lakes, volunteers tallied 522 adults and 31 chicks.

This number cannot be used as a straight comparison to the southern part of the state, but it can serve as a reference for loon numbers and northern coverage, and Maine Audubon hopes both will increase, moving forward. When the loon count began 40 years ago, aerial surveys were done to count on 100 random lakes to estimate the loon population in the north, so if you’re a pilot and interested in starting this up again, reach out to conserve@maineaudubon.org

And in outstanding news, together with the help of loon counters—who made up many of the 1,000-plus people who signed Maine Audubon’s petition in favor of LD 958 – a new law was passed which will phase out the sale and use of painted lead fishing tackle, finally closing a dangerous loophole.

Lead poisoning has long been one of the leading causes of death for adult loons in Maine. Common Loons can accidentally ingest lost or discarded lead tackle when it sinks to the bottom of a lake or pond, causing illness and death.

Following a five-year phase-out process, it has been illegal to sell and/or use lead sinkers and bare “unpainted” jigs (weighing less than an ounce in weight or measuring less than 2.5 inches in length) in Maine since 2017. Now painted lead jigs within these size and weight limitations will also be phased out, bringing Maine’s waterways one step closer to being safer for loons. <

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. <

New pastor to lead Raymond Village Community Church

By Ed Pierce

Raymond Village Community Church has introduced Rev. Brian Donovan as its new spiritual leader.

Donovan, 51, will administer and lead the spiritual life of the church and the surrounding community, and he assumed his new duties for a one-year term as pastor at RVCC on Oct. 30.

The Rev. Brian Donovan will lead the Raymond
Village Community Church as its new pastor
and started a one-year term at the church on
Oct. 30. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
He has 10 years of church and pastoral leadership experience and obtained a master’s degree in divinity from Boston University’s School of Theology. Prior to his new duties in Raymond, Donovan has served at churches in Waban, Massachusetts; Boothbay Harbor, and Salem, New Hampshire. He is also simultaneously leading worship at the First Congregational Church of Gray.

A graduate of Novi High School in Michigan, Donovan lives in East Boothbay and is the chaplain at the Greg Wing of St. Andrew’s Village Nursing Home in Boothbay Harbor.

Prior to his calling to the ministry, Donovan worked as a ceramic tile installer and has also worked as a framer, a marine electrician, and as a contracting company owner and operator. In 2011, he made the decision to become a pastor and study at Boston University.

“We are pleased to welcome Pastor Brian as our new leader. We are excited to enter this phase of our church life. With his direction and guidance, we will continue to uphold community involvement as a strong trademark of this church,” said RVCC Moderator Tom Wiley. “We invite you to join with us as we welcome Pastor Brian at our new worship time of 11 a.m.”

Raymond Village Community Church worships under the Maine Conference, United Church of Christ which features 143 congregations spread across the State of Maine.

“I am grateful to be called to serve the community of Raymond through the Raymond Congregational Community Church and bring God's message of love to all people in this changing time,” Donovan said. “Change, though sometimes scary, is also the exciting part of living in this 21st century. My hope is that everyone within the church and throughout our community will embrace the need for change; so, we can discover and provide God's faithful love for all people that our community needs, in the way they need it, today. And I do mean All people, no matter who you are or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome, accepted, and loved. I pray you will join us and be part of the exciting changes God is creating through us for the town of Raymond."

This summer, worship at the church featured a rotation of temporary pastors while a permanent pastor could be found including Rev. Chan Roach, Rev. Jane McIntyre, and Rev. Deborah Loomis Lafond. <

Select Board extends contract of Town of Raymond’s assessor

By Ed Pierce

By a unanimous vote during a meeting on Nov. 14, the Raymond Select Board has extended the contract of Assessor’s Agent Curt Lebel through June 30, 2024.

Contract assessor's agent Curt
Lebel has had his contract 
renewed by the Raymond
Select Board through June
2024. FILE PHOTO
Lebel has served as Raymond’s assessor’s agent since 2011, splitting his time between three different Maine towns as an assessor.

“The primary function of the assessor is to apportion property taxes which fund many operations which benefit the general public,” Lebel said. “Education, Police, Fire, EMS, County Courts, Local Zoning, etc. are items which are all funded, in part by the property tax. Voters, or their representatives determine how much they wish to spend on these items.”

He said that it is the assessor’s responsibility to assign each property owner their respective share of this amount.

“In accordance with Maine’s Constitution and Statutes, this is conducted through a valuation process, where taxes are apportioned out by property value,” Lebel said during a previous interview. “Most secondary duties of the assessor, such as tracking ownership of property, mapping of parcels, the management of tax exemption and incentive programs are done in support of the primary function.”

In accordance with Maine’s Constitution and Statutes, this is conducted through a valuation process, where taxes are apportioned out by property value, Lebel said.

According to Lebel, the most challenging aspect of his work for the Town of Raymond involves taxes.

“Taxation can be a controversial topic. Everyone has their own opinions as to how much money should be allocated to certain functions of government,” he said. “Because the assessor has a lot of interaction with the public, a large part of the assessor’s role is speaking with citizens about the value and benefit of their public institutions and public workers, while understanding frustrations around escalating costs of goods and services and occasional flaws in the tax system. It is all too easy, in today’s climate, to lose perspective on these issues.”

Lebel is from Richmond, Maine and makes the commute to Raymond about 60 days every year for his work for the town.

He’s worked as a professional tax assessor since 2004 and attended classes at the University of Southern Maine. Before becoming an assessor, he previously worked in the fitness industry, in the real estate and general contracting fields, and spent several years working in security operations for Maine Yankee Nuclear Power.

As Raymond’s assessor’s agent, Lebel is often asked what causes assessments for properties to go up or go down and how frequently that happens.

“Property valuations generally will increase or decrease for a couple different reasons. Individual properties which undergo renovations, new construction or perhaps have sustained some type of damage, may be adjusted up or down as those things happen,” he said. “Also, market forces over time can erode the equity of a valuation model, necessitating occasional revaluations which reset the values of all homes in a given town to current market conditions and restore greater equity and fairness to the valuations.”

Revaluations generally occur in 10- to 15-year cycles and have the effect of redistributing how the overall tax is apportioned, depending on how the markets view differing properties and neighborhoods,” Lebel said.

And revaluations do not generally produce more tax revenues for the schools and towns, he said.

When his current contract extension expires, Lebel said that he will seek a new three-year contract from the Raymond Board of Selectmen as he prepares for a new revaluation process for the town. <