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 décor 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:

For more information about the 2023 Windham Holiday Light Parade, visit 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.
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.
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 <

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
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
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. <

November 17, 2023

‘Festival of Trees’ event nearing at Windham Hill UCC

By Masha Yurkevich

As the holiday season draws closer, Windham Hill United Church of Christ (UCC) is launching preparations for its popular annual event called the “Festival of Trees.”

Some of the decorated Christmas trees from a previous
'Festival of Trees' event are shown. This year's 'Festival
of Trees' will run from Dec. 1 to Dec. 3 at the Windham
Hill United Church of Christ Fellowship Hall, 140
Windham Center Road. The event is dedicated to the
memory of the late Bob Turner, who helped bring it
This year’s “Festival of Trees” will be held at the Windham Hill Fellowship Hall, 140 Windham Center Road, and runs from noon to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2 and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3. A grand drawing of winners is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3.

The community is invited to view the decorated trees and then purchase tickets for 50 cents each and then to place them near the trees that are their favorites. Each tree’s sponsor will decorate the tree and then put gifts on and around the tree, with many gifts coming from their business or organization. Drawing winners will receive the tree itself, with all of its lights and ornaments, and all of the gifts on the tree branches, and all of the gifts under the tree.

In the past, Windham UCC Festival of Trees drawing recipients took home everything from toys and gift items to kitchen supplies and jewelry and there is always great excitement leading up to the Grand Drawing on Sunday afternoon.

Admission to the “Festival of Trees” is free and everyone is welcome to visit to see these beautiful trees and review the gifts from the tree sponsors.

“This year is a very special year for us as we lost Bob Turner in January of this year,” says Paula Smithson, member of Winham Hill UCC. “My husband, Bob, and I, along with other members of Windham Hill UCC helped Bonnie and Bob Turner carry out the idea the Turners brought to our church in 2017 called Festival of Trees. They had been involved in the same project when they lived in Brewer.”

As originally planned, local merchants and friends were contacted to sponsor a tree with items that they selected for the event.

“We might have started with 18 trees but have now grown to 22 fully decorated trees that fill our Fellowship Hall, says Smithson. 

She said that all the profits generated from the event go to church mission projects in the community.

“With the loss of Bob Turner this past January, we want to honor him in any way possible. His wife, Bonnie, was a great team player with Bob,” Smithson says. “He did everything the first year to get the event off the ground, and we learned so much from the two of them. We had many meetings with him, and he showed us the way for six years.”

One of the ways that the members of Windham Hill UCC are honoring Bob Turner this year is by having a special tree in his memory that shows how much he loved life. Smithson said that he deeply loved his family and was such a great leader for the event in many ways.

“The tree for him is based on things that he loved to do with his family,” Smithson says. “They loved playing board games, barbecues, boating, and just sitting around enjoying each other. He was the same way with his friends, too.”

His tree will have a barbecue grill and stand, gift certificates to local restaurants, a cooler, accessories that enhance the grill theme and many other fun items.

“We will have posters in Fellowship Hall explaining the Mission Projects and how the event supports our church,” says Smithson.

Some of the mission projects include donating to the Windham Food Pantry, making Blessing Bags to give to the homeless, donating to the Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing, and providing meals for families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas. As far as national projects, Smithson said that Windham Hill UCC also gives to fire victims, hurricane victims and other causes such as those.

Prize winners in the grand drawing don’t have to be present to win.

There will also be a café at the event that will be open during the “Festival of Trees” serving fish chowder, tacos, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and plenty of baked goods such as whoopie pies and other assorted treats. <

Pumpkin design activity unites teams of WMS students

By Ed Pierce

Building trust and learning how to navigate conflict were just a part of a unique activity at Windham Middle School as student teams decorated and carved pumpkins with the winning pumpkin and team being unveiled at a schoolwide assembly on Nov. 9.

A Windham Middle School's team of seventh-grade students
gather with teacher Anne Fougere after a school assembly
where they learned they had won the school's 'Pumpkin 
Carving and Design' contest. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE 
A total of 30 different advisory teams at the school met, selected a pumpkin, voted how they wanted their pumpkin to look and then set about turning their pumpkin into the design they chose. After a few days of work on the activity, the teams displayed their creations for their peers in the hallway outside the school gymnasium with judges including WMS Principal Greg Applestein, Assistant Principal AJ Ruth, and RSU 14 Assistant Superintendent Christine Frost-Bertinet selecting the winning pumpkin.

Student advisory teams featured small groups of participants from all grade levels at Windham Middle School and teachers with the exercise and activity intended to build strong connections within the teams of students, foster creativity and to refine communications by drawing together students with diverse backgrounds and different personalities tasked to work on a common problem.

The winning team’s entry as chosen by the judges was a pumpkin that was painted to look like an ice cream cone with a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped by a cherry. It was created by a group of WMS seventh graders led by health teacher Anne Fougere.

She said it was a great opportunity for members of her advisory team to work on leadership abilities, think outside the box and that the students developed a strong sense of solidarity, making them more invested in themselves and others.

Fougere said that team building is crucial for middle school students because it helps them to develop essential life skills such as communication, leadership, problem-solving, and collaboration, and these skills will benefit them not only in their academic pursuits but also later in their personal and professional lives.

This pumpkin decorating activity was challenging enough to encourage student growth and development but was not so difficult as to be frustrating or overwhelming.

Seventh grader Makenzie Reynolds was a member of Fougere’s team and said that she found the hardest part of the activity was painting cherries on the winning pumpkin and making them look real.

“We used clay, pipe cleaners and red paint,” Reynolds said. “It took two or three days to finish everything, but I liked winning.”

Max Robinson, a seventh grader and another member of Fougere’s team, said he found the entire process interesting.

“We first had a Google document with different choices and then we all voted,” Robinson said. “I liked the different aspects of our design especially the cherry and the ice cream.”

Robinson said his involvement in the winning project included spending three days helping to paint the pumpkin with acrylic paint.

“I learned from this event that although something looks hard, if you keep trying, you will accomplish your goal,” he said.

Seventh grader Lauren Nickel was also a member of Fougere’s winning team and said what she will take away from this activity is much can be accomplished when working as a team.

“I’ll remember how much fun we had doing it together,” Nickel said. “The hardest part of doing this for me was the cone part of the design and trying to figure out how to make it look like a real ice cream cone.”

According to Nickel, the easiest part of the project was the actual painting of the pumpkin.

“I helped paint a couple layers and it wasn’t difficult,” she said.

Members of the winning team include David Poungi; Illijah Shaw; Teagan Whitaker; Ellie Tarbox; Kenzie Reynolds; Maya Salazar; Gage Riche; Lillianna Nobe; Maxwell Robinson; Alina Robbins; Lauren Nickel; Annabelle Riley; and Annaliese Reiner.<

Presumpscot Regional Land Trust hires new executive director

Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, the regional land conservation organization that serves Windham, announced that it has appointed Will Sedlack to be its next Executive Director.

Will Sedlack has been named Executive Director of the
Presumpscot Regional Land Trust. He will begin his new
duties Dec. 15 and brings years of experience working in
the nonprofit field to the organization.
Sedlack will assume the leadership position held for nearly a decade by Rachelle Curran Apse, whose last day will be Dec. 14. Sedlack will join the land trust staff during the last week of November to transition into the position and begin his duties as Executive Director on Dec. 15.

The Presumpscot Regional Land Trust primarily serves Windham and surrounding towns Gorham, Gray, Standish, and Westbrook. In the last decade, the Land Trust has grown to include more than 500 supporting families, nearly 3,000 acres of conserved lands, and more than 30 miles of trails that are free and open to the public.

In addition, the land trust monitors the water quality of the Presumpscot River watershed, coordinates the 28-mile Sebago to the Sea Trail, and provides educational programming to hundreds of students and families each year.

Sedlack brings years of experience working in the nonprofit field, most recently at Maine Conservation Voters, managing a wide range of projects that engage communities in democracy, environmental, and conservation advocacy and policy making. Sedlack has a Law Degree from the University of Maine School of Law and a Master of Policy, Planning, and Management from the Muskie School of Public Service at USM. Sedlack has also had the opportunity to work at two other local nonprofits as a legal fellow: Maine Farmland Trust and Friends of Casco Bay.

He began his career at Gorham High School as a technology integrator and a teacher in the BRIDGES program for at-risk students. Sedlack has also served on the Board of Directors for MaineShare, a coalition of over 40 nonprofits statewide, and on the Zoning Board of Appeals for the City of Portland.

“I am passionate about publicly accessible trails, and I am honored to become the next Executive Director of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust,” Sedlack said. “I love seeing how space transforms throughout the seasons and how communities creatively access nature. The trails and rivers of southern Maine have provided me space to think, act, connect, and learn about myself and the world around me. I enjoy fly fishing, cross-country skiing, gardening, and walking. I am excited to lead the Land Trust and ensure that the legacy of public access to nature in Gorham, Windham, Westbrook, Standish, and Gray continues for generations to come.”

Dave Cole, Co-President of the Board of Directors of the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, believes that Sedlack will be a good fit to lead the organization.

“We are delighted to hire Will to lead the organization,” Cole said. “Will’s thoughtful, approachable, and energetic style will bring the leadership needed to continue the momentum that has resulted in over 800 acres of land conserved and open for the public in Gorham, Westbrook, and Windham this year.”

The Land Trust’s three-person staff team will continue with Toby Jacobs as Program Manager and Brenna Crothers as Community Engagement Manager. The Land Trust is also actively hiring a part-time Development Coordinator. To learn more, go to:

Curran Apse has worked for the Land Trust since 2015 and is leaving to move with her family to Cape Town, South Africa.

Sedlack will attend the East Windham Conservation Area opening on Saturday, Dec. 2, co-hosted by the Land Trust and the Town of Windham. The event is free and open to the public, but due to space constraints, everyone must register to attend in advance. Register at on the events page. <

November 15, 2023

Windham Town Council re-elects Morrison as council chair

By Ed Pierce

At-Large Councilor Mark Morrison has been re-elected as Windham Town Council chairperson, after serving for the past year in that position. The council also nominated Councilor Nick Kalogerakis to serve as the council’s vice-chair and Councilor Jarrod Maxfield as the council’s parliamentarian during a meeting on Tuesday evening.

At-Large Councilor Mark Morrison
has been re-elected to serve as the
Windham Town Council chairperson
for the next year. Morrison was
re-elected to the council for a three-
year term earlier this month.
Morrison has lived in Windham since 1990 and works as a financial advisor. He has represented Windham as an At-Large town councilor since first being elected in November 2020 and he was re-elected for a three-year term to the council earlier this month. The vote to keep Morrison as council chair was 6-0, with Morrison abstaining from voting on his nomination.

The council also chose Councilor David Nadeau to serve on the Finance Committee along with Councilors Bill Reiner and Kalogerakis. Elected to serve on the Appointments Committee are Councilors Morrison, Kalogerakis and Maxfield.

Kalogerakis, who represents Windham’s South District, will join Maxfield in continuing to serve as the council’s representatives to the Windham Economic Development Corporation Board of Directors.

Councilor Brett Jones was elected to serve on the Windham Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, while Morrison will serve on  the Energy Advisory Committee.

Nadeau will continue to serve as the council’s lone representative to the Long Range Planning Committee, while Jones will continue to serve on the Natural Resources Advisory Committee.

Councilor John Henry will join Councilors Maxfield and Nadeau, to serve on the Ordinance Committee.

Morrison and Nadeau will continue to represent the council on the Substance Prevention Grant Committee.

Maxfield was elected to serve as Windham delegate to the Greater Portland Council of Governments, with Nadeau elected by councilors as Windham’s alternate delegate to that group.

Councilors voted Robert Burns, Windham Assistant Town Manager, to serve as the town’s delegate to the ecomaine Board of Directors. Maxfield was elected to serve as alternate delegate to the ecomaine board. <

November 10, 2023

Voters make voices heard in Windham and Raymond

By Ed Pierce

Civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. believed that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter and was a strong proponent of exercising the right to vote. King would have been proud of those who turned out to cast ballots in Windham and Raymond in Tuesday’s municipal and statewide election.

A referendum for the construction of RSU 14's proposed
Windham/Raymond Middle School was approved by
voters in the school district on Nov. 7. FILE PHOTO  
After tabulating the results, Windham Town Clerk Linda Morrell and Raymond Town Clerk Sue Look have submitted the unofficial results for certification from the election.

In Windham, incumbent Mark Morrison tallied 4,204 votes to win re-election for a three-year term to the council for an At-Large position. Write-in challenger Zac Eklund received 947 votes.

Also in Windham, Morrell was re-elected to a two-year term as Town Clerk and ran unopposed, picking up 5,324 votes. Incumbent Brett Jones also ran unopposed for a three-year Town Council position representing Windham’s East District. Jones received 4,335 votes.

Windham’s Citizen-Initiated Recall Ordinance referendum passed with 3,448 voters in favor of the measure and 2,524 voters opposed to it.

The new Windham/Raymond Middle School construction referendum was strongly supported by Windham voters with 3,769 voting yes and 2,257 voting no in Windham.

Two candidates representing Windham for three-year terms on the RSU 14 Board of Directors were elected Tuesday from a field of four candidates vying for the positions.

Marge Govoni received 2,803 votes to win one of those positions while Joe Kellner tallied 2,574 votes to win the other remaining position. Justin Whynot received 2,306 votes and Dawn Miller received 2,084 votes.

Raymond residents cast 975 votes to oppose the new Windham/Raymond Middle School construction, while 739 voted in favor of the referendum.

Here’s how statewide referendum questions fared in local voting:

QUESTION 1: Do you want to bar some quasi-governmental entities and all consumer-owned electric utilities from taking on more than $1 billion in debt unless they get statewide voter approval? In Raymond, 1,206 voted yes, 487 no. In Windham, 4,051 voted yes, 1,840 no. Statewide, the measure passed, 65 percent voting yes and 35 percent voting no.

QUESTION 2: Do you want to ban foreign governments and entities that they own, control, or influence from making campaign contributions or financing communications for or against candidates or ballot questions? In Raymond, 1,511 voted yes, 214 no. In Windham, 5,235 voted yes, 766 no. Statewide, the measure passed, 86 percent voting yes and 14 percent voting no.

QUESTION 3: Do you want to create a new power company governed by an elected board to acquire and operate existing for-profit electricity transmission and distribution facilities in Maine? In Raymond, 1,245 voted no, 485 yes. In Windham, 4,457 voted no, 1,586 yes. Statewide, the measure was rejected with 69 percent voting no and 31 percent voting yes.

Do you want to require vehicle manufacturers to standardize on-board diagnostic systems and provide remote access to those systems and mechanical data to owners and independent repair facilities? In Raymond, 1,489 voted yes, 238 no. In Windham, 5,002 voted yes, 1,008 no. Statewide, the measure passed, 84 percent voting yes and 16 percent voting no.

QUESTION 5: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to change the time period for judicial review of the validity of written petitions from within 100 days from the date of filing to within 100 business days from the date of filing of a written petition in the office of the Secretary of State, with an exception for petitions filed within 30 calendar days before or after a general election? In Raymond, 942 voted yes, 735 no. In Windham, 3,088 voted yes, 2,752 no. Statewide, the measure passed, 58 percent voting yes and 42 percent voting no.

QUESTION 6: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to require that all of the provisions of the Constitution be included in the official printed copies of the Constitution prepared by the Secretary of State? In Raymond, 1,235 voted yes, 455 no. In Windham, 4,032 yes, 1,831 no. Statewide, the measure passed, 73 percent voting yes and 27 percent voting no.

 Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to remove a provision requiring a circulator of a citizen's initiative or people's veto petition to be a resident of Maine and a registered voter in Maine, requirements that have been ruled unconstitutional in federal court? In Raymond, 1,210 voted no, 461 yes. In Windham, 4,291 no, 1,478 yes. Statewide, the measure was rejected, 68 percent voting no and 32 percent voting yes.

QUESTION 8: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to remove a provision prohibiting a person under guardianship for reasons of mental illness from voting for Governor, Senators, and Representatives, which the United States District Court for the District of Maine found violates the United States Constitution and federal law? In Raymond, 999 voted no, 685 yes. In Windham, 3,471 voted no, 2,343 yes. Statewide, the measure was rejected, 53 percent voting no and 47 percent voting yes. < 

In the public eye: Manchester School teacher strives to make impact in lives of students

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

By Ed Pierce

Education is certainly the key to success in life and teacher Melissa Azzaratta continues to strive to make a lasting impact in the lives of her students.

Melissa Azzaratta has taught fourth grade at
Manchester School in Windham for the past
12 years and became interested in working
for RSU 14 after doing her student teaching
at Windham Primary School while attending
Azzaratta is a fourth-grade teacher at Manchester School in Windham and is actively involved in the instruction of writing, reading, math, science, and social studies curriculum as well as to help support and guide students through a variety of things.

“The absolute best thing about my job is getting to know students and forming relationships with them,” Azzaratta said. “Watching them grow and thrive brings me so much joy. We truly form a family, and it's so hard to say goodbye at the end of the year.”

She says that the most difficult part of what she does as a teacher is that the job is demanding and there’s not enough time in the day to spend with all her students.

“The most challenging aspect of my job is that there can't be 20 of me,” Azzaratta said. “If students have struggles at home and in their personal lives, I want to be there for all of them all the time and it's hard when I can't be everywhere at once.”

In fourth-grade math, children learn about place value up to the millions, prime and composite numbers, multiplying 2-digit and 3-digit numbers, long division, fractions, decimals, the metric system, and geometry, while in Social Studies, they learn geography skills such as map reading and longitude and latitude, state history, and early American history. 

Fourth grade is also when students learn about their own state's history, and in science they learn about rocks, fossils, erosion, electricity, forces and motion, light, and heat. During English, fourth graders learn how to find a story's theme, comparing and contrasting, citing textual evidence, main idea, writing objective summaries, writing narratives, writing research reports, writing explanatory essays, writing persuasive and argumentative pieces, figurative language, prefixes, suffixes, and context clues.

According to Azzaratta, the biggest misconception people may have about teaching is that the teachers leave after school and don't think about their job until the next day.

“Many teachers are always thinking about their students around the clock,” she said.

Azzaratta was born in Tampa, Florida and moved to Waterboro when she was 10-years-old.

“I went to the University of Southern Maine and have my master’s degree in teaching and learning and am currently working on my Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies with a focus in reading and curriculum,” she said. “I have a bachelor's degree in communication.”

Her student teaching was performed at Windham Primary School in second grade and Azzaratta said it was there that she came to absolutely love the Windham community and wanted to be a part of it, so she applied to any open position in the Windham School District.

“I was lucky enough to get an interview and get hired at Manchester School,” she said. “I've been here ever since.”

She’s now spent 12 years teaching fourth grade at Manchester School and said that she loves that age group and the curriculum that comes with it.

“My most memorable moment is when a student didn't like school, struggled in reading and math, and by the end of the year, they made so much progress and had a different outlook toward school,” Azzaratta said. “The public may not know that I put so much time into caring for each and every one of my students. I want each of them to be successful, not just in their academics, but in their social-emotional learning as well. I truly look at the whole child and want what's best for them in their personal and school lives.”

Azzaratta’s family appreciates her dedication to teaching and her willingness to work long hours while investing in the future success of her students through education.

“My family loves that I am a teacher and helping students to learn each and every day,” she said. “They like that I am helping our future leaders and giving them tools to be successful members of society.”

As a teacher, Azzaratta said she also learns valuable lessons from her students every day.

“I have learned that each and every student has their own needs, interests, learning styles, home lives and so much more,” she said. “It is my job to learn the ins and outs of their personalities so they are comfortable coming to school and getting the best possible education I can give them.” <

Maine Veterans Forward sponsors ‘Help and Healing PTSD’ forum

By Ed Pierce

As Americans remember the sacrifices made by military members this Veterans Day, Windham’s Dennis Brown is helping organize a forum to assist veterans and first responders who are dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Jason Kander, the author of the 
Invisible Storm' book, will be the 
keynote speaker for the 'Help and 
Healing PTSD' forum which will be
held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday,
Nov. 14 at Hannaford Hall on the 
campus of the University of Southern
Maine in Portland. COURTESY PHOTO
Brown volunteers with Maine Veterans Forward, an organization dedicated to empowering veterans, service members and their families by offering tailored support to address each veteran’s needs and eliminating hindrances to their health, safety, and well-being. The forum, called Help and Healing PTSD will be conducted from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14 at Hannaford Hall on the campus of the University of Southern Maine in Portland and features keynote speaker Jason Kander, the author of “Invisible Storm.”

The event will be in-person, live-streamed from the Veterans Forward social media, and broadcast nationally via Wreaths Across America radio. Participants will learn about what PTSD is, gain a better understanding of the causes of PTSD, what symptoms those suffering from PTSD exhibit, how treatment works, how to live with PTSD or how to live with someone with PTSD, and where to get help.

“This event grew from two Vietnam veterans I’ve come to know over the past two years,” Brown said. “One was a medic and the other on the front lines. Both have PTSD and other ailments resulting from their time in the military. I am on a town committee with the wife of one of the two. Her husband was wounded, splashed with agent orange, and has been blind for the past 10 years are a result of his service in the Army. The wife knew I am a volunteer with Veterans Forward and gave me the book “Invisible Storm” by Jason Kander about his experience with PTSD and the impact to him and his family.

Brown said as he read the book it became clear to him that members of the general public doesn’t know enough about this brain injury, and when he finished the book, he took the idea of a PTSD forum in Portland that could be streamed statewide to reach as many veterans and their families a possible to the Veterans Forward Advisory Board.

“The Veterans Forward Board agreed to the idea, and we began the planning, recognizing that this was never intended to be a fundraiser, but more of a public service,” he said. “After reading the book and reflecting on the way the lives of both the Vietnam veterans’ families have been impacted, I was compelled to shine a bright light on PTSD, and convinced my Veterans Forward Board to host this event. I was able to get Jason Kander join us as our keynote speaker and gather a terrific panel of experts. We realized that first providers often can suffer the same trauma and opened up the forum to that group of citizens as well and have received very good response from both fire and police departments across the state.”

According to Brown, Maine Veterans Forward is a subsidiary of Fedcap, a large nonprofit company. The Maine division has 16 offices throughout the state and services veterans as an agent of the state to manage housing, education and other services helping them get back on their feet.

“A group of volunteers who originally were members of the Easter Seals Veterans Count organization found Fedcap when Easter Seals left the State of Maine a little over two years ago,” Brown said. “The volunteers recognized that the need for veteran support was still there and found Fedcap, who happily took us in as an advisory board. Veterans Forward fit in well with their Families Forward program and name, and the new organization was born.”

Brown says that by coordinating efforts, Veterans Forward is there to provide a helping hand to veterans who are in need.

“That could be homelessness, mental health issues, financial distress, or other issues,” he said. “We provide a ‘hand up, not a hand-out.’ We are not helping veterans who need lifetime support, there are other organizations who do that. We focus on those who just need a hand to get over an obstacle that prevents them from moving on with their lives. It could be training to go to a job interview or getting their car fixed to be able to hold onto a job. We found out on a Friday last winter that a veteran’s furnace failed in the coldest weekend of the season. They had tried to get the furnace serviced, but no one could make it until the following week. We immediately bought them some portable electric heaters to get them warm while we reached out to our contacts to find someone who would repair their furnace. We found someone, and the furnace was fixed that evening.”

He said that many homeless veterans were caught between emergency housing during the COVID period, but those funds ran out.

“We were able to put them into hotels for a few days while we worked with other agencies in the state to obtain permanent housing for those veterans,” Brown said.

“Veterans Forward has been successful in winning Federal grants to provide the base funding that we need, including a Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program grant for $500,000, and a Veterans Financial Assistance Program for $100,000. Both of those grants are wonderful, but they do come with certain restrictions, so the Veterans Forward Advisory Board fundraises to fill in the gaps where the grants cannot help. We have worked with WGAN and Bill Dodge for a huge car show in October, although this year’s event was postponed because of weather, and then cancelled because of the risks of holding it during the Lewiston shooting aftermath. We have a Radiothon in the spring where we raise funds as well as a number of smaller, though just as important, events all year long.”

The Help and Healing PTSD forum will include an expert panel of professionals from throughout Maine, including Hope and Healing, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and more. As keynote speaker, Kander brings a wealth of experience and a compelling personal journey to the event. He served as a military intelligence officer in Afghanistan investigating corruption, espionage, and drug trafficking. He founded Let America Vote, an initiative to combat voter suppression in elections. Since 2019, Kander has served as the President of National Expansion at the Veterans Community Project, making substantial strides in preventing veteran suicide and homelessness. His personal story of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder makes him a powerful and relevant speaker for the forum.

To register to attend the forum, or for more information about Maine Veterans Forward, visit <

November 3, 2023

Maine State Chamber honors Mullins as ‘Professional of the Year’

By Ed Pierce

As the president and chief executive officer of the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Robin Mullins believes passionately in what she does and never knowingly compromises her standards and values. Her determination to constantly strive for excellence has resulted in Mullins being honored as the Maine State Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 “Dana F. Connors Chamber Professional of the Year.”

Robin Mullins, President and CEO of the
Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of
Commerce, has been honored with the
Maine State Chamber of Commerce's
2023 'Dana F. Connors Chamber
Professional of the Year' award.
The award is named in honor of Dana Connors, who is retiring this year after leading the Maine State Chamber of Commerce since 1994. It was created to recognize chamber professionals who exhibit exceptional service and have made a lasting impact upon their community.

Mullins was supposed to receive the award at the annual Maine State Chamber banquet in Portland on Oct. 26 but that event was postponed because of the tragedy in Lewiston and has yet to be rescheduled.

She grew up in Windham, graduating from Windham High School in 1986. Although she has a degree in Elementary Education, Mullins spent most of her career working for Hannaford Supermarkets, in both retail and corporate environments.

“I was blessed with 22 years at Hannaford. The company paid for me to get my master’s degree in training and development and gave me experience in every aspect of human resources management,” she said. “After leaving Hannaford to have more time with my family, I became the part-time HR Director for my brother Rob York's business, Octagon Cleaning & Restoration. She later joined the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce as its part-time office manager and in 2019 she assumed the full-time role as SLRCC’s President/CEO.

The chamber leadership job is non-stop and highly demanding, yet Mullins makes it look easy.

“The most difficult aspect of my job is not overcommitting myself. This position can easily turn into a 24/7 job,” Mullins said. “I work days, nights and weekends. I am responsible for every aspect of the chamber from membership to marketing and event planning to strategic planning. I am often attending meetings, conferences, and seminars, and often asked to participate on committees, boards, and community events. Of course, the cell phone with instant access to texts and emails certainly doesn't help. I have had to learn not to overcommit myself, say no when needed and establish boundaries to ensure I do not get burned out.”

Her first thought when she was told that she was being honored with this award was how wonderful it was to just be recognized.

“We are not a large chamber. We do not have a lot of ‘big’ business in our region. We are mostly small, locally owned businesses,” she said. “We do not have a significant budget where we can have extravagant events, and we are not typically the chamber you see being interviewed on the news. Yet here we are being recognized by the Maine State Chamber. We are clearly making an impact and must be doing some pretty cool things in our small, beautiful part of the state to be recognized, and that means the world to me.”

According to Mullins, she thinks she was chosen for this award not only because of the work she has done here in the region, but also for the partnerships she has forged at the state level.

“In 2020, I partnered with the state's Department of Economic and Community Development team to ensure our two biggest events didn't get cancelled due to the pandemic,” she said. “I am also an active board member for both the Maine Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and the Maine State Chamber. I have worked hard to keep the SLRCC in the know and relevant in what is going on at the state level. I am extremely honored to receive this award as I consider Dana Connors to be a good friend and mentor. He was the President and CEO of the Maine State Chamber for 30 years. He is an amazing human being and leader, and to receive this award in his name is one of the greatest achievements of my life.”

Her family, including husband John, and daughters, Cassidy and Ainsely, are happy and proud to see Robin receive this award.

“My family is very happy for me. No one knows the blood, sweat and tears, yes, sometimes there are tears, I put into this position, like they do,” Mullins said. “They were looking forward to celebrating at the Maine State Chamber's Annual meeting with me. The event, rightfully so, was canceled last week, so my family took me to Franco's Bistro instead where they showered me with love, flowers, and Frank's Maine Shellfish Estiva and Italian Lemon Cake. So good.”

Of her work at the chamber, Mullins says that she’s learned one thing above all else.

“I have learned how much relationships mean and how the relationships I formed in the past continue to benefit me today,” she said. “I have always told my girls to be nice to everyone and to never burn bridges. You never know when someone will come back into your life and how you might need them (or they you). So many of the people I knew from college, Hannaford and other roles in my life have proven to be extremely valuable in this position. I continue to forge new relationships and look forward to how those will also prove valuable to me and the chamber some day in the future.” <

Election Day nears for candidates, referendums

By Ed Pierce
Polls will be open on Election Day, Tuesday,
Nov. 7, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Windham
and Raymond. Windham residents vote in
the Auxiliary Gym at Windham High School
while Raymond residents vote at Jordan-Small
Middle School. FILE PHOTO

After weeks of campaigning, Election Day in Windham and Raymond on Tuesday, Nov. 7 will determine numerous community and statewide issues and which municipal candidates on the ballot will be sworn into office for the Windham Town Council and RSU 14 Board of Directors representing Windham.

On the ballot in Windham is a referendum establishing procedures for a recall of elected municipal and school board officials. Voters in Windham and Raymond will also vote on a referendum to approve construction of a new Windham Raymond Middle School.

The total cost of the new school is estimated to be $171 million with the state of Maine picking up $131.7 million of that cost, or 76.8 percent of that amount. That leaves 23.20 percent, or about $31.8 million remaining with voters in Windham asked to OK gradually funding 80 percent of what’s left or $25.496 million. Raymond voters will be asked to approve gradually funding 20 percent of the remaining cost or about $6.374 million.
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In races for three-year terms to serve on the Windham Town Council, incumbent Brett Jones is unopposed for a seat representing the East District, while incumbent Mark Morrison is facing a challenge from write-in candidate Zac Eklund.

Two three-year seats on the RSU 14 Board of Directors will be filled from a field of four candidates,
including Justin Whynot, Marge Govoni, Joe Kellner, and Dawn Miller. Kellner, Miller and Whynot are first-time candidates, but Govoni has served on the school board previously.

Voters statewide will decide on four citizens’ initiatives and four constitutional amendments that will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot: 

QUESTION 1: Do you want to bar some quasi-governmental entities and all consumer-owned electric utilities from taking on more than $1 billion in debt unless they get statewide voter approval?
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QUESTION 2: Do you want to ban foreign governments and entities that they own, control, or influence from making campaign contributions or financing communications for or against candidates or ballot questions?

QUESTION 3: Do you want to create a new power company governed by an elected board to acquire and operate existing for-profit electricity transmission and distribution facilities in Maine? 

QUESTION 4: Do you want to require vehicle manufacturers to standardize on-board diagnostic systems and provide remote access to those systems and mechanical data to owners and independent repair facilities?

QUESTION 5: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to change the time period for judicial review of the validity of written petitions from within 100 days from the date of filing to within 100 business days from the date of filing of a written petition in the office of the Secretary of State, with an exception for petitions filed within 30 calendar days before or after a general election?
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QUESTION 6: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to require that all of the provisions of the Constitution be included in the official printed copies of the Constitution prepared by the Secretary of State?

Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to remove a provision requiring a circulator of a citizen's initiative or people's veto petition to be a resident of Maine and a registered voterin Maine, requirements that have been ruled unconstitutional in federal court?

QUESTION 8: Do you favor amending the Constitution of Maine to remove a provision prohibiting a person under guardianship for reasons of mental illness from voting for Governor, Senators, and Representatives, which the United States District Court for the District of Maine found violates the United States Constitution and federal law?

Polling places will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Jordan-Small Middle School for Raymond residents and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Windham High School Auxiliary Gym for Windham residents. <

Town welcomes new pavilion at Windham Community Park with open house

By Masha Yurkevich

Though Maine summers are not very long, Windham strives to make them as enjoyable as possible. With a new pavilion addition to the Windham Community Park, next to the Community Gardens, the park is now more accessible and gather–friendly.

To celebrate the completion of its newly constructed pavilion
by volunteers, Windham Parks and Recreation will hold
an open house from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 6 at
Windham Community park. SUBMITTED PHOTO

The park is the site of two basketball courts that are also lined for pickleball, two sand volleyball courts, the skatepark and is also adjacent to the Community Gardens. To celebrate the newly constructed pavilion, an open house will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 6.

“We have been adding picnic pavilions to our various park locations in the past few years, and we always intended to add one or two at the Community Park as we continued to add other elements to the park,” says Linda Brooks, Windham Director of Parks and Recreation. “Following a survey administered by the Age Friendly Windham Committee in October of 2019, an action plan was developed that included a goal to increase access to outdoor spaces by providing accessible amenities at our parks. It made sense to design the Community Park pavilion with this goal in mind.”

The process to make the pavilion a reality started in the Spring of 2022 with a group of volunteers from the local community organization PowerServe, who did the preliminary site work and preparation for the pavilion's foundation.

“In June 2022, our project was one of the sites chosen by the Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing, with volunteers biking across the country volunteering to assist in projects around the community that benefit senior citizens and veterans,” said Brooks.

Over the course of the summer, volunteers from the local chapter worked to complete the pavilion.

“In May 2023, we were awarded a $10,000 Community Challenge grant from AARP to be used toward the purchase and installation of accessible pathways to the pavilion and three ADA compliant picnic benches, and this final part of the process was completed by employees of the Parks and Recreation and Public Works departments,” Brooks said.

Many people enjoy the shade and shelter provided by the pavilion and during a visit to the park, some may wish to bring along snacks or a picnic lunch to enjoy while using the park. Brooks said that in keeping the goal from the Age Friendly Action Plan, they also felt that older residents may enjoy being spectators to the volleyball, basketball, pickleball or skateboarding activities that take place at the park.

“It made sense to design the Community Park pavilion with this goal in mind, and when we were approached by the family of David and Joan Tobin about making a generous donation toward this picnic pavilion, it really helped launch the project,” Brooks said.

The open house event is designed to show what has been done with the newly finished pavilion.

“While the pavilion is always open and available for people dropping into the park, as is the case with all of our pavilions at our other facilities, such as the in Donnabeth Lippman and Dundee Parks, the pavilions are a great place to host family gatherings and can be reserved for a fee,” said Brooks. “Many community members appreciate this ability to confirm that the space will be available for this purpose.”

She said Brooks and the whole team would like to thank and acknowledge the role of PowerServe, Sebago Lakes Region Fuller Center for Housing, Age Friendly Windham, AARP, Windham Public Works and Windham Parks staff for helping make the pavilion project at the Windham Community Park happen. <

Raymond’s new Comprehensive Plan gaining momentum among residents

 By Kendra Raymond

The Town of Raymond is looking toward the future with the development of its first comprehensive plan since 2004 with a reimagination of the town’s vision.

The writings of ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus tell us, “All is flux. Nothing stays still.” Such is true for Raymond. A lot can change in 19 years, and town officials are recognizing that need for a multi-faceted integrative approach.

North Star Planning has been hired to advise the Comprehensive Plan Committee as they lead the charge toward Raymond’s future. The town website tells us that the Comprehensive Plan combines your vision and values with the latest data to guide town policy in the future. The plan synergizes desires and needs of townspeople, focusing on issues related to housing, public facilities, and transportation.

The process should take two to three years to complete. A state certified comprehensive plan addressing 11 to 12 chapters is required in Maine.

The plan and vision statement will take into consideration the results from three surveys. The first survey was distributed this past summer and addressed general topics such as what residents like best about the town.

Peter Leavitt, a member of the CPC said the survey turnout was “a little disappointing,” with about a 5 percent response elicited from 206 residents.

The next two surveys will delve deeper into land use, economic and environmental issues. The committee is particularly interested in the residents’ vision of the town over the next 10 to 20 years.

They hope to learn what is important to residents, and what concerns they have on their minds. Would they like more public open space? Are additional services desired? The CPC is interested to hear what people would like to see revamped from the 2004 plan as well.

Part of the 2004 Vision Statement says, “In all likelihood, Raymond will continue to grow as long as it is a desirable community in which to live. It is the task of this generation to address that growth and to help assure that Raymond remains a wonderful place in which to live a full life and to raise a family for not only this, but also for successive generations. We hope the way in which we lead our lives will leave this community a better place than it was before we arrived. To this end, we endeavor to create this Comprehensive Plan.” While this part likely remains spot-on, more work will be needed to update the vision to address new developments in this current culture.

Querying the consensus of the survey, Leavitt said, “We love the rural nature of our town, the environment, and the lakes. School children told us their favorite part of Raymond is their back yard. There seems to be a great fondness for the town, a commitment to preserving its natural treasures, and excitement about the future.”

The Comprehensive Plan Committee, according to Leavitt, is a “good cross section of residents”, combining ages, demographics, and professions.

“We have retirees, like me, parents with kids in school, different professions, old and young, male and female,” he said.

The CPC is presently drafting a preliminary vision statement based on initial survey results, information shared in meetings, and input from lake and roadside associations.

“This is not our comprehensive plan,” Leavitt said. “This is the community’s comprehensive plan.”

Emphasizing the importance of survey participants, Leavitt says that the committee plans to provide more publicity with future surveys. The next survey will be released in early 2024.

Looking forward, the CPC plans a land use workshop in spring 2024. By summer, the committee hopes to announce the final vision statement and land use implementation plan. The final plan is anticipated to be presented by public hearing for state acceptance in late 2024.

The committee will host a public meeting on Jan. 20 at the Jordan-Small Middle School to share the preliminary vision statement and receive feedback from residents.

To learn more, visit

A contact form is available on the website for residents to keep updated on the progress of the new Comprehensive Plan by email.

The CPC meets the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. All meetings are open to the public and available through ZOOM. <

New Raymond Village Library director settling in

By Masha Yurkevich

For those who regularly attend the Raymond Village Library, you may notice some slight changes in the way the library operates as its new director, Richard Dowe, settles in.

Richard Dowe is the new director
and says he believes that having
a strong library helps create a
strong sense of belonging for
community residents.
Dowe grew up in Kennebunk and graduated from Kennebunk High School. From there, he went to college at McGill University where he received an undergraduate degree in Russian Studies and English Literature and a master's in library and information studies.

“I went on to work as a children’s librarian at the New York Public Library and after a few years I decided to move back home to Maine,” said Dowe.

He worked as the correctional librarian in Windham for a short time, was an elementary school library media specialist, and before coming to Raymond he also worked at the South Portland Public Library.

For Dowe, this is his first position with the Raymond Village Library and the town of Raymond.

“I have been here for a bit over a month and am enjoying learning more about the community and the library,” said Dowe.

The Raymond Village Library is a community based informational, educational, and recreational facility dedicated to providing quality library services and resources in a welcoming atmosphere. The library is responsive to the changing needs of the community, cooperates with other entities and strives to fulfill its role as a service oriented, dynamic library and Dowe said that he is happy to offer his services to the town of Raymond.

Being the library director means that Dowe gets to help both continue and improve upon library services for the Raymond community.

“The Raymond Village Library is a well-loved part of the town and I hope to help expand accessibility, so all members of the community feel welcome and engaged with the library,” said Dowe. “I want to continue to provide fun and enlightening programs and events for all ages, connect with other town departments and local organizations to provide even more opportunities for community members to meet and connect with each other. I would love to expand our collection with more graphic novels and comics.”

Dowe has an exciting opportunity to continue the great work of the Raymond Village Library while bringing his experience working in a variety of library settings.

“I plan on continuing to provide the Raymond community with free access to information, a place for people to gather during author events, art programs, card games, live music, and more,” he says. “I think the library is the heart of any community and having a strong library helps create a strong sense of belonging for residents.”

According to Dowe, he is pleased to have this opportunity and looks forward to meeting as many new people from the community as he can.

“Please come in and say hello, check out a book or DVD, or bring the kids in to do a craft. We also just joined a new library consortium called the Chickadee Library Consortium, consisting of Casco, Naples, Bridgton, Harrison, and Raymond,” he said. “This new consortium allows anyone with a Raymond Village Library card to visit and check out materials from any of the five libraries and request materials to be delivered to Raymond. This will greatly increase the number of books, DVDs, audiobooks, and more that we all have access to. I’m excited to help this small but mighty library thrive.”

The Raymond Village Library is a department of the town of Raymond and is a team effort led by Dowe, wonderful support staff and dedicated volunteers who work to provide a sense of community and educational opportunities to Raymond and the Lakes Region. <

RSU 14 rethinks professional development, inspiring teachers

By Lorraine Glowczak

Professional development (PD), or Teacher In-Service Day, is an opportunity for educators to hone their skills and knowledge while progressing in their areas of expertise.

Alternative Education teachers learn about strategies and
benefits of team building activities with students.
Throughout Maine, it has been customary for school districts to provide teachers with at least four professional development days during a school year. These opportunities are usually held within the school they teach, among fellow educators while an outside expert guest speaker offers a “one size fits all” program. However, that approach is quickly changing for the better.

“RSU 14 and other districts have recently recognized that professional development can be offered with more depth by providing an opportunity for educators from many districts to join together to engage in collaborative new learning and resource sharing,” said RSU 14 Assistant Superintendent Christine Bertinet. “With this new approach, teachers are given a chance to truly learn in their content areas by and with their cohorts who we consider the real experts in their fields of study.”

She explained that in 2018, various school administrators and curriculum directors gathered to discuss a way to make PD more meaningful.

“The conversation led to the creation of the Greater Sebago Education Alliance (GSEA) which comprises of 10 school districts in Cumberland County: Portland, South Portland, Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth, Gorham, Westbrook, Brunswick, RSU 6, RSU 14, RSU 15,” Bertinet said. “The GSEA had sponsored a similar day in 2019 on a small scale and it was a success. Plans were immediately made to continue offering a staff in-service day of this nature, but COVID put an immediate stop to that.”

However, GSEA is back in full swing and recently sponsored professional development for over 400 GSEA educators on Friday, Oct. 6 including breakout sessions for Alternative Education, Art, Music, Physical Education, Health, World Languages, and Library Media. There were two host sites: one at Windham High School and the other at Gray-New Gloucester High School with the feedback at both locations unquestionably upbeat.

Craig Haims, Director of the RSU14 Katahdin Program and Adrianne Shetenhelm, WHS APEX Alternative Education Teacher, were among those who attended the Alternative Education session at GNG.

“This was the first time in my nine years of teaching in Alternative Education that we were provided with the opportunity and encouraged to work with other alternative educators,” Shetenhelm said. “Having the opportunity to work with colleagues in similar programs and who work with similar cohorts of students helped refresh our practice and our resolve to meet those challenges.”

She said that alternative education has its unique joys and challenges and at times can feel isolating.

Haims, who facilitated this cohort of professionals at GNG, agreed with Shetenhelm and said that participating in a professional development program the way the GSEA created it offers a high degree of relevance.

“The day provided a great opportunity to share practices, systems, and structures that are unique to alternative education,” Haimes said. “No two programs are alike and learning the various ways other alternative education teachers in other districts meet the needs of their students is a perfect way to learn from one another.”

Professional Development for Art, Music, World Languages, Library Media, Health, and PE were hosted at WHS.

Cory Bucknam, an Art Teacher at Brunswick Junior High School facilitated the art professionals, and she shared the importance this type of PD has in their field.

“It is true that a rising tide lifts all boats,” Bucknam said. “Collaborating and helping each other benefits not just those we help, but ourselves as well. When we see our efforts are valued, it makes us feel seen and appreciated as professionals. And collaborating with others can spark excitement and motivation, giving us a mental boost and a renewed sense of purpose.”

Isolation from other professionals in the same field of study is another reason that Bucknam believes PD approached this way gives teachers a sense of connection.

“Even in my district, where we have seven art teachers, we rarely meet as a K-12 department,” she said. “Typically, district-wide PD is scheduled by building administration, so we all usually have our own building-based meetings to attend. We only have K-12 meetings when the Superintendent (or other district-level admin) specifically states that a given time is for a K-12 vertical meeting, but this is rarely possible due to scheduling difficulties, and usually gets overshadowed and forgotten by other pressing needs.”

Plans are already in the works for next October’s GSEA In-Service Day “to continue to elevate and celebrate the value of these important content areas,” Bertinet said.

Bucknam said she is looking forward to next year's problem-solving and perspective sharing gathering with others again next year on the big day.

“The sense of professional community and collegiality is powerful,” she said. “To know that there are people we can reach out to and connect with is more and more important these days as stress and burnout threaten our morale.” <