Thursday, December 26, 2002

Maine Med outlines plan for Scarborough expansion

Published in the Current

Maine Medical Center wants to expand its presence in Scarborough and is hoping to have at least one new building open in mid-2006. It may also acquire land adjacent to its existing campus to expand further in the future.

Speaking to members of the Scarborough Chamber of Commerce, Maine Med CEO Vincent Conti said the hospital’s site on Route 1 “is going to be a growth area for us.”

There are now three buildings on the eight-acre lot, including a 100,000-square-foot medical office and laboratory, a 55,000-square-foot medical research building and an 80,000-square-foot medical office building.

Conti, who lives in Cape Elizabeth, said the location is a good one in terms of access and parking, both of which are issues for the hospital’s main campus on Bramhall Hill in Portland.

Because of that, and because of available space on the site – enough to add\ three more buildings and a parking garage – Maine Med wants to move its outpatient surgery services to Scarborough, Conti said.

That is expected to be the first phase of the project because of increased demand for day surgery and because existing facilities, at Brighton FirstCare on Brighton Avenue in Portland and at the main hospital itself are already feeling a space crunch, Conti said

“Surgery is very much going in the direction of outpatient,” Conti said. And as for the space at Brighton, “we have outgrown it.”

The new building will house 10 operating rooms for day surgery procedures, which are typically less invasive and smaller-scale than inpatient surgery. It will also hold some additional services that might be needed if the smaller procedures develop complications, Conti said.

“Most outpatient surgery doesn’t turn into inpatient care,” Conti said, adding that Maine Med already has a functioning outpatient surgery facility at Brighton, which is also some distance from the hospital.

With the new Scarborough building will come an increased need for parking, Conti said. That’s where the garage comes in. It will be built as far back from Route 1 as is possible on the lot, which drew praise from chamber member Fred Kilfoil, owner of the Millbrook Motel on Route 1.

“I’ve never seen an attractive parking garage,” he said.

State Rep. Harold Clough, who had reviewed an initial plan for the site, asked about whether underground parking was still being considered.

Conti said it wasn’t because of the expense and the fact that an above-ground garage would provide enough parking on the site.

Before it can build the operating rooms proposed, Maine Med needs to prove to the state that it needs the space, Conti said, which can take as long as a year. That process has not yet begun. The project would also require site plan approval from the town.

Maine Med is also reviewing what it could do with the space at Brighton that would be emptied when the existing operating rooms move, Conti said. New England Rehab Hospital already occupies a lot of the space at Brighton and might expand, he said.

Also, Conti is looking at moving other services from the Bramhall Hill facility over to Brighton. “At this point we’re looking at a number of different options,” he said.

Conti said Maine Med might also look into purchasing a lot just south of the existing property, for possible additional expansion in Scarborough.

Commentary: Gift of love for a newborn

Published in the Current

It’s my first Christmas as an uncle. My sister gave birth to little Aidan in mid-October, and even at the tender young age of two-and-a-half months, he is in for a holiday treat.

Some of the boxes under the tree are likely to be larger than he is, and many of them, like a book he will receive from me, won’t be used by him on his own for years. (I expect to read it aloud to him soon after the holiday hurry passes.)

It’s not like he really needs anything material. That young, he has no requirements aside from a warm set of arms to hold him, milk from his mother or a bottle, and a regular – even frequent – change of diapers.

But we in the family are likely to keep looking for the Perfect Book or the Perfect Toy. Perhaps even the Perfect Crib or the Perfect Baby Carrier, replacing models previously thought top-of-the-line, will appear under the tree come Dec. 25. We will spend our hard-earned money on things Aidan may use, like money for college or a new outfit. We’ll miss the mark with other gifts and find that he never uses them. And of course there will be the toys, mobiles and trinkets all families want kids to play with.

But why do we insist, this early in his life, on showering him with material goods? In part, it’s selfish: I notice my own glee as I wander through stores, wondering what I might find that I want Aidan to have. All of us, the grown-ups in his life, hope that he will never want for anything, and plan to do our part.

But we, like all members of expanding families, risk missing the point on the things he really will need as a growing boy: attention, love, support and encouragement.

Rather than buy him a book or a toy, I could clap along with him as he coos and gurgles. Spending time, with him and other loved ones, is more important than spending money.

And yet the gifts we give are symbols of our love for each other, efforts to make the lives of our friends and family somehow easier, better or more fun. I have found myself in more than one store, debating inside my head whether this is something that I really want to buy.

I try to remember to resist the urges and not let spending money on my nephew substitute for spending time with him. He’s a glorious young boy who, I fear, will grow up far too fast for any of us to really handle. There will always be more books, more toys and more things-that-look-weird-and-make-noise to buy, but there will not always be more time to be with Aidan.

And I hope we all keep in mind what Aidan’s holiday packages truly should contain: not replacements for affection or simple bribes to satisfy spoiled children, but minor tokens of the expansive love we feel for our family’s newest member.

Tree men come home

Published in the Current

After 15 days in North Carolina, four workers from Bartlett Tree Service in Scarborough returned home Dec. 23, just in time for Christmas.

“It’s good to be home,” said Troy Delano just after getting his suitcase off the baggage carousel at the Portland Jetport. It was the longest he had ever been away from home.

His wife is due to give birth Dec. 31, and she was waiting eagerly for his return, hoping she wouldn’t go into labor early. “I was having some faith,” she said.

The men pulled 10-hour days from the beginning to the end, with no real time off. “We worked right straight through,” Delano said.

It was only fitting that the men head south after a Dec. 4-5 ice storm knocked out power for over 2 million North Carolina residents and damaged buildings and cars, resulting in a federal disaster-area declaration for the region.

Some of the North Carolina workers had come to Maine in 1998, to help clean up things after that year’s ice storm, and Delano said he ran into a North Carolina man who had worked with him then. “It was good to go down.”

This year’s task was both harder and easier than the one four years ago. Warmer temperatures meant the ice had melted, but “they have very large trees,” Delano said, because of the longer growing season.

The men were working to clear roads and power lines of trees and downed branches, but couldn’t take care of everything. “There’s still a ton of damage,” Delano said. “There’s still limbs on houses.”

By the middle of the first week they were there, all of the power was back on, Delano said, and workers remained to help with the rest of the cleanup.

They were originally slated to come home Dec. 20, but chose to stay longer to get more done. The people they met were very supportive.

Delano and Bill Reed went into a store to pick up some food and other items, and the man behind the counter gave it all to them free, and thanked them for their hard work.

“People were very generous,” Delano said.

Tim Lindsey of Bartlett Tree Service said he was glad to send workers down to help out, though Pat Lindsey, who also works at the business, said the men would have to work a half-day on Dec. 24 to meet the needs of customers who have been patiently waiting for tree work here in Maine.

North Carolina tree companies paid for their flights, and made sure that they made it back on time and in style. “They flew back first class,” said Tim Lindsey.

Teens worry about proposed increase in driving age

Published in the Current

Secretary of State Dan Gwadosky is looking to increase restrictions on teenage drivers to improve road safety in Maine, but driving schools and driving students aren’t happy with what he has proposed.

Gwadosky would like to discuss with the public and legislators the possibility of increasing the driving age from 16 to 17; banning teens from driving between midnight and 5 a.m.; extending the length of time new drivers must hold learner’s permits before they can get their licenses; extending the ban on carrying passengers for an additional three months; and mandatory license suspensions for teenage drivers who get traffic tickets.

Gwadosky, armed with statistics indicating one teenage driving fatality every 10 days in the state, and 60 injured teens during the same amount of time, met with the Maine Legislative Youth Advisory Council early this month to discuss ways to make teenagers safer when driving.

He told the Current speed, inattention and driver distraction were all common factors in crashes involving teen drivers.

Gwadosky said he is “trying to find the best way to address those issues through legislation,” and the proposals are preliminary.

“I think it’s unlikely we’ll advance all of them to the Legislature,” he said.

Teens concerned
Several students in a Best-Way Driving School class, most of whom were 15 or 16, didn’t like Gwadosky’s ideas, especially raising the license age to 17.

Jacqueline Schmidt, in the minutes before she started her learner’s permit test, said she likes being able to get her license earlier rather than later, but she realizes safety is an issue.

“There are a lot of immature people that I know,” Schmidt said. Some of them, she said, should pay more attention to what they’re doing when they’re behind the wheel.

The real crunch, she said, comes when teens are 18 and have graduated from high school. Then, to get back and forth to work or college, they need a license.

“Once you graduate, you really need to be able to drive,” Schmidt said.

Before that, there are buses to and from school, and parents can often give teens rides to work and other activities, she said.

She suggested having driver education as a course in high school, which students must pass before getting their licenses.

Schmidt said she is concerned that students in driver education classes now might be forced to wait to get their licenses. She said the wait makes sense for safety, but admitted she wants her license as soon as possible.

As for the proposed curfew, she thinks one from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. makes sense for students who have jobs or other activities that require them to stay out late. She also thinks it odd that a kid can get in a car and drive at age 16 but can’t drink until age 21.

“You can take someone’s life with a car,” Schmidt said.

Another student, John McDonald, also opposed raising the age limit on getting a driver’s license.

“I think that’s stupid,” said McDonald. “I don’t think that one year is going to make a difference.”

Andrea LaBonty said her parents spend a lot of time driving her around, and that will get easier when she has her license. She also hopes to get a job once she can drive to it.

Getting her license earlier, she said, would reduce the load on her parents.

LaBonty also said that nobody obeys the three-month passenger ban as it is, so extending it wouldn’t have any effect.

Dana Bennett said that if he was told he had to wait until age 17 to get his license, “I’d be pretty mad.” He also thought younger people, not yet in driver’s education, would also be “annoyed” by a new rule.

Kate Lonsdale, 17, said her brother brags about speeding. She said waiting until teens are more mature would be a good idea. Lonsdale said she may wait until she’s 18 before going for her road test.

“Driving is a big responsibility, ” she said. Some people can handle it, and others can’t, she added.

Lawmakers interested
That’s why Gwadosky wants to help teens get more experience before they get their licenses.

Six legislators have already contacted Gwadosky to express interest in sponsoring a bill that would toughen driving laws, including restricting passengers, who are an issue because some of the teens killed and injured on the roads were not driving themselves.

Teens are interested in getting their licenses, he said, but the state has to balance that with safety. Gwadosky said it is a good idea to drive through all the seasons before going for a road test. His son, now 19, did that, and his 16-year-old daughter is doing so now, he said.

The Legislative Youth Advisory Council is more willing to make changes to the permit process, Gwadosky said, than to up the licensing age.

“There’s a tremendous interest,” Gwadosky said. “A driver’s license represents freedom and independence.”

Part of that is because of the state itself. “We have no public transportation,” Gwadosky said. Additional young drivers are important for families in rural areas, but young drivers still have a lot to learn, he said.

“Getting their license isn’t the end. It should really be the beginning,” Gwadosky said.

He has tried to create an environment in the state where family members are involved in driver education, but realizes that is hard to do. “There are some things we can’t legislate,” he said.

Gwadosky and driver educators do agree that some of the requirements are not enough, but they differ on how to deal with them.

Gwadosky encourages parents to rethink their own driving habits and be good models for their teens. They should work on specific areas of driving skills and give feedback to their children, he said. “The quality of the drive time is significant,” Gwadosky said.

Driver educator Ron Vance, who owns Best-Way Driving Schools with offices and classrooms throughout Southern Maine, worries more teens will drive without a license if the law changes.

Rather than change the driving age, he suggested an increase in the number of hours teens must drive with their parents. Other states require 50 hours with parents, rather than the 35 hours Maine requires, Vance said.

“We can help reduce (teen driving deaths) with the parents’ help , ” Vance said.

Away from home for Christmas

Published in the Current

For Christmas 1943, Harry Foote got no rest, “no presents, no party, no big meal.” He and the rest of the First Marine Division spent Christmas Day that
year, and about three weeks afterward, attacking Japanese positions on the Pacific island of New Britain.

U.S. strategists thought the Japanese would not expect an invasion on “that sacred day, ” said Foote, who later became the editor of the American Journal newspaper. “But it was war, and the First Marine Division landed.”

They started at the airfield on the western end of the island, at Cape Gloucester. “As we landed, they bombed us and strafed us on Christmas Day,” Foote said.

“We were in rain and mud from that day on.” Instead of luxuriant holiday meals, they ate “Spam and canned hash.”

Twenty years later, Matt Martinelli was in the Navy, stationed in Sicily for Christmas 1963. Sailors at the base invited the kids from a nearby orphanage over for a holiday meal of spaghetti. The kids got gifts of sweaters, stockings and candy.

The sailors also gave the orphanage a new oven and refrigerator.

“It was amazing how possessive they were of the little things we gave them,” said Martinelli, who now lives in Scarborough.

Martinelli served on three aircraft carriers, and despite involvement in the Korean and Vietnam wars, got lucky, always having “clean sheets and showers.”

The year before the Italian orphans’ feast, he had been stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and had just come through the Cuban Missile Crisis, during which the admiral in charge of the base told the men that they could count on being overrun if Castro decided to attack.

At Christmas, Bob Hope was elsewhere, so “Perry Como came to entertain us,” Martinelli said. The film version of “West Side Story” had also come out, and Martinelli remembered the USO brought down a copy of it to show as well.

And despite the recent threat of war, the base was quiet and peaceful on Christmas.

“It’s always an emotional experience being away on a holiday,” said John Rich of Cape Elizabeth, who served in the Marines during World War II and later became a war correspondent through Korea and Vietnam, and even reported on the Gulf War in 1991.

“We always got our turkey,” Rich remembered of his days in the service.

Even at the front, where soldiers “were busy enough,” the military always managed to get them hot food for the holiday meal.

New Year’s Eve 1943, he was in San Diego helping load ships preparing for the landing in Kwajelein.

The more senior officers were in town partying. “It was their last New Year’s in the U.S.,” Rich said. “For a lot of them it was.”

Behind a wall near the loading area, a few men had a bottle or two of alcohol, Rich remembered. “We got more and more screwed up,” he laughed, as he recalled everyone sneaking behind the wall to take a few nips of New Year’s cheer.

In Korea, Chinese troops decorated the lines between the forces. “The Chinese came down and hung some things on the barbed wire,” Rich said.

Christmas in Afghanistan
This year, Army Capt. Geoff Crafts of Cape Elizabeth will spend Christmas in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He returned to the main U.S. base in the country after three and a half months in the hinterland on intelligence-gathering missions, said his father, Stephen Crafts.

After all of that, it was on their way out that Capt. Crafts thought he might die. The helicopter that was taking him back to the base lost power in one engine. “They thought they were going down,” his father said. They did not, and managed to have a “hard landing,” but a safe one, in Kandahar.

Now, “they’re getting ready to celebrate Christmas,” his father said. The Crafts family has sent Geoff “a lot of stuff,” including 358 pounds of food in weekly packages over the past few months.

Last week, the troops got a visit from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, and the Army ’s highest-ranking non-commissioned officer, Command Sgt. Maj. of the Army Jack Tilley. Drew Carey and Roger Clemens also visited the camp.

His family has sent Crafts a miniature tree, battery-powered lights and “all that tacky stuff,” his father said. “They hang it all over their tents.”

And though they are far from home, Crafts and his comrades are doing well. “Spirits are high,” his father said. The men are almost constantly together in training or in wartime, so “they’re almost like family. ”

At the Crafts home, the family is gathering. The other two kids are visiting, one from college and one from right nearby where she lives.

“This is the second out of the last three Christmases he’s been gone,” Stephen Crafts said.

But they got a special treat: a call from Geoff a couple of days ago. Even though it was over a satellite phone with a long delay and an unspoken set of rules about what questions family can ask, Stephen said his son is doing well. “He’s always kept his sense of humor. ”

Cape model for school leadership

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth is one of eight communities chosen in New England – and the only one in Maine – as a model for attracting strong leaders to its board of education.

The town now will be part of a study done by the New England School Development Council on how towns can attract excellent school board members.

“When you have an outstanding school board and superintendent working as a team,” students do very well at learning and on independent testing, said researcher Richard Goodman.

The study is being funded by a $40,000 grant from the Wallace Reader’s Digest Foundation.

After seven years of studying leadership in public school systems around the region, Goodman and his colleagues decided that one question had never
been asked: “What does it take for a community to attract and retain” school board members “who care about children and know or learn quickly the role of the school board,” Goodman said.

“Cape Elizabeth is one of those in Maine that’s been considered to be a top school system for a number of years,” he said.

Superintendent Tom Forcella said the study will provide a look at “how we are able to encourage people in the community to get involved with the School Board.”

Goodman said he and his colleagues will interview school board members and superintendents, as well as other community members, in each of the
eight towns chosen for the study. Among the other towns are Wayland, Mass., Farmington, Conn., and Hollis-Brookline cooperative school district
in New Hampshire.

Goodman said a school district in Vermont has not yet been chosen, and neither have two urban school districts in New England, but he expects those
decisions to be made within the next couple of weeks.

He said strong school boards tend to let superintendents run the schools, and make sure the superintendent is a good one and has the necessary support to do the job.

“It takes a community,” Goodman said, to get strong schools.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

New science curriculum puts physics first

Published in the Current

This year, freshmen at Cape Elizabeth High School have started their science learning with physics rather than earth and physical science – a new trend in education that says the way science has traditionally been taught is backward.

The science faculty have had to work hard to restructure the physics curriculum to depend less on math and more on the concepts of physics itself, but so far the project seems to be a success. The idea is that physics offers a big picture look at how the universe works and is therefore the most logical starting point in science education.

Department head and physics teacher, Michael Efron, said some tweaking has been required. The year started with four sections of honors and five sections of college prep classes. Three of the college prep sections had stronger students and two sections were of what Efron called students with a “weaker background,” not only in science but also in math and English.

“We struggled with how best to handle that,” Efron said. In the end, two sub-levels of college prep were set up, and some students, with the permission of their parents and other teachers, were rearranged to make the classes of more equal abilities.

“Then we could teach everybody at a better pace,” Efron said.

It has presaged a change in the science curriculum across the grades.

“We really want to offer three levels in all the base courses,” Efron said. That way, the department will be able to meet more students’ needs.

Other changes have been as significant and with good educational payoff.

Physics teacher Michael O’Brien said teaching physics to ninth-graders rather than seniors doesn’t mean teaching any different subject matter, though it does mean using less math. “It’s not the physics that people think of, with all the formulas and equations,” O’Brien said.

Instead, students learn the concepts relating to the way the world works. “Physics explains the natural world,” O’Brien said.

In the honors classes, students do use more math than in the college prep level, but while most of the students have finished the Algebra I course, none have had calculus or other advanced mathematics.

Next year, there may be a requirement for students in the honors level to have completed Algebra I, Efron said, but that remains under discussion.

But this year’s honors freshmen are doing just fine.

“They’re stepping up to the plate,” said teacher Courtney Ferrell, who was hired this year specifically with the transition in mind. She can teach both physics and chemistry.

The book the students use doesn’t involve much math. On a recent test supplied with the class’s textbook, Ferrell said, the average score was a 92, indicating, she said, that they can handle the work just fine.

Physics teacher Kerry Kertes teaches freshman honors classes, too. “The math we give them is the same math I give my seniors,” he said. “The bar’s pretty high, but I’d rather have kids reach up.”

During class time, Kertes meets with students who are taking the Algebra I class this year, to make sure they are keeping up.

The class includes as many as three or four demonstrations each week, plus two lab classes. There is also group work in small and large groups.

“The world of physics is a natural, everyday thing,” Kertes said. But not everything is as easy to explain to a freshman as to a senior. Examples using cars were common for senior physics students. That has to change for freshmen, who haven’t yet gotten their licenses.

Also changing is the level of independence students have. Where seniors taking physics would be able to read the text on their own as homework, Efron now reads the text along with some of his classes, discussing the questions that come up along the way.

Looking to next year, Kertes, who also teaches chemistry, sees that physics will lay a strong foundation for chemistry, which will be followed by biology junior year.

Doug Worthley, who teaches chemistry, said there will be new concepts next year, but the same process.

Having the ideas on a larger scale is better to do first. With the students’ experience in physics, he will be able to show that the same thing that happens between two balls hitting each other happens to two atoms hitting each other.

“The biology teachers just finished chemistry,” Worthley said, setting up the cellular basis for this year’s biology. When the freshmen get to biology in two years, that won’t be necessary.

“The sciences aren’t really separate,” Worthley said.

The opportunities don’t stop there. The new order of science classes allows for new electives in science for seniors. Not only will the marine biology and anatomy and genetics classes be available, but others are under development as well.

Efron said he may have found one class idea, looking at the philosophical implications of physics in terms of where humans fit in the scheme of things.

“If the world really works this way, where does that leave us,” Efron asked. Most of the freshmen, he said, seem uninterested, while his seniors are fascinated by it.

The students, too, are enjoying it, though they are not in a position to see the overall picture just yet. Freshmen Casey Pearson and Caroline Etnier said they are enjoying the class. Both had been wary of not knowing enough math, but it hasn’t been a problem so far, they said.

Teen host of underage party tells her side

Published in the Current

Cape High School Principal Jeff Shedd has taken his campaign against teen drinking, drugging and partying to a new level, now having scofflaws tell
their stories publicly or face more conventional punishment.

A Nov. 29 party in town prompted Shedd to begin enforcing a long-ignored school rule preventing students from hosting or attending parties where alcohol and drugs are being consumed.

Allie Stevens, a junior at CEHS and a member of the chool’s state champion swim team, told the Current she unwittingly became the host of a party the day after Thanksgiving, while her father was away from home. She said she was given the opportunity to lessen her punishment by talking to the press.

Though he could not comment on specifics, Shedd said no other students were disciplined.

He did say the incidents at Stevens’s home contributed to his decision to tighten restrictions on teen partiers.

According to swim coach Kerry Kertes, Stevens is missing three swim meets for a combination of infractions, including the party and another unrelated violation of team rules. The last meet was Thursday against Cheverus.

Stevens ended up as the host of the party, but says she neither instigated it or consumed alcohol or drugs once it began.

She said she doesn’t understand why the party is the school’s business. “It happened outside of school,” she said.

Student-athletes are required to sign a contract in which they pledge not to drink or do drugs during sports seasons, regardless of the hour or location.

Depending on the type and number of violations, as well as how the school finds out about them, breaches of the contract are punishable by suspensions from games or meets, or from teams entirely.

Stevens said the contract doesn’t apply to her, in this case, because she was not drinking or doing drugs.

Shedd said he is now enforcing a “long-standing” rule relating to “substance abuse by (students) off school grounds and outside of school hours,” which he warned parents about in a Dec. 12 letter.

Students who find themselves hosting parties should call parents or police to end the party or face disciplinary action at school, Shedd advised in the letter. Students attending parties with drugs or alcohol present should leave or face investigation for possible violations of school rules.

At the party
The party in question began the evening of Nov. 29, as a group of friends got together at Stevens’ Shore Road home intending to go see a movie, Stevens said.

The teens never made it to the movie, because other teens – including some kids from other towns – had heard that the adults in the home were away, and arrived uninvited, with alcohol and drugs.

“People just started showing up at my house,” Stevens said. About 60 people were at the party. Some were high school students, others recent graduates and still others were people from other towns. They were drinking and smoking, though nothing in the house was damaged, Stevens said.

Around 10:30 p.m., the police showed up, responding to an anonymous tip. They called Allie’s father, Dan Stevens, who owns the home, and got permission to go inside, police said.

Officers broke the party up without issuing any summonses or arresting anyone. Police Chief Neil Williams said, “it was so out of control and overwhelming” that they wanted to end it quickly.

Allie’s mother, Karen Stevens, lives nearby and went over to see what was going on. She saw a lot of kids and a lot of alcohol – as many as three cases of beer, she said.

All of the kids denied to police and to Karen that they had been drinking.

A mother’s reaction
“It was a real eye-opener for me,” Karen said.

When she got home, she called parents of kids she had seen at the party and told them what she had seen. Some of the parents told her they knew their kids were there, and their kids had said they weren’t drinking.

After the weekend, she called the school and told Assistant Principal Mark Tinkham what had happened.

“I know that my daughter was concerned that kids wouldn’t be her friends anymore because of me talking with Mark Tinkham about it,” Karen said. But that didn’t stop her. "I feel like I had to say something. I feel that as parents we are responsible for our own children.”

She said she has heard that kids feel like they have to drink to have fun. “I just don’t understand that mentality, ” Karen said. And further, “I don’t agree with it – it’s illegal.”

She agreed with kids’ concerns that there is not a lot to do, socially, in Cape Elizabeth.

“There’s a nice community center now, and if they made it more attractive to kids” it could help the social situation in Cape, Karen said.

“I just think basically the kids just want to hang out with their friends,” Karen said.

Kids who don’t drink will spend time with drinking friends, just for the social interaction, she said.

“I don’t think these kids understand” the consequences of drinking, she said. One way to help them understand would be “if more parents would speak up.”

She felt obligated to do something as a parent, but also because it isn’t just athletes who sign a contract to avoid alcohol and drugs. “I signed that contract also.”

She is grateful the school administration is making an effort to address the problem.

“I’m just glad that the school is taking the stand that they have, and I hope more parents will come forward,” Karen said.

Many parents, she said, don’t want their kids to have to miss sporting events, but that’s not the worst that could happen.

“I thought, ‘This is crazy. ’ I don’t want to end up going to some kid’s funeral,” Karen said.

Allie’s father, Dan Stevens, told the Current he did not have time to talk about the incident until after the holidays.

Not just one incident
Police Chief Williams said partying hasn’t increased or decreased since he was a young man growing up in town, but he welcomed the help from the schools to cut down on a problem that won’t go away. He said the renewed enforcement has already prevented one party, originally planned for Dec. 13.

The mother of a 14-year-old student was out of town for nearly a week, and the student was supposed to be staying with a family member elsewhere in town. The student’s peers found out about the empty house and decided to have a party, despite the student’s own desire not to, Williams said.

“Here’s another example of parents leaving 14- or 15-year-old kids home alone,” Williams said. “You’re asking for disaster. ”

The new enforcement at the school, Williams said, was the deterring factor for the teen, who Williams said is an athlete and worried about being kicked off a team.

Allie Stevens doesn’t face that, because her party happened before Shedd announced the rule enforcement.

Allie said she had gone to similar parties at other people’s homes when parents weren’t present and would go in the future.

“You’re not supposed to do it, but kids do it anyway,” Allie said. “Our parents did it when they were growing up,” she said.

“Kids know how to handle it responsibly,” Allie said, adding after a moment’s thought that the phrase “drinking responsibly” may not make much sense for teenagers.

Today’s teens are careful to have designated drivers, she said. And breaking up the party is difficult. As the teen supposedly in charge of the house, “there’s nothing you can do,” Allie said, when people just keep coming in. She said Shedd had told her that she should call the police if such an incident happens again.

But, she said, that’s unreasonable. “I’d be the laughingstock of the school if I called the cops on my own party,” Allie said.

Williams said some teens have called the police on parties at their own houses, when things get too big or out of hand, though such instances are “very rare.”

Teens need to gather, Allie said, and if it’s not going to happen in someone’s home, it will be elsewhere.

Cape needs “a place to hang out where everyone can go,” she said.

Otherwise, they’ll end up in somebody’s home, when the parents aren’t there.

“Unfortunately, nowadays you have to cover all your bases if you’re not going to take your son or daughter on your trip,” Williams said.

Parents can also give police a letter allowing officers to enter their homes and property if there is a party occurring, Williams said. Without that, it can be hard for police to get access to a house to stop a party.

Parents, whether home or not, can be held civilly liable for damages if teens get injured or killed following a party on their property, Williams said.

“It’s a parental issue,” Williams said. “Know where your kids are, and check on them.” Call houses where your kids say they will be, and trust parental instincts. “If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong,” he said. He also encouraged parents to impose “real punishments” on kids who violate laws and family rules.

Preschoolers play at Children’s Museum

Published in the Current

Anne Belden of Cape Elizabeth is pioneering a new set of programs at the Children’s Museum of Maine in Portland and wants parents of preschoolers throughout the area to come play and learn.

She started working there in the summer and the new activities are taking off. They rotate between “KinderCooks,” “KinderTravel, ” “Silly Science” and “Famous Birthdays,” each with its own theme and activity, as well as chances to learn and play.

“I try to do a wide variety of things,” Belden said, including multicultural events and ones related to holidays or seasons when appropriate.

For example, a recent event involved exploring German traditions for Christmas, with gifts given in shoes.

Another had Florence Olebe of Portland’s Ezo African Restaurant come in to show the kids how to make traditional African foods. The kids were able to help roll out dough and fill pastries with a mixture of vegetables and spices, and got to sample the goods after Olebe cooked them.

The kids who attended enjoyed it, smiling and laughing throughout the program. They were eager to participate, and the parents enjoyed it too, learning about African food as well.

“It’s really wonderful,” said one mother, who was there with her daughter and a friend. They come just about every week, the woman said, and really like the variety of the programs.

Two other women brought their children, and though it was their first time, said they really enjoyed it too.

“It’s a different kind of program each week,” Belden said.

For Neil Armstrong’s birthday Aug. 5, the kids learned about walking on the moon, and for Mickey Mouse’s birthday Nov. 18 they got to make art relating to Mickey Mouse and then learned about the d i fferences between rats and mice.

The Children’s Museum of Maine also has members-only programs for toddlers on Monday, and toddlers and preschoolers on Thursdays, as well as other activities less regularly, Belden said.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

It’s the script, stupid: Some flat performances can’t ruin A Christmas Carol

Published in the Portland Phoenix

I have a confession. Even after years in the news business that should teach me to know better, I’ve come to expect Christmas Day off. Though, as Ebenezer Scrooge asks Bob Cratchit to do, I will usually have to come in “all the earlier the next day to make up for it.” Deadlines and publications never relent, even for the most special and wondrous of holidays.

Yet my boss is no Scrooge: She has a business to run and the readers must have their newspapers, but she finds time to remind us, her employees, that she has learned the lesson Dickens teaches — every year since its first publication, six days before Christmas, 1843 — through A Christmas Carol.

Time to relax, to be with families and friends, and to have fun, make merry, and laugh: These are the goals for which everyone, rich or poor, young or old, banker or beggar, is really working. But they are easily forgotten amid the daily grind. Portland Stage Company — along with a number of other local theater companies — annually takes a couple of hours to remind us, with A Christmas Carol, of all the love and joy in the world, and the true bliss that sharing can bring to our mortal existences.

The power of this play comes primarily from the writing itself, the mastery of Dickens’s painting of a world and a man remade by memory, reflection, and fear. In this production, however, Anita Stewart’s directing fails to serve the writing, instead becoming a competing force on stage.

It means this play’s role as a holiday-spirit reminder falls flat, failing to paint with power either the agonizing picture of desperation before Scrooge’s enlightenment or the true nature of his transformation. It does, however, retain its strength as a classic of Christmas storytelling and a heartwarming reminder of the importance of joy.

The show begins with a performance by the audience of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” in which my section’s leader, a young-teenage girl with braids and braces, was in earnest for us to perform well. It was as if by the power of her will alone, she could turn our motley crew of spectators into the “three French hens” we were singing about.

As the play itself begins — with a powerful Scrooge (Tom Ford) in his countinghouse, glowering at his nephew Fred’s (James Hoban) holiday cheer, and berating Bob Cratchit (Mark Honan), who departs late of a Christmas Eve with a much-begrudged Christmas bonus in hand — I felt myself cowering alongside Cratchit, picturing, instead of Scrooge, past supervisors concerned not about how I would spend my holiday or whether I would even celebrate. Instead, they, like Scrooge, worried about looming project deadlines, upcoming events needing preparation and, most of all, themselves.

I count myself lucky that this year, I do not have such a boss. But I am not sure the world has come far from the 1840s England of Charles Dickens, with its waifs and poor grown-ups huddled round braziers, being scattered by the vicious charge of a cruel and irritated wealthy man wielding a cane and a sense of his own self-righteousness.

Dickens (who appears in the production as a narrator played by Edward Reichert) himself suffered poverty and despair, toiling in a debtors’ prison workshop for several months as a boy, while his father paid off creditors. In this story and others, he rails against people like the bosses many still have today. Rather than concerning themselves with the humanity of their employees, Dickens’s wealthy — Scrooge among them — are the utilitarian exploiters feared in today’s world as much as they were 150 years ago.

Portland Stage Company’s weaknesses are in the subtleties, where Dickens excelled. While the fear on Scrooge’s face is very real when he speaks to the Ghost of Christmas Past (Natalie Rose Liberace, who plays all the Christmas ghosts), the sense of doom and dread Dickens writes into that darkly shrouded spectre is missing. So, too, are the senses of urgency on the faces of Ignorance and Want, the urchins who emerge from the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Scrooge’s delivery, perhaps made desperate after seven years of annual shows at PSC (though this is Ford’s first year in the role), is more preachy than revelatory, more exhortation than exultation. Even his “Bah! Humbug!” is without real feeling. Scrooge pleads with the audience to come with him in the spiritual journey, though we need rather to be forced along, as he is by the spirits.

The lighting and ingenious set design, as well as the sound, overlaying multiple effects and voices, are in combination more enthralling than the performance itself. The story does, however, strongly keep its main point, a reminder that lines at the local shopping centers are neither as bad — nor as necessary — as they might be perceived to be.

The children, too, are strong and energetic reminders that youth and hope spring eternal. Maybe — just maybe — your boss will see this show and remember Dickens’s lesson: We who work for our living are worthy of, deserve, and are entitled to our leisure time and our family lives, holiday or not.

A Christmas Carol

Written by Charles Dickens, adapted by Portland Stage Company. Directed by Anita Stewart. With Elizabeth Chambers, James Hoban, Mark Honan, Tom Ford, Natalie Rose Liberace, Daniel Noel, Kelli Putnam, and Edward Reichert. At Portland Stage Company through Dec. 24. Call (207) 774-0465.

Coming home after taking time out on the Ice

Published in the Current

If you thought this week’s cold temperatures were uncomfortable, talk to Ben Morin.

Morin of Cape Elizabeth just got home from a trip to the planet’s southern continent and can’t wait to go back.

He spent seven months, from March through early October, at\ Palmer Station, a U.S. research base on Anvers Island on the Antarctic Peninsula, the section of Antarctica stretching toward the very bottom of South America.

The company Morin worked for, Raytheon Polar Services Company of Englewood, Colo., flew Morin to Punta Arenas, Chile, where he boarded the research vessel Laurence M. Gould for a four-day trip across the Drake Passage to Antarctica.

“On our crossing, it was just as smooth as could be,” he said, calling one of the world’s worst stretches of ocean “the Drake Lake.”

Passing through the Straits of Magellan, at Tierra del Fuego, he said he felt like he was in “the loneliest place on Earth.” A nine-mile wide mouth of water separates Chile and Argentina, and the ship had to make its way between derricks in the offshore oil fields.

All Morin could see, he said, was empty land and flares of fire from the oil rigs.

He was heading south, though, to lonelier climes. As if to ease the way, dolphins began to chase the boat. Morin also saw seals and minke whales along the way.

After peering hard at the land ahead, someone pointed out the station to him. “All you could see was this little radio antenna,” he said.

After breakfast, the ship was close enough that he could see a big oil tank with a message painted on it: “Welcome to Palmer Station.”

Morin decided to go on the trip after looking at the Lonely Planet travel guide to Antarctica, and reading the chapter about working on the continent.

He wanted to go for the adventure, and because, he said, “no one goes there.”

“I’d always loved traveling,” Morin said. He had been interested in the stories of the heroic Antarctic explorers like Scott and Shackleton.

Arriving on the continent, he said, was a rush. “It’s pretty overwhelming when you first get there.” He was heading for winter at the smallest U.S. station on the continent. “You’re on this huge continent and there’s only 50 people there,” he said.

Palmer normally has about 15 or 20 people for the winter months, but a large construction project meant there were 35 people there.

“You really become family,” Morin said. The farthest away he could get from the station was a quarter-mile.

Morin was a general assistant, charged with taking care of a wide variety of tasks. Right when he got off the ship, he was told to head up a nearby hill and tie a tarp over a pile of machinery stored there. The tarp was blowing around, and Morin didn’t know any of the knots people suggested he use. But the effort was successful.

“I guess I did OK, because it stayed there all winter,” he said.

Life at Palmer was good. He saw wildlife all over the place, including Weddell, elephant, fur and leopard seals, Gentoo and Adelie penguins and even a humpback whale. He saw dozens of birds, mostly sheathbills, cormorants, sea gulls and skua gulls, though he also saw storm and giant petrels.

Work wasn’t exciting, but was interesting. With a faraway look in his eyes, Morin remembered the biggest part of his duties.

Known to him as the job code he had to put on his timesheet, “PC 9028” was what took up most of his time: snow shoveling.

With a major reconstruction of the biology lab in progress, Morin also helped with plumbing, electrical work and welding, all “stuff I’d never done before,” Morin said.

He also had to work in a boiler room, connecting pipes and equipment for heating as well as a water desalination unit to make drinking water. He was so pleased with how things went that he issued a continental challenge: “It
was the best-looking boiler room in Antarctica,” Morin said.

He made some close friends there, and wants to go back as soon as he can get another job on the Ice.

“The people down there are just so great,” Morin said. “The people were the best part.”

Some did complain about being there, but Morin thinks they have it wrong. “They should feel privileged to be in a place no one will ever go,” he said.

Morin said it was a good job for him, though he is studying for his master’s degree in English and wants to teach college.

After seven months with the same 30 people, he said adjustment to being back in the world was a bit of a challenge, though less so than he had thought. When new people began arriving at the station for the new season, some of them had personalities that grated on the winter staff’s carefully constructed social structure.

As far back as July, Morin said, “small talk had just been thrown out the window.”

As he left Antarctica, he went up onto the deck of the ship to watch the station slip into the distance.

“The sunsets at Palmer were amazing,” Morin said.

Some parts of being back are weird, like seeing lots of trees and bright colors. During the time he was away, he and others dreamed of what they’d do when they got home, like go to McDonald’s. But now that he is home, those things don’t seem all that special, he said.

What is special now, in fact, is Antarctica. “There is no other place on Earth like it,” Morin said.

Fort Williams master plan moves forward

Published in the Current

A master plan for Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeht is expected to go to the Town Council early in 2003, laying out plans for a new playground near the Southwestern Preserve, an extension to the Cliff Walk, a tree-planting program, reconfiguring the Ship’s Cove parking lot for better safety and improvements to signs around the park.

The object is to offer direction for future park planners to make decisions about maintenance and upkeep of the park’s buildings, roads, walkways and open spaces, according to Paul Phillipps, chairman of the Fort Williams Advisory Commission.

A previous master plan, adopted in 1990, had been followed almost to completion, Phillips said. “Eighty to 90 percent of what was in that plan had been accomplished,” he said.

To guide the future of the park, the commission decided to create another master plan, even if part of the plan was to change very little of the park. “There are areas that should stay just the way it is,” Phillipps said. Unlike the 1990 plan, there will be no new major capital improvements.

“Maintenance really was the big issue when we started looking at things fort-wide,” he said. There was no plan for maintenance and no way to pay for it. The commission created the Fort Williams Foundation to raise money, but the foundation needs a goal to raise money toward, Phillipps said.

The commission also hired Land Use Consultants of Portland about a year ago to create the plan, bringing together issues relating to the fort as a whole and to smaller areas within the park.

A near-final draft of the master plan is being discussed this week by the commission, and depending on the amount of work remaining to complete the plan, the new chair of the commission will present the proposal to the Town Council in either January or February, said Phillipps, whose term as chair expires at the end of the year.

“The look and feel of the park should not change,” he said. Keeping it up will cost money, and the commission is looking for people to donate or bequeath money to fund some of those projects.

Right now there is a budget from the town to keep the fort going, but there isn’t enough to do some of the work being proposed, and even the money to create a master plan has been cobbled together from savings in small projects over time.

Phillipps said the town’s public works department has a big hand in that, because they work quickly and efficiently and have come in under budget on a number of maintenance efforts in the past few years. He also said Cape based private contractors have been able to help the commission save money.

Town Councilor Mary Ann Lynch last month floated a proposal for charging an entry fee into the fort, which has been projected to raise as much as $200,000. Phillipps said he is personally opposed to charging fees. The commission, he said, has historically rejected charging a fee, following a number of studies.

“Every time we look at it, we come down opposing it,” he said.

Phillipps pointed out, though, that the commission is just advisory and a final decision would be up to the Town Council.

The master planning process is designed to allow for public comment
and input into the overall design and specific options for projects, Phillipps said. “We do want the public’s involvement and participation,” he said.

He expects the Town Council to have a workshop on the plan before voting on it at a public meeting, giving citizens a chance to speak at those meetings as well as Planning Board hearings that would also review the plan.

Cape schools ask for security cameras

Published in the Current

Citing intermittent but costly vandalism problems, the Cape Elizabeth School Department is asking for a $10,000 security camera system to be installed at the high school. The request comes in the schools’ capital improvement budget requests, reviewed by the Finance Committee Tuesday and sent to the Town Council for its review.

The system would be capable of monitoring up to 16 cameras, according to Facilities Manager Ernie MacVane, who told the Finance Committee the system will improve security “in areas that do not have supervision” around the high school.

He said he would expect to install only three or four cameras, in the industrial arts wing, the lobby outside the gym and auditorium, near the locker rooms and one possibly outside, looking at a grassy area in the rear of the building.

Those are all locations, MacVane said, where vandalism and damage costs are adding up.

“We are finding that we have these episodes of significant damage,” he said. Often incidents are several weeks apart, so they are hard to look out for, he said.

“Most of the damage is after school,” he said.

Superintendent Tom Forcella said the system would include videotape capabilities, so if vandalism was noticed or damage occurred, school officials could review the tape to see who was involved.

The system could be monitored in the main office, and the cameras would be installed in domes that would look somewhat like smoke detectors, MacVane said. Signs would be installed notifying people that they are being videotaped, he said, and he wants the cameras to be visible as a deterrent.

“I wouldn’t want it to be secretive,” he said.

Cameras in the school, he said, could catch people doing damage to ceiling tiles or other school facilities, as well as taping people who enter the building who are not students or staff .

“We have our share of walk-ins,” MacVane said.

Cameras outside could get descriptions and license plate numbers of cars that periodically have driven around on the school lawn, damaging the

“It would be nice to show them the tape after (an incident) and recover our costs,” MacVane said.

Another outside camera may be located on the Community Center building, with a view of the road between that building and the high school, MacVane said. There is also conduit for a cable to carry that camera’s view to the police station, where it could be viewed by dispatchers.

Forcella said that camera location was proposed because of an incident earlier in the year when three trees were cut down at the high school during the early hours of the morning.

School Board member Kevin Sweeney said he was concerned about trying to outsmart kids with the cameras.

MacVane said he could install multiple camera housings and fewer actual cameras. The cameras could then be moved around without students’ knowledge.

School Board member Georg e Entwistle suggested the investment might pay for itself in preventing damage or recovering costs from vandals. He also said the school should be careful about how the system was described.

Pipes burst at aging Cape high school

Published in the Current

Aging heating equipment led to pipes freezing and bursting in the early morning hours Tuesday at Cape Elizabeth High School, soaking desks and floors in five classrooms and a sizable portion of the library. At least an inch of water was on the floor in several rooms before the water was turned off.

Facilities Manager Ernie MacVane said maintenance staff check the building’s heating and plumbing systems each morning to make sure there are no problems, and at 6:20 a.m. saw that some of the rooms were still cold.

Upon inspection, water was pouring from the heaters in several rooms, soaking through floors and ceilings into rooms below.

Plumbers, off-duty bus drivers (who also serve as custodians) and the district’s maintenance staff were all called in to help deal with the damage and cleanup.

Five computers in the library, including the card catalog computer, were ruined, but only about a dozen books were lost.

“Luckily, we got the books out of the way,” said Librarian Joyce Bell. Some of the books that had been threatened were special collections about the Vietnam Wa r and the Spanish Civil War, as well as reference books.

Water running along ceiling tiles stopped just before it entered a networking equipment closet, said Ginger Raspiller, who takes care of the school’s computer equipment. It could have damaged the building’s internal computer network as well as its connection to the Internet and other school district computer systems.

The computer lab adjoining the library was also spared. But the damaged equipment did include a new printer and image scanner purchased by the Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation for teacher Charlotte Hanna’s project to boost math performance for all students, Raspiller said.

MacVane estimated that the cleanup would take “a few days,” and could cost “a couple thousand” dollars each day, just for the labor. About three years ago, he said, when the last pipe break occurred in the school, it cost about $16,000 total.

On Active Duty: Spec. Isa Lomac-MacNair

Published in the Current

Specialist Isa Lomac-MacNair of Scarborough is serving in the U.S. Army, stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, working in military intelligence. She specializes in Russian and Serbo-Croatian languages and is taking a leadership course that will help in her promotion to the rank of sergeant, according to her father, Andrew Lomac-MacNair.

She attended Cape Elizabeth schools through ninth grade, because her father is a teacher at the Cape Elizabeth Middle School. She transferred to Scarborough High School and graduated from there in 1999.

After basic training, she was sent to the Defense Language Institute in Berkeley, Calif., for just over a year, and then went to Schofield Barracks, which is near Honolulu.

She chose languages based on the results of her Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery tests, which indicated that she would be good at language acquisition. “She was very good in languages in school,” her father said. With a good memory and a strong vocabulary, he said, “linguistics was kind of a natural.”

She went directly from high school into the military, having decided that she needed more structure than is available on college campuses. “It was one of the best moves she could have made,” her father said. “She’s a very bright young woman but she needed that structure.”

Not only does she have four years of college language credit, but she also has a lot of money available to her through the G.I. Bill and recruitment incentives, which she can use to pay for college when she gets out of the military.

Her enlistment is up in about a year, and her father said he doesn’t know whether she’ll re-enlist or decide to leave the service. Her experience, he said, puts her in a good position for either continuing in the military or getting a civilian job.

She will be coming home for Christmas, he said, and the family is looking forward to seeing her then.

Using exercise to control diabetes

Published in the Current

A diabetic himself, Brad Smith knows the value of exercise to people living with diabetes. Smith, who runs the Right Fitness Studio on Route 1 in Scarborough, used November’s status as American Diabetes Month to begin a program educating diabetics about the impact exercise can have on their lives and to teach non-diabetics about the disease, which affects 17 million Americans.

There are two types of diabetes, numbered one and two, both involving too much sugar in the blood. Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas, resulting in the production of no insulin
at all. Insulin regulates the level of sugar in the blood by moving excess blood sugar into the cells of the body. People with Type 1 diabetes typically are diagnosed at an early age, and require daily insulin injections throughout their lives.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, or cells resist the effects of insulin. The first stage of attack, said Smith, who is an exercise physiologist, is for a diabetes patient to increase physical activity and change his or her diet. Medication can also make a person more receptive to insulin. A last resort is insulin injections.

“The first line of defense is a healthy lifestyle,” Smith said. That’s true even for non-diabetics. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 16 million people have a condition called “pre-diabetes,” in which their blood sugar levels are elevated, but not high enough to qualify as diabetics.

And Smith said there are more young people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes than in the past. “Everything is super-sized, ” Smith said, referring not only to large fast-food servings, but dishes at all types of restaurants and even foods in supermarkets. He also said children see their parents involved in sedentary lifestyles, and continue that pattern as they grow up.

For diabetics, as for many people, exercise can be troublesome.

Exercise changes how the body uses blood sugar, and modifies its demand for insulin. People with Type 1 diabetes, Smith said, may need to eat when they don’t want to eat, to prevent their blood sugar from being too low. Or they may have to stop exercising for a time.

“It can be frustrating for someone who’s trying to lose weight,” he said.

And for someone seeking weight loss, high-impact sports may be too hard on already stressed joints like knees and ankles, Smith said. Diabetes increases the risk for cardiovascular disease and kidney failure and is the leading cause of blindness in people between the ages of 20 and 74.

Teens who have to sit out during sports because of diabetes may be more susceptible to eating disorders and depression, due to feelings of lack of control over their own bodies.

Smith said exercise can help minimize those health risks in all people, and help people deal better with their diabetes. “Diabetes doesn’t have to hold you back,” he said.

He offers clinics for diabetics who want to learn more about ways they can exercise safely, including tips on aerobic exercise and using weights. Smith, a Type 1 diabetic since he was eight years old, is hoping he can make a connection to diabetics in the area.

“I understand the physical and psychological things that go with (diabetes),” he said.

He also understands the value exercise can bring to a diabetic’s life. He recently completed the Maine Marathon. He did have to do some things differently from most runners, checking his blood sugar level every three or four miles and bringing along fast-acting sugars, like juice, in case he needed to boost his blood sugar level.

Smith said some people with diabetes or other health issues may feel intimidated to join a conventional gym, so he offers work in small groups and one-on-one coaching to meet individual goals.

He encourages people to find exercise they enjoy, whether it is walking with friends or a regular workout using exercise equipment or weights.

“It’s all about balance,” Smith said.

Cape students on field trip suspended for pot and alcohol

Published in the Current

An economics class trip to the New York Stock Exchange in mid-November resulted in two-day suspensions for 16 of the 22 students on the trip, after the group was caught drinking and smoking marijuana.

Student representative Aaron McKenney told the Cape Elizabeth School Board about the incident at its regular business meeting Tuesday. The class, led by teacher Ted Jordan, went to New York Nov. 10 and spent the night in a hotel before visiting the exchange the following day.

That night in the hotel, “most of the students were using marijuana and alcohol,” McKenney said.

School Board Chairman Marie Prager praised the students who didn’t drink or smoke, and said it “was a very good choice for them” to abstain. She said she was glad that “it wasn’t everybody” on the trip.

High school Principal Jeff Shedd, as a result of this incident and a student party shortly after Thanksgiving, is now enforcing a longtime school rule prohibiting students from hosting or attending parties where drugs or alcohol are being used, though he said it is not a cure-all.

“I have absolutely no expectation that this will alleviate the problem of drinking and drugging in Cape Elizabeth,” Shedd told the board.

He also told the board he did not seek the role he has found himself in, speaking out about teen drug and alcohol use. He said he does not want the school to be viewed as part of the problem and does want public discussion on the subject. “This is a very very important issue,” he said.

Shedd told the board that he wanted to encourage all students “to do the right thing.” He said that means for students who are hosting a party where
people are drinking and using drugs, they need to take action to end the party, by notifying police or parents immediately.

If they do not, they will face suspension from athletic teams or non-sports activities for the remainder of the season.

As for students who are in attendance at the party, they should leave when they discover illegal substances being used, and should not use the intoxicants. If they do not leave, they will be kept off their sports teams or activities while the incidents are under investigation by school officials.

Shedd said he does not expect the investigations to take “a long time” and does not anticipate that it will adversely affect many students.

Student representative Hillary Weimont told the board the students involved in the marijuana-smoking incident realized their error and will take the issue more seriously in the future.

A member of the public asked if the students were allowed to go on a later economics class trip to Augusta, where they met Gov. Angus King and Governor-elect John Baldacci. McKenney said the students were not barred from that trip, but it was a day trip with no opportunity to be away from adult supervision.

“Cape Elizabeth has this problem with drinking and substance abuse,” McKenney told the board. “We may not be alone, but we sure do have a big problem.”

He said that while programs like Cape Life – an initiative to provide kids with activities that don’t involve drinking and drugs – are good ideas, “I think it’s going to take a few years” to get the message to the kids in the community.

He commended Principal Shedd for taking on the issue.

Shedd said the students involved were good students, and not the “usual” students he deals with regarding drug and alcohol use. That, he said, confirmed that the problem of alcohol touches many of the town’s young people.

Thursday, December 5, 2002

Doing what it takes to get to Scotland

Published in the Current

Theater students at Cape Elizabeth High School have a pair of huge challenges ahead: Not only do they have to raise $100,000 to fly 27 of them and five chaperones to Edinburgh for the August 2003 Fringe Festival, but they have to develop and rehearse a performance to put on while there.

The first challenge, getting the money together to arrive in Edinburgh, has been underway for several months. It started near the end of the last school year, after the school had found out it had been selected to participate in the American High School Theatre Festival, which is part of the Fringe Festival.

Money raised from last year’s production of “The King and I” was added to the fledgling “Fringe Fund,” which has been growing steadily since.

Parents are helping with events like the holiday fruit-basket drive that just finished, raising nearly $2,000. Others are looking into corporate and local business sponsorship for the project.

And each student who will be going to Scotland is required to come up with a way to raise money for the effort.

Raising money
Student Carl Langley-Wilbur, the “Bottle Man,” has been collecting returnable bottles and cans, though he hasn’t gone as far as taking over the town’s bottle shed for a month. He has, however, gotten donations of returnables from as far away as Falmouth.

He said it is a project that extends beyond the borders of Cape Elizabeth.

“It’s representing the state of Maine,” Langley-Wilbur said. He has found that people across the region want to participate.

Other students ran events called “Fringe Saturdays” through the fall, with car washes and bake sales, and what theater teacher Dick Mullen called “all the traditional” ways of raising money for school-related events.

Some students just completed “Project Strong Arm,” in which they worked on a wide variety of projects throughout the community, raking leaves and doing other chores for people, in exchange for donations.

“The students have been out in the community,” said student Sarah Bartlett, president of the theater council, students who with Mullen coordinate the theater department’s shows and projects.

On Dec. 7, the next project will kick off at Wal-Mart in Scarborough, with a bicycle raffle and popcorn snack sale to earn money from people outside Cape Elizabeth who want to contribute. Wal-Mart will also match the first $500 raised, Bartlett said.

And on Dec. 14 and 21, parents will be able to drop off their elementary-school age children at the high school auditorium for a day of supervised fun.

“It’s a chance for the parents, if they want to go Christmas shopping,” Bartlett said.

Other students are working on setting up a small singing group to raise money by singing carols, and may even learn Scottish folk tunes or songs from the Scottish-themed musical “Brigadoon.”

All of the efforts, Mullen said, reflect a “high level of commitment” to the fund-raising effort and the trip.

“They’re thinking big, which we want kids to do,” Mullen said.

Some of the students were worried about the money initially, but things are going well now, said student Michelle Wissley, who also gave credit to Mullen for his efforts over the years building the theater program.

Student Bree Douty said each activity so far has made more than it was projected to make.

In Scotland
The students will be overseas for a total of two weeks in August 2003, Mullen said, starting with a short stop in London. Bartlett said the students might be able to see a show, check out costume shops and even do a workshop with a theater group.

Then they will go to Edinburgh and stay for 10 days, performing their show four or five times. They will live, with their chaperones, in a dorm at the University of Edinburgh, which, Mullen said, is a very safe place in a very safe city, with a 24-hour security staff.

“We’ll also get a chance to see theater from other American high schools and others around the world,” Bartlett said.

The students and Mullen are still deciding what they will perform, but they expect it to be a show they will prepare and put on for the community this year, Bartlett said.

One possibility is a one-act entitled “Metamorphoses,” originally written in Latin by the ancient poet Ovid, and adapted by playwright Mary Zimmerman.

Students will perform the show in March, and Mullen said it would be a “world high school premiere.” And in the “Theater Live” class, students are adapting various works into stage productions, which are also possibilities for Edinburgh.

Mullen went to Scotland this past summer, to get a glimpse of what the theater space will be. It is an old church now converted for play performances.

It has a smaller stage and seating area than the CEHS auditorium, and lacks the thrust stage that brings the play’s action closer to CEHS audiences.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” said student Amanda Gibson. She appreciates the degree of student work that is going into the project. “I think it’s going to be so much more rewarding,” she said.

And for some students it will be a first-in-a-lifetime. Student Megan Culver will be leaving the country for the first time, and Wissley has never been on an airplane. Thinking about the prospect of this, Culver exclaimed, “We have to get passports!”

Cape chief warns of fire dangers

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth Fire Chief Philip McGouldrick is warning town residents about home fire hazards, following a recent fire that could have destroyed a house on Woodland Road.

On Nov. 23, a Woodland Road resident put some ashes from his woodstove in a paper bag and put it on his back deck, McGouldrick said. Embers still alive in the ashes started a fire that caught the deck and the rear of the house aflame.

The resident was home and called the fire department before turning a garden hose on the fire, which helped keep damage down, McGouldrick said. But had the resident not been home, the house could have been ruined.

McGouldrick said ashes from a woodstove can stay alive even when they have been left alone for several days. “A hot coal in the middle of that ash will stay there for a long period of time,” he said.

Any ashes removed from a woodstove should be placed in a metal bucket and scattered outside the home, in a garden or planting area, he said.

When he does woodstove inspections, McGouldrick makes sure not only that the woodstove itself is safely installed, with enough distance between the stove and wooden framing of the house, but also that smoke detectors are working properly.

He said he also checks that the stove’s owner has tongs and a metal shovel and a metal bucket to properly maintain the stove.

This type of incident has happened before. McGouldrick remembers a “really bad fire down in the Oakhurst neighborhood” a number of years ago that resulted from woodstove ashes in a paper bag.

Ash disposal in dumpsters and trash cans also can cause fires, McGouldrick said.

He also warned parents to do fire drills with their children, citing recent national reports that children do not reliably respond to smoke alarms in the house, especially when they are awakened at night by the alerts.

McGouldrick also cautioned people to use care when using candles, making sure they are safely extinguished before leaving the home and also ensuring they are contained in something that will not ignite, if the candle burns low.

People should also take care that items can’t fall on top of candles accidentally, which could also cause a fire.

Cape Education Foundation raises $20,000

Published in the Current

The Cape Elizabeth Education Foundation has made the first investment in its endowment, depositing $5,000 from a recent phone-a-thon fund-raising drive into a fund it hopes will eventually grow to over $1 million.

“This is our initial investment that establishes our permanence in the community,” said spokeswoman Susan Spagnola.

Interest earned by the endowment funds will be used to make grants in coming years.

The phone-a-thon, held Nov. 12, 13 and 14, reached over 500 Cape families and raised over $20,000, Spagnola said. Coupled with a mailed packet of information and request for contributions, the drive is expected to bring in around $30,000 in donations, she said.

“The response was excellent,” Spagnola said.

Over half of the respondents, she said, were receptive to the idea of a non-profit foundation that supports innovation and activities in the schools that are not funded within the normal school budget process.

Many people had questions about how the foundation works and were able to get them answered in the phone conversations, Spagnola said.

“People have a great deal of faith in us,” Spagnola said.

Some people expressed concern about high taxes that already support the schools, and others did not feel comfortable donating money in slow economic times.

“It is a hard time to be asking people for money,” Spagnola said.

The foundation expects to make a new round of grants this spring, in either May or June. The amount has not been finalized, but Spagnola said, “we hope to give away at least as much as we gave away this fall,” when grants totaled $15,000.

To meet that granting need, to cover its administrative costs and to begin planning for a capital campaign slated to begin next year, the foundation expects to spend $80,000. It needs to raise more money to get to that point, and is planning a series of community-based fund-raising activities for the spring.

One possibility for such an event, Spagnola said, could be a spelling bee in which local businesses raise teams and pay an admission fee to compete against each other. Such an event, Spagnola said, would involve the community and be in keeping with the foundation’s educational focus.

A series of committee meetings in January will set the stage for the next developments in the foundation’s projects, including setting up a detailed strategic plan for the foundation’s fund-raising efforts and encouraging teachers to apply for future grants.

Home on the range in Scarborough

Published in the Current

Hidden away on Ross Road is a medium-size farm behind a big business. Started in 1992 with a few dozen animals, Bayley Hill Elk and Deer Farm now has 1,200 head of Rocky Mountain elk and red deer serving several different markets.

Owned by Fred and Kathleen Bayley, the farm is open to visitors through Christmas Eve, and when families buy a tree at Bayley’s Campground on Pine Point Road, they get a free bag of apples to feed the elk and deer on the farm just down the road.

Many families come back year after year, Farm Manager Nick Richardson said. “It’s become a tradition.”

Behind the scenes, the farm is a serious business.

One big market it serves, according to Richardson, is producing velvet, or new growth antlers for an arthritis supplement the farm sells as nearby as Lois’s Natural Marketplace on Route 1 and as far afield as China. “China is starting to look at buying a lot,” Richardson said.

The horn is harvested every 60 days, Richardson said, and is dried and sent to Canada for further freeze-drying – shrinking fresh antlers to about one third their original weight – before being made into pills. The pills can sell for as much as $150 per pound, Richardson said, and the farm’s best producer of antlers, a bull elk, has put out over 30 pounds of fresh antler per year.

The farm used to ship more to the Far East, where velvet antler is used in traditional Chinese medicine. That market has slumped recently, allowing
Richardson to grow out the antlers on many bulls to see if they would do well for a second market, which is trophy animals.

Ranchers in Texas, Ohio and Florida buy live bull elk and deer to take to their land for hunters to stalk, paying big fees for the privilege. The ranches will pay up to $5,000 for a bull, Richardson said, and Bayley Hill will sell about 110 animals to ranchers this year.

And though the animals are fenced in on private land, the hunt isn’t necessarily easy. “In Texas a ranch can be 100,000 acres,” Richardson said.

Closer to home, the animals’ meat sells well. The farm deals with a restaurant supply company in Boston that serves high-end hotels and restaurants throughout New England. The farm sells “several tons” of fresh venison and elk meat each year, slaughtered and processed in Guilford.

“We ship all over New England,” Richardson said.

Making matches
The fourth segment of the business is the most complex and also the most profitable. Bayley Hill provides breeding stock for other deer and elk farms.

Bayley Hill, Richardson said, is one of the top breeding farms in the U.S., and the top bull can bring in as much as $400 per straw – the unit in which bull semen is sold – with hundreds of straws possible per year.

“The beauty of it is that you don’t actually have to bring the animals here,” Richardson said. Rather than shipping animals, breeders send cases of straws around instead. It’s cheaper and easier, especially with the international fears of spreading hoof-and-mouth disease.

Now there are restrictions on animals entering and leaving countries, for fear the disease would be transported along with them, unbeknownst to the owners.

In 1997, Bayley Hill inseminated 240 females, and this year will inseminate 1,000 females, with the goal of improving the farm’s stock.

There is a general rule: “Fast-growing animals that produce huge horns are valuable animals,” Richardson said. But other attributes also up the value of an animal or a line of offspring.

Lean meat is what the meat buyers want, and large antlers are good for the velvet antler market. The largest bull, which would provide the most meat, does not necessarily produce the biggest antlers, Richardson said, meaning lines have to be separated by their intended use.

Females are bred not for size but for mothering skills and quality of milk. A small female may be the one with the most successful offspring, Richardson said, because it’s a better mother than a larger female.

“Each successive generation gets better,” Richardson said.

Ease of birthing is also a factor. Unlike cows, which cannot give birth without human assistance, deer and elk still have unassisted births most of the time. That’s an attribute Richardson and his counterparts at farms around the world want to keep.

Smart animals
Richardson has been doing this sort of work for 20 years, first in New Zealand and then in Britain, where he managed the largest deer farm in the country for five years before coming to Bayley Hill in 1997.

Elk and deer, he said, are intelligent animals that are also very strong. They are kept in fields with six-foot-high fencing around them, but Richardson said some animals could jump even that if they wanted to. Instead, they stay and get 20 to 30 pounds of food a day, which they rapidly turn into meat. At 17 months, the elk can get close to 600 pounds. They eat hay and brewers grain, a byproduct of the Budweiser brewery in Merrimack, N.H.

The animals do have to be handled with caution, because of their size and their wildness, despite living on a farm. “We’re very very careful, but it’s still a high-risk business to be in,” Richardson said.

In the barn, where they are taken for shipping or harvesting of antlers, there is a sophisticated system of hydraulic-powered chutes to keep them moving along properly and under control.

Despite the danger, the animals do play a lot, running around their fields and romping with other animals.

“I truly do believe they have a sense of humor,” Richardson said.

Rabid skunks in Cape

Published in the Current

One skunk has tested positive for rabies and a second, believed to be rabid, remains on the loose in Cape following two encounters with pet dogs on Fowler Road and Patricia Drive.

Three dogs have been quarantined, due to concern about contact they may have had with rabid skunks. On Fowler Road, a skunk tried to enter a wire kennel sheltering two dogs. The homeowner put down the skunk himself, and the animal was later found to be rabid.

On Patricia Drive, a skunk was seen circling a dog, but did not successfully spray the dog, which is unusual, Leeman said.

Most skunks don’t miss, unless they’re sick. A vet who examined the dog, Leeman said, did not find any puncture wounds or saliva indicating direct contact between the animals, but the dog was quarantined as a precaution.

That skunk ran under a shed and could not be captured, Leeman said. “What I worry about is it’s still out there.”

Like the raccoon outbreak of rabies in Cape earlier in the year, this year’s skunks are aggressive rather than shy, Leeman said. He said he has been picking up a lot of dead raccoons lately, leading him to believe the outbreak is reaching its lethal phase in raccoons and will subside soon.

He also has not seen any foxes believed to be rabid, after three gray foxes were found this summer. One was not tested, but the two that were tested both were positive for rabies. One of them had bitten a two-year-old girl at an Old Ocean House Road daycare center, resulting in rabies vaccinations for about a dozen people, children and staff.

Cape looks out of state for other “world class” schools

Published in the Current

Cape Elizabeth has joined forces with two school districts, one in Missouri and one in Pennsylvania, and is looking for as many as four more “like-minded” districts to form a national consortium of schools seeking to be “world-class.”

At a two-day meeting in Portland in November, Superintendent Tom Forcella, curriculum coordinator Sarah Simmonds and School Board Chairman Marie Prager met with superintendents and assistant superintendents from Clayton, Mo., and the Palisades School District, north of Philadelphia, Pa.

“We did a lot of sharing about our districts,” Forcella said. And while the districts knew they were similar in some ways, they discovered other ways that surprised them. Beyond being districts that are well known in their own states for being strong educationally, all three districts are now teaching physics first in their high school science curriculum, something that is becoming more common but is still the exception, rather than the rule, for U.S. high schools.

Several school districts have contacted the American Associa- tion of School Administrators, seeking to join the Cape-Clayton-Palisades group, and the group’s next meeting in March will include a discussion of which schools to include.

Districts they are looking at will include those who “really have a commitment to being world-class,” Forcella said. Like Cape, he said, those districts would look not only at standardized test scores, but also at the quality of citizens and students in the district.

The school districts will be working on developing “professional learning communities,” Forcella said, and focus on quality instruction and student achievement.

Forcella said there is real value in talking to districts outside the state that are working toward similar goals. Instead of talking about state-mandated programs, Forcella said, school officials talk about actual educational issues they are facing.

“The conversations are different,” Forcella said, than those he has with superintendents from other Maine school districts.

He said the schools have real opportunities to learn from each other. The Missouri and Pennsylvania officials expressed interest in observing the lesson-study project at Pond Cove School, but they didn’t know about it before last week’s meeting, meaning they will have to wait until a future visit.

Forcella and the Missouri officials will observe a “walkthrough” program at the Pennsylvania schools in March. There, a team of people, including someone from the local university and teachers and administrators from other district schools, will visit a school and spend an entire day talking to students about their experiences and issues. At the end of the day, the visitors meet with the faculty to discuss what they have learned.

Forcella said that is a good way to get a sense of how things are going in a school without taking a lot of time to do so. He expects future consortium meetings to include people from the districts who have similar jobs, such as all the principals.

“We think alike,” Forcella said of the school officials in the group.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

Famiglia, familiarity: Humor, poignancy, and flavor at the Good Theater

Published in the Portland Phoenix

On Thanksgiving weekend, if you haven’t yet had your fill of family interaction around the dining room table, check out Over the River and Through the Woods, put on by Good Theater at the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center atop Munjoy Hill.

In this loving and amusing Joe DiPietro play about family, faith, and food, a thirtysomething man, Nick (played by Paul Drinan), has had Sunday dinner with both sets of his grandparents every week for his whole life. The family dynamic is solid and established, and was acted strongly enough to make me react right along with Nick, in the way my grandparents would empathize with his elders.

After some trouble getting a word in edgewise around his grandparents’ direct mind-to-mouth conversation, Nick gets to make his “big announcement”: He has been offered a job promotion that would require him to move across the country.

His grandparents (Stephen Underwood and Cathy Counts, and married-couple-playing-married-couple Chris Horton and Tootie Van Reenen) latch onto Nick’s comment that he has “no reason to stay,” and take it upon themselves to give him one. Her name is Caitlin (Jeanne Handy), and she arrives at Sunday dinner one day, surprising Nick and delighting his grandparents.

Despite the embarrassment of being set up on a blind date by his grandparents, Nick sees that Caitlin is a great woman. She is interested, too, but is reluctant to get too close before Nick makes his choice.

Nick has a hard decision to make, between his family and himself, and the feelings of love, guilt, and loyalty that are woven into the fabric of the family tug strongly at his heart.

Still, his grandparents remain loyal and loving, offering insight into their own youthful loves and passions, and delivering the script’s timeless truths about family in funny and poignant moments. They remind Nick that their priority is the Italian phrase “tengo famiglia” — “I support my family” — with connotations of family as a reason for being and a purpose in life.

This sentiment is a perfect lead-in to the holiday season, though the play is technically set in mid-summer. The script, strong and well written, evokes the familial sense of holiday gatherings on its own, but the circumstances of this particular production strengthen those ties.

Last year, the play was Good Theater’s very first production. And this year, with the entire cast back for a second run, they work together in the practiced way of family members, who know each other so well as to have an innate sense of dramatic timing. They convey the feeling I have among my own family that while some things on the surface may change, the underlying love, tensions, and interactions will not.

In this year’s production, for example, the table is different. The woman from whom they borrowed last year’s table is hosting Thanksgiving now and needed her own table. It worked out just fine, as director Brian Allen’s grandfather recently moved, requiring Allen to help clean out the house. His grandparents’ table sits on the stage, and many of the details of the set are from his family, too.

Another change this year is that Handy plays Caitlin straight, rather than as a more bumbling comic. Allen noted that it is rare to get to revisit a play after a full run, but he said the cast likes the straight Caitlin better.

Because of those changes, the blocking had to be redone, but was largely successful. Only in the several asides each character has with the audience does blocking become an issue. While high-contrast lights are a great way to show that a speaker is communicating his or her private thoughts, the aim of the spotlights was distracting. The actors ended up partly in the light and partly out of it, making them appear to be less than fully present in the monologue.

The only major fault was that Nick’s solo rendition of “Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby” was neither stirring nor plausible. A man today singing that to a woman is more likely to get slapped than a kiss on the cheek. If he had started more reluctantly, and Caitlin’s reaction was more guarded, the moment could have intensified as each saw the genuine interest in the other.

Many stage items added pleasant and humorous touches, from the air-conditioner sitting idle in a window — despite Nick’s complaints of excessive heat — to the crocheted afghan on the couch: a warm reminder of grandparents’ love and coziness.

And any play that uses Anthony’s Italian for the food props is worth a smell and a look. It is no wonder Nick’s grandmother looks so pleased every time she puts food on the table.

Over the River and Through the Woods

Written by Joe DiPietro. Directed by Brian P. Allen. With Cathy Counts, Paul Drinan, Jeanne Handy, Chris Horton, Tootie Van Reenen, and Stephen Underwood. Good Theater at St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center, through Dec. 1. Call (207) 883-5883.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Middle schoolers mix it up

Published in the Current

National Mix-it-up at Lunch Day was Nov. 21, and Cape middle schoolers were certainly mixed up. The idea, carried out at schools nationwide, was to break up cliques and groups of friends for at least one day at lunch, according to school social worker Bill Kueck.

It started with the seventh- and eighth-graders at 11 a.m. As they filed into the lunchroom, members of the Student Council gave each a number, writing it in marker on their hands. The students were supposed to sit at the table with that number on it and meet new people.

Students at that grade level had mixed reviews, but that was to be expected, Kueck said.

One student thought the seating arrangement was not that different. He sat with a few of his friends and a number of students he knew, but wouldn’t normally sit with. Everyone knew where their good friends were sitting.

Eighth-grader Tucker Emerson said it was a good idea and he thought it went well.

Eighth-grader Tyler Loring said he thought it might have been organized a bit differently. At his table, all but one of the students was an eighth-grader.

That seventh-grader, Fritz Maddrell, said he thought it was a good experience, but noted that some students didn’t like it. Others might not be comfortable, even if they liked the idea.

“Some people are shy,” he said.

Most students did go along with the idea, but a few rubbed off the ink from their hands and sat with their friends as usual.

Principal Nancy Hutton said it was the first time the school had such an event, and a few kinks may need working out before it happens again.

Halfway through the first session of lunch, she ended up with a bouquet of balloons taken from tables where they had been intended to display table numbers. Instead, they became toys for the students. Some balloons ended up floating to the ceiling of the cafetorium, so Hutton took hold of the rest.

The president of the Student Council was frustrated with how the seventh- and eighth-graders handled things by not going along with the plan.

The goal, she said, was “to have everyone meet new people.”

Many of them did. The sixth-graders who came in next sat down and did a few introductions. Some kids still sat more or less on their own, at the end of a table of kids they didn’t know, but even they thought it was a good idea.

The fifth-graders were even more amenable to the idea and had fun with the idea.

In all, Kueck said, the effort went off well. And while younger students go along more easily, “with seventh and eighth grade, you expect negative reaction to things that challenge their routine,” he said.