Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Letter to Our Kindergarten Friends

It’s time to say, “Good-bye.”
Our year has come to an end.
You’ve made more cherished memories,
And many more new friends.

We’ve watched you all learn and grow,
And change from day to day.
We hope that all the things we’ve done,
Have helped in some small way.

So it’s with happy memories,
We send you through the door.
With great hope and expectations,
For what 1st grade has in store.
Love, Mrs. Fortier and Mrs. Sawyer

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

June Letter From the Principal

June 2017

Hello, Great Falls Parents,

It is hard to believe how quickly the school year has passed. As the school year comes to a close, our minds and hearts are filled to the brim. It’s been a great year! We would like to thank you for your trust and commitment to the vision of Great Falls Elementary School, “Succeeding today to be ready for tomorrow!” It is your belief in our values that help us to sustain our vision. We will continue to put your child first in everything we do!
This was a very busy year and you, as partners in education, played a great role in making it a success! Although it is a hectic time of year, it is the time when we most realize how blessed we all are to be part of this amazing school community. Parents and teachers commit their time and energy every day toward creating a nurturing environment in which children can thrive!

We accomplished a ton this school year!  Below are some highlights of the wonderful events from 2016-2017:

USM Mentors:  Approximately 30 USM student athletes acted as mentors for our students during the fall semester. Students offered academic support, activity breaks, and their friendship during their time together.
October Family STEAM Night:  Teachers and community volunteers offered over 20 interesting activities to nearly 300 students & family members who attended STEAM night. Activities such as catapults, paper airplanes, and tessellations were designed to build student excitement around science, technology, engineering, art, & math.
Socktober:  Staff, students, & families joined together to collect socks in support of homeless shelters and veterans homes.  We easily surpassed our initial goal and collected over 1000 pairs of new socks which were distributed to a variety of groups in need.
Kids’ Clubs:  Hundreds of students from grades 1-5 participated in our fall & spring enrichment clubs varying in category from physical movement activities, creative design & computers, as well as nature & expressive arts!  We were very fortunate to have 2 parent volunteers, 1 local business, Dance Studio of Maine, and many Great Falls teachers volunteer their personal time & talents to facilitate a club.  
Parent Teacher Student Conferences:  Twice each year we host conferences to provide a one-on-one setting for you and your children to meet with teachers, as well as an update on academic progress and “skills for life.” Great Falls had an impressive 97% attendance rate for parent participation at parent/teacher/student conferences.
December Family Movie Night and Empty Bowl Project:  The Empty Plate Project is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger. All K-5 students handcrafted a pottery bowl during art class with art teacher, Allie Rimkunas. Parents supported our act of kindness by making a donation to purchase their child's bowl, which were distributed at the Family Movie Night! Great Falls donated approximately $2,000 to the Gorham Food Pantry.
One School/One Book Project- Because of Winn Dixie:  Great Falls Elementary participated in our 2nd One School, One Book project!  All classrooms read the same book throughout January and into February. We decided to do this project at Great Falls because “the benefits of reading aloud are remarkable—studies have shown that reading to children helps them to listen better and longer, build bigger vocabularies, understand concepts better, feel positive about books, learning, and more!”
Grades 3-5 Chorus Concerts:  The Gorham 3-5 chorus performed for audiences of family & friends throughout the school year. The students did a great job and continued to impress with their talent & enthusiasm! Special kudos to Janelle Mosey!
Jump Rope for Heart Campaign:  Great Falls participated in the American Heart Association and Jump Rope for Heart student exercise event! GF students jumped to their heart’s content to raise heart health awareness & funds. Great Falls donated approximately $2,500 to the AHA.
School Spirit and Read Across America Week:  We celebrated literacy during the week of Dr. Seuss’ birthday including dressing up like book characters. We ended the week with the Art of Literacy Family Fun Night. Families were treated to arts and crafts connected to our favorite children’s books, face painting, and a reader’s theater presentation.
Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day:  Students & staff carried favorite poems in their pockets, which were shared between classmates and across grade levels. Our students were truly excited to participate in this day.
Great Falls Parent Connection Group:  This group of committed parent volunteers met monthly to collaborate on school-wide projects and appreciation activities for all school staff. The members are always developing new ideas to improve parent/family engagement in school.
6th Annual Career Fair:  Over 30 parent and community volunteers shared their passion about their career. Every Great Falls student attended this event, which generates excitement about the importance of school.

Phew! … and that was only a few of the many AMAZING things your children and our staff took part in during this school year! We truly appreciate your ongoing support and partnership in all that we do.  We look forward to continuing these and many other opportunities to build community and enhance the positive climate & culture at Great Falls next year!  We wish you all a very happy, safe, & enjoyable summer.  Please be sure to take time as a family to talk & play together.  We look forward to seeing you in August.

In closing, we want to take this opportunity to congratulate all families of Great Falls Elementary School for another successful year!  We wish our 5th-grade students all the best as they transition to Gorham Middle School this fall. On Thursday, June 15th, we will celebrate their achievements and reflect on their journey at Great Falls. It will be bittersweet as we have watched them grow and exemplify what it means to be a “Citizen of the Code!”  

As always, please feel free to reach out to us at any time with questions and feedback.
Kindly yours,
Becky Fortier and Stacey Sawyer    

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Great Falls Parent Step Up Night

Tuesday, May 30th from 6-7pm
Great Falls Gym

Join the administrators and staff at Great Falls Elementary School to get a sneak peek into your child’s next grade. A teacher representative from grades 1-5 will be presenting information and answering questions.

Great Falls Field Days 2017

It’s that Time-of-Year!!!!  This year Kindergarten through Grade 5 field days will be held at the Gorham Sports Center. As always, this will be a fabulous and fun event.

Students will be leaving Great Falls at 9:10 am and starting their field days at 9:30 am. Please encourage your students to bring a water bottle.

Kindergarten - Tuesday, May 30th
Grade 1 - Wednesday, May 31st
Grade 2 - Thursday, June 1st
Grade 3 - Friday, June 2nd
Grade 4 - Monday, June 5th
Grade 5 - Tuesday, June 6th

Friday, March 24, 2017

Join us at the Great Falls Family Fun and Wellness Fair!

The Great Falls Family Fun and Wellness Fair
Friday, April 7th 

Join the Great Falls staff and a variety of community vendors as we celebrate and promote family wellness! There will be lots of active activities for all including a bounce slide, obstacle course, yoga, a story walk and more! The cafeteria will be set up as a health and wellness expo with local businesses and experts ready to share their health and wellness knowledge! 

Hope to see you there!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Parent/student/teacher conferences are held on the afternoon of Wednesday, March 15th and the full day on Friday, March 17th. However, there is a 2-week window during which your particular conference may be scheduled. The available dates and times during this window of time can vary depending on the teacher. You will be able to register for student conferences beginning on Wednesday, March 1st at Thank you!

Getting Ready for Kindergarten!

Calling All Incoming Kindergarten Students 
Joining Great Falls in 2017!

Please join the staff on Tuesday, March 7th at 6:00 p.m. at Great Falls Elementary School for a meet and greet! This will be the time for you to schedule your child's kindergarten screening appointment as well as obtain the registration packet needed for school enrollment.

Tuesday, March 7th
Parent Information - Great Falls Gym at 6:00 p.m.     
Registration & K Screening Appointments at 6:30 p.m.           
April 5th-12th                   
Screening by appointment: You will make your appointment for the screening on March 7th at your school.

By Friday, August 18th
You will receive notification of your child's kindergarten teacher by mail.     
Monday, August 28th
Kindergarten Orientation:
Students and parents will attend together to learn more about a typical day, have a short bus ride, and play on the playground.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Star 360 Winter Results

Today your child will be bringing home their Star 360 assessment results. Even though there is a space at the bottom of the reports for a signature, you do not need to sign and return the documents. The copies are for you. 

Star 360 assessments are computer adaptive and automatically adjust each question based on how the student answered the previous prompt. This reduces testing time and limits frustration and boredom. By using Star 360 three times per year, we are able to compare students’ progress in reference to normal expected growth and toward criteria for mastery of our state’s standards.

Once again, this is one measure and it serves as a “snapshot” to check on student growth in the areas of reading and math. We use many additional pieces of evidence throughout the year to determine the profile of each child. Feel free to contact your child’s teacher or an administrator if you have any questions about the Star 360 results.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

February Letter from the Principal

February 2, 2017

Dear Parents,

Great Falls will, once again, participate in the American Heart Association and Jump Rope for Heart student exercise event! Throughout the years, our students have made tremendous donations supporting the American Heart Association!
Before our students ask for donations for the American Heart Association, they will learn (or review) the components of heart health, which are diet and exercise. Diet and exercise are critical elements of both the Physical Education Standards and the Health Standards. This donation drive gives Great Falls an opportunity to connect these concepts in a thoughtful way.  The students will also learn how the Heart Association uses donations to help save lives through their education efforts and research.

In addition to providing money for the AHA, this student exercise event provides funds that allow us to enhance learning beyond the classroom.  It is our goal to provide children with a fun and engaging field day in June where students participate in wellness experiences outside of their regular PE classes.
Wednesday, February 8th  - AHA Packets will go home with students.

Friday, February 17th - Kick Off Assembly Featuring Student Jumpers!

February 8th - March 3rd - Students will collect donations for the AHA.

March 6th - March 10th - Students will participate in the Jump Rope for Heart student exercise event during PE class.

Donations are due back by Friday, March 16th
Thank you for supporting this amazing cause!

Becky Fortier, Principal

Great Falls Elementary School

Monday, January 9, 2017

January Letter from the Principal

January 9, 2017
Dear Parents/Guardians,

Formative assessments play an important role in education. A formative assessment is a tool for evaluating student learning during teaching in order to gauge whether students are understanding the material at that identified time. It is a learning tool, not a final evaluation of mastery. Formative assessment helps teachers alter their approach to the learning objectives if students are struggling with or exceeding grade level standards.

New this year, we are using Star 360 as a formative assessment in kindergarten through grade 10. This assessment replaced the former assessments, Aimsweb and NWEA, that were utilized as a “snapshot” to check on student growth in the areas of reading and math. The Star 360 assessment provides more intuitive information that will help to plot the course for what each student needs in their learning. This assessment is only one of several methods used to monitor progress and achievement over the year.
Star 360 assessments are computer adaptive and automatically adjust each question based on how the student answered the previous prompt. This reduces testing time and limits frustration and boredom. We will compare students’ progress in reference to normal expected growth and toward criteria for mastery of our state’s standards three times per year.
The first round of testing for students in grades 1-5 occurred in September and in the coming weeks, kindergarten through grade 5 students will participate in the next round of testing. Time spent on testing will be minimal as it will typically take a student 20-30 minutes to complete each session of reading and math. That being said, those students who require the full allotted time or specified testing accommodations will continue to receive such. Student results will be sent home by early February.
We are very excited about the possibilities of Star 360 and are confident that your child will have a positive experience. We encourage students to try their hardest and do their best while recognizing that any assessment is an in-the-moment snapshot and not the final word on a child’s understanding or skill. Certainly, a good night’s sleep and a healthy breakfast will go a long way toward minimizing test anxiety and we appreciate your support in this regard.
Feel free to contact your child’s teacher if you have any questions about the upcoming Star 360 assessment. As always, please feel free to reach out to me at any time with questions and feedback. I am available through email at and by phone at 222-1050.  
Becky Fortier, Great Falls Principal