Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weekday Update

Technical difficulties with Blogger have prevented me from posting with my usual format, so here's a less reader-friendly update of the current news: The Westbrook School Committee's finance committee held a public hearing on the FY 2011-2012 budget and the proposed personnel and non-personnel spending cuts (a list of which is here). The Animal Refuge League has organized a 'Taste of Westbrook' fundraiser through April 2 ( a list of the twelve participating eateries is here). And a former physical education teacher at Westbrook High School has published a guide to all of the public golf courses in Maine.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Census: Westbrook Has Added 1,352 Residents Since 2000

Merrill said the Portland suburbs of Gorham and
Windham had strong growth during the decade, gaining 2,240 and 2,097 residents,
respectively. Those towns were followed by Scarborough, with 1,949 more
residents; South Portland, with 1,678; and Westbrook, which gained 1,352
residents. "Portland used to be the hot spot. These figures may be an indication
that these towns have developed their own unique town centers and aren't just
bedroom communities anymore," Merrill said.
The U.S. Census Bureau pegged Westbrook's population at 16,142 in 2000, so this news means Westbrook's population has broken the 17,000 mark.

- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

School Department Could Shed Up to 73 Jobs


The Westbrook School District could cut up to 73
faculty and staff positions in order to fill a $3.6 million budget gap for the
2011-2012 school year. Those numbers are the latest worst case scenario figures
coming from the Westbrook School Committee, which met Saturday to finish an
initial examination of the proposed $33.7 million budget. The committee has
scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, March 30, at 7 p.m. at the Westbrook Middle
School Performing Arts Center, where it will begin deciding what must be cut
from the budget.
(The PPH's story on the school budget caps the number of jobs cut at 53, but notes all middle school and frosh sports are on the chopping block.)

- John C.L. Morgan

Community Center to Be Re-Named After Fred C. Wescott


Wednesday afternoon, [Annette] Wescott said, she,
along with two of her children, Susan Blais and Wayne Wescott, met with City
Manager Jerre Bryant. She said Bryant told the family the community center would
be re-named the Fred C. Wescott Building. Bryant, who confirmed the change, said
it was Mayor Colleen Hilton’s decision to restore the Wescott name to the
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Fred C. Wescott's Widow Laments Name Change (March 2, 2011)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WPD Uses Facebook as Crime-Fighting Tool

When Mike Nugent signs in to Facebook, he does the same thing as most users:
posts some pictures, lets people know what he’s been up to and what’s going on
around him. The only difference is that his posts detail police arrests of the
past week and his photos are mug shots of criminals.
As I note in this post, I don't object to the WPD's use of Facebook per se. I just think it would be beneficial for other City entities--i.e., City Hall, Westbrook High School, Westbrook Community Center, etc.--to create their own Facebook pages in order to balance the inherent negativity that comes along with the City's crime-fighters acting as its de facto PR arm.

That way we Facebookers are not only informed of the latest arrests and reminded of the sex offenders living in our midst, but also learn about the newest business in town, the latest homegrown award-winners in the high school drama festival, or the relatively inexpensive programming taking place at the WCC.

- John C.L. Morgan

Former WHS Principal Eager to Tackle Challenges as Superintendent

After outgoing Superintendent Dr. Reza Namin
announced he had accepted a similar post in Massachusetts, the School Committee
voted March 9 to appoint [Marc] Gousse as interim superintendent through June
30, 2012. "It hasn’t sunk in yet," Gousse said on Friday. "It’s surreal
and has been nonstop--in a healthy way."
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Westbrook Student Wins Food Writing Contest

Zoe Popovic, a fourth grader at Congin School in Westbrook, won the grand prize
in the Grades 3 to 5 category by writing about how she can tell the seasons by
what shows up in her lunchbox every day. Her family has been a member of a CSA
since she first started walking. The 9-year-old's mother, Paula Sobierajski,
loads up her daughter's lunch box every day with local foods they buy from Wolf
Pine Farm in Alfred.
Popovic's essay can be read here.

- John C.L. Morgan

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Namin to Vacate Superintendent Position Immediately


The Westbrook School Committee has asked School District Superintendent Dr. Reza
Namin to relinquish authority after he accepted a similar job in Massachusetts.

School Committee Chairman Ed Symbol said Tuesday the committee would be entering
an executive session Wednesday to discuss the situation. He said that, based on
discussions he has had with Namin, the committee is likely going to appoint an
interim superintendent immediately.
- John C.L. Morgan

(Update: The School Committee has named Marc Gousse, the principal of Westbrook High School, as the interim superintendent through June 2012.)

Full disclosure: I teach at Westbrook High School.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Former WHS Basketball Standout Caps Stellar Coaching Debut

Bri Fecteau, the pride of Westbrook High girls'
basketball some 15 years ago, finished up her rookie season as head coach at
Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J., by winning the Empire 8
championship before losing to Colby in the NCAA Division III regional
tournament, 58-48. Stevens ended the season with a 19-9 record. Fecteau starred
at Bentley before serving seven years as an assistant at Harvard.
- John C.L. Morgan

Monday, March 7, 2011

Namin Takes New Job, Will Depart Westbrook in July

Westbrook School District Superintendent Dr. Reza Namin will step down this
summer after accepting an offer to take a similar position in Massachusetts.
Namin acknowledged in an e-mail he is joining the Spencer East Brookfield
Regional School District located in Spencer, Mass. The announcement comes just
weeks after the two-year anniversary of Westbrook's decision to hire Namin.
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Mass. School District Offers Superintendent Job to Namin (March 5, 2011)

School Budget May or May Not Contain Job Cuts

Westbrook Superintendent Reza Namin won't discuss
the potential for layoffs before school officials unveil a budget proposal
Saturday. "It may or may not include staffing reductions," said Namin, who's
working with a $33 million budget this year. "Everything's on the table because
this is going to impact the entire community. This community has never faced a
financial challenge this big, and we want to be very careful how we handle
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Chef Cooks Food for Charity

James Tranchemontagne, the chef/owner of The Frog
and Turtle in Westbrook, was looking weary as he ladled batter onto a griddle
for his version of "pork in the hole," a variation of pigs in blankets. The chef
left work at 1 a.m. Friday and got up again at 5 a.m. in order to be at Sea Dog
on time. But Tranchemontagne wanted to participate because "Preble Street is a
really good charity." "We usually only do stuff for charity," he said. "If it’s
tied to a charity, and a charity we like, we’ll get up early."
- John C.L. Morgan

Related: Westbrook Restaurateurs Cook Well, Do Good (November 8, 2010)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mass. School District Offers Superintendent Job to Namin

Worcester Telegram and Gazzette:
The Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School Committee last night offered the
district’s superintendent position to a school superintendent from Maine. Reza
Namin, superintendent of the Westbrook, Maine, school system, was offered the
job last night pending successful contract negotiations, according to Peter M.
Rock, School Committee chairman.
- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: I work at Westbrook High School.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Westbrook Football to Adopt Class 'B' Schedule

Westbrook High and Marshwood High of South Berwick will inform SMAA officials
today they intend to play football where they have been classified by the Maine
Principals' Association -- in Class B--and leave the Class A conference. Todd
Sampson, the athletic director at Westbrook, and Rich Buzzell, the athletic
director at Marshwood, then will apply for admission to the Western Class B
Campbell Conference when that league holds a meeting on March 10. "I know I'm
going to miss the SMAA, I'll miss the coaches," said Westbrook Coach Jeff
Guerette. "It's a great football conference.
- John C.L. Morgan

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

City of Westbrook Receives Favorable Bond Rating, Low Interest Rate


Despite a six-month delay in selling bonds due to the rejection of its 2009
audit, Westbrook received some refreshingly good financial news when it finally
sold the bonds this week. Westbrook received high scores from bond rating
agencies, helping it receive an excellent interest rate for borrowing, City
Administrator Jerre Bryant said. "We received four bids (Tuesday) morning with
the low bid submitted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch at an interest rate of
3.13 percent--we are thrilled with the rate," Bryant said.
- John C.L. Morgan

Westbrook Schools Satisfy Math Requirements, Fall Short in Reading


The Westbrook School District made annual yearly progress in math this year, but
continues to lag behind in reading. Superintendent Dr. Reza Namin said the
district was recently informed of its Adequate Yearly Progress status for the
2010-11 school year. He said he is proud of the student body’s "great
accomplishment" of meeting the target for math, noting the district was in
"monitor" status in past years.
- John C.L. Morgan

Full disclosure: I teach at Westbrook High School.

Fred C. Wescott's Widow Laments Name Change

The wife of Fred Wescott, the two-term Westbrook mayor who was the only one to
die in office, has taken the name change at 426 Bridge St. personally. It was
known as the Fred C. Wescott Junior High for nearly 17 years. But it became the
Westbrook Community Center after the new Westbrook Middle School opened on
Stroudwater Street last year.
- John C.L. Morgan