PARIS — What happens to a marshmallow when you send it to the outer limits of Earth’s atmosphere? How about a jelly-bean or Silly Putty? That was the question Oxford Hills Middle School seventh graders posed in April, when they were given the opportunity to send science experiments, contained within Ping-Pong balls, 100,000 feet above the Earth’s surface as part of the “PongSat” project, sponsored by private spaceflight firm JP Aerospace. Last Wednesday, students got their experiments back and opened them up to find out how they had been affected by the intense cold and heavy pressure found in the upper atmosphere. The company mostly uses weather balloons to launch “high racks,” custom-built cages, containing the experiments to the very edge of outer space. The 110 OHMS PongSats were among 2,400 experiments in the April launch, including the ten thousandth Ping-Pong ball to take the trip. The weather balloons, carry the high racks far into the Earth’s atmosphere before popping, allowing the experiments to careen back down to the planet in a free-fall. According to the JP Aerospace website, PongSat experiments have ranged from plant seeds to sophisticated, upper atmosphere labs with sensors and a data logger. (read more at Advertiser Democrat)
AUGUSTA — Teachers and administrators took issue on Tuesday with the weight given to student assessments in proposed regulations for teacher and principal evaluations. Most people testifying before a legislative panel said the minimum 25 percent that the Department of Education says student growth measures must count toward educator effectiveness ratings is too high. Several teachers and Maine Education Association representatives said student growth measures should count no more than 10 percent, while the Maine School Boards Association and Maine School Superintendents Association recommended a floor of 15 percent, with the ceiling to be determined locally. Much remains to be determined in both the state framework for educator evaluations and the systems that local districts must develop in compliance with the framework to implement in 2015-16. The rules do not specify which students’ growth and which subjects a teacher will be evaluated on, leading the MEA to express concerns that teachers could be held accountable for student assessments in areas where they have little influence. The department’s proposal says a working group would have to be set up to resolve those issues, and the department also must determine protocols for training evaluators. (read more at Kennebec Journal)
A rainy Monday was no deterrent for five crafters on Wiscasset’s waterfront May 20. The women were setting up shop for their second summer of selling crafts together, out of the baby blue Maine Craft Shack. The shack on the town-owned “creamery pier” opens for the season Friday, May 24, the start of Memorial Day weekend and the unofficial start to summer. They can’t wait. It’s an income for all of them, but, as they found last year, vending on the waterfront in Maine’s prettiest village has perks, like meeting people from around the world. The shack’s guest book was signed by visitors from Australia, South America, Canada, Europe, the Far East and from all over the U.S., fleece crafter Pam Shockley said. The cooperative started when Shockley, of Westport Island, told her crafting friends she planned to rent a spot on the Wiscasset waterfront. “And they said, ‘Not without us.’” Shockley, 59, makes toys for children, dogs and cats, along with other fleece items like wraps, blankets and scarves. (read more at Wiscasset Newspaper)
A 19-year-old man was arrested Friday on charges of indecent conduct and visual sexual aggression against a child. Simeon Welch was charged for allegedly masturbating in the front of a sport utility vehicle while a 4-year-old boy was in the back seat, according to an affidavit filed in Kennebec County Superior Court by Detective David Bucknam, of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office. Bucknam was initially contacted by a State Fire Marshal’s Office investigator after an SUV driven by Welch caught fire in a gravel pit in West Gardiner on the evening of May 15. He was accompanied by a 4-year-old boy, and the fire investigator contacted Bucknam to investigate. According to Bucknam’s affidavit, the boy spoke to a forensic interviewer and described Welch “showing his private parts as well as touching it. When asked where this happened, (the boy) stated it happened in the ‘blazer.’” The affidavit indicated the Blazer was the vehicle that burned in the gravel pit. (read more at Morning Sentinel)
PORTLAND — Four years ago, Gloria L. Noyes found herself at the pinnacle of her teaching career. Noyes, who was teaching fifth grade at Westbrook’s Congin Elementary School, was chosen by her peers and the Maine Department of Education as the 2009 Maine Teacher of the Year. The list of nominees for teacher of the year typically spans the state in an effort to recognize an outstanding educator who has served as a powerful advocate for students and educators. “You beautiful children are the reason I get up in the morning,” Noyes was quoted by the Portland Press Herald as saying during a surprise school assembly where she received the award. But at Tuesday night’s Portland School Board meeting, Noyes will find herself on a list of a much different nature. Noyes, who left Westbrook in October to take a job as assistant principal of the Fred P. Hall elementary school in Portland, is on the list of teachers and school administrators who will be laid off at the end of the school year. (read more at Portland Press Herald)
State Labor Commissioner Jeanne Paquette released April workforce estimates for Maine.
Survey of Households – The preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate estimate for Maine was 6.9 percent in April, down slightly from 7.1 percent in March and 7.3 percent one year ago. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated 48,600 were unemployed, down 3,100 over the year. The unemployment rate was below 7 percent for the first time since December 2008.
Preliminary unemployment rate estimates tend to move in a direction for several months and then move in the opposite direction for several months. This pattern often reflects an estimating methodology rather than improvement or deterioration in conditions. Maine analysts note annual revisions in March 2014 are likely to remove those directional trends, as has been the case in recent years.
Maine had a higher share of employed population than the nation for the 67th consecutive month in April (60.7 percent compared to 58.6 percent for the United States).
The U.S. unemployment rate was estimated at 7.5 percent, little changed from 7.6 percent in March and down from 8.1 percent one year ago. The New England unemployment rate estimate was 6.8 percent; estimates for other states were 5.5 percent in New Hampshire, 4.0 percent in Vermont, 6.4 percent in Massachusetts, 8.8 percent in Rhode Island and 8.0 percent in Connecticut.
Survey of Employer Payrolls – Preliminary estimates from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate there were 597,400 nonfarm payroll jobs in April, down 400 from the revised March estimate. The estimate of U.S. nonfarm payroll jobs was up 165,000.
May 17, 2013
May 21 2013 | Posted in featured
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BATH, Maine — Last week South Bristol School canceled its traditional blessing of the fleet after a Washington, D.C.-based organization declared the prayer unconstitutional. But on Friday, controversy was kept at bay as the school’s eighth-graders scrambled to finish building the wooden skiffs with an eye toward the June 14 launch into South Bristol Harbor. They’re a bit behind schedule, volunteer Kate Beaudette said, with only three Fridays left before the event, which has drawn much media attention. Thalia Eddyblouin, 13, her long braid swinging, braced the cedar planks of a 12-foot boat at the Maine Maritime Museum boat shop, while her classmate 14-year-old Jillian Page, sporting bright blue fingernails, drilled pilot holes to prepare the sides for wooden frames. “Make sure it’s in exactly the right place because once you do that, it’s irretrievable,” Beaudette, of South Bristol, told them. The class of five students has worked every Friday since September to build two flat-bottomed skiffs made of cedar and red and white oak. When the boats are finished, one will be sold by the museum and the other will be raffled off by the school to benefit its boat-building program and help finance an eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C. (read more at Bangor Daily News)
SACO — A man who was recently separated from his wife caused a 4½-hour standoff with police that ended Saturday night when he apparently set their house on fire and died inside, police said. Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Holland identified the man as Charles Scontras, who was born in 1955 and had previously run a shoe repair shop on Main Street in Saco. The incident began shortly before 2 p.m. when Scontras’ estranged wife went to the couple’s house at 16 Hillview Ave. to retrieve some belongings, Holland said. She was escorted by a police officer. Holland said the couple had been having problems and had recently separated. When the officer saw smoke coming from the house, he took the wife to a neighbor’s house, Holland said. Then the officer heard “at least one” shot fired, and the Maine State Police tactical team was called in, Holland said. More than a dozen state troopers surrounded the house. Holland said police had intermittent contact with Scontras, but that ended at 3:15 p.m. (read more at Kennebec Journal)
RUMFORD — Rumford and Mexico firefighters were sent to a tractor and structure fire on Route 2 late Saturday afternoon. But when they arrived, the tractor, a small riding lawnmower, had been pulled away from a garage at 1086 Route 2 and flames on the garage wall were extinguished. No one was injured. Damage to the garage was minimal, but the riding lawnmower was destroyed, said Deputy Chief Chris Bryant of the Rumford Fire Department. The fire departments and Med-Care ambulance were called out at 5:23 p.m. when a passer-by spotted the fire. Bryant said the tenant, Al White, “got done mowing the lawn, set (the mower) by the garage and went into the house, and then a passer-by stopped by and said his tractor was on fire.” (read more at Lewiston Sun Journal)
Fire destroyed this 2000 GMC pickup truck owned by Robert Ouellette of 4 Golden Pond Road off Route 140 in Canton early Friday afternoon. Ouellette said he was working near it and getting ready to work on the truck when flames suddenly erupted in the back of it. Firefighters from Canton, Dixfield and Peru extinguished the fire. (read more at Lewiston Sun Journal)