MTA Community Debrief on Safety and Security - March 19th

The MTA Community Debrief on Safety and Security is scheduled for Monday, March 19, 2018 at 6:00pm in the Commons at Mt. Ararat High School.

MTA Community Debrief on Safety and Security Rescheduled for March 19th and the Student Schedule for Friday, March 16th.

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Due to the weather, the MTA Community Debrief on Safety and Security has been rescheduled for Monday, March 19, 2018. (I had originally hoped to host the meeting on Thursday, March 15th but the School Board meeting was cancelled last week due to weather and was rescheduled for that date.) My apologies if this impacts your ability to attend the meeting.

March 16th is one of the days scheduled to make up instructional time missed during the Oct/Nov. storm.  Students are scheduled to attend for the morning half of the day.   We are currently planning for Red 1 and Red 2 classes to meet that morning.  Students will be dismissed at 11:00am on Friday.  For the remainder of the day, teachers will be engaged in professional work.  

On Friday, March 16th, Tech Region 10 will not have classes; the staff at our regional school has a full day of professional development.  MTA students who have morning Tech Region 10 classes are not expected to attend school Friday.  Morning Tech Region 10 students who come to school Friday will be assigned to study halls.

Please be careful if you need to be out in this weather.

Respectfully yours,

Donna F. Brunette
Principal, Mt. Ararat High School

To:                  MTA Parents and Guardians

From:              Donna F. Brunette, Principal

Date:               March 11, 2018

RE:                  MTA Community Debrief on Safety and Security

Good afternoon.  As stated in a previous communication, I plan to host an opportunity for parents and guardians to debrief the recent concerns about safety that have resulted in each of us feeling more vulnerable and, for many, anxiety associated with attending school.  On Tuesday, March 13, 2018, the MTA Community Debrief on Safety and Security is scheduled for 6:00pm – 7:30pm in the Commons at Mt. Ararat High School.

The debrief will be organized to address questions and concerns parents and guardians have raised in the wake of a series of events.  My goal will be to provide you with some information about our practices associated with safety and security.  Some of you have requested more information about the following topics: lockdown procedures, levels of security (entries, cameras, can we increase security, and so forth), clarification on recent events, and improving communications. Though there will be some limitations based on security and privacy requirements on what can be shared, my hope that this opportunity will offer the chance for all of us to work together with the common goal of keeping our children safe.

I want to thank parents and guardians who have reached out.  If you have not done so but would like to submit questions or statements of concern prior to the debrief, please do so using the following link: Parent and Student Questions, Concerns, and Ideas about Safety and Security

One more note, given the weather forecast for Tuesday, I want to set a snow date.  If weather impacts us I will plan to host the debrief on Thursday, March 15, 2018. 

To: Students, Parents, and Guardians

From: Donna F. Brunette

RE: Safety and Extra Supports at School Tomorrow

Date: March 6, 2018

Dear Students, Parents, and Guardians,

It saddens me that I am again writing to you to follow up on another incident in our school that resulted in people questioning their safety and heightening anxiety about the potential for violence in our school.  The response to reports was again swift and efforts have been made to ensure that we have followed up on every report associated with this incident.  Safety is my number one priority.

Today, high school administrators in consultation with our School Resource Officer Randy Cook made the call for a “Code Yellow” after hearing a report that two students felt there was a safety threat because they had been told to leave school by another student.  What is a Code Yellow?  Our preferred language is “Shelter in Place”. When we announce a “Code Yellow” or ask students and staff to “Shelter in Place” we are alerting them that there is a situation in the building that people are attending to such as a person/student who may pose a threat, a medical emergency, or an issue that suggests a need for privacy. During a Code Yellow or Shelter in Place students and staff are expected to stay in classrooms (stay out of the halls) while teaching continues.  If a group is outside, the adult should gather the students and continue instruction in that location until the “All Clear” is announced.  During a “Shelter in Place” students and staff are expected to pause and listen to any announcements made in case there is a need to provide additional instructions.  Today the goal was to keep all students and staff in their classrooms while Officer Cook and administration attempted to locate the sender of the original text messages that had caused two students alarm.

After locating the sender of the original message and reviewing the messages, it was clear that there was no threat.  The student who received the original message acknowledged that the message had been misunderstood.  Basically, the student thought their friend was advising them to leave school when in reality the person who sent the message had left campus and was telling this person to cut out of school to hang out.  The student who had left school was very cooperative with law enforcement throughout the investigation.  Brad Smith, Superintendent, reviewed the text messages with Topsham Police Chief, Christopher Lewis, and agreed that there was nothing threatening in the messages. 

I am sorry that once again you have experienced a scare and the series of incidents clearly has us all feeling unsettled, frustrated, anxious, and even angry.  I wish I had a simple answer to all of this, but I don’t.  What I can assure you of is our commitment to investigating and responding to any safety concern in an immediate and thorough manner.  I am glad that students are paying attention and questioning situations that cause them concern.  My hope is that students will avoid communication through technology with friends and, instead, immediately report their concerns to adults they trust to act on their concerns.  Avoiding that urge to immediately forward a message to a friend and reaching out to adults to help students process what to do with the information would put the concern immediately in the hands of people who can take action.

In closing, I want to apologize for sending this message so late but I wanted to confirm that additional supports for staff, students, and parent were available tomorrow to support members of our community.  Tomorrow morning, between 8:30am and 10:30am community counseling supports will be available at the high school to meet with students and parents who would like to talk with someone about how they are feeling given the current climate. Parents would need to check in at the main office for a visitors pass. I hope that some of you will be able to take advantage of this service. Staff will also welcome to take advantage of these services.  Additionally, I am working with outside resources to plan for debrief sessions with staff, students, parents and guardians.  My hope is to have the details of this plan tomorrow so I can share the plan with all of you before the end of my day.  Meanwhile, please take care of yourself and support each other as we all work together to restore our sense of safety.

Respectfully yours,

Donna F. Brunette
Principal, Mt. Ararat High School


To:       MTA Parents/Guardians

From:  Donna F. Brunette, Principal, Mt. Ararat High School

RE:      Safety and Security

Date:    March 5, 2018

I am writing to make you aware of a concern about safety shared with Topsham police today that suggested a threat of violence to people at Mt. Ararat High School.  The report focused on comments made online that suggested a threat on a future date and, based on interviews conducted immediately following the report, Topsham police identified the individual who made the comments.  Topsham Police Chief, Christopher Lewis will be issue a press release soon.   

At this time, the plan for tomorrow is to be in school.  This decision was made after much thought and consultation with Topsham police.  Though this decision has been made by administration, I know many of you will be alarmed by this communication and question whether or not to send your child to school. Please know that though I believe it is safe to be in school, I will respect the decision that you make as you consider your child’s sense of safety.

For the past three weeks, we have all been a bit on edge as we have processed situations that raise concerns about our safety.  Communications with students, parents, faculty, and staff have been very helpful as we consider individual and collective needs. Discussions with Topsham Police Chief, Christopher Lewis; School Resource Officer, Randy Cook; Lieutenant, Frederick Dunn and members of our district administrative team have provided opportunities to reflect on our response to recent situations and our practices.  And now, I would like to invite parents and students to attend a community forum so we can hear your questions about safety and security in our school.  My hope is to host the forum on the evening of March 13th.

I am deeply troubled by the reports of recent that have impacted our sense of safety, but I am thankful that people in our school and greater community are paying attention, listening and watching, and reporting concern behaviors.  Many reports will be false alarms but it is important to take each one seriously.  Investigations often lead to identifying individuals who do need support and/or interventions.  My hope that we will all remain vigilant as we consider safety in our schools.  

I am also thankful for the partnerships with local law enforcement and public safety agencies.  Their response in each situation has been immediate and thorough.

With respect and appreciation,


Donna F. Brunette
Principal, Mt. Ararat High School



To:       MTA Parents/Guardians & Students

From:  Donna F. Brunette, Principal, Mt. Ararat High School

RE:      Safety and Security

Date:    February 23, 2018

As I have reflected on the concerns about safety and plan for our return to school on Monday, I know people in our community, understandably, are feeling anxious and vulnerable given that our sense of safety has been impacted. I have repeatedly reviewed the information gathered through our investigation and I feel confident that there was not a threat to people in our community last week.


I want to thank all the students and parents who reached out to share your concerns. Our students are often our best resource for information and I want to emphasize the importance of reporting comments heard and/or behaviors observed when you have any question about safety. Though in the moment you may not feel unsafe or compelled to report, at any point you reflect on a situation and you have any question of safety, please talk to a trusted adult and report your concern. 

On Friday, there were many parents who chose to have their children stay at home.  Please know that I respect your personal decision given the circumstances and your child’s absence has been documented as approved and will not impact your child negatively in any way. If you did not call in to report your child would be absent, please send in a note with your child on Monday.

On Friday, at the beginning of the day, the notice that was emailed to students and parents and posted on our website was shared with students along with the following message:

This morning, as we all return to school, many will be feeling vulnerable given that our sense of safety has been impacted.  If you or someone you know needs support, please talk with a trusted adult. 

 I want students and staff to know that the specific social media message that many people saw which named a specific threat and a specific student publicly was not verified.  The stated threat which suggested a threat of violence today was inconsistent with evidence collected that focused on comments being made by the student in the past that caused students to be alarmed in the wake of the school shootings in Parkland, Florida. The comments made in the past were not appropriate and are being addressed based on our disciplinary procedures.

 Again, people are feeling vulnerable – our sense of safety has been impacted.  If you or someone you know needs support, please talk with a trusted adult.  Our goal is to support everyone in our community feeling safe and to ensure your safety.

The social media posting that caused us all to be alarmed was investigated by school administration and Topsham police. It was clear that the actual words recalled and reported by students were not perceived as a true threat at the time the comments were made. However, these students realized that they did not know the person well who made the comments and knew they should report their past experiences. Unfortunately, as the stories were heard and moved from one person to another, face to face and through social media, a posting was shared that suggested the young man had made a specific threat. There is no evidence that the young man made the threat that was posted. 

The concern reported by students who overheard two students talking about the school shootings in Florida, a video game, and other comments that were disquieting was also investigated. There was no threat made in the conversation but the conversation was clearly not appropriate and did impact the students who overheard it. This behavior was addressed by administration immediately.   

Again, based on the findings of investigations conducted by administration and Topsham police, I feel confident that there was not a threat to people in our community last week. We will plan, however, to have a higher level of police presence on Monday.  The hope is that the presence will make people feel more comfortable as they arrive at school, but I know for some people the extra presence of law enforcement may have an adverse effect. High school personnel will also be on duty as usual to greet and support people as they arrive for the day.

I know people are feeling vulnerable – our sense of safety has been impacted.  If you or someone you know needs support, please reach out. Our counselors and social workers will continue to be available to support students as necessary. Last week I shared a couple of resources with parents and students.  I am sharing them again in hope that you find them helpful as you consider your questions and needs:

In closing, please know that any and all threats are investigated to the fullest to ensure the safety of all people in our care and t
he safety of our children is of primary concern. As you reflect on this situation I want to encourage you to share your questions, thoughts, and ideas through the following link:  MTA Safety and Security.  The information will be used to help us reflect on this situation and consider follow up steps that should be taken to support our children, families, and staff as we work with Topsham police to ensure that our school is safe and secure.

Many thanks for working with us as we reflect on safety and security in our school.


Important Safety Notice – February 15, 2018

Today administration received reports from students about unsafe language used by other students that made them feel unsafe.  Words used focused on violence at school.  Follow up interviews confirm a conversation between two boys about an online video game focused on school violence and other comments that suggest one might do something at our school to scare students. The students involved in this discussion are being disciplined for creating a significant disturbance at school and language that suggests a threat. Topsham Police have been notified and are conducting an investigation on this matter.

Administration also heard another report that a student had made a statement that suggested a threat of violence tomorrow at school.  Follow up conversations suggest this is a rumor and Topsham Police have followed up on this report. Based on information gathered regarding both reports, administration does not believe that there is any credible threat of violence at our school.

Please know that any and all threats are investigated to the fullest extent to ensure the safety of the building and all occupants. The safety of our children is of primary concern. There will be an increased presence of police at school tomorrow as we begin our day to support students and parents sense of safety.  School counselors will be available for children who are in need of direct support.

 As we all manage our personal emotions and responses to the traumatic events and our concerns about safety in our schools, it is important to listen to our children.  But what do we say?  Here are a couple of resources that I hope you find helpful as you consider your child’s questions and needs:


Donna F. Brunette

8th Grade Parent Information Night
From the Principal, Donna Brunette
February 14, 2018 News

8th Grade Transition Presentation - Parents/Guardians

On February 13, 2018, I welcomed 8th Grade Parents who were able to attend an informational session to Mt. Ararat High School and presented information focused on diploma requirements and the grading system at the high school. For parents and others who were not in attendance, here is a link to the presentation: 
MTA Parent Information Night Presentation - February 13, 2018

There will be at least one more opportunity for parents to attend an informational meeting in late March or early April.  I will work with middle level colleagues to get the word out when the date is set.

8th Grade Transition Presentation - Students

On February 14, 2018, I had the pleasure of presenting to 8th Grade Students in the Orion.  Information shared with students was very similar to the parent presentation.  I advised students that I would post the presentation for them to access so here it is:
8th Grade Student Transition Presentation - February 14, 2018

Students who have questions about the transition to high school or the high school in general are welcome to submit their questions to me using the following link:

Student Questions: High School Transition & Other General Questions



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