Thursday, October 5, 2017

Welcome October!

The first month of school has certainly flown by quickly. We were very fortunate to start the year with a sparkling clean building, most of our supplies, wonderful students and families and outstanding teachers and staff members. I was very impressed with our strong turnout for our open houses and the support shown for our PTO at their recent events. Conant is truly a special community.

As you learned at open house, we are launching an exciting literacy initiative this month involving the trait of belonging. Look for examples of this work throughout the month and ask your children about what they are learning about belonging. When you read together, discuss examples of belonging to develop the concept and further build a love of reading.

We spoke about the new homework policy at open house and there is an informational evening on the 24th of this month as well (details are forthcoming). Here at Conant, we’ve been exploring this issue for a few years. Some may see a reduction in the amount of homework but the focus and purpose of homework will be stronger. I’ve been asked by parents how they can teach their children time management and responsibility if they do not have homework every night. My suggestion is to teach your children to help out at home. Assign chores, get them involved in cooking and assign time for them to “amuse” themselves without electronics. Make them go outside and play. They will eventually get tired of telling you they are bored and will begin to explore the yard, exercise or find friends to play with.

The world is a much more complex place for children now then when we was growing up. Don’t forget that you are the most important teacher your children will ever have. We also know we  have a strong influence and try our best everyday to instill the values of hard work, empathy and kindness while also teaching the curriculum but our time is limited. You have the time and power to provide your children with experiences and activities that enrich their learning and build skills, you also have the power to ensure they get unstructured time to build their own understanding of the world. Striking a balance in the key to strong development.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

PTO and Classroom Assistants

Hopefully by now you’ve seen the fact that the Conant PTO has reached their fundraising goal for the year. This doesn’t mean they can’t raise more but they have hit an important goal. I want to thank the PTO board for all of their hard work and the Conant community for their generous support. The PTO supports the school by bringing in amazing enrichment activities, helping teachers buy classroom materials, funding student scholarships for field trips, running community events to bring us all together and a large portion of their fundraising also goes towards paying for assistants in the classrooms.

Parents have been asking why there is a need for classroom assistants and what they do. We have many types of assistants at Conant. Some work with students with IEP’s helping students meet their academic goals and access the curriculum; some monitor our lunchroom and playgrounds and others (the assistants funded by the PTO) assist teachers in classrooms. While the work done by our Special Education assistants and Lunch/Recess monitors are widely understood, I’d like to inform the community about how our classroom assistants help in the learning process.

A very small portion of classroom assistant time is dedicated to helping teachers with class preparation like copying papers. A majority of their time is spent with students. Classroom assistants help with reading groups and class projects. They sometimes help struggling students develop conceptual ideas or work with a large portion of the class so teachers can reteach topics to students who need more direct instruction to understand a topic. Classroom assistants also cover classrooms so teachers may attend meetings about students. Their presence allows teachers to better differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the many types of learners present in the classroom. We all know that the one-size fits all approach to teaching is not effective and the presence of assistants helps classroom teachers offer the curriculum in a variety of ways to smaller groups within the classroom to ensure an opportunity for success for all children.

The school district does provide funding for assistants every year but without our PTO support, the number of assistant hours available would drop significantly. This is why support of the PTO both financially and with your time is so important. This cannot happen without people! Currently, there are many open positions on committees that run our most successful events. For example, the largest fundraiser, the annual Conant Craft Fair needs a chair or several co-chairs. Without someone stepping in, the event could be lost and other Acton PTO’s would love to take this event over. Is it a lot of work? Yes…but many hands make light work and much of it can be fun if you work with a group. In the simplest terms I can use; we need people to step up.

Below is a list of the PTO positions that are open. Please remember, no one job requires a person to work alone, chair positions can be held by a group to make it more fun and share the work.

1.-Craft Fair- Many openings. We are sending physical copies, using news flash and our web site as well.

2.-Grants committee

3.-Cultural Enrichment- 2 positions

4.-Games night- co team leader with Mrs. Wilcox

5.- Kidstuff Coupon Books

6.-Secretary


Please consider getting involved. If you have questions contact the PTO or better yet, come to a meeting and meet thee wonderful people involved and ask questions. You’ll be glad you did!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

MCAS is Coming!

As St. Patrick’s Day and spring approach we think of the warm sun, flowers growing and MCAS. Yikes! MCAS is right around the corner. Parents often ask me how they can prepare their child, how to study for the exam, or how to ensure their child scores in the advanced category. My answer is very simple; let your child know that as long as they try their best, you’ll be proud of the results. Also, make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast but we’re hoping those are daily events anyway.

MCAS should not be looked at as an end all and be all measurement of a child’s progress. It is a snapshot of how a child performed on a particular test over the course of a few days.  We find that the assessments performed regularly in our classrooms are much more valuable in tracking individual student progress and informing our instruction than MCAS results. We do get some great data from our aggregate results of MCAS. We look at our curriculum to ensure we’re covering necessary topics and check to make sure our programming is effective for our students. Occasionally we’ll look at individual results to determine if they match the types of student results we’re seeing in the classroom to better help us understand the strengths and areas of potential growth areas for individual students but often we find our classroom assessments much more informative.


Although MCAS receives a great deal of attention publicly, and we do get some great data from the results, its importance is consistently overrated. Children just need to know they should try their best, come to school with a full tummy and be well rested. That is the best way to help them prepare. The rest has been taken care of by our wonderful teachers, strong curriculum and the many life experiences you’ve provided to them as you’ve watched them grow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Safety First

Safety is something the school district takes very seriously. There have been many changes instituted over the past few years to try to ensure student safety; and the work continues. I am on the Superintendent's Safety Committee and we are continually assessing our safety plans, equipment and technologies to improve our preparedness and response capabilities. Sometimes our steps may seem like a small inconvenience but when it comes to the safety of our children, we never want to cut corners.

Some recent events made me start thinking about the important roles our families play in our overall safety plans. In fact, in many cases, parents are the most important part of keeping children safe on a daily basis. I'm not talking about a major tragic event but the day to day operation of our schools. Every year, parents need to complete their Online Emergency Card to access their classroom assignment and class list. This Online Emergency Card tells us how to contact you in case of an emergency. It also lists other emergency contacts in case you are not available. This document also communicates with our Blackboard Connect system which we use to notify you of weather related cancellations or district emergencies. Unfortunately, many people do not take the time to actually update this information. Emergency contacts are left blank and phone numbers and email addresses are not updated when they are changed. This makes it impossible for us to contact you in case of an emergency or illness. We need accurate information; please make sure your information is up to date.

We know life is hard with busy families and work schedules. We try to offer child care for families so that they can get to work and know their children are safe. Unless your child is in extended day, they should not arrive to school before 9:05. The school cannot be considered a 20 - 30 minute free child care option which is increasingly becoming the case. Staff is not available to supervise children until 9:05. If you need to drop your child off before 9:05, you must sign up for extended day.

As I mentioned the Online Emergency Card provides the information for our Blackboard Connect system so we can notify you of school closings, delays or emergencies. This Tuesday, we had numerous children delivered to school at the regular time when there was a two hour delay. Parents must make sure they are receiving notifications and adhere to whatever changes are made. If there is a two hour delay, students cannot arrive to school until 11:05. If the parking lot is empty, do not leave your child; find out what is going on. This sounds blunt, I know, but I cannot think of a more unsafe situation than a child left at school when no one is there to receive him/her.

Our parking lot is a bit tight right now with the snow and if we get a big storm it will be even tighter. A great majority of you all do a fantastic job of following safety guidelines and we really appreciate it. Please remember, when the bus has its red lights flashing, you cannot pass it. Also, remember to sign in at the office anytime you enter the school. We want to make sure all visitors receive a visitor's sticker. If you don;t have one, you'll get sent back to the office to get one.

Safety is a partnership. We will continue to do everything we can to prepare for and prevent a tragedy. We will also continue to adjust our practice to ensure no little problems catch us unprepared. Finally, we look forward to a continued partnership with all of our parents to provide the warmest, safest learning environment possible.