Friday, October 16, 2020

NewsNotes 10/16/20

Dear HM Families,

ESSENTIAL INFO: In the interest of making things more accessible, I’ve highlighted key info here:

  • Tuesday, November 3rd (Voting Day) - will be a WEDNESDAY SCHEDULE
  • Wednesday, November 4th - COHORT A Day

DETAILED UPDATES: If you would like more detail about what’s been happening at school, feel free to read the rest of the updates below:

Family Update:

The Nardelli family is adjusting to life in the hybrid school format, along with all of the other tasks that come with the various stages of life that we are in.
  • Eliana studied hard over the summer to take a history course so she can stay on track for graduation this spring. She also got her learner’s permit this fall (we still have a long way to go before she drives anywhere but a parking lot) and just got her first paying job, working a couple of hours a week at the local book store.
  • Julia is a sophomore and has her hands full with physics, algebra and a full slate of courses. She’s hoping to join the gymnastics team at the high school in December, and is training for volleyball, which will now take place in February.
  • Alora turned 10 this September and spends her remote mornings getting her work done as quickly as possible so she can go out and play. She spends her other time participating in soccer and gymnastics as well.
  • Finally, Vincent turns five on October 20th. He’s still in preschool and enjoying time with his friends, both at preschool and in our neighborhood. He has no problem wearing his mask for a good chunk of the day; it seems to be a normal part of every day life. We start hockey together next Saturday.

School Updates:

Every day, I am thankful that we get to come to school and see both staff and students in person. I am hopeful that with our plan in place, we can continue on this path for as long as possible. I know there have been questions about possibly extending the school day to 3:00pm. You should expect to hear from Superintendent David Fleishman next week on this topic.

Back to School/Curriculum Nights - We are currently planning several evening sessions on Zoom to share curriculum expectations for the school year and to offer you some time to connect with your child’s teacher. We are scheduling dates for the week of October 26th and/or November 1st. I will update you with specific dates and Zoom links next week.

Parent/Teacher Conferences - Conferences will take place later in November as well. More details to follow.

Assessments -  We are well underway with reading assessments in grades 1-3. We should be able to create small reading groups next week for those grade levels. We will then assess our K students as well.
For all grades, we are using the Investigations Math program assessments to gauge where students are at in math.
For 4th and 5th grade students, we are using an online platform called iReady for our reading assessments.

Feedback Loop -Now that we have a few weeks under our belt, I have received emails from families about how things are going so far. Please keep those coming. I am also meeting with individual teachers and with grade level teams to find out what’s working and what’s not working in a number of areas.
  • Remote schedule
  • In-person schedule
  • Technology
  • Specials
  • Assignments and workload

We plan to do a more formal survey of all families, but if you have feedback that you’d like to share with me at any time, please email me at


Stop by the tents behind HM from 9am-4pm this Sunday, October 18, to check out an amazing selection of books. Do some early winter holiday shopping, buy the new book that has a long wait list at the library, or get a treat for the readers in your family.

You must wear your mask and sanitize your hands before entering the tent. We will limit the number of shoppers allowed in the tents at a time. Credit card or check only; no cash.

Or, shop on-line through October 24 at


Every October, the Horace Mann community hosts International Night, which last year became Food & Culture Night.

As is the case for most school events, we will not be able to have it in-person this fall. But we invite you to take part in this annual event in other ways. We hope you can all join us virtually to celebrate this wonderful HM tradition!

When: Friday, November 6, 2020, 6PM onwards

Where: Horace Mann PTO's website ( and on Zoom!

Who: All of us! - kids, family members, teachers....

Food & Culture Night (formerly International Night) has grown to be a sizable, memorable and fun evening celebrating the diversity of Horace Mann. Most of us have roots in other countries and states far from Newton. Food & Culture Night is an opportunity to share our cultures in different ways.

To celebrate this day, Horace Mann families are invited to introduce food, photos, games, dance, music clothing and more from countries, states and cultures where they have roots, or are interested in. This year, we invite everyone to get involved by:

  • Sending a recipe, recording a cooking video, or sending us local restaurant recommendations (with a recommended list of items to order).
  • Hosting a country table in your home and have people Zoom in to visit you in your country home!
  • Sending a video of your family participating in a dance, game, art/craft, song, dressing up in cultural attire, or another activity - teach us how.
  • Sending a video of you and your child reading a children's picture book from your country, state or community.
  • Sending us other ideas of things you can share digitally.


Food & Culture Night Sign Ups

Please note that there are tabs for each area/type of sharing/volunteering.

Looking forward to seeing you all!

Kate Carpenter Bernier, Heena Bhatt, Leah Even Chorev, Shanu Mehta

Food & Culture Night Committee 2020


Although in-school events are on hold, you can still access the Understanding Our Differences curriculum at home. This program is aimed at grades 3-5, and they offer many resources for having powerful discussions at home.

From their website:

"Understanding Our Differences (UOD) is a nationally recognized, award-winning program that uses a hands-on, participatory curriculum to foster respect, acceptance, and inclusion for people of all abilities in elementary schools and communities at large.

The UOD approach is grounded in the belief that children are naturally curious about differences, and that accurate information can be the difference between acceptance and discrimination. The UOD program teaches students to be more inclusive and friendly, and to become allies of people with disabilities."

You can find the at-home resources here.


Thursday, October 22nd 7:30pm - 9pm

School Leaders Meeting 
Please come join us for an evening of connection and restoration with School Leaders. (Here is our 2019-2020 School Leader's Report.) We miss you, and miss being able to connect before and after meetings. We will use the evening to hear from other school FORJ groups on what they are planning for the year and and how we can more easily replicate initiatives across the district. Also we'll have updates about city-wide initiatives and ways to become involved. It will be an interactive evening with both opportunities to connect and learn. RSVP Here

Thanks and  Enjoy your weekend

Mark Nardelli


Friday, October 2, 2020

NewsNotes 10/3/2020

 Dear HM Families,

I hope you are all doing well after our first two full weeks of school (and our first week of having grade 3-5 students in person).  This update is intended for all HM families, including those enrolled in both the hybrid and DLA programs.  

ESSENTIAL INFO: In the interest of making things more accessible, I’ve highlighted key info here:

  • PTO INFORMATION MEETING -  Monday evening at 7:00pm.  The purpose of this meeting will be to share the role of the PTO, share some important events, and mention ways that families can get involved.


  • DLA Materials Pickup - Thursday and Friday, OCTOBER 8th and 9th 1-3:00pm 

Please just pull into the bus loop and we will bring the materials out to your vehicle.

  • Flu Vaccine Clinics -
    • Saturday, October 10, 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Newton North High School - (457 Walnut Street)
    • Sunday, October 18, 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Newton South High School - (140 Brandeis Road)
    • Registration is not yet open for these clinics. Online appointment registration will open by early next week at

DETAILED UPDATES:  If you would like more detail about what’s been happening at school, feel free to read the rest of the updates below:

There have been a number of challenges in getting our school model off the ground this fall.  One of the challenges has been navigating the fact that we have Horace Mann students and teachers operating in two different environments (Hybrid and DLA).  At first, we thought that these models would operate as two completely separate schools each with its own staffing, culture, etc. However, as we’ve seen things play out and as we’ve heard from families, we realize the need to keep a close relationship between our two school communities, both for the sake of connection, as well as to make sure we are running two equitable programs.  In the coming weeks, we will make a concerted effort to address several items:

  • Community Building - We will make an effort to include all children with the  chance to take part in community building efforts at our school.  We will share school wide videos (the first will come out next Wednesday, October 7th), stories, community events, etc.  We will also offer opportunities for students to participate in school wide projects.

  • Communication - DLA families will hear from myself and Jen Shore on important events and developments. The HM PTO will also communicate to all families regarding school events (like Food and Culture Night or the Talent Show).   On this note, we will host a PTO Information meeting this coming Monday evening at 7:00pm.  The purpose of this meeting will be to share the role of the PTO, share some important events, and mention ways that families can get involved.
Meeting Link -

  • Interventions and Check-Ins - As I hire more staff (see below), we will make a concerted effort to provide students in both the hybrid and DLA models with access to adult support on days when the classroom teacher is not available.  
    • Some literacy interventions in both DLA and hybrid will begin over the next two weeks.  
    • Small group grade level check-ins (math and social)
    • Success will be heavily dependent on staffing and I will prioritize younger grades first as I do hiring.

  • DLA Materials - We will be scheduling monthly pickups for materials here at Horace Mann.  Please make every effort to come during these pickup windows as the number of deliveries have become overwhelming for a small group of staff who are donating their time.   The next window is scheduled for October 8th and 9th from 1-3pm each day.  Please just pull into the bus loop and we will bring the materials out to your vehicle.

I also wanted to share some of what has been happening in the building over the first two weeks.

  • Teacher Update - Teachers are truly excited for the opportunity to work with students in person after our long closure.  They are also really committed to providing a solid and engaging home experience that allows students to be increasingly independent. I wanted to also share some bullet points about what the workload is like for many of them:
    • Teachers are creating lessons for the REMOTE COHORT, for Wednesday (all REMOTE) and for the IN-PERSON COHORT.  They worry greatly about being absent for any reason and worry about who could step into their shoes given the complexity of this model (I have the same worries).

    • Special educators and ELL staff are managing schedules for multiple classrooms while also being responsible for their own lessons, for IEP services.  The schedule for these teachers is really complex and we’ve been working to improve it on a daily basis.

    • Most staff are working 14-16 hour days and throughout the weekend.

    • All are spending a great deal of time learning technology, adapting curriculum, etc.

  • Staffing Updates - We’ve been busy hiring staff to run our model more effectively. AS of next week, we will be fully hired for special education aides and behavior therapists.  We’ve also hired a building aide and two grade level support staff to help with remote day check-ins and in-person programming.  I am still looking to hire a number of grade level aides to help with check-ins for students on remote days.

  • Assessment/Intervention/Check-Ins - This week, we will begin assessments in literacy for both hybrid and DLA students.  This will include letter ID, sight word recognition, and reading comprehension for students in all grades.  We will use the outcome of the assessments to determine who is in need of additional reading support. We will then create groups for our most needy students.  These groups will take place mostly during remote days. 

  • SeeSaw and Google Classroom - Teachers comfort level for these platforms continues to grow.  We met as grade levels this week to share different approaches to communicating and assigning work and to learn from one  another.  The formatting and use of the platforms will continue to evolve, and we will increasingly be using these platforms as the primary way to communicate and offer remote programming to students.

  • Afternoon Schedules and DAD - I know several families have been asking about afternoon school activities for students who attend Day After Day. 
    • As of now, we are not including students in afternoon sessions due to space and technology constraints.   Currently, every space in the school is in use from 2:00-3pm and in order to set students up to Zoom, we would need multiple available spaces, enough laptops, and enough headphones for each child.  We simply can’t meet those expectations right now.
    • Thankfully, the vast majority of students in DAD were in school that day, and don’t have a Zoom requirement in the afternoon.  However, they will have an activity or assignment that may need to be completed at a later time. 

  • Crossing Guards and Walking Routes - I apologize for not sending this out sooner, but I wanted to share where our crossing guards are posted as well as some suggested walking routes.  Click on this link to access those details: 

  • Cleaning Protocols - Rose and I spent some time this week reviewing responsibilities and best practices,  and asked for feedback from teachers regarding cleaning protocols.  
    • Classroom teachers initially have taken on the bulk of responsibility for keeping student spaces and materials clean.  They have done a great job managing materials and keeping student spaces clean, particularly during the changeover between cohorts (on Tuesday afternoons and Fridays).  
    • This week, we also reviewed expectations for our custodial staff on the additional disinfecting that must occur during the transition days in classrooms (beyond what teachers were being asked to do).   
    • Rose and I will continue to monitor disinfection of high touch areas and bathrooms to ensure cleanliness.

  • Technology - We are getting closer to having technology available for all of our students.  This means Chromebooks for students in grades 3-5 and iPads for students in grades K-2.  A much more detailed email will come out with instructions...likely next week. 

Flu Vaccine Clinics


Newton’s Health and Human Services Department has initially scheduled two drive-through/walk-up, appointment-based, weekend flu clinics open to Newton residents and Newton Public Schools students and their families.


Registration is not yet open for these clinics. Online appointment registration will open by early next week at


Adults and children older than 6 months may be vaccinated at these clinics. Some high-dose flu vaccine will be available for adults who are at least 65 years old. These clinics are free and health insurance information is requested, but not required. If you do not have a vehicle, you may walk-up to receive a vaccine. 


Saturday, October 10, 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Newton North High School

(457 Walnut Street)


Sunday, October 18, 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon, Newton South High School

(140 Brandeis Road)


Additional dates may be added depending upon demand.


Appointments are required and may fill quickly. Alternatively, consider getting a flu shot at another time and place; they are available in many locations, including primary healthcare provider offices, local pharmacies and urgent care clinics. A list of some additional options for flu shots can be found at  

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Family Update 9/8/20


Dear HM Families,

I hope you are all well and enjoying the transition to cooler fall weather. We’ve been extremely busy over the past several weeks preparing for the opening of school. We continue to work on the master schedule, building procedures, visuals, safety protocols, student schedules, and more. In this update, you will find some brief information about parent info sessions next week, as well as our staffing for the school year.

Additional communications will come out later this week:

  • ●  Orientation Days - I will have more information about what the week of Sept 14th.
  • ●  High Needs - Individualized letters will go to families on Wednesday.
  • ●  Placement - Will also be shared on Wednesday (more info below).
  • ●  Letters/emails from individual classroom teachers.
    Information Sessions : Based on the schedule below, we will offer important info sessions for families to go over basic procedures and to answer questions you may have. All sessions will be 1 hour long, and we will use the same Zoom link. The sessions will be recorded for later viewing.

September 8, 2020

Monday, September 14th

Tuesday, September 15th

7:00-8:00 PM ALL K-2 Families 

7:00-8:00 PM ALL 3-5 Families 

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 943 1461 4233 Passcode: 660872

Staffing As the superintendent outlined in his letter on Friday, we have had changes to our staffing for this year. For Horace Mann, the changes are outlined below:


In-Person/Hybrid Teachers

  • ●  Courtney Bonzey
  • ●  Julie Ferland
  • ●  Michelle Magno
  • DLA Teacher - Lisa Seyferth

Note: Michelle Magno will join us as our new Kindergarten teacher. Michelle has worked at Burr for the past four years as a special education aide, K classroom aide, and first grade long term sub.

Grade One

In-Person/Hybrid Teachers

  • ●  Mary Brown
  • ●  Allison Rose
  • ●  Sarah Thorne
  • DLA Teacher - Melissa Chatfield and Sara Thorne


  • ●  Mary Brown joins us from the Underwood staff and will be with us for the 2020-2021 school year. Mary is a graduate of Boston College and spent last year as a Kindergarten aide at the Angier School.
  • ●  Sarah Thorne will be teaching one cohort in-person, and one cohort of DLA. We will have additional details about what this looks like at our info sessions next week.

Grade Two

In-Person/Hybrid Teachers

  • ●  Priscilla Bartley
  • ●  Melissa Lewis
  • ●  Karen Sandison
  • DLA Teacher - Allie McNamana (Mason-Rice Elementary School)


● Karen Sandison will be teaching one cohort of grade 2, and one cohort of grade 3. 2nd Grade students will attend in-person in Cohort A, while 3rd grade students will attend in-person on Cohort B. We will have additional details about what this looks like at our info sessions next week.

Grade Three

In-Person/Hybrid Teachers

  • ●  Emily Bard
  • ●  Marita Rosen

  •   Karen Sandison

             DLA Teacher - Molly Norris (Franklin    

             Elementary School)


● Karen Sandison will be teaching one cohort of grade 2, and one cohort of grade 3. 2nd Grade students willattend in-person in Cohort A, while 3rd grade students will attend in-person on Cohort B. We will have additional details about what this looks like at our info sessions next week.

Grade Four

In-Person/Hybrid Teachers

  • ●  Maureen Berardi/Lauren Fischer
  • ●  Sara Lozzi
  • ●  Carol Oldmixon
  • DLA Teacher - Claudia Hoover

● Note: Sara Lozzi is the newest addition to our 4th grade team. Sara has worked as a behavior therapist and aide across grade levels and classrooms over the past several years at Horace Mann. Most recently, Sara completed her student teaching assignment in our 4th grade co-taught.

Grade Five

In-Person/Hybrid Teachers

  • ●  Loriann Akdag/Heather Dias
  • ●  Sara Angelo
  • ●  Lisa Moore
  • DLA Teacher - Mike Feldstein

● Note: Sara Angelo will come on board as our new 5th grade teacher. Sara did her student teaching a couple of years back with Lisa Moore, spent time as an interventionist and long term sub in another district, and returned to HM last year as a special education aide in 5th grade.

Placements : Cohort placements and teacher assignments will come out in Aspen on Wednesday morning at 9:00am.

Please understand that this year’s placement process has been extremely complex. Just to give you a few examples:

  • ●  We had many requests from families for specific cohort assignments and family pairings.
  • ●  We have cohort constraints related to families who have children at multiple schools.
  • ●  We have limits on the number of desks we can actually fit into a given classroom space.
  • ●  We had to plan for students who will be attending school more than two days per week.

Given these constraints, please understand that we will not be able to honor cohort change or placement change requests. Having said that, please reach out to me directly with any concerns or questions. We understand how hard this is for families, and we are doing our best to be responsive and supportive.

I will be in touch later this week with more information! Thank you,

Mark Nardelli 


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

August Update 8/18/2020

Dear HM Families,

I hope this letter finds you healthy and safe.  It certainly has been hot (and mostly dry) and filled with uncertainty about what the next few weeks and months will bring. Now that the School Committee has voted on choices for the return to school (hybrid or distance learning plan), I thought it would be important to update you on summer at HM and the planning that will take place over the next few weeks. 

If you’ve tried to stay informed at all about our return to school, you know that there are still a fair number of details to be worked out for any plan that we implement, and I don’t have answers to many of the questions you might have.  Please know that we will be hard at work over the next few weeks to more clearly define our plan.  

Below are some highlights:

Facilities - During July and early August, I worked closely with David Stickney, Director of Facilities, and our Head Custodian, Kathy Hylander, in order to ensure classroom spaces are set up with six foot distancing for students/teachers - as well as pathways in each classroom that will minimize congregation of students. 

The Facilities Department has conducted full servicing on the ventilation system and checked to make sure all of our windows open.  Everything is in good working condition and air exchange in classrooms is higher than the recommended levels.  The city also ordered upgraded filters, which will be installed as soon as they arrive.  In addition: 

  • Four hand washing stations have been installed in our 2nd floor hallway and dispensers for hand sanitizers are being installed throughout the school.  
  • We are removing and relocating walls in several classrooms to increase square footage in selected spaces.  This work is ongoing and should be complete within the next two weeks.  
  • The district has ordered two large tents for each school. These tents can serve several purposes such as student snack time, learning spaces and staff gatherings.
  • Finally, we are also installing sound panels in the cafeteria and changing the location of several of our classrooms, including the library, the art room, our literacy space, and some grade level classrooms.


Fall Planning - We are making plans in a variety of areas that I wanted to quickly summarize.  I will offer much more detail on these as we become certain about what school will look like.

  • Placement - Given the HYBRID model, class placement will look different than it might under normal circumstances. I have already received several requests from families asking for students to be placed in a particular cohort (A/B) for a variety of reasons. Should you need to make such a request, please email me directly. I will do everything I can to honor your request. The staff and I worked hard in the spring to honor student placement requests for your child (friends, separates from - and match your child with a supportive cohort of students). Given all that has transpired - the "placement puzzle" has become much more complex. I must let you know that even though I will try, I simply will not be able to honor all requests (including some from the Spring survey). We would like to inform families on placement decisions as soon as possible, but we still don’t have a date set to let you know who your child’s teacher will be.
  • Staffing - Some of our staff have indicated that they will only be able to teach remotely right now (for health reasons, family care, etc.).  We are working to determine the impact of these decisions. I will announce more specific updates to our staffing as we get closer to our start date.
  • Scheduling - We are developing schedules for both a REMOTE LEARNING PLAN and a HYBRID learning plan.  These include details about specials (Library, Music, PE, Art), services, academic time, recess, collaboration, and much more.  The goal is to have more predictable schedules for students and families. 
  • Safety Protocols - We have worked to develop a handbook that will outline all of our updated procedures, including arrival/dismissal, bathroom use, recess, etc.  Our custodians have also spent hours and hours rearranging and setting up furniture, repurposing spaces, cleaning, and doing maintenance.  
  • High Needs - I’m working with special ed administrators and our school team to identify students who qualify as High Needs.  We are then drafting plans for what services will look like and also formulating a plan for communicating this information to families. 
  • Professional Development and Growth - Teachers have been taking courses offered by the district in a number of different areas, including technology, culturally responsive teaching, trauma, and subject specific disciplines.  Each of these areas is intended to help teachers prepare for the fall.   One important item to mention is that a sizable group of HM staff have met every Tuesday night this summer to engage in conversations about race.  The focus has been on personal growth in this area, and the discussions are entirely planned and led by staff.  A huge thank you to LoriAnn Akdag, Mike Feldstein, Karen Sandison, and Sara McSwiggan for taking the lead in planning the weekly sessions.

I fully recognize the challenges faced by families and staff during this time.  Both personally and professionally, I share the feelings of apprehension about going to school and NOT going to school, as well as the concerns about managing childcare, schedules and work demands. I know that the uncertainty in our planning also creates anxiety and holds up the planning that you are trying to do on your end.  I can only tell you that our team will do the best we can to maintain a safe school environment, foster connections and a sense of community, and provide opportunities for equitable academic engagement as we plan for reopening under these difficult circumstances. 

I also want to apologize that I haven’t written to you all more often, but it has been important that you hear directly from district leadership so as not to send mixed messages or confuse people about what is happening this fall.  I appreciate your patience, and I will do my best to keep you updated as new and concrete information becomes available.


Best Wishes,


Mark Nardelli