Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Responsive Home Workshop - Tonight - December 1st

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Metco Jazz Brunch

On Sunday, December 11th, several staff and families will be attending the Metco Jazz Brunch as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Metco Program.  We have a limited number of seats available for any families who might be interested in attending.  Details of the event are posted below. If you are interested, please send me an email at with your name and the number of seats you are requesting. Seats are first-come first-served. Thank you to the HM PTO for sponsoring family attendance at this event.

Monday, November 28, 2016

High School Start Time Presentation

On Monday, December 5th at 8:20 a.m. at Horace Mann, Ellen Gibson, School Committee Member and member of the district's High School Start Time Working Group, will present information on potential later high school start times in Newton.  A change in high school start times has the potential to impact start and end times at ALL schools in the district. Several potential scenarios will be presented (review them here.) More information can be found on the district website. Please come to learn more and provide feedback. Or, email your thoughts to

The presentation will take place in the music/assembly/DAD space.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Home Discussion Activity - Empathy and Kindness

Featherless Friend
A Mexican Fable

Ku was tired of being bare. Like many other birds, he was born without feathers. But while his sisters and brothers sprouted feathers of brilliant red and yellow, Ku was left in his bare pink skin. When the nest got too crowded, Ku's brothers and sisters flapped their wings and flew away. But when Ku tried to fly, he plummeted to the ground beneath his tree. While he was dusting the dirt off his beak, he heard laughter next to him.  

"You can't fly without feathers," laughed a gray and brown bird.

Embarrassed, Ku ran deep into the forest. When the sky grew dark, Ku took shelter in the nook of a tree trunk. Without his family's feathered bodies to keep him warm, he shivered so hard that his chattering beak caught the attention of an hawk, which hopped down from a tree branch.

"Who are you?" asked the hawk.

"I'm Ku."

"You must be freezing," said the hawk. Instead of laughing at Ku, she extended a wing and wrapped it around his cold body.

"I can't help but noticing," the hawk said, "I have plenty of feathers, and you have none." She shook her body, and a spotted feather came loose. "So take one of mine."

"Thank you!" Ku said, wrapping the feather around his cold skin. Already he felt a tiny bit warmer.
In the morning, he opened his eyes to see the hawk speaking to a large flock of birds — some big, some colorful, others tiny. "My new friend Ku has no feathers and is very cold. If each of you would give him just one of your feathers, he could cover his body and stay warm."

A cardinal walked up to Ku, noticing how different he looked compared with most birds. Imagining how that must feel, the cardinal plucked a beautiful red feather from his head and handed it to Ku. A parrot came next, offering a long blue feather. An eagle, a canary, a duck — even a hummingbird gave Ku a tiny feather.

Ku was overwhelmed by their kindness and thanked his new friends as he placed the feathers in his wings, around his head, and on his chest and feet. He topped off his new plumage with the peacock’s gift: a shimmering green-and-blue tail feather. Ku had never felt so warm, and he’d never felt so ready to fly.

Possible Discussion Questions
  1. How was Ku different from the other birds?
  2. How did the bird feel in the beginning? In the end?
  3. What do you think about the birds who laughed?
  4. What might you say to the birds who laughed?
  5. How did the hawk help?
  6. Can you remember a time when someone helped you? How did it make you feel?
  7. Can you think of a time when you helped someone? How did you know that the person needed help?
  8. What are some ways that you can help out around the house or at school? 
  9. What does it mean that Ku ended up with all different colored feathers?

NewsNotes 11/20/16

Post Election Thoughts: I wanted to take an opportunity to offer some thoughts about our work at Horace Mann in the uncertainty of the post-election environment.  I know that nationwide there are varying opinions about what is right for our country, yet regardless of   policy changes that are created in Washington, the rhetoric that persists in the media, or the challenges we may face in our own community, the staff at Horace Mann remain committed to fostering a welcoming and supportive learning environment for all. We will continue to emphasize and focus on the things that are most important to us...compassion, equity, integrity, citizenship, empathy, kindness, respect, and a celebration of diversity...our collective commitment to acceptance and success for all has not changed, and if we can stay focused on these ideals, we will do right by the children.   I look forward to working with all of you to make this a reality...
Staff Professional Development Update #3: In this third installment of our professional development plan for teachers, I wanted to share the work that our Family Engagement group has been doing.  As the title suggests, this groups is committed to building new ways to bridge the work we are doing at school with families. Here is a brief description of their work:
  • ELL Literacy Morning -  This past Friday, our ELL staff (Ms. Baseggin, Ms. Spence, Ms.Tamaki), in conjunction with our literacy specialist (Ms. Martin) and our librarian (Ms. Karam), talked to families about how we teach literacy and how parents can foster good reading practices at home.
  • Family Buddy Program - see below.
  • Difficult Conversations Seminar for Parents(March date - TBD) - Preparing parents to talk to children about race, privilege, disabilities and other topics.
  • Providing computer access and tutorials for parents at Progress Report time.
  • Math workshops by grade span (Dates/Times TBD)
New Home/School Values Discussion Activities:   As part of our efforts to be more transparent and communicative about our school values, members of the HM School Council met last week to create a series of home discussion activities. The activities will come out roughly once per month and will include a story, fable, or folktale based on one of our values.   This month’s topic is Empathy/Kindness. At our all school assembly on Monday, I will share the story with the students.  We will then send home hard copies (and e-copies) later in the week so families can read the stories together and discuss.  Thanks to school council members for working to narrow the story options and for creating the discussion questions. 

Horace Mann Buddy Families: Horace Mann is looking to start a Buddy Families program in which HM families help one another feel connected to and supported by the school community. As a first step, our staff are looking to identify families who would like to participate in the Buddy Families program as either:
  • A family receiving mentorship from another HM family
  • A family providing mentorship for another HM family
A family might choose to receive mentorship from another HM family if they are new to the HM community, if their child/children have unique needs, if they live outside of Newton, if they speak another language, or if they experience any difficulties otherwise connecting with the school.
A family might be in a position to provide mentorship through the Buddy Families program if they have been in the HM community for some time, tend to be actively involved in school-based activities, or otherwise feel connected to and knowledgeable about the school community.
Please contact one of our Buddy Families staff-members if interested in participating in either capacity:
Stephanie Coplon (

Free reading resources available:
  • This past spring, in support of President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, The New York Public Library, the Digital Public Library of America and First Book joined forces to launch Open eBooks, an app that provides FREE access to a library of thousands of eBooks for children from Title I schools and children served by special education teachers to use in school and at home. Follow these instructions to get started.
  • ConnectED has additional free resources that have been committed by companies that include things like professional-grade software and mobile broadband. 

News from the Newton Early Childhood Program:

NECP Open house for prospective parents 17-18 school year
December 6th 10-11 am
January 11th 5:30-6:30 pm
Parking/Entrance from 150 Jackson Road Newton, MA 02458

We still have openings for the 2016-2017 school year.  Please call 617-559-6050 or visit the Newton Public Schools/Newton Early Childhood website for more information. Financial assistance is available.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving Break!

Mark Nardelli

From the PTO

Thank you to all the families that participated in the gift wrap fundraiser. Your items will be delivered on Wednesday. Enjoy!

Don't forget to check out the playground pavers! Thank you to Always Green Landscaping for donating their installation services.  A special thank you to all the families who donated.

We will be kicking off our second annual food pantry drive this week. On Monday, each student will receive an empty grocery bag displaying a suggested donation. You may contribute more, less or something different. ALL DONATIONS ARE WELCOME  !!

For those families who are able to contribute we encourage your child's participation as much as possible so that they are fully connected to the act of giving. If you can, please take your child shopping with you when buying the products or have them select them from the kitchen cabinet, and then deliver the bag in the lobby themselves.

Please bring donations to the front or rear lobbies of HM between 11/22 and 12/2. Thank you!

Mark your calendars for the Staff Appreciation Breakfast on Thursday,December 8. More information on how you can help will be sent after Thanksgiving. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

NewsNotes November 6th, 2016

A visit to our Kindergarten classrooms from the NE Aquarium!
Veterans Day: This week and next,  Mr. Tynes has initiated an effort to honor all Horace Mann families and staff who have served in the military.  If you or a family member has served or is actively serving please bring in a couple of photos for us to display in the front lobby next week. You can bring the photos directly to Mrs. Mariano.  We will return all photos the following week.
Staff PD Update #2: As I mentioned last time, I will share some details in each newsletter about the small group work teachers are engaging in around issues of equity and connectedness.  This week focuses on our commitment to expanding our core curriculum to be more reflective of our diverse student population and to provide a more well rounded perspective of historic events. Specifically, teachers are...
  • gathering books and resources that will be used to foster classroom discussions about a variety of issues related to diversity.
  • developing lessons that promote discussions about inclusiveness, bullying, identity development, and more.
  • expanding the focus of our social studies curriculum to include multiple perspectives.  For example, in our 5th grade European explorer unit, one teacher is working to develop lessons that also incorporate exploration efforts from China and Japan.
Our plan is to have at least two new lessons at each grade level.
Article: Given that we are in the midst of perhaps the most contentious and unpleasant election season in recent history, I thought I would share an article that describes the dilemma teachers face with regard to sharing values/beliefs vs. remaining neutral in a classroom setting. 
School Council Summary: At our first School Council meeting last month, we made the decision to focus our energy on family engagement.  At our next meeting we will work to identify several monthly themes centered around concepts that are in line with our theme of connectedness and equity.  We will identify a focus (like empathy), find stories that align with the focus, and create a discussion-based activity that will be designed for parents and children to share at home. For anyone who wants to be part of the process of developing these activities, our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 16th.
Book Fair: Thank you to all of the families who came out to support our Book Fair, either by making purchases or offering to help out in some way.  A tremendous thank you goes out to Jacqueline Freeman and Megan Anapolle for their efforts to coordinate this year’s event. 
Building Updates: Thanks to John Mendecina for arranging for the purchase our new Hawk Flags at the front and rear of the building.  They look great! You also may have noticed that we’ve finally had the damaged letters replaced on the front of the building!  Both are a welcome improvement.
Social Media Release Settings: This year, Newton changed its approach to the way parents provide permission for a variety of social media settings.  In Skyward, you can decide if you want to provide permission for the school to post photos on our website, on Twitter, etc.  The default option is NO for all settings.  So far, only 85 families have updated their preferences.  Please click on the following link to login to SKYWARD and update your settings.
Have a great week!

Mark Nardelli

From the PTO

The Bookaneer Bookfair was a HUGE success! Thank you to our wonderful Librarian, Mrs. Karam, for her support and to Mr. Tynes for generously sharing his gym with us. We raised more than $15,000 and reached our goal of selling more than 3,000 books! Thank you to all of the families who came and supported the book fair. We hope you had fun and keep reading!
Mystery Dinner—thank you!
Our 2016 Mystery Dinner was a success and we want to send a big thank you to Aude Henin and Valerie Pirri for all of their efforts in planning this year’s event (and hosting a dinner!).  And we appreciate all the other wonderful hosts for wonderful cocktail and dinner parties!  Thanks to the following families: Ploussios, Lubbe-Lynch, Ryan, Sinnett, Mantell, Freeman, Haueisen, Russo, Cedrone, Symonds, Gleason, Lemire, Kaufman, Anapolle, Mirman, Moore & Christianson.

PTO Dues
Thank you to families that have paid their dues to date—we are off to a great start but we can do better!  47% of HM families have contributed their dues and we appreciate it!  If you have not yet paid, please contribute $50 per child you have at HM as your annual contribution.  As a reminder, dues fund many of the programs integral to the school’s curriculum (Creative Arts & Sciences, e.g.).  Simply visit our website (—click on ‘support’ button) or pay by personal check. 

Horace Mann Directory
It’s time to get connected! The Horace Mann PTO is pleased to announce that this year’s Student Directory will be online and accessible with your mobile device. In order to make sure all information is accurate please update your information no later than Friday, November 11th. If no updates are made we will assume your information is correct.
Next Steps
1. You will receive an email with a secure link to the information we currently have for your family.
2. Click on the link and review your information. (The form is organized in sections.)
3. Click on the header(s) in the form to view and make any necessary changes.
4. Save in Step 5 to update and confirm your data.
If you have any questions, please contact or Thank you for helping us to make this year’s Directory a success! 

Social Action Committee
BIG thank you to everyone who donated to our Coins for Kids/All for Books drive during the Book Fair! We raised $400 and bought NEW books to donate to the Martha Elliot Center in Jamaica Plain.  Our 4th/5th grade committee members will hand deliver them next week and they are very excited!!
You will hear from us again in the coming weeks with another great cause for our community and look forward to your continued support!
Many thanks!
Sharon Russo