Sunday, March 26, 2017

NewsNotes 3/26/17

Parent Coffee Reminder: Tomorrow (Monday, 3/27) I will host a parent coffee to talk about two topics: First, I will discuss our annual class placement process, which details the steps we take to create classes each year. Second, I will share details about the district’s budget deficit and how the proposed budget will impact Horace Mann. The session will start at 8:30 in the library and end at 9:15.

Cultural Proficiency Curriculum: At last week’s faculty meeting, staff met in three groups (K-1, 2-3, and 4-5) to review a series of developmentally appropriate lessons aimed at enhancing our curriculum relative to issues of identity, culture, race, etc. Teachers were given the task of selecting at least three lessons per grade level to form the core of this curriculum. In April, teachers will compile and publish these lesson and have agreed to teach at least one before the end of the year. I will share the curriculum materials once they are ready to go. On a related note, I’ve included an interesting article in the NY times on this topic:

Budget/Staffing for next year: There are several items to mention with regard to next year. Some of it is budget related, while some of it has to do with circumstances specific to our school.
This year, we have four classroom sections in grade 5, and all of these students will soon be moving on to middle school. As this group leaves, we will have just three classroom sections in each grade (K-5), reducing our total number of classrooms from 19 to 18. In addition, Carol Oldmixon, who has been out on leave this year, will return to Horace Mann in the fall. As a result, we are faced with reductions for next year, including one of our co-taught classrooms. Ms. Mikus has shared that she will extend her leave of absence for another school year.
With regard to the budget, changes for next year will include reductions in library, music (chorus), and special education. For library, we will not lose any library classroom time for students, but we will only have a librarian on location for three days (instead of five). We are doing our best to make sure that Ms. Karam stays with us at HM for those days. In Music, we will not be offering 4th grade chorus next year. There will also be changes to our special ed staffing allocations, but the details have not yet been ironed out.
For anyone interested, there is a public hearing on the Budget on Monday, April 4th at 6:00 pm. Here’s a link to the budget information:
Playground Update: Last week, I met with the director of Parks and Rec for the city of Newton. We are aware of a few missing components on the new structure that need to be replaced. Safety of the structure is not a concern right now, and repairs will be made soon. Also, with regard to the recall on the older equipment, new slides have been ordered and will be installed once the weather improves.

Responsive Home Workshop: Are you struggling with your child(ren)’s behavior at home? Do you want to work towards creating a supportive, encouraging home environment? If so, attend one of Newton’s workshop. The next session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 12th from 6:30-8:30 pm. This will take place at the Ed Center (room 210)

MCAS Schedule:

ELA (Reading/Writing)
Grade 3 - April 25th, April 26th, and April 28th
Grade 4 - April 3rd, April 5th, and April 6th
Grade 5 - April 7th, April 10th, and April 13th
Grade 3 - May 4th and May 5th
Grade 4 - May 15th and May 16th
Grade 5 - May 1st and May 3rd

The PTO would like to thank Jess Schiefer, who ran this year's AMAZING spring auction. The Horace Mann Hoedown was both fun and successful, raising more than $18,000. Jess had the help of a dedicated committee, friends, and neighbors, including many Horace Mann families and businesses that donated items to the live, silent and online auction. Please thank them and the following when you see them!

Other Thank Yous:

Montecarlo at Boston
Advance Auto Center, Inc.
Honda Village
The Village Bank
Busy Bee Florist
Manow Thai Kitchen
Megan Anapolle
Seth Anapolle
Sarah Arcese
Adam Brown
Rosa Chiacchierarelli
Anne Cedrone
Bob Daley
Kim Daley
The Deceptive Lemons
Abe Dewing
Somchay Edwards
Ariella Evenzahav
Jacqueline Freeman
Matt Freeman
Tara Furlong
Meg Gallucci
Heather Julian
Sandy Malec
Joanna Mantell
Alison Mirman
John Oliver
Sharon Russo
Cara Salmon
Tim Schiefer
Melissa Vaughn
Billy Walsh

There is nothing common between April Fool's Day and the Horace Mann Talent Show—other than the fact that this year both happen to be on April 1st!

Come join us to see the budding talents in Horace Mann. From Indian and Irish dances to Chinese Yo Yo, comedy to piano/violin/vocal performances, the Horace Mann Talent Show is sure to melt the snow. 

Special performances from Day After Day and a rock band comprised of both current and former Horace Mann students will be the highlight of the show this year.
So mark your calendars and join us at F.A. Day Auditorium on the 1st. The show starts at 1 PM, but come early to get a good spot!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

NewsNotes 3/12/17

School Auction: This year’s auction was a fun and new experience for parents. A dedicated committee of volunteers turned the NNHS cafeteria into a beautifully decorated space, with hula hoop chandeliers, hay bale couches, a cornhole court, and a dress up area. There was a stellar performance by the dad supergroup “The Deceptive Lemons”, square dance lessons and even bull riding! Thanks to all of the families who came out to contribute and enjoy the atmosphere. Thanks also to everyone who participated in the online and live portions of the auction. The funds raised will go towards supporting our efforts to enrich the offerings and experiences of the students at Horace Mann.

Blue Zone Improvements: Thank you to families for supporting our efforts to improve the safety of our dismissal time over these past two weeks. People have been much better about staying off of the grass, which is a tremendous help. Please continue to support safe dismissal procedures!

Fostering Conversations Workshop Follow Up - Thank you to all of the families who came out to participate in our Fostering Conversations Event, which served as an introduction to helping families reflect on their role in talking to our children about the different perspectives that we bring to school each day. For those of you who missed it, there are two opportunities to get a sense of what we discussed:
  • Monday, March 20th - Morning Coffee with Principal Nardelli. At this session, we will re-do the first activity from the evening event. This will take place from 8:20-9:00am
  • Wednesday, March 22nd - The City of Newton is offering an evening event titled: “Talking to Children About Race” from 7-8:30 pm at the Angier School. Mike Feldstein (5th grade teacher at HM) will lead two activities similar to the ones we shared last week. Click on the following link to register:
Responsive Home Workshop: Are you struggling with your child(ren)’s behavior at home? Do you want to work towards creating a supportive, encouraging home environment? If so, attend one of Newton’s workshops. The next session is scheduled for Wednesday, April 12th from 6:30-8:30 pm.

Next Generation MCAS: This year all third, fourth, and fifth grade students will take the new statewide assessment, MCAS 2.0. This will replace PARCC, which students took for the past two years. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is requiring that all grade 4 students take the Computer-Based Test (CBT) with the goal of students in all grades taking the CBT by the year 2019. At HM, we elected to have students in grades 3 and 5 take the Paper-Based Test (PBT) this year.

With the adoption of another new test, we find ourselves in a position of thinking carefully about how we want to prepare students. We feel strongly that the high-quality instruction we provide students with each day is the best way we can prepare them for external assessments. That said, the new exam format and testing situation are different from students’ routine experiences and we have a responsibility to introduce students to the testing environment, the types of questions, and the vocabulary. We know we need to be thoughtful about how we accomplish preparation for the test, as we do not want to “teach to the test” and/or create unnecessary stress or anxiety. Therefore, teachers will spend some time in class teaching strategies to help students feel comfortable and confident during the testing situation. Strategies will include reading test directions, unpacking questions, and using a reference sheet. Teachers will reassure students that throughout the year they have learned the content to help them be successful. To minimize stress, teachers will also share with their classes that the results of the assessment are used for multiple purposes such as, planning for growth in future years and determining if additional shifts in our curriculum are necessary.

As a parent, your role should be to minimize the emphasis on this test as a measure of student proficiency. Given the timing of the results, the uncertainty of the test format and content, and the nature of standardized testing, we encourage you to downplay how important these results are for any individual student.

Here is the schedule of testing for this year:

ELA (Reading/Writing)
Grade 3 - April 25th, April 26th, and April 28th
Grade 4 - April 3rd, April 5th, and April 6th
Grade 5 - April 7th, April 10th, and April 13th

Grade 3 - May 4th and May 5th
Grade 4 - May 15th and May 16th
Grade 5 - May 1st and May 3rd


These Horace Mann Parents were happy to "Stand by Your Mann" on Saturday at the spring auction and Country Hoedown. Thank you to all of the parents who support the PTO And the school, including Principal Nardelli, who is always up for a wild ride!

2017 Horace Mann Talent ShowAPRIL 1, 1pm, FA Day Auditorium!

Registration is Open NOW through March 14! Get your little performers ready--the HM Talent Show is around the corner! Get the kids out of hibernation and have them ready to showcase their special talents-—from piano solos to dances, from martial arts to stand-up comic acts…show us that HM's Got Talent! For non-performers, come and support your classmates—it is always a fun and entertaining day! To register your performers, click here. We will hold previews of all acts on March 17 at 3pm—this helps us understand types of performances and timing so we may develop a strong and well-balanced program.

Spirit Wear—get your Hawks gear, coming soon!

Basketball shorts looking a little tired? Outgrow your flannel pj pants? Need another snazzy hoodie for your collection—we’ve got you covered! We have ordered all your favorite spirit wear items, along with some new additions so you can show off your love for Horace Mann! Very soon, you will see samples in the front lobby and be able to order your items online. Our goal is to get all orders in before April break so that items deliver well in time for Fitness for Life. So, stay tuned for more info and get ready to donate the old and bring in the new!

NewsNotes 2/26/17

This week felt more like April break than February break…at one point our girls were out washing cars in their bathing suits with virtually no evidence of the snow that buried us only a week or so ago. Prior to the unexpected arrival of spring, we went to NH for a couple of days...tubing, snowshoeing, and relaxing by the hotel pool. We also were lucky enough to welcome a couple of new additions to our extended family. My brother Steve and his wife Heather recently gave birth to twins (Dominic and Ava) and are bringing them home this week. That makes 11 grandchildren for my parents. Hope you all enjoyed the time as well.

Fostering Conversations Event - This Wednesday night at Horace Mann, we are hosting a Title 1 event aimed at continuing our work to build a welcoming school community for all. Our goal is to take participants through an engaging activity that will help us to reflect on our own beliefs about the wonders and challenges of living in a diverse community, as well as to hear stories/experiences of other families in our community. In addition, we would like to provide parents with tools that will enable them to talk to their children about these topics. This is not meant to reflect any political agenda; it is most important that all people feel welcomed and valued. We will again provide childcare and pizza so that as many families can attend as possible. Please consider coming to this important conversation.

Pizza from 5:30 - 6pm
Workshop from 6-7:30
Here’s the registration link (please not that even if you can’t register, its ok to just show up):

Dr. Seuss Day and Read Across America - This Thursday, March 2nd, we will again host a variety of guest readers as we celebrate Dr. Seuss Day. Also, at the end of the day we will ask all classrooms to participate in Read Across America. For anyone who is new to the idea, students and grownups will come out into the hallway with a favorite book and read silently for 15 minutes. Here’s a link to some fun resources you can use at home:

Staffing Update: Some of you may know that Jenna Goldstein, our school psychologist, is expecting a child any day now. I wanted to let families know that we have found a psychologist to fill in for Jenna while she is out on maternity leave. Ali Shwartz has worked in a couple of elementary (and K-8) schools over the past 5 years, both in Brookline and in Connecticut and has solid experience with the evaluation process as well as with individual and group counseling. Ali plans to start on March 13th. Jenna and Ali have set up time to talk about psychologist services at Horace Mann to enable as smooth a transition as possible. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Geography Bee Finals - A couple of weeks back, ten finalists participated in our annual Geography Bee competition. Congratulations to the following students for making it to the HM Finals: Arushi Shatkin, Mason Schiefer, Jacob Krylov, Andrew Arcese, Sophie Matthewson, Bridget Stone, Raven Belson, Haitham Ismal, Thomas Ruane, Uma Katz, and Aritra Ghosh. Students were asked a series of domestic and global questions in front of peers and families. After several rounds of challenging questions, Andrew and Sophie emerged as our two semi-finalists.

Congratulations to Andrew Arcese, who, for the second year in a row, took home the top slot at Horace Mann. He will go on to try to qualify for a national competition this spring. We wish Andrew good luck!

Newsnotes 2/5/17

Staff PD Round Up: Last week we got together as a staff to continue our equity work.

For the first part of our session we asked Amira El Amri, and inclusion assistant in Kindergarten, to talk about her experiences as a Syrian refugee. Amira talked openly about how war came to her neighborhood outside of Damascus, how she and her family escaped, and how she eventually came to the United States. As educators, we use her story as a powerful reminder of the day-to-day struggles that many of our families face. The more we can understand the experiences and perspectives that students bring to school each day, the better chance we have to help them overcome obstacles that get in the way of feeling connected and ready to learn.

For the second part of our workshop, Mike Feldstein led us through an exercise aimed at pointing out the unseen privileges that many of us enjoy without even realizing it. I share the following resources to give you a better sense of what this conversation was all about.

Our hope and expectation is that teachers will continue to reflect about their practice. In this instance, we asked teachers to look for those places where unseen privilege may be taking hold so that we can begin to counteract the impact.

Title 1 Parent Night - On March 1st, we will be offering families a chance to learn more about the equity work we are doing this year. The focus of this workshop will be on sharing our diverse family experiences while helping parents to engage in potentially difficult conversations with our children about a variety of topics, including race, gender identity, family structure, and more. We will have pizza and childcare available. More details will be coming out this week. Please save the date.

CAS roundup - We had several presentations this week…here are a few highlights:

  • Talking Cello - 1st grade - Cellist Nancy Hair demonstrates how music and words connect by telling a story using the special sound effects of the cello. The words of the story are then eliminated and only the sound effects remain, allowing children to trace the story by listening. Next, students write their own story as a group, which Sandy performs on the cello. During this interactive program, students use finger math, writing, and drawing skills. 
  • Shaw Pong Liu presents “Exploring China, The Middle Kingdom” - 2nd grade - Through song and amazing skill with the violin, Shaw Pong Liu shared several stories from different parts of China. The presentation was interactive and engaging for students. 
  • David Biedrzycki - 3rd grade - This creative and unique author and illustrator shared how he generates ideas and writes books exclusively using the computer. He uses humor to talk about writing, illustrating, the design process, symmetry, details about beetles, and more. Check out any of his titles, including: Ace Lacewing Bug Detective and Me and My Dragon

Progress Reports - Progress reports will be published electronically on Monday, February 6th. If you haven’t received an email already, you should be contacted by the district at some point on Monday with information that will allow you to log onto our Skyward system to see your child’s progress report. If you don’t get the email by later Monday, or if you have any trouble accessing the report, please contact me at or call the school.

Slide Recall - This is long overdue, but I wanted to officially inform the community that two of our slides on the older playground equipment have been recalled by the company. I don’t have a lot of information to share about when and how they will be repaired, but we are in touch with the city and the company to figure out next steps.

From the PTO

Horace Mann's PTO presents:
STAND BY YOUR MANN - a Country Hoedown
*An evening full of stompin' good times*

Round up: Saturday, March 11th - 7pm
at the Newton North High School Corral
Saddle up and put on yer' boots for a night of barn dancin', drinkin' & donatin'


Thanks to everyone’s hard work, we had about 60 students in 45 teams show up for Science & Engineering Night -- projects included: the DAD Science of Lego Robotics, Borax Crystals, the Power of Air Pressure and Circuit Beats (electric circuits + fruit = music) – the creativity was inspiring! We had a visit from MIT ClubChem and they did some interesting demonstrations including: The Blue Bottle Experiment, Creating Glow-in-the-Dark Solution, and Elephant Toothpaste. All in all, a great turnout—special thanks to Kari Jensen and all the teachers who work to make this happen!

SPRING DATES to put on your calendars (before we all head out for Winter Break):

April 1: Horace Mann Talent Show
April 30: Newton Serves

Details to come!