Wednesday, June 28, 2017

NewsNotes 6/28/2017

- As we all can attest, June is a month of closure, transition, and quite frankly, insanity…for the Nardelli family, this spring was no exception. Of particular note, Eliana graduated from middle school, and we are now faced with the prospect of finding the right program for her in high school…no easy task for a child who has to work a lot harder than those around her to accomplish what some might consider to be mundane tasks (like riding a bike!)…

Moving beyond Eliana, the entire month of June is filled with a variety of culminating events that take place in school and in the variety of activities that our children are engaged in. We scramble like mad to get to sporting events, dance recitals, school concerts, graduations, and a hundred other things. We write cards and offer gifts and say our goodbyes, and it can be a very emotional time for everyone….
And then all of the insanity just stops.

I know for me, each year represents a form of loss, and it takes some time to acknowledge the changes that are taking place. Now that the dust has settled a little and I actually have some time to think and breathe, I’d like to offer a few thoughts on the school year:

  • First, I want to offer a tremendous thank you to our PTO Board for their efforts this year. John Oliver, Adam Brown, Sarah Arcese, Jacqueline Freeman, Karen Solari, Sharon Russo, Melissa Vaughn, Jon Mendicina, Susannah Wardly, and Sandy Malec. They’ve all been tremendously supportive, and proactive, and they are staunc advocates for our school. In particular, I want to thank John, Sarah, Karen, Melissa, and Sandy for their efforts over many years to make Horace Mann the strong community that it is. Best of luck to all of you as your children move on to life in middle school.
  • I also want to acknowledge all of the parents who helped in some other fashion: room parents; event coordinators (like the Auction, Mystery Dinner, Talent Show, or International Night); families who donated time (to our library, the Book Fair, field trips, Newton Serves Day, etc); as well as those who donated funds to support programs like Creative Arts and Sciences or technology purchases. Horace Mann is a better place because of the work we do together…
  • We’ve made progress this year in our efforts to become a more culturally proficient school, and we are ready and excited to do more. We will continue to...
    • Insist on the importance of building relationships with students and families to ensure they feel connected and welcome.
    • Build on our efforts to hold family welcome events, workshops and discussions.
    • Modify our curriculum, our classroom/school libraries, and our instructional practices to be more reflective of our diverse population.
    • Expand our efforts through all-school assemblies and school-wide events to create a school culture that fosters kindness and respect for all.
    • Build on opportunities for staff to learn and grow as culturally responsive educators.
    • Persist in our efforts to hire and recruit a diverse staff of exceptional educators.
  • Academically, we have made progress as well. There is emerging evidence that our literacy interventions and our co-taught classrooms are sound practice. Across the board, we have fewer students below benchmark in reading than in any other year since we began this work. Additionally, because we’ve been able to provide supports in a proactive way, we have seen the number of students in special education decline dramatically. Two years ago we had over 100 students on IEPs. This fall, we will have 55 students receiving services in special education. A heartfelt thank you to our classroom teachers and our literacy team for their tireless work.
  • In addition, we are finding success for students who need social/emotional supports. In a year where there was a vast increase in referrals, we are the only school in Newton who did not request support from the district for students who struggled behaviorally and emotionally. In large part, this is due to the work our teachers do to be flexible, the effectiveness of our behavior intervention model, and the innovative efforts of our mental health team.
Reading Lists - For this of you interested, I’ve included some summer reading titles that might help you to understand the work we are doing. 

A Dedication
- During the last week of school we celebrated the Newton career of Jenny McGowan as she prepares to move on to the Dedham Public Schools. As a community, we wanted to recognized Jenny’s dedication to inclusion, her advocacy for families, and her deep knowledge of special education. We thought the perfect way to do this would be to dedicate something permanent to the HM community, and we’ve decided to donate something called a Buddy Bench.

The idea of the Buddy Bench was started by a student as a grassroots effort. Here’s an article detailing how this idea came about (I should also credit Somchay Edwards for sharing this ideas several years ago):

Here's a quick summary of the Buddy Bench idea:

Horace Mann will install a new bench, decorated by students, aimed at fostering inclusion during less structured social times. Students can go to the bench for a variety of reasons, including:
  • A student new to Horace Mann may use the bench as a way to signal that they would like to meet someone.
  • A student may want to try a new activity at recess.
  • A student who would like to offer their support to new friends may use the bench to signal their efforts to reach out.
  • Students may use this as an area to meet and brainstorm ideas for an activity.

As a staff we’ve connected with other schools who have this in place, talked about how to model appropriate behavior, and talked about how to minimize any potential stigma associated with this concept. More details about that will come out in the fall.

For anyone interested in donating to the Buddy Bench and acknowledging Jenny McGowan’s career at Horace Mann, you can send a check for any amount to our address at 687 Watertown St. Checks can be made payable to the “Horace Mann PTO” (please make a note that you would like the proceeds to go to the Buddy Bench). All donations are tax deductable.

We will install and dedicate the bench to Jenny in the fall. Thanks in advance for your support.

Hiring/Staffing Update - We have several important roles to fill this summer and we’ve already begun the process of doing so. In particular, we are looking to find a new Team Specialist, and new Behavior Interventionist, and an additional Inclusion Facilitator. I will keep you all posted on our progress on those important initiatives.

I hope you all have some time to spend together as a family this summer. Read books, get outside, play games, and try to take advantage of a slower pace to life (I hope). I know that I’m already thankful that we don’t have to pack lunches every night, hustle to after-school activities, get homework done, etc. Thanks again for all your support!

Best wishes for a safe and healthy summer!


Mark Nardelli

Monday, June 12, 2017

NewsNotes 6/11/17

From Mark's Desk

A variety of photos from Fitness for Life, Pond Life (CAS program), and author Suzy Kline (also a CAS program).
Fitness For Life: Thanks once again to David Tynes for another amazing Fitness for Life event. This includes preparing all of the materials, creating new games and challenges, building classroom schedules, organizing volunteers, packing the truck and more...all while fasting!  Thankfully, the weather was cooperative and contributed to a day with lots of smiling faces and few meltdowns.   Thanks also to teachers and assistants for running activities, leading students from station to station, managing conflict, and even joining in on a few events. Finally, thank you to all of the parents and caregivers for being part of this community effort. This includes cheering on the kids, organizing supplies, running the grills, helping with the clean up efforts, recycling water bottles, packing and unpacking the truck, and more.

Staffing Announcements: I have a number of things to share with regard to staffing for next year… 
  • As many of you heard earlier this week, Jenny McGowan will be taking a position with the Dedham Public Schools where she will  work to foster inclusive practices within the field of special education. For those of you who have had the opportunity to work with Jenny, you know the loss this represents for our school. As a special educator, inclusion facilitator, and team specialist at Horace Mann, Jenny has been a true champion of inclusion. She has a deep understanding of a wide range of student needs, works extremely hard to foster inclusive practices and set high expectations, and believes that the foundation of our work in schools is to build relationships with staff and families. I will personally miss her sense of humor, her ability to see multiple perspectives in every situation, her common sense approach to problem solving, her emotional intelligence, her thoughtfulness, and her drive to ensure that students with disabilities have access to the best possible programming and are treated with dignity and respect. Please join me in thanking Jenny for her dedication to our school.
  • Tracey Spence, ELL teacher at Horace Mann for the past four years has decided to take on a new challenge at the Bigelow Middle School where she will use her skills and her innovative ideas to expand programming for a burgeoning ELL population.   I appreciate Tracey’s support for families, her honest and direct approach to problem solving, her ability to collaborate with many different teachers, and her high expectations for students.  Best wishes next year. On a related note, Barbara Kwan, ELL teacher at Franklin the last four years, will be joining our team in Tracey’s place.  Barbara has met our current ELL team, toured the school, and spent some time talking to me.  Barbara is highly regarded within the ELL department and we all feel positive about this addition to our school.
  • Amy Conley, co-taught teacher in 4th grade, recently shared that she will be moving to Seattle this summer as part of a new job opportunity for her husband. We’ve been fortunate over the past couple of years to have Amy’s contributions; she is caring, attentive to detail, effective in managing a  variety of student challenges, and a wonderful co-teaching partner.   We wish Amy the best of luck in her new start on the West Coast. Directly connected to Amy’s departure was the need to find a new co-taught teacher partner for our 4th grade team.  I am pleased to announce that Lauren Fischer will be moving from 1st grade into the co-taught teaching role.  Lauren and Maureen have worked together in the past and are excited about the chance to collaborate again.  Congratulations to Lauren!
  • I am happy to say that our intervention work in both literacy and in the social-emotional realm has led to greater success in providing students with the instruction and services they need before getting to a place where they require services through special education.  Unfortunately, because we have fewer students taking advantage of special ed services as a result of our interventions, we’ve had to reduce our learning center allocation.   I am officially sharing that Katie Deehan will be staying on to provide our learning center services.  Her background in specialized instruction as well as her previous experience as an inclusion facilitator gives us flexibility in servicing a wide range of student needs across learning center, inclusion and cohort.  In addition, Lucy Couture, who has provided support and care to a great number of colleagues, children and families over the past 11 years will be moving on from Horace Mann.  Fortunately, Lucy will have the opportunity to bring her compassion, her dedication, and her strong work ethic to the Cabot Elementary School where she will be starting a new chapter as the special educator in a 4th grade co-taught classroom at Cabot this fall.  I know that many of the children will miss Lucy’s warmth, her encouragement, and her genuine efforts to help students succeed.  Best wishes to Lucy at Cabot next year.
  • The last announcement of this edition of NewsNotes is also significant for our community. Billy Brady has decided to end his tenure working as the night custodian, where he has been for over 20 years.  For anyone who knows Billy at all, you know that he hates attention of any kind and he dreaded having to inform me of this decision.  When he came to me to share his news, he made me promise that I wouldn’t tell anyone about his decision until after his last day.  Obviously, I agreed.   So…unfortunately, I share that Billy’s last day at HM was this past Friday, June 9th.  As you can imagine, Billy does not want a party or public speeches, or recognition of any kind.  Having said that, we will find a way to share our appreciation for Billy in a way that he can manage. Billy will sorely be missed at HM. His good sense of humor, his willingness to stay late or open doors during vacations, his patience, his thoughtfulness, his efforts to do anything for anyone…what more can I say? Billy has a heart of gold and will be very hard to replace...

Message from Elissa Matloff, our School Nurse:

Medication Pick-up: Parents of students who have medication stored in the health room should pick it up by the last day of school, June 23. All medication (pills, epi-pens, inhalers, etc.) not picked up will be discarded. Please plan ahead to pick medication up so it is not wasted! Medication may not be carried home by the student -- it must be picked up by an adult. School nurses will not be available after June 23 to return medication to families.

Medication Order Reminder: All medication orders expire at the end of the school year. If you are visiting your child’s health care provider during the summer, consider requesting a new medication order for your child. All medication, prescription or over-the-counter, requires an order. The Medication Permission Form and the Medication Policy are both available online at

West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease Prevention: Mosquito and tick-borne diseases like West Nile Virus and Lyme disease occur in Newton residents. Take steps to avoid getting sick!
·      Mosquito repellant not only works for mosquitoes, but helps repel ticks as well. Use a repellant with DEET, and follow label instructions for concentrations appropriate for children.
·      Avoid being outdoors during peak mosquito hours, particularly once West Nile Virus has been detected in the mosquito population.
·      Remove containers around your home (tires, kid pools, pots, tarps) that could allow mosquitoes to breed.
·      Check your body for ticks after being outdoors and remove them immediately to avoid disease transmission.

Shoo the flu! Seasonal influenza vaccine will be offered this fall during the school day to students and employees. The flu shot (no FluMist again this year, based on current recommendations) will be available to all students in Kindergarten through grade 12, by parental consent only. Consent and screening forms will be posted at by early September, in preparation for the fall clinics. Insurance information will be requested, but all students are welcome to receive the vaccine at no charge.

The flu clinic date for Horace Mann will be October 13th. Forms (available in Sept.) will be due to the school nurse by October 11th. This schedule is confirmed unless the flu vaccine supply is delayed, in which case the school nurse will notify families of an alternative date once the vaccine arrives.

Have a happy and healthy summer!

From the PTO

Fitness for Life

A special thanks to Mr. Nardelli, Mrs. Mariano and Mr. Tynes for making this such an amazing day! We are SO lucky to have such an extraordinary PE teacher that champions this very special program. And we also appreciate all the teachers and parents that helped and made the day so fun. THANK YOU, too, to Joanna Mantell for organizing our efforts on this event--you are the best!

IT IS TIME TO THANK THE HORACE MANN STAFF for ALL that they do each and every day!

Help make this a special event for the staff of Horace Mann School! Please consider a monetary donation, as we would like to cater some food tems to ensure we have enough for everyone. If you prefer to prepare/buy food items, these need to be dropped off MONDAY 6/26 between 8:30 - 9:30 a.m. If you plan to sign up for a main dish please make sure you include a list of ingredients. We want to be sensitive to any allergies or food preferences. ***Please bring all items in disposable dishware and serveware!!

NOTE: This year, due to a busy end of school for the Horace Mann Staff, the event will be on a teacher day after school is finished for the year. W

To make a contribution or help with set-up or clean-up, please sign up below.

HM Staff Brunch Sign Up

If you would like to donate $$ to purchase needed items please leave with Rose Mariano in the front office in an envelope addressed to Veronika Lynch Staff Breakfast by Wednesday, June 21st.

***Please contact Veronika Lynch with any questions at