Sunday, September 24, 2017

NewsNotes 9/24/2017

Horace Mann Values - As a staff we spent the early part of the year reviewing our overarching school values and made changes that we felt would be a better reflection of our priorities and our work. I have outlined the values below and provided some examples of what those values look like in action here at school. We shared these with students at last Friday’s All School Assembly. Feel free to have a conversation about what these same values might look like at home.

Be Proud of Who You Are and Accepting of Others
  • Be open to new things (like foods or traditions).
  • Share something you are good at or proud of.
  • Show compassion for a friend who seems upset.
  • Invite a new friend to play.
Be Safe
  • Walk in the halls.
  • Climb ladders instead of slides.
  • Look both ways before you cross the street.
Be Responsible for Your Actions and Words
  • Listen to teacher directions.
  • Apologize when you hurt someone’s feelings.
  • Admit when you make a mistake.
  • Do your assigned classroom job.
Be Respectful of One Another and Our School
  • Use kind words.
  • Clean up after you play a game.
  • Hold the door for someone.
  • Say please and thank you.
Be a Lifelong Learner
  • Be curious and ask questions.
  • Work hard.
  • Try new things.
  • Ask for help when you get stuck.

Early Release Day Professional Development

This Wednesday, September 27th is an early release day for all students. Students will be dismissed at 12:30. Staff will stay and take part in our first professional development of the year, and I’d like to take this opportunity to share some of what we will be working on...

First, a quick summary of our work from last year: Our focus last year was to begin to think about how we could become a more culturally responsive and welcoming school for all. We offered staff opportunities to learn and reflect on what it means to be culturally responsive and we also geared several of our other initiatives with the same thought in mind. These activities included: family engagement opportunities (ELL literacy morning, Title 1 discussion night, Family Buddies, etc.), examination of our book collections and expanding our libraries (classroom and school), and the creation of lessons on prejudice reduction.

This summer, a group of staff continued this effort and looked at the works of James and Cherry McGee Banks (leaders in multicultural education) as the basis for our efforts to truly become a school that reflects our student population and welcomes everyone. Below are four areas were we will continue to focus our work.
  • Content Integration/Knowledge Construction: In this domain, staff will look more closely at how the curriculum can be shaped to include a wider variety of perspectives in meaningful ways. This might mean looking at a wider range of explorers or inventors, or looking at a historical event from multiple viewpoints. Often this topic is referred to as curriculum transformation.
  • Equity Pedagogy: In this area, staff will explore how to teach using methods that take into account the diverse population of students that we serve.This will happen through early year community building activities, classroom structures and practices, and most importantly, different ways to approach instruction. Often this topic is referred to as culturally responsive teaching.
  • Prejudice Reduction: Staff members in this group will continue the work we started last year with our K-5 lesson sequence aimed exposing students to stereotypes, bias, and prejudice reduction. 
  • Empowering School Culture and Social Structure: In this domain, teachers will look at broader school issues that could include designing family workshops, assessing school appearance, looking at special ed referral rates, looking at behavior referrals and responses, and more.
Back to School/Curriculum Night

This Thursday, September 28th, we will host our annual Back to School/Curriculum Night which offers caregivers a chance to hear from the principal, the PTO and classroom teachers about our work this year. We are again offering two info sessions with classroom teachers: a K-2 session and a 3-5 session.

Importantly, this event includes childcare and pizza for all who wish to take part. Childcare will begin at 5:35 and run until 7:30. Please register using the link below to let us know about your plans:

Below is the schedule of events for the evening:

5:00pm Meeting with families in Metco program
5:15pm Pizza available for all families
5:35-6:10pm K-2 Presentations (childcare begins)
6:15-6:45pm PTO/Principal Presentations
6:50-7:25pm 3-5 Presentations (and childcare pickup for K-2)
7:30 Childcare Pickup

From the PTO

“Mixed Bag” Gift Fundraiser—starts next week!
Our first official fundraiser kicks off next week and we hope everyone will participate! Mixed Bag Designs ( offers a wide range of great gift items just in time for the holidays. Check out samples on display at Curriculum Night. Order forms will go home next week in your child’s backpack. And the best part: almost 50% of the proceeds go to the Horace Mann PTO for programming that directly benefits our kids. Mixed Bag offers bags, accessories, gift wrap, kitchen items, and more to sell to (or buy for) family and friends. This year's sale runs from October 2-18. Out-of-town family and friends will be able to order online—HM account info to come soon— so please share with all for the holiday season. We will receive the products before Hanukkah (Dec. 12). Please email with questions.

Curriculum Night—Thursday, September 28
Our next big school event is Curriculum Night. This is a great opportunity to hear from principal Mark Nardelli on the Horace Mann school philosophy, meet teachers and hear more about their classroom environment/curriculum. You will also hear from the PTO Board on programs and events for you to participate in throughout the year. Please come prepared to pay dues that night if not before to be entered into the raffle!

International Night – Friday, October 13, 6-7:30PM
Help celebrate the wonderful diversity of the Horace Mann community! Get out your cookbooks and prepare your taste buds for a treat. One of the most popular events of the school calendar is around the corner.
• International potluck dinner
• Country tables with food, photos and cultural items
• Multicultural music, activities and prizes
If you would like to host a country table, bring a dish, or help with the event in some other way, please contact Manisha trivedi (

PTO Dues
Dues are an important line item in the HM budget to fund many of the programs integral to the school’s curriculum (Creative Arts & Sciences, e.g.). We ask that each family contribute $50 per child at HM as your annual contribution to PTO dues. There are many ways to do this easily—website (—click on ‘support’ button), personal check, or any PTO Board Member can take credit cards. You will hear more about this on Curriculum Night – we will be raffling off an Apple Watch as well as tickets to our HM Auction or Mystery Dinner—your choice— for anyone who has contributed their dues up through the end of Curriculum Night!

School photo day is
Monday, September 25th.
Photos must be ordered online or with a form On or BEFORE September 25th in order for Horace Mann to earn a commission. Visit, and order now!

NewsNotes 9/10/2017

It has been a pleasure to see all of the excited young faces enter our building each of the first four days last week. I spent much of my time welcoming students each morning and visiting classrooms throughout the day. Based on conversations I’ve had with a sampling of students, teachers, and parents, it seems that we’ve had a successful opening to school. We spent considerable time and energy talking about how we can make the opening of school a welcoming experience, and I am hopeful that we achieved his goal. If not, I am always happy to hear suggestion about how we can improve our practice. Feel free to share your thoughts via email at

In reflecting on our opening, I want to share that as a staff we made a commitment this year to spend the month of September focusing on practices and activities that will foster a welcoming environment. While we recognize that many children truly enjoy summer, many also return to school each September with a renewed optimism and a feeling that they have a fresh start. We are making a concerted effort to capitalize on these feelings by creating opportunities for students to share who they are, to participate in learning activities that are inspiring and engaging, and to build upon the confidence students often feel early in the year. To that end, all classrooms are focusing on identity and community building activities, talking about school values, trying out new inquiry based lessons, and reviewing previously learned material. At Curriculum Night at the end of September, I will expand upon these thoughts and how it relates to our work beyond the month of September.

On a more practical side, here are some details about how to stay in touch during the school year:
NEWSNOTES: You will receive newsletters like this twice per month through our PTO mail system. There will often be important information shared here about school events, staffing, programming, etc. The same information will also be posted to the Horace Mann Blog which can be found here:

SKYWARD MESSENGER EMAILS/PHONE CALLS/TEXTS (new this year): Every so often, I will share important information about upcoming events (like placement lists or early release days). If you have never received a message from this system, please let us know…
PTO EMAILS: You can expect regular emails about school events, fundraisers, volunteer 
opportunities, etc.
TWITTER: The Horace Mann Twitter handle is @HoraceMann687. While I am not an avid Twitter user, I do post photos and videos of school performances, or articles that I think might be worth reading.
CLASSROOM COMMUNICATIONS: I expect each teacher to communicate with families on a regular basis either in hard copy, through a blog, via email, on a website or some combination. Please let me know if you feel that you are not getting information from your child’s teacher.

Finally, I’m sure that many of you (and your children) are adjusting to new routines, fall activities and crisp, dry weather (hurricanes notwithstanding). Here are a few articles that might provides some tips for managing this transition:

Please read on for some important reminders about events coming up this week!

From the PTO

Hello and welcome to the 2017/18 school year! We hope that everyone had a great summer and is excited about another fantastic year at Horace Mann. One of our main goals is to have many opportunities for families to create connections across our school community. This Fall we have a jam-packed calendar filled with fun and meaningful community-building events. See our latest calendar at

Each year we strive to create a rich experience for our students and families and we need your support to make this happen. Whether it is volunteering for a couple of hours or leading a committee, your involvement makes the Horace Mann stronger as a community school. See our latest Committee/Chairperson list on our PTO website at

Please do not hesitate to contact any board member about getting involved or with questions, thoughts and suggestions. Your voice and involvement will help us build upon our strengths and bring fresh ideas that will benefit all HM families!

Co-Presidents: Jacqueline Freeman and Adam Brown
VPs: Sharon Russo and Jess Schiefer
Co-Treasurers: Megan Anapolle and Jon Mendicina
Secretary: Susannah Wardly

Specialist/PTO Open House (a new event!)—Tuesday, September 12, 6:15 p.m.
This event was created in direct response to feedback from you! Parents want to know more about what our specialists do as well as how the PTO operates/what we focus on—so we created an event that will do both! Please join staff from Special Ed, ESL, Literacy, and Specialists (Art, Music, PE, Library) to get to know them and hear about their wonderful programming. And PTO Board members will be at the ready to tell you more about what we do and how you can get involved. Look forward to seeing you there!

Back-to-School Picnic—Thursday, September 14, 5-7 p.m.
We hope to see you all at the Back-to-School Picnic on Thursday, September 14 at 5:00pm. This is a casual and fun way to reconnect with old friends and meet some new Horace Mann families. There is nothing formal here--people congregate in the field behind HM with chairs, blankets and dinner for their families. And all will enjoy DJ/games and free ice cream from Cabot’s!

Curriculum Night—Thursday, September 28
After the picnic, our next big school event is Curriculum Night. This is a great opportunity to hear from principal Mark Nardelli speak about the Horace Mann school philosophy, meet teachers and hear more about their classroom environment/curriculum. You will also hear from the PTO Board on programs and events for you to participate in throughout the year. Please come prepared to pay dues that night if not before to be entered into the raffle!

PTO Dues

Dues are an important line item in the HM budget to fund many of the programs integral to the school’s curriculum (e.g. Creative Arts & Sciences). We ask that each family contribute $50 per child at HM as your annual contribution to the PTO. Simply visit myschoolanywhere or and click on the ‘Support’ button to pay by credit card or pay by check (to above board members). You will hear more about this on Curriculum Night (below) – we will be raffling off an Apple Watch and tickets to this year's Mystery Dinner and Spring Auction - and all you have to do to enter is contribute your dues by the end of Curriculum Night!

Welcome Back Letter to Families 2017-2018

August 20th, 2017

Dear Horace Mann Families,

I hope that this letter finds you well as we enter the latter part of August and begin to turn our attention to the start of a new school year.  As always, summer goes by far too quickly, with the first part of July being tied up with transitions and adjustment to a new (more sane) pace of life. When August arrives our attention as educators almost immediately turns to the upcoming school year.   The Nardelli family did get to relax a little by mid-July.  Our big trip this year was to Quebec where we got to participate in a blend of culture and outdoor adventure.  One highlight for my two daredevils (Julia-12 and Alora-6) was climbing the rocks and ziplining with their dad over Canyon De St. Anne.   We also spent time in Old Quebec and visited the breathtaking Montmorency Falls Park. I highly recommend visiting if you have a chance.  Eliana (14) will be entering high school in a few weeks, and spent time in summer school getting ready for this big change.  She hopes to join the high school gymnastics team this year.  Vincent, who will be two in October, hit a few milestones this summer: he learned to climb out of his crib (at 5:00 am most days this summer), will only drink from a cup without a lid (inevitably spilling everything all over the place), and currently sings “Hakuna Matata” at least 5 times a day.  My wife Christine and I celebrated our 16th anniversary, did some summer cleaning and built a small gravel patio out back.  We are now collectively dreading the return to our busy fall schedule of work, soccer, gymnastics, making lunches, daycare, and more!

Summer is also a time for reflection and learning, and I spent considerable time thinking and reading about our work for the upcoming year (a more detailed explanation will be forthcoming).  I had a chance to take an online course on cultural proficiency and read a few books on related topics: Multicultural Education by James Banks, and Dog Whistle Politics by Ian Haney-Lopez.

It is hard to ignore the relevance of our work given the current atmosphere in our nation.  I find myself truly troubled by the events of Charlottesville and the implications for where we stand as a country.   It further strengthens my resolve as a parent and as school leader to ensure that we are doing all we can to teach each other and our students to listen, to be kind, to be compassionate, and to appreciate all that a diverse community has to offer.  

If you need any guidance on how to talk to your children, the following article is helping in  addressing the events of Charlottesville. It could also be helpful in talking more broadly about race.  

I look forward to hearing about your adventures and your learning as well...

Moving on to more practical matters, I have several updates about the upcoming year:

Staffing/Programming News -

  • In mid-July, after getting married, Kate Blanchard shared that she had an opportunity to work closer to her new home, and made the decision to leave Horace Mann for another district. Thank you to Kate for her work and we wish her the best of luck. With Kate’s departure, we almost immediately embarked on the process of hiring a new first grade teacher.   Several staff participated in the interview process and collectively we interviewed eight candidates with a diverse array of backgrounds and levels of experience.  In the end we selected Allison Rose.   Allison has spent the last three years teaching first grade in a private school setting.  Prior to that, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education & Graphic Design at Stonehill College, and this summer completed her Master’s degree from Lesley University as a Specialist Teacher of Reading.  Allison’s demeanor, her work ethic, her thoughtfulness about creating a classroom community, and her strong references helped to formulate what we felt would be a good fit for our team.

  • This year, Horace Mann did not qualify as a Title 1 School (we were 5th on the list in terms of socioeconomic measures).  This reality has a few significant implications for staffing and funding of initiatives.  First,  Sara McSwiggan, will now split her time between Horace Mann and Lincoln-Eliot, doing some combination of Reading Recovery and LLI.   In addition,  Ellen Kelner will be moving on to Lincoln-Eliot. Many thanks to Ellen for her years of service at HM.  We wish her well.  Finally, we will no longer have additional funds to use for homework club, or other extended day activities.  We will need to decide as a school how to move forward with some of these activities.

  • Welcome Back to Carol Oldmixon.  She will return to 4th grade after taking a year at home to support her family.

  • Nicole Levasseur is officially moving into the BCBA role.  She will service the BCBA needs for the entire building, working four days per week.  Nicole has worked for many years as a behavior therapist at Horace Mann and in other Newton Schools,  while doing BCBA work in an unofficial capacity.   Nicole will bring her considerable expertise and energy to the role.

  • Barbara Kwan, ELL teacher at Franklin the last four years, will be joining our team for the fall.  Barbara comes to us as a well respected colleague, collaborator, and educator.  

  • Holly St. Peter will be coming on board as our new team specialist. Holly has been a licensed school psychologist since 2008 and comes with experience across multiple grade levels in a variety of settings. She has extensive experience with the special ed evaluation process, writing behavior plans, conducting FBAs, running social groups, etc.  Most recently she has worked to create a program at Brookline High School for students with emotional disabilities.  Holly will be working 4 days per week in the team specialist role.  

  • Anna Cox will be joining our special education team as inclusion facilitator.  Anna spent last year at Peirce under the guidance of Kara Smith and came to us as a well regarded applicant.  Anna has had a range of experiences with students on the spectrum, as well those with social/emotional and behavioral challenges.  Anna will join Katie Deehan and Siobhan Mikolajewski on our special ed team.

  • Daniela Gentile will be moving into the Behavior Intervention role this fall.  Daniela impressed the interview committee with her thoughtful answers, her understanding of the challenges of the job, and her ideas about how to move the program forward.  I also had Daniela spend a day as the behavior interventionist last spring, and during that time, she took initiative, connected with students, and managed a variety of circumstances effectively.  This summer, she also attended a 3 day behavior workshop with several other staff.  Finally, congratulations to Daniela on her wedding this summer!

  • Congratulations to inclusion facilitator, Siobhan Mikolajewski.  She gave birth to Fiona Maggie Mikolajewski on July 28th, weighing in at just over 7 lbs.  Siobhan  will be on maternity leave until the end of October.  I am in the final stages of naming a long term sub to fill in for Siobhan in her absence.

  • Al Zellman is our new night custodian and began at Horace Mann midsummer.  He has most recently been at Zervas and lives close to the HM neighborhood. It didn’t take long to see that he will fit right in at HM.  Al is thoughtful, hard working, flexible, thorough, and willing to provide teachers with  the support they need.

Other new staff:
  • Darlene Watkins (inclusion assistant in K) - Darlene has worked in Title 1 Summer Success, has been a Metco Bus monitor, and has worked in a variety of capacities within the Newton Schools.

  • Catherine Doherty (BT) - Catherine has spent the last two years working at Brown Middle School in the inclusion program and is interested in furthering her education by enrolling in a BCBA program. Catherine will be working as a BT in Kindergarten.

  • Ashley Mosley (BT) - Ashley has worked in Brookline as a paraprofessional and as an ABA therapist for students on the autism spectrum for the past two years.  

Calendar - The PTO and I discussed a possible change to the calendar this year that will impact Back To School Night.  First, the PTO would like to have a separate PTO open house on Tuesday, September 12th to talk about the role of the PTO and encourage parents to sign up for volunteer work.  In addition, we thought it might be a good chance for specialists and all non-classroom staff to be available for a more in-depth meet and greet.  As a staff we still need to work out what this might look like.  More details to follow.

Placement -   Placement information will go out to families next Friday, August 25th.  Sometime after noon, I will send placements out electronically via email and also post class lists on the front and rear doors of the school.  

Facilities -  We had no major changes to our building this summer, but we did have lots of classroom assignment changes.  As always, please take a few minutes to thank Bill Pepicelli and Al Zelmann.  They did a great job managing camp and limiting access to the building. We had lots of room changes and as a result, there was a lot of moving of furniture and shifting of storage, in addition to the normal cleaning and polishing that had to get done.  The building is looking great for the arrival of the children.  Thanks again for all you do!!!

School Supplies - If you participated in the school supply program last spring, kits are scheduled to arrive soon and will be distributed to classrooms prior to the first day of school.  If you chose not to participate, a copy of each grade’s supply list is posted on the Horace Mann website at  You can take advantage of sales and buy the items on your own.  Please be sure to send your child into school with these supplies ready to start a great year of learning. The PTO can sponsor any student for whom the purchase of supplies would create a financial hardship. Please contact me for information.
The school calendar has been integrated into our website and will be updated regularly.  You can access the calendar at this link:  You can also follow us on Twitter @HoraceMann687.

Teaching Assignments for the 2017-2018 School Year

K - Bonzey, Ferland, Seyferth
1 - Chatfield, Gower, Rose
2 - Bartley, Lewis, Sandison
3 - Bard, Harris, Rosen
4 - Berardi/Fischer, Hoover, Oldmixon
5 - Akdag/Dias, Feldstein, Moore
Important Dates

August 29th at 5pm -  K Playdate* (please note that this is a PTO event, teachers will not be present)
September 5th - 1st Day of School - Grades 1- 5 and Group A Kindergartners
September 6th - 1st Day of School - Group B Kindergartners
September 12th - PTO Open House
September 14th - Back to School Picnic
September 21st - No School - Rosh Hashanah
September 25th - School Picture Day
September 27th - Early Release Day
September 28th - Back to School/Curriculum Night