Monday, November 13, 2017

NewsNotes 11/12/17

FORJ (Families Organizing for Racial Justice) - This group of families in and around Newton has organized an effort to educate parents, children, and various communities about race racism, culture and identity. The following message is an update of upcoming activities for the group at Horace Mann. For anyone interested in taking part we have two events coming up:
  • We will meet on Monday, November 20 at 7pm. Kate Carpenter will host at her home on 67 Prescott Avenue in Newton. We'll get to know each other, talk about our ideas, and how we can best support Mark Nardelli and the HM staff as they learn and teach about racial awareness, bias, and privilege. 
  • In addition, we're trying out an article/podcast discussion group on racial awareness and privilege for parents and guardians to connect, open up and learn, too. Our first meeting is Tuesday, December 12 at Horace Mann - check out the materials and RSVP here:

Empathy and Cultural Humility - I came across the following article and felt it was worth sharing. Much of our conversation centers around the idea when we are willing hear each other’s stories, we are more likely to reach out to be helpful to and inclusive of others. The attached article points to several tools that are worth exploring as adults:

Next Generation MCAS
 - If you have a child in 4th, 5th grade (or 6th grade), you should have received individual results for your child’s MCAS scores from the spring of 2017.  I wanted to share a few details about the current status of standardized testing:

  • Over the past several years, standardized testing has been in a state of flux.  We’ve had the original version of MCAS, PARCC (both online and on paper versions), and most recently the Next Generation MCAS. 
  • For each version, the questions and format have evolved.  As I have always maintained, we do not teach to the test.  Each year, as the state releases more test questions, we will do our best to help students anticipate the kinds of questions they can expect to see.
  • The results, which don’t come to us until 6 months after the test is given, are generally not helpful in making instructional decisions for individual students.  Instead, we rely on assessments that are given throughout the year to provide us with information about students’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • MCAS results can be helpful in looking for patterns within a specific topic or instructional area. For example, if a large number of students do poorly on Number Sense questions, we can look at classroom instruction in that area.
  • Real estate agencies typically use test scores as a major factor in helping families decide whether a school is high functioning.  For Horace Mann, we were a 9 (out of 10) two years ago, a 7 last year, and an 8 this year.  Despite the different scores, our approach and our philosophy really hasn't changed, and the scores can only indicate a portion of what is working or not working in a school.  Keep in mind that there are other important variables that need to be considered in assessing how well a school functions.  These variables include school climate, attitudes towards social emotional learning, commitment to values and priorities, efforts to promote citizenship, etc.  
  • For more information about MCAS and the dilemma schools face as standardized tests have evolved, click on the following link to a recent article in the Boston Globe:
If you have individual questions about your child’s scores, please reach out to me and/or your child’s teachers to get a better sense of where the scores fit in with the larger picture.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NewsNotes 11/5/2017

Ready, Set, Go! Day - Thank you to David Tynes for bringing back this annual event.  Activities such as “Jump the Sock” and “Ball Factory” present students with a challenge that requires concentration,  teamwork and encouragement.  My favorite aspect of the event is watching the kids cheer for one another as they “Scale the Wall"...congrats to all.
CAS: Mitali Perkins - 4th grade students were treated to a visit by renowned author Mitali Perkins, who has written a number of wonderful books that focus on doing going in the world and overcoming adversity of some sort.  In her presentation, Mitali talked about cultural differences between those we know of in the Unite States vs. those of her parents' upbringing in India.  Topics included food, marriage, clothing, and more.  For more info about Mitali Perkins and her work, click here:
Special Ed Workshop - The district is offering a workshop session that talks about the basics of special education.  If you are interested, the session will take place as follows:
  • November 8, 2017: Basic Rights in Special Education, Ruth Diaz, FCSN (Federation for children with special needs), 7-9 pm, Room 210, 100 Walnut Street, Newton, 02460.

Food Service Feedback - Food Service wants to hear from you! Please share your food service experience so that the NPS food service department can improve service, address any issues of concern, and make changes that create a more positive experience for students and families. The survey should take no more than 5 minutes and gives very important feedback!

School Health Update - Communicating with the School Nurse

In order for the school nurse to be as well prepared as possible to care for students coming to the health room, it is helpful to have the “big picture” perspective for each child. Parents and guardians should know they have an open invitation to communicate with the school nurse both about physical changes such as significant illness, hospitalization, injury, and medication (even if not taken at school), and about social and emotional changes.
Examples include changes in the family structure such as a new sibling, parental separation, illness/death in the family or a parent traveling. It is also helpful for the nurse to know if a student is having trouble adjusting to school or if a parent is concerned about bullying or classroom issues.
The goal for the school nurse is to keep students in school whenever possible. This “big picture” kind of information, along with phone calls for parent consultation, is helpful to achieve this goal.
Additional tips for communicating with the school nurse:
  • For urgent or time-sensitive matters, please call. Occasionally there is a substitute nurse who cannot access the email of the regular school nurse.
  • Parents should drop off medication directly to the school nurse instead of sending it with the student.
  • Keep contact information such as cell phone and work phone numbers updated.
Let’s keep in touch to meet the needs of your child.
To reach the Horace Mann School Nurse, Elissa Matloff, please call her at 617-559-9522 or email her at Elissa_Matloff@newton.K12.MA.US.

Responsive Home Workshops - The workshops below are provided for all parents and caregivers who would like to expand their toolbox for managing behavior at home.  I highly recommend the sessions.

From the PTO

SAVE THE DATE: Mystery Dinner—February 3, 2018—calling all hosts!
Our 2018 Mystery Dinner is Saturday, February 3, 2018 and we need hosts!!  Those of you who have been a part of the Mystery Dinner in previous years know how much fun it is.  It's a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances, meet new friends, and connect with other HM parents; all while enjoying delicious food and supporting the school. Please consider opening your home for a dinner.

For those who need more info, a quick snapshot of the night:

It begins with a cocktail hour (6:30pm) where all attendees go to receive their dinner location and a list of people in their dining party.  Parties will then split up and go to their hosts' houses and enjoy a special dinner from 8:00-9:30pm.  Thereafter, all parties will reconvene at a mystery location for dessert. Being a host entails opening up your home to anywhere from 4-10 people (or more if your house can accommodate) for dinner.  You decide the theme and the menu for your party to enjoy.  Past dinners have ranged from home-cooked Italian dinners to surf & turf to Indian cuisine.  It can be as creative and involved as you wish.  It does not need to be extravagant--the point is to enjoy a good meal and to have fun! Note: it is preferred for hosts to get babysitters or have the kids at a friend's or family member's house during the dinner. If you are interested or have questions, please email Liz Kleinerman ( or Cathy Amos ( with any questions.

Bag Fundraiser—thank you!
Thanks to all of those who participated in our first official HM fundraiser! We raised more than $3,000!  We hope you enjoy the Mixed Bag Designs products and enjoy using them this coming holiday season.  You can expect your order to deliver in early December. And thank you to Greta Ryan for coordinating the fundraising efforts!!  Any questions, please contact Greta at

PTO Dues
Thank you to families that have paid their dues to date—we are off to a great start!  Half of HM families have contributed their dues and we appreciate it!  As a reminder, dues 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 ‘PTO Dues’ button), personal check, or any PTO Board Member can take credit cards. 

Mrs. Karam read around the camp fire at the book fair.

Thank you to everyone who shopped and supported the Book Fair. Co-chairs Megan Anapolle and Jacqueline Freeman are proud to report that sales went up 30% over last year. On the night of the Book Fair the PTO placed more than $4,500 worth of books directly into the classrooms. We are proud of everyone's efforts. Keep reading!