Thursday, March 22, 2018

Screenagers Event - Registration Info

Dear HM Families,

We are thrilled to present SCREENAGERS: Growing Up in the Digital Age, a documentary about the biggest parenting issue of our time.

Are you watching kids scroll through life, with their rapid-fire thumbs and a six-second attention span? Physician and filmmaker Delaney Ruston saw that happening with her own kids and began a quest to uncover how it might impact their development. As with her other two award-winning documentaries on mental health, Ruston takes a deeply personal approach as she probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including her own, to explore struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. Through poignant, and unexpectedly funny stories, along with surprising insights from authors, psychologists, and brain scientists, SCREENAGERS reveals how tech time impacts kids’ development and also offers solutions on how adults can empower their kids to best navigate the digital world to find balance.

SCREENAGERS addresses the most pervasive parenting issue of our time head on—depicting teen struggles over social media, video games and internet addiction. The film empowers kids to best navigate the digital world and provides practical resources to help them do it.

As the father of four (two teenagers), my wife and I have many of these same struggles and welcome the opportunity to come together to talk with other parents and caregivers who could use support in addressing this important topic.  I encourage you to attend our upcoming event on March 28th at Newton North High School.  The night will include a screening of the 68 minute film followed by a discussion.

REGISTRATION IS MANDATORY IF YOU WANT TO ATTEND THIS EVENT.  Please register by clicking on this link:

Also, it is appropriate for parents and caregivers to bring their children to this event, but keep in mind that the content is geared towards students in 4th grade an above.

For more information about this film click the following link:

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Horace Mann Adult Read Aloud Event

Horace Mann Adult Read Aloud Event!

When: Thursday, March 22nd
  • 5:45-6:15 Pizza for families (provided by PTO)
  • 6:15-7:45 Adult Workshop (Childcare for students)

Where: Horace Mann School

What: Horace Mann staff will read a diverse collection of stories that address a variety of topics including world cultures, anxiety, disabilities, gender stereotypes, race, privilege, and more. After hearing one or more stories, a staff member will lead a discussion geared towards helping families read and talk with children about these topics at home.

To Attend, Please Register At:

Book list so far (more titles to come):

Dear Willie Rudd

My Brother Charlie

Same, Same But Different

After the Fall

Sparkle Boy

Last Stop on Market Street

Each Kindness

Ugly Vegetables


Staff Readers (so far)

Mr. Feldstein, Ms. Rosen, Ms. Goldstein, Ms. Akdag, Ms. Karam, Ms. Oldmixon

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Meeting with Newton School Committee and Superintendent David Fleishman

Summary of meeting with Superintendent Fleishman

Superintendent Fleishman and school committee members Margaret Albright and Bridget Ray Canada presented an update on key initiatives for the system for this year. Two topics — redistricting and moving to the Carr building on Nevada Street — were of great interest to those there. Here are some bullet points from our discussion;

  • The planned move for September, 2019, is 90 percent certain. The name of school will remain the same, Horace Mann Elementary.
  • Redistricting will be decided by September 2018 and will go into place September 2019. To get updates about the redistricting and to be able to comment on the proposed scenarios, visit  or email You can sign up there to receive email updates from the Student Area Working Group.
  • The move and the redistricting will not affect current students or their siblings. Students currently enrolled will also stay on their current track for middle school, regardless of redistricting.
  • Phase two of redistricting will look at new transportation including, buses and crossing guards.
  • The issue of whether or not we can move the playground with us is up to Parks and Rec.

Other notes from meeting:

The school committee has been dealing with facilities for years. In the last ten years, the student population has grown by 1,500.

The school committee believes the elementary level has plateaued. They have moved some district lines on the South side and are now going to adjust some lines on the North side.

Challenge for North side is that population is very dense. In addition, the schools are all close together, giving neighbors options for schools.

The goal for redistricting is to fill the new school to 90 percent capacity.

Next year’s budget is being considered, and will focus on staffing at the high school. Reinstating the library staff to full-time is not being considered for next year.

Dr. Fleishman was thanked for his support of FORJ. He mentioned how important initiatives on equity in the classroom really are, and how much effort is now going into building a systemic response to bias so that education is ongoing.

NewsNotes 2/25/2018

Welcome back from the February break! The Nardelli family spent some quality time together...we took a road trip to Montreal and spent a couple of days there (in the rain) trying to speak French (poorly), visiting museums, ice skating, and teasing Habs fans.  Vincent (2) loved the Biodome and riding the Metro, Alora (7) loved everything, and my two teenagers just wondered when we would hit the next wifi-spot (upset that I wouldn't extend their cell service beyond the US border :-).  I won't say it was a relaxing trip, but we did have some fun and got to get away from our packed weekly schedules.  I hope you all had some family time together as well.

Parent Workshop Follow Up - Thank you to all of the people who responded to our survey on family workshop topics.  We had close to 50 responses and there was strong interest in each of the four topics (with digital literacy holding the strongest interest, but not by much).  To that end, I am scheduling a couple of events:
  • Digital Literacy: I will hold a digital literacy workshop on two dates.  The goal of the sessions will be to open up discussion about screen time, to talk about how to make a family contract, and to look at some resources that can help with device management.
    • Dates:  
      • Wednesday, April 4th from 2-3pm (I’m trying out a new time option for parents)
      • Thursday, April 5th from 8:30-9:30 am
  • Rethinking Read Alouds: Combining the ideas of equity, diversity, inclusion and literacy, we will gather a collection of read alouds that focus on characters and stories that offer varied perspectives and experiences. At the workshop, we will ask teachers ( or a parent who is comfortable) to read one of the selected stories aloud to a group of 8-10 parents.  This will be followed by a discussion on how to talk about the themes in the books.  Our plan is to allow parents to attend two book talks (roughly 45 minutes each). There are a few goals associated with this idea:
    • To provide families with tools and advice on how to talk about potentially difficult topics with their children.  
    • To open caregivers up to the idea that talking about issues is an important consideration in raising our children in a diverse society (vs. taking a colorblind approach, which is how I started with my own kids). 
    • To connect parents to one another and give them a chance to discuss perspectives about a variety of issues.
    • Date: Wednesday, March 14th.  We will offer childcare and pizza and will run the actual workshop event from 6:15-7:45pm on that night.
February Assembly - Just prior to the break, we assembled as a school and focused on the topic - "Making Mistakes”.  In all aspects of our work in school, students are learning…they are learning how to treat one another with kindness, how to solve math problems in a new way, how to write to inform or persuade an audience, how to convert one type of energy into another, etc.  For many students, failure, or making mistakes, can be a huge deterrent to learning and trying new things.  We are trying to flip that thinking. At the assembly, we focused on the idea that the brain is like a muscle, and that failure and mistakes are an essential part of learning.  When we fall off a bicycle, we gradually learn to adjust our balance; when we hurt someone's feelings, we can learn about another person's perspective; when we play the wrong note on the violin, we can practice until our brain helps our muscles to fine tune our movements.  The same goes for a math problem or beating a tough level in a video game. The key is accept the idea that the brain actually benefits from mistakes, failures, and challenges.  Each time we fail, we learn.  Each time we make a mistake, we learn. Gradually, as we learn to overcome those challenges, our brain becomes "stronger" and better able to handle future obstacles. Over the next month, we will be focusing on the benefits of making mistakes.  If you’d like to help out at home, here’s an article that has some effective stories and some simple strategies:

Annual PTO/School Committee/Superintendent VisitEach year, Superintendent David Fleishman and members of the School Committee visit each school, inviting parents in to hear important district updates as well as a chance to ask questions.  We will also be talking about the Carr school move.
This year’s event will be in the evening on Tuesday, February 27th at 6:30 pm in our music/afterschool space.  All are welcome.

School Safety - In light of the heightened concerns we all feel around school safety,  I wanted to devote some space to sharing with you some details about our current safety plans, and also to share some resources.
First, each school has a safety team, which meets regularly to talk about emergency scenarios, to practice using the defibrillator, to plan for regularly scheduled drills, and to reflect on how we could do things more effectively.
Second, here is a summary of the drills we run at all of our schools in Newton:
  1. Evacuation drill - These drills are the typical drills we all had growing up.  The fire alarm sounds and we evacuate the building to a safe distance. Examples of when we might use this procedure could include a fire or a leak of some kind. We have also arranged with the Boys and Girls club and Day Middle School to evacuate to another site if we need to be out of the building for more than a few minutes.  
  2. Shelter-in-place - For these drills, we confirm that all of the entrances are locked, and we keep children inside the building. An example of when we might use this procedure is when there is police activity in the neighborhood.  Last week’s criminal activity in Auburndale/West Newton was a recent instance of when this procedure would be called for.  For events such as the one that occurred last week, I alert teachers to what is going on, but we do not tell children.  All activity within the school appears to be completely normal.
  3. Lockdown - For this procedure, we initiate a process over the intercom whereby all students and staff are required to move immediately into a locked classroom space.  We make use of a newly installed radio system to alert emergency personnel, who know to respond to an imminent threat within the school building.  Because of the frightening nature of this drill, we practice these procedures with staff more often that we do with students (which is only once per year).   
After events like the most recent attack in Florida, I know that we all worry (as parents, as school employees, and as citizens) about our level of preparation, about the effectiveness of our procedures, and of course, about the broader conversation regarding gun violence and safety in schools and other public places.  I know that many high school students nationwide are becoming more active in urging adults to come up with some solutions, and I know there are events scheduled that call for school participation.  I don’t know what role (if any) our school should play in this, but I will be raising the topic at our administrative meetings, which meet virtually every week. I will keep you posted. 
Finally, if you questions about how to talk to children about these issues, here are a couple of resources:
Feel free to let me know if you have questions.


Mark Nardelli

NewsNotes 2/5/2018

February 7th Early Release: This coming WEDNESDAY is an EARLY RELEASE for ALL STUDENTS.   For staff professional development, we will continue our equity work and the importance of our own learning about building a culturally responsive school environment.  My belief is that the more we can hear about the real life experiences of students (from a variety of perspectives), the more insight we gain into how our school and our classroom practices can support the growth and learning of everyone.  To that end, for this two hour window, we will have a group of 15 or more Newton North High School students come to Horace Mann to talk to us about their experiences attending the Newton schools.  This panel will share monologues and answer questions from staff.  Our hope is to hear not only the negative or challenging experiences, but also the moments and efforts that helped these students to feel valued, connected and supported.  For those of you interested in seeing last year’s students speaking as part of the Monologue Project, please click on the following link:

Parent Workshop Survey:  We will be hosting a parent workshop on March 1st.  Please save the date.  Prior to this event, we would like to get some input from the community about the content for this workshop.  Please click on the following link to complete a 2 minute survey:
We will compile the data and create a workshop plan prior to the February break.

FORJ - Families Organizing for Racial Justice: is a Newton-wide group created by district parents. At Horace Mann, we want to support and build on the work being done by our principal and teachers to recognize privilege and develop an approach to diversity and inclusion work that enables all HM students, staff and families to feel that they belong.
Parents and guardians of students at Horace Mann Elementary School are invited to come to the school on Monday, February 12 from 7-9pm to discuss videos on racial identity, and how we teach our children about social justice and to stand up for one another. This is a parent-led initiative. Your suggestions for discussion materials for future sessions are welcome! Send them to
Here’s the link to RSVP for the event:

Annual PTO/School Committee/Superintendent Visit: Each year, Superintendent David Fleishman and members of the School Committee visit each school, inviting parents to hear important district updates as well as have a chance to ask questions.
This year’s event will be in the evening on Tuesday, February 27th at 6:30 pm in our music/afterschool space.  All are welcome.

Snow Removal Feedback:  The following message is from Caleb McDermott who is reaching out on behalf of Emily Norton of the Newton City Council. On January 28th, Emily posted a poll regarding Sidewalk Snow Removal in Newton. As of last week, over 500 Newton residents have responded with their opinion.
Please help Newton’s constituents and government by spreading the word about the opportunity to voice opinions on this issue. Attached a live link to the poll:
Participate in the Newton Poll:

Responsive Home Workshop:  If you would like to expand your toolbox for how to manage your child’s behavior at home, Newton is offering a free workshop on Wednesday, February 7th from 6:30-8:30 pm in room 210 at the Ed Center on Walnut St.