It is always a challenge at this very busy time of year to take time to pause and consider all that is going on around us. As families, I know we are all juggling a lot: a rise in Covid cases, spring sports, milestone events, etc. I consider how fortunate I am to have a healthy family, to be able to go on a Kindergarten field trip to the Zoo with Vincent, to watch Alora compete in her weekend soccer games, to help Eliana reset and find a new passion after her college experience didn’t quite work out, or take photos with Julia as she heads off to Junior Prom. All of these are important moments…and I know that I don’t always take the time to truly appreciate them.
And then I lay my own fortune against the backdrop of the things that are going on in the world. It was so sad and discouraging to see the headlines in the news about the shooting in Buffalo, NY, where black and brown people were again targeted by a racist and hateful person under the banner of white supremacy. I think about this hateful rhetoric on the national stage and the impact in our own community. We are again reminded how important it is to provide support for each other here at Horace Mann, in particular for our students, families and educators of color, as we continue to build trust and foster a sense of belonging within our communities.
In times like these, I tend to focus on what we can control, and for me, that centers on reinforcing what kind of school community we want to have at Horace Mann. The ideas we’ve been trying to teach in our school community are pretty simple: BE KIND to one another, BE OPEN MINDED to the experiences of others, and ACCEPT OTHERS for who they are. These are not ideas that are hard to understand, nor do I think they are too much to ask. However, in light of the events in the news, there are days when I wonder if we are doing enough to support and live these ideas. While we all make a concerted effort to create a welcoming, inclusive and culturally responsive community, we do have instances where students make unkind comments or judgments about peers because of their gender expression, religious practices, socio-economic status, or any number of other topics. I don't know that I always handle things the right way, but I like to think that our goals are focused on the right things: to have our students talk to one another in a way that allows for an exchange of perspectives, to acknowledge the impact of our actions, to learn from our mistakes, and to learn compassion, kindness and grace. By doing this work, I sincerely hope that we are moving towards a time when the vast majority of our young people will demonstrate kindness, practice compassion and lift people up, both on a personal level and in the systems that provide structure to our society.
My commitment to all of you is that this work will continue. Thank you as always for your support as parents and caregivers in this effort.
Kindergarten Announcement - For those of you unaware of the news, I wanted to share that Lisa Seyferth has made the decision to retire at the end of this school year. Lisa began her career at Horace Mann in 1988 and notwithstanding a short stint in 2nd grade, she has been a kindergarten teacher for over 30 years. And not just ANY kindergarten teacher...but a legendary expert at her craft.
I’ve been lucky to know Lisa for the past twelve years; she is truly an exceptional educator. Lisa has always been able to prioritize the things she knows will help children to grow and learn, regardless of the elusive and cyclical trends in early childhood education. She is one of the best I’ve ever seen at helping students to grow their independence in every aspect of kindergarten life. This includes learning and following routines, learning letter sounds, identifying geometric shapes, drawing the life cycle of a chicken, or writing an opinion about some way to improve our school. She also is amazing at teaching students how to navigate social interactions, share materials, develop self advocacy skills, and be a good friend. All things that prove to be essential and lifelong skills.
Most of my favorite moments in her classroom focus on the opportunities she provides for students to be creative. This year’s group created a mouse mansion where each child designed and built one room in the mansion, complete with furniture, upholstery, appliances, and tiny little mice. "Amazing" doesn't even begin to capture the essence of this project. In the past, her kindergartners have also created instruments and spaceships out of recycled materials, populated a classroom haunted house, created paper floral bouquets, or made their own kites and flew them out on the field. Lisa has always fostered and encouraged her students to explore and be curious, to ask questions, to imagine, and to be kind and responsible citizens. I can’t imagine what else anyone could ask for in a kindergarten experience.
While we wish Lisa the best in her retirement, she will be greatly missed here at Horace Mann. Her practical and sensible philosophy on early childhood education, her in-depth understanding of child development, and her crafty/creative spirit, have been a gift to our school community and to the hundreds of children who she has been able to teach and influence in such a positive way. Best wishes to Lisa on her journey.
Literacy Intervention - An update regarding our literacy intervention team for next year. These changes come about as a result of the budget cuts this spring.
Sara McSwiggan’s literacy position has been reduced to an overall 0.5 FTE at HM.
Citywide coordinator roles have shifted and some of the shifts have a direct impact on intervention at HM.
Alan Ripp (Social Studies Coordinator with OG certification) - will be .25 at HM (roughly 8-9 hours per week) and will likely support K and 1 students.
Joelle Pederson (Middle School ELA coordinator) - will also be .25 at HM and will likely support grade 2 and grade 3 students.
Next Public Meeting - The next meeting of the Horace Mann School Building Committee and Community is on Thursday, May 26th, at 6:00pm, and you can register in advance with the following link:
Update from Josh Morse and the last Public Meeting, which took place on May 5th.
We had a great meeting last night. David Stephen from New Vista kicked things off with a review of the Horace Mann Staff Visioning Session which included the feedback provided by the staff, and a summary of the primary goals and objectives that were generated from that session. Then Gene and Christine went through the presentation in a way that started to tie in some of those goals, objectives, and visions.
We reviewed the opportunities and challenges associated with the "F" options and "D" options. Although no vote was taken, we did decide to give Gene and team the green light to focus their attention on the "D" options that place the primary addition in the bowl. In the end, the folks at NPS, Public Buildings, RDA, and the members of the HMSBC all saw for more opportunities and less challenges with the "D" options, and there were no measurable advantages from a school program standpoint with the "F" options.
We also provided RDA with some additional nuanced direction in that we want them to try and find a way to create the collaborative spaces that help create clustered grade level communities within the existing building if possible, but if not they may consider a small addition to the south east end of the academic bar if that's needed to achieve this goal. This will be something that RDA will continue to study and present options on.
The decision to focus on the "D" options also simplifies the impacts to the site, and it allows Jade from Terraink to focus her attention on how to optimize our site plan from a landscape design perspective.
Alex gave us an update on the recent Owner's Project Manager, OPM, submission of proposals. We received proposals from the following six OPM's:
Atlantic Construction & Management, Inc
These are all great OPM firms, so we're in a very good position. The Designer Selection Committee is tentatively scheduled to meet on May 17th to shortlist the firms, and on May 24th to conduct interviews. We will share the meeting invitations as soon as they are available.
Honor Thy Teacher Program - As the end of the school year approaches, you may be wondering how best to thank the special teachers and staff who have taught and nurtured your children since September. Please consider participating in Newton Schools Foundation’s (NSF) Honor Thy Teacher program, which provides a way to simultaneously recognize our faculty and support our schools while complying with theNewton Public Schools Gift Policy.
When you donate to Honor Thy Teacher, NSF will
Notify honored teachers and staff of your gift
Share honoree names with the Superintendent’s office and individual school principals
List all honored teachers and staff on the NPS website
Deliver to all honored staff a Certificate of Honor and Honoree commemorative magnet
By donating to NSF, you are not only acknowledging teachers on a personal level but also providing rich professional development opportunities for them, and supplementing the existing enrichment opportunities that the district provides. The funds raised through Honor Thy Teacher fund new approaches in the classroom, teachers’ professional development, and programs addressing inequities, which collectively impact schoolchildren across all grade levels. Read about the programs NSF funds.
Thank you for considering this opportunity to support Newton’s teachers.
From the PTO
Follow us on Facebook and Instagram!
There is a lot going on as we wrap up the school year! Read on for important info and ways to join the PTO. Follow us on social media for more updates: @hmannpto (Instagram) and Horace Mann Parents Group (Facebook). You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mystery Backyard Gather & Chill 6/4
Click here for tickets for the Mystery Backyard Gather & Chill! This is a FUN and social adult-only cocktail/appetizer gathering where you can reconnect with old friends and meet new people in the Horace Mann community while toasting and enjoying light fare. Hosts from the Horace Mann community will welcome you to gather in their backyards. The hosts and other guests at your backyard appetizer dinner destination will remain a mystery until the night of the event!
Here is how it works:
6:00pm on the evening of the event, attendees gather at one large cocktail/light fare party where you receive an envelope revealing your smaller group appetizer backyard destination.
7:30pm, everyone will proceed to their smaller group destinations. Hosts provide appetizers and beverages of all kinds.
Around 10, everyone reconvenes for dessert, coffee or additional cocktails at a new (surprise) location.
Horace Mann offers the chance to order school supplies for your students through EduKit. These kits have been put together by our Horace Mann teachers and will be delivered to your child's classroom on the first day of school. Click here to order next year's school supplies in one easy step. If you choose not to use EduKit, you will be asked to purchase these supplies and bring them to school in September.
Call for Volunteers for the PTO Board!
Help make things happen at HM!
The nine-member Executive Board of the PTO will be holding elections this month. Board members will then elect officer positions. The Board strives to promote the core values of Horace Mann, support the teachers and staff, and encourage parent involvement in the HM community. The board oversees the PTO budget, fundraising, and educational events. We meet twice a month.
If you are interested in bringing your energy, ideas and enthusiasm to this hard-working group, please submit your name for nomination to email@example.com by Friday, May 27. We are especially hoping for some candidates with fresh perspectives and/or marketing expertise. If elections are needed, we will post a list of candidates by June 1 and run elections the week of June 6. If you have any questions, please feel free to email our co-presidents, Elisabeth Zimmer, firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah Porter, email@example.com.
The great CAS program at HM needs you! This program brings artists, scientists, authors, engineers, musicians, mathematicians...and more! into each classroom three times a year.
We need a volunteer to coordinate grade K and a new chair who can shadow the current chair next fall and then take over going forward. Time commitment: Moderate, but very rewarding! 3 days per year for kindergarten. Chair attends monthly city meetings and sends periodic emails to teachers and volunteers. Email Cedar Pruitt if you can help: firstname.lastname@example.org
Food and Diaper Drive Success!
Thank you to everyone who contributed to our food and diaper drive! The Centre Street Food Pantry and Newton Neighbors Helping Neighbors were grateful for our support. Thank you to Sarah Mathewson, Caroline Perriello, and Jenn Pucci for coordinating.
Amazing Virtual Talent Show!
Wow! Horace Mann has LOTS of talent! Congratulations to all our awesome performers. Thank you to Adam Brown, Erica Sienkiewicz, and Connie Toroser for all the behind the scenes work to pull this off. You can still watch it here!
Showing Our Appreciation to HM Staff
Thank you to Kim Bourdeau and Jess Schieffer for organizing our celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week. Our teachers got daily treats including a "movie night" package of popcorn and candy bagels, lunch from Fiorella's, and a delicious breakfast. We will hold a final appreciation lunch in June. If you still want to donate, you can donate here.
Food & Culture in the Fall!
Thank you to the Food & Culture Night team, led by Shanu Mehta. We are so disappointed that we couldn't hold this awesome event this spring, but we look forward to holding it in the fall.
HM Building Committee Update
At the last meeting, the team reviewed the feedback from HM staff. The team as a whole decided to focus their attention on putting the addition in the sledding bowl. There are fewer challenges and more opportunities with that option. Per Josh Morse's notes, the team also directed the architects to include "collaborative spaces that help create clustered grade level communities within the existing building." The next meeting is Thursday, May 26.
Start at http://smile.amazon.com and set "Horace Mann Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization" as your charity. Amazon will donate to HM with every purchase.
Wondering how you can help your kids keep track of their belongings at camp or the pool this summer? Check out Stuck On You labels. Start here and 20% of your purchase benefits the PTO. They also offer stationery, bags, and other gifts.
Thanks for paying your PTO dues
The PTO has a suggested donation of $50 per student or $150 per family for our annual dues. You can pay on-line through Membership toolkit. All dues goes to the operating budget of the PTO.