Year 6: 2013-2014
Week beginning April 1, 2014
(Introduction to the Superintendent Journal)
April 15, 2015. Preschool Robotics, Film Festival Update, Teaching Positions for 2014-2015, Kindergarten Enrollment
It’s true. There really is a curriculum for preschool robotics. We are now offering group lessons with Bee-Bots. Something new and apparently wildly successful for children three and four years old. These are little robots for children that look like little yellow bees with big eyes. The faculty at the Academy of Early Learning are having fun with these kits after one of our teachers brought the idea back from a conference. We just wrote and sent off today a $3,300 grant to provide teachers more Bee-Bots and additional training to integrate preschool learning goals into these fun, small-group activities.
Film Festival Update
In our 4th year, the high school auditorium was almost full at Greenfield’s Student Film Festival 2014. It seems like the audience had 550 to 600 people attending. We showed 33 student films. The audience was terrific—attentive while films were shown and engaged with students while they described their films. Hats off to Greenfield teachers for their creativity with class films this year. The audience award went to Ms. Rancourt’s class version of “What Does the Teacher Say?”—a take-off of the U-Tube favorite “What Does the Fox Say?” The audience loved it.
As soon as I can, I’ll post some of the films from this year’s festival. They were amazing. It was lovely to see so many teachers with their students, supporting their film efforts. And so many parents with their students—even on a Friday night! I’ll try to post films this week.
Teaching Positions for 2014-2015
Now it starts—positions opening for next year. We need:
- 2-3 teachers for grades 5 and 4
- 2 teachers grades 1 or 2
- 2 technology teachers for grades K-7 (one fills a leave of absence)
- 1 English teacher, middle school
- a ½-time preschool teacher
- 2 special education teachers, elementary, behavioral specialty
- a ½-time reading or experienced elementary teacher (needed now, actually)
- 1 building monitor, Greenfield High School (we need one more for 2014-2015)
Seems to me this is a great time to join the Greenfield Schools.
We now have 100 children registered for kindergarten for next year. At this time last year, we had approx. 78 children registered. We prioritize favorable staffing for this young age group with 18-20 children per class and each class has an assistant for as much time as needed. Next year all of our kindergartens will have interactive technology—SMART Boards—because we will bring quite a few SMART Boards from the high school into our elementary schools so every room is outfitted. In fact, all of our principals have toured the current 1957 high school and have tagged everything they need or want so when “take it out” day happens later in the year, many items from the high school will be relocated to other schools. And then, as you know, a portion of the high school will be demolished and students will move into their new classrooms and library. Exciting, but still a lot of logistical work, assuring everything is packed and moved just at the right moment, on schedule.
Friday, April 11, 2014: A Great Visit to GHS; Acts of Kindness; Free Lunch for All Students at Two Schools, and FILM FESTIVAL 2014!
Friday was a great day from the very beginning to the very end. I started my day at the high school.
Pulling in, I stared at the new high school building. Greenfield students will be in the new building in September. It startled me for a moment, thinking about all the work that went into this project that is now nearly half completed. Years of work, thousands of words, hundreds of pieces of paper, dozens of meetings—so many different people involved during the exacting planning and petitioning and clarifying. And there it was, finally, right before my eyes—this very large, light-filled, heat-working, windows-closing building almost built. Greenfield students will, this September, have a functional and modern school building. The 8th-grade Academy has its own section. It seemed unbelievable that the high school was happening. A 5:1 vote of support from community voters—parents who came to the voting booth with a small child in hand. Seniors who voted because they new the current high school had windows blowing in and heat pipes bursting in the floor. What an accomplishment for Greenfield and its education future.
Entering the high school office, a row of bewildered students were standing at the front counter. They had been called down to the office. And they looked just like students look when they are waiting to find out what they did that was wrong. But then Associate Principals Gaffigan and Heathwaite told them they were receiving awards! (I could see “Really?” on their faces). New “Random Acts of Kindness” awards were presented, recognizing these students for doing something thoughtful. How great is it that GHS administrators took time to create these new awards and then recognize students who did something kind or helpful? Maybe 15 awards were given to the surprised students.
Then I pinned on a rainbow ribbon from a bowl of ribbons and pins on the high school counter. It was a pledge of solidarity with gay and transgender students. We have been trying to establish a club at GHS to support gay students. This year’s club is visible, successful, and active—helping to raise everyone’s awareness that our world and our school system is made of people with different backgrounds and ways of living their lives.
Back to the central office to congratulate Bernie Novak, head of food services, for getting us Free-Lunch-For-All-Students at Federal Street Elementary School and Newton Elementary School. I thought we could qualify throughout the entire school system, but the middle school and high school just miss qualifying by a few percentage points. There is one more possibility for these schools being included and I am hopeful but it is a long-shot, apparently.
Another change in the food department is our snack program at Newton, Greenfield Middle School, and its Math and Science Academy. And the change is healthier snacks. Fruit, yogurt, and veggies with different healthy dips. No more sugary anything. It took a while to get this in place based on school committee determination, but now it is in place and students are eating the healthier foods (and the snack is free to students through the federal food program, which allows $0.80/cents/day per student).
Greenfield’s Student Film Festival is tonight. There are many types of student activities and programs in schools. Very few schools organize a film festival, though. And most schools that have a film festival profile high school student films. The Greenfield Schools film festival is quite unusual because we have students films from students as young as five years old.
I hope people attend and support our students.
Thursday, April 03, 2014 & Catching Up: ELT Grant, New No-Fee Lunch Program, Summer Professional Development, Enrollment Projections, Film Festival Friday Night! Visit to Federal Street Elementary School. Composting Grant. Superintendent Meeting
If you lose the rhythm of writing on a daily basis it’s difficult to pick it up again, but there is so much happening I’ll try to catch up.
ELT (Expanded Learning Time) Grant
Principal Gary Tashjian is the lead administrator working with me and others on the Expanded Learning Time grant. This is the $800,000 grant that expands the school day by 90 minutes for Newton School and grades 4-7. Principal Tashjian assures me we have the grant for next year and so we are planning programs for 2014-2015. At this time, the question is about 2015-2016 (year after next). During the next school year deciding about the ELT program will have to be a topic of study and decision-making.
New No-Fee Lunch Program
In 2010, the law changed for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast program. Under the new provisions of 2010, communities could apply to participate in a free-lunch-for-everyone program. What does this mean? It means that if we participate in 2014-2015, there will be no lunch money cost for any student K-12 in Greenfield Schools. In other words, every single student regardless of income would have free breakfast and free lunch in Greenfield’s schools.
The new every-student-has-free-lunch program started this week at Newton School. We sent home a notice that said “No More Lunch Money.” And a parent sent a very nice note to the school that said: “You totally rock! You folks made my day! Thank you so much for whatever it is that you all had to do to help us parents out. Usually everyone is asking for more, more, more money…. It’s so refreshing and appreciated when folks actually give you awesome news like you did.” It was a great note to receive. Any parent at Newton with a balance in a child’s school lunch account will have it returned.
Interestingly, the payment for one free lunch (by the government) is more than the payment for one paid lunch (by the parents). So if every student is free, the food service program will have slightly more funding and should be able to expand food choice offerings. Trial runs of this program across the country indicate that more students will eat lunch when money is not required.
Summer Professional Development (PD)
We have multiple requirements for professional development and training for teachers and everyone else. The best times for required PD programs is right after school ends in June and right before school starts in August. During July, we can offer optional programs our faculty would like. Each department or division has a list of ‘must do’ programs. We are now looking for faculty suggestions for study groups or programs of interest. And I hope some faculty will offer to teach a course. Why not? We hope to have a brochure available by the end of the month.
One new, important, and optional program we will offer is a study group on traumatized children and strategies for working with these children. We may offer a program on Foster Care and how to become a foster care provider.
I project more students in 2014-2015 as the wave of higher class numbers reaches grade 5. I predicted 30-50 additional students and we have 80 additional students this year. Next year I predict 30-50 additional students. We could have have 80 additional students next year, also. It depends on our kindergarten enrollment and also how many Greenfield students return for the new high school. Basically we are graduating 80-90 students and enrolling 160-170 in kindergarten. And our Greenfield students are trickling back to Greenfield during the year.
We are having a few more kindergarten enrollment sessions on Tuesday evenings this month—at all three elementary schools (from 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.). Principals will be available to greet parent of upcoming kindergarten. Class of 2027! It helps us when parents register early so we know how many children to anticipate. Parents can also register online or by coming in to the Davis Street building to meet with Lisa McGuinness (772-1318).
Greenfield’s unique Student Film Festival is next Friday night—April 11th, 2014, 6:30 p.m. GHS. There is no charge and it is a delightful evening of student creativity. We give free admission and free popcorn. And we give audience awards.
I helped screen middle school films. All the students have different create-a-film ideas. One student does a puppet show acting out the voices of all six characters. Another student does a magic trick comedy with a surprise ending. We have student performers, student singers, student spoof advertisements, and serious messages about bullying. And they are all short—3-4 minutes or less.
Like every other type of student activity where you increase your skill over time with practice, some film-makers are students who have been making films for a few years. You can see the sophistication of the film-making in several films. We already have students going to college to study film-making after high school as a result of our film initiative. We planned for the Film Festival event to be in April, giving students something creative to do during the long winter months.
There are CLASS films in the festival from each elementary school. I hope all the parents bring their children. It’s a very fun experience for the children to see themselves and their friends in movies! And the principals get all dressed up so our Film Festival sparkles like the Oscars. We have everything but the red carpet.
Visit to Federal Street Elementary School
At 5:00 p.m. today I visited Federal Street Elementary School and walked through the whole building with Principal Nancy Putnam. We talked about room use for 2014-2015. We discussed whether or not there was room for one more kindergarten class next year and whether or not the computer lab could move to the second floor. I love the floors at Federal Street. When we redid them, I asked for some colored tiles to enliven the hallways. Then the principal painted the door trim in primary colors to match--one floor yellow, one floor blue, one floor green, one floor red. And we made tile rug areas using all the different colored tiles throughout the school. It’s very cute inside. Difficult to make an old, old building look bright and cheery but it’s a colorful building inside. Most of the rooms are orderly, neat, colorful learning environments, even with a lot of materials. A few rooms need some help but mostly it is a really friendly school elementary school, even though these are some of the oldest school buildings in Greenfield.
This year we are submitting a $10,000/year, 3-year composting grant. A group met this week to decide how to use the funds and in 2014-2015 the plan is for two (2) of Greenfield’s schools to start composting. Someone needs to help students, particularly younger ones, sort their lunch garbage and food. We started talking about student safety patrol from years ago. Elementary students had sashes and badges and had leadership positions helping other children. Three of us raised in three different states all remember this. So we talked about whether or not older students could have leadership positions, helping younger children sort waste for composting. Something to think about.
Each month superintendents of Franklin County meet (in Greenfield) and today there were four speakers. Each of us can bring up topics to see if others are interested. Today I brought up two items: 1) do any of us need some type of employee where we do not need a full-time employee and might share an employee with another district, and 2) could we meet to assess whether or not we collectively need certain specialized student programs in Franklin County? And there was interest in both topics so next meeting superintendents and special education directors will meet together. Greenfield spends between 2.2 and 2.4 million on specialty programs we need but do not have in the area. In my office, I have been researching and taking steps to see how our school system might help other agencies create more foster homes in this area so our students do not have to leave Greenfield if they need to leave their home.
That’s the news. I met the cutest little kindergarten child today who came with his mom. I could see the mom was so very tired, so I brought us each coffee and passed out some almonds. The little child took the almonds and started counting them out—he was very careful counting to ten. I don’t have crayons and drawing paper so I improvised with paper plates and markers. He made a wonderful picture for Mrs. Putnam and carefully printed out her name. While the student was drawing and his mom and I were having coffee, we three managed to have a very nice talk about school and the importance of going to school every day. I thought the occasion called for a low-key atmosphere and we had a successful meeting.
Page last updated:
April 16, 2014