Year 6: 2013-2014
Week beginning March 1, 2014
(Introduction to the Superintendent Journal)
Saturday, March 8, 2014: Ashley; GHS Student Council; This Week’s Trip; Teacher Angela Mass
Ashley; GHS Student Council, This Week’s Trip
No matter what time anyone calls the Superintendent’s office or how busy we are, you always get a bright “Hello, superintendent’s office--Ashley speaking; how may I help you!” And this week Ashley chaperoned the GHS Student Council Trip. Why? One reason is Ashley was her high school’s Student Council president and she knew Angela Mass, our Student Council teacher/coordinator, from her six years of Student Council involvement. When our seventeen (17) high school students needed an experienced chaperone for a Student Council trip—Mrs. Mass asked if Ashley could help out.
Greenfield High has an active Student Council—providing leadership in the high school and service to the community. Our GHS Student council has run Blood Drives, Bocce Tournaments for Special Olympics, participated in the Walk for Hunger, helped replace flags at cemeteries for veterans, and made luminary bags for Relay for Life, which remembers and supports friends and family who have died of cancer. Our GHS Student Council facilitates spirit weeks at our high school. They even participated in a polar plunge for Special Olympics!
I asked Ashley if she’d drop me a note about her Student Council involvement in high school, and she wrote:
“I was fortunate enough to be voted the Student Council President at Mohawk and the WMASC (Western Massachusetts Association of Student Councils) President. In that capacity, I was able to sit on the MASC (Massachusetts Association of Student Councils) State Executive Board …running and facilitating many conferences. MASC helps to improve leadership skills, encourage student activity, and motivate students by hosting numerous events.”
As a high school student, Ashley got to know our GHS mathematics teacher, Angela Mass, because Angela is an advisor to the Western Mass Association of Student Councils as well as being the advisor to our GHS Student Council.
GHS Mathematics Teacher, Angela Mass
Each year, the Massachusetts Association of Student Councils awards one award for “Student Council Administrator of the Year.” Greenfield High’s Angela Mass won this award last year!
Angela Mass (far right) won the Massachusetts Student Council Advisor of the Year award in 2013.
She noticed that a former student leader she knew was working in my office.
When I started working in the Central Office this summer, Mrs. Mass asked if I would be interested in chaperoning GHS students to the Annual MASC Spring conference…which is the highlight of the MASC year. I was so delighted to be given this opportunity! I…never…imagined I would be going back!
The Massachusetts Association of Student Councils is one of the nation’s most highly regarded programs of activities for middle and high schools, providing a major opportunity for students to learn and apply leadership skills.
The State’s student council organization annually sponsors three conference events:
- Officershop, held each fall at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, marks the beginning of a new year for MASC. Here, officers of local student councils are trained and the MASC theme for the year is unveiled.
- Spring Conference, a three-day event held in Hyannis, draws more than 1,000 students to participate in leadership training and organizational activities.
- Summer Conference is a five-day event held annually at Stonehill College in Easton. Some 300 students participate in team-building activities designed to carry over into other areas of their lives.
The state’s Student Council organization also hosts an annual Presidents Dinner, participates in the Project Bread Walk for Hunger, runs a year-long community service project, trains schools to participate in the Raising Student Voice and Participation Program (RSVP), and is an active member of the National Associations of Student Councils (NASC).
The public does not always appreciate how much extra time so many of our teachers give to students beyond classroom teaching during school hours. Our teachers are class advisors, club advisors, trip organizers, chaperones for events, sports coaches, afterschool tutors, summer school program leaders, academic team coaches, play directors, stage managers, and much more.
Walk for Hunger Event (I see Teacher Frances Ortiz in the picture and our bus driver, Carl)
Friday, March 07, 2014: Film Festival Films Due, Fun at Schools, Freezing
Film Festival Films Due
Friday night, April 11th, is Greenfield’s unique student Film Festival.
Children in grades K-3 may submit a film up to 3 minutes long.
Students in grades 4-7 may submit a film up to 4 minutes long.
Students in grades 8-12 may submit a film up to 5 minutes long.
Do students need a special camera? No. Any camera (or phone) will do. But the film cannot be violent and has to have content for a general audience. The film can be an interview, a spoof, a short story, an advertisement. And the film can be a computer animation. It can be a child telling about his pet. We had one film where a child told a story about how when he was scared, he took his blanket and tip-toed into his mom’s bed. And then the film showed the mom finding him and taking him back to his own bed, tucking him in.
The films can tell about our schools. One student or a whole class can sing, dance, act.
Interested but no ideas? Does this help?
- A student outside in the snow freezing, and then dreaming about being in the sun
- A story about friendship
- A student pretending to be the school principal
- A How-to demonstration
- A Pretend TV Show
- An interview—interview a war hero; a grandfather; a farmer; a dancer; a parent
- A class singing, acting, reading, telling about learning something.
We once had a movie of a student play her violin while hula hooping. That was something! And some high school students had a film of basketball shots. Middle school students demonstrated the game Four Square. We’ve had interesting animations—even from children 6 years old!
Well…this is the weekend to work on your film. Write down what comes first and what comes next. Point. And shoot!
Films are due next Friday—March 14th. It’s lots of fun. We have staff who will help turn student video into a movie to watch. Don’t worry about needing help. The help is free. Remember, Films are due in next Friday, March 14th. More info is on our district website.
And students are performing a musical at GMS next Tuesday! I hear the show is wonderful. Oh…make a film of the show!
Fun at Schools
Schools are so important to families and children. They are safe places (almost always) to come together. And we place a value on having terrific and free school events, reaching out to bring our parents and families in. There were three (3) terrific events this week—one at each elementary school.
The Discovery School at Four Corners had Grandparents Day. Everyone was excited about making grandparents feel special. So many people participated. What a great idea.
Newton Elementary had Bingo for Books. It was PACKED.
Federal Street had an AMERICA READS program with a visit from the CAT (from the Cat in a Hat). And lunch was green eggs and ham and everyone dressed up, including Mrs. Putnam. It was PACKED. Parents lined the walls.
Happy schools. Great parent support. Teamwork by the staff at each school. Lots of effort to make children and parents feel welcome. I always notice the fabulous bulletin boards with children’s work. And I watch how families talk with teachers. It always looks like the families feel comfortable in their schools. We should talk more about building community –bringing families and children together in safe, fun ways.
Enough already! In the coffee shop today, a note was stuck to the cash register:
12 Days To Spring
Greenfield Schools are ready for Spring! But wait…all this snow melting means a lot of Greenfield residents are going to have wet basements.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014: Gender Identity and Transgender News; Name-calling Is….
Gender Identity and Transgender News
Hardly a month goes by without school issues and news related to gender identity and students. This week’s three concerns were 1) a change in the Massachusetts bullying law, identifying gay/transgendered youth as one of the most targeted groups for bullying, needing more of our protection, 2) an issue of being more sensitive to our students with same-sex parents, and 3) a news article in The Recorder about a transgender San Francisco youth physically and sexually assaulted in a boys bathroom.
When Greenfield was in the starting stages of the new high school, I raised the issue of gender –neutral bathrooms, where a transgender student could change clothes without having to decide whether to use the “boys” locker room or the “girls” locker room. The architects said this request had only been made, to date, by colleges and not by high schools. That seemed odd, since in today’s school culture there are transgender youth in elementary, middle, and high school. I’m glad for the discussion and debate. Greenfield’s new high school will have a couple of gender-neutral bathrooms for anyone to use.
So it caught my attention today—the attack on a transgender student in a bathroom. The newspaper quotes the superintendent as saying that his/her school “guarantees students the right to use the bathroom and locker rooms that match the gender with which they identify.” That means that a biological male who identifies as a female can use the girls’ locker room and a biological female who identifies as a male can use the boys’ locker room. It seems to me the days are gone for ignoring the freedoms now exercised around gender identity and we have to make physical and cultural accommodations in our schools so the environment is safe and feels safe for all students.
I was just given a book to read: Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon, 2012, winner of eleven national awards. The book pursues the challenges parents face (we can generalize to think about challenges other adults working with youth face) when their children are gay, transgender, schizophrenic, dwarfs, deaf, autistic, disabled, prodigies. The children who are different have to find a healthy personal identity somehow and the families have to figure out how to love so that their love and acceptance can conquer prejudice the youth face. To what extent can adults help unique youth become their best selves, against daunting challenges of prejudice? Page 599: “The term transgender is an encompassing term that includes anyone whose behavior departs significantly from the norms of the gender suggested by his or her anatomy at birth.”
I don’t think asking a transgender youth to use either the boys’ locker room or girls’ locker room is safe enough, personally. And I’m glad GHS will be a 21st century school with a couple gender neutral bathrooms. After all, a few unisex/anysex bathrooms are in most buildings today—why not in our schools?
Name calling Is….
Aside from being mean, what is name calling? If it doesn’t happen repeatedly, it technically isn’t bullying. If it isn’t part of an initiation, it technically isn’t hazing. In talking with one principal this week, we decided it likely falls under harassment. Whether just mean, harassment, bullying, or hazing, name-calling isn’t mature and it isn’t an allowable way to talk to another person. Name-calling in front of others is mean and humiliating, degrading, insensitive. What is the correct intervention for an older student who calls someone names? Perhaps a more interesting question is how does someone reach sixteen years old and still use name calling to taunt someone?
A few education articles this week said we are spending too much time testing students, too much time worrying about test scores, and we’ve lost the focus on using time in school helping to raise good citizens. It’s something to think about. Perhaps it really is time for the pendulum to swing back to a balance of academic and social development as key goals for schools. Administrators in Greenfield believe these two areas of focus are of equal importance.
Sunday, March 2, 2014: Snacks; South America, Hispanic/Latino Population, and the Increasing Need to Teach Spanish in the US
Snacks served in school have been a source of keen interest for school committee members and administrators. It did not seem the discussion was producing the desired results, so I decided to dive into snacks myself.
We have three food/meal programs in Greenfield: 1) the basic school breakfast and lunch program (free breakfast for all students), 2) our summer program of feeding youth all over Greenfield (a grant program), and 3) our afterschool snack program offered only at schools that have the Extended Day Program or an After School Program. There is no government snack program for during the day, although often public schools have their own snack program where parents can send in snacks. In the last decade nut allergies and concerns for childhood obesity have put a damper on any food coming in from home for all children in a class and birthday parties with cakes and cupcakes sent in from home.
This past week I meet with our food services director and then the two assistant managers who actually run the snack program. I went over snack items we serve and some concerns other than nutrition we have to consider. For example, milk spills can lead to smells in the classroom so it isn’t a preferred snack item. Raisins if they fall and are stepped on in the classroom take more time for custodians trying to do all of a school’s floors in the evening so they request we don’t serve raisins too often. Juice is really messy and sticky if it spills and then can get tracked around if someone steps in a small spill. We have to remember that snacks are served after school and there isn’t always a custodian on duty at that hour.
There still are good snack options, though, that are not full of sugar, salt, and white flour with limited nutritional value. I gave the opinion that it was more important to have a goal of healthy snacks than a goal of something different every day, and so we narrowed down to about 15 items that met the goal—fruit cups, low-fat yogurt sticks, carrots with low-fat dip, fresh fruit, graham crackers, cheese and whole wheat crackers, and a few others. A requirement is that all the items be individually wrapped.
March starts the new snack menu. The assistant managers brought me two different Chobani yogurt sticks that they sometimes serve (2 ounces each). Apparently the children like these and low-fat yogurt with live yogurt cultures is very healthy.
We also talked about introducing children to new foods and I learned that the cafeteria staff actually make up their own recipes to help introduce children to new foods. So we actually serve black bean salad and hummus sometimes. Increasingly students are eating new foods that are introduced. I suggested we even write to parents to suggest healthy, cost-efficient recipes and we might write to parents soon and give some type of prize for the chosen healthy-food idea. We shall see.
South America and our Hispanic/Latino Population
I remember in elementary school learning all the states and capitals and all the countries in South America. Students learned countries in other continents as projects. It’s difficult to keep up with changes in countries of the Middle East and Africa. I was surprised to see how far out of memory I was with countries in South America. With 16% of our country being Latino or Hispanic and 21 states where the Latino/Hispanic population is the largest minority (including New Hampshire and Massachusetts), I decided this weekend to refresh my knowledge of South American countries.
I’d forgotten that the Dutch Republic of Surinam was right in the middle of the northern coast of South America (yellow on the map). And there was Columbia on the northwestern tip of South America. In the last decades there has been a recalibration of maps for North and South America and the map I’ve pasted in (above) is differently proportioned than what I recall. I’m going to ask the elementary and middle school principals where and how geography is included in our studies.
In the meantime, these statistics should remind us how important it is to have our messages and forms sent home translated into Spanish for families that speak Spanish primarily at home:
- 50.5 million Americans (16% of population) are of Hispanic or Latino origin
- 2.3 million Hispanic-owned businesses generate $350 billion in receipts/year
- 1.2 million Hispanic or Latino citizens over 18 years old serve in our military
- Hispanics or Latinos (origin) are the largest ethnic or racial minority in the US
- By 2060, 31% of the US population will be of Hispanic or Latino origin
- 50% of the Hispanic/Latino population live in California, Texas, and Florida
- Comprise 47% of the population of New Mexico
- Is the largest minority or ethnic group in 21 states, including Massachusetts
- 22.5% of elementary children in the US are in families of Hispanic/Latino origin
Our September 2014 kindergarten class will be graduated in 2027 (at 18 years old). Before they are 50 years old, the American culture will likely be bilingual. We actually, now, need someone fluent in Spanish in our administrative office for registering non-English, Spanish-speaking parents. We have increased Spanish instruction in our schools. We do offer introductory Spanish for all grade 6-7 students but Spanish is only a year-long subject at the Math & Science Academy and then Spanish is an available elective in grades 8 to 12. More and more students will require some ability to converse in Spanish in businesses where they work and in the homes of their friends and colleagues. Another language of increasing future importance is Mandarin Chinese, but that’s a different global economy discussion. Mandarin will likely not be needed for day-to-day living in much of the US, as is the case with Spanish.
One more demographic detail—place of origin. Of the Spanish-speaking population in the US, place of origin is: 65% Mexico, 9.4% Puerto Rico, 3.8% Salvador, 3.6% Cuba, 3.0% Dominican Republic, 2.3% Guatemala, and the remaining Hispanic/Latino place of origin is other Central and South American countries. And do we know where to find these countries and territories on a map?
el fin--y este cuento se ha acabado (The end. And we all live happily ever after).
Page last updated:
March 10, 2014