Saturday, September 6, 2008

Superintendent's Welcome Back to Staff

Longmeadow Public Schools
Opening Day
August 26, 2008


E. Jahn Hart, Superintendent of Schools
Longmeadow, Massachusetts

Good Morning and welcome back to school! I hope you had a chance to enjoy the breakfast pastries and coffee. It’s always a joy to arrive on Opening Day and reunite with friends as well as to meet new colleagues.

I would like to once again acknowledge and thank people who support the work of educating Longmeadow’s children.

I would like to thank the School Committee for volunteering their time to improve and advocate for our schools and to acknowledge the current members of the Longmeadow School Committee: Christine Swanson, Chair; Rob Aseltine, Vice-Chair; Gwen Bruns, Clerk; Mary Vogel; Geoff Weigand; John Fitzgerald; and Armand Wray. Thank you for all that you do on behalf of our students.

Thanks to all of the other volunteers who give of their time and resources to enrich the learning experiences of our students and staff. Special appreciation goes to LEEF, to the various PACs, PTOs, booster clubs, and other groups who do so much to enhance our educational environment.

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the presence of Chris Halista, President of LEEF who has asked me to give you a few reminders:
In the past seven years, LEEF has raised over $1,000,000.00 and awarded over $562,000 for 144 teacher grant requests. Chris has asked me to urge you to start planning your LEEF grant requests NOW! She has provided flyers with information about LEEF, as well as her home phone number and the LEEF web site. Thank you, Chris, for all that you and LEEF do to support our schools.

I would like to extend thanks to the Town departments, boards, and community organizations who partner with us to provide essential services to the schools of Longmeadow.

Thank you to all of you who are here today: the educators, support staff, and all the many specialists and special people who work in our schools.

I want to extend my appreciation to the folks who worked all summer to clean and prepare our schools for today’s official opening. As was done last year, I convened a meeting in June with all of our building custodians and principals to invite them to set reasonable expectations for summer cleaning and to give feedback about areas for improvement. They identified three key cleaning priorities: (1) clean all carpets and rugs, (2) clean all floors, and (3) clean bathrooms thoroughly. Again, those priorities were met and exceeded! As you walk through your buildings, take a moment to admire the results of their hard work and be sure to thank them. Our maintenance workers were involved in multiple Capital Improvement projects throughout the schools, and the grounds crews are working hard this week to spruce up the landscaping. Kudos to the entire custodial and maintenance staff!

We should recognize our wonderful school secretaries who ordered materials, greeted families, answered phones, and met the many and assorted needs of students and parents during the summer. Thanks to my assistant, Dianne Georgantas, who took on the responsibility of centralizing student registration in our office – to increase consistency and efficiency and to reduce the burden on school secretaries. Dianne NEVER has a quiet moment and somehow manages to retain her patience, grace, and humor. We are truly blessed to have Central Office staff who continually look for ways to make improvements.

Kudos to the many teachers and other staff who worked on curriculum, procedural updates, and New Teacher Orientation this summer. You will reap the rewards of their curriculum improvement efforts over the next few days. . . . thanks especially to Maureen Wilson, Karla Zukowski, Joanne Paar, Karen Palazzi, Dale Skowera, and retiree Gail Meehan who continues to help with our New Teacher preparations.

I am thrilled to welcome all of the new staff this year, including Kim Stillwell and Chris Collins, our two new principals, who have been working hard all summer to meet and hire staff and to become immersed in the Longmeadow School cultureJ

I want to speak to you this morning about continuous improvement in Longmeadow: continuous improvement in (I) the operations and physical environment, (II) in teaching and learning, and (III) towards ensuring a safe, secure, and caring learning environment.

All of you, whether veterans or new employees, know that Longmeadow is committed to continuous improvement. Last year we made some substantial improvements to our operations and physical environment. We instituted the AESOP web-based/phone system for attendance reporting and substitute calling; the ConnectED communication system; new security measures and systems in every school and central office; and new phone systems. We also made substantial technology and budget improvements.

We made advances in teaching and learning last year by purchasing much-needed reading and social studies textbooks as well as math Investigations materials; and by continuing and expanding our use of John Collins writing and Lesson Study. Two other administrators, 6 teachers, and I took a graduate course in gifted education and we will establish a district committee to look at ways we can improve challenges and enrichment for all students.

Longmeadow High School was removed from warning status by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC) and we received an invitation by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) to conduct a feasibility study of the high school. Recently we were named as one of 8 schools in the state who appear to be a good match for the model schools project, which (if approved) would result in a new building (not a renovation), reduced building costs, increased reimbursement from MSBA, and a savings of about a year on the planning and construction timeline.

Goals this year include (I) the advancement of improvements in operations and the physical environment. Christine Swanson has already outlined the School Committee’s goals of Budget, Buildings, and Balance.

(II) Our teaching and learning goal this year is to advance our work in curriculum, instruction, and assessment to the persistent examination of these four critical questions:

  1. What do we want each student to learn? (What are the essential learning outcomes?)
  2. How will we know if or when each student has learned? (How and how often do we assess learning?)
  3. How will we respond when students experience difficulty in learning? (What intervention strategies do we have in place?)
  4. How will we respond when a student has mastered the learning? (How will we differentiate instruction and/or provide enrichment?)

Your administrators and I have been engaged in joint professional development this summer that will continue throughout the year as each principal advances building-level structures for collaboration in learning.

Our final goal of the year (III) is to ensure that we provide a safe, secure, and caring learning environment. Last year, I told you about some interesting research that concludes that superior learning takes place when classroom activities are enjoyable and relevant to students' lives, interests, and experiences. The primary aim of education is not to enable students to do well in school, but to help them do well in the lives they lead outside of school. The world is changing and, as Arthur Clarke said, “We need to educate our children for their future, not our past.” I proposed that we assure that our students are engaged in joyful, relevant learning. I want to reiterate that proposal and add to it. One of your colleagues lent me a book a few months ago: Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes. I confess that I didn’t want to read it. But I did. It is a frightening and relevant novel. Bullying has expanded to “cyber-bullying” and has affected the lives of many of our most vulnerable students. Last year, our secondary students heard Ed Garrity speak about this issue and I know that Longmeadow middle schoolers have been reading The Revealers this summer. When I looked at the student work that was sent to me this June, I was fascinated by the responses to the prompt regarding “The greatest thing a teacher or staff member did for me this year.” It was clear how the actions of one caring adult can make a lasting difference in the life of a child. Thank you for what you do already for our children and please continue to keep your eyes and hearts open.

It is with pleasure that I am now going to share with you samples of the student work that came to me from our wonderful schools. I was pleased to see evidence of

  • Essential student learning,
  • Assessments FOR and OF student learning
  • Teacher interventions and strategies to assist student learning
  • Challenge and enrichment for students who excel, and
  • A culture of caring by staff throughout the Longmeadow Schools!

Yesterday I filled two art display boards in the lobby with a small fraction of the many student feedback forms I had received. If you didn’t have a chance to look at them this morning, take a few moments to check them out. I will be posting this presentation on our web site (this file is quite large- 8.9 Mb so be patient if there are extended download times when viewing). Each of you – whether educational or support staff - has the opportunity to encourage and nurture children every day. Thank you for the many ways that you keep your “eyes on the child”! Have a great year!

E. Jahn Hart, Superintendent of the Longmeadow Public Schools

Friday, September 5, 2008

Exterior Painting at Storrs Library

On September 5, the Town began the project of painting the exterior of Storrs Library. It is estimated that workers will take approximately 5 or 6 weeks to complete the job which will consist of power washing, replacing rotten wood and painting the entire building. We expect to keep the library open throughout the process, and we anticipate that there may be only minor inconvenience in access to the building. Let us all look forward to our newly painted library building brilliantly white against the Fall foliage and bright blue autumn sky.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Fall Hours at Storrs Library

Starting on Saturday, September 6th, Storrs Library will be open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. September is a lovely month to stop by and enjoy the inviting sun-filled spaces of our elegant reading rooms, to peruse our extensive collection of magazines, to select a book for weekend reading or pick out a DVD for a movie evening at home.

Now that school has started, the staff invites students to visit the library for help with school assignments. The library has trained staff, an extensive print and digital reference collection, periodicals, primary source materials and computers with broad-band internet connection. Color printers are also available and printouts cost .15 per page. The library hours are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 10-8, Thursday and Friday, 10-5 and Saturday, 10-4.