Principal's Newsletters

      November 15, 2018

Dear Lowell Families,


Update on teaching and learning:

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is just around the corner. Our staff, from instructional assistant to classroom teachers, has had a few busy weeks themselves. The full staff has recently attended a number of professional development sessions during the months of October and November. Training sessions have supported our school initiatives such as;  Reader’s Workshop, Math alignment and Math workshop, Responsive Classroom, Science Unit planning, and iReady assessments. Teachers have met with coaches (Nicole Hawkins, Emily Shaw, and Erin Moulton) and curriculum coordinators (Allison Donovan, Elizabeth Kaplan) weekly to plan instruction and analyze assessments. Grade level teams are also working across the three elementary schools calibrating instruction and sharing best practices.

Ronda our TLA consultant has visited our school 3 times since school started to deliver in-class coaching with teachers in grades 1, 3 and 4. Teachers in grades 1-5 have received focused PD on unpacking Lucy Calkin’s Units of Study.

Grade level teams at the Lowell School choose Student Learning Goals focused on increasing student growth in the content area of math and literacy. Teachers are using iReady data to measure their impact on learning. The Lowell School adopted the same Professional Practice Goal of implementing Responsive Classroom.

Second and Third Grade Chorus:

Chorus is now officially underway for grades 2 & 3. Megan Slessinger, Fine and Performing Arts Coordinator, is directing this group. It’s a rather large group of students which barely fit into the music room but this doesn't seem to bother anyone. I’ve popped in a few times to hear their progress. They are sounding like angels, I can’t wait until you can hear for yourselves.

New Schools/ Community Forum:

The School Building Committee will be hosting a parent forum on Wednesday, November 28 from 6 - 8 PM. Please come hear from the Town’s Building Committee and Architects on all the wonderful improvements they have planned. This is a public meeting and welcome to all.

Health and Wellness:

Joe Lampman our Physical Health Coordinator will be a guest presenter at this month’s Principal's Coffee being held on Friday, November 30th at 8:15. He is also planning to attend December’s School Council meeting scheduled for December 6th. Joe is coming around to the elementary schools to discuss implementing health class. He is also looking for one parent volunteer from each elementary school to sit on the Wellness Committee. Please come by to meet and listen to Mr. Lampman.

Parent/Teacher Conferences:

Parent/Teacher Conferences are well underway, we are holding 3 more conference dates this month, November 15, 27 and 29th. Conferences are by appointment only. You may book your appointment online. You can find the sign-up genius on our school’s website.

Grades 3 - 5 will hold growth monitoring sessions the week of November 25th - 30th. Students will take two test sessions 1 math/ELA each session should take approximately 40 minutes. This test will allow us to get the degree to which students are on target to meet growth or stretch growth targets. We need 3 formal assessments points (fall diagnostic, growth monitoring point, and winter diagnostic) to predict the end of year growth.

Kindergarten will take their first iReady assessments in December.

Our kindergarten will take assessments on the computer in the computer lab, and we will have additional staff on hand to support them.

Please take a moment to thank your crossing guards.

Recently we’ve had a few changes in crossing guards around our school. Our crossing guards help keep our children and families safe. Please take a moment to say thank you to them!

Parking and driving around the school:

Please take the extra moment to slow down, follow posted signs, and keep an eye out for children. Also, make sure not to block driveways around the school even if it’s for just a moment. One of our neighbors had a medical emergency and was unable to get out of their driveway. As you can imagine the family was very upset.

Importance of Attendance:

This year elementary schools in the state were evaluated on a number of measures for accountability. One of those measures was Chronic Absenteeism. In this particular category, we could earn between 0 and 4 points. We received 0 points. This put our school in the category of Chronically Absent. This means 10 percentage points went uncaptured on our report card. We are hoping to avoid this from happening again this year, therefore we are asking for your help in decreasing the number of absences your child has. In an effort to keep you informed we sent home letters to families.

Many parents/guardians recently received letters from the office notifying each of their child's absences and/or tardies. We are trying to communicate with parents regarding attendance and late arrivals. It is our wish to have students arrive on time and in class every day. We do understand those days you need to occasionally keep your child home due to illness. I’m including a table illustrating Absent and Tardy totals for the past two weeks by day.

Day

Date

Absent

Tardy

Monday (Day after World Series)

October 29

25

47

Tuesday

October 30

20

20

Wednesday (Halloween)

October 31

29

25

Thursday

November 1

23

24

Friday

November 2

27

20

Monday

November 5

21

11

Tuesday

(Election Day)

November 6

No School


Wednesday

November 7

16

11

Thursday

November 8

14

10

Friday

November 9

17

9

Tuesday

(Torrential rain)

November 13

26

6 (Held attendance until 8:30)


PTO Update:

The PTO continues to generously support our students and teachers. Many teachers have come forward requesting materials, resources, and experiences to enhance learning. The PTO recently purchased a shed to be housed outside near the ballfield to hold recreational equipment to be used during recess. Thank you!

On November 30th the PTO is sponsoring a Game Night for the Lowell School. Come and play board games with your children. Families will be given the option to purchase games they enjoy playing.

Picture Retake Day is Friday, November, 16th.


I’d like to wish you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!


Warmest regards,

Stacy


November 15, 2018

 

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I am excited to share that our school is implementing an excellent Math and Reading program called i-Ready. Below, you will find information on the program and how we will be using it in the classroom.

What is i-Ready?

i-Ready is an online program that will help us determine your child’s needs, personalize his or her learning, and monitor progress throughout the school year. i-Ready allows us to meet your child exactly where he or she is and provides data for us to increase your child’s learning gains.

 

The i-Ready Diagnostic is an adaptive assessment that adjusts its questions to suit your child’s needs. Each item a student sees is individualized based on his or her answer to the previous question. For example, a series of correct answers will result in slightly harder questions, while a series of incorrect answers will yield slightly easier questions. The purpose of this is not to give your child a score or grade, but instead to determine how best to support your child’s learning. Testing will begin December 3 - 17th.

 

Your child will enjoy the process of becoming an expert in using a computer in our classrooms this year! Once fully prepared mid-year, our kindergartners will be participating in their very first experience with i-Ready—an innovative adaptive assessment and engaging personalized instruction program. i-Ready will help me understand your child’s unique needs and celebrate every achievement—large and small—throughout the school year. i-Ready will also provide your child with an individualized online learning path that will support all the skill development work we will be doing this year in both Mathematics and Reading. There are two testing sessions for kindergarteners: winter and spring. We will inform you of the exact dates closer to the winter. I want to share what I’ll be discussing with your child as we prepare for the Diagnostic:

  • It will take a few sessions to complete the i-Ready Diagnostic assessment. We will start and stop as often as it takes to keep your child happily engaged.
  • Interactive items will provide fun for the children. For example, in the Phonological Awareness section, students may be asked to identify the sound in the middle of a word. In mathematics, students may be asked to count how many pencils they see.
  • A series of correct answers will result in slightly harder questions, while a series of incorrect answers will yield slightly easier questions. This is what we mean when we say “adaptive.” The Diagnostic is a marvelous tool that gives teachers current, reliable information to use to plan instruction that is “just right” for your child.
  • The Diagnostic assumes students will not know the answer to every question. The teacher will explain to your child that it is OK to not know every answer and to just do his or her best on each question.

What can I do to help?

To help prepare your child for the i-Ready Diagnostic, please encourage them to:

·       Get a good night’s sleep and eat a full breakfast the day of the assessment.

·       Try their best on each question and try not to rush.

·       Try not to worry about questions they do not know—remind them that it is expected they will get about half of the questions correct.

·       Use paper and a pencil to show work for math questions.

·       Be respectful of other students who take longer to finish.

What happens next?

The i-Ready Diagnostic will provide results that help teachers identify what your child already knows and determine next steps for instruction. Teachers look forward to sharing these results with you throughout the year and to providing a learning experience that will attract and hold your child’s interest while teaching important skills and concepts.

If you have any questions about i-Ready, please do not hesitate to contact me or your child’s teacher. You can also learn more about i-Ready by visiting i-ReadyCentral.com/FamilyCenter.

As always, thank you for your continued support and for being a partner in your child’s learning! It is much appreciated.

 

Sincerely,

Mrs. Phelan





Dear Lowell Families,

It brings me profound sadness observing the events which took place this weekend in Pennsylvania. I wonder how our children are processing all the stories in the media, hopefully, at least the younger ones are being sheltered. However, older children hear and read bits and pieces because the story is incredibly pervasive on social media and the internet. Gone are the days when you could just turn off the nightly news.

The stories of this past week are deeply troubling because they involve violent crimes against people based on culture and religion. As a Principal of an elementary school during this difficult era, it is my responsibility to speak up against such crimes as a leader. I heard a powerful poem today which truly resonated with me, "First They Came for the Jews" by Pastor Niemoller.

First, they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

I know it’s difficult to have these conversations with our children. But it’s imperative we do. I’ve included an article from Today’s Parent to help facilitate those discussions even with our littlest children. I hope you find it helpful.

How to talk to kids about racism: An age-by-age guide

Explaining race and racism to kids can feel like a minefield for parents, but it doesn’t have to. Here’s our age-by-age guide to handling this topic. BY ALEX MLYNEK | FEB 9, 2017

https://www.todaysparent.com/family/parenting/how-to-talk-to-kids-about-racism-an-age-by-age-guide/

Have you talked to your kids about race and racism? Maybe you think they’re still too young or that a specific conversation isn’t really necessary?

Warmest regards,
Stacy






Dear Lowell Families,

I’d like to announce the hiring of Melina Jacovides as our LTS for Guidance this year.  Ms. Jacovides attended Vassar College where she studied Psychology, and then she went on to attend Boston College where she earned a Master of Counseling. She has worked as a preschool teacher and for Early Intervention as a psychologist.

Melina has recently worked in a number of school districts over the past several years as a long-term substitute counselor. She started at Lowell as a day to day substitute and then applied for the long-term substitute position. She’s excited to join the Lowell team and is eager to help in any way she can. She can be reached by email at Melina.jacovides@watertown.k12.ma.us or by calling the school at 617-926-7770 ext. 33602.

Tonight the elementary schools will be presenting the 2017 MCAS results to the School Committee. MCAS parent reports were mailed out last week. You should expect to receive them by Tuesday.

There’s so much going on at Lowell right now. The teachers have been attending PD and working closely with our reading and math coaches. They just completed assessing students using iReady. Teachers have met with coaches and curriculum coordinators to plan instructional grouping. 

We are in the process of hiring 2 Title 1 math tutors. When we complete hiring for these last two positions we will have 3 reading specialist, 1 Title 1 reading tutor, 1 reading coach,  and 2 math coaches. This effort has been spearheaded by Theresa McGuinness, Elizabeth Kaplan, and Allison Donovan. 

I truly enjoyed reading bedtime stories to the children on Thursday evening. However, I don’t think I helped wind them down it was more like winding them up. Lots of fun! That day alone we raise $6,000. Thank you!

Just a quick reminder, parents should not pull into the kindergarten or preschool parking lot to pick up students. This is extremely dangerous for our children.
Another safety concern is York Road. Many folks are not coming to a complete stop as they approach York Road in the morning. This too is cause for alarm. Please make every effort to stop and obey safety signs.

Flu season is upon us, please reinforce hand washing and sneezing into your elbow. These two tips will go along way to keep children healthy. 

Warmest regards,
Stacy





October 12, 2018

Dear Parent/Guardian,
 
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently released 2018 MCAS and school/district accountability and assistance levels. The release includes the second year of next-generation MCAS results for grades 3-8 and the debut of the State’s new accountability system, which is designed to measure how a school or district is doing and what kind of support it may need. High school students took the legacy MCAS tests in English Language Arts, Math, and Science, Technology/Engineering. The next-generation tests will be introduced at the high school level in spring 2019.

Enclosed you will find your child’s MCAS scores from last spring. Next-generation MCAS scores for English Language Arts and Math in grades 3 – 8 fall into four categories: Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, Partially Meeting Expectations and Not Meeting Expectations. The new categories emphasize readiness for higher-level work at the next grade level. In grades 5 and 8, students also took the legacy MCAS tests in Science, Technology/Engineering. On the legacy MCAS, the four scoring categories are Advanced, Proficient, Needs Improvement, and Warning/Failing. More detailed information pertaining to your child is located on the Parent/Guardian Report. When reviewing students’ scores, students and parents should keep in mind that:

MCAS results are only one measure of your child's growth and achievement. Your child's teacher can also talk to you more broadly about your child's academic growth and about his or her social and emotional development.

In general, the standards for Meeting Expectations are more rigorous than the standards for reaching the Proficient level on the legacy MCAS.

Next-generation MCAS scores should not be compared to legacy MCAS scores.
 
Accountability & Assistance
 
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recently released the 2018 accountability and MCAS data for all districts across the State.  New this year, the new accountability system designations are: Meeting Targets or Partially Meeting Targets categories and Not Requiring Assistance or Intervention, or In Need of Focused/Targeted Support or Broad/Comprehensive Support for schools and districts. The accountability system considers these criteria: student achievement and growth, high school completion, English proficiency, chronic absenteeism, and advanced coursework for students in grades 11 and 12.  

The Watertown Public Schools performed quite well with the new criteria, which are based on targets set by the State.  Overall, the District is Partially Meeting Targets at 73 percent and Not Requiring Assistance or Intervention.  It should be noted that 75 percent is considered Meeting Targets, with Watertown narrowly missing the 75 percent mark.  Compared to districts and charter schools across the State, our performance places us in the top 25 percent with regard to meeting targets for the criteria.  

The James Russell Lowell School’s performance level was categorized as Partially Meeting Targets at 66 percent and Not Requiring Assistance or Intervention. Lowell’s accountability percentile is 71 this number is an indication of the school's overall performance relative to other schools that serve similar grades and is calculated using data for all accountability indicators. The accountability percentile falls between 1 and 99. Two areas which demonstrate a strong need for improvement are achievement and growth in math and Chronic Absenteeism. We are focused on further aligning our math curriculum to the math frameworks, providing targeted coaching for teachers, and utilizing the new assessment tool i-Ready to help teachers meet the needs of individual students. The district has hired a district social worker who will support schools in decreasing absenteeism. Chronic Absenteeism is defined as the percentage of students missing 10 percent or more of their days in membership. In a typical 180-day school year, this is the percentage of students who miss 18 or more days. The chronic absenteeism rate includes both excused and unexcused absences and is calculated for students in grades 1 through 12. We will be working as a faculty and school community to address these focus areas.   
 
For More Information:

Assessment results are posted at
http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/statereport/nextgenmcas.aspx and http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/statereport/mcas.aspx

For more information on the next-generation MCAS, visit http://www.doe.mass.edu/mcas/parents/results-faq.html

Accountability data are included in school and district profiles (http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/) and at http://www.doe.mass.edu/accountability/lists-tools.html 
 
Sincerely,
Stacy A. Phelan
Principal





Greetings Lowell Families,

Today we practiced ALICE drills and an off-site evacuation. The staff did a wonderful job prepping our students for each scenario. Tomorrow we will meet as a safety team debrief and evaluate the strengths and areas for improvement. We have asked staff to take an online survey and offer their critique of the planning and process. The WPD was an instrumental partner in providing safety and support to our school throughout today’s drills. We want to say thank you to you our families for all the cooperation and patience. We hope the experience gave you confidence moving forward.

Warmest regards,
Stacy




Dear Parents/Guardians,

We will be holding an emergency drill on Tuesday, October 9, 2018, using the principles outlined in the A.L.I.C.E. Program brought to us by Sgt. Demos Watertown Police Department. A.L.I.C.E. stands for ALERT, LOCKDOWN, INFORM, COUNTER AND EVACUATE. This drill prepares staff and students for an incident involving an intruder at the Lowell school.
Students will be provided with the particulars of the drill. Here is an outline of the information students are being given:

We will be practicing a drill to keep you safe in the event that an intruder enters the Lowell School. This procedure, called ALICE, has been in place across Watertown School District.
This way of responding to threats gives our teachers choices about how best to keep our children safe based on how close they are to the threat. Tuesday, teachers will have two choices: lockdown or evacuate. If the teacher chooses to lockdown, he/she will turn off the lights and lock the door. They may also barricade the door as necessary. They will move students away from the door and out of sight, but the students and teacher will remain prepared to evacuate should the situation change. If the teacher chooses to evacuate, students will follow their teacher swiftly and silently to the nearest exit. Teachers and other staff will be positioned around the outside of the building, and students will proceed directly to them and wait for the all clear to return to the building. During this drill, students must follow the directions of their teacher throughout the drill.

All school personnel and students will participate in the A.L.I.C.E. Drill. When the drill begins, classroom teachers will make a decision based on the proximity of the would-be intruder and students will be asked to follow that direction, whether the decision is to lockdown and barricade in the classroom, or evacuate the building if it is safe to do so.

After we practice the ALICE drill we will practice an Off-Site Evacuation. In the event of an emergency, we have may need to relocate to an alternative site. Our secondary site is the Watertown Department of Public Works facility.

There will be Watertown Police present on Tuesday to assess our performance and to provide helpful feedback to our staff. Preparing students and staff by running drills of all types during the school year, including fire drills, medical drills, and bus evacuation drills, is a necessary part of our safety and security program at Lowell.

Thank you in advance for your attention and cooperation, and communication with your child around this important drill. If you have any questions or concerns please me directly.

Sincerely,

Stacy A. Phelan
Principal