Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A letter of thanks…

This is my last article for the Parker Principal's Blog.  I will be moving onto a new position in Wakefield on October 23rd as their new assistant superintendent.  I started here in July 2004; Parker was a very different school then.  Linda Darisse and I were hired as a new administrative team, principal and assistant principal.  When we arrived, the school had split teams in grades 7 and 8, where the same teachers taught multiple subjects in each grade.  There was no art work posted or painted on the walls, cell phones were not allowed in school, and Linda and I were the third administrative team starting here in a four year period.  A lot of the teacher leaders and veterans were still executing exceptional lessons daily, but the teachers and the school sorely lacked a principal leader.  The exceedingly professional and kind assistant principal at that time was Anne Saurman.  Anne had agreed to fill-in as AP for a year, three years prior to our arrival.  Needless to say when we arrived Anne was ready to get back into the classroom, but generously agreed to work in the office to support us in our transition.  Anne Saurman and Diane Ketlak quickly became our guides to all things Reading and more specifically Parker Middle School.

Linda Darisse and I addressed each class in the auditorium when we arrived, as we stood on the stage and watched students enter the auditorium and be seated in silence and then applaud when each of us finished speaking, we felt like we had landed on another planet.  Students were so exceptionally kind, thoughtful, and respectful (sometimes to a fault).  We quickly learned that Reading and Parker Middle School were worthy of the progressive reputation it had, and just needed some consistent leadership and follow through to again regain its position in the community.
In the years that followed, a new master schedule, intact teacher teams, curriculum focused work, technology integration in all classes, Smart Boards, iPads, BYOD, students creating work for an audience greater than one (AGTO), Critical Friends Groups, Student Led Conferences, teachers focused on how students learn, and too many district initiatives to count, the school is currently in a great place.  In this eleven plus year period of change, we have learned so much as principals and as a faculty, and have made the school one of the finest in the district and I would argue in the State.
Our successes at Parker are due in large part to so many exceptional district and teacher leaders.  Pat Schettini, and John Doherty have been exceptional mentor leaders for me.  As I have been working through the transition to my new position, leaders, teachers and parents have asked,  “…what is the greatest strength of Parker Middle School?...”  The answer comes with great clarity, “…it is the teachers…”   We have had the good fortune (past and present) to work with master teacher leaders like Dave Williams, Pat Zona, Anne Saurman, Diane Ketlak, Kathy Jacobitz, Kathy Daly, and Ellen Howland to mention just a few.  These teachers and counselors have been and continue to be the life blood of the school.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure and expectation on students to perform well in school at younger and younger ages.  What is unique about Parker is that the staff genuinely loves their work.  To be clear, I mean that teachers love the content they teach, but are equally committed to the notion that “…how students perform…” matters most.  Teachers genuinely understand the demands and expectations that students have on them, and they are expert at coaching kids to participate in their learning.  This is not the same for each student, some students need to be challenged with more complex work, and others need to be coached to develop the grit and resilience to work a bit harder, while still others need safe environments to simply show what they are thinking about the subjects they are studying.  I believe the teachers here have never been better at coaching and creating these conditions in their classes so students can learn and grow.
I would like to sincerely, thank you all for the opportunity to be your principal here at Parker Middle School.  It has been such a significant, formative learning experience for me as a teacher and a leader.  I am unable to fully capture in words the positive feelings I have for the community, the teachers, families, and especially the students.  I will always be sure to remember to give appropriate credit for the opportunities and experiences I have had here at Parker Middle School.  Thank you all!


Doug Lyons 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Parker Staffing Update

This is an unusual year for us as we had four retirements at Parker this past spring.  Mrs. Kalmakis, 6th Grade ELA Teacher, Jill Piantedosi, Reading Specialist, Gerry Gomes, Grade 7-8 Mathematics Teacher, and Diane Ketlak, School Psychologist have retired or are in the process of retiring.  In Mrs. Ketlak’s case, and fortunately for us, she will be with us until the end of September.

Other personnel moves include, Carla Ricci, School Psychologist taking an extended maternity leave this year, and Jess Lynch, 7th Special Education Teacher also taking a leave this year to spend some time with family.  Currently, we have Mrs. Moroso and Mrs. Musselman out on maternity leave.  We anticipate having them back in December and January.  

With all of the transitions, we know that hiring is one of the most important things we do.  We welcome twelve new staff members to Parker Middle School this year.  Please see their names and short profiles below.     

Reading Specialist - Maria Morgan

We welcome Maria Morgan as our new half-time Reading Specialist. Mrs. Morgan completed her undergraduate work at the University of Massachusetts, and her graduate work at Boston College and Framingham State University.  Mrs. Morgan is an experienced teacher having taught Middle School History and Reading for the past number of years.  It is rare to be able to hire someone with the experiences and practice Mrs. Mrogan has working with middle school students.  Mrs. Morgan will be working closely with Mrs. Jones, our full-time Reading Specialist, as well as teaching and coaching small reading groups and teaching the 8th grade Readers Workshop elective.  If you would like to be in touch Mrs. Morgan’s e-mail address is:

School Psychologists - Alexa Nappa and Dr. Kimberly Bernazzani
We have two new school psychologists this year.  Dr. Bernazzani completed her undergraduate work at Boston College and her doctoral work at St. John’s University.  For the past six years, Kim has worked as a school psychologist in Tucson, Arizona.  Alexa Nappa completed her undergraduate work at Michigan State University, and is a recent graduate of Tufts University where she completed the Masters of Arts and Educational Specialist Program in school psychology.  Alexa completed her practicum this past year in Winchester Middle School.  Our new psychologists have a range of experiences and will bring a great deal to our school community.  If you would like to be in touch with Dr. Bernazzani or Ms. Nappa their e-mail addresses are: and

Math Teachers - Bryan Walsh and Nicholas Trapani

Our new math teachers, Bryan Walsh and Nick Trapani join an experienced group of math teachers here at Parker Middle School.  Bryan Walsh has an undergraduate degree from Lehigh University in Electrical Engineering and has completed a graduate degree and graduate work at Boston University and Tufts University.  For the past three years Bryan has taught mathematics at McGlynn Middle School in Medford.  Nick Trapani is not really new to Parker as he covered a long term substitute position last year teaching math in the seventh and eighth grades.  Nicolas Trapani has an undergraduate degree from Boston University in Philosophy and Religion and has experience teaching Algebra and Religion at the high school level.  Nick and Bryan have been nice addition to our math department and we are pleased to welcome these two to Parker.  If you would like to welcome Mr. Trapani and Mr. Walsh to Parker or simply be in touch with any questions you may have their e-mail addresses are: and

Special Education (LLD) Teacher – Alison Donlon
We welcome Special Education teacher, Alison Donlon to Parker Middle School.  Ms. Donlon will be teaching in the Language Based Program in grade six.  Ms. Donlon completed her undergraduate work at Manhattan College in Elementary Education with a minor in Mathematics.  She received her graduate degree in Special Education from Lesley University.  For the past three years, Ms. Donlon has worked in the middle school Language Based Program in Lowell.  Additionally, Alison is a graduate of both Parker Middle School and Reading Memorial High School.  If you would like to be in touch with Ms. Donlon her e-mail address is:

7th Grade Learning Center – Kimberly Moreau

We welcome Mrs. Kimberly Moreau to our team of Special Education teachers.  Kim is also a graduate of Parker Middle School, so this is a bit of a homecoming for her as well.  Kim has taught and supported students in Special Education at the elementary and middle school levels for over eighteen years.  Most recently, Kim worked in the Language Based Program at the Galvin Middle School in Wakefield.  She completed her undergraduate work at Curry College and her graduate work at Lesley University.  This year she will be working in the seventh grade Learning Center and the eighth grade LLD Program.  If you would like to be in touch with Mrs. Moreau her e-mail address is:    

7th Grade Science – Kathryn Kirschning

Ms. Kirschning was a late addition to our team of science teachers, as Mr. Barnett moved to teach Biology and Chemistry at Acton Boxborough High School.  Ms. Kirschning holds an undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Emmanuel College and is completing her graduate work in Middle School Science Education at Merrimack College.  Ms. Kirschning worked as an Associate Chemist before making the career change to teaching.  Most recently, Ms. Kirschning filled a long term science teacher substitute position at the Galvin Middle School in Wakefield.  Her experiences as a professional chemist as well as teaching middle school science at Galvin will serve her well as she makes the transition to Parker Middle School.  If you would like to be in touch her e-mail address is:        

8th Grade Spanish – Julie Cohen

Mrs. Cohen has been teaching Spanish, Special Education, and ESL for over 20 years.  She has a wealth of experiences from teaching English as a Second Language to teaching Special Education.  Her range of experiences will be an asset in the Foreign Language Professional Learning Community (PLC) work we are doing this year.  Mrs. Cohen completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts in Spanish and Elementary Education.  She completed her graduate work in Special Education at Salem State University.  If you would like to be in touch with Mrs. Cohen her e-mail address is:

8th Grade French – Sheryl Love

We welcome Sheryl Love to Parker who is filling in as a long term substitute in French.  Mrs. Love completed her undergraduate work at Clark University and her graduate work at Simmons College.  Having resided in France, she is a fluent speaker and brings her experiences in the French Culture to the classroom.  Additionally, Mrs. Love is working to complete her teaching certification and as things progress with this position we will communicate accordingly.  If you would like to be in touch with Mrs. Love her e-mail address is:  

Paraeducators – Michelle Harrington and Michelle Anderson

We are fortunate to welcome two new experienced Special Education Paraeducators, Ms. Harrington and Mrs. Anderson.  Ms. Harrington completed her undergraduate work at the University of Massachusetts and is a new graduate of the Simmons College Graduate School of Education.  Mrs. Anderson completed her undergraduate work at Salve Regina University and her graduate work at Endicott College.  Additionally, both educators are completing their Special Education teaching certification work this fall.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Principal Notes
September 2015

Welcome Back!  We would like to welcome you all back to Parker Middle School from the summer break.  Mrs. Costa, seventh grade Social Studies Teacher and Team Leader, describes the first day of middle school as New Year’s Day for teachers, and I think she is correct.  It is great to get to it, to have students in the building learning and developing in their 11, 12, 13 and 14 year old selves.  Our teachers are an extraordinary group of professionals, in addition to being expert in the subjects they teach, they really focus on who your children are and how they learn.  The latter part of the knowing your children and how they learn is what makes Parker such an exceptional school.  We will be kicking off the school year with an all-school assembly to share our Core Values of Kindness, Community, and Personal Best.  Teachers and teams will be working with groups to talk about what these values look like in practice.  Additionally, teachers will be doing some goal setting activities where they will coach students to make an academic goal and a personal goal for the year.  I am sure teams will fill you in on these activities in the PTO Monthly Newsletter. 

As we start the year, if you have questions or we can help with anything please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or e-mail.          

First Day of School Pictures

Friday, June 5, 2015

Parker Open House - June 4, 2015

Open House this year was better than I have ever seen it; we had more grandparents and fifth graders than ever before.  The student work, the student led conferences grades in 7 and 8, the ability to determine the density of your head by submerging it in a water tank in grade 6 science, the jazz band, as well as the art and math projects were all so impressive and fun to see.  Thank you to all of the teachers for your efforts to showcase the gains that students have made in your classes this year!  Parents were thrilled with the student led conferences.  Several reported that the opportunity to hear their children talk about their growth while sharing samples of their work was so impressive.  

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Principal Notes
May 25, 2015

What a beautiful Memorial Day weekend.  I hope you all had an opportunity to rest and connect with family and friends.  For us, teachers and principals this is a hectic time of year, the weather is slowly changing, and students who have worked hard all year can sense the end.  Each year at this time students prepare themselves for the transition to summer and their new grades in different ways.  Some hunker down and are focused while others want to slow up a bit before the finish.  Overall, teachers and students have been amazing this year working and presenting themselves as engaged and serious about finishing well.  In observing classes this past Friday eighth graders were presenting science projects, building mechanized cars in engineering, writing a comparative analysis in social studies, and writing about an influential person in their lives in ELA.  Really nice to see at this point in the year, we are exceedingly proud of how the students have progressed this year.  You will get a glimpse of this at our Open House on June 4th where 7th and 8th graders will present their work in Student Led Conferences.      

Parker Community Day - 2015      

On May 9th PTO organized the 10th annual Community Day.  The event has changed over the years starting off with a road race and pancake breakfast to the simple focus on beautification and cleaning of the school grounds.  This year thirty plus students, parents and faculty spent the morning raking, cleaning and spreading new mulch.  We hope you notice, and enjoy the change.  Special thanks to Mrs. Leone and Mrs. Tompkins for coordinating the donations and volunteers.  A great day had by all!

Transitioning Up – May/June 2015

In the past weeks we hosted the parents of rising sixth, seventh, and eighth graders to talk about moving up to the next grade level, the differences in the schedules, expectations and the changes in the academic work.  The common themes in all of the presentations and conversations are that the teams of teachers in grades six through eight are remarkable.  They get kids, they are committed to their work, and they have a connection and professional respect for their teacher-teammates.  This connection and respect, or chemistry that exists on the teams has created the conditions where students moving up haven’t slipped, but have continued to progress and be challenged at a high level.  A change in this years’ parent meetings we included student tours at the end of our presentations.  We think that students are the absolute best representations of our work, and they explain so well what it is like to be a sixth, seventh or eighth graders at Parker Middle School.  Our seventh grade student tour guides can be seen below.    

If you were unable to attend these information evenings, and you have questions please do not hesitate to drop Brendan Norton or me a note at or         

PTO Update - May 2015
As we close out the year, and as I reflect on the accomplishments of the PTO, I am again reminded that we couldn’t do a fraction of what we do without the leadership and parent volunteers who participate on the Parker Parent Teacher Organization (PTO).  The PTO for the last several years has raised an average of twenty five thousand dollars a year to student support field trips, teachers and teams, presenters that have supported the middle school curricula, visiting authors, the library media center, as well as the fine and performing arts.  In the past few years the PTO has had fundraisers that have supported both the PTO and the Understanding Disabilities Organization.  This small gesture of support for Understanding Disabilities (UD), and the Arts has been representative of the PTO leadership’s desire to broaden support to organizations that support student learning outside of the classroom.  We have been fortunate to have such skilled, capable leaders for the past two years.  PTO President, Marianne Tomkins and Treasurer, Christine Powers have been remarkable at refining how we raise and track PTO money.  They have also been instrumental in increasing the number of parents participating in and committing resources to the PTO. 

Additionally, the PTO Officers and Committee Chairpersons, Heather McCubbin, Secretary, Christine Parks, Newsletter, Stacey Leone and Lisa Keegan, Friday Night Activities and Family Day, Kelley Bedingfield, Publicity, Diane Cohen, Magazine Drive, Janelle Ortiz, Retail Fundraising, Heather Soracco, Family Directory, and Demetra Tseckares-Restuccia and Laura O’Neill, Outdoor and Indoor Beautification have graciously given their time and effort to make Parker a more welcoming, accessible educational community.  For all of your work and effort, the teachers, administrators and students sincerely thank you!   

If you are thinking about being involved next year we still have open positions.  We need a Secretary, and Publicity/Photo Person.  Moreover, the PTO Leadership is looking to eliminate the Magazine Drive this fall and to replace the slowing magazine fundraiser with a direct appeal through donations and PTO Membership Dues.  This is a bold move, but one that is necessary as the demand for print media becomes less and less.  We are excited about this move away from magazine subscriptions being our largest fundraiser.  If 80% of the Parker Families participate by simply committing to pay the annual Family PTO Dues of $40.00, we will minimally reach our fundraising goal for the 2015-2016 School Year.    

HR and Staffing

It has been a busy spring at Parker with staff taking leave and new personnel filling in as substitutes.  Mrs. Fox will be going on Maternity Leave on Friday, May 29th, while Mrs. Peterson will be returning from Maternity Leave on June 7th.  Special thanks to Katianne Williams who has filled in for Mrs. Peterson during her leave.  Mrs. Williams is very skilled and has quickly distinguished herself as a new teacher with great instincts.  Moreover, we have several veteran teachers and faculty members who will be retiring this year.  Mrs. Kalmakis, and Mrs. Piantedosi, will be retiring at the end of the school year, while Mr. Gomes and Mrs. Ketlak will be retiring in the fall.  Please don’t miss the opportunity to recognize these exceptional staff members.  We recommend using the REF Teacher Tribute Program at  The deadline has been extended until TUESDAY, June 18th.  The Teacher Tribute Cards will be delivered at the end of the school year.  All proceeds from the Teacher Tribute Program support teacher grants and awards through the Reading Education Foundation.    

Friday, April 24, 2015

Principal Notes

Good Morning, the third quarter has ended and report cards were posted to Edline on Friday before the break.  Teachers had a very productive early release on Thursday and Professional Day on Friday (04/16-17/2015).  As part of the Blueprint for Educational Excellence Conference, Parker hosted a site visit for teachers and school leaders from around the state.  Our visitors were toured by student leaders; they spent time in classes, and participated in a reception in the library media center before attending the conference in the afternoon.  The visitors had the opportunity to talk to students, teachers and administrators about the wonderful programs and initiatives that are happening here at Parker, and in the district.  The visitors were very interested in the wide-spread use of technology during instruction, and especially by students in classes.  They were most impressed and spoke at length about the school culture and the relationships that students have with teachers.  One of visiting teachers reported that she wished her school community was as connected to students as them seem to be here at Parker, certainly nice feedback for our faculty and staff.  We look forward to students returning on Monday.  If you have any questions about grades, or if we can help with anything please drop a note.     

The Anti-Defamation League and the World of Difference Program

On Friday, April 17th, 15 students from both Parker and Coolidge attended the ADL's A World of Difference Youth Congress 2015 at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston. This year's theme was "breaking barriers".  Students heard from Senator Elizabeth Warren and athlete Kathrine Switzer, the first female to run the Boston Marathon in 1967 before women were allowed to participate.  In the breakout sessions that followed, we had four Parker student leaders facilitate a middle school workshop made up of students and teachers from around the state of Massachusetts on the topic of breaking barriers. The four students, featured in the picture below are Lucie, Portia, Julia, and Alex. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Principal Notes
February 27, 2015
By Douglas Lyons

Today is the 104th day of the school year.  It now looks like we will be getting out of school on June 25th, unless there are additional snow days.  We just completed our first full week of school in a month.  It feels good to have less snow and be back to work with students.  With the additional snow days, we will be moving our third quarter progress reports and reports cards out a week.  The new dates are: Progress Reports 03/11, Third Quarter grades close 04/10, and Report Cards posted to Edline on 04/16.  If you have any questions about the calendar and upcoming events, please refer to the Weekly Preview or drop a note to Brendan Norton or me at or         

The 2014-2015 Heroes Among Us Assembly

On Friday, January 30, 2015, Ms. Cristi and student leaders at Parker Middle School presented the fifth annual Parker Hero’s Among Us Awardto Ned Coltman.  What makes this award special is that students decide who is most deserving in the community to receive the award.  The award was created by the Parker Student Leaders to recognize a person (or persons) in the community who they think makes a difference in the Parker and Reading community.  The difference can be an act of service or simply a decision in their life that made a positive impact on others.     

The presentation of the Heroes Among Us Award this year was terrific; student leaders interviewed Ned Coltman, wrote their own speeches, and co-planned the entire event.  Mrs. Cristi coached and guided students through the preparation and her efforts clearly paid off based on how the students performed, they even surprised themselves.  It is great to have Ned Coltman (Parker Alum) a recent graduate of Tufts University back to receive this honor.  Ned Coltman was chosen by students this year for his efforts to enact change in the Scouts organization and their practice of excluding people.  Ned participated in scouting and believes deeply in the values of the organization, but really felt like the organization needed to be more open.  As a protest,  Ned rescinded his affiliation with the scout’s organization and returned his badges, including his prestigious Eagle award.  Due to the organized protest of Ned and other scouts, the scout organization is now more open to all people who want to participate. 

Ned’s inspiring speech and challenge to students focused on social justice and inclusion.  Ned challenged students to “…reach out to include another student who may not be part of your friends group, who may be alone at lunch or in classes…”  Additionally, he asked students if they have recognized when someone has reached out to include another student to back them up…nice words indeed!   Special thanks to student leaders and Mrs. Cristi for a memorable presentation. 

Parker 8th Graders in Cost Rica

This year, twenty 8th graders made the trek to Costa Rica.  The week was filled with activities that included white water rafting, a trip to Arenal and the Poás Volcano, an outing to an organic farm, and a walk in the Monteverde Cloud forest Reserve.  The highlight of the trip, according to our students, was a stop at a local elementary school where students visited students and teachers.  As part of Eco Club, the Parker students presented a gift to the school donating school supplies for students.   

Students used technology to chronicle their trip on the Parker in Costa Rica blog which can be found at:  An excerpt from the Parker Costa Rica blog is below.  The reflections of students are often heart felt and inspiring… worth a look.

Ava R.

“It blows my mind that today is the last day of this unique and inspiring trip. This week has definitely been a life changing experience, from the dancing and the singing night at a mountain top restaurant to the thrilling ride down a crazy rive ... What was also so new to me was seeing and hearing Spanish wherever you go. Which gave us a bit of a game of trying to translate and talk to others in Spanish. On Sunday one of the first days we were out in public at a store, alike to target I remember us spotting candy and going up to the cashier to buy it. But by the time we were up there the lady only spoke Spanish and on the screen the amount was in colónes. So we had at least ten kids surrounding her trying to figure out what she was saying and how much it was in American dollars. That after about five minutes of attempting we just had to put away the candy and meet up with the adults. But today I definitely believe we have all improved greatly in Spanish because we had to adapt or it would have been more than difficult to get around. This experience was rough at some points but I know that I will always remember this amazing trip.”