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.” 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Principal Notes
by Brendan Norton

It has been a busy few weeks since our return from Winter Vacation, with three separate events in the first week alone.  The annual Parent Visitation Day, on January 8th, was a remarkable success, 223 parents came into the building to visit their children’s classes and hopefully left better sense of what is it is like being a student at Parker Middle School.  In addition to Parent Visitation Day, twenty-nine 8th grade girls were invited to UMass Lowell for a Health and Fitness Informational day that ended with a UMass Lowell Women’s Basketball game.  The girls who went on the field trip had a wonderful experience.

On Friday January 9th, students returned to homerooms to complete a peer led core values activity. The peer leaders were members of our A World of Difference Group and our Parker Leadership and Service group .  The activity, called “footprints,”  asked student to write about a time when they had stood up for someone else or when they had witnessed someone standing up for another person.  Students wrote about these experiences inside of a footprint cut out which were then displayed in the performing arts center at the high school during the Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. 

                The following week a group of sixth grade Parker Leadership and Service students visited Lasell College for a conference. This conference was a part of the MIAA You Lead campaign for teaching students how to be leaders in creating a culture against teen drug and alcohol use.  Students returned from this trip eager to meet with me and discuss how they could share their experience with the rest of the school. Friday was a “Patriots” day with students coming to school in their New England Patriots gear.  This clearly had a significant impact on the outcome of the game, so students should be prepared to come to school decked out again on the 30th.   We also had our annual school wide Geography Bee last Friday.  It was a very close contest this year with 7th grader Nicole Boyer winning for the 2nd year in a row. 

As we move to the end of January and into February we are planning several events lead by our Parker Leadership and Service members including, Hoops for Hearts, Pennies for Patients, and the Shriners Can Top Drive.  Please look out for information about these events in the coming weeks.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pictures of the Week

Abe and Antonio looking very sharp before the Winter Concert
Mrs. Martinson' students working on poems  connected to Tuck Everlasting

Principal Notes
December 18, 2014

First, we want to thank parents and the community for supporting our efforts to teach and support your children at the middle level.  We are grateful for your trust, guidance, and feedback.  To parents and families, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  Best wishes to you and your families in the New Year.  As always if you have questions or we can help with anything please drop us a note. 

A snapshot of English Language Arts in grade 7…

Our seventh grade students are finishing up the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.  The entire seventh grade from Parker and Coolidge attended the musical at the North Shore Music Theatre yesterday.  The language and the themes in the original work that the students are reading present some challenges.  Most of our seventh graders are focusing on close reading to fully capture the central ideas and supporting details in the text.  Most students know the story line and have seen one of the many movie versions of the story, but to see and hear student’s read and reread to make meaning of the text is exciting.  To see them make connections to the themes of kindness and community and connect to opportunities to practice these values are exceedingly very nice to watch play out.  The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future still capture our thinking about the possibility and power of change.  Students and teachers seem to be genuinely engaged and learning with and from one another as they work through this wonderful story.             

Two of our groups attending "A Christmas Carol" on Wednesday, 12/17/2014

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and A World of Difference Program
The ADL, a leader in anti-bias education, was here at Parker working with a cohort of thirty six student leaders as part of our World of Difference Program.  The two-day training led by a facilitator from the ADL is designed to help students: recognize bias and the harm it inflicts on individuals and society, build understanding of the value and benefits of diversity, improve intergroup relations, and most importantly confront racism, anti-Semitism and all other forms of bigotry.  This training comes at an ideal time for us here at Parker, as some of you may know or have read my recent e-mail that reported an incident of graffiti in one of our student bathrooms.  In the process of our collaborative work interviewing students to find out more about the graffiti, it is clear that we need to do some meaningful work with our students in how they talk to and refer to their classmates and friends.  Some students give little thought to using words that are derogatory, and in some instances simply intimidating.  With the help of our faculty coordinators, Julie Merrill and Taylor Moroso, we are planning an all school Core Values activity in January. 


Student Leaders Participating in ADL Training