Tuesday, November 1, 2011

News and Info

Barnes and Noble Book Fair

With short notice, and a buzz around New York Times best selling author Rick Riordan coming to Barnes and Noble, Burlington, Robyn Ferrazzani, our Library Media Specialist, again worked her magic coordinating the Second Annual Parker Book Fair on October 4th. It was a great turn out, with students and teachers from all grades attending. In addition to the book fair, Parker students participated in an art/essay contest with the grand prize being a meet and greet with Rick Riordan himself. Parker students won the contest, and 40 students had an opportunity to meet and talk to author Rick Riordan about writing, middle school, and what inspires him to write. The exchange he had with our students was quite impressive. Take a look below:

Art work submitted by Mia Lambroff that helped us win the opportunity to see Rick Riordan.

You can see our model readers Carolyn Lovvoll, Samantha Stuart, Maeve Keane, and Christina O’Connor. This year we again had the student band ‘The Cliff’ perform seen above are front man Hunter Lambroff, with Cam Dieselman on keyboards, Al Garbarino on drums and lead guitarist not present in the shot above was Jake Rhodes.

District Happenings

The Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse (RCASA), Reading Public Schools, Reading Police Department and Town of Reading hosted the third community dialogue on substance abuse and violence on Tuesday, October 18th. The forum featured a panel discussion with a member of Middlesex District Attorney’s office, RCASA Executive Director Erica McNamara, Police Chief James Cormier, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Doherty. The discussion was led by Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner. The focus of the forum was to present information learned from the previous two forums held on September 21st and October 6th, as well as, to listen to members of the community about possible ideas to address substance abuse and violence. There were 160 members of the community present for the forum including students, parents, teachers and administrators. The fact that these discussions have drawn so many members of the community is a testament to the commitment to address these difficult issues. For more information about next steps and happenings in the district please click on http://readingsuperintendent.wordpress.com to view Pathways the Official Blog of the Reading Public Schools.

Parker Middle School’s 2nd Annual - Hero’s Among Us Award!

On Friday, October 14, 2011, student leaders at Parker Middle School presented the second annual Parker Hero’s Among Us Award, to the Chief of Police, James Cormier and to the Fire Chief, Greg Burns. 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 Peer Leaders to recognize a person (or persons) in the community who makes a difference in the lives of students. The presentation ceremony was planned and hosted by 8th grade student leaders Cate Halley, Samantha Stuart and Maeve Keane.

(Appearing from left to right) Police Chief James Cormier, 8th Grade Peer Leaders Maeve Keane, Samantha Stuart,
Catherine Halley, Fire Chief Greg Burns and Principal Doug Lyons

The students wrote the following notable excerpts in their presentations:

Do you know what a hero is? Many people can be considered a hero; whether it is just a simple act of kindness or a great deed. Many heroes don’t know that they are making a big impact on people. The Peer Leaders thought hard about this award this year, and decided that the two people who have very difficult jobs, and at times don’t always see the good they do should be honored. This year’s Parker Hero’s Among Us Award goes to Police Chief James Cormier and Fire Chief Greg Burns.

In preparing for this presentation we interviewed Chief Cormier and learned that there are hard parts to his job. He is ‘the boss’ for many different people and his job comes with public expectations, like being out in the community attending functions. He has to stay on top of every problem so that the community is safe. Informing and explaining to the public what is happening, coordinating with other Massachusetts Police Departments is not an easy job. A main reason we thought Chief Cormier is a hero is because he has bravery risking his life everyday and his commitment to keeping us safe!

Chief Cormier grew up in Reading attending the Pearl Street elementary school before it was converted to senior living. He even attended Parker Middle School and then went on to RMHS. In 1983 he joined the Reading Police Department. He lives in Reading now with his wife and two (2) children.

The second honoree this year, Chief Burns is always on call. When he goes to bed at night he has to always be ready to rush out the door and go if anyone needs him, while we sleep soundly in our beds. Chief Burns is selfless and cares about others more than himself. He would go into a burning building and jeopardize his life in order to save someone. What courage that is to be so brave to take action like that.

Chief Burns also grew up in Reading attending the Pearl Street elementary school for 1st and 2nd grades. He then attended Killam elementary school, Coolidge middle school and then on to RMHS. He still lives in Reading today with his wife and two (2) children. Chief Burns wanted to be a firefighter because he wanted a challenge and wanted to be outdoors. He tries his best to offer the most programs on fire prevention safety as possible.

Many heroes do not consider themselves to be a hero. A hero in real life isn’t the one who saves the princess from being locked away in a castle. A true hero is one who puts others before themselves and goes out of their way to make sure everyone is safe. For Chief Cormier and Chief Burns, that is a daily thing. They are true heroes!

Cate Halley, Maeve Keane and Samantha Stuart
8th Grade Peer Leaders at Parker Middle School

Parker PTO Parent Presentation on November 9th at 7:00 p.m.

On Wednesday, November 9th, Sara Burd the District Behavioral Health Coordinator will be at Parker to talk to the parents during the regularly scheduled PTO meeting at 7:00 p.m. Sara will discuss the district behavioral health guidelines, as well as, the importance of behavioral health and wellness on student learning.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Principal Notes - September 2011

We would like to welcome you all back to Parker Middle School. If you are new to our school and have endured your son or daughter trying to explain the 6-day rotating schedule at the kitchen table, I am sure you will notice that they have it down and are doing quite well in their new environment. September is our busiest month, marked by Open House, Team Coffees, and Team Meetings. The teams of teachers are working hard to learn about your children and have been diligent establishing structures and routines that make the learning at Parker welcoming, accessible and appropriately challenging. If you have any questions or feedback for us please do not hesitate to drop a note to me at dlyons@reading.k12.ma.us .

Focus on Teaching and Learning
We at Parker have for the last several years been working on helping students make their work public. The theme we talk about and share with visiting teacher teams and administrators who come to Parker to find out about student engagement and how to help students use technology and media to display their work is “…producing work for an audience greater than one…” The reference, audience greater than one, refers to the “old school” version of kid’s writing papers or taking tests that only the classroom teacher would see. We have learned that when we change the audience for kids (and teachers) the level and creativity of their work increases dramatically. We have learned that by using technology and media to allow students to share their work and get feedback, it improves their work product. You will see, and we think be pleasantly surprised at what your sons and daughters are producing. An exceptional video called Blue Ribbon Site Visit (April 2011) which can be found at the Parker site on Eduvision by going to (https://wsparkermiddleschool.eduvision.tv/default.aspx) simply click on the video screen with the name Blue Ribbon Site Visit. The Eduvision site is a virtual space we use to store and access video and documentary shorts produced by students and teachers and to stream Parker News Live for morning announcements. Let us know what you think?

In grades seven and eight there will be a particular emphasis on reading and writing in all classes as well as during FLEX periods. This is in response to our learning that our students are expert at using the internet to gather information, reformat text and produce work without truly needing to think about the content they are writing about. This issue is not specific to students at Parker but we are deliberately making a concerted effort to interrupt this pattern of writing without truly having to think about or apply what students are writing about.

If you are interested in reading some student work you can access “The Quill” Parker Middle School’s on-line News and Arts Journal at http://thequillonline.wordpress.com/. What is so outstanding about students writing in the Blog or Wordpress format is that it is making work public via the internet. Additionally, readers can comment on what student’s are writing in real time. The more feedback our kids get the more they improve!

Parker’s Instructional Leadership Team and Lab Classroom Group
We were notified last week that some of the Instructional Leadership Team and Lab Classroom Group work we have been doing here at Parker will be cited in a new book being published by Teachers College Press at Columbia University. The name of the book is: Where Adults Learn: A Guide for Instructional Leaders by Angela Breidenstein, Kevin Fahey, Carl Clickman and Frances Hensley. The work cited comes directly from the Instructional Leadership Team, the Lab Classroom group, site visits, participation in professional development activities and also interviews that were completed by Professor Kevin Fahey from Salem State University, and Francis Hensley from the University of Georgia. It is great to see our work regarded as a model from which other schools and teacher leaders can learn.

PTO Open House
Special thanks to the PTO President Mike May and Peer Leaders for organizing an outstanding Open House on Tuesday, September 20th. The feedback from parents was terrific. We hope that you left Parker with a sense of what your children go through traveling around the building from class to class. It also gives parents an opportunity to see and hear from teachers directly. Thank you!

Peer Leaders and Student Council
One of the fastest growing groups at Parker is our Peer Leader and Student Council Groups. These student groups participate, coordinate and lead service activities, community initiatives and projects that range from “Toys for Tots” to “The ALS Walk.” Students vote on which activities that they would like to lead and what groups they would like to support in the community and the world. With some help and a little coaching our students can achieve amazing things. I will write about our activities monthly to keep you updated. The two major community projects happening on October are “The Hero’s Among Us Award 2011” given annually to a member of the community who has made a difference in the lives of our middle school students (on October 14th) and the “ALS Walk” around Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield (on October 15th). If you would like to join us in the ALS Walk please send a note to Chris Copeland at ccopeland@reading.k12.ma.us.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

MCAS update

We are in week 2 of the Language Arts MCAS.  The students have been wonderful. It’s not easy to take any test, never mind a high stakes one like the MCAS.  Thank you being mindful of the testing days and for helping your son or daughter be well rested each morning.  The teachers have also been wonderful.  It hasn’t been easy for them either as they have had to adjust their teaching schedules to accommodate the testing.  I think we will all be grateful for next week when the testing is over.  Hopefully, April will bring warm sunny days and a chance for us to start getting outside at lunch again. 
Also as we move into April we will be thinking more and more about next year.  Transition meetings have already started. We have held meetings at each elementary school for the grade 5 transition and the high school staff has been great about reaching out to our students and parents for the grade 8 transition.  Please check Edline for more upcoming transition information as well as important upcoming dates to mark on your calendar.  As a reminder, you are always welcome to join us at our PTO meetings held on the first Wednesday of each month. Our next meeting will be held on April 6th at 7:00.  If you have any questions or if Doug or I can be of assistance please don’t hesitate to call.        Cathy & Doug

Cathy O'Connell coconnell@reading.k12.ma.us   781-944-1236 x302
Doug Lyons dlyons@reading.k12.ma.us     781-944-1236 x301

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

SRI Winter Meeting by Meghan Lockwood

Thanks in large part to the generosity of the PTO, a group of Parker teachers attended the School Reform Initiative Winter Meeting in New York City in mid-January. The colossal blizzard that arrived on January 12th caused the five of us—Sue Kalmakis, Meghan Lockwood, Tanya McDonald, Sean Musselman, Jen Webster—to scramble to rearrange travel plans, but we all eventually arrived, eager to participate in the conference.

The School Reform Initiative (SRI) is an amazing organization that improves student learning largely by creating teacher learning communities within schools. The organization’s mission states that SRI “creates transformational learning communities fiercely committed to educational equity and excellence.” SRI members commit to sharing our work in the belief that by making our work public, sharing resources, and holding one another accountable for creating the best possible educational experiences for our students, we will improve our teaching practice and thereby our students’ learning. We often use SRI protocols (http://schoolreforminitiative.org/protocol/) in our meetings and professional development activities at Parker.

During the conference, we spent the bulk of our time in small groups, using SRI protocols to have structured conversations about our practice. Each participant brought a piece of student work, teacher work, or a dilemma from their practice for the group to workshop. We benefited from sharing work with and hearing the perspectives of teachers and administrators from all over the country. Our work in these groups will make us better facilitators and participators in this type of work back at Parker. Several of us also had the opportunity to visit a school deeply engaged in this work, the University Neighborhood Middle School in the Lower East Side. We left this school visit and the conference feeling inspired to continue working together to make Parker an ever more vibrant learning community. We are truly grateful to everyone who helped give us this opportunity.

Principal Notes

Principal Notes

Another snow day! I, like our students, await the news in the morning to see if the town of Reading is listed on the scroll at the bottom of the news cast indicating that there will in fact be no-school due to snow. I don’t know if there are more places in Massachusetts listing their closures, but it certainly feels like there are a lot of schools and it takes a long time to get to the R’s. Most times I get “the call” with the automated Connect Ed message from Dr. Doherty and my first response is “…Yes! A day off; a day to catch up on work; a day to do all of the things I have yet to get to.” Maybe a great opportunity to write Principal Notes…

Student Behavior/Health and Wellness

In an effort to keep parents informed and most importantly to keep students safe, I need to report that there continues to be incidents and reports of alcohol use at the middle level. This includes students in grades six through eight. Students have reported that they have been able to get alcohol at home without their parent’s knowledge or from older siblings. These incidents have been few, but are more than enough for us to be concerned about student safety. Our intent is not to alarm or catch students doing things wrong. To the contrary, our goal is to teach kids to have confidence and to make good decisions when confronted with information or situations that involve alcohol. I include this information in our newsletter and blog in the hope that you would take some time to talk to your children about what they are seeing and hearing about alcohol.

The administration and the guidance staff are working with Erica McNamara, Director of the Reading Coalition Against Substance Abuse (RCASA) and Tom Zaya, the Head of Health and Wellness at the high school to plan a presentation for Parker students about alcohol awareness. More information will be sent out when the event is scheduled. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Cathy O’ Connell or me at 781.944.1236. Thank you for your help with this issue!

Student Update

On Thursday, January 6th we welcomed six students to Parker Middle School from South Korea. The students are part of a Korean Exchange Program and are staying with host families in Reading and will be here until January 26th. This has been a great experience for our guests and for our students here as well. The students, seventh graders, Min Jeong Kim, Soo Bin Kim, Young Bin Kim and eighth graders Sae Hyun Lee, Hyun Ki Kim and Min Kyung Im have had full schedules, participating in classes here as well as traveling and visiting Colleges and Universities in and around Boston.

Eighth grader and student leader, Jenna Choi who was born in Seoul Korea, has been instrumental in welcoming our guests; translating when necessary and helping them negotiate and figure out their new school schedules. In a lunch to welcome the students to Parker, the students from Korea talked with Parker students about the differences in their school schedules at home compared to here in the U.S. A few of our eighth graders were amazed at the amount of time that students in Korea spend leaning and studying. Our students are learning as much from this exchange as our guests!

We would like to especially thank Parker Host Families Mr. and Mrs. Miller, Mr. and Mrs. Stevens, and Mr. and Mrs. Friedmann. Without you participating in this program we would not have been able to welcome and learn from these extraordinary young students from Korea. Thank you!

Exchange Update: On February 7th, we welcome seven students from China who will be spending a week with us as well.

Budget Update reported by Parker Budget Parent Sarah Fennelly

The Budget Process is well underway. The Superintendent’s FY 12 Recommended Budget was presented to School Committee on Monday, January 10th. Dr. Doherty and the Director of Finance and Operations, Mary Delai have worked tirelessly meeting with administrators, teachers and stake holders in the community to develop three budget options or proposals for the School Committee to consider. The options are a “Level Services Budget”, a “Level Funded Budget” and a 0.5% reduced budget that the town Finance Committee has suggested all departments consider.

The “Level Services Budget” proposal would require an increase of 2.7% over the FY 11 Budget (or just over one million dollars). A “Level Funded Budget” proposal means appropriating the same amount for FY 12 that was provided in FY 11. In the past two years, the RPS essentially had level funded budgets, resulting in a variety of cuts and decreases, increases in certain fees and elimination of the equivalent of 28 full-time positions. The federal stimulus money helped reduce the impact, but the funding is ending. A level funded budget for FY2012 would mean an additional $1,000,000 in cuts. The proposed cuts are as follows:

Changes to Achieve Level Funded Budget:

Increase Offsets $125,000

Reduce School Supply and Material Budgets $100,000

Eliminate 1.5 Support Staff Positions $50,000

Reduce Administrator Salaries $20,000

Eliminate After School Fitness Center Program $20,000

Reduce Salary Increases $685,000
Total $1,000,000

To meet the towns requested -0.5% budget, RPS would need to cut an additional $385,000 proposed as follows:

Eliminate K-8 Instructional Specialist $50,000.00

Reduce athletic expenses or increase user fees $40,000.00
Eliminate 6.3 FTE support staff positions* $120,000.00
Eliminate 3.7 FTE teaching positions** $175,000.00
Total $385,000.00

*obtained most likely by reducing hours rather than individual positions
**to be determined, more likely to occur at elementary gr. 3-5 and high school course sections

The remaining meetings are as follows: January 20, January 24 (Public Hearing), January 26 (Financial Forum-Senior Center), January 31 (Final Vote). All SC meetings will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the conference room at Central Office. The Financial Forum is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. at the Senior Center. The SC meetings are broadcast live on RCTV’s educational channel, Comcast 10, Verizon 32. If you would like to have your concerns heard, please try and plan on attending one of these meetings as they are open to the public. The complete budget can be found on-line at the district Edline page at:


We would like to thank the Parker Budget Parents, Sarah Fennelly, Kelly Bedingfield, Priscilla Hollenbeck and Tom Loughlin for volunteering and especially for keeping Parker Parents, the PTO and School Council up to date on the budget process. Thank you!