Monday, December 16, 2013

Principal Notes
December 12, 2013
By Douglas Lyons

Time is going quickly; we completed our 69th day of the school year today.  We just passed the mid-quarter for the second marking period and progress reports were uploaded to Edline.  The seventh grade has made their annual field trip to the North Shore Music Theatre to see “A Christmas Carol.”  This is such a nice tradition and the production really contributes to the reading that is happening in class.  If you are interested in getting a glimpse of the production your children have seen, please click on the link 

If you have questions about your child's grades or progress reports, I encourage you to please contact your son or daughters’ teachers or their team leaders.

8th Grade English continues to be a great place to be…

Team Leaders, and 8th Grade English teachers, Mr. Olivo (left) and Mr. James (right) continue to make learning fun and engaging.  They can be seen above getting in a quick game of chess, and maybe having some fun posing for a picture.  Mr. James and Mr. Olivo have different teaching styles and deliveries, but their ability to plan lessons and execute remarkably fun and exciting activities that support learning has made 8th grade English some of our most exciting classes in the eighth grade.  Their commitment to getting to know their students and to really learn how their students learn has really made a significant difference in the level and progress students are making in their writing.  Both teachers plan their lessons together and share ideas about how to help and support students.  If you watch the two teachers together, the respect and regard they have for one another is undeniable.  This has really contributed to the teaching and the work that teachers are doing on the eighth grade teams.  In both classes’ students write and publish their work on class blogs, and will be prepared to present their written work in the spring during student-led conferences.  We are most pleased with the work kids are producing in ELA, and we know full well that the work students are producing and the progress they are making is directly related to the creativity, insight and commitment of Mr. James and Mr. Olivo.

The Reading Education Foundation (REF) and the Festival of Trees

The Festival of Trees, presented annually by the Reading Education (REF) ( continues to be a great family activity and a great fundraiser that supports innovation and excellence in the schools.  It is also a nice opportunity to see and catch up with Parker Alumni and current Parker students working side-by-side setting up trees and volunteering to support the education foundation. 

Jamie Melley, Lilly Manna and Ryan Melley decorate a tree donated by RMHS

Seventh graders (from left to right) Alexindra Wheeler, Portia Restuccia, Lucie D’Entremont, Tricia Snell, Alex Casarano, Rebecca Cory and Lindsay Yatsuhashi from decorate a donated tree from their Girl Scout Troop.   

School Safety and ALICE Training

We have been busy at the school and district level learning about the new lock down process called ALICE.  The acronym stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate.  In the new system, teachers and school personnel are learning how to create options and make decisions to help keep students safe in the event there is an intruder in the school.  The district leadership has been instrumental in staying current with national trends in school safety and collaborating with the Reading Police Department to make the best practices in school safety a standard in Reading.  I will be writing more about what we are learning in the coming months.  If you have questions about this process or about what we are learning, please drop a note.       

Monday, November 4, 2013

Principal Notes
Doug Lyons 11/04/2013

The first quarter is closing out this week and the kids are recovering from a great week of activities. We had the Nature’s Classroom trip, class field trips, a Red Sox World Series Victory and of course Halloween.  We were fortunate to be able to get anything done last week with all of the happenings.  Fall/winter has arrived and we are hearing from kids getting ready to switch seasons and start the second quarter.  Students have worked hard to complete all of their work for the quarter, as teachers have also been hard at work trying to support, engage and challenge your children.  Grades will be uploaded to Edline Friday, November 8th.  If you have questions about your child’s grades or a particular subject please do not hesitate to be in touch with their teachers or team leader.

Giving Students Time, Space and Most Importantly a Voice…

The Parker Peer Leaders and Service (PLS) group continues to lead the school in service work and activities that highlight our core values of Kindness, Community and Personal Best.  These values could not have been more evident at our annual Parker Heroes Among Us Award presentation.  This year, Kathleen Walsh and Olivia Reardon took the lead organizing the eighth grade peer leader luncheon to present the process and decide who would be the Hero that the Parker student community would like to recognize as this year’s recipient of the award.  After much back and forth several well deserving members of the Reading community were nominated but in time it became clear that students really wanted to honor and recognize, Shores Salter (Parker class of 2006). 

The following piece was written and presented by Kathleen Walsh and Olivia Reardon at the 2013 Heroes Among Us presentation on October 24th at Parker Middle School:

A hero can be described in many ways.  When you think of a hero, you think of someone you are proud to know, someone whose actions are an example for the people around them.  As the school year began, the 8th grade Parker Leadership & Service students began to think of someone in Reading who makes a difference.  Throughout the process one person truly stood out to the group.  This is a person the entire school is proud to recognize.  His actions at the Boston Marathon are actions that all of us should take as an example… 

When the first bomb went off, he knew it was something that wasn’t supposed to happen, but when the second bomb exploded just across the street from him, he knew they were in danger.  He says that he just stood there in shock as people ran around him screaming, but when he gathered himself he ran across Boylston Street to help.  As he reached the barricades he heard the cries of a woman, “Somebody help me!  Who’s going to help me?” He credits destiny for drawing him towards this woman, whose identity he would later learn was Roseann Sdoia.  She informed him that her leg was badly injured.  Under the instruction of nearby first responders Mike and Shana, Shores tied a tourniquet around her leg and then carried her down Boylston Street leaving the stranger (Roseann) with paramedics.  He wouldn’t learn whose life he had just saved for a couple weeks.

A few weeks after the tragic ending to what is supposed to be one of the best days in Boston, Shores and Roseann met for the first time with the help of the news media.  In a desperate attempt to find her hero, Roseann gave a picture of Shores to the media, and within hours she had his identity.  Shores had also spent that day in the wake of the tragedy wondering if the lady he helped had survived.  In addition to being connected with Roseann, he was also connected with Boston Police Department Officer Shana and Firefighter Mike.  He says that the relationship he has with these three is much stronger than the relationship he has with some of his close friends because of the fact they were all there for each other in the scariest moment of their lives.  Their relationship will be lifelong he says.

It takes a big person to do what Shores did, but it takes an even bigger person to reflect on it.  Shores says, “I have done my best to take this horrific and extremely sad experience and become stronger as a person through it.”  Shores is incredibly deserving of this award.  He embodies the aspects that a true hero carries, and despite all the sad, tragic moments of the day, when asked he says he would do it all again without a second thought.  He has done what we all like to think we would do in his situation: take action.  Shores is not the only hero that walked away from the Boston Marathon that day.  However, we would like to think that he is a very good representation of all of them.  Although Shores doesn’t feel comfortable being recognized for his actions, we here at Parker and in the Reading community could not be more proud of what he did.  Despite all the good things said about Shores, none of them amount to the power of two words, so Thank You! Shores Salter, winner of the Heroes Among Us Award 2013.

Shores Salter and Roseann Sdoia stand as the Parker students give Shores a standing ovation during the 2013 Heroes Among Us presentation.

A highlight of the presentation was in listening to students talk about Shores Salter as someone who not only acted heroically but also someone who maybe could represent them in the future.   

Special thanks to Chris Copeland, Vonda Gauthier, and Leah Cristi for supporting and guiding Kathleen and Olivia through this presentation.  We also want to recognize and thank eighth grade student leaders.  We are learning here at Parker that when we give students time and space and an opportunity to create… they always exceed expectations.    

Learning from what we test…and why it works in Reading!
The teachers in all curricula areas have been working on common assessments called District Determined Measures (DDM’s).  These assessments are to act as an indicator or link between teacher professional practice and student achievement.  This is all part of the new teacher evaluation system in Massachusetts.  All districts are participating in creating assessments to use in this new process.  The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) have graciously given systems an opportunity to pilot new common DDM assessments this year.  Reading is taking full advantage of this opportunity to give teachers time to collaborate at the middle level to create assessments, and to genuinely learn from the process which will include really looking at student work and how that relates to instruction.  This work has not been reduced to an act of compliance, but has become an opportunity to participate in a professional learning community as it relates to each academic content area.  What is also unique in Reading’s DDM process is that the work is being led and facilitated by teacher leaders, teachers are given time within the professional development calendar, and most importantly we are committed to learning how kids learn based on what they produce on assessments.  While teachers lead and facilitate this work they are directly involved from the start of the assessment process to create and own what is produced.  This is not common throughout the state but is working for us here…more to follow.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

News and Info - September 2013

Principal Notes
September 2013
Welcome Back!  We are back at it and Parker is fully operating.  We are especially happy to have students back in the building.  Faculty and staff have spent the last few weeks welcoming students back, and are really focusing on learning about how your children learn.  As we progress and learn as a school community, it is clear that our ability to engage your children in their learning is directly proportional to our ability to connect with your children.  So the past few weeks has been dedicated to teaching students about team expectations, organization, and students sharing about what they are working on, as well as setting goals for themselves.  The grade level teams are small learning communities, or small schools within the larger school community.  If you have questions about your child’s progress or about activities happening on-team, I would encourage you to contact your child’s team leader or me. 
We look forward to a great school year.

We welcome five new staff members to Parker Middle School
Jessica Brehaut will be teaching 8th Grade Social Studies on the Olivo Team.  Ms. Brehaut has experience teaching in private and public schools, and most recently was teaching US and World History at Ludlow High School in Ludlow, Mass.  Ms. Brehaut completed her undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst receiving a BA in History and an M.Ed. in Education.  Jessica volunteered at Parker last spring for a number of days which has helped greatly in her transition to Parker.       

Special Education Teacher, Marti Neugarten comes to us from the Brookwood and Carroll Schools.  Mrs. Neugarten completed her undergraduate work at Boston University receiving a BA in Public Relations and an M.Ed. in Special Education from Lesley University.  Marti’s experience teaching reading and special education will be a great addition to our learning centers and language based programs.
Our new Assistant Principal, Brendan Norton is new to the AP Position but distinguished himself early in the interview process as a teacher leader, who has had great success working with students while teaching Social Studies and coaching hockey.  Mr. Norton completed his undergraduate degree at Assumption College receiving a BA in History, and his graduate work at Fitchburg State University receiving a M.Ed. in Education Leadership. 
We also welcome two exceptional paraeducators to the staff, Laurie Ward, an experienced paraeducator, who comes to us from Barrows Elementary School, and Katherine Anderson, a newly certified Social Studies teacher and who will be supporting classes as well as working in the eighth grade learning center. 
Additional HR News and Info: We were exceptionally fortunate this summer to be able to hire Adam Crook and Sandra Noack to cover two long term sub positions.  Mr. Crook has been in for Ms. Quackenbush and is teaching physical science in the sixth grade.  Ms. Quackenbush will be returning to the Goldstein (Upstairs) Team on Monday.  Mr. Crook will be here for the remainder of next week to support Ms. Q in her return.  Mrs. Noack has been in for Mrs. Fox and is teaching eighth grade Spanish.   Mrs. Fox welcomed her new son, Colin David Fox to the world on August 22nd and is recovering well.  She is scheduled to return to Parker in mid-October. 
The Work
It has been a great start to the school year.  After completing our annual administrative retreat in August we are recharged and excited to start the work of teaching and learning at the middle level.  We have limited new initiatives at the school and district level this year, and are focusing resources and efforts on curriculum and assessment, technology integration, behavioral health, and safety planning. 
The “work” around curriculum and assessment includes supervision and evaluation, common assessments (or District Determined Measures) as well as preparation for the transition from MCAS to the new State PARCC Assessments. 
Technology integration includes the “Bring your Own Device” (BYOD) initiative where we are changing how we teach and support students in classes with technology. 
Our work this year in Behavioral Health or Systems of Support is a continuation of the collaborative community forums that took place three years ago.  Since that time we have formalized the health and wellness curriculum, including a new health course at the middle level, and have increased counseling and screening services for students who may be at risk.  The work in this space is most promising and acts as a guide for us to think and learn about supporting students by intervening early with academic, social/emotional and behavioral supports. 
Safety of students and Safety Planning continue to be our most important work.  We are examining and learning about safety planning with our professional organizations at the State and local levels and will be reviewing and refining how we complete our safety drills.  This brief overview of the “work” is just that, a brief overview, with more to follow.     

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Principal Notes

By Doug Lyons

Teaching and Learning - “…Creating Work for an Audience Greater than One…”

“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 the level and creativity of their work increases dramatically. We have also learned that by using technology and media to allow students to share their work and get feedback, it improves their work product.”

I wrote this in September 2011 for the Parker Blog. At the time, the theme of making work public was based on the work of the Parker Instructional Leadership Team and author/teacher Ron Berger, An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. As we wrap up mid-year goal meetings with teachers and teams (January/February 2013), and look back at the progress we have made, we are most pleased, impressed and optimistic about the work students are creating and especially about the student and adult learning that has taken place since the paragraph above was written.

Curricular areas such as Art, Music and Chorus have influenced our core subjects of Math, Science, Foreign Language, English, and Social Studies and vise-versa. The enrichment or specialist classes (Art, Band and Chorus) where performance is a standard part of the curriculum is now common place in core subjects where students regularly need to demonstrate what they know through a variety of modes. Moreover, the Art, Band and Chorus classes have taken a page from core classes and are reading, writing, researching and developing ideas.

Art classes are making their work public using technology to showcase art and present artwork to the world through If you check out the site not only will you see art work for all of our students, you will see artists’ statements written by our student artists, where they use text to explain their thinking about the art they are creating. Additionally, you will see digital portfolios of work that have been visited and have received feedback from peers and other on-line audiences that encourage students and help them to refine their work.

As part of this process, teams have been working with students to craft objective, meaningful feedback. Rather than relying on non-descript terms like “good work” and “well done,” students are being challenged to thoughtfully comment on each other’s work and then use feedback to improve the final product. This approach emphasizes the value of the learning process and recognizes the significance of reflection and revision.

Jessica Squires has earned a Silver Key Award in this year’s Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards for her drawing "Ephesus" (above). Jessica is an incredible young artist who truly deserves this recognition! Congratulations!! (see Jessica’s digital portfolio on Artsonia by clicking

By Christopher Balboni (see his digital portfolio on Artsonia by clicking

We continue to share what we are learning with visiting teams of teachers and administrators from other public schools as well as professors from colleges and universities. Our teachers have presented at the Blue Ribbon National Conference, the Learning Forward Annual Conference and the SRI Winter Meeting. The more we share, the more we grow and our expectations also grow, focusing more and more on what kids would be able to do if we – as teachers and administrators - continue to create opportunities that challenge and engage them in genuine ways. We are grateful to be in a public and professional community that fosters professional growth and learning; it makes all the difference.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Principal Notes 01/16

Welcome back, I hope you and your families enjoyed the holiday break. We have had a steady stream of Parker Alum home on college break who have been in to visit, as well as high school students who were back to visit teachers. It is always a highlight of our day to see Parker graduates back to visit who share how they “…miss the old place, especially the teachers…” It is good to see how well our former students are progressing. We often hear from our young college visitors that school is great, and that Reading has really prepared them very well for school. Meanwhile, teachers and students here are working hard to complete the second quarter. We will be sending out report cards on February 1st. In the coming months there is a lot happening, please keep an eye out for the Parent Weekly Preview sent out on Edline.

School Safety and Drills

In the coming months we will be reviewing our safety plans and our safety drill schedules with the district leadership, the Reading Police and Fire Departments. We will continue as we have in the past with fire, shelter-in-place and lock down drills throughout the spring. We completed a lock down drill on Monday which went quite well. As part of all drill process, we assess and debrief the exercise with the schools Resource Officer, Corey Santasky and teachers here in the building. In light of all that has recently transpired in Newtown, CT. we are pleased that we have safety plans that are comprehensive and most importantly, district leaders who are committed to continually assessing and improving how we keep students safe. More to follow on this topic…

Grade 5 and Grade 8 - Transitions

With the end of second quarter, this starts the second semester and transition planning for grades five and eight. We are planning spring parent meetings with Eaton, Barrows, Killam and Birch Meadow Elementary Schools. In addition, to the spring meetings at each elementary school, we will also have a grade five parent night here at Parker where the sixth grade teachers, our school psychologists and the administrators talk about academic programs, extra curricular activities and academic support for our incoming fifth graders. Class sizes in our sixth grade next year look to be 26:1 at each middle school. We will be communicating meeting dates and locations at the beginning of February.

The eighth grade will start the high school course selection process in February. They are putting the finishing touches on the 2013-2014 RMHS Course Selection Catalog. We will be posting more information to Edline as we receive it from the high school. Eighth grade parents should mark their calendar for Future Freshman Night for students and parents, January 30th at 7:00 p.m. at the RMHS Fine and Performing Arts Center.

Thank you to the Parker – PTO for the Technology Donation

The Parker PTO has for two years in a row donated five thousand dollars annually to support instructional technology. This year, we have added iPad sets to grades six, seven and eight. In grade six, English Language Arts teachers Ms. Pelletier and Ms. Merrill have incorporated iPads into guided reading groups. In grade seven, Science teacher, Mr. Barnett and Social Studies teacher Mr. Twomey have partnered to use their iPads to create videos for the Amazon Idol Projects and in Science students will be getting an opportunity to dissect a virtual frog, which may make the old school actual frog dissection obsolete over time. We also think it will make the dissection activity considerably less dramatic. In grade 8, Math teachers, Mr. Cormier and Ms. Webster have just started using their iPad sets in math classes. This new technology promises to help students in creating and learning in ELA, Math, Science and Social Studies. Special thanks to our PTO President, Christine Hylan for her energy and unwavering commitment to our school community and the continued growth of instructional technology to support student learning. Thank you!

Middle School Student Leader, Caroline Corwin Represents Reading at Project 351

Project 351 celebrates the ethic of service, youth leadership, the mosaic of our Commonwealth, and the power of community to uplift and unite. Project 351 is an independent non-profit fully staffed by volunteers with expertise in community service, youth engagement, and the non-profit sector. Project 351 is made possible by strong partnerships with educators, non-profit organizations, the Project 351 Alumni Leadership Council, citizen volunteers, and the kind support of parents and families.

On January 26, 2013, Honorary Chair Governor Patrick will launch our third class of Ambassadors at the State House. Core components of the day include a Town Meeting, high impact service across Boston, service learning, and a closing celebration with the Governor. Ambassadors will gain inspiration, enrichment, and new friendships with peers from across the Commonwealth. At the heart of Project 351 is the dedication and compassion of our Ambassadors. Youth are selected for their exemplary ethic of service and their values of humility, compassion, commitment, kindness, and service and their values of humility, compassion, commitment, kindness, and generosity of spirit. This year we are pleased to send eighth grade, student leader, Caroline Corwin to represent Reading. Special thanks to the eight grade teachers for assisting with this well-deserved nomination.