Follow-up to yesterday’s sharing of halloween moments – I missed the math department photo!!!
Have a lovely weekend.
I am writing to bring to your attention the increasing use of electronic cigarettes, in many forms, in our community. Scientists are still learning how e-cigarettes affect health. However, there is already enough evidence to justify efforts to prevent e-cigarette use by young people, including recent studies that suggest e-cigarettes are the latest “gateway” to harder drug use.
Electronic cigarettes are devices that utilize stored electricity to heat a liquid into vapors, which are then inhaled by the user. The liquid can be anything from a flavored water-type mixture to liquid nicotine to THC, the principal active element of marijuana. These devices are relatively easy to conceal and very easy to disguise.
Here are a couple examples of what these devices look like:
The vapor from e-cigarettes, when used with liquid nicotine or THC, is unsafe and harmful to young people. We know that nicotine exposure during adolescence can cause addiction and can harm the developing brain. The use of these devices on school grounds is both against school policy and against a city ordinance. Students caught using or in possession of these devices are subject to school discipline.
I share this information with you to make you aware of this public health concern and with the hope that you can have a good conversation with your student about their health and your expectations for their choices regarding electronic cigarettes.
As always, thank you for your partnership!
Technology has become an integral part of the teaching and learning experience in Newton. This year, as part of the district’s ongoing commitment to increasing access and use of technology in our classrooms, we will be piloting a one-to-one program in each of our high schools. Through this pilot, we aim to learn more about how technology can further enhance the academic program in Newton, as well as how access to a personal device impacts a student’s learning experience.
After careful review and consideration, we have selected two classes in each high school to participate in this pilot program. We are excited to provide this opportunity and look forward to learning from our experience.
All students in the selected classes will be assigned a personal laptop to use throughout the school day and to take home with them each night. Each student will be assigned either a MacBook Air (Apple) or a Chromebook (Hewlett Packard). Students will be able to utilize the computers throughout the school day and outside of school hours.
Our hope is that we learn how to best support a full one-to-one roll-out should the district choose to so in the near future.
On behalf of our operations and public buildings departments, I would like to share information with you regarding the upcoming replacement of the flooring in the South Field House.
As many of you know, the flooring in the Field House is quite worn. It is unusable in some spots and is quickly becoming a safety hazard. We had hoped to complete the work in the summer, but due to several different variables, could not. We are anxious to install new flooring in advance of the winter sports season for the safety of all of our athletes, as well as the students in our health and wellness classes.
The contractor has informed us that the flooring installation can begin in the middle of October. We expect the process to take approximately six weeks from start to finish. The Field House should be open and usable again soon after the Thanksgiving holiday.
In anticipation of this event, our athletic staff and coaches have been working hard to develop a plan that will minimize disruption to our sports teams and class schedules. We will utilize alternative spaces, such as Gym B, Brown Middle School, and outdoor fields, to conduct practices and classes for our fall athletes and classroom students. Matches and games with other districts have already been adjusted to accommodate the floor replacement. Your student’s coach will provide more specific information, if they have not done so already.
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to install the new flooring this year. I know our operations and building departments will work to ensure it is done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I am confident our athletic and classroom staff can make the necessary adjustments to minimize impact to our students. Thank you for your patience.
Our first week of school is complete and we are off to a great start here at Newton South. Students and faculty alike are excited and enthusiastic about the year ahead.
Yet we begin this year in the context of a national climate that is divisive, challenging, and ever-changing. As Superintendent Fleishman shared in his opening remarks to faculty and staff, there is no doubt that events and actions at the national level impact our school community by way of policies, conversations, and relationships. However, when such events are handled well by experienced and knowledgeable educators, they present real opportunity for learning.
It is incumbent upon us to prepare our students to listen (especially to perspectives different than their own), engage in well-reasoned debate, and stand up when they see injustice. Quoting Richard Weissboard of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Dr. Fleishman shared “educators need to confront dilemmas at the heart of our democracy, dilemmas that we rarely take on squarely in schools at any level. These conversations require teachers to navigate among basic human and democratic rights. Important as it is for teachers to promote the right to free speech and encourage multiple views, teachers also need to promote students‘ right to freedom from discrimination.”
How do we have these conversations in a way that is productive, respectful, and most importantly, equips students with essential skills for life beyond high school?
To answer this question, last year our faculty and students, in separate meetings, developed a near identical list of 4 values that we are committed to here at Newton South.
These are not rules, but guidelines that will help us navigate our conversations, statements, and actions. These phrases are posted throughout the school, and teachers will refer to them in their lessons. We will be working with each other to discover the many nuances of these four concepts, and to hold each other to these standards.
It is critical that we go toward difficult conversations rather than shying away from them. It’s even more important that we have the tools to ensure that our work together builds a stronger community. We believe that our four values are a good place to start.
Thank you for your support and involvement.
It is with deep sadness and many fond memories that I share with the Newton South community the passing of Ashley Anderton, our beloved English teacher, on June 22 of this year. Her husband Derek Van Beever, Newton South science teacher, and their family have created a memorial fund in Ashley’s name to benefit cancer research and to provide scholarships for Newton South students.
You can find information about the fund here:
For all of Mr. VanBeever’s current and former students, he knows you support him and his family (including his eldest son who joins the South community this year), and they want to begin this fall in as normal a way as possible and focused on the year ahead.
Thank you for your understanding, and for your support.
Happy “not-yet-the-end-of-summer-but-almost” last week of August!
It’s been wonderful having students return to our school and liven our hallways again, and I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting many of our incoming parents at one of our many events this summer.
I am writing to share the following:
Thank you, and we look forward to seeing all of our NSHS students back in our classrooms on Tuesday, September 5!
I am writing to personally request your support for our Jennifer Price Global Education Leadership Fund (GELF)’s annual benefit dinner. For those of you who don’t know about the GELF, it’s a fantastic scholarship program that supports Newton students from low-income homes in participating in the many life-changing international travel learning opportunities offered through Newton North and South. Students who return from abroad speak often about the pivotal role these experiences have played in their personal and academic lives. Please help us convince our students that no one should tune out when opportunities are announced!
On Saturday, April 1st, GELF will hold its annual dinner/fundraiser from 6:30-10:30pm at Newton North High School. The evening is a not-to-be-missed community event, featuring an amazing 5-course gourmet meal (cooked from scratch on-site!!), paired fine beers & wines (featuring Sam Adams beer pairings, a major hit last year!), dancing (with a great live band featuring our own Katani Sumner), 150 like-minded community members, table service by Newton principals, and a raffle.
This year alone we have funded:
We need your support! Please buy tickets online here: http://www.newton.k12.ma.us/Page/2289 (scroll down to the bottom for the PayPal button) or send a $150/person check (made payable to Newton Schools Foundation with GELF in the memo line) to Newton Schools Foundation, ATTN: Diane Greer, P.O. Box 590020, Newton Centre, MA 02459.
Whether you are coming or not, please consider donating to Support a Teacher to attend the event ($100/person) or making a tax-deductible donati0n, all possible here: http://www.newton.k12.ma.us/Page/2289.
If you would like to support GELF but cannot donate, there are many other ways to help out. Please email Samantha_mandel@newton.k12.ma.us to find out more.
Thank you very much for your support.
Our work to build a supportive, safe, and respectful school climate continues in earnest. Below you will find our most recent updates.
Classroom Work – School Climate
Over the past few weeks, students have used video to share their experiences with hurtful speech in our school. Both teachers and students report that the videos have sparked important and powerful conversations. After February break, we will return to English classes to begin our next series of conversations. Again using video, we will ask students to share examples of when they felt included or experienced someone stepping in to support them. The goal of this next step is for students to understand the importance of “active up-standing” rather than “passive by-standing” when they see behavior that does not represent our school values.
School Climate in Hallways and Common Spaces
As I wrote to you earlier, we are especially interested in ensuring that the climate in our hallways and common areas is welcoming and safe for all students. At a recent meeting, faculty reviewed our school values statement and developed the following guidelines for hallway climate:
Independently, a group of 50 student volunteers created the following guidelines for hallway climate from a student perspective:
I was delighted by the similarity! I am proud of our students and faculty for actively participating in our school dialogue, and for standing up for each other.
Student Group Programs and Activities
In addition to our school-wide conversations about hurtful speech, several student-led initiatives are generating understanding and respect for diversity here at South.
I am proud that our students are so active in the creation of our school culture. It is through these efforts that we will succeed in building a community that is safe and supportive for all students. Of course, we can’t do it alone. When schools and families build strong partnerships, we know students will be successful. We look forward to continuing our work together and appreciate your help and support.