Category Archives: From the Principal

Capitol Event Response from Principal Aronson

Dear Families,

This morning we gathered as a faculty to discuss the attack on the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C. and how best to address all of our students’ varied needs and concerns.

As a school, we encouraged staff, at their discretion, to create a space for all of our students to share their thoughts and feelings regarding this event. In our history classes, teachers taught lessons putting the attack into historical context while providing a civics lesson. The South Human Rights Council also hosted open lunch forums for students and staff. As always, when significant events occur, counselors were available as a support for your students.

Here is a copy of a video that was shared with your students this afternoon.


Mark Aronson
NSHS Interim Principal

Outside of Class Work (OCW) Update

Good Evening Students and Families,

Below you will find a link to a slide presentation on outside of class work (OCW) that was shared with our staff on Wednesday. Hopefully by viewing the slides you will gain an understanding of our thought process, guiding principles and expectations as we move forward with OCW.

Enjoy the sunshine,
~ Mark Aronson, NSHS Interim Principal

Principal’s Message

I wanted you to know that I shared the following message with students and faculty today.


Dear Newton South students,

I am writing to share that yesterday the faculty of Newton South High School met, and committed to addressing and discussing with you the events unfolding in our country over the past several weeks.

Of course it’s not just the past several weeks. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd are only the most recent Black Americans that we know of who were murdered, but their names are echoes of other names that we have heard over the years: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner… 

This is why we say, here and now, Black Lives Matter. It’s atrocious that we would need to, and yet vital that we do so.

This next paragraph is for those of you who do not understand why we are not saying “all lives matter.” I saw someone explain it this way – when a house is on fire, we don’t ask the fire department to pour water on every house on the block because all homes matter. We respond to the fire. We say “Black Lives Matter” because Black Americans are being killed and murdered in our country. It does not mean that White lives don’t matter. Being anti-racist is not the same thing as being anti-White.

Dr. Martin Luther King said: “a time comes when silence is betrayal.” In classes, we will be talking about not only what happened, but what we can do next. What you can do, and what we can do together. Dr. King also said “True peace is not merely absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.” Some of us may be tempted to want to move on if/when the images of violence and tension ebb from our media feeds. But Dr. King makes it clear that in order to have a community where all are free, we must actively pursue equity and justice for all of us.

We practice these concepts often in our school: whenever you put the team’s goals before your personal goals; whenever you consider the impact of your actions on others; whenever you stand up in support of what is right rather than remain silent and let it pass. Choosing Kindness, Listening First, Showing Respect, Taking Responsibility. We must now turn these skills into action: we must learn what it takes to build a fully anti-racist Newton South, so that you are ready to take these lessons to your communities after you graduate. It’s never been more clear: this is urgent. If not now, then when? If not us, then who?

So as you discuss and ponder what may be uncomfortable topics for you, remember that we all have a role to play, and that this work will never be over.  Being anti-racist is not a state of being, it is continually taking action.

Thank you, Newton South, for your energy, care, and attention. I know that you will rise to this occasion, as you have before.

As for me, I acknowledge that even these words are a product of who I am, and my experiences as a 51-year-old White male. My words here are not perfect, and they may never be, but I must not be silent – that much I know.

I am very proud to be principal of a school with such caring, thoughtful, and passionate students and adults.

My best,

Joel Stembridge


Updated Thursday/Friday Schedule

A quick note to let you know that due to feedback from students and teachers that the Thursday and Friday class meetings were not long enough, these times have been extended by 10 minutes. Class meetings on Thursday and Friday will be 30 minutes each starting this week, and will continue through June 18.  Tuesday and Wednesday meetings will continue as before.

Newton South High School

Updated Thursday/Friday Class Meet Schedule

Effective May 14 onward

Thursdays (All 1/3 Blocks) Fridays(All 2/4 Blocks)
10:00-10:30 A13 A24
10:40-11:10 B13 B24
11:20-11:50 C13 C24
12:00-12:30 D13 D24
12:30-1:15 Lunch
1:15-1:45 E13 E24
1:55-2:25 F13 F24
2:35-3:05 G13 G24


4.30.20 Message From Principal Stembridge

I am saddened and incredibly disappointed to share with you that today one of our biology classes experienced two virtual intruders during the middle of class. The teacher was able to remove the intruders, but not before the class was subjected to a verbal attack, including foul language and the use of the n-word. Our deans are investigating, and we have shared this information with the Newton Police Department and the ADL.

Our students say it better than I could: “One would hope that awful racist attacks on those we care for would end as we try and stand together against a pandemic. But people can be awful so here we find ourselves, bewildered, hurt.” I share their hurt.

In the aftermath of our last incident, we developed a NSHS human rights council to help us prevent and respond to incidents of hate, and I will be meeting with this group tomorrow to plan a response. We are also directing faculty to only allow into classrooms students who have authenticated their NSHS identification through the use of their NPS student gmail, a security protection that just came available for our use today.

These hateful attacks are an attempt to thwart the very things that we need more of right now: connection, understanding, grace. I applaud our students and faculty who once again are showing tremendous resilience in these challenging times.

As always, thank you for your partnership.


April 3 Update from Principal Stembridge

I hope you are well on this blustery Friday.

I shared the following message with NSHS students via Schoology today, and I’m sharing this with you so you can review this information with your NSHS student.

We will share additional information this weekend, including organizational ideas and tools.

As always, thank you for your partnership.

Best regards,

Joel Stembridge – Principal, Newton South High School



April 3, 2020

Hello Newton South students,

I hope you and your families are well, and that you were able to engage with some schoolwork and see many of your teachers and classmates online this week.

I also hope that you were able to read through Dr. Fleishman’s email and the NPS Long Distance Learning Plan document. It was very dense, with a lot of information. Below I will try to provide just the basics. We will be sharing additional information, including some organizational tools and strategies, this weekend.

I imagine that you have a ton of questions, and I hope that this document will answer some of them. The truth is that we don’t have answers to all of your questions. In fact, I don’t have answers to all of my questions either. We are making decisions as we go, and I am confident that some of the information below will change over time based on feedback from you and your teachers.

As we transition from enrichment options (phase I) to more structured learning (phase II), I ask that you keep the following in mind:

1) Our primary goal is to help you develop skills and connect with peers and your teachers. We are not replicating NSHS classes. This is different, and will feature different approaches and different types of learning. Give yourself permission to engage the best you can, and to grow into this new style of learning. Above all, STAY ENGAGED, keep trying, and communicate with us.

2) All of us have new normals. So do your teachers. They are trying things they have never tried. However you and they are feeling is a perfectly normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Be kind to yourself, to your peers, and your teachers (oh – and your family members too!).  We are all in this together.

3) This is a marathon, not a sprint. Think of Monday a bit like the first day of school. It will take some time to get used to the new environment. Some of you will feel very comfortable with this kind of learning. Others of you may struggle some at first. Again, keep trying, and keep communicating!

4)  Above all, know that we are trying to get this right for all of you, and that we care about each and every one of you. 

OK – here are some basic details about the structure of our work; your teachers will share details particular to your classes.

We will continue to operate on a weekly cycle: 

MONDAY – each of your teachers will share weekly work for their class on Monday, using a common template. The most important thing for you to do Monday, before you start any of the work, is to read through and understand what each teacher is asking you to do, and then to create a plan for yourself for the week. We will be providing some organizational help, if you need it, as well as some planning tools.

TUESDAY/WEDNESDAY – All teachers will provide “office hours” for their students, within the times on the chart below. Your teacher will notify you of the exact time that your section will be meeting, and will provide a link to the meeting. Some classes will have a specific 30 minute time frame where you will meet with your teacher and your classmates. Other classes will be offered pooled support from a group of teachers over a longer time period. Your teacher will let you know when you are expected.

TO BE CLEAR: you will not be online for the full two hours for each department – this is just the master schedule for the times within which your teacher will schedule the office hours for your class – your teacher will tell you exactly when you are expected.

                                             Tuesday                                                              Wednesday

9:00 – 11:00 Science Tech Engineering  English
11:00 – 1:00 Math World Language
1:00 – 3:00 Fine and Performing Arts History
3:00 – 5:00 Family&Consumer Science/Business PE Health Wellness


Class meetings – your teacher will share with you the link for the meeting. You are expected to attend. (Please note, Friday, April 10 is a holiday, and many teachers will be absent from school on Thursday, April 9. Teachers will share with you their plan for the week of April 6 on Monday)

Thursday Friday
10:00 – 10:20 A13 Block  A24 Block 
10:30 – 10:50 B13 Block  B24 Block 
11:00 – 11:20 C13 Block  C24 Block 
11:30 – 11:50 D13 Block  D24 Block
1:00 – 1:20 E13 Block  E24 Block 
1:30 – 1:50 F13 Block F24 Block 
2:00 – 2:20 G13 Block  G24 Block 

Credit and Grading

  • The goal is for students to receive full credit for the year; grading will support students, and will be accessible to all of our students.
  • There will be 3 grading periods for the year: Term 1, Term 2, and Term 3 (no Term 4).  Term 3 will cover the period from mid-January to the end of the school year.
  • T1 and T2 will have letter grades. T3 is Pass/Fail only.
  • Final Exams are cancelled.
  • Final Grade:  
    • Final grade is either a letter grade or P (pass), as below
    • If T3 grade is P, then final grade is average of T1 and T2, or P (student choice by class). 
    • If T3 grade is F and student passed T1 or T2, then final grade is P (no option for letter grade)
    • Teachers may consider major assignments and assessment grades from mid-January to March 12th (or make-up work for this period submitted after March 12th) in the students final grade if the grade helps the students overall grade.

April Break

As you may have heard from Dr. Fleishman’s email last night, or from classmates, April break has been cancelled, and the “snow days” that we used in March will be made up. We are doing this to provide continuity and momentum as we get started. (Seniors, please ignore this next sentence) I am confident that you would rather have those four days of summer back rather than being cooped up at home in April while physical distancing, right?)

End of Year Events (such as prom, graduation, semi, etc.)

We just don’t know. If we can figure out a way to hold them, we will hold them. We can plan for an event very quickly; it all depends on when the distancing guidelines are relaxed. For now, everything is postponed. As we get closer to these events we will hear your ideas and share our ideas for what is possible. Again, we are all in this together, and the adults want these events to happen every bit as much as you do!

Thank you for reading this far! I’m happy to answer questions that you may have. I’m looking forward to this next phase of Newton South. 

Again, I hope you and your family are well.

Best regards,

Mr. Stembridge

Principal, Newton South High School



Night Under the Stars – Online Auction

Due to the recent events, we are sadly unable to host the Night Under the Stars Gala that was intended to raise funds for the Help Light the Way campaign to purchase and install permanent lights on our sports complex.

We will still host the auction in an online-only format. 

People who have already purchased tickets to the event may either receive a full refund for the ticket price or convert ticket purchases into a donation towards the Help Light The Way fundraising campaign.

The online auction started Friday, March 13, 2020 and will run until Saturday, March 28, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
Our goal is to raise $50,000 and we are confident that we can do so with your participation.
The following link will take you to the event platform where you can register for the auction and make donations. Please remember to log back in tomorrow!
We are also planning a large community celebration that will take place once the lights have been installed on the sports complex. More information will be sent out once a date has been finalized.
Please reach out directly to Bella Gelman and Penelope Nam-Stephen if you have specific questions.

Ghana Exchange Fundraiser

Please consider joining me this Thursday, February 27, at 6:30 in the NSHS auditorium to support NSHS’s inaugural exchange with a high school in Ghana!

This April a group of NSHS students will travel to Accra, Ghana, to participate in an exchange with the Tema International School (TIS).  Students will shadow counterparts at TIS and will participate in learning excursions with their Ghanaian hosts. Then, in October, we will proudly host a visiting group of students from TIS here in Newton.

In addition, our fundraising event will benefit Luke’s Lights, which you can read more about here:

Thank you for your support!

Updated Help Light the Way!

Please join us at the Help Light The Way fundraising Gala at the Sheraton-Needham Hotel, on Saturday evening, March 28  from 6-8PM.  This event will raise funds to purchase and install permanent lights for the outdoor sports stadium at Newton South High School.   The night will include a silent and live auction, as well as lots of raffles. We need your help to make this a successful event!

Please join us and purchase your Gala Tickets today!

There will be a silent and live auction with lots of wonderful options.  We’ve listed some possible items for donation below.  Please contact Penelope Nam-Stephen ( or Bella Gelman ( to donate items, or if you have questions.

Ways you can Help Light The Way

  • Make a monetary donation to the fundraising campaign: Donate $
  • Donate goods, services or vacations to our auction and raffle: Donate Goods
  • Volunteer your time in one or more of many different opportunities: Volunteer
  • Come to the Gala and Buy Tickets today

Below is a list of ideas for donations….be creative: (Items must be new)  Donations to Newton South Boosters are tax deductible (501(c) (3) organization).  We would be grateful for assistance during the evening of the Gala.  Please contact Bella or Penelope

  • Tickets to sporting events
  • Theater tickets or subscriptions
  • Concert tickets
  • Vacations, travel, getaway weekends, ski house stays, Disney, Islands, Europe, Boston Hotel weekends, autumn foliage trips, etc.
  • Professional services: Including……dental services, skin care, photography, plumbing, electrical, kitchen design, pet sitting, landscaping services, interior design, hair styling, catering, music lessons, manicures, etc., etc.,  Be creative!
  • Autographed memorabilia….sports, bands, celebrity, entertainment, noteworthy individuals and events.
  • IPads, laptops, etc.
  • Fitbits, headphones, ear buds, etc.
  • Apple Watches
  • Cell phones
  • PlayStation, Xbox
  • Large electronics, TV’s, sound bars, etc.
  • Bicycles
  • Home fitness equipment
  • Health club, fitness and lifestyle memberships
  • Restaurant gift cards
  • Golf outings
  • Lift tickets at ski mountains
  • SAT/ACT prep courses
  • Lottery Tickets
  • Special Boston events
  • Birthday party events and entertainment
  • Diner cruises, Duck Tours
  • Major appliances (washer, dryers, refrigertor, dishwashers)
  • American Girl dolls, significant toys or theme toys
  • Bucket List items and destinations

Message about Idling from South Senate

Our South Senate asked me to share the following with our Newton South families:

As a student body, we are always looking for ways to help the environment, so we are hoping to put an end to the idling out outside our school during pickup and drop off times. This is one simple step that we can take to lower our carbon emissions as well as ensuring a bright and healthy future for our students, as idling not only negatively impacts the environment but also has negative impacts on your children’s health. In fact, a study from the EPA revealed that “exhaust from idling vehicles is linked to increases in asthma, allergies, heart and lung disease and even cancer.” Idling is especially harmful in school zones because “children are especially at risk because of their lungs.” If you would like to learn more about the negative effects of idling you can read about it here:

Please also know that students will be outside of the school in the coming days to share information with drivers about the impacts of idling. Thank you for supporting their efforts to inform our school community!