Dear NSHS Community,
As we enter into April break, I wanted to reach out and provide some updates on the happenings at South over the past couple months. As we enter into the spring months, we begin to look forward to what next school year brings and how we plan for it. This happens in parallel with some of the amazing experiences our students have been participating in within our community that I have been lucky enough to share and experience with them!
As you all know, the month of March was particularly difficult for the Lion community as we had multiple acts of hate and harassment. Fortunately, our last act of hate ended with us finding the perpetrator, and consequencing that student appropriately. The investigation into the first two acts of hate, however, remains ongoing. I urge you to speak with your student, and for them to come forward if they have any knowledge that could help assist our deans in these investigations. In addition, the incident in the weightroom is close to being concluded; all directly connected parties will be contacted with the appropriate findings. Consequences will also be issued where necessary. I want to thank you all for your patience and trust in our process to ensure that South is a safe and welcoming place for all.
I am especially grateful to all community members who have reached out in support, and have offered resources and time as we continue to educate our students. I would like to extend a special thank you to the Israeli American Council, the Lappin Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League and various other allies including local rabbis. I am grateful for our South Human Rights Council, our Jewish Student Union, our Jewish Staff Affinity Group, and all our faculty and students for their support in helping us through this difficult time.
I truly believe that this partnership between the school and community is what strengthens us and makes us better than we were yesterday.
The budget for next year has been a shared concern over recent weeks. As many of you are aware, the school committee approved a budget that does have cuts after much discussion and negotiation. While I understand the idea of budget cuts is a distressing one, I assure you we will continue to provide top notch education and programs to continue with our goals of equity and excellence for all. We will have some cuts to make based on enrollment projections, but they will not be as painful as previously thought, and will be shouldered by larger departments to ensure that these cuts will bring little impact to your student’s South experience. Class sizes will be
similar to this year, and most courses will have the ability to run. Each department will consider student interest data, and will decide which courses in their department run based on this data. I am once again incredibly thankful for the advocacy that you, as a community, have shown on behalf of our school department, as well as the advocacy by the Newton Teachers Association and the district as a whole. This is a prime example of a partnership that works together to ensure that all students receive the quality of education that they deserve.
While South has seen some challenging times over the past few weeks, it brings me joy to highlight some amazing things that your students have been engaging in within the building! Tertulia, the annual Newton South student talent show, took place on Thursday April 7th. Always among the most fun and spirited days of the year, Tertulia was originally founded more than twenty years ago in honor of Newton South student Maxine Celeste Chansky. Over the years, it was led by the inspiring stewardship of emeritus NSHS World Language teacher Viviana Planine. This year, Tertulia ran all four blocks of the day in the Van Seasholes Auditorium, with over 150 student performers! The vast diversity of our school community was on display: everything from Indian dances to punk bands, improv comedy to hip-hop, and classical piano to martial arts. Together, we celebrated our school and the renewal of spirit through the return of this important South tradition to the stage!
In addition to our annual showcase of talent, our wonderful Asian Students Organization (ASO) also showcased their talent on Friday night at a well-attended and delightful event. Asian Night is an annual event hosted by the ASO with student performances celebrating both traditional and modern Asian cultures, dance, music, martial arts, and fashion. We have held Asian Night every year in the spring since 2003! It was so exciting to bring back Asian Night live this past Friday evening! Asian Night proceeds are donated annually to worthy AAPI organizations supporting the local Asian American Pacific Islander community. This year’s proceeds will go to Boston Asian YES , an organization that provides direct services to youth whose lifestyles, personal, and family situations have put them in high-risk situations. They strive to employ youth with knowledge, skills, values, resources, and opportunities through supportive peer and adult training mentorship.
In the month of March, we had the pleasure of hosting our first fully in-person events in quite some time: the grade eight parent night and grade eight sports night. Both events were very well attended with over a thousand members of our South community! These events are pivotal for our rising ninth graders, and ensure they are part of our vivacious community. In addition, our athletics department hosted their spring Lions Pride day to welcome all spring athletes and guide them through team building activities. This event truly highlights what it means to be a student
athlete at South! I also had the pleasure of attending the 47th annual Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) conference where our Athletic Director, Patricia Gonzalez, was recognized for her work around unified sports. South was asked to highlight this during this conference! Mrs. Gonzalez, the co-chair of the MIAA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, presented the history of our teams, underscoring the initiative of our students and the support of our school and our district to open sports experiences for all our students with the presentation “When Inclusion is Real, Unified Programs at NSHS”. Included in the presentation was the role of Lions Pride Day, ninth grade workshops and our coaches professional development in creating the foundation of an equitable and inclusive environment. The connection between the Special Education programs, the Unified Theater options, Dreamfar and athletics as a conduit for inclusion made our school a recipient of the National Banner. We are truly lucky to have an incredible Athletic Director who is committed to excellence, inclusion, and equity in sports for all of our South students.
All of these events occurred simultaneously with school, of course! Our students continued their learning and engaging with challenges in their classes. Every day I am impressed by what our students are capable of, and what they have and continue to accomplish. I am thankful to work in a community that encourages students to think and be independent in their decision-making skills.
Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy update and I wish you all relaxation and good health over April break!
Tamara (Tamii) Stras