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Superintendent's Message

School Cancellations

November 7, 2019

Dear Members of the Concord and Concord-Carlisle Community:

Welcome to November! We were very fortunate last month to not be impacted by electricity losses that interrupted school schedules in many communities.  The discussion of a few flakes this week means that the winter season will soon be upon us and so will a likelihood of the need to cancel or delay school.

Many of you will remember that last year we began to develop a plan for virtual school days.  Per the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, concerns over equity and access have put all of those plans on hold. As a result, all school cancellations will require additional days at the end of the school year.

We work very hard to minimize the loss of instructional time.   The option to delay school by one or two hours prevents us from losing the entire day when storms wrap up in the early morning hours.  I work collaboratively with the Concord and Carlisle Department of Public Works and Police Departments as well as our transportation manager, facility leaders and METCO Director to make the best decision possible.    The goal is always to decide by 5 a.m. so that everyone can plan the day accordingly.

Finally, the decision is announced via multiple methods.   Twitter is my first stop as it is efficient.  I also use Twitter to announce the thinking the night before if a storm is predicted so everyone is aware of whether the decision will be made at night or in the morning.    Following that, announcements are immediately made via text, phone call and email and also posted on the web page and local television stations.

Here’s hoping for a mild winter that makes all of this information less relevant!
Best,

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent

Follow me on Twitter @cps_cchs

Concord Middle School Building Committee Update

October 27. 2019

Dear Members of the Concord and Concord-Carlisle School Communities:

Today, I share an update from the Concord Middle School Building Committee.  This Committee’s work aligns with the District’s Strategic Plan by continuing the process toward a new middle school.  We will continue to provide information throughout the year.

Best,

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent

The Concord Middle School Building Committee Report

Designer Selection Process

Following the selection of Hill International as the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM), members of the Building Committee immediately started work on the designer selection process at the Committee’s September meetings.  The selected firm will work with the Building Committee to conduct a feasibility study and to develop a schematic design for a single new middle school building at the site of the current Sanborn building to replace the two existing facilities.

A Request for Services (RFS) was drafted and issued in accordance with statutory requirements associated with public purchasing. The RFS includes background and context for the proposed project, project goals, sustainability goals, scope of services, draft schedule scenarios, minimum qualifications for firms to be selected, and the selection criteria that will be used by the Building Committee to choose the designer.  The committee discussed using a points ranking system similar to the OPM selection process to create a short list of finalists that will be interviewed.

Fifteen firms expressed interest and will be narrowed to a field of five this week.  The Committee is working to have a firm in place by mid-November.  The selected firm will be engaged to complete the feasibility work and schematic design.  The Building Committee retains the option to consider whether or not to re-engage with the firm to move forward with construction.

Project Charter

The Committee is developing a Project Charter to memorialize key goals for the project that can serve as a guide in future decision making processes.  The main elements of the Charter will include guiding principles, project scope, total project cost, and schedule.

To date, the Committee members have focused on the guiding principles related to a transparent and robust public process and engagement with Concord residents, a state-of-the-art educational facility for students and teachers, sustainability and resiliency goals including landscape, financial sustainability for the construction project and future building operations, as well as creating a flexible and adaptable structure that can serve both the needs of the school department and residents of Concord for a minimum of fifty years or longer. The Project Charter discussion will continue at upcoming meetings and is intended to be a working document that is used throughout the design process and duration of the project.

Committee Site Visits

Members of the Building Committee continue to conduct site visits at recently constructed middles schools. On October 4th, members saw Gates Middle School in Scituate and Duxbury Middle School; during the summer, members went to Beverly and Wakefield.  These visits allow Committee members to review design features through many lenses including educational objectives, sustainability, material selections, security features and how students and professional staff utilize spaces.

Next Meeting:  

The next meetings are scheduled for Monday, October 28 and Thursday, October 31 @ 7:30 am in the Ripley Building located at 120 Meriam Road.  All meetings are open to the public and interested individuals are encouraged to attend.

Concord Middle School Building Committee Contact Information

Interested individuals can find all relevant materials regarding the Concord Middle School Building Committee including meeting dates, agendas and minutes as well as reports that led to the Town Meeting Warrant Article at https://www.concordps.org/cms-building-project/.  For questions and comments, individuals can email the Committee at msbc@concord.org or utilize the form on the aforementioned web page, https://www.concordps.org/cms-building-project/

Submitted by Tom Lucey

 

 

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The Mental Health of Our Youth

October 12, 2019

In an effort to increase communication, each of my updates will highlight a deeper overview of the district’s work on one area of focus.  The goal is to provide a more comprehensive narrative that is informative and engaging through both my message and the related links to other sources.

It is without hesitation that I name student mental health as our first and foremost priority.   The term crisis is overused in our world.   Yet, those of us who have led in education for decades cannot find another appropriate word.  Large numbers of students now experience chronic anxiety and depression while too many reach states of true emergency in numbers not previously seen.   Although this is not a problem unique to our schools, it is documented in the most recent 2018 Youth Risk Behavior Survey data of Concord Middle School and Concord-Carlisle High School students.   Even in the elementary grades, we see more children impacted by mental health related needs.

Several years ago, I worked with nationally renowned pediatrician Dr. Ken Ginsburg who specializes in adolescent medicine and resiliency.  In a conversation with him, I made a comment as to the pressure kids put on themselves. Dr. Ginsburg quickly corrected me to say that the pressure is internalized from the external messages that bombard our youth:  school, parents, peers, social media, college.  Children in high risk categories are even more likely to be seriously impacted by these messages.  A recent Washington Post article classified students in top performing environments like ours to be at more risk than some of their peers.

The development of the 2018-2023 Concord/Concord-Carlisle District Strategic Plan found consensus among students, parents, staff and community members that student wellbeing must be a priority objective.  Our partners at Challenge Success inspire us to rename success as fostering independence and critical thinking rather than just test scores and grades.   Throughout the year, I will provide updates on our school-based approaches and goals in structural, instructional and academic efforts to foster a more balanced approach.

This past Thursday was National Mental Health Awareness Day.  Naming the concerns about the mental health of youth from early childhood to high school is the most important step to finding solutions.   This topic is complex and layered.   It requires that we all join in the discussion and understand its impact, our individual and collective roles and how to change course at an aggregate and personal level.  Please join us in this important conversation.

Best,

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent

Religious Holiday Accomodations

September 23, 2019

Good Afternoon,

As you’ll remember, the School Committees adopted a Religious Holiday Accommodation Policy.  The purpose of the policy (see attached) was to guide us in how to support students during times when school related requirements may not be possible.

The goal of the policy is to foster communication between the schools and families.  We encourage you to help us to be aware of what your child needs.  Notice to teachers ahead of time can be very beneficial in helping students to be at ease if they are absent from school or need additional time for assignments.

We look to create a culture of awareness, sensitivity, flexibility and open communication.

Please let us know if you have questions or concerns.

Best,

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent
File attachments:
IMDA.docx

Mosquito Spraying Update

September 20, 2019

Dear Concord and Concord-Carlisle Families:

I want to provide updated information about the mosquito spraying.  Last night, spraying was completed at both Thoreau and Willard. The remaining school sites will be sprayed on Sunday, September 22, 2019 after sunset.

Have a great weekend!
Best,

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent

Mosquito Spraying

September 18, 2019

Good Afternoon,

Targeted mosquito spraying will be conducted tomorrow night (Thursday, September 19) by the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Program (EMMCP) with the exception of the Peabody Building of Concord Middle School which will be done on Friday due to Back to School Night.

The mosquito spraying will be done in a manner that minimizes human exposure. The pesticide will be applied using backpack sprayers. Staff of the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Program (EMMCP) performs the work and are licensed pesticide applicators, using the chemical recommended by EMMCP. EMMCP will apply the spray to an approximately 6-8 ft. deep perimeter in the shrubbery. They plan to treat ONLY the perimeter shrubbery at the schools. Playing fields and playground areas will NOT be treated. This is because mosquitos are generally not present in areas with bright sunlight, but they do linger in shady, shrubby areas.

The pesticide will be applied after sunset when no one is on the school property. The chemical is active while it is wet, but once it dries on the leaf surface there is little risk of human exposure.   As required by law, signs are posted on each school property.

 Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have questions.

 Best,

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent

EEE Update

September 13, 2019

Dear Members of the Concord and Concord-Carlisle School Community:

I write in follow-up to the letter earlier this week regarding Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE).  Given the focus on student health and a commitment to be proactive, a joint decision was made with town officials and local health leaders to request a waiver from the Concord Board of Health in order to spray school sites for mosquitoes. These waivers were approved at today’s Board of Health meeting.

The exact date and time of the spraying have not yet been determined.   I will certainly provide that information as soon as I have it.

The following document provides more specific information as to the type of pesticide to be used and the application process:

https://concordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/21502/FAQs-for-Town-of-Concord-EEE-Response?bidId=

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have questions or concerns.

Best,

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent

EEE

September 9, 2019

Dear Members of the Concord and Concord-Carlisle School Community:

As has been publicized, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) has been identified in two of our neighboring communities.  In order to ensure the safety of our children, we are taking precautionary measures to avoid contact with potentially virus-infected mosquitoes.

As recommended by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, we are canceling outdoor activities that occur after 6 PM and 6 AM until further notice.

This includes school- and community-sponsored athletic events, practices, and all other organized activities scheduled to take place out of doors.  At this time, the schools are not making changes to recess routines for students during the school day.

Parents may wish to:

·       Dress children in long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and socks

·       Apply mosquito repellent to students’ clothing before sending them to school

·       Send students with mosquito repellent towelettes or non-aerosol lotions to self-apply before recess.

Please be aware that school personnel are unable to apply insect repellent to students without a doctor’s order.

More information about EEE can be found on the MA Department of Public Health website page at https://www.mass.gov/guides/eee-in-massachusetts.

We are happy to answer other questions if you have them.

Welcome Back!

August 27, 2019

Happy New Year!

With great anticipation, we welcome you to a new school year.  Teachers returned yesterday.  There is palpable energy and enthusiasm about what the new year brings.  Much like the traditional New Year in January, it is a time of reflection and goal setting.  We look forward to sharing that with you and your children.

We accomplished a great deal in the school facilities this summer.  Included in those improvements are a bus lane at Thoreau, complete STEAM Lab at Ripley and significant aesthetic updates in both new carpeting and paint at Peabody and Sanborn.  This supports the major reconfiguration at the two middle schools since today Peabody will welcome only sixth grade and all of grades seven and eight will attend Sanborn.  We also reviewed long-standing traditions such as “Sanborn time” and have moved all the clocks to the real, actual time rather than a seven minute delay.

The Concord Middle School Building Committee is actively meeting and is looking soon to secure a project manager and architect.  The committee’s goals for the year focus on an envisioning a schematic design of a new school.

Our district goals remain aligned with the five year strategic plan:  fostering multiple pathways for student success, student well-being, creating an inclusive community and creating inspiring learning environments.  Below you’ll see an invitation to formally engage in this process by offering input and feedback.

Among these priorities, we realize the importance of relationships.  We look forward to fostering these relationships and partnering with you. Best wishes for a great first day!

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent

A PARENT FORUM REGARDING INCLUSION OF STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES IN OUR SCHOOLS

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

The Concord Public Schools and Concord-Carlisle Regional School District together with the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) want to hear from parents about inclusion in our schools.  We would like to learn from you directly about approaches that have been successful for your child with disabilities, where you think change is needed and gains could be made.

One of the priorities highlighted this year from the District Strategic Plan is the inclusion of students with disabilities and the valuing of all learners.  The district and schools will be creating goals related to ensuring all students feel welcome and valued in our schools.

There are two ways you can help by providing this important feedback.  Firstly, we are holding a parent focus group, jointly hosted by Laurie Hunter and the Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SEPAC).

When:   Thursday, September 5th from 10:00 – 11:30 am.  Where:  Conference Room 4, Ripley Building, Meriam Road

The focus group attendees will also include Ruth Grube, Director of Student Services, members of the School Committee and also a representative from each building from Pre K through to CCHS.

Secondly, if you are unable to attend or would prefer to share your information confidentially, you can email the SEPAC Co-Presidents at concordsepac@gmail.com or Superintendent Hunter at lhunter@concordps.org

Grand Opening and Open House

You are cordially invited to the GRAND OPENING AND OPEN HOUSE

New Ripley STEAM Innovation Lab

A place for elementary students to design, build and DREAM!

Where:  Ripley Building, 120 Meriam Road, Concord, MA 01742

When:  Monday, August 26, 1pm – 3pm & Tuesday, August 27, 1pm – 3pm

What:

★ Electrify a card craft or your own design & creation of wearable art!

★ Build a giant mobile structure!

★ Create a mini-robot that you can take home!

★ Plus More!

We hope to see you there!