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Superintendent's Message

Willard

Environmental Sustainability

January 20, 2020

Good Evening,

As previously mentioned, it is important to share updates relative to the efforts toward reaching the goals in the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan.   The goal of creating a safe and healthy learning environment includes environmental sustainability.  The schools are committed and enthusiastic about these efforts.  One year ago, a District Sustainability Committee formed where administrators, faculty, parents, students and community members could plan this work.

The 2019-2020 Sustainability Action Plan integrates school-based focuses on reaching the Town of Concord’s Sustainability Goals and Principles.  This year, we are focused on:  Composting, Energy, Transportation, Student Learning.  Updates on each are provided below.

Composting:

Thoreau started composting last year.   Results to date:

CCHS

Composting Kickoff!  A Composting Crew of 50 CCHS students recently started to coach their peers daily so composting happens smoothly!

CMS, Willard, and Alcott are making plans to get started!

Electric School Buses

We were notified in late December that our grant application for a second electric school bus was accepted!  On January 21, 2020, we will present an overview of the status of the fleet and offer recommendations to continue to expand the number of electric buses.

Middle School Project

Please visit the CMS Building Project web page for an overview of the sustainability discussion to date: https://www.concordps.org/cms-building-project/cms-building-project-presentations/.  The project looks to be among model schools in Massachusetts.

Curriculum Examples

One of our major goals for the year is noting the alignment between the curriculum and sustainability.  Director of Teaching and Learning, Kristen Herbert, will join us at the District Sustainability Committee meeting next week for that purpose.

In the meantime, I wanted to share a fantastic Energy Fair where 7th students made projects to educate their classmates on different types of energy.  The students then recommended an energy source for the town which I shared with the Middle School Building Committee.

Partnerships

We enjoy partnerships with multiple groups in the community including:

Climate Solutions Speaker Series

Concord Climate Action Network

Concord on Tap
Cooler Concord

Mother’s Out Front

Town of Concord Sustainability and Energy Committee

Town of Concord Climate Action Advisory Board

Student Groups

Students are actively engaged in these efforts.  Among a number of student groups are:

Concord Middle School Green Team

Concord Middle School Animals and Plant Club

CCHS Environmental Club

CCHS Green Team

CCHS Sunrise Movement

In order to share information regularly, the district web page now hosts an Environmental Sustainability page.

Finally, I want to highlight an event we are co-sponsoring at Willard tomorrow night at 7:30 pm.  The founder of the Sunrise Movement, Varshini Parkash, will be available via video call.  I’m sure it will be a motivating discussion!

Best,

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent

Cultural Competency Newsletter

January 4, 2020

Families of the Concord and Concord-Carlisle Schools:

Among our primary focus areas in the 2018-2023 strategic plan is the objective to create a collaborative and inclusive culture in the schools and community that values diversity and recognizes the contributions and uniqueness of each learner.  Since the Fall of 2018, a priority has been to enhance our understanding and to foster a culturally competent community.

A District-Wide Cultural Competency Committee formed to craft a definition, vision, and action plan.  The committee defined cultural competency in our districts as:

We strive to be a more culturally competent community. We support our diversity of race, gender, religion, national origin, gender identity, color, ancestry, sexual orientation, and ability. By our choices and actions, we promote all members to feel recognized, respected and valued. We have set our intention to be responsive, proactive, and empathetic to all facets of culture and diversity. The goal of continuously developing our cultural competency is that it will enable our students to develop the values, skills, and behaviors needed to interact effectively in a culturally diverse community, both locally and globally.

A significant component of the action plan is providing professional development.  During the 2018-2019 school year through the support of the Concord Education Fund,  three keynote speakers brought messages of cultural competency in the classroom:

  • Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum: Nationally renown author of “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” and Other Conversations About Race
  • Principal Baruti Kafele: Highly regarded urban educator, author, and leadership expert focused on the success of at-risk students and Black males
  • Dr. Derrick Gay: International consultant on issues of diversity, cultural competency, and global citizenship

This year, all of PreK-12 will engage in professional development pathways that include offerings such as:

  • Let’s Talk About “IT”: How to Have Difficult Conversations About the ISMS. Presentation by Dr. Paula Martin, Consultant with EDCO Collaborative

Student and staff groups now exist at both Concord Middle School and Concord-Carlisle High School.  The CMS Allies teacher group and CCHS Charge (Concord-Carlisle High School Anti-Racism Group for Educators) meet regularly to discuss issues like racism and unconscious bias.  The CMS RISE (Racial Impact Social Empowerment) and CCHS Intersections Club have similar discussions about the inclusion of all students, highlighting diversity, and how social identities shape student development.

The middle school is expanding its work with the Playbook Initiative.  CCHS is looking to join the middle school in participating in the Tenacity Challenge, an academic competition for Latino and African-American students.  We learned this week that we received a METCO grant to host a performance of a theater production of “Mr. Joy,” a play about racial divides. These programs are not reflective of all of the work to be done but do establish strong structures and models.  A successful International Fair was held at Willard and is planned for other schools later this year.   Equity walks through our hallways and classrooms allow for self-assessment of our efforts at inclusion.

Our work extends into the community.  As part of the annual “Can We Talk?” series, Concord Carlisle Adult and Community Education (CCACE) presented workshops on cultural competency for our broader community. In November of 2018, “The Defamation Experience” was well attended. In this play, the audience acted as the jury in a civil lawsuit: An African American female business owner is suing a Jewish male real estate developer for defamation. The deliberations of this “case” focused on the role of race and culture play in society. This winter, CCACE partnered with the Friends of the Concord Free Library to offer a series, “Unconscious Bias: Interrupting the Cycle.” This series is comprised of five workshops: Unconscious Bias – what is in your backpack?; Class/Culture; Race, Racism, Racialized Structures, and Privilege; Gender, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression; and Tying it Together! Having Courageous Conversations about Difficult Topics. Both of these experiences were available at a minimal fee due to generous support from our sponsors.

This spring, we will conduct an equity audit where focus groups, surveys, and a review of our policies and practices will inform our effort to date and provide data as to the vast amount of work yet to be done.

Your feedback as students and parents is critical throughout these efforts.  We encourage you to communicate about successes as well as to report incidents that should be brought to our attention or require intervention.  With you as partners, we look forward to continuing to create a community that welcomes and values everyone.

Concord Middle School Project Community Forum

Tuesday, January 14, 2020, 7 p.m.
Concord Middle School-Sanborn Building

The Concord Middle School Building Committee invites you to come hear about the Concord Middle School feasibility study process and timeline, ask questions of the project consultants and learn about future opportunities to engage and provide feedback.

After a brief overview of the process and timeline, we will open the floor to community questions and feedback. Our goal for this initial forum is to kick off the feasibility study public engagement process and hear from you! Visioning education in a new school will be a priority in the discussion. Subsequent sessions will be scheduled that will provide updates on the study progress and respond to questions raised.

We welcome your comments and input via the CMSBC email portal: https://www.concordps.org/cms-building-project/email-the-cms-building-committee/

Addition information and our meetings and forums online are found on the CMSBC webpages:

https://www.concordps.org/cms-building-project/

https://www.concordma.gov/2433/Concord-Middle-School-Building-Committee

The Winter Solstice and A New Year

December 21, 2019

Dear Families of the Concord and Concord-Carlisle Schools,

As we move into the vacation, I reflect on the metaphors and meanings associated with the winter solstice and the upcoming new year.  We often complain about the many hours of darkness and short days. That said, there is often a slower pace and an expansion of the comforts of home that correlates to the extended hours we spend inside with family and friends.   Although the year’s end is the time we talk about resolutions, the new year is also an opportunity for reflection and anticipation of what is to come.

In 2020, we will provide updates as to Social-Emotional Learning, cultural competency, innovative teaching, Ninth Grade Academy, expansion of the electric bus fleet, and the design of a new middle school.  All of these projects are outcomes of community discussions and goals set with the support of families and students.

Enjoy the Winter Solstice! Happy New Year!
Best,

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintendent

Alcohol and Vaping

November 22, 2019

Dear Members of the Concord and Concord-Carlisle Community:

At this time of year, we are grateful for the partnership between the schools and families. We also want to express appreciation for connections between the schools and Concord’s town leaders and services.

As previously referenced, the districts’ strategic plan highly emphasizes student well-being. This priority is why we write to share growing concern over substance use-related issues among high school students. This fall brought a series of alcohol-related incidents both at and outside of school events leading to unsafe situations that required police support. Underage drinking is illegal and leads to the deaths of more young people than all other drugs combined. Our concerns for student safety compelled us to compose this joint letter to our parent community to not only notify, but more importantly, to re-affirm our strong partnership and mutual commitment to student safety. We encourage you to share it with high school and middle school-age students. For those with younger children, we know that early education and awareness is critical.

CCHS and area high schools are also not immune to the national vaping epidemic dominating news headlines. In conjunction with the Concord and Carlisle Boards of Health, we want to increase awareness of the dangers of vaping, especially given the unknown causes of serious medical harm. Please see the Concord Health Division’s webpage: https://concordma.gov/714/Tobacco-and-Vaping for more information and resources on vaping. On December 3, the speaker series regarding vaping continues in Bedford sponsored by the Concord, Carlisle and Bedford Boards of Health. Information can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/vaping-and-our-teens-what-do-we-know-about-the-risks-of-vaping-tickets-75932493131

Research is clear that parents have the most influence on student use of substances. Being a role model, sending messages as to your expectations, and providing information as to the dangers of drug and alcohol use does matter. Resources such as Pathways to Prevention (https://www.pathwaytoprevention.org/resources/parents/) can help you know how to navigate these challenging topics.

In conjunction with the Concord and Carlisle Police Departments and the local Boards of Health, we will continue to develop student instructional programs, opportunities for parent information, and implementation of both proactive and deterring measures.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

Sincerely,

Dr. Laurie Hunter, Superintende
Chief Joseph O’Connor, Concord Police
Chief John Fisher, Carlisle Police Chief
Susan Rask, Concord Public Health Director

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

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