Principal’s Letter

Dear Zervas Families,

This week is National Inclusive Schools Week. This annual event celebrates the progress that schools have made in providing supportive and quality education to in increasingly diverse student population, including students who are marginalized due to disability, gender, socio-economic status, cultural heritage, language preference, and other factors.

The theme of this year’s Inclusive Schools Week is “Social Inclusion: More Than A Seat In The Class…” Throughout our school, classes will be recognizing this event with projects and activities. Here are just a few of them:
• Students in 2B are focusing on discussing how to include others and be kind. They’ll extend what the second grade has done with “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” into celebrating our differences. They will also read a few books and make a chain to show how differences connect us together.
• KT is reading about and discussing various personal differences. Additionally, they have talked about their own similarities and differences – what makes them unique and special. Students have created a visual display entitled “I AM SPECIAL” which is located outside their classroom. The display consists of self-portraits as well as an entry of what makes each child special.
• The first graders in 1M are reading the book; Kindness is Cooler, Mrs. Ruler and focusing on “Choose Kind”. They will be writing kind deeds on hearts and placing them in the hallway.
• 3E will be working on “The Friendly Five.” Each day the class will be given a topic geared towards the idea of social inclusion. The students will work in pairs to discuss this topic. Then, they will be able to share with the class what they discussed. Each day the pairs will rotate.
• KH will be drawing a picture to answer the question, “what makes you special?” The students will be encouraged to draw about something that is unique to them. They will then discuss why unique qualities make the class and school a more interesting environment.
• Students in 4O have put up an “interactive poster” in the hallway outside of their classroom in celebration of Inclusive Schools Week. Last week, each student finished the sentence starter “Inclusion means….” and then drew a picture illustrating their thought. Next, they used an iPod touch to generate a QR code for each sentence starter. This week, other classrooms are invited to stop by at snack time to ask the classroom “QR Reader of the Day” to scan it. Students are challenged to match the sentence with the corresponding picture.
• Students in 4W will make posters that celebrate student differences.
• Grade 5 students we will be reading some books, issuing a class challenge to be actively inclusive, and working on illustrating those ideas on our poster.
• In 2B, students will learn how to say “Good Morning” in sign language, as well as discuss what being inclusive means through listening to stories and writing their ideas.

What each of these projects highlights is that we all have unique needs and abilities and, as a community, we work together to support one another and understand each other. Our differences make us stronger and create a school environment that is rich with diversity, abilities and talents.

As we approach the holiday season, I realize that many families wish to express their gratitude to staff members. At this time, I want to remind you of the Newton School Committee’s policy regarding gifts. The policy states, “No teacher in performance of regular duties shall receive presents from pupils under his/her direction.” In addition, the Massachusetts Ethics Reform laws stating that a, “municipal employees may not accept gifts and gratuities valued at $50 or more” (per year). A group gift for a teacher/classroom where individuals contribute smaller amounts cannot exceed $150. Classroom supplies/contributions do not fall under this policy. I ask for your cooperation in adhering to this policy. Teachers feel awkward accepting gifts knowing that it is prohibited by the system, yet they also feel uncomfortable refusing a gift offered by a child or parent. This also creates a confusing situation for students that follow the policy and see teachers receiving gifts from other students. If you wish to express your gratitude to a staff member, cards or notes are greatly appreciated. We realize how much time and effort goes into writing a sincere note of thanks and appreciation, drawing a lovely picture, or writing a poem. Teachers truly treasure the pictures and notes they receive from families. Other alternatives include purchasing a book for the library or at the book fair or a donation made to the Newton Schools Foundation. Each of these can be dedicated to honor a special staff member.

Please make note of the following dates when MCAS is scheduled for grades 3, 4 and 5. If you have a student in these grades, please refrain from scheduling appointments or vacations during these dates, as it is vital that each student at our school participate in the MCAS tests. Thank you.

Grade 3 ELA – March 22nd and 25th
Grade 4 ELA – March 19th (Long Composition), 20th and 21st
Grade 5 ELA – April 1st and 2nd

Grade 3 Math – May 15th and 16th
Grade 4 Math – May 13th and 14th
Grade 5 Math – May 6th and 7th
Grade 5 Science – May 9th and 10th

I wish you and your family a very happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year!

Diana Beck