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August 30, 2017
I hope you have enjoyed the summer. It is a great pleasure to welcome both our returning families and those new to our schools.
We begin this school year in the wake of the stunning events in Charlottesville. The display of hate was incomprehensible as it stands in stark contrast to the values of the Newton Public Schools. As a system, we reject hate, prejudice and discrimination. Creating a school community that is welcoming and supportive for all students, no matter their race, background, or identity, is at the core of our mission.
Now more than ever, we must be intentional about the work we have long been doing in support of racial justice, equity, and social and emotional learning. The work is imperative if we expect our graduates to be thoughtful and engaged citizens of an increasingly diverse, complex and connected world. This year, we will expand our professional work with faculty and staff on Courageous Conversations on Race. We will also continue our partnership with the Anti-Defamation League and explore new opportunities for students to lead their peers in addressing issues of bias and discrimination.
It is essential that we work with families in order to ensure that our students respect one another’s differences and stand up when they see injustice and discrimination. Last year, we held a very successful parent workshop on how to talk to children about race. This year, we plan to expand our efforts at the school level to provide families with tools and information to engage in conversations about race, culture, and identity.
As we focus on the learning happening inside our schools and classrooms, we are also excited for the improvement to the physical buildings in our district. The new Zervas School will open on the first day of school, welcoming faculty, staff, and students to a dynamic new learning environment. With Angier and Zervas now complete, we turn our attention to the renovation of Cabot School. Construction has begun with Cabot students now in our Carr swing space. We will continue work on our long-range facilities plan to improve school buildings for our students and staff.
One of the most important parts of my job is to be in our schools on a regular basis working with staff and students. Together with School Committee members, and working closely with our PTOs, I will again visit each of our 22 schools to speak with you about district initiatives and listen to your ideas, questions, and concerns. This year, we will continue to explore the very best ways to share information and include all families in our district conversations. Our partnership with you and the larger Newton community is critical to our success.
Please accept my best wishes for a wonderful school year.
Superintendent of Schools
Dear Newton Families:
Addressing the social and emotional needs of our students is an important system goal. It is essential that we work in partnership with families on important issues that impact our students. I am writing because we have become aware that many of our students are watching and discussing a new Netflix series entitled 13 Reasons Why, the content of which is challenging and difficult.
The series is based on a young adult novel by Jay Asher originally published in 2011. The story focuses on a high school student who dies by suicide, leaving behind 13 tapes detailing why she took her own life. The Netflix series contains graphic scenes of suicide and sexual assault/rape. It also addresses issues of cyber-bullying, alcoholism, and depression.
As a community that has felt the tragic impact of youth suicide, we are particularly concerned about the content of this series. These issues are extraordinarily challenging and may be difficult for some students to process in a healthy and appropriate way. We want to ensure that families are not only aware of the show, but are equipped with resources to help them address these issues with their children.
As a family, we encourage you to:
The following resources provide important guidance on the issues addressed in the show, as well as talking points for having a meaningful conversation with your child.
National Association of School Psychologists (Background)
Jed Foundation (Issues raised)
Jed Foundation/Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (Talking Points)
Riverside Trauma Center – PDF (Guiding Questions)
We know these issues are challenging and I hope this information is helpful. If you have any concerns, please reach out to your child’s school counselor directly.
Superintendent of Schools
February 28, 2017
Dear Newton Community:
Over the past few days and weeks, I have received questions from community members about how recent federal actions on immigration and transgender guidelines impact our school community. These messages have expressed anxiety and uncertainty, as well as a desire to know where the Newton Public Schools stands in light of these events.
Regardless of federal actions, the Newton Public Schools strongly reaffirms our commitment to create welcoming, supportive, and safe school communities for all students and staff, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status.
Last week, the Newton City Council voted to become a “Welcoming City,” a city that protects all residents, regardless of legal status. In the same spirit, the Newton Public Schools welcomes all students, no matter where they were born or how they arrived in Newton.
As I visit our schools, I find students from all over the world who are learning and thriving in our classrooms. It is this diversity that gives all of our students such a rich and powerful student experience. The global community in our schools is preparing our students to thrive and succeed in a global world.
Diversity is not solely defined by race or ethnicity; it is multi-faceted, affording us the opportunity to teach acceptance, appreciation, and respect for each and every individual. To this end, I am proud of the real progress we have made in creating welcoming and safe spaces for our transgender students at all levels. Just recently, I had the privilege of listening to a transgender student speak about his experience. It was gratifying to hear about the comfort and acceptance he feels among his peers and within his school community. This reflects the commitment of our staff, our students, and our families.
We are fortunate in Massachusetts to be backed by state statute that ensures protections for all students and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Our NPS non-discrimination policy also specifies the rights and protections for gender identity and we have created the appropriate spaces in schools so that transgender students feel safe and comfortable.
We will continue to work hard every day to create school communities in which all students and adults feel safe and supported. Thank you for your partnership and for your ongoing support.
Superintendent of Schools
Dear Newton Community,
Over the past few years, the Newton Public Schools have undertaken the important work of addressing issues of race, bias, and culture. We have a number of exciting initiatives underway for both staff and students. Recent events in our community and across the country have made this work more important than ever.
Earlier this year, I was approached by a group of parents interested in learning more about how we extend the work we are doing in the classrooms to the home and to the larger Newton community. To that end, I am pleased to invite you to a community forum: “Talking to Children about Race: Why and How?” to be held on Wednesday, March 22 nd at 7:00 p.m. at Angier School (1697 Beacon St.).
The session, led by Horace Mann Elementary teacher Mike Feldstein and METCO director Maricel Sheets, is designed for a K-5 parent audience and will:
As one who has participated in Mike and Maricel’s workshops, I can tell you that they are lively, engaging and meaningful. Our country is becoming more diverse and we are fortunate that many of our students are exposed to differences at a young age. As a school district, we must continue to help our students develop positive racial identities and attitudes so that they can comfortably and productively navigate in all settings. There is no greater gift we can give our children than ensuring that they are prepared to be active, engaged, and respectful citizens of our diverse world.
An RSVP is not required, but it will help us plan for materials and activities. Please RSVP here: https://goo.gl/forms/eDB56M2MEcUz7aUX2
I hope to see you on Wednesday, March 22nd .