Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring is in the Air at Barnard School!

      I know I promised to try to update you all a little more often but time just seems to slip by.  I have taken excerpts from my recent correspondence home and my last 2 Principal’s Reports, so hopefully this will bring you up to speed on all that we are about.  As we approach our Spring Vacation and the last few months of the 2012-2013 school year there is much to share with you all.
     This first bit of news makes us all very happy and a little sad at the same time.  Mr. Brunette has been granted a one-year leave of absence to work on a project that has become his passion.  He has designed a “performance-based artist in residency program that promotes kindness and combats the ever-growing issue of bullying in our nation.”  During his year away from us he will be taking his program to New England schools with the goal of recruiting performers to carry on his work when he returns to us.  I am in the process of working with the School Board and SAU to find professional staffing to take over his Reading, Writing, and Spanish instruction, and I will be filling in for him as Grade 5-6 Social Studies teacher.  I will keep you all posted on the progress and we all wish Mr. Brunette well, although he will be greatly missed, and we look forward to his return.
     Through the generosity of our PTA, during the week of April 29-May 3, Nicole Jones and Kyle Aarons, Guest Actors from “Children’s Stage Adventures” will visit us to conduct auditions and rehearsals for our entire student body.  On Friday evening, May 3, Barnard students will be performing “The Princess and the Pea.”  We are currently looking for host homes for our talented visitors so if you are interested please contact me at school.  Many more details about this wonderful opportunity will be available after vacation.
     Saturday, May 4 our PTA will be holding their annual Blaze the Trail 5K event.  Volunteers and participants are needed and appreciated so please contact PTA organizers through school or sign up at
     The last day of school has been set (barring any additional cancellation days) as Friday, June 21, and it will be an early release day ending at 11:55.  We will celebrate Graduation for our amazing 8th Graders the previous evening Thursday, June 20.  More details on all the end of year festivities will be coming but I have a few dates to remind you of: Celebration of Learning Monday, May 20, Isles of Shoals, Tuesday May 28, Field Day, Wednesday, June 5, and much more to be announced. 

From My April Principal’s Report:

     As winter reluctantly turns into spring here at Barnard School, we have completed over 125 days filling 2 trimesters of our school year, and that means another round of Parent Teacher Conferences.  The spring session went even better than the fall with nearly 50 individual and small group meetings of parents and teachers over the 6-hour session.  The schedule was modified this time around to allow Kindergarten parents to meet during school hours to free up Mrs. Ryan who combined Grade 1 meetings in the afternoon with Mrs. Pruett.  Thanks to Mrs. Jones, all requests were able to be accommodated and there are future plans to make Art, Music, and P.E.  a more integral part of the process.
     Staff development continues to be a focus this spring with Mrs. Ryan, Pruett, and Dugan attending a daylong workshop on 6-Traits Writing geared to primary grade instruction.  Adding to our ongoing efforts to improve writing, Fred Wolff will be visiting us again on Wednesday April 3 to observe instruction and meet with individual teachers of reading and writing.
     As part of our ongoing efforts to improve school climate using the PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) Program our staff continues to give out Hawk Bucks to recognize good behavior, and students have been cashing them in on Wednesdays for special privileges like extra computer time, homework passes, and lunch with Mr. “D.”  During the month of March, the staff has introduced a very popular Student of the Week Award.  Every Friday, before classes start, the entire student body and staff gathers at the “Compass” to recite the Pledge together and for staff to hand out the awards.  It has been an amazing way to rekindle school spirit much the same way that Hawk Awards have done so in the past.

Barnard March Students of the Week

March 1
Grade 1- Sarah Burdick
Grade 2- Chloe Molin
Grade 4- Nik Bucyk
Grade 8- Caleb Williams
Grade 7- Leah Hopkins
Grade 6- Kaylie Cloutier

March 8
Grade 1- Jake Powers
Grade 3- Zena Fitzgerald
Grade 6- Isabel Haggett
Grade 7- Alex Reynolds
Grade 8- Angel Kaneb
Grade 2- James Dennis

March 15
Grade K- Keira Andruskevich
Grade 3- Sydney Mahoney
Grade 4- Kiley Considine
Grade 7- Leah Hopkins

March 22
Grade 1- Antonios Kataxinos
Grade 2- Alethea Kataxinos
Grade 5- Isabel Losier
Grade 7- Alex Reynolds
Grade 8- Cloud Bogart

     PTA had their monthly meeting on March 14, and plans are in full swing for the Barnard Trail Blaze scheduled for Saturday May 4.  This annual event promises to continue to grow in participants and sponsors due to our amazing PTA efforts.  The students continue to enjoy the sleds that were so generously donated and teachers were able to select nearly $500 in books at the Book Fair, which again was a popular part of Teacher Conferences.  Our PTA generously continues to connect with the Staff to find ways to support instruction and daily activities with funding and volunteers.
     We are in the home stretch with fundraising efforts to support the 8th graders for their trip to Washington D.C. during the first week in June.  On Saturday March 23, a Comedy Hypnosis Night was held in the school gym with a Mexican Buffet hosting over 80 attendees.  I was invited to a parent meeting at Hunking School, who has kindly allowed us to join them on the trip, and was able to gather details about the trip and ask questions on behalf of our families.   I also received the good news that our costs have been reduced by $100 per student as a result of Hunking helping to fill the second bus on the trip!
     As the school year draws to a close we are looking forward to a school wide field trip the Isles of Shoals on May 28 and the weeklong visit from Children’s Stage Adventures in the last week of April into May followed by our presentation of “The Princess and the Pea” on Saturday May 4.

From My March Principal’s Report
       As we enter the month of March here at Barnard our staff and students are getting back into daily routines as we return from our Winter Break.  The school year continues to fly by, despite the occasional snow day, and our students in grades K-2 report that we will have less than 70 days left during the first week of March.  You will note that I frequently refer to these classrooms regarding days of the school year because data like the day of the week, month, and year, weather, and other important information are part of routines as it relates to their curriculum in Reading, Math, and Science.
     We ended that aforementioned vacation with some incredible news! Earlier in the school year Jay and Sharon Gordon, parents of Jackson in our Kindergarten, approached me with an amazing opportunity.  Jay works for Intermec Corporation who offers grants to schools for various projects.  Our Living Lab, a legendary hands-on learning project here at Barnard, is desperately in need of a source for irrigation since our school water system is not available.   I approached the staff and Mrs. Moran wrote an amazing proposal describing the need and solutions to the problem.  As school began on Monday February 25, Sharon arrived with a check for $2,000! We are so grateful to the Gordons and Intermec and will keep you all informed as plans and system installation proceed for harvesting rainwater, and pumping it to the garden.
     As we head into spring we have two major Professional Development days scheduled so this is a great opportunity to talk about these activities, others we are working on, and provide some personal reflections from staff on ongoing efforts.  Tuesday March 12 is a district-wide professional development day and we will be devoting a portion of the day to discussions regarding our PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) program.  The staff will discuss what is working, how the school climate has changed as a result of the initiative, and plans for the future.   We will spend the major portion of the day looking at the various assessments we choose to administer such as NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) and AIMSweb (Curriculum Based Assessment), and those imposed on us by the state in the form of the NECAP (New England Common Assessment Program).  We will work as a team to review and interpret results, discuss how individual and group scores drive instruction, and evaluate how to better use the assessments in the future as we move toward the Common Core.  Nicole Ryan has been invited to join Seabrook Elementary for a full day of 6 traits training with Fred Wolff since she missed the days he presented at Barnard last year before she was hired.  Many thanks to Seabrook Principal Teresa Morin Bailey for allowing Mrs. Ryan to join in.
     On that same topic, on Wednesday April 3 Barnard will have another visit from Fred Wolff, our 6 Traits Writing coach.  During that day Fred will be attending Writing Workshops conducted by teachers in the classrooms with students, with time set aside for individual meetings with each writing teacher and our reading specialist, Carol Dugan to reflect on instruction and strategize next steps.  At the end of the day Mr. Wolff will meet with the whole staff to discuss how the Common Core Curriculum has changed writing instruction as it applies to writing teachers and especially content area instruction in Math, Science, Social Studies, and even Art, Music, and P.E. Some of the teachers who have been using the program in classrooms have shared their experiences so far with our involvement in 6 Traits:

From Mr. Brunette:

“It has been a great journey exploring new methods of teaching and learning writing since I have embraced the six traits of writing presented to us by Fred Wolff.”

From Mrs. Casassa:

“A dedicated writing class that meets daily has created a routine and expectation of writing.  Students are more purposeful, willing to work through the writing process and more invested in their writing.  The use of mentor texts has provided students with exemplars to model.  Students comment on how much their writing has improved this year.  The writing initiative has energized both the staff and students to try new things and take risks as learners.”

From Mrs. Moran:

“I would want to share how much enthusiasm for writing has improved since introducing the Six Traits.  Student writing is more creative, clear, and enjoyable.  Fred had encouraged us to make sure the children shared their writing. This is significant as they are writing for each other and not just for me, their teacher.  I believe this has been a motivating factor.”

     Our PTA continues to be an important part of life here as we approach the visit from Children’s Stage Adventures production of The Princess and the Pea during the last week of April into the first week of May.  The 3rd annual Blaze the Trail 5K is scheduled for May 4 and parents are out promoting the event already and gathering sponsors.  We are awaiting the results of the state judging of the  PTA Reflections Program and it is rumored that at least one of our students received high praise.  I will have more to report next month.
     Fundraising efforts of our 8th graders for their Washington Trip continue and we are on track to exceed our quota with the Comedy Hypnosis Show rescheduled for March 23 due to some unexpected snow.  Tickets are still available and there will likely be a Mexican Buffet available for a dinner and entertainment night out. 
     We will be having Parent Conferences on Thursday March 21 and will be following the same schedule that was so successful in the previous session. There is so much going on with Dare Graduation for 5th graders, the Variety Show 2013, and field trips to Salem for the Middle School and Isles of Shoals for the whole school. There is even more as the year approaches spring vacation and eventually years end.
     Whew, I know that was long!  I hope it ives you all an idea of all that is going on with these great students, their families, our supportive community and incredible staff.  Thank you all for your continued support and encouragement and please feel free to continue to provide feedback as we work together with our dedicated staff on behalf of these amazing students, their families, and the entire Barnard Community.

Yours truly,

Ken Darsney (Mr. "D")
Barnard School Principal

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