Snow Days in the 70’s

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After making the final snow day decision today, I started to think about the amazing technology that is now available in our society.  Today I can record one voicemail message, write one email message, and reach every family and staff member within the Sharon Public Schools.  I can also log into my computer and post a “No School” message on the Boston television stations.  In total, outside of the wrangling and second-guessing of myself I do when making the decision, the entire announcement process takes me less than 15 minutes.  In that time, not only do the members of our school community know that school has been canceled for the day, but anyone who watches a Boston television station or looks at our website also knows our status.  It truly is amazing and it is so vastly different than what occurred when I was a student in school.  And that was a long time ago!

Growing up in a small coastal town in Maine was phenomenal.  In my town of fewer than 2000 people, it seemed as if everyone knew everyone else, and the care and sense of community in town was consistently present.  One example of this is when our superintendent had to call school off due to a snowstorm.  Back in the ’70’s we had no instant messaging system, and the internet was not something that was available in every household.  Instead, when our superintendent needed to cancel school for a day, she or he would call the local fire station to share the news.  Once that was done, the fire chief would sound the fire alarm of five short noise blasts.  Even though the alarm could only be heard in a small radius around the fire station, approximately one to two miles, once it was sounded parents immediately began a telephone chain designed to notify even those families outside of earshot of the alarm.  While I don’t know how long it actually took before everyone was aware of the “no school” call, I can imagine that folks who lived furthest away from the center of town were aware of the “no school” call long before needing to think about preparing for the day.  

So, we’ve come a long way from sounding the fire alarm to notify the community that there is no school to notifying the world in just fifteen minutes.  Sometimes I wonder which system is better.

As today is the third snow day this school year, the last day of school is now Friday, June 20, 2014.  I think we’re all hopeful that we have no more snow days as that would mean we move our last day of school into the next week in June.  Think Spring!        

SHS Student Exchange (French)

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Above please find a few pictures of Sharon High School students who participated in this year’s exchange with a school in France.  Kathy Turner, French teacher at Sharon High School accompanied the students on this two-week exchange which occurred in November…note the Thanksgiving-themed celebration provided by the host families.  A great time was had by all!

FY15 Preliminary Budget Information

After nearly three months of meetings and discussion, the preliminary budget for the next fiscal year, FY15, is now posted on the school department’s website.  Readers may also find the preliminary budget at the link below:

http://www.sharon.k12.ma.us/pages/Sharon_Public_Schools/Main_Menu/General_Information/Budget_Information/Budget_Information

In addition, every year each School Committee in the state is required to hold an Open Budget Forum during which the community and other interested parties may ask questions and/or comment on the preliminary budget.  This Open Budget Forum was originally planned for Wednesday, January 22.  Due to the closing of school on the 22nd, the Open Budget Forum has been rescheduled to February 5, 2014.  The School Committee will meet on January 29, 2014, and that meeting will be a regular business meeting with budget discussion limited simply to an update since the last meeting of 1/16/14.

Again, the Open Budget Forum has been rescheduled for Wednesday, February 5, 2014 and will be held in the School Committee conference room at 75 Mountain Street.

East Elementary Nominated as a National Blue Ribbon School

Principal Elizabeth Murphy recently received notice from the Massachusetts Department of Education that the Department is nominating East Elementary as a candidate to receive recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School.  Below is an excerpt from the letter sent to Principal Murphy:

“Each year the U.S. Department of Education asks the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to nominate a small number of schools for consideration as National Blue Ribbon Schools. The Blue Ribbon Schools program, which has been in existence since 1982, recognizes schools whose students achieve at very high levels or schools that make significant progress in closing the achievement gap. Based on the federally determined criteria for nomination, your school has been identified as potentially eligible to apply as an Exemplary High Performing School.  Successful applicants will be publicly announced and celebrated in early fall 2014. Further information regarding the National Blue Ribbon Schools program is available at www2.ed.gov/programs/nclbbrs/index.html. 

After Principal Murphy and I reviewed the eligibility criteria, we determined that East Elementary School is, in fact, eligible to apply for Blue Ribbon status.  Consequently, members of the East Community will next be asked to complete a rather rigorous application process and submit it by spring.  The application process is very similar to the process that Sharon High School went through two years ago during its application for Blue Ribbon recognition.

Congratulations to the students, staff, administration, and families of the East Elementary School community on this special recognition.  As they say when nominated for a Oscar, “Just being nominated is an honor.”  Time will tell if the nomination becomes full recognition as a Blue Ribbon School.  Again, congratulations to all!

Early Release Days? What Happens?

If you are a parent or teacher in Sharon, you know that our school system has incorporated a number of early release, or late start, dates into our school calendar.  Consequently, ten times per year (six times for parent conferences and four times for other district business)  elementary children are released from school approximately halfway through the school day.  At the middle school level this occurs eight times per year, and at the high school level this happens four times per year.  But, outside of the early release days for elementary parent conferences, have you ever wondered how school district personnel use that time?

To say that early release time is invaluable to school personnel is a significant understatement.  Below please find just a partial list of the professional development activities that teachers and administrators participate in during early release or late start days:

1.  Meet as departments, grade levels, or as a whole school for purposes as varied as curriculum alignment and articulation and/or to participate in an in-service focused on a new initiative (think Educator Evaluation, differentiated instruction, Response to Intervention, and many more).

2.  To review student assessment data and to work collaboratively to make informed decisions about what should happen next in the classroom for students.

3.  To meet as departments, grade levels, or as a whole school to assess school and district goals and to evaluate our progress toward those goals.

Again, this is just a partial listing of what goes on during early release days.  More than anything, with this post I wanted to take just a moment to reinforce to parents that the school district greatly appreciates the time provided in the district calendar for early release time.  It gives us all some time that is not built in to the regular school day, and during that time teachers and administrators work very hard at achieving the business of the district.  Oh, and don’t forget, next Tuesday, December 10th, is a districtwide early release day, preK – 12.  As always the dismissal times for each school during early release days are listed on our district website.    

Farewell to our Chinese Guests

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Recently our Chinese exchange students, their chaperone, their Sharon host siblings, and Cathy Collins, the Chinese Exchange Program Manager took a field trip to Boston.  They were fortunate to have a guided tour of the State House (See Representative Kafka in one of the photos), and they took a tour of Boston on the Duck Boats.  The day ended with an authentic Italian dinner in the North End.  The Chinese students and their chaperone will leave Sharon next Thursday morning.  They were a pleasure to have at Sharon High School, and we look forward not only to their safe return to Xi’an but also to many, many more years of this collaborative exchange program.

Educator Evaluation…A Little Relief

November 15th was a major deadline for all of the teachers and administrators in the school system, and I dare say that most of us are thrilled that the date has come and gone.  As readers of this blog may be aware, every community in the State of Massachusetts is implementing a new educator evaluation system, and this evaluation system comes complete with a variety of different deadlines during the course of the school year.  To say the new system is a little bit different than the old system would be a huge understatement.  Regardless, in the new evaluation system, all educators (teachers, principals and, yes, superintendents, too) must meet with their evaluators to craft at least one Student Learning goal and one Professional Practice goal.  These goals must be written in S.M.A.R.T. format.  (S.M.A.R.T. stands for “strategic”, “measurable”, “action-oriented”, “rigorous”, and “timed”)  For administrators the minimum number of goals is four (4).  In addition, all educators have to craft an Educator Plan in which we clearly establish timelines for when specific pieces of our intended goals will be achieved, as well as identifying the various benchmarks that would help illustrate progress toward meeting the goals. 

A recent deadline for all staff involved an expectation that our Educator Plans were complete and accepted by our evaluators (in my case, the School Committee).  The November 15th deadline was the date when every evaluator in the district (think principals, assistant principals, secondary curriculum coordinators and yes, me, too) must have completed at least one formal observation for every person we evaluate.  For building principals that could mean as many as 25+ formal classroom observations between late September and November 15th.  I’m not sure if you’re thinking that’s “a lot” or “a little”, but let me tell you that with everything else a building administrator does, 25 observations (and 25 well-written observation documents) in less than two months is a herculean task.

So, I’m not writing about the new Educator Evaluation system to complain.  Far from it.  Instead, I think this new system has the potential to be one of the best things the Department of Education has required school districts to implement in a very long time.  In order to implement the new system well; however, people need time to adjust to the change.  People need professional development on goal development and action plan implementation.  People also need professional development on the various component parts of the evaluation system, and they need explicit guidance on what is expected of them.  The District needs time to ensure that every evaluator (principals, assistant principals, curriculum coordinators and yes, me, too) is implementing the new evaluation system in a systemic, uniform way.  Regardless of how wonderful an initiative may be, if everyone in the district implements it differently, or has a different understanding of how it should be implemented, the outcome will not be nearly as good as when we all function on the same page.  Again, to function in that manner requires time, and that is a valuable commodity of which there is never enough!

If I’ve piqued your interest and you want to learn more about the State of Massachusetts’ Educator Evaluation system, you can find more information than you’ll ever want to read at the following website:  http://www.doe.mass.edu/edeval/training/modules/.  Regardless of whether or not you look at the Department of Education’s website and the materials at the link provided above, I’m sure I’ll write about our district’s implementation of the new system again in the future, and I’ll provide an update as to how we are doing.  In the meantime, if you see a teacher or an administrator in your travels, congratulate them for making it successfully past the November 15th deadline.  We’re all a little tired from working feverishly to meet the expectations of the new system, and while I think it’s a “good” tired that has the potential to lead to some extraordinary results for teachers and children, it is, nonetheless time-consuming and tiring.  Stay tuned!

Happy Veterans’ Day!

It’s Veterans’ Day, 2013, and as I sit quietly in my office working, it dawns on me that one-quarter of the school year has already come and gone.  Report cards for the middle and high school students are being distributed soon (if they haven’t already been distributed), and elementary parents are visiting schools for the annual fall parent / teacher conferences.  The fall sports program for Sharon High School is already in the books, and students are currently in the process of registering for participation in winter sports.  Where does the time go?

As readers of this blog may already know, this year every school district in the Commonwealth is implementing a new Educator Evaluation system.  Today, for example, i spent the better part of my day at my desk reviewing administrator and curriculum coordinator goals and Educator Plans.  It is a tremendously time-consuming task, but I loved every minute of it.  By reading the proposed goals of our building principals, curriculum coordinators, and the district office administrative staff, I can see we are on a unified course for improvement.  For example, I am reading goals related to the district’s creation of new student assessments called “District Determined Measures” (another component of the new Educator Evaluation instrument).  I am also reading many goals that identify specific and measurable improvement in student performance, especially in mathematics.  There are also a few English language arts goals associated with improving student performance in the comprehension and use of “informational texts”.  And, of course, there are many goals that directly correlate to the district’s five-year strategic plan (e.g., Increasing the use of the differentiation of instruction in our district’s classrooms, and ensuring a sound and effective Response to Intervention system in our district’s elementary schools.  As I said earlier in this post, it is tremendously reassuring and rewarding to read that the goals of the administrative team, as well as those of the curricular coordinators, all dovetail in some form or fashion in an effort to increase student achievement and to improve district protocols and procedures.  We are well on our way to success!

More on these topics at another time, but for today, let me close by wishing everyone a Happy Veterans’ Day, especially to those currently in uniform and to those who have served so bravely during this nation’s history.  Thank you!

p.s.  I “googled” the use of “dawns” vs. “dons” when writing a sentence like, “It dawns on me that….”.  From what I read, I changed my original use of the word “dons” to “dawns”.  I just thought I’d share that little bit of information because I know there are grammarians out there who are wondering if I used the correct word in this context.    

A Collaboration of Support and Commitment…the Hockomock Area YMCA

Did you know that the Sharon Public Schools is involved in a variety of collaborations with the Foxborough YMCA?  Today, for example, I was driving on Beach Street by the lake and came to the stop sign at the intersection of Pond and Beach Streets.  I waited an especially long time today at that stop sign because walking hand-in-hand, skipping, singing, and just having a grand ole time were students, staff, and adult chaperones from Cottage Street School.  The group was participating in the Walking Wednesdays initiative, and this Healthy Futures initiative first started at our elementary schools as a program sponsored by the Foxborough YMCA.

Did you also know that our school system has collaborated with the Foxborough Y on a nutrition program geared toward elementary students, as well as hosting a variety of exercise and healthy programs for staff and students at Sharon Middle School?  In addition, just this past summer I was informed that a small group of students involved in our special needs summer program was looking for a swim experience as part of their educational summer program.  When a variety of obstacles surfaced and it seemed as if the school department would not be able to provide the students this valuable swim experience, the Foxborough YMCA came to the rescue.  All it took was one telephone call asking for some help, and the immediate answer was “of course”.  Finally, within the next few weeks we are entering into a collaboration with the Y during which some of our staff members will be trained in a program called Darkness to Light.  This program provides adults with professional development in identifying the signs of child sexual abuse.  Every staff member within the Foxborough Public Schools has already received the Darkness to Light training, and I am hopeful we will be able to pull that off here in Sharon, as well.

Yesterday I had the good fortune to attend a celebration at the Foxborough YMCA.  The Y was celebrating five years of support and commitment to all of the area towns.  Of course, the Foxborough Y has been in operation for many more years than five; however, this celebration was centered around some very specific initiatives that had been realized during the past five years.  Also in attendance at yesterday’s celebration was Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, Representative Joseph P. Kennedy, our United States Congressman, and Maria Stephanos, news anchor for Fox25 News in Boston.  In addition, the superintendents of schools for Attleboro, Foxborough, and Sharon (me) were also in attendance.  It wasn’t until nearly three quarters through the program that I thought “I should be taking some pictures for my blog.”  Well, suffice to say, I didn’t get any great pictures, but I did email the President of the Y later in the day asking if he would share a picture or two that I could post.  If I receive the pictures I will post them soon.  If you know me, you know I’m a fan of the Kennedys.  Therefore, I’m hoping for a picture of the Congressman.

Ed Hurley is the President of the Hockomock Area YMCA, and he does an amazing job.  During the five (plus) years I have been in Sharon, Ed and his staff have reached out to our school system in many ways.  I look forward to our continued collaboration, as any collaboration is all about what is in the best interests of our students and staff.  Stay tuned!

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Sharon Education Foundation Opening Reception

At the beginning of each year the Sharon Education Foundation (SEF) hosts an Opening Reception.  The main purpose of the reception is to recognize the most current Lee Flaxer Award recipient.  Thank you to the SEF for its on-going support of quality, creative education within the Sharon Public Schools.

SEF Opening Reception

School Resource Officer Michael Hocking was recently recognized as the 2013-2014 Lee Flaxer Award Recipient. From left to right: Superintendent of Schools Tim Farmer, Bonnie Klane, School Resource Officer Michael Hocking, SEF President Dianne Needle, and David Shore, SEF Board of Directors

Texting and DrivingSEF also recently announced its new campaign:  “Texting & Driving…It Can Wait”.  Watch for more to come.

Patricia Polacco Visits Sharon

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to have been invited to attend a presentation by noted children’s author, Patricia Polacco.  The presentation was held at East Elementary School, and the Sharon Education Foundation and the East Elementary School PTO funded the author visit.  To say the presentation was wonderful would be an understatement.

In addition to two presentations for students during the school day, Dr. Polacco also spoke to parents, children, and to the general public at a presentation held Monday night at the Sharon Middle School auditorium.  Her humor and important messages were well received by all.  One message I walked away from after listening to Dr. Polacco Monday morning is that we need to remind children that they are all gifted.  For some of us – children and adults alike – it takes us a little longer to unwrap our gift(s), but we should never forget that they are there waiting to be discovered.  

Thank you to the East Elementary School PTO and to the Sharon Education Foundation for co-funding this exciting program.      

SHS Presidential Scholars Announced

The Sharon school system is pleased to announce its nominees to receive the 2014 United States Presidential Scholar Award.  The Sharon High School nominees are Cecily Chase and Alexander Maisel.  All Massachusetts high school seniors graduating between January and August of 2014 who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, who attend a Massachusetts public or private high school, are eligible to receive this award.

The following information is taken directly from a letter written by Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester to all Massachusetts superintendents and high school principals:  “Under the Executive Order establishing the Presidential Scholars Program, students are selected on the basis of outstanding scholarship and promise of future success.  For most of the program’s existence, nominees have been invited to apply for the Presidential Scholars recognition based solely on SAT and ACT scores or on their demonstrated ability and accomplishment in the visual and performing arts or creating writing.  This year, the Presidentially-appointed Commission on Presidential Scholars is expanding the nominee pool by inviting each Chief State School Officer (a.k.a. the Commissioner of Education) to nominate up to six students, three male and three female, from his or her state.”

The Commissioner’s letter goes on to notify superintendents and high school principals that each high school may nominate one female student and one male student for consideration.  In addition, candidates should have demonstrated leadership, school and community involvement, and may receive discretionary points for extraordinary achievement, heavy work load, family responsibilities, or obstacles overcome.  With that guidance, the Director of Guidance at Sharon High School worked with the professional staff and the principal to identify two nominees.  That process brings us to announcing Cecily and Alexander as the nominees from Sharon High School.  Congratulations to both students on this nomination, as well as for all of the accomplishments that led to this selection.  Bravo!  

Additional information about the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program and the Commission on the Presidential Scholars, can be found at www2.ed.gov/programs/psp/index.html.  

My First Slideshow – I’m So Proud

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I’m still learning how to add pictures and slideshows (thanks to my assistant, Robin).  This slideshow includes a picture of our Chinese exchange students in the airport, two pictures of the exchange students at Sharon Middle School.  One of the two middle school pictures is a group photo in front of the school, and the other picture is a shot of the exchange students participating in Chinese conversation with some of our middle school students studying Chinese.  The fourth picture in this slideshow is of RevelAsian, the dance troupe that performed at the exchange student welcome reception.  Again, I’m still learning how to add variety in the form of pictures, slideshows, video, and text.  I’m hoping to keep the interest of readers by diversifying my weekly posts.  Stay tuned!

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Dance RevelAsian

Dance RevelAsian

The Sharon Education Foundation recently funded the cost of a dance troupe called, “Dance RevelAsian” to perform at the Chinese Exchange Student Welcome Ceremony at Sharon High School. This event and performance occurred October 7th.

Parents or community members not familiar with the Chinese Exchange Program at Sharon High School should know that the program has been in existence for seven years.  Each year the Sharon School Department welcomes and Sharon families host between eight to ten students and their chaperone from the Tangnan High School in Xi’an, China.  In March of the same school year, between eight to ten Sharon High School students and one teacher chaperone travel to Xi’an for an eight-week period of time.  While there, our students live with host families, participate in a tremendous amount of site-seeing, and attend school on a daily basis.

To say the Chinese Exchange Program with our sister school in Xi’an, China is important to our students and to our school system would be an understatement.In another blog post later in the school year I will provide information about other student exchange experiences at SHS and other opportunities for students to participate in global travel.  For additional information about the Chinese Exchange Program at Sharon High School, please check out the following link http://www.sharon.k12.ma.us/pages/Sharon_Public_Schools/Main_Menu/Curriculum/China_Webpage

Celebrating Staff / Budget Season Begins

From time to time I am made aware of awards and recognition received by our teaching staff.  For example, in late August, Dr. Libano from the high school notified me that Courtnay Malcolm, SHS teacher, was being recognized as a recipient of the 2013 Yale Educator Award.  Ms. Malcolm was nominated by one of her former students, now a student in the undergraduate program at Yale University, as the teacher who inspired him the most and who supported him, and all students, to perform at high levels of academic excellence.  Congratulations, Ms. Malcolm.

Also, Cathy Collins, librarian at the high school, recently received word that she has been selected by the United States Department of State to participate in the Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) program.  As part of this program, Ms. Collins will attend a Global Education Symposium in Washington D.C., travel on an international fellowship for a two or three week period of time, and she will be eligible for small grants through the program.  Congratulations, Ms. Collins.

In closing, I want to let readers know that we are fast approaching budget season.  As a result, many meetings will occur during the next few months with various Town committees (Capital Outlay, Finance, Priorities), with the administrative team within the school system, and with the School Committee.  Ultimately, the Sharon School Committee will deliberate on any number of budget-related questions when they meet during regularly scheduled School Committee meetings.  Stay tuned for additional details. 

 

 

My First Blog Posting: Telling the Story of the Sharon Public Schools

Welcome and Happy Columbus Day!  My name is Tim Farmer and I am the Superintendent of Schools for the town of Sharon, Massachusetts.  Beginning today I plan to post a minimum of two to four blog entries each week during the school year (and maybe a few during the summer, as well).  These postings will range from providing readers information about district events – to celebrating district accomplishments – to narrating the district’s story.  Nowadays, in this wired world which is so influenced by social media, anyone has the opportunity to tell their own story.  With this blog, I hope to share the evolving story of the Sharon Public Schools.

To me, the Sharon Public Schools represent more than six, individual silos (Early Childhood Center included) where educators strive to inspire learners to “change our world”.  (For those who are up-to-date with the goings-on of the school system, you know that in the previous sentence I incorporated a portion of the district vision statement.)  Instead, the Sharon Public Schools is an educational institution that operates collaboratively to pursue our district mission and vision.  To me, if our story is successfully told, it includes the daily accomplishments and challenges of the learners in our classrooms, as well as the story of our amazing teachers, administrators, and support staff who work so hard to inspire and to hold children accountable for high quality outcomes.  Our story is also told by our parents and community members who contribute to the vibrancy of the school system in innumerable ways, as well as by the members of our School Committee who work selflessly to ensure that our system is a democratic model for students and for the community.

In essence, the story of the Sharon Public Schools comes complete with many chapters.  At times, like in life, some chapters will come to readers of this blog with enthusiasm, joy, and a sense of celebration.  At other times, a chapter or two in our story may contain sad news, or they may simply contain just a hint of humor.  Regardless of the nature of the information provided, I’m hopeful that when reading this blog consistently, readers will begin to see the story of the Sharon Public Schools unfold.  It’s an evolving saga, and it takes some time and knowledge in order to begin to see how the threads are woven together (In future posts I’ll try not to rely so much on metaphor!).

This blog is not meant as a venue for sharing time-sensitive information.  Whether it’s calling a snow day or notifying parents and the community about a change in bus arrival/drop-off times, I’ll continue to use what we call the BLI messaging system for that purpose.  BLI is the system that notifies parents and staff via email and/or voice mail of important, time-sensitive information.  This blog is also not meant as the venue for all-things-important related to the school system.  For that information readers are encouraged to continue visiting our website at http://www.sharon.k12.ma.us.

In closing, and more than anything else, I hope this blog is useful to its readers.  If you find it to be useful, please share the link with a friend, a neighbor, or a member of the community – regardless of whether or not they have children in the school system.  Everyone in our Town has an investment in what happens in our school system, so I’m hopeful this blog serves its main purpose well…to tell the story of the Sharon Public Schools.

p.s.  As I become more comfortable with the workings of this blog site, I hope to incorporate both pictures and video.  For now, I understand the site may look bland, but that will change over time.  Please keep reading!

Our Schools

Our Locations:

District/Central Office

75 Mountain Street, Sharon, MA 02067

Phone: 781-784-1570

Sharon High School

181 Pond Street, Sharon, MA 02067

Phone: 781-784-15554

Sharon Middle School

75 Mountain Street, Sharon, MA 02067

Phone: 781-784-1560

Heights Elementary School

454 South Main Street, Sharon, MA 02067

Phone: 781-784-1595

East Elementary School

45 Wilshire Drive, Sharon, MA 02067

Phone: 781-784-1551

Cottage Street Elementary School

30 Cottage Street, Sharon, MA 02067

Phone: 781-784-1580

The Children’s Center

75 Mountain Street, Sharon, MA 02067

Phone: 781-784-1594

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