Friday, April 27, 2007

Alfreda Harris honored for her support of student athletes

Alfreda Harris has devoted her career to ensuring the success of all students -- in the classroom, in the community, and on the athletic field. The Massachusetts Secondary School Athletic Directors Association recently presented Ms. Harris with the Distinguished Service Award for her tireless work on behalf of student athletes, particularly young women. Ms. Harris was first appointed to the Boston School Committee in 1993 and is its longest serving member. Her distinguished career includes serving as Deputy Commissioner of the Boston Parks and Recreation Department and head women’s basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, Emerson College and Roxbury Community College. Ms. Harris was also a founder and former administrative director of the Shelburne Community Center in Roxbury.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

BAA student's self-portrait exhibited in U.S. Capitol

The artwork of a Boston Public Schools student will soon hang in the U.S. Capitol building. Congressman Michael E. Capuano has selected a self-portrait by Boston Arts Academy senior Jaleela Brown to represent the Massachusetts 8th Congressional district in the annual Artistic Discovery exhibit. Congress created the program in 1982 to feature the work of artistic high school students from each of the 435 Congressional districts across the country. Every member of Congress annually selects one student’s artwork to be displayed for one year in the Cannon Tunnel that connects House of Representatives office building with the U.S. Capitol.

Jaleela is the daughter of Michael and Deborah Browder of Dorchester, who are alumni of the Boston Public Schools. An honors student at the Boston Arts Academy, Jaleela is also a talented fashion designer and photographer. She plans to attend college next year to pursue a degree in medicine while continuing her interest in art.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Discover great books this summer!

The summer months are a great time for parents to help their children nurture their love of books and reading. Boston Public Schools and the Boston Public Library have published the annual summer reading lists to help families select books for students of all ages. The books are all available in branches of the Boston Public Library. Happy reading!

Monday, April 23, 2007

New book reflects on a decade of BPS reform

A new book published by Harvard Education Press examines Boston as a case study for transforming city school systems. A Decade of Urban School Reform: Persistence and Progress in the Boston Public Schools is edited by S. Paul Reville and Celine Coggins from the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy and features chapters by various authors about key aspects of BPS reform work during the tenure of former Superintendent Tom Payzant. Said Reville, "This research validates Boston’s strategic direction on education reform, but it also highlights key areas where reforms must go further and be equitably implemented at an accelerated pace. Both the successes of the past decade and Boston’s ongoing challenges offer critical ‘lessons-learned’ for others engaged in school reform."

Friday, April 20, 2007

In memoriam

The Boston Public Schools community offers our condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy. The university has established the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund to accept donations in memory of the students and educators who were lost. Superintendent Contompasis sent a message to schools about providing appropriate support for students and staff.

BPS expands plans to strengthen early childhood education

To help close the achievement gap, BPS continues to focus on preparing children at a very young age for academic and personal success. In the past two years, the district has invested more than $7.5 million to strengthen and expand early childhood education programs citywide, particularly with the creation of more Kindergarten 1 (K1) classrooms for four-year-olds. Superintendent Contompasis recently presented the Boston School Committee with a plan to expand and strengthen early childhood programs throughout the city.

The plan proposed by the Department of Early Childhood Education is designed to ensure high standards in all kindergarten classrooms, with consistent curriculum aligned to learning in Grade 1 and beyond. To inform the decision-making in this investment, the district commissioned a needs assessment from the Wellesley Centers for Women to study the quality of instruction and facilities in 127 randomly-selected kindergarten classrooms in 67 schools, which represents slightly less than half of all kindergarten classrooms in Boston. The study cites the need for improvement in many of the classrooms the researchers visited and makes recommendations that support the district’s strategic plan for the months and years ahead.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

"Incredible Kid" throws out first pitch at Sox game

Boston's "Absolutely Incredible Kid" is quickly becoming a local celebrity. First she earned the media spotlight after winning a citywide contest in search of students with absolutely incredible success stories. Since then, third-grader Brenda Tejeda Baez has received additional gifts from donors to support her family and her school, the Agassiz Elementary. And on Saturday, she threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Red Sox slugger David Ortiz before the Angels game at Fenway Park. Red Sox owner Larry Lucchino welcomed Brenda, her mother and godmother, her teachers Mrs. O'Brien and Mrs. Feeney, and other special guests, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino and classmate Jamile Paulino. The team presented Brenda with gifts from Reebok and a new bookcase autographed by Red Sox players. Brenda must have brought the team good luck, because the Sox beat the Angels 8-0, including a three-run homer by Ortiz. Pictured here, Brenda gets a hug from Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster.

McKinley team beats odds to win Robotics award

They call themselves "the little team that could." Students from the William McKinley Preparatory High School recently won the Judges Award at the Boston FIRST Regional Robotics Competition in recognition of their unusual success as first-time competitors and their “we can do it” attitude. Despite being rookies and having the smallest team, the McKinley students advanced all the way to the quarter-finals. McKinley was among 16 BPS schools/teams to compete at Boston FIRST. The Boston Latin School/Brookline High School team, along with Quincy High School and Clinton High School, went on to compete in the national finals. Pictured here are McKinley teammates Daniel Brito, Jonathan Jaimes, and Travis Velasquez.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Winners of the "Marshall Marathon" crowned

The Marshall Elementary School crowned winners of the annual Marshall Marathon today (see earlier post). Pictured here, left to right, front row: Alan Monteagudo and Gavonna Tennyson, Kiddie Race (Kindergarten); Middle row: Makayla Harris and Kareem Murrell, Elementary Race (Grades 3-5), and Bryan Mora and Philomena Chea, Primary Race (Grades 1-2); Back row: Elena Rodriguez-Vila and Oliver White (visiting middle school students from Shady Hill School in Cambridge), and Leanna Ruth and Derrick Winston, Staff Race.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

BPS students and staff "go the distance" during Marathon Weekend

BPS students and staff won't just be spectators at Monday's 111th running of the Boston Marathon. Many will run the marathon to raise money for charitable causes or use the event as a learning opportunity. Tomorrow, the John Marshall Elementary School in Dorchester will host the annual "Marshall Marathon," in which each classroom selects one boy and one girl to compete in one of three age divisions, plus an adult division. Several Boston teachers also will run in the actual Boston Marathon on Monday and have enlisted their students to help raise funds for various charities, including ReadBoston.

Author Barbara McGrath visits Lyon School

Children's author Barbara McGrath visited the Mary Lyon K-8 School in Brighton today to talk to students in kindergarten through grade 4 about the creative writing and book publishing process. Barbara, a former pre-school teacher, has written more than 20 books for children, including the award-winning The M&M's Brand Counting Book and The Little Green Witch. Barbara will visit many Boston Public Schools this year -- including the P.A. Shaw, O'Hearn, Chittick, Ohernberger and Perry elementary schools -- as part of a new non-profit progam Authors Talk, Too, which brings published authors and illustrators into urban and other low-income schools for free, informative, and fun presentations designed to inspire students to become capable writers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

WGBH forum features Murphy School

The Richard Murphy K-8 School was featured in a recent town hall meeting about empowering educators to transform public education. Murphy Principal Mary Russo and teacher Harry Gilliam, Jr., participated in a panel discussion to describe the school's collaborative approach to teaching and learning. The forum was sponsored by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), MetLife Foundation, and WGBH. NCTAF President Tom Carroll said, “The Murphy School is a great example that many educators can learn from – in Boston and beyond.” The forum can be viewed online, including a WGBH-produced video about the Murphy's teamwork approach.

BPS thanks and celebrates classroom volunteers

Next week (April 15-21) is National Volunteer Week, when organizations across the country will celebrate one of their most important resources: volunteers. In the Boston Public Schools, volunteers play a key role in accelerating student learning. Several organizations -- including Boston Partners in Education, Generations Inc., ReadBoston, and Citizens Schools, to name a few -- recruit, train, and support classroom volunteers. Pictured here is Mary Nickerson (with first grader Victoria Andersen), who has traveled by public bus every Tuesday and Thursday for the past six years to tutor students at the Conley Elementary School in Roslindale. “Ms. Nickerson comes to the Conley whether it is snowing or freezing cold, or the sun is shining,” said Conley principal Kathleen Armstrong.

Boston high school students travel the world

The learning experiences of Boston's high school students do not stop at the city limits, or even national borders. Instead, increasing numbers of Boston students are traveling the globe on foreign field trips that bring the spirit of learning and community service to life. This school year alone, nearly 200 students from 12 different high schools have traveled to 13 countries on excursions to learn more about other cultures and people.

Community Academy parents and staff take a rural retreat

Staff and parents at Community Academy are taking an innovative approach to building bridges between school and home. A group of four parents and 16 staff members from the alternative school recently spent two days together – not in urban Roxbury, but in rural Essex, Massachusetts – on an overnight retreat to strengthen relationships among families and school staff. The group’s ambitious agenda included indoor and outdoor team-building exercises, as well as the development of an action plan to improve family engagement at the school. Community Academy staff participated in a similar retreat last year, but this was the first time parents took part. Next year, school officials plan to include students as well.