Thursday, December 20, 2012

St. Paul makes a connection

For 14 years, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Lynnfield, MA has helped to make memorable Christmases for many BPS families. Ms. Jonna Casey, Director of Special Education at the Murphy Satellite, has been a longtime member of the congregation. When she first informed the church of the need of some of her students, the congregation went above and beyond to help the school. Their contributions have continued since. Today hundreds of toys, clothes, and other gifts have been delivered to BPS Families. It started with a handful of students and now there are 93 families that benefit from the generosity of St. Paul.

A student who was a recipient of the many gifts donated to the families was sitting on a bench in the school’s office. Ms. Casey approached the little girl and asked her whom she was waiting for, and she said, “Ms. Casey.” “ Well, I’m Ms. Casey. How can I help you?” “Ms. Casey, I wanted to thank you for the best Christmas I’ve ever had!”

“It is awesome to see communities making connections with other communities,” says Ms. Casey. “I am grateful for St. Paul’s kindness, but there are many others like them who are willing to help when they know there is a need. We have good, kind-hearted people!“

Friday, December 07, 2012

Ruth has faith

Ruth Wong, Community Liaison for Boston Public Schools'  Office of Community Engagement and Circle of Promise, is helping to create partnerships with faith-based organizations.  Ruth started with the BPS in July due to a partnership between the Emmanuel Gospel Center and the Boston Public Schools. Currently there are more than 30 schools that partner with faith-based organizations and Ruth looks to expand the partnerships to other schools.

Recently, one of the partners, Roxbury Presbyterian Church, was honored by the White House as a school improvement champion for the Dearborn. “Faith communities have an extraordinary ability to help educate our children,” said White House Executive Director for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, Rev. Joshua DuBois.  “Together, these schools, these programs can help take the country where it needs to go!”

Faith-based partnerships have greatly benefited BPS families.  Roxbury Presbyterian Church’s partnership with Dearborn Middle School is helping the school to expand to a 6-12 Early College STEM Academy.  One of the students who participates in an after-school program provided by the church says, "Before Saturday School I didn't know how to divide.  Now I totally get it!" Another partner, City Mission Society in partnership with Citizens Bank gave away about 400 coats to the Russell School families.

I asked Ruth what are the goals for the coming year and she  said, “ The faith communities in greater Boston are resources and community assets who are eager to support and partner with our schools.  My goal is to help align more faith-based and community-based partners who can help students, families and schools thrive. With the help of faith-based organizations, I am confident that we will be able to contribute to increased student achievement and family engagement in our schools.”

To learn more about faith-based organizations you can contact Ruth Wong,

Thursday, December 06, 2012

We are Boston!

The 2012 We Are Boston Gala, a celebration that recognizes immigrants from diverse backgrounds that have contributed greatly to the city of Boston, recognized two BPS students with the School and Youth Action Award: Boston International student,  Sherley Belizaire and Charlestown student, Yi Ming Yu.

This award is given to those that have made significant contributions to his/her community, while demonstrating and promoting cultural pride.


To learn more about the We Are Boston Gala:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Master Hans focuses on children

Recently I visited the Higginson/Lewis and the King, two K-8 schools that have added tae kwon do to their curriculum. As I enter the gymnasium, third graders run for their uniform and once dressed form a line. Master Hans then request silence and ask them to take position. The class then begins with segments of jumping jacks and tae kwon do forms. Master Hans has been teaching tae kwon do for more than 3 years as part of a funded program provided by the U.S. Tae Kwon Do Education Foundation (U.S.T.E.F.).

 After one of the sessions at the schools, I asked Mr. Hans, how the program started at the school. He responded, “Mr. Tito Jackson referred us to the Higginson/Lewis, which was our first school in Boston area. Then, through principal Ms. Oliver's recommendations, we were able to teach in two other schools, the McKinley and the King.” The students take part in a 10 week session and then a graduation ceremony takes places where they are presented their yellow belts.

Last night I attended the graduation ceremony that took place at the Madison Park High School gymnasium. Many parents were in attendance to watch their children demonstrate all that they learned in the program. Master Hans made sure to get the parents involved in the ceremony. Some were asked to stand by their children and do some of the routines with them, and while the children shouted “Yes Sir” after each move, he asked parents to cheer.

Ms. Lena Reddick, Director of Partnership and Community, said “[in her role] I am always looking for alternative ways to get parents involved-not just socially, but academically- and tonight’s program demonstrate how tae kwon has been able to do that-not only tonight, but in the classroom.” Mr. Hans affirms that by saying, “Positive thinking, good focus, and good attitude is what I strive for in the class sessions. We want all the students to get general benefits through tae kwon do and to incorporate this not only in school, but also at home.”

Master Hans looks forward to expanding the program to other schools and hopes to get more families involved. For those who want to learn more about the program visit:

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Dever-McCormack votes early!

Mock voting took place today at the Dever/McCormack, with all of the students participating. Neema Avashia, the 8th grade civics teacher, thought it would be a great way to get students involved and informed. The civics department has a curriculum on voting. Thus, students have been learning the history of voting and also about the candidates.
When I asked Ms. Avashia what she hopes to accomplish with this mock voting, she said, “I want kids to be more informed and engaged from an early age. The students have been super excited about this process, and its awesome! It is evident that the students are making their own decisions and taking the time to learn about all the candidates. “We even had some vote for green party candidates and libertarian candidates!” says Ms. Avashia.
All students that participated received free iTune download for up to 30 songs. A big thumbs up for the Dever-McCrmMack for voting early!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Winship science

Last year students from the Winship School were introduced to their outdoor classroom. Since then, it has become an integral part of the school. Science teachers have started to utilize the space more, and a solid outdoor curriculum is in place.

During a recent visit to the school, I found Ms. Walker’s kindergarten class outside learning about leaves. “What color is the leaf?” she asks, and hands are raised. She then instructs the students to look and see what other colored leaves they can find in the area. All the children run to get the task done.

 The students are not only learning about life cycle of trees, but also about decomposition. There is a leaf cage in the outdoor classroom, in which raked leaves are placed. The students watch as they decompose overtime into compost and soil to feed the plants.

The outdoor classroom includes meadowlands and a vegetable garden. Parents and staff help tend the garden throughout the year. This past Saturday, students planted lots of bulbs, as parents raked, picked up trash, and  built new raised beds for planting. “There is a high level of collaboration between teachers and families," says principal Louise Kulman. " Working in teams is a hallmark of instruction in this school! ”

Friday, October 26, 2012

Unity at the Hennigan!

Great things are happening at the Hennigan under the leadership of Maria Cordon. The school has adapted a whole school approach, which means support services are provided to students for their emotional, academic, and social needs.

 The Hennigan responds to the cultural needs of its Somalian students, who make up 200 of the 600 students at the school. In order to meet their cultural needs, the school teams up with ACEDONE ( African Community Economic Development of New England), an organization that provides extra services and programs to families. "Parents are responding very well to this partnership," says Ms. Cordon.

A grant from Target, which has been in place for two years, allows the school to host a monthly food bank. Parents can receive up to thirty-five pounds of food. Over 200 parents utilize this service, which is coordinated by Janet Iraola, The Family Outreach Coordinator. "The School's pantry has been a tremendous resource for our families at the Hennigan. With the cost of food rising everyday the food pantry makes healthy food available to our families on a monthly basis," says Ms. Iraola.

The school is always looking for ways to work more closely with families and the community. For example, Monthly Family Fridays invites families to come to the school and have coffee with the principal and discuss the expectations for the school and the principal addresses any concerns and questions parents may have. Parents also visit classrooms and learn teaching strategies to use with their child at home. Ms. Iraola says,"The focus of Family Fridays is to build relationships between home and school."

 These small steps taken by the Hennigan earns them the title “ A Unity School.”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Chittick success

The James J. Chittick Elementary School has a dedicated principal, faculty, and an engaged community committed to the success of the school.

Over the last few years, the school has acquired an autism program and increased the number of early childhood classrooms. The dedicated teachers have also worked diligently to obtain national accreditation from The National Association for the Education of Young Children and recently obtained a grant from The Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation to establish a new school library.  Furthermore, the teachers organize the “Annual Chittick Gala” to raise funds for programs for the children.  “We want everyone to know how invested our teachers are in the entire Chittick community,” says principal Michelle Burnett-Herndon.

Another exciting program taking place at the school is the The Chittick Players. This is an after-school theater program that produces and performs an annual school play for the school community. The program was organized and operated by two outstanding teachers, Ms. Eddington and Ms. Czaja. The Chittick Players have starred in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and Annie. Students in grades K-5 have participated in the productions.

This fall a full time physical education teacher and a full-time visual arts teacher were added to the staff. The school also hopes to implement PLAYWORKS, a program that encourages positive behavior, teamwork, mutual respect, and fun during recess and playtime; and plans to adopt The Ten Boys Club to support male students.

“Families who choose to send their children to our school send all of their children to our school and are very happy with the positive environment,” says Ms. Burnett- Herndon.  “We are working to collaboratively ensure that every child achieves at high academic levels.”

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Japanese for all at the Timilty

The Timilty Middle School won a $30,000 grant from the Japan Foundation to initiate a school-wide Japanese language program. The grant will allow the school to hire a new full-time Japanese language teacher.
 Timothy Nagaoka, a teacher at the Timilty Middle School, has taught Japanese to sixth grade Advanced Work Class (AWC) for the past ten years and is very excited about this opportunity.  

Nagaoka says, "With the money from the grant, the school will be able to offer Japanese language to all Timilty students. Dr. Yu-lan Lin, the Director of World Languages, Ms. Valerie Lowe-Barehmi, the Principal of the Timilty and I have worked very hard to get this grant, and we are all delighted that our hard work paid off."  

Nagaoka points out that the Timilty Middle School is the third BPS school to have a school-wide program along with Boston Latin Academy and Snowden International, and the only middle school in Boston to offer Japanese to ALL students!

To learn more about the grant:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Terrick's semester at sea

On Saturday July 14, a former student of the Haley Elementary School ( he now attends the Rogers Middle School), Terrick Beazer left Boston to board the schooner Roseway as part of the Summer Ambassador Program.  This program sends students ages 12-16 to Halifax Nova Scotia for 20 days. While at sea students learn and practice seamanship and navigation.

You can find regular updates, reports, and photos of Terrick’s experience here:

Terrick was sponsored by Boston Family Boat Building, a BPS partner. Family Boat Building has worked with the Haley Elementary School for 5 years. It looks to expand to other BPS schools in the future.

To learn more about Boston Family Boat Building and The Summer Ambassador Program:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Lady Gaga" milks the cow!!

Last fall, Barry Tatelman from Jordan's Furniture challenged Roger Clap Innovation School students to read 10,000 books by June 1st as part of the school’s “We’re booking It” program. Principal Vernon promised to dress as Lady Gaga and milk a cow if the students read more than 10,000 books. Today principal Justin Vernon from the Roger Clap Middle School made good on his promise after students surpassed the goal-13,000 books were read by 168 students!

Friday, June 01, 2012

A healthy school champion!

In 2010, 36% of the students at the Trotter school were identified as asthma students. Margaret Rocchio, a nurse at the Trotter school was able to create a healthy school environment with the strong support of the school principal.

Trotter was able to remedy asthma triggers by establishing an environmental committee. The committee, which included teachers, parents, custodians, nurses, and community organizations identified and reduced asthma triggers.

The committee had staff fill out surveys, do walk-throughs, develop an action plan, request assistance from BPS facilities and community groups. They also communicated with all staff and parents about the conditions and progress of the initiative.

The school concluded that it needed a serious clean out.  Rugs were replaced with washable mats, new blinds were installed in all windows, chemical cleaners were removed and replaced with “green cleaners,” and all clutter was removed from the classroom.

Trotter has become a  “ Healthy School Champion” by taking small steps for change.  Margaret celebrates their hard work but recognizes that more work is required.  She is confident that it will get done with the continued support from the school and community.

She encourages others who work for a school to get involved and “not to get trapped in thinking that you can’t change things! ”

To learn more about promoting good health at schools visit:

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Angela Gentile has been teaching at Boston Latin Academy for five years. She is currently teaching 9th grade college English and also coaching JV girls’ basketball and has been for the past four seasons. Recently, Ms. Gentile ran the Boston Marathon because she wanted to build community and school spirit at BLA. She also ran to raise money for the school. She partnered with Boston Rising, which is an antipoverty fund that partners with others, including educators, to reduce poverty in Grove Hall. Boston Rising matched the first $5,000 Ms. Gentile raised with another $5,000 for the school.

This is not her first marathon-she ran in 2006 in Vermont. “But running in Boston is something to aspire to!” says Ms. Gentile.

During a phone interview with Ms. Gentile, I asked her how she felt when she crossed the finish line. She said, ”At first I just wanted to reach Kenmore, but when I saw the students cheering for me, it motivated me to push harder and finish.” This was an incredible experience for her she felt a great sense of accomplishment.  I asked her if she felt she had built school spirit and community. “Definitely!” she said. “The students understand that they are part of a community and learned that a small step goes a long way. Just by the students being there and supporting me shows how one can contribute in a big way.”

Anders Kirleis, a freshman at BLA and a student of Ms. Gentile said that Ms. Gentile’s story has inspired her. “She trained hard to run this race,” said Anders. Ms.Gentile kept a chart in class that showed how many miles she ran a day.  “She has shown us how schools can partner with the local community and help make a change.” 

I asked if she would run the marathon again. “Maybe,” she said. ”It involves a lot of training, but then again, who knows, ask me in January.”

Congratulations to Ms Gentile on her run and her great accomplishment!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Earth Month

April is Earth Month and below are three "green" tips that help
create a more healthier and sustainable planet.

Quick Tip 1: Bike to Work

More than 31% of CO2 emissions in the US come from transportation. Consider commuting to school or work by bike or train one Friday a month as part of Boston’s Bike Friday ( program. The next one is May 18th!

Quick Tip 2: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle

If just 2% of individuals used reusable mugs, we could save 2 billion trees (enough to cover half of Massachusetts) and save 1.5 million gallons of oil (enough to power 65,000 homes for a year).

Quick Tip 3: Paper or Plastic? Neither, please.

3 million gallons of oil is used EVERY DAY to produce plastic bags! And every year, more than 500 billion of them are discarded either in landfills or into our environment. Bring a reusable bag with you and help protect our wildlife and reduce our dependence on oil.

Don't forget to celebrate Earth day on April 22, 2012.
To learn more: EARTH DAY

* Tips provided by Phoebe Beierle

Monday, April 02, 2012

Celebrating programs for autistic students

In honor of Autism Day, April 2, 2012, I would like to take the time to let you know about a few programs that are in place to help autistic students at BPS.

The STRIVE program (Supported Training to Reach Independence through Vocational Experiences) provides vocational and transitional services to students with disabilities. There has been great success with this program. At the Jim Roche Community Skating Rink in West Roxbury, autistic students who are part of the STRIVE program intern early in the morning and help staff clean and set up the rink.

Gregg Burgess, a staff member of the Roche Rink says, “All the students come in with a different level of skill set, and it's great to see how versatile and independent they become over time.”

The manager of the Roche Rink, Dennis Caulfield, says that he is grateful for the program because not only is it valuable to the student, but to the rink. The kids have helped to lift the spirits of the staff, and they have become somewhat of a small family.

Benjamin McDonald, one of student interns says with a smile, ”I like it here.”

Another valuable program for autistic students is the iPad project. The Office of Instructional and Information Technology partnered with the Office of Special Education and Student Services on an iPad initiative for special education teachers and students with autism.

Andrew Bott, principal of Orchard Gardens K-8 school, says the program has been very beneficial. He talks about a student named Xavier who had some challenges prior to the iPad program. “It was very difficult to get him to sit at the table and attend to a tabletop task without physically keeping him in the chair. It is also sometimes a challenge to get him to attend to materials.” After the iPad/iTouch program, Xavier can now navigate through most applications with ease. “ Xavier will now sit and attend to the iPad/iTouch app independently for up to 10 minutes!” says Bott. Xavier has also learned a lot of languages from this type of technology - alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, object identification. This program has highly motivated students to learn and Andrew Bott is so happy for that.

To learn more about the above programs, contact the Communications Department:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Boston Scholar Athletes are succeeding

The Boston Scholar Athletes (BSA) program, which was launched in the summer of 2009, supports academic achievement through athletics. Partners include BPS and The City of Boston. The program is currently in 19 learning centers, or “Zones”-each located at a Boston Public School high school. The Zones are staffed, operated, and funded by BSA. The program is available during the academic school year by all potential and current scholar-athletes in grades 9-12. The Director of BSA, Rebekah Splaine, says, "The Zones are a dedicated space that represent a mindset for academic and athletic excellence. They offer students a safe place to study, learn, and interact with their teammates, peers, mentors, and tutors."

The Zones are equipped with innovative technology, and school supplies, in addition to providing consistent tutors and mentors. This year BSA is also offering the College Readiness Initiative an SAT preparation program with the Princeton Review.

BSA has gained tremendous growth and impact, which has sparked the need for other Zones. “There has been a renewed sense of accomplishment, pride, and urgency in the students’ academic pursuits,” says, Splaine. Success is measured on a daily basis by tracking scholar-athlete eligibility, grade point averages, progress reports, and student satisfaction surveys. The relationship with the Boston Public Schools allows BSA staff to monitor the grades of 3,000+ scholar-athletes currently enrolled in Zones. "This is vital to our success because it allows for day-to-day monitoring of academic performance, so our staff can work to prevent ineligibility,"notes Splaine.

BSA looks forward to next year with hopes of continued academic progress.
To learn more about the program:

Friday, March 02, 2012

Emmanuel lends a hand

Partnerships within the community have helped to foster great students. Emmanuel College and Fenway High School collaborated in 2005 to create a dual enrollment program that allows students the opportunity to enroll in undergraduate courses at the College for high school and college credit at no cost to them.

“The program allows students to gain confidence in their ability to do college work and teaches them the skills to navigate what is often for them the foreign world of college," says Peggy Kemp, Headmaster at Fenway.

One former student commented, “Nothing in the world made me happier than to see what I’ve worked for. There were times when I wanted to quit but I'm glad that I didn't. I know now that I can do anything if I allow myself to do so.” This student graduated from Smith College early because of the four courses she took at Emmanuel and is currently a teacher in the Boston Public Schools.

Since 2005, more than 200 Fenway students have participated in the program and about 300 courses have been taken.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Higginson/Lewis: Born from a boombox

The John Lennon Bus stopped at the Higginson/Lewis School in the fall. Check out the video that the students created:

Monday, February 13, 2012

City Year makes a difference

City Year and BPS schools partnered in the spring of 2011. City Year is currently serving 14 schools with hopes of expanding to 23 schools in the next three years.

The Dever Elementary and the McCormick Middle are two schools that are benefiting from the program. City Year Corp members at the schools provide class support for the teachers and also help lead small groups. Members also help track student attendance for those who have an attendance rate below 92% and contact parents when their student is absent to see what the reason is and how the school can help get them to school.

This Partnership has increased attendance in the school. Currently attendance is higher now in February 2012 than it was this time last year because of their efforts to get students to school.

One of the Corps members, Nicole Chandler, says, “Our connection with the staff and administration is strong and we greatly appreciate the school for allowing us to serve at the DMC", she continues, "I really believe that public schools can thrive but it will take everyone taking a stance to make a difference. That's why I work for City Year!"

To learn more about City Year’s partnership with BPS click here

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Holland remembers the "Dream"

The Holland Elementary School recently celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. at its annual MLK: I Have a Dream Speech Oratorical Contest. The students learned and recited excerpts of the speech and were judged from a panel of judges, which included the principal, teachers, and leaders in the community. This year there were more than 15 participants from the fifth grade class- many of the students were English Language Learners!

The 1st prizewinner received a $100.00 savings bond and the 2nd prizewinner received a $75.00 saving bond. The bond will help further the student’s education when they enter college.
Check out the 1st place winner Nevaeh Langford and 2nd place winner Walter James

The following week the school also hosted its annual “Unity Dinner”. The goal of this event was to enhance the partnership between school, students, and their families. During the Unity Dinner the school community celebrated the children through song and dance and ended with a family style dinner.

To learn more about the events contact Cassandra Samuel, the Library Media-Paraprofessional for the Holland :

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Liberty for all

Jeff Liberty, headmaster at Boston Green Academy is a former BPS student, who grew up in a modest family home in Dorchester. While attending Boston Latin School he learned that doing well academically meant a chance at the middle class and a move away from poverty. Education was connected to prosperity.

While in high school he worked hard, which led to his acceptance to Brandeis University. Initially, he thought he wanted to be an attorney- although his grandmother wanted him to be a priest-but after having extraordinary history teachers while in college he decided that teaching would be his profession instead. During his college years, he worked for Upward Bound, which solidified his desires to be a teacher, thus following graduation he would return to Boston to become a teacher.

In 1992, he found himself at Fenway High. Larry Myatt, a founder of Fenway and also a Brandeis graduate, hired him as a student teacher. At this time Fenway High was also trying to create an identity and redefining the meaning of teaching. Fenway’s goal was to graduate every student. While at Fenway, he received great training and established great relationships with staff and BPS families.

Soon after, Jeff was offered a job at Madison Park as a history teacher. After two years at the school he took a job in Sao Paulo, Brazil. While in Brazil, Liberty ascertained the importance of having skilled faculty members and dedicated teachers. He also witnessed inequalities in education. The wealthiest students had the greatest access compared to everyone else. Teaching in Brazil developed his teaching skills. As Liberty says, “ I cut my teeth as a teacher while in Brazil.” After four years in Brazil he made a decision to come back to the states.

When he returned, he taught for two years and then decided to work for the administrative offices of BPS. He wanted to see how the external and internal offices operated and how to reform existing schools. He worked with the High School Renewal program, now known as High School Support. While there he proposed new models for new schools. During this time he also interned as a leadership fellow to prepare himself for his future role as headmaster.

During his fellowship, the Horace Mann Charter was making headlines in education. This new concept intrigued Liberty. It would allow for more flexibility and autonomy. Thus, when the opportunity came to lead a new Horace Mann Charter school starting in South Boston that would take over an existing lower performing school, Liberty jumped at the chance.

As the headmaster of Boston Green Academy, Jeff aligns his goals with that of the Acceleration Agenda. The school looks to prepare every child for college. “We do a good job graduating high school students, but not college. That’s why at BGA we try to incorporate curriculum that prepares students for college,” Liberty says. He is establishing relationships with families based on trust and common vision. The BGA community also is doing more to learn about the trauma of its students.

He has been able to this with the strong support of Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. “Dr. Johnson has a real commitment to think differently and creatively. I take genuinely her goal to talk to parents and also to engage them about the process. She is an inspiration to me,” Liberty says.

Jeff Liberty looks to give back to his Boston community by offering a great education to all students. “I’m from Boston. It made me and I am grateful for the experiences,” Liberty continues, “ I am committed to having my students receive similar experiences. Now we just have to do it and we will!"