Friday, November 15, 2013

Hidden Gem: The King

Boston Public Schools “hidden gems” are schools that go unnoticed or are undiscovered; they may not have the highest test scores or be highly chosen by families, but when you visit the school/community you will notice that they are offering great opportunities for families and changes are happening at the schools. We hope the “The Hidden Gem Series” help families uncover their great talents and attributes.

This month we are featuring The King K-8 School:

Hidden Gem: The King K-8 School

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Japan's famous mascot visits BPS

While the governor of Japan's Kumamoto Prefecture attended suit-and-tie events here in Boston Wednesday, his wide-eyed and bubbly diplomatic emissary was busy spreading fun at two of the city's public schools.

The furry Kumamon, already a big hit in his homeland, brought giggles and dance to Taylor Elementary and Boston Latin Academy. His high-energy was infectious inside 4th and 5th grade Advanced Work Classes at Taylor. Kumamon led a do-as-I-do dance and invited the students to pose with him for the accompanying Japanese media, which included the Fuji Television Network, one of the largest networks in Japan.

The two schools have strong Japanese language programs, and students greeted Kumamon by saying "Ohayougozaimasu," which is Japanese for welcome.

"This just enhances their whole Japanese program," said Julie Caldarone, the BPS Senior Program Director for World Languages.

"This brings a piece of Japan into their classroom, opens their eyes to the rest of the world, that's what it's all about…that's what we want," Caldarone said.

By Brian Ballou

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Madison's Cupcake Queen

Lisa Daniels started her own online business, Queen Cupcake Creations, and she owes much of her success to her learning experience at Madison Park High School. Madison Park is Boston’s only technical/vocational high school. It’s also a fully accredited college preparatory high school offering a selection of academic courses.

Recently Lisa stopped by Madison Park to visit her former culinary art teacher, Mr. Lucas. While there, she talked to students and encouraged them to never give up on their dreams and to peruse the career that best suits them.

I asked her to elaborate on Madison’s influence on her career choice and she said, “Madison helped me reach my goals. I was able to do a co-op, which prepared me for my field. My vocational teachers, Mr. Lucas, Mr. B , and Mrs. Lambert taught me a lot and made learning fun for me! Their support encouraged me to further my career goals by attending college."

After graduating from Madison she attended a culinary college in Pennsylvania and soon after that started her own business. "Business has been great ! I've learned that customer service is very important and one should always be prepared with his/her best!"

To learn about courses offered visit

You can also check out Lisa Daniels site at

Friday, November 08, 2013

Play Me, I'm Yours!

Play Me, I'm Yours was in Boston from September 27th -October 14th. 75 pianos were scattered throughout the city to celebrate the Celebrity Series of Boston. This wonderful event brought communities, friends, and even strangers together. The pianos were painted by local artists and students from the Boston Public Schools (which are featured in the video). The piano locations featured in this video are: Boston Common (artist Arielle Bremby), Old State House (artist from Youth Design), Museum of Fine Arts (artist Hilary Zelson), Copley Square (artist from Huntington Theatre Co. Production Crew), Castle Island (artist from Murphy K-8 School), Esplanade (artist from More Than Words Youth), Faneuil Hall (artist Gina Heeren), and City Hall Plaza (artists Michael Crockett and Frank Casazza).


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Math made me want to learn English!

Former 8th grade student Tuyet Nguyen scored 280 (perfect score) on the 8th grade Math MCAS last year while a student at the Rogers Middle School. What makes this especially remarkable is that she was an ELD 1 student (non-English speaker) when she started last year at the Rogers.

Tuyet Nguyen came to the United States from Vietnam in May 2012. After her arrival she enrolled at the Rogers Middle School, which was a hard transition for her. Since she was unable to understand English, making new friends and understanding class instruction was hard for her.

Math, however became Tuyet’s favorite subject and class. Her Math teacher, Steve Mook, encouraged her to learn English and not give up.  “Mr. Mook was a great teacher. When I didn't understand something he tried to help me understand his lessons by connecting it to life. Math made me want to learn English!” says Tuyet.

Tuyet is currently a 9th grader at Excel High in South Boston. “Last year was both a difficult time and a rewarding time for me. I came to school with no English; I didn’t even understand my teachers. Soon my English got better and I was happier and excited to learn,” says Tuyet. She owes much of her success at Excel to her experience at the Rogers Middle School, particularly Mr. Mook’s class.

Thanks, Mr. Mook, for going above and beyond as a teacher!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hector: " I get to be a cowboy ! "

For three years Cerebral Palsy of Massachusetts has been providing therapeutic horseback riding to students at the Josiah Quincy School.  Six elementary level students who are physically challenged are taken to the Bridge Center in Bridgewater, MA and get a chance to ride a horse with assistance. This is a 12-week program that serves up to 24 students.

"The Bridge Center is a fully accessible 20+ acre campus that offers year-round, summer camp, and equine assisted programs designed for children, teens and adults with special needs," says Lauren Havens, Program Director for Therapeutic Recreation at Cerebral Palsy of Massachusetts.  The City of Boston provides the buses and the Cerebral Palsy Foundation supports the program at the Bridge Center.

“This is a great opportunity that helps students increase self-confidence and interest in learning,” adds Mr. Sacco, a teacher volunteer. “ This is a wonderful program and a fantastic opportunity for our amazing children! ”

Here are some quotes from students who participate in the program:

Hector:  "I love horseback ridding.  I get to be a cowboy."

Elvis: "Horseback riding is fun and it is the first time I have been on a farm."

Pedro: "Horseback riding is really good exercise.  I usually sleep all the way home."

Casady: "I go really fast on my horse."

Ajamu: " I talk to my horse, Roxy, every week.  I miss her when I can't come"

To learn more about this program visit: 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hidden Gem Series: Mendell School

BPS has great schools and we want you to learn more about them. This month we are kicking off our “Hidden Gem Series.” This series will highlight a school that is doing amazing work. We will give you an inside look at what’s happening in classrooms across the district. You will also hear from principals, teachers, and support staff at the school.

Our “hidden gem” for this month is the Mendell School located in Roxbury, MA.

Check it out and let us know what you think.

If you want to tell us about your school please forward to the Communications office or email and your school maybe featured next month!

Success Boston College Month

October is College Month and cities across the country are helping students prepare for college.  In honor of college month, Boston Public Schools and Success Boston has teamed up for Success Boston College Month.   Events and resources will be provided to students and parents to aid them through the college process.

“Our students in Boston are brilliant and talented, and it is our job to make sure they are well positioned for competitive post-secondary scholarships, college and career opportunities,“ says Marsha Inniss-Mitchell – Director of College Readiness Initiatives

Please take a look at the attached calendar for a list of opportunities and resources:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A 17 year dream at the Manning

Last week a ribbon cutting was held at the Joseph P. Manning School  in Jamaica Plain in celebration of the school’s new walking path.  Recently I caught up with Marvin Mitchell, the special education administrator who headed the project, to learn more about the path.

Mr. Mitchell has been working at the school for 17 years. When he arrived he noticed all the green space available at the Manning. “We have a green campus. You can see deer, turkey and other wildlife in the area,” says Mitchell.  “I always wanted to put this space to use.”

It wasn’t until 2008 that plans were made to create an outdoor space for teaching. Mr. Mitchell sent a proposal to the Boston Schoolyard Initiative requesting funding for the ‘The Manning Walk through the Woods,' which would include areas for writing, science, and music.  Ross Miller from the Schoolyard Initiative approved his plan and it was a go.  “This project was a 17 year dream of mine and a 5 year goal, ” says Mr. Mitchell lightheartedly.

Today the Manning Walk through the Woods is a natural outdoor classrooms along a pathway where students can learn in a soothing environment. “The Walk through the Wood is especially helpful for our students with behavioral challenges and emotional impairments who, with an adult, use this natural space to reduce their anxiety. It helps them make responsible decisions.” This project aligns with the school culture that is adamant about incorporating social-emotional curriculum in the classroom. “We believe that social-emotional classes are not just beneficial to students with impairments, but to all students.”

 The staff and students are happy with the finished product and thankful to all those who contributed. It has become a great refuge not only for the students, but also for the teachers and staff as well. “The Manning School has created an exploratory outdoor teaching and learning site that demonstrates and promotes environmental sustainability and we are all grateful," ends Mitchell.

This project was made possible not only with the help of Boston Schoolyard Initiative and school staff, but with the assistance of volunteers from Boston Cares and graduate students from Wentworth Institute who helped with the design.

You can view the video of the ribbon cutting here:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mississippi sends their regards to BPS

The Washington School in Greenville, Mississippi created a Banner for their “America themed middle school dance after the Boston Marathon bombing. After the dance the students sent the banner to BPS middle schools with their regards, prayers and love. 

 Mr. Glinner's 5th and 6th grade ELA class at the Eliot K-8 School in the North End responded to The Washington School with “Thank You” cards.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

O'Donnell at Sea

Yesterday on a rainy day the O’Donnell 5th grade class went on a 3-hour oceanography tour of the Boston Harbor with their Science teacher, Chris Leonard. They arrived at University of Massachusetts at 10:30am to set sail on the Columbia Point boat. While on the boat they pulled up some interesting things from the harbor – big crabs, jellies, a lobster, and even a skate (the living kind).

There were also six staff members from the Earth and Ocean Sciences Dept. at UMass Boston who taught during the 3 hours at sea. “I was so happy to see the excitement and joy on the faces of the students as they picked up a jelly or stuck their hands into the dark muck that we scooped up from the bottom,” said Mr. Leonard.

I asked Mr. Leonard to tell me why he decided to bring the students to sea and he noted, “It seemed a shame to me that our students live in an area practically surrounded by water but few had ever been out on a boat and most know little about the ocean.  So when I saw that Target was giving field trip grants I knew that was the ticket.  Because they funded over half the cost, we were able today to give our O’Donnell 5th graders a great send-off to 6th grade.  Although we do some good science in class, I think this is what they’ll remember most in their later years.”

Thanks Mr. Leonard for giving BPS students real life learning experiences!

To learn more about the opportunities "at sea" you can contact Chris Sweeney, Marine Operations Director, at UMass Boston:

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Boston Debate League is a hit with students

 The Boston Debate League is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with the Boston Public Schools. The partnership began in 2005, with 25 students and has now expanded to nineteen schools servicing 600 kids. Steve Stein, Executive Director of Boston Debate League has been with the program for 5 years. He worked as a BPS high school teacher before heading the Boston Debate League in 2008. “The Debate League has greatly impacted our students,” he says. “They are more engaged in the classroom, especially our Black and Latino males.” He noted that males who join the debate league are 70% more likely to graduate. “Students are excited about the league. Debating harnesses energy that they have, especially in young boys,” says Mr. Stein.

 Four BPS students, Henry Chaves and Michael John from Boston Latin Academy, and Ted White and Darien Amado from New Mission High School, will compete at the national tournament this April. They will represent all of New England and Boston amongst the other 19 Urban Debate Leagues from across the nation. This is the second year that Boston has qualified for the National Publics Debate in Washington D.C.

I recently spoke with senior Darien Amado about his experience with the Debate League. “Being part of this team has allowed me to articulate my thoughts and has allowed me to become a better writer,” says Amado. “How do you prep for a tournament?” I asked him. “Typically my partner and I would prep by listening to music—it gets me pumped up,” he says with a smile. “I always try to think of what the other argument could be. I also use my study notes from my last competition to see where my strengths and weakness were.” “This is your senior year. What is the next step-college?” I asked. “I definitely will be attending college,” said Amado. “It actually helped influence my decision about college. At first I wanted to be a football player, but now I think I want to be a sports broadcast commentator.”

 The Debate League hopes to expand to even more schools. “We want students to understand how to express themselves,” says Mr. Stein. “By providing students the opportunity to be a part of this rigorous program, we are helping to develop a culture of critical thinkers!” To learn more about the Boston Debate League check out:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Charleston High promotes authentic learning

On February 2 I sat in on a  workshop held at Charleston High, which featured breakdancing, poetry readings, singing, and West African drumming. This was part of a weeklong workshop known as “Art of Agency.” Charlestown High School headmaster William Thomas noted as he watched students perform their spoken word poetry, “This is exactly the kind of thing that makes a school great.”

The workshops developed after surveying students, which determined that classes needed to be more energetic and relevant to issues concerning them. The weeklong workshops replace regular academic classes and allow students to attend various art sessions.  Students in Diploma Plus begin and end each day by gathering in “talking circles,” which is a time of reflection for the students. “So what did you learn?” asks Director of Diploma Plus Sunny Pai. “How did today make you a stronger student?

“Art for Agency” is one of three workshops held at the school.  The first workshop, ”A Third Eye Opening: A Conference on Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation,” took place in October with topics of discussion including ethnic identity, gender, bullying, and homophobia.  The workshops are led by Sung-Joon Pai, Director of Diploma Plus SLC, with funding from Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Diploma Plus is a program that started at Charlestown High in 2009, which re-engages students who are 16 yrs. or older and 2 years over grade level with few credits.

I asked junior Brianna Boyd for her thoughts on the weeklong workshop and she said, “It’s been an incredible week. We don’t get to do this often and it’s nice to see art in many forms. Senior Paul Homes chimed in, “This is my third year in DP, and it’s great to see an organized event at the school. I’m into art and it inspires me to see something like this. It’s also cool to see your peers share a piece of themselves with you.” I asked Mr. Pai for his thoughts on the workshop and he responded, “This is what schools should be like all the time--engaging students and communities, while also inspiring them. This is authentic learning that we need!”

A third workshop will be held in April. If you would like to learn more about Diploma Plus check out:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Boston Green Academy goes to D.C

30 Boston Green Academy students and staff members made an overnight bus trip to D.C for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. 

Six of the students were interviewed for a feature on NPR's Here & Now!  Listen here"

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Murphy Family


I visited the Murphy school as they were prepping for the holidays. As I walked into the building I was warmly welcomed by a staff member and then directed to the principal ‘s office. As I sat on the bench waiting for principal Karen Cahill, I watched as many parent volunteers were packaging coffee cakes that were ordered by BPS Families – with all profits benefitting the school.

“Ms. Cahill is ready to see you,” said Caroline Cahill (no relation), a staff assistant at the school. While I gathered my things and started to walk towards her office, a mom with two of her kids was walking out the door with smiles and wishing everyone a happy holiday. 

“Hi, Thelma,” said Ms. Cahill. “Thanks for visiting our school. Have a seat.” As I sat down she offered me water and chocolate. I asked her about some of the great things happening at the Murphy.  Ms. Cahill started by saying that the Murphy has a strong sense of community.  “We all really enjoy working together, and we are very much like a family.” I noticed a cute holiday card on the desk written by a student for Ms. Cahill. It read:

A Poem For You

You keep me safe
You love me like no other
Are you sure you are not related to my mother?
You are very pretty
And wicked smart too...
When I get older
I am gonna marry you.
But for now I am little
That much is true
But my very big heart
Sure does love you !

“This card is from a student that attends the school. They were the ones meeting with me before you came,” noted Ms. Cahill.

Ms. Cahill then told me a story of how people at the school came together in time of need.  George Daukantas is a paraprofessional who has been working at the Murphy for 14 years. “George is part of the Murphy family. We value all that he does for the school and students. He has a great work ethic and loves being a valued member of the community,” said Ms. Cahill.

When staff members heard that George lost his sister (his only living family member) and could not afford to ship her body or bury her in Massachusetts, they were there to lend a helping hand. Staff members Susan Faherty, Anne Cuddy, Caroline Cahill, Janice Tkacik, and  Christine Feeney initiated a donation fund to help George. George was able to give his sister a proper burial service.

I asked if I could meet George and the staff members who had helped him. Principal Cahill called them all into the office and said, “I just told Thelma how the staff at the school helped you and she asked to meet you and the staff.” George turned towards me and said, “Yes, I can tell people in Washington or New York how much they have helped my sister and me. I am deeply grateful.”

I then asked George if it was okay to take a picture of him and the staff, “Yes, I would like to be between the Cahills,” said George with a smile. Everyone started to laugh.

When I finally left the principal’s office, I noticed that I, too, was walking out with a smile. I was touched by the generosity and great hospitality at the school.