Friday, September 23, 2016

Weekly Roundup (9/23/16)

Weekly Roundup

Happy Friday!  This has been a busy week. Below is a brief recap. 

We began our week by reviewing RFP submissions for the programmatic review.  I am happy to be serving on a committee with so many committed folks.  Thanks to Frank Antonelli for leading the efforts.  Thanks also to Alison Manugian, Angela Donahue, Christine Muir, Bud Robertson, and Lucas Smith for their great work on this team.  Also thanks to Michael Knight for his background support. We will be interviewing a finalist soon.

Also this week, I worked with Jill Greene and Dianna Fulreader as we begin to prepare our application for a Safe and Drug Free Schools grant. This is a competitive grant through the state. The grant is intended  "to develop action plans that organize, integrate, and sustain school and district-wide efforts to create safe and supportive school environments and coordinate and align student support initiatives." 

On Monday evening, I had the chance to attend the high school open house. It was PACKED!  It was a great night for parents to learn about their students' classes and to learn a bit more about our expanding dual enrollment partnership with Middlesex Community College. 

On Tuesday, the Budget and Finance Subcommittee met.  We reviewed FY 2015-2016 year end financials, the FY 2017 budget transfers, and the FY 2017-2018 budget calendar.  

It was a pleasure to conduct a site visit to the high school this week.  In addition to going into classrooms, I was able to observe Ambassador Chowdury speak with a group of students at the high school.  Student Michael Sucheki did a great job organizing and facilitating this discourse.  In speaking later with the Ambassador, he remarked at how impressed he was with the questions posed by our students. 

It was great fun to participate on the PD committee again this week.  We had our first meeting on Thursday. During this meeting, we had various but equally important tasks.  My group was involved in conducting a review and making recommendations for next year's calendar in regards to professional development days. 

On Thursday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Middle School Open House. In the opening presentation, we heard about their PRIDE initiative, heard from the MSPTO, and heard about the great work of GDEF. 

It was my great honor to be a part of the Betsy Sawyer Day celebrations. To read more about the event, please click on this Lowell Sun article


Please click on this link and consider attending this vital presentation by our State Auditor on October 12th. Learn about Auditor Suzanne M. Bump's recommendations for how the state can reduce its impact on municipal finances.

Department Update

Pupil Personnel Services (Submitted by Jill Greene)

Please join the Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC), Director of Pupil Personnel Services Jill Greene, and Superintendent Dr. Kristan Rodriguez, on September 27th for an initial discussion on developing a plan for district and SEPAC collaborative partnership initiatives.  We would appreciate your input.
All are welcome.  We are offering two options:

September 27th, 9:30 to 10:30 am at Prescott
September 27th, 6:00 to 7:00 pm at the HS

School Updates

In a new addition to my blog, are some portions of principal outreach.  As these items often are only shared at the school level, I wanted to share some of the neat things happening across the district!  

Florence Roche (Submitted by Principal Garden)

You might notice that students and staff have a little more pep in their step on Wednesdays.  This year, Florence Roche is doing Workout Wednesdays every week!  Staff are encouraged to wear workout gear to school.  Classrooms are working in extra movement throughout the day.  For example, one third grade class started their day with yoga this week.  Another classroom took a break and went for a walk around the back track.  When the students arrive in the morning, we have music playing and everyone dances in the lobby; then everyone is encouraged to dance their way to class.  At recess time, some grades have had surprise dance parties with the principal!  We even have a teacher who is running a movement/stretching class before school for staff to start their day with a mini workout.  There may even be more surprises that happen on Workout Wednesdays...stay tuned!  As Marie Montessori said, "Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of the mind comes from movement."  So, let's get moving FloRo!

High School (Submitted by Principal Woodlock)

It has been a very busy week at the High school.  It was great to see such a strong turnout for our Open House this week.  Additionally, we hosted our annual activities fair.  So many of our students participate in clubs and activities and it is an essential part of the overall experience at GHRHS.  On Wednesday we were honored to host a visit from former Under-Secretary of the United Nations, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury who visited with students as part of the International Peace Day and Betsy Sawyer Day celebrations in town.  We had our second installment of Advisory.  This years theme is focused on improving physical and mental well-being.  We all watched Shawn Anchor’s TedTalk video on how productivity is directly linked to happiness.

For Betsy

In dedication to Betsy’s love of literacy, I composed and read a poem at her dedication day.  I was but one small portion of the amazing day of celebration, but I was asked to share it with a wider audience so here goes.

I can close my eyes and conjure vivid images of Betsy on her powder blue and white scooter
Smiling her smile, spreading both hands wide to embrace all who come near
Sharing her message
Toward Peace

In the cimmerian shadow of our great personal loss
We are left with the imprint of her mission
With the tangible pages of her dream
Of Peace

I look upon the grand book
Where the billowing pages themselves are less relevant
Than the concept of her unwavering vision to give voice
To Peace

Her goal was to provide a platform
For children to be dreamers
To be audacious in their quest
For Peace

Her students not only carry the torch, but became the beacon
Flickering cobalt flames, emblazoned in their vibrancy
They tackle hatred and war
With Peace

Toward Peace
Of Peace
To Peace
For Peace
With Peace

That is Betsy’s legacy.
For her, I will do an act of peace each day on this day for the rest of my life.


High School Visit

Betsy Sawyer Day

High School Open House
Middle School Open House

Friday, September 16, 2016

Weekly Roundup (9/16/16)

Weekly Roundup

This week we are really hitting our stride!  I enjoyed a wonderful site visit to the middle school. Students were highly engaged during our classroom walks. Thanks to Principal Lin for taking us around and to Jill Greene for visiting the school with me! Photos are below.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to represent Massachusetts educators at the The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) to discuss the implementation and potential supports needed for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) with Ruth Ryder (the Acting Director) and Sue Swenson (the Acting Assistant Secretary) for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) at the U.S. Department of Education.  

At their meeting on Tuesday night, the school committee put in motion a process to look for an interim superintendent.  They will kick off this process with a small working group comprised of Jeff Kubick, Jennifer McKenzie, and Marlena Gilbert. I will be of assistance as they need it, as will Dr. Novak. 

I enjoyed attending the open houses at Florence Roche and Swallow Union yesterday evening.  I learned more about the PBIS initiative at Florence Roche and heard about volunteer opportunities at Swallow Union. Thanks to the staff for working so hard to prepare and thanks to the many families who attended! I have shared a few photos below.  

This week was capped off with a great leadership class with our administrative team and area colleagues.  We worked a lot on the concept of information based decision making and began developing our logic model. Thanks to the high school for hosting us!

Curriculum and Instruction (Submitted by: Dr. Novak)

This month, the Curriculum Office has been busy analyzing and triangulating standardized test score data from spring 2016. Work has been done to examine PARCC, MCAS, AP, SAT, and ACT test scores and complete item analysis to measure strengths, areas in need of improvement, and growth in all students and subgroups. We will share more information once the data is no longer embargoed and the analysis with all staff is complete.

Featured Video

In our Universally Designed Leadership course, we are learning about how to apply the concepts of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into our leadership practice. One of the things we are learning about is the concept of Multiple Means of Representation. The graphic below (taken from the University of Vermont), highlights the major components of UDL. As you can see below, the recognition network in the brain is supported by the use of Multiple Means of Representation. We do this my providing options for perception, language and symbols, and comprehension. In regards to language and symbols, one of the UDL "checkpoints" is to provide options for language through the use of multimedia.

As such, I will be sharing news about our district with a few additional ways this year, such as videos.  Below is a great video that our staff put together that shares information about our kindergarten programs here at GD.  This video was shared at our orientation with incoming kindergarten parents. If you have a kindergartner now or in the past, this video shares with you our philosophies and program components.  

To learn about Multiple Means of Representation, you are welcome to check out this quick overview video.


Middle School Site Visit

Florence Roche Open House

Swallow Union Open House

Leadership Course

Happy Weekend to All!

-Dr. Rodriguez

Friday, September 9, 2016

Weekly Roundup (9/9/2016)

Weekly Roundup

I was very excited to get site visits up and running for this school year!  I am grateful that Jill Greene, our Director of PPS, is joining me on the visits this year. This week, we visited Florence Roche and Boutwell.  Please take a peak at some amazing photos (below).  In addition to the academic learning we witnessed (such as literacy and mathematics), both schools we visited had evidence of PBIS work. Below is a short overview of what PBIS entails.   I expect to share more on this exciting initiative in later blogs!

PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports)

PBIS is a decision making framework – not a packaged curriculum. One cannot buy a book and “do” PBIS. The focus is to improve the academic and behavioral outcomes for all students, but this happens within a system. Implementing a PBIS system requires an integrated and sustainable plan that addresses core behavioral expectations, curriculum, and professional development.

The district began exploring PBIS two years ago.  Last year, as part of our district improvement plan, a group of educators got together to develop a PBIS initiative for the 2016-2017 school year.  Below is a summary of their work.
The district will partner with Dr. George Van Horn, a national expert in PBIS, to support our district leadership team and MTSS Task Force as they collaborate with educators to finalize a PBIS plan to be implemented 2017-2018.
The district will establish core behavioral expectations, in partnership with students, parents, and educators, and will share the completed work with the school community.
Each school will establish a communication plan to educate all students about core behavioral expectations in Fall 2017. At this time, schools may consider positive reinforcement plans for all students.
The PBIS review committees will form at each level to research and explore program options (i.e. Open Circle, Responsive Classroom etc.) appropriate for the district/building, using the district Curriculum Adoption Procedure, and will present their recommendations to the MTSS Task Force by April, 2017 for implementation in Tier I in Fall 2017. This work will take place during the multi-part series.

In the spirit of providing multiple options for our community to understand PBIS, I wanted to share some resources below.  I am sure you will learn much more about PBIS from your child's school in the future.

Sample PBIS Themed Posters at Florence Roche


I'd like to formerly introduce the newest members of the GDRS family, Keegan Johansen Hoag and Ruby Siena Hoag. They were born on Tuesday, August 30th at 9:14AM and 9:15AM.  Keegan was 5lb 3oz and 19" long. Ruby was 4lb 15oz and 18.5" long. Everyone is home and healthy!  


Florence Roche Site Visit

Boutwell Site Visit

Happy Weekend to All!

Kristan Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Groton-Dunstable Regional School District

Friday, September 2, 2016

Weekly Roundup (9/2/16)

Weekly Roundup

This was a short week but a fun filled week.  It is great to have all the staff and students back. I would love to see your "First Day of School" photos.  Please tweet your pics to #gdrsdchat!

Students and staff are busy this week building a rapport and establishing classroom routines. Thank you to all the staff who worked so diligently to prepare for an amazing school year.  Your efforts to learn, grow, and prepare for your students is appreciated.  I am sure parents are working earnestly to get students back on a regular sleeping schedule (I know I am still in that struggle with my own boys)! I wish you all the best as you settle into the 2016-2017 school year!

I also want to remind everyone that we have no school on Monday due to Labor Day.  Enjoy the long weekend!

Back to School Plenary

Thanks to the MANY students who helped us with our back to school staff gathering.  We had members of the band play at breakfast, members of the choir sing the national anthem, members of our varsity baseball team help pass out treats, and members of our student body speak to our staff about how they learn best and sharing poignant stories about staff who have made a difference in their lives. 

An introductory slideshow was shared of staff who submitted photos and "stats" for a baseball card.  As you can probably guess, our theme this year was baseball as a way to recognize our state championship baseball team.

One of the other fun things we did was learn more about Universal Design for Learning.  One example of this was a video we put together on the power of Mastery Oriented Feedback. I so appreciate our central office staff for coming together to share this important concept in such a fun fashion!


Opening Plenary

Technology Staff Meeting of the Minds

New Staff and Paras Receiving ALICE Training

Special Education Staff Getting to Know Jill Greene and Setting Priorities

Back to School Photos Shared by Some of Our Schools

Swallow Union:

Florence Roche

High School (Class of 2020)

Kristan Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Groton-Dunstable Regional School District

Monday, August 29, 2016

Weekly Roundup (8/29/16)

Weekly Roundup

I am SOOOO happy to have everyone coming back starting today.  We missed you!!  Below is a summary of all of the amazing things that have happened over the summer.  I wish all staff a happy day today and students a great start later this week. 

I want to begin by calling out the elephant in the room.  As many of you know, I put in my resignation this summer to pursue other opportunities.  I will be here until the end of December and the school committee is currently exploring options for an Interim Superintendent for the remainder of the school year.  That will give them the time they need to find a strong candidate for the permanent position. In my remaining months here, I am committed to you and our students.  When I leave, my goal is for you to have a finalized vision statement, core values, and  5 year strategic plan.  This will support an approved 10 year capital plan and the 5 year technology plan. We spent all of last year revising the regional agreement and my desire is that this will be voted on soon and then go to Town Meetings for approval.  In addition, I will begin the work of the sustainability committee whose intent is to try to find some financial stability for the district.  We will engage in a programmatic review that will help us find efficiencies but also look for opportunities for revenue generation. My greatest desire is that I leave you with a plan for continued success and ongoing support. We will chip away at the needs assessment each year and will have firm plans for improvement. That work for improvement should not come at the expense of understanding ALL that we do well so I will be sharing our successes loudly in my remaining time here.

So What Have We Been Up To This Summer?

I have enjoyed the time this summer to focus on the many things we are doing well and forging new paths for improvement.  As referenced above, we have begun drafting a 5 year district strategy.  Once we have more pieces in place (the logic models) etc., we will share this with staff to obtain feedback.  This work was derived from your efforts to help us identify our strengths and challenges and all the work you did on root cause analysis that fed into our Needs Assessment. If we did it correctly, none of the contents will come as a surprise to staff, as you helped us craft it. 

In August, I began teaching a course titled Universally Designed Leadership to our district leadership team.  All of our administrators are taking this course through December.  Our intent is to create a framework for universally designed leadership at the school and district level, similar to what many of our teachers are doing in their classrooms. I am pleased that our team is being joined by administrators from Westford, Ashland, Tewksbury, Burlington, North Middlesex, and Erving School Union 28!

I had the amazing opportunity to meet our new staff this summer and am over the moon with the quality and caliber of our new colleagues.  I  hope you join me in welcoming them to the district and let them know that they are well supported. 

As you may have heard, the school committee approved a budget in July.  We regained control back from the state and were able to begin our planning for staffing and supplies.  I encourage you to view the slides from a Superintendent's report that I gave in July. It was an opportunity to pause and reflect on all the amazing things you accomplished this past year! Here is a list of the Needs Assessment positions that we included (along with the funding sources) in this year's budget.  As you can see, we did this without sacrificing current staff and programming.  Our intent is to integrate more of our unmet needs into future budget requests. 

Below are departmental updates to share the work that was done over the past few months. 

Technology Department Summer Update

Your technology department was hard at work preparing for the upcoming school year! Just some of the highlights you will notice is the installation of new wall-mounted projectors in (20) PreK through fourth grade classrooms, completing the first phase of this project. Network updates to servers and switches took place across the district, creating a speedier connection to the internet for staff and students.

Over 340 new devices were configured and prepared, including teacher laptops, Google Chromebooks and the replacement of a computer lab at the high school. A special thank you to the Waters Fund for approving a grant for 125 Chromebooks and providing the funding to support our new MakerSpace at the high school!

Based on feedback, we have worked with SchoolBrains on enhancements to the community portal, scheduling and teacher grade books. At the upper grade levels, power users will also be able to view a more detailed representation of student schedules. Also exciting to share, we now accept student registrations online.

Business Department Summer Update

Frank Antonelli was appointed by the School Committee to be the Interim Director of Finance and Business for this fiscal year.  A resident of the town of Dunstable, Frank has thirty-eight years experience as a School Business Administrator and Assistant Superintendent for Business in several school districts in the Merrimack Valley.  He also served as the President of the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials (MASBO) and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Education and Government Association (MEGA).

In July, the School Committee approved the Superintendent’s recommended FY 2017 budget in the amount of $38,210,905.  The approved budget included a realignment of budget resources to meet some of the needs outlined in the district’s “Needs Assessment” study.  Besides the work done to finalize the budget, the Business and Finance Office has also been closing FY 2016 accounts, processing payrolls and accounts payable expenses, and preparing for the upcoming fiscal year. 

Additionally, the School Committee approved a bid document prepared by the Business Office.  The document is being used to solicit proposals from business consultants to provide an External Operational Review, which will determine areas of greater cost effectiveness and potential funding sources to support the “Needs Assessment".

During the summer weeks, the Buildings & Grounds crew has been busy working on the following projects (in addition to the hard work of the custodial staff to get the buildings clean for the start of the school year):

  • At the High School, the failed water treatment system has been completely overhauled and will be in service for the beginning of school.  
  • A fresh coat of paint was put on the tennis courts after they were cleaned, and a rubberized material was used to fill the cracks.
  • 130 yards of loam was added to the lacrosse field (field #7) to recondition it.  
  • All parking lots at both the High School and at the Complex were relined.
  • New LED lighting in the High School Gym was installed.
  • In the Middle School North, new partitions were constructed for the Special Education Department’s designated work areas.
  • Carpeting was replaced in selected classrooms across the district.
The food service department is excited to introduce our new director of food service Shannon Bergeron. Shannon brings a wealth of knowledge from previous careers in finance and food service. Fun Fact: Shannon once worked as Wolfgang Puck’s executive pastry chef! Shannon is committed to increasing the availability of healthy fresh produce taking advantage of the harvest of the month and DOD produce programs. In the spirit of healthy eating we will also be starting “Tasty Tuesday” allowing student to sample new healthy recipes and provide feedback on those that they would like to see added to the regular menu.

Utilizing our new student information system, which allows us to track which students are tied to each bus route, the transportation department was able to publish our routes in record time this year.  

Pupil Personnel Services Summer Update

The Department of Pupil Personnel Services had a productive summer.  Jill Greene, the new Director of Pupil Personnel Services, and Marla Yarid-de la Cruz, the new Middle School Team Chair, joined the leadership team in supporting the district initiatives of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Multi-tiered Systems of Supports (MTSS), Positive Behavioral Supports (PBIS), and Social Emotional Learning (SEL).  In Special Education, highlights from this summer include successful Extended School Year programming across the district and the start-up of our new NECC partnership program at the Middle School. 

The Special Education Special Education Advisory Council (SEPAC) welcomed Jill Greene by hosting a wonderful Meet and Greet this summer.   Mrs. Greene and the SEPAC will be meeting again on September 27th (9:00am at Prescott and 6:00pm at the HS) to discuss priorities and planning for district and SEPAC collaborative partnership initiatives.  All are welcome to attend.

Curriculum and Instruction Summer Update

There is just so much excitement in the curriculum office during the summer. To start off, in July and August, our amazing educators worked 1000+ hours writing curriculum. How extraordinary! During this time, colleagues collaborated to align curriculum to Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworksdesign units of study to incorporate critical next-generation skills, draft multi-tiered support plans to meet the needs of all students in academics and social-emotional learning, and create universally designed (UDL) assessments. 

During the first week of August, Dr. Katie Novak offered an intensive 3-credit graduate course on Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is an educational framework that fosters self-direction, innovative, and problem-solving while helping all students reach grade-level standards. 56 staff members took a "UDL Vacation" to learn more about UDL and how they can implement it into their learning environment. This course was the equivalent of 67.5 hours of instruction in implementing the framework. 

This fall, the district will be implementing new curriculum in K-4 writing and in social studies in grades 5 and 7. The implementation of the Writer's Units of Study in grades K-4 will be supported by Dr. Novak, the new district K-4 Literacy Supervisor, Kelly True, and will include modeling and push-in support from elementary reading specialists, Grace Volpe and Sharon Lemont. In addition, due to generous support of GDEF, Teacher's College, the authors of the curriculum, will present a full day professional development workshop on October 11.

In other exciting news, the high school Spanish department received extensive training in the OWL framework and will be implementing this approach in the fall. This full immersion into the target language has proven to increase language proficiency, student engagement, and fluency in the target language for all students.  

Human Resources Summer Update

This summer, the HR department was busy on-boarding our new staff. We are so happy to introduce our summer 2016 hires. As of August 26, 2016, we still have a few vacant positions, so this list will be updated as our new colleagues become official. Learn more about our new hires here. 

Betsy Sawyer Day (submitted by Ann Polaski)

The Selectmen of the towns of Groton and Dunstable have proclaimed Wednesday, September 
21, as Betsy Sawyer Day, in recognition of her steadfast dedication to peace education. This 
date was specifically chosen to coincide with the United Nation’s International Day of Peace.

In honor of her work and to promote her legacy of peace, the Pages for Peace Foundation and 
the Sawyer Family cordially invite the community and supporters to attend the first annual 
Betsy Sawyer Day ~ International Day of Peace Celebration & Banquet. A full day of events is 
being planned.

The Honorable Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, Former Under-Secretary General of the UN 
will make a personal visit to Groton-Dunstable students before attending the Community 
Ceremony at 3pm at Prescott School. Special Guest, 9/11 First Responder John Feal, President 
of the FealGood Foundation, will be in attendance as well. In the evening, guests can enjoy a 
celebratory banquet at the Bull Run Restaurant in Shirley, MA at 6pm, where Ambassador 
Chowdhury will be the keynote speaker. The dinner will honor Betsy’s life and work, and 
promises to be an event to remember.

Kristan Rodriguez, Ph.D.
Groton-Dunstable Regional School District