Thursday, August 26, 2010

Start of a New School Year

August 20, 2010

Dear Parents,

It is with great enthusiasm that I welcome students to the 2010/2011 school year!  I hope everyone has had a healthy and safe summer.  There are so many memories made during the summer months as we perhaps saw our children jump off a diving board for the first time, ride without training-wheels, or grow in responsibility and independence.   The times we spend with our children doing such activities as tide pooling at the ocean are truly priceless.

A great memory I had from this summer was the time I spent studying at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.   I attended the Principal Institute with 140 other administrators from all corners of the world.  It was very common during my weeks there to be having a discussion with a principal for example from Texas, Maryland, Australia, the Middle East, New York, or Germany.  No matter where we came from one clear theme was apparent –our strong passion for student growth and our dedication to develop life long learners.   An additional thrill was participating in Project Adventure.  Project Adventure involved tasks such as being 45 feet up in the air and walking across a telephone pole positioned like balance beam with a repelling line as my safety.  This allowed for great intrapersonal thinking and team building ideas for the fall.

We have been very busy at Pine Glen this summer. As a result of the flooding, once students departed for the summer, teachers on the first floor had to pack-up entire classrooms and put all the items in storage.   An asbestos abatement was conducted as the entire first floor tile was removed and new tile was installed.  Teachers have been very busy unpacking their rooms these past two weeks.  This has presented a much shorter window of time for the custodial staff to prepare the building and teachers to prepare their classrooms. When students arrive this fall to a clean building and classrooms all set up, it is due to the hard work and dedication of the teachers and custodial staff.  Please be sure to express thanks to all the staff.  This summer was particularly hot and humid and the custodial staff did a remarkable job.

We are also extremely excited to have a new field in the playground area in back of the school (my blog has before and after pictures).   This was a big project and involved removal of large amounts of sand, the bringing in of topsoil, and landscaping with laser technology.  Rocks where also put around the perimeter of the field where it meets the building and hot top was put down in a new elevated path leading to the gym structure.  An additional benefit will be the redirection of water away from the building to hamper flooding.  Children will be able to play on the gym structure and other areas of the field until the new grass grown.   Once the grass is grown we will all delight in seeing students play on the new field.

We have purchased a large degree of new curriculum particularly in the areas of reading comprehension and written expression.   Throughout the academic year teachers will participate in curriculum councils and all teachers will continue at grade level meetings with myself to look at curriculum, instruction and assessment.  Curriculum pilots and new intervention pilots will also be implemented in various grades and subjects in areas such as math, vocabulary, and comprehension.  We saw tremendous growth this past academic year from our students.  In fact, we had to order a large amount of new fiction and non-fiction books.  Students are reading more books than they ever have in the past.   This fall all grade levels will be tiering instruction during language arts.   The most noticeable change for students will be that their classroom teacher might be different than their reading teacher.  This affords teachers the opportunity to work with a narrower teachable range, provide interventions and maximizing efficiency.  This is not leveled reading instruction.  We are providing flexibly grouped reading instruction that changes based on data.  We will also be implementing this in some grade levels in math.   This in a way can be thought of as football practice for a college or professional team.  A team like the Patriots has multiple coaches for say special teams, offense, defense, and receivers etc.   During practice, players work with these coaches in small groups on a specific skill or area.  This is much like a reading teacher working with a group on reading comprehension, fluency, phonics, or phonemic awareness.  We will continue to use D.O.R.A. (Developmental Online Reading Assessment) our online universal screen to become aware of where to focus our instruction and provide interventions.

We also welcoming new technology at Pine Glen this fall.  We have added 10 additional “Bob Carts.”   These are 4 terminal computer stations.  They are extremely helpful in providing interventions to students and many other educational opportunities that a computer can provide.   Likewise, we have also increased our wireless coverage in the building and expansion of providing laptops and some touch-screen tablets to staff.   We are also beginning the process at Pine Glen of switching our listening centers, which occur during balanced literacy time from tape player to I-Pod technology.   Also upcoming will be the expansion of interactive white board technology. 

This year I will be providing all communication through the blog or a recorded phone call.  Several teachers likewise will be communicating via their classroom blog.  I encourage all parents to pick a time to check my blog,, and the Superintendent’s Blog,  In addition to upcoming events both of these blogs will be providing information about such upcoming events as the redistricting of the four elementary schools.  Through the Burlington Web page,, one can access the school calendar, lunch menu, and Pine Glen web page, which provide links to Pine Glen staff blogs. 

We are pleased to welcome two new staff members to our Pine Glen Community.  Amanda Pierce will be our new special education teacher.   Dan Callahan will be our new technology integration specialist (computer teacher).   We are very fortunate to have attracted such high quality instructors to our professional learning community. 

We are also thrilled to have two formerly retired Pine Glen teachers return to Pine Glen.  Martha Ogren, was the librarian for several years at Pine Glen, will be returning to her role as the school librarian.  Jill Papadonis who taught for several years at Pine Glen will be teaching first grade covering Mrs. Hayes maternity leave.   We are so fortunate to have both of these individuals share their many years of incredible instructional experience and skills.

I wish to thank the PTO for all their assistance.   They have done tremendous work in providing student enrichment, organizing school social events, community outreach and assistance to the teachers.  The new laminator donated by the PTO was greatly appreciated by the teachers particularly with the packing up of classrooms this summer.   Likewise, we were very fortunate to have had incredible student enrichment this spring from Jerry Polatta, a children’s author, and Rob Surette, an expressionistic artist.   Five of Rob’s paintings now hang in the school cafeteria. These vibrant, ascetic paintings not only add cultural and historical value to the cafeteria but, remind students of Rob’s message to live out your dreams, take risks, and be respectful of each other.   We have also added greatly to our literacy collection particularly in the areas of non-fiction text for science and social studies with generous donations from the PTO.  The PTO continues to serve as the best way in which to volunteer and be active in our school community.   If not already, please consider joining this organization, which has, as its main purpose student enrichment at Pine Glen School.

We begin our new school year on September 1st for grades 1 to 5.  The Pine Glen staff and I are extremely grateful for the opportunity to instruct your children. It is through instruction and our interactions with your children that we daily see those similar magical summer moments you experienced during June, July and August.    


John Lyons
Pine Glen Elementary School

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