Friday, August 24, 2012

Welcome Back!

August 24, 2012

Dear Pine Glen Community:

     We are about to commence the 2012-2013 school year at Pine Glen Elementary School and our 50 Year Anniversary.  I hope you have all had an enjoyable and relaxing summer!   We have continued to make changes that have helped us to reach milestones that have raised the attention of not just surrounding districts but districts across our country. This has helped to raise the profile of Burlington Public Schools on a national level.   We have particularly received praise in the areas of Response to Intervention, our new Progress Report Card aligned to the common core curriculum (implemented last year), technology, reading growth, utilization of intervention tools in math and language arts,  student-teacher ratios and support personal.   

  We will be welcoming 300 students this fall with 3 classroom teachers instructing 3 sections at all grade levels on September 4, 2012.  We welcome our new kindergarten students to kindergarten orientation on September 6th and their first day will be on September 10th.    I must thank our custodial staff for their stellar work in making the school a clean and safe environment for students to learn.   Also, teachers have spent many hours this summer preparing their classrooms to be clean, warm, safe and inviting places to learn. 

  We were fortunate this summer to have a new roof put on a major section of the building.   From a bird’s view looking down on the building Pine Glen School resembles the letter “H” with one of the parallel lines being the academic wing where all the classrooms are located.  The other wing has the cafeteria, gym and kitchen.  The horizontal line connecting the two wings is the area with the new roof.   Likewise, we are also fortunate to have a new awning in the front of the building.  This new awning will not only add to the cosmetic appeal of the building but will  provide a welcome relief from weather elements for our students.   We are hoping next summer to do a renovation of the administrative area at Pine Glen School.  We will need an allowance of time directed towards this construction that the limited time this summer and other major construction projects completion could not offer.  We look forward to the hiring of a project manager and the undertaking of this project.  

Cafeteria food manager, Carol Keene, and her staff are very enthusiastic to begin a new year.    The cafeteria will be offering lunches for students at the same costs as last year ($2.75 lunch and .50 cents for milk).   Mrs. Keene and her staff are thrilled this year to be offering students more fresh fruits and vegetables.   The menu will also include whole wheat for bread.  This year’s menu will offer a large degree of healthy snacks and healthy choices.  The food services department is being extremely mindful of sugar and salt intake.  We are all thrilled at this positive direction for the students health and wellness.   

  Our focus continues to be on three specific areas: Instruction, Technology and Communication.   Students will notice in learning spaces this fall that all rooms are being equipped with infrared wireless technology audio systems.   Teachers will have the capacity to talk into a wireless microphone that will project their instructions through a state of the art NXT™ speaker technology system delivering clear sound throughout the room. This all-in-one system will result in higher intelligibility of the teacher’s voice for all learners.  

  This fall we are also very excited to introduce many more iPads to our current supply at Pine Glen Elementary School. All students in 4th and 5th grades will have an iPad this year.  This program will have some similarities to the 1:1 iPad Initiative taking place at Burlington High School.  I presently do not know of another elementary school in Massachusetts implementing a 1:1 initiative in intermediate grades.  I must thank our fourth and fifth grade teachers for the time they spent this summer to launch this initiative.   As we continue to see more materials in digital formats this will provide our students with the tools they need to learn in this year and in the years to come.  Fifty years ago Pine Glen Elementary School had chalk boards which evolved into white boards and the most recently evolved last year into digital interactive white boards.   In many ways we are seeing tablet technology becoming the modern day version of a pencil and paper.    The iPads will be one of many learning tools used in the classrooms, and will not take the place of the great instruction and high levels of student engagement I witness in daily walkthroughs of classrooms.   We have also received a grant and will be providing one of our first grade classrooms with 1:1 iPad correspondence.   This will allow us the opportunity to look at student engagement with iPads in the primary setting as well. 

    We have also added significantly to our grade three, four, and five literacy closet with the purchase of over $10,000 of new books.  The upper grades now have access to new resources for small-group teaching of reading comprehension.  The Anchor Comprehension Workshop organizes 200 small-group sets of books by reading comprehension strategy and allows teachers to select “just right” books at each child’s reading level.  These guided reading materials will increase student reading strategies and result in improved reading skills.  Additional materials such as Interactive White Board activities and posters provide for rich discussions of literature.

    We have also added the the complete Decodable Literature Library from Fyleaf Publishing.  This series has huge praise from the academic community and has a strong research base related to their effectiveness.  They are beautifully illustrated and feature authentic literature.  This series will help students when needed to apply more advanced letter-sound correspondence to narrative and informational texts.  These books will be helpful to supplement our very strong phonics instruction utilizing the Fundations program which is used in grades K-3. I must thank the Pine Glen PTO for their assistance in purchasing these materials.

     Likewise, at all grade levels we have again continued to increase the selection and genre of books available in our Literacy Closet.   A constant “good problem” at Pine Glen Elementary School is that we never have enough books.  Every year I have been a principal we have added huge numbers of books to our literacy closet and library.  This is the result of every year students reading more and more books.  In addition, we have the added “good problem” of having many students reading above the typical reading level and require books that feature content of interest for his or her age.   This would never have been possible without the fantastic reading instruction present by the teachers at all grade levels.   Response to Intervention RTI and tiering have allowed us to utilize instructional grouping as a means to narrow the teachable range for a teacher to address specific skills in reading (i.e. phonic awareness, fluency, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary).    RTI has been a great tool because it is not ability grouping.  I am thankful for the PTO for their support in providing funds for enriching our Literacy Closet and Library.  

     Please continue to be mindful of the fact that a student’s classroom teacher might be different than their reading or math teacher.  As mentioned earlier this affords teachers the opportunity to work with a narrower teachable range, provide interventions and maximizing efficiency.  This is not leveled instruction.  We are providing flexibly grouped reading instruction that changes based on data.  We will continue to use an online universal screening to become aware of where to focus our instruction and provide interventions for students.

     Teachers will continue to participate in curriculum councils and at grade level meetings with myself to look at curriculum, instruction and assessment.  We have continued to see tremendous growth this past academic year from our students.   We never are complacent in our desire to help students become life long learners and are constantly looking at ways to further enhance instruction.  As a result we will also be doing pilots in English Language Arts this year in the areas of grammar and written expression.  One of our fifth grade classrooms will be piloting Explorations in Nonfiction Writing by Tony Stead and Linda Hoyt.  A third grade classroom will be piloting new grammar materials as well that are aligned with the national common core curriculum.  These pilots will help us further enhance our already very strong blended literacy instruction reflected in our standards based progress reports piloted last year that are reflective of the National Common Core Curriculum ( 

  This summer I had the opportunity to take a graduate course along with many Pine Glen staff.  Present at this class were all the kindergarten teachers.  Dr. Greg Hanley, director of the Behavior Analysis Ph.D. program at Western New England University was our instructor.  The staff in attendance increased their knowledge base and skills relevant to preventing classroom problem behavior and developing function-based intervention for problem behavior.  As we move to the next 50 years at Pine Glen Elementary school we will be expanding our scientifically researched based strategies into classroom behaviors that will be consistent with a Response to Intervention (RTI) model. 

  Several teachers were also actively involved in curriculum work this summer.  Numerous staff from various grade levels did stellar work this summer on curriculum councils.  This work will greatly enhance instruction for students this fall.  

     We are pleased to welcome new staff members to our Pine Glen Community.  Although not new to Pine Glen, Stephanie Smith, who as been an amazing RTI tutor, will now be our new first grade teacher.   Also, not new to Pine Glen school, Kelley Constantine, last year’s permanent substitute will be in a new role as an RTI tutor.   We will also see the addition of two new RTI tutors.   We are happy to welcome Amanda Lane and Kristina Christie as RTI tutors.  Occupational Therapist, Amy Haroutunian, who worked part time last year at Pine Glen will now be working full time at Pine Glen.  We also enthusiastically welcome Elizabeth Bishop and Megan Rafferty as additional Special Education Instructional Assistants.   We are further delighted to welcome Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Naomi Abelson.  Complementing out new hires will be Debra Clark our new team chair.  Miss Clark brings a wealth of experience and expertise to her new role.  We also are excited to have former Burlington High School Principal Patrick Larkin as our new Assistant Superintendent.  I am thrilled to have along with Superintendent Dr. Conti an additional educational leader to work with who shares my strong belief and conviction that all children can learn and desire for students to become life long learners.  

     I must thank our community for their support and investment in the children of Burlington.  Allowing us the financial support to attract such high quality instructors to our professional learning community is a credit to what a great school Pine Glen Elementary continues to be after 50 years and the value the residents of Burlington place on children.  We start the school year with a full time building based school psychologist, guidance counselor, occupational therapist, librarian, technology integration specialist, and speech therapist.  In addition, our small class sizes, support staff, and 21st Century integrated technology classrooms are the envy of school districts throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the country.

     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 PTO continues to serve as the best vehicles 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.

     At our core all staff at Pine Glen School make it our goal to carry on the 50 year tradition of providing a safe, caring learning environment that engages our students.   We are incredibly grateful to the Burlington community for providing us with the teachers, technology, and resources to help us accomplish our goal.   The Pine Glen Staff and I are extremely grateful for the opportunity to instruct your children.   I have missed seeing students this summer and look forward to seeing their happy smiles as they continue on their journey of becoming life long learners.   

If you have any questions or have great stories to share of your children’s learning journey, please do not hesitate to contact me at


John Lyons, M.S. Ed.
Pine Glen Elementary School

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