Monday, September 2, 2013

Welcome Back 2013

September 1, 2013

Dear Pine Glen Community:

     We are about to commence the 2013-2014 school year at Pine Glen Elementary School.  I hope everyone has had a relaxing summer and enjoyed time with family and friends.  Pine Glen Elementary School and Burlington Public Schools continue to receive state and national attention for our work with RtI and the utilization of technology to increase student engagement and higher order thinking skills.  These year we are about to embark on the greatest amount of change in education in our history. Lucy Calkins, educational scholar, commented on the Common Core State Standards in her book, Pathways to Common Core, as “The most sweeping reform of the K-12 curriculum that has ever occurred in this country.”  Along with the Common Core we will also be embarking on a completely new state mandated evaluation system for teachers, state mandated teacher professional development for the teaching of English Language Learners, and transitioning from MCAS to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test.  I can think of no other group of educators I would rather lead to face these major education policy changes in curriculum, instruction, and assessment than the outstanding teachers at Pine Glen Elementary Schools.  It is a privilege and a joy to observe their incredible instruction every day!

     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 several building based changes that will make our school an even safer physical plant.  I would like to thank everyone in Burlington for their support.  These measures will help us continue to make safety the number one priority at Pine Glen Elementary School.  I must also thank the Burlington Police Department (especially Detective Thomas Fournier) and the Burlington Fire Department for their expertise and incredible level of collaboration with the school.  We are hoping next summer to do a complete renovation of the administrative area at Pine Glen School.

     This fall we are also very excited to introduce more iPads to our current supply at Pine Glen Elementary School.  In addition to our 4th and 5th grades, who piloted the 1:1 iPad Initiative last year, our first graders will have 1:1 iPads this year. It is our hope that next fall we will have an iPad for every student in the building K-5.   These instructional tools provide for opportunities to enhance student engagement and employ critical thinking skills.

     Please continue to be mindful of the fact that a student’s classroom teacher might be different than their reading or math teacher.  This affords teachers the opportunity to work with a narrower teachable range, provide interventions and maximize 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 lifelong learners and are constantly looking at ways to further enhance instruction.  In the area of  English Language Arts this year we will see key changes in the areas of grammar and written expression.  This year we will be adopting the Sadlier Grammar Workshop in Grades 3-5 and Explorations in Nonfiction Writing by Tony Stead and Linda Hoyt in grades K-2.  We will also be piloting the Sadlier Vocabulary Workshop in some classrooms throughout the 2013-2014 School Year.

     This year we will be having a complete core program change in math for grades K-5. We are adopting the enVisionMATH Program.  The enVisionMATH program is a Common Core State Standards (CCSS) aligned, researched based program with RtI components (enVisionMATH).  Two of the authors, Dr. Francis Fennell and Dr. Jane Schielack, were also authors of the Common Core Standards.  In fact, the publisher of enVisionMATH is also the publisher of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test (PARCC Online).  The enVisionMATH program embraces and enhances the focus and coherence vision of the CCSS, leading to higher achievement for all.  Please reference Dr. Conti’s blog from August 23, 2013 (Common Core and PARCC) for information about what districts will be piloting the PARCC this spring.

     We are pleased to welcome new staff members to our Pine Glen Community.  Andrea Hayes is going to be our new team chair.  Andrea has been a special educator for several years and has worked in the early childhood center for Burlington since it opened.  Before that she was a teacher for the LABBB Collaborative.  Andrea is a very talented and knowledgeable special educator and has a wealth of experience and expertise. I'm confident she will be an excellent new addition to the department.  Although not new to Pine Glen, Taryn Flaherty, who was our permanent substitute, will now be a special education instructional assistant.   Also, not new to Pine Glen school, Amanda Lane will continue as RTI tutor in the morning and teach grade 5 in the afternoon.  We will also see the addition of two new RTI tutors.   We are happy to welcome Jessica Wolfenden and Michelle Proehl as RTI tutors.  We also enthusiastically welcome Siobhan O’Brien, Michelle Mills, and Alyssa Capuano as Special Education Instructional Assistants.   We are further delighted to welcome special education teacher Alexia Karamoutsos, music teacher Laura Berger, guidance counselor Alexis Dwyer, and school psychologist Madeline Lormand.    Complementing out new hires will be Courtney Browne as our permanent substitute.

     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 it’s main purpose student enrichment at Pine Glen School (Pine Glen Elementary School PTO).

     We begin this year with several changes in curriculum, assessment and instruction. However, Pine Glen has been preparing itself for the past couple of years knowing these changes were on the horizon.  Our prior adoption of the new standards based progress report cards reflective of the Common Core Standards, RtI adoption, iPad 1:1 initiative (the PARCC will be an online assessment and the iPad is an approved device), universal screening three times yearly, and new curriculum adoptions have positioned us to be ready for these major education policy changes.  What will help us the most we have been doing along and will continue to do by continuing to provide top quality instruction, along with a safe, caring and nurturing learning environment that engages all our students.  

     I am incredibly grateful to the residents of Burlington for continuing to provide us with the financial means to attract and retain the highest caliber of teachers, technology, and resources to differentiate instruction for all learners.  It is because of this support we can continue to create a lifelong love of learning for everyone in our Pine Glen Community.  Thank you very much for the opportunity you entrust us with everyday in providing instruction to your children!  

     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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