Last week was one of my most enjoyable of the new school year as I
Masconomet Regional School District Vision 2025
Our Vision for the Year 2025 and Our Values
Student learning is highly interdisciplinary and students are connecting learning to the real world and real-world problem solving. Curriculum and instruction is focused on this value; students are making connections between subjects because they are experiencing them as unified or related concepts, and
Strong adult-student relationships are a hallmark at Masconomet. Teachers and others seek to understand each student as an individual with a unique background, life situation, and unique strengths and interests. They strive to recognize each student’s desire to find their place in the school and larger community, and
All classrooms and curricula are Learner-centered. All students are achieving the same standards in multiple ways based upon their learning styles, strengths, interests, and unique needs; they are learning in multiple ways and can demonstrate their learning through a variety of different assessments, and
Instruction happens in many forms depending upon the teachers’ objectives and the nature of learners in the classroom. However, interactive and experiential learning is a dominant strategy throughout the curriculum and across subject areas. Students and teachers experiment with teaching and learning strategies without fear of failing, and
Our graduates are culturally sensitive, aware of global interdependency, and act confidently with understanding of their impact on the world. Intellectual and experiential learning takes place through a diverse curriculum, as well as school, community, and global experiences that stretch their cultural comfort zones.
Our Values and Beliefs
We believe that teaching and learning must be highly interdisciplinary, rigorous, and appropriately challenging for our students. They should grasp the relevance of subject matter to their present and future lives, to foster an understanding that solving real-world problems requires knowledge, skills, collaboration, and persistence, and
We believe that when students feel physically safe, emotionally secure, and happy, they are in the best position to benefit from opportunities for intellectual growth and learning, development of character, self-discovery, and to find their unique place in the community, and
We believe that when teaching and learning is personalized to the extent that it honors each individual’s unique needs, strengths, interests, and learning styles, that EACH student will have opportunities to achieve his/her potential. We value the education of the Whole Child, developing “initiative, integrity, imagination, an inquiring mind, self-knowledge, interpersonal skills, and the ability to feel and recognize each individual’s truth, and
We believe that students are naturally motivated and curious learners and that their education should develop these attributes. Their school experience needs to foster initiative, independence, resiliency, grit, skills of teamwork and collaboration, and self-discovery. Educators value students taking risks and see the value of failing as part of the learning process, and
We believe that the success of our graduates is dependent upon their ability to embrace and thoughtfully act within our world that is racially, culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse.
Dear Masconomet Families and Staff,
The High School and Middle School were without power today from approximately 11:40 a.m. to 1:55 p.m. It was a National Grid issue that affected at least parts of Boxford. Middle school lunch was completed and the first High School lunch was about to start when the power went out.
Fire safety systems remained operative and Boxford Fire and Police from the three towns came to assist. All students and staff were in areas with natural lighting or moved to areas that did have natural light. Classes were conducted on a normal schedule at the High School. The Middle School did a shelter-in-place for an hour as students returned from lunch, but returned to the 7th period schedule.
Two students were stuck in the Middle School elevator until the Fire Department was able to open the door. The students were relieved and in relatively good spirits after their ordeal.
While we had bus transportation on alert from shortly after 12:00 p.m., I determined that it would be less disruptive, and a safer situation to keep school in session as the buildings were warm, there was sufficient light, and in most situations instruction could continue as normal.
Our cafeteria staff did a great job of improvising serving areas inside the eating area of the cafeteria. All students were able to get lunch on a near-normal schedule. Our students and staff performed wonderfully to make the best of a less than optimal situation.
We had police, fire, and many adults in the hallways throughout the outage to direct students and supervise all areas of the building. It certainly wasn't a normal afternoon of instruction, but it was as good as one could expect.
All Middle School after-school help and after-school activities are cancelled today. All High School after-school help and activities are running on a normal schedule, including tonight's performance of Noises Off.
I want to thank our students and staff today for such a high level of cooperation. Our teachers and staff always step up to a challenge.
Our students showed a high level of maturity about which the school and parents can be proud.
Kevin M. Lyons
Superintendent of Schools
It has been a long time since I sat in an undergraduate college classroom. It happened yesterday and it has been on my mind for the last 36 hours. At the invitation of the Masconomet High School Psychology Club, advised by Mr. Brian Mintz, this college classroom experience happened in the Masco HS Library from 3:00-4:30 p.m. Mr. Mintz and the Club invited Dr. Paul Whelan, a Dartmouth College Professor of Neuroscience, to give a lecture on his cutting-edge research into emotion and the human brain. Professor Whelan is a research specialist in anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTDS), and core human emotions. He is sub-specialized in a tiny part of the brain- the amygdala. He and his associates use MRI and Functional MRI (that shows changes in the brain as they happen) to study the relationship of the amygdala to the human regulation of emotion.
As I sat with 35 students and several faculty members, I was transported back to one of my best college classes when I felt like I was learning things that 99% of the world did not know about, taught by one of the foremost experts in the world. It was engaging, exciting, humorous, and filled with implications for me as an educator. How can I not learn much more about the brain when I am in the business of teaching and learning? I sat alongside our Masco students who, I quickly realized, knew much more about current brain research than I did. Humbling? Not really, as I know the quality and depth of our students' learning at Masco, I should not be surprised that I was a freshman among juniors and seniors. What a delight to feel like a teenager in love with learning in a group of like-minded individuals.
Professor Whelan didn't contain himself to just the lecture topics. He answered student questions about careers in psychology and in doing so shared his own experiences as an undergrad and graduate student. To paraphrase one tidbit of advice, he suggested that students should not worry about over-specializing in high school to get ready for a college major and that undergraduates should not over-specialize in getting into graduate school. From his perspective, he did not figure out what he wanted to do until well after he earned his Ph.D. He told students that is good to take some solid math, important to take at least a course in computer science, but otherwise, don't narrow your schooling and career options too early in life.
I guess what most impressed me by this college lecture at Masco yesterday, is the fact that our students get opportunities like this all the time, because we have faculty members who reach out to their professions and disciplines, who reach out to government and community groups, and who organize all kinds of learning activities to expose their students to real-world learning opportunities and insights into careers, college, and life.
Yesterday was just one of the many days I leave work at Masco and think on the way home-- "Wow, am I lucky or what to be a colleague of this caliber of faculty and staff?
As I count my blessings at the end of this calendar year, near the top of the list is the fact that I get to come to work every day in a place where there is a genuine love for learning-- where students come ready to learn and teachers come prepared to give their all to keep learning exciting, enjoyable, and real.
Resolution #1: In 2017, I will learn more about the current research on learning and the brain and apply that learning to my role at Masconomet.
Resolution #2: I will remember that each of us is always ready to experience a spark of joy in learning something new and each of us has the ability to light that spark in another.
Last week was one of my most enjoyable of the new school year as I spent a dozen hours over four days visiting classrooms at Masconomet. While I more regularly do learning walks with the two Masco Principals, last week I conducted them with different Department Heads.
What's a Learning Walk? One model I like and use frequently is to join with one or more educators and do very brief (5 minute) classroom visits. After visiting 5-7 classrooms, those on the Learning Walk sit and talk about what we observed. We sometimes look for learning strategies and student engagement in general. On another walk, we might focus on classroom use of technology or student collaboration. We almost always ask students about what they are learning (speaking softly with one or more students at a time so as not to disrupt the class).
Last week, I learned a great deal about individual subject areas by visiting one subject across a number of classrooms with the Department Head. I get to ask a lot of questions and to share observations. This is one way to train those who evaluate teachers by sharing and comparing observations. This helps to ensure more consistency among evaluators. The learning walks themselves are not used for evaluating individual teachers.
Tri-Town School Union Superintendent Scott Morrison and I have joined forces to conduct "Learning Walks" in the elementary schools and at Masconomet Middle School and High School. Mr. Morrison and I spent this morning at Spofford Pond Elementary School in Boxford doing a learning walk with Spofford Principal Kathryn Castonguay.
It was very exciting for me to see what is going on instructionally in the elementary schools and to bring our two school districts closer together in conversation and professional learning.
We soon hope to see Masco and TTU administrators visiting each other to join in learning walks. One day we hope to be able to offer teachers this opportunity
Masconomet and TTU administrators started meeting together regularly last year. This year we have worked together on the Life is Good Initiative and we continue to talk about teaching and learning and how to work together on important issues for our students.
Mr. Morrison and I will be visiting all eight schools in the coming weeks. I look forward to more shares in the future.
The 2016 Presidential Election
President -elect Trump and President Barack Obama today.
Dear Masco Families and Staff.
I offer my opinion to you that this past presidential campaign has shown more than ever that we need to come together for the good of the entire country. There has been so much fear and hate in this campaign, that I ask you to think over its meaning for our immediate and long-term future.
Whichever candidate came out on top, there was a near guarantee that there would be fear, anger, protest, and some continuation of the fear and hate experienced for too long already.
We have seen a small amount of argumentative politics over the last two days at school. Any amount going forward, outside of our curriculum and natural discourse in our academic programs, is to no one’s benefit.
We need to let our students know that we continue to love, support, and keep them safe while we also open the doors of opportunity that are here for them in this great country. Let them know that our checks and balance systems are in place to help us reach the goal of coming together for them and for all. This statement is needed not because a particular candidate won, but rather the nature of the campaign and the civil dialogue that has become uncivil.
This weekend, as we honor our veterans, I want to reassure our students, families, and staff that we will hold the standard high for civility and respect. As a community both inside our schools and outside our schools, we value collaboration, cooperation, and helping our neighbor. We will continue as Masconomet and the Tri-Towns to be respectful and supportive of each other.
I have great trust in our staff, parents and students, to do what this great democracy has done for more than two centuries — wish each new president success in increasing prosperity for our nation and in uniting our citizens. The latter need and challenge has never been greater.
Our students find great safety in knowing that life goes on as they know it. If any student is exhibiting additional anxiety surrounding the election, please reach out to your school counselors or administration for guidance and support.
Thank you all as we move forward with our hopes that our youth will develop the beliefs that have led to this exemplary democracy. By reinforcing the fact that our democracy does work, students will grow in courage to make it better in their successive generations by working together with respect for all people, and grow in understanding that different perspectives on life and on government are part of living in a true democracy.
Technology in our schools offers wonderful learning opportunities for students that would be otherwise impossible. Our digital learning environment is robust with teacher and student tools to make teaching and learning more effective and to provide quality, online resources not in our imaginations 10 years ago. Many students bring powerful technology with them to school each day, the most common device is the smart phone – actually a hand-held computer.
Masco faces social media and electronic communication issues like every school district and every corner of modern society. One issue near the end of last year at Masco was the inappropriate posting of videos that were made of teachers who were not aware that students were using their phones or other devices to make videos in the classroom.
There is a change in both the Middle School and the High School Student-Parent Handbooks this year to make it very clear that making recordings of others without their knowledge violates the student code of conduct. Posting such videos to social media is a particularly serious matter that cannot be tolerated. It is against the law to make recordings of others without their knowledge and it also violates the student code of conduct, and therefore subject to discipline.
Using devices to make recordings or take photos in the classroom or other parts of school is very often appropriate and part of a good learning experience. It is important that we all do our part to help students understand when using the camera or voice recorder is appropriate, and when it is not. Good digital citizenship is a skill set that needs to be taught in school and reinforced at home.
I tell students, staff, friends, and family that once you post something to the internet, it can be there forever. Many employers regularly google prospective employees. Some college admissions offices do the same.
We are working on a new Digital Resources policy with input from teachers and students with the goal of creating a document that is a useful teaching tool for students in grades 7-12. We need to do our job in the schools well, teaching and modeling good digital citizenship.
Family discussions can also play a very positive role in developing healthy and safe use of social media.
Thank you for reading this message and considering the impact we can have on student development by all working together on these issues.
Superintendent of Schools
MEF STEAM LAB RIBBON CUTTING, 9/22/16
It is hard to believe that it was just two years ago that I had my first meeting with MEF President Lynne Bermudez and members of the MEF Board. They started to talk about the potential for expanding the STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics opportunities for students at Masconomet. We would later add and A to make STEM, STEAM reflecting the interconnectedness of the arts to STEM, especially in technology and design.
If they came clean today, I think Lynne and the MEF Board would admit that they were testing the readiness of a new Superintendent, for what they had in the backs of their minds about a very large capital campaign over 2 years.
I really wasn’t ready for the test, because I was new to Masco and had, to that date, had only the briefest conversations with the Principals and leadership team about the need to become more interdisciplinary at Masco to remain relevant in a changing world and changing and challenging job market for our graduates. We had, to that point, had only cursory discussions about pathways and a new vision for integrating students’ learning experiences to better match their future lives demands.
I remember being very guarded with my words and saying yes, well maybe, we will want to go in this direction, but an infusion of resources would be out ahead of the idea development and faculty curriculum development that would lead to clearly defined pathways. Then the words $200K dollars got mentioned. And then the words “maybe more”. I’m sure I looked like an Algebra I student in an AP Trig exam.
With a leap in faith, knowing in my heart that Masco would need to move in directions entirely consistent with the MEFs early thinking, I came up with the right answer to the test after much thought. YES! I said. How exciting!
I must still admit that I was more than a little dubious about this level of campaign. But, then again, I didn’t really know Lynne Bermudez and her lieutenants very well at this point. Dr. Hodgdon will follow with many more specific thank yous to major donors as well as the MEF and Masco people that made this possible.
Back to September 2014, I started to learn about MEF’s tremendous support of our students and teachers and also, being new to the district, I caught up on what MEF was already doing to boost teaching and learning opportunities at Masconomet Middle School, and Masco High School through technology infrastructure funding, teacher grants, global education and other remarkable contributions.
It didn’t start with a ribbon cutting and doesn’t start with the cutting of a ribbon today, although that is most appropriate and this is a most appropriate celebration!
The MEF campaign has steadily increased our STEAM equipment, technology, professional development, and energy over several years, and that included infrastructure work that supports our new 1:1 digital learning initiative, meeting computing needs at the Middle School, and even being sure that we never ran out of Vernier probes, whatever the heck they are!
Now, here we stand on September 22nd, 2016, opening a new specialized space, the best instructional space in the building, an incredible space, designed with flexibility and mobility in mind that will serve as a model for the utilization of other existing space and for future changes to this building that will be inspired by Masco’s Vision 2025.
This gift is especially powerful, because MEF allowed educators to completely control the design and construction on this project based on the educators’ vision for student learning. So often, gifts come with demands and strings attached. This was a pure gift of love for learning, love for Masco, and it is a community demonstration of support for our students and teachers. What more can I say? On behalf of the entire Masco community, thank you everyone who has supported these efforts through hard work and donations.
There is a new parent app to access a number of school resources and lots of information through our web site. You can download the app for iPhones from the iTunes store or for Android phones from the Google Play Store. Just search for “Masconomet” in either store or you should be able to download the app. There is no cost. Functionality will be added to the app shortly when you are given information to create your own account and customize the app to your interests.
Continuing on the subject of communication and information, the Community Outreach Subcommittee of the School Committee is working with the administration to publish a Problem-Solver and Communication Guide based upon frequent questions that come from families and how to get needed information, register concerns, and to make suggestions. Expect publication during the month of September. You will receive a link by email.
There will continue to be a “Message the Superintendent” link on the District web page, www.masconomet.org through which you can communicate with me, indicating that you want a response, or to message me anonymously. One of my goals continues to be the improvement of school and District communication and to provide easy feedback options for parents and community members. This year I will begin to blog news and my thoughts on important District and educational matters. The blog will reside on the “Superintendent’s Page” of the web site and any interested parties will be able to subscribe to the blog and get an email when a new blog is added. This feature will work with the parent app as soon as it becomes fully functional.
Masco Vision 2025, is a strategic planning process to which the District is committed. During the last school year hundreds of “visions” and “strategies” were collected through conversations groups of teachers, staff, parents, School Committee members and others. The Values and Visions that have emerged from this process are in near final draft form and will be made public for comments during the month of September. I believe that an exciting vision has been created with underlying values that truly reflect what our educators, students, parents, and community want to see Masco become. I will let you be the judge of my opinion when we circulate the draft in the coming weeks. The work this year will be to develop the strategies to help us realize the vision. There will be opportunities for family and community input as development of the plan progresses through this school year. I will also be making periodic reports to the School Committee and making the same information available on our website.
Our 1:1 digital learning environment, in the planning stages for five years, rolls out this fall with 9th and 10th graders bringing their own devices with them school each day. As I hope you are aware, 9th and 10th graders are expected to bring a device to school daily. The device must meet Masco’s minimum specifications as outlined on our Digital Learning web page Masconomet.org/digitallearning .
Most families have purchased a new device or have a device that meets the minimum specifications. Masco offered discount pricing on the recommended device, an HP Chromebook last spring. Pricing on Chromebooks has been going down over the last several months and at this time. Masco cannot find a group offer that is more competitive than retail prices. If you are still in the market for a device, some on-line shopping of big box retailers is the recommended way to find the best price. We recommend that families consider purchasing insurance and/or an extended warranty. In addition, please consider purchasing a protective sleeve and a 2nd charging adapter so that your student may leave one at school and one at home.
Our staff has been working very hard over the past two years to integrate technology into instruction in a manner that will improve student learning. While teachers have been using many new strategies, the initiation of the 1:1 program will enhance opportunities for consistent access to tools and resources available on the internet and integrated with daily instruction.
If you have any questions about the 9th and 10th grade 1:1 device program or expectations, please visit the Digital learning page Masconomet.org/digitallearning . There is also contact information for staff that can assist you by email or on the phone. Please keep an eye on our Digital Learning Page and our Twitter feed @mascodigilearn, for helpful resources and information.
Last October, the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced that Masconomet Middle School had reached “Level I” status in the state’s accountability program, an unusual feat for middle schools whose MCAS and PARCC targets, among other data points, are increased each year. Masconomet is now a Level I District with two Level I schools. I am very proud of our students, teachers, and staff and I thank our families for supporting their students‘efforts, and for supporting education in our communities. This level of achievement is gained only through the work at all levels of schooling, kindergarten through graduation. Our elementary colleagues are to be commended for their good work over many years.
Safety and Security will remain a priority at Masconomet. We will focus again this year on more training for staff and students and live drills that include students. We have a very safe campus, but we must increase our capacity to respond to different types of safety and security threats. We work closely with Public Safety and Public Health departments in crisis response planning and practice. Please know that we take safety and security very seriously and constantly strive to improve our plans and practices. Also, we have a third-party managed “Safe School Hotline” for reports about bullying or other safety matters. The 3rd party can guarantee anonymity when it is desired. The link to the Hotline is on the District web page under Helpful Links/Safety.
A new STEAM Lab will open this year this fall at Masconomet High School. With much gratitude for the generosity and hard work of the Masconomet Education Foundation and all of you who have supported M.E.F., we will now have this state-of-the art instructional space to accommodate new opportunities developed to promote student interest and achievement in (S) Science, (T) Technology, (E) Engineering, (A) the Arts, and (M) Mathematics. There will be a special invitation going out in regard to the dedication on the same evening as High School Open House. Watch your email for notices.
There is a large committee studying the subject of school start time for Masconomet. One consideration is to start Masco later, consistent with what the science has to say about adolescents, sleep, health, and learning. There are many considerations in making changes that could affect start times for all schools in the three towns. It is far from a foregone conclusion that a change will be made. Final consideration of any proposed changes will rest with the Boxford, Middleton, Topsfield, and Masconomet School Committees. The School Start Times Committee (STAC) will make recommendations to the School Committees in December, 2016. STAC will be conducting another community survey this fall to gather opinion and feedback on specific options that could become recommendations. You can find information about the SATC Committee and the subject of sleep and school start time on the web by clicking on the front page link found at www.masconomet.org . Dr. Judith Owens, a physician and expert on sleep and school start times will be making a presentation to our community on the evening of September 27th, at 7:00 p.m. in the Masco Auditorium. More information can be found at www.masconomet.org and you will soon see flyers in your inbox. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear the leading expert on these subjects, sponsored by the Masconomet School Committee.
Masconomet is a great District and I hope to work with you to make it even stronger—more exceptional. During this school year, I will continue to meet individually, or in small groups, with as many staff, students, parents and community members as possible to explore your expectations, aspirations, and what you value most.
Again, welcome to the 2016-2017 school year. It promises to be an exciting and rewarding one.
Dear Masco Families and Staff,
I am pleased to share the news with you that the Commissioner of Education visited Masco Middle School on the morning of May 11th to congratulate Dr. Flaherty and her staff and students for being named a Massachusetts Commendation School and for moving from a Level II to a Level I accountability rating. This is a distinction for a middle school to have Level I status.
I just received a note from Commissioner Mitchell Chester this morning.
“I visited Masconomet Regional Middle School on May 11 and had a chance to talk with teachers and administrators about the strategies that helped the school become a Commendation School and move into Level 1 of the state’s accountability system. I also listened to students’ and teachers’ reflections about the PARCC assessment.
“Throughout my classroom visits, I saw students working through exercises and discussions that were impressive both in terms of their instructional design and in terms of the students’ knowledge, enthusiasm, and level of critical thinking required. It is clear to me that Masconomet Middle School is preparing its students well for high school, college, careers, and citizenship. I congratulate Dr. Flaherty, her staff, and students on their work.”
We are all extremely pleased and proud to see the job our Middle School is doing and to see it recognized by a visit from the Commissioner. Please watch for Tri-Town Transcript coverage of the event coming soon.
Kevin M. Lyons
Superintendent of Schools
PHOTO GALLERY (multiple photos)