Kevin M. Lyons, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Welcome to the 2016-2017 School Year!
It is a pleasure to welcome our students back for an exciting 2016-2017 school year, and to welcome our new seventh graders who joined the Masco Community on Thursday September 1st.
Our students can look forward to an exciting, challenging, and rewarding school year, and parents can be confident that their children will receive an excellent education with many opportunities to explore.
Kevin M. Lyons
Superintendent of Schools
The Institution for Savings “Credit for Life Fair” will be hosted for the second year in a row by Masconomet High School on April 11, 2017 in the Masco Field House. Here is a link to the 2016 Community Relations Subcommittee article on last year’s fair. IFS 2016
Mascononomet Regional School District will maintain transgender student rights and maintain its transgender guidelines irrespective of changes in federal guidance. Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester today issued a letter to Massachustts Superintendents, Charter School Leaders and Principals explaining Massachusetts laws and regulatory guidance. [Text Follows]
Dear Superintendents, Charter School Leaders, and Principals:
I would like to affirm for you that Massachusetts remains dedicated to protecting the rights of transgender students even in light of recent federal actions. No one should be discriminated against based on their gender identity, and under existing state statute and regulations, protections for students and families will remain in place in the Commonwealth.
States can issue their own guidance, which can exceed federal guidelines. The Massachusetts state statute, which predates the federal guidance, ensures protections for all students and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. An Act Relative to Gender Identity (Chapter 199 of the Acts of 2011), amended several Massachusetts statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of specified categories, including gender identity, and subsequently, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued guidance (http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/lgbtq/GenderIdentity.pdf) to school districts to implement the gender identity provision.
That guidance includes the following:
Additional resources are available at http://www.doe.mass.edu/sfs/lgbtq/default.html.
We are proud that Massachusetts was a leader in this area and that schools have worked constructively and without great controversy to support their students. Please do not hesitate to contact our Safe Schools Program team at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-338-6319 if they can be of assistance.
Commissioner Mitchell Chester
The Masconomet Regional School District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability in admission to, access to, employment in, or treatment in its programs and activities. The Masconomet Regional School District is committed to maintaining a school environment free of harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability. Harassment by administrators certified and support personnel, students, vendors and other individuals at school or at school-sponsored events is unlawful and is strictly prohibited. The Masconomet Regional School District requires all employees and students to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner with respect to their fellow employees, students and all members of the school community.
At last night’s School Committee meeting, I presented the FY18 Masconomet School Budget that I have proposed to the School Committee for approval. This overview highlighted the fact that this is an extremely responsible budget that allows us to continue the delivery of an outstanding education to our students. The increase over the FY17 approved budget is 2.8% which includes fixed costs, reductions in force, and several strategic increases.
I also highlighted the fact that only because of the quality staff we have at Masco can we produce the results and student outcomes that we do while bringing in budgets that are very lean.
I have recommended a reduction of teaching staff, primarily at the high school, due to a decline in our student population. These proposed reductions are detailed in the Executive Summary. The background data supporting these reductions can be found in the Staffing/Enrollment Analysis Report.
I have also recommended several increases to staff in critical need areas. These are also elaborated in the Executive Summary. Despite the proposal of this very frugal budget, I firmly believe that we will be able to pursue our Masco Vision 2025 in the next school year and continue to offer excellence in teaching and learning.
Please review the Executive Summary and the proposed budget book to look more deeply into the FY18 proposed budget. There is additional information on the District’s Finance and Budget page.
The Masconomet School Committee will continue its deliberation about the budget this evening and in subsequent meetings posted our web site.
Thank you for your continued support. Please follow the budget process from this proposal to the School Committee, to the final budget approved by the School Committee, and through Town Meetings.
Kevin M. Lyons
Superintendent of Schools
The Staffing Analysis Report, presented to the the Masconomet School Committee in December 2016 by the Superintendent, was utilized as important data in the development of the FY18 budget proposal.
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.