Letter from the Principal

Archived Letters

                                                                                                                                            March 27, 2017

Good afternoon Cunniff Families.

Wednesday, March 29 is an early-release day with a 12:15 dismissal.  Lunch will be served and there is Extended Day.  Parent and teacher conferences will take place in the afternoon from 1:00 - 2:30 pm.  

We are looking for Cunniff families to help with the planning of our International Fair scheduled for Thursday, June 8 from 6:00-8:00pm.   Students will be taking home a flier regarding this event - tomorrow.  We hope you will take a moment to complete and return it. 

Attached is a copy of the Cunniff School March Newsletter which highlights the work of teachers and students at Cunniff during the month of March.  

Cunniff School March Newsletter 

The month comes to a close on Friday and I hope April brings warmer weather and sunshine!

Enjoy the afternoon.


Mena Ciarlone

Cunniff School Principal


Dear Cunniff Families,

Conference week begins with evening conferences taking place tomorrow from 6:00 - 8:00 pm.  Additional conference dates have been scheduled on the following days.  Tuesday, March 21 and Wednesday, March 29 are early-release days.  Dismissal will take place at 12:15 so that teachers can begin afternoon conferences at 1:00pm.  Early lunch will be served and there is Extended Day on both of these dates.  The second evening conference date is Thursday, March 23 with conferences taking place from 6:00 - 8:00pm.  If you did not sign up for a conference at this time, we ask that you follow the link  https://sites.google.com/a/watertown.k12.ma.us/cunniff_conferences/  in order to sign up.  Conferences are not optional.  

There is a scheduled PTO meeting this Tuesday, March 14 at 7:00 pm.  Additionally, we are holding an International Fair planning meeting at 6:30pm.  If you would like to help shape what our first Cunniff School International Fair looks like, please join us on Tuesday.  In the event of snow, both meetings will be rescheduled.

This week students and teachers at Cunniff participated in an activity which was titled Open the Door to Reading.  Students, teachers and staff members decorated office or classroom doors to represent a favorite book.  The creativity and teamwork that resulted was awesome!  Please take a moment to view the short slideshow titled Open the Door to Reading  which is posted on our Cunniff HomePage. It will truly inspire you.  https://sites.google.com/a/watertown.k12.ma.us/cunniff/.

Enjoy the week.


Mena Ciarlone

Cunniff School Principal                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                   February 24, 2017

Dear Cunniff Families,

I hope this email finds students well-rested and eager to return to school on Monday, February 27.  Please keep in mind that Wednesday, March 1 is an early-release day with a 12:15 dismissal.  Lunch will be served and there is Extended Day.

The upcoming month of March will focus on reading and we have planned weekly events which reinforce the importance of building good reading habits.  Special thanks to reading teachers Mrs. Rono and Mrs. McCarthy for coordinating the following activities:

March 2:   The Cunniff will host a Mystery Reader event.  Teachers will select a book to read “in character” and visit another classroom where they will read the text aloud.

March 10:  Each classroom will decorate their classroom door to represent a book of their choosing.

Students will take a “book walk” throughout the school to view and complete a scavenger hunt with a goal of identifying each of the texts.

March 17:  D.E.A.R. Drop Everything And Read will take place school-wide from 8:30 - 9:00.

March 24:  “Spring Into Reading”~ Each classroom will plant a pot of seedlings which will adorn the Main Entrance of Cunniff. Students will select or compose a poem which will welcome spring and place this poem alongside the potted seedlings.  Special thanks to the Cunniff PTO for providing materials for this project.  Additionally, we will celebrate spring with the musical group Manguito.   Five internationally known musicians will take students on an interactive musical tour of the Caribbean. This enrichment opportunity has also been funded by the Cunniff PTO.

March 31:  Cunniff Book Swap ~ See the attached flyer regarding collection of “gently worn books”.

If you are a parent of a student in grades 3, 4 or 5, please be on the lookout for information regarding MCAS practice classes.  These classes will take place before school for grade 5 students and after school for students in grades 3 and 4.  These sessions are optional. Details and permission slips will be sent home during the week of March 5.

Cunniff third grade teacher Ms. Park, will be launching an Engineering mini-course for third graders in mid-March. This course will be offered to students by invitation.

Currently underway is after-school Math Challenge group for fifth grade students taught by Ms. Nagle.  These students will also be entering the Math Olympiad Contest, later in the spring.  

Bandarama will take place on Tuesday, March 7 at 8:00 pm at Watertown High School.  

The Cunniff PTO meeting, which usually takes place on the first Tuesday of the month, will take place on Tuesday, March 14 instead so that parents who have a child performing at the Bandarama Concert can attend both events.

During the next week, you will be receiving information regarding March Parent & Teacher Conferences.  Sign up will again take place online via SignUpGenius.com . The discussion that takes places during this scheduled meeting will support the Term two report card which will be sent home on March 24. Conferences are not optional.

We have scheduled the Cunniff International Fair for Thursday, June 1 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm.  We hope many Cunniff families will be interested in planning out the details of this school-wide event.  Details to follow.

Enjoy this spring-like weather!


Mena Ciarlone

Cunniff School Principal

                                                                                                                                    February 13, 2017

Dear Cunniff Families.

I hope this email finds your family enjoying a winter afternoon within the warmth of your home.    The month of February surely has SNOW, and lots of it – on the agenda!

Our Math RTI (Response to Intervention) launch was a great success.  As we head into week four, students in grades PK-5 have been working in small groups and have been receiving targeted math instruction geared towards their instructional needs.  Once we return from the February break, we will reconvene in order to determine the effectiveness of the instruction and to make any necessary changes to student groups.   I have added a slideshow of the Mathematics RTI launch on the Cunniff Home Page.  Please visit the following link if you would like a sense of specific skills being targeted by grade level.    https://sites.google.com/a/watertown.k12.ma.us/cunniff/

February is “Kindness Counts at Cunniff” month. Mrs. Golden, Mrs. Antonellis, and Ms. Carey are heading this project in addition to their daily roles supporting students. It is noteworthy!  This project involves featuring a word and an accompanying activity each week.  This word of the week is being used in a discussion during morning meeting in each classroom.  The words are:  forgiveness, empathy, gratitude and compassion.  Additionally, each grade level has received a text to read which nicely reinforces the importance of the word of the week.  The titles include:  Enemy Pie by  D. Munsen (forgiveness),  Last Stop on Market Street  by M. de la Pena (compassion),  Stand in my Shoes by B. Somson (empathy) and The Secret Stone by J. Lauffer (gratitude).   Please see the main lobby bulletin board for examples of student work featured in this project.  

During the month of March, we will be offering four weeks of MCAS preparation for students in grades 3,4 and 5.  Details to follow.  We will also begin a small after-school engineering club for students in grades 3 and 4. Details to follow on this course as well.  Finally, we will be setting the date for our International Fair this week. I will post it as soon as it is determined.

The annual Watertown Public Schools Art Exhibition will take place from March 15 - March 28, 2017 at the Watertown Mall.   Students who have art work selected for the exhibition, will be informed by a letter, later this month.  A reception to celebrate the Art Exhibition will be held on Monday, March 21 from 5:00-7:00pm at the Watertown Mall.  All are welcome to join and refreshments will be served.   Additionally, art teacher Mrs. Lucas has created an art room blog which she would like to share the link to:    http://cunniffschoolart.blogspot.com/    This blog is a testament to the talent and creativity that she uses to inspire our students.

Please be vigilant in pulling up to the Drop and Go as well as traveling along the paths leading to the Cunniff.  Students should always be reminded to exit cars on the passenger side of the vehicle.  Snow banks are quite high and it is difficult for passing vehicles to see pedestrians.  

It is our hope to get students out for recess each day, weather permitting.  Please remind students to wear the necessary clothing that will keep them dry and warm.  This includes snow pants, boots, hats and gloves.

Remember to check your local stations for school closings and delays.  Let’s hope we do not have to rely on this any time soon and that we can begin looking forward to signs of spring … in a few weeks! 

The February break begins at the close of school on Friday, February 17 and we return to school on Monday, February 27th.

As we approach Valentine's Day tomorrow, I thank you and am grateful for your continued support.  Stay warm and safe!


Mena Ciarlone

Cunniff School Principal 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          January 23, 2017

Dear Cunniff Families,

I want to begin with a reminder that Wednesday (January 25th) is an early release day with a 12:15 dismissal.  Lunch will be served and there is Extended Day.

This week at Cunniff marks the beginning of our school-wide RTI in mathematics focus. In grade level teams, we have been planning for and preparing to implement this additional support structure.  The Response to Intervention model will provide a 30 minute block each week where students will come together in small instructional groups.  These groups are tailored for different skill levels and include opportunities for targeted instruction and extension.  Teams of teachers across each grade level have been assigned groups of students that they will work with.  Your child may be assigned to his/her classroom teacher for this 30 minute block or s/he may have another teacher in the grade level team.

An essential component of this RTI model is progress monitoring.  Each week a “ticket to leave” or specific challenge to complete will be part of the 30 minute block.  This 2-3 minute exercise will enable teachers to determine whether the targeted instruction is a success.  At the end of each six week period, teams will convene to adjust fluid groups of students.

The RTI schedule for the Cunniff is the following:  

PK-K and K :  Tuesday ~ 9:15 - 9:45, Grade 1: Tuesday ~ 10:20 - 10:50,

Grade 2: Wednesday ~ 9:00 - 9:30, Grade 3: Thursday, 12:10 - 12:40,

Grade 4: Wednesday ~10:00 - 10:30, Grade 5: Friday, 9:30 - 10:00.

I am grateful to the Cunniff faculty.  Each grade level team has met with me consistently  since October and we have worked through each part of the process in order to meet our January RTI starting date.  

The Homework Task Force will convene for the first time on Friday, January 27 from

1:30 -2:30.  This meeting will take place in my office.

Our first International Fair planning meeting will take place during the first week of February.  

We hope to set a May date for this event as well as to brainstorm components we would like to include.  If you would like to be involved in the planning, details will follow before the end of the month.

Registration for incoming PK and K is upon us and will take place all week at Central Office.For additional details, please visit:  https://sites.google.com/a/watertown.k12.ma.us/wps/registration  .


Mena Ciarlone

Cunniff School Principal

                                                                                                                                             December 14, 2016

Dear Cunniff Families,

Attached are two important documents that I would like to bring to your attention.  The first is a letter from Assistant Superintendent Dr. McGuinness and I which introduces the Cunniff School’s Report Card from the DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education).  The second document is the Cunniff SchoolReport Card Overview from the DESE.    Please look over both documents.

In my next newsletter, I will highlight the RTI (Response to Intervention) model that the Cunniff is currently focusing on.  

Thank you.

Cunniff RC Overview 

Cunniff State Assessment RC Overview 


Mena Ciarlone

Cunniff School Principal

                                             November 21, 2016

Dear Cunniff Families,

I want to begin by drawing your attention to the Cunniff School goals which we will be focusing on throughout the school year:

The first is a commitment, on the part of each grade level team, to focus on at least one project-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) initiative. Grade level teams will develop project-based units of study which encourage students to think creatively and critically while mastering and exploring concepts and skills.   Team members include classroom teachers, Special Educators and specialists.  Each team has set student learning goals based upon this initiative and they will be developing their cross-curricular projects, at various points during the school year. Many of the projects will be scored by a rubric developed by each team.  Additionally,  this initiative includes hosting a school-wide showcase, at the completion of the unit, so that all students PK-5 have an opportunity to see, hear and learn about the various topics presented.  This is all great work which we hope to have everyone benefit from!   I am thrilled to say that the first showcase will take place this Wednesday morning with the grade one team presenting their Solar System project.  

The second goal is our continued work with tiered instruction.  Team meetings this month have focused on discussions which involve meeting the needs of all students in the area of mathematics.  Fourth and fifth grade level teams have spent time reviewing PARCC scores from last spring.(The grade three meeting will take place this week.)  They have analyzed these scores with regard to how students performed on the test in comparison to their current performance on Math In Focus tests.  Based on these discussions, we are planning tiered work which will include modification and extension, where needed.  For students in first and second grade, the discussion has focused on tiered instruction based upon daily performance and mastery of skills, by chapter.  The PK and Kindergarten team meeting, coming up this week, will involve a discussion of motor skills.

The topic of Homework will also be the focus of a Cunniff Task Force that will begin right after the December break. Parent members who have volunteered to be part of this group are: Angela Carosella, Elena Griffith and John Airasian.  They will be joined by three teachers and me. The group will meet once a month and we will begin a discussion around questions such as:  What is the purpose of homework?  What should homework consist of?  How much should be given? This discussion has already begun with the School Site Council.  

I firmly believe that all grade level teams are doing commendable work at Cunniff. This month, I’d like to highlight two examples of this work.

Grade five teacher Mr. Donohue has been collaborating with music teacher Ms. Ward. They have been teaching students about the Civil Rights Movement. Students traced the history of the movement through a musical journey which began with African American spirituals and culminated  in the music of today. They finished this exceptional collaborative unit by composing an original song. Here is the  video footage which was captured by FAPA coordinator Magen Slessinger.

Donohue Rap.MOV

Grade three teacher, Ms. Park has been focusing on the Seeds of Science unit titled Shoreline Science with her students.  On Friday, she posed a problem for her students which would enable them to think critically and creatively while coming up with a solution to the following LEGO Challenge:

HELP!  It looks like the aliens from outer space are invading our shorelines and all the organisms living on them! Their spaceship, the UFO, is using its super powerful vacuum system to pull up all the sand, water, and organisms into their ship. Only you...the Watermelon-ers can help save our shorelines and the organisms.  Here is your challenge:


Design a solution to this problem of the alien invasion. You will be given the following materials: LEGOs, cardboard boxes, and a few other arts & craft materials. What can you design and build to save our planet?  


Ms. Park’s students designing their solutions.

Lastly, the Thanksgiving break is around the corner.  Wednesday, November 23 is a half day with a Noon dismissal.  Lunch will not be served and there is no Extended Day.  We return to school on Monday, November 28.  As we gather with family and friends during this time of giving thanks, I am reminded of the richness and warmth of the Cunniff Community and grateful to be principal of our school.  All the best as you gather with family and friends during the upcoming Thanksgiving break!


Mena Ciarlone

Cunniff School Principal


October 24, 2016


Dear Cunniff Families,

The time to schedule a conference with your child’s classroom teacher is approaching.  November 15th and November 30th are early-release days for students with conferences running from 1:00 - 2:30.  November 7th and December 1st are evening conference dates with conferences running from 6:00 - 8:00 pm.  Conferences are not optional.  This twenty minute meeting is an important time to check in with your child’s team of teachers regarding social and academic progress.

On Friday, October 28, you will be able to access the link, on the Cunniff Home Page, which will take you to each teacher’s conference sign-up page.  If you need assistance with this process, please call or visit our Main Office and we will be happy to help.  

I’d also like to remind you that there is no school on November 8, which is Election Day and no school on November 11th which is Veteran’s Day.  As stated above, November 15th and November 30th are early release days with a 12:15 dismissal and lunch served at school. There is Extended Day on November 15th and November 30th  The Thanksgiving recess begins on Wednesday, November 23rd at Noon.  Lunch is not served on this day. We return to school on Monday, November 28th.  

A reminder…Our Enhanced Lock-down and evacuation to 100 Warren Street will take place on Friday, October 28th at 1:00 pm.   Thank you.   


Mena Ciarlone

Cunniff School Principal

                                                                                                                                                                                         October 11, 2016          

Dear Cunniff Families,

We’ve completed the first full month of school and I hope the month of October finds students adjusting nicely to the expectations that this school year brings.  

I’d like to start out by informing families of several changes that you will notice regarding expectations before school.  Teachers have spoken to students about these changes and we want to communicate them to you as well.  As you know, teachers are assigned Morning Duty beginning at 8:05.  At this time, we will be asking students to begin lining up on the pavement, by class.  Due to safety reasons, we will be discouraging any activities that involve playing with balls and other recess equipment, during this time.  At 8:15, teachers on duty, will begin calling classes to enter the building.  

Lunchroom routines have also been established.  This year, we are allowing students to enter the cafeteria and self select a classmate or peer  in the same grade level to sit next to.  This seems to be going well, even for our youngest students in PK and Kindergarten.  Mrs. Antonellis, Ms. Carey, Mrs. Golden and I monitor the lunches on a daily basis.  We enjoy interacting with and supporting students with lunchroom needs which include opening containers etc.  

Collaboration is a student learning goal that we are focusing on at Cunniff this year. Every grade level at Cunniff has committed to the completion of at least one collaborative STEAM-based project this year (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics).  In addition, each grade level will present a showcase of their completed project so that every student at Cunniff will have an opportunity to learn about and benefit from this exhibit.  

 We continue to use data to inform tiered instruction so that all students can access and master content and skills.  

The Community Service initiative, headed by Mrs. Antonellis is also underway.  Community service can be completed at home, at school during a student’s free time, or within the community.  A form is available in the front lobby or in the Main Office so that students can keep track of the time they have spent volunteering.  At the end of the school year, there is a school-wide assembly where students are honored for their service.

Students from the Harvard Baseball Team are volunteering their time with us again this year.  The students arrive on Friday morning and spend about two hours visiting classrooms and supporting students collectively and individually.  They are wonderful role models to have in our school.  Special thanks to former principal Cindy Crimmin and Mrs. Antonellis for bringing these college students to Cunniff.

ELL teachers Mrs. Shirinian and Mrs. Hodges are planning a school-wide International Night in early spring. Mrs. Shirinian attended the PTO meeting last week in order to introduce this event.  If you would like to assist in planning or participate in any way, we will provide additional information regarding how you can do so in the next few months.

Friday, October 14 is School Picture Day. Individual and class photos will be taken. Weather permitting, these photos will be taken outdoors.

Parent-teacher conferences will take place in November.  Details regarding this process will follow in my next newsletter.

Enjoy the month!


Mena Ciarlone
Cunniff School Principal


                                                                                                                                September 19, 2016


Dear Cunnff Families,

The school year is off to a very good start.  Class size is manageable and teachers are building routines with students which will make them comfortable and confident learners.  Faculty members are working in grade level teams in order to administer informal assessments which will enable us to plan instruction for students which is tiered and meets their academic needs.  Additionally, teachers will be setting student learning goals and professional practice goals, critical components of our school-wide goals and Cunniff School Improvement Plan.

For all new and returning families at Cunniff, I would like to provide a few reminders.  The school day begins at 8:15 and ends at 2:30.  Please keep in mind that students who are not enrolled in the Before-School Program or the Breakfast Program, should not arrive at school before 8:05.  Teachers are not on duty until this time.  The Drop-off and Go, located directly in the front of the school, is not a place to park and exit your vehicle to accompany a child to his or her entrance location. Doing so, creates a dangerous situation for all other students exiting vehicles.  

The faculty and I invite you to our Cunniff Open House which will take place from  6:30 - 8:00 pm on September 28.  We will convene in the cafeteria for a brief “Welcome”.  Teachers will then host two sessions for parents.  The first session will run from 6:50 - 7:20 and will be repeated from 7:25 - 7:55.  This will enable families, with more than one child at Cunniff, to attend sessions for each of their children.   Additionally, we hope you will stop by the Main Lobby where we will have tables set up for Extended Day, PTO and School Site Council.  The Watertown Free Public Library will also be available to issue library cards for any families wishing to make use of this resource.

Our first PTO meeting took place on Tuesday, September 13 from 7:00 - 8:00 pm in our library. Over 30 Cunniff parents attended and we hope this turnout is reflective of future meetings.  Our first School Site Council meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 20 from 6:00 - 7:00 pm, in my office.  

Please visit the updated Cunniff School calendar which you can access on our Cunniff School website.  This calendar includes dates relevant to events and holidays which are part of our school year.  Mark your calendars for School Photos which will take place on Friday, October 14th.  Details to follow.

The District has been transitioning to PowerSchool, a student information system. This will include a parent portal account that will enable families to access student information with greater ease.  It is my goal, during the next month, to provide future parent communication via email, with minimal paper distribution from the Main Office.  I will alert families, once this process is complete and once I am able to pull a Cunniff family email group from PowerSchool.

Enjoy the month!


Mena Ciarlone

Cunniff School Principal

                                                                                                                    August August 16, 2016

Dear Cunniff Families,

I hope this letter finds you enjoying summer, well-rested and looking forward to the start of another school year.   

We have been working throughout the summer months for the reopening of school and this includes the hiring of several new staff members.  Please join me in welcoming Ms. Jennifer Park who will be teaching third grade.  Ms. Rosemary Ward will be Cunniff music teacher and Mrs. Allison Lucas will be the Cunniff art teacher.  We have hired an additional half-time Special Educator who will also act as Team Chair.  This candidate is currently moving through Human Resources.  Eva Gerena will be working with our Kindergarten students as they begin learning the Spanish language.Each of these teachers brings skills and experiences which we feel will maximize opportunities for teaching and learning in our school.

We are currently preparing for your child’s first month of school which will set the foundation for a successful school year.  This includes plans for tiered instruction at all grade levels.  

During the next month, details will follow, regarding a school-wide focus which will support

Inquiry-based thematic projects.

The first day of school begins on Wednesday, September 7th at 8:15 and ends at 2:30. Staff members will be assigned Morning Duty outdoors from 8:05 - 8:15.  Students should not arrive earlier, since the school grounds will not be monitored.  On September 7th, we ask that all students convene outside at the following locations where they will be greeted by faculty:

Grade 1:    Path side door adjacent to the cemetery

Grade 2:    Cunniff middle Warren Street door

Grade 3 and

2-3 multiage:   Cunnff Cove entrance facing Warren Street

Grades 4, 5

and Learning Support: Front Main Entrance door

In the event of rain, students will enter via the locations above.

Please note that PK and Kindergarten students have been assigned appointments for small group visits on September 7.  This information can be found in a letter sent home dated August 1st.  Students should enter by way of the Cunniff Courtyard located in the rear of the school.

The Cunniff lunch schedule for the coming year will be the following:

Grades PK-K,K and 1:     11:00 - 11:30

Grades 2, 2-3 and 3:        11:35 - 12:05

GRADES 4 and 5:            12:20 -12:50

Extended Day begins on September 7th for students in grades 1-5 and September 9th for PK and K students.  

The Cunniff continues its commitment to building good reading habits in students.  I hope that students have taken some time, during the summer months, to enjoy a good book.  We continue to accept photos which show students taking time to read for pleasure throughout the summer.  These photos can be sent to  mena.ciarlone@watertown.k12.ma.us .  We will be posting these photos on the main lobby bulletin board.

For additional information including the school calendar, registration information etc., please visit the Cunniff School website: https://sites.google.com/a/watertown.k12.ma.us/cunniff/ .

Enjoy the last few weeks of vacation. The faculty and I look forward to welcoming Cunniff families on September 7th.  Upon arrival, please take a moment to enjoy the continued improvements to our landscape as well as the Welcome Back messages shared by faculty.


Mena Ciarlone

Cunniff School Principal