Letter from the Principal

Archived Letters

                                                                                                                        October 15

Dear Cunniff Families,

The Fun Run & Walk was a tremendous success and a wonderful experience for Cunniff students.  They enjoyed contributing 40 minutes of their time running or walking under clear blue skies.  No doubt, this experience will hold fond memories for them.  Special thanks to Cunniff parent Lindi DeLorio and her Fun Run team  for coordinating the largest fundraiser for Cunniff.  Special thanks also to Cunniff Physical Education teacher Marianne Cameron for running each of the 6 sessions on Friday.  Amazing effort!  

Tomorrow (Monday, October 16) school districts will receive the MCAS 2.0 assessment and accountability results. The results will become public mid-week.  Shortly thereafter, if your child took the MCA 2.0 in the spring, you will be receiving the results.   In planning for MCAS administration in the spring of 2018, all students in grades 3,4 and 5 will be taking the computer-based test as opposed to paper-based.  

Wednesday is an early-release day with a 12:15 dismissal.  Lunch will be served and there is Extended Day.

This week, October team meetings will take place at Cunniff.  I will be meeting with grade level teams in order to discuss literacy assessment data that has been collected during the past month.  Additionally, we will spend a portion of the time sharing mini lessons and center activities that teams have utilized during the first month of school.  Team meetings give us an opportunity to check in on how well students are doing individually, collectively and in small groups.  The faculty and I look forward to this opportunity each month.

Teachers are also finalizing goals (Student Learning and Professional Practice) for the school year.  As the building principal,  my personal Student Learning Goal is to make at least two classroom visits per day which include recorded observations.  I look forward to these visits each day.

On Tuesday (October 17) Dr. Galdston will host an hour-long Meet & Greet at Cunniff.  This will take place in the Cunniff Library from 8:30 - 9:30.  This meeting serves as an important component of her entry plan into our District.  We hope you can stop by.

In my last letter, I was hoping to encourage interested parents/guardians to think about membership to School Site Council.  The following five parents have come forward and each will be voted in at our next PTO meeting which will take place on Wednesday, November 8th at 7:00pm.  Listed below, is a short bio submitted by each candidate.  

Thomas Beggan

For the last 22 years, Tom has worked for the post office as a supervisor of customer service.  He currently works at our Waltham facility.  Tom has been been married to his wife Kathy for the last 12 years and they reside in Watertown with their 5 children.  Four are in the Watertown School System - three are at the Cunniff and one graduated last year from the Cunniff and is enjoying the Watertown Middle School.  Tom’s thirty two year old daughter Amie, from his first marriage, also resides with them.  Tom sits on the board of Watertown Housing. He has coached Basketball at the Boys and Girls Club and is an active member of St. Patrick’s Parish.

Brandt Brisson

Brandt and his wife, Tina, have two children in the Watertown Public Schools.  Jack, a tie loving, sax playing fifth grader and Dana, a fashion forward, art loving second grader.   The Brissons have lived in Watertown for 11 years.  Jack and Dana have attended Cunniff since Pre-K.  Brandt has been a volunteer for Boston Partners in Education’s Power Lunch program since 2008 and is a firm believer in the positive impact a good quality education can have on a child’s life.  Brandt is seeking to join the Site Council to help keep the Cunniff an amazing place for kids to learn and grow and to ensure its success for generations of children to follow.  Brandt is currently a Vice President/Systems Project Leader at Brown Brothers Harriman in Boston and has been in the financial service industry for the past 20 years.

Pete Caron

Pete is a parent of two Cunniff students (Grade 3 and Kindergarten) and one future Cunniff students (age 2).  Pete has worked as a technology consultant in the greater Boston area since 2002 and moved to Watertown in 2006.  He looks forward to joining the Cunniff Site Council during a time of exciting change in the Watertown Public Schools as we embark upon a building modernization and revitalization process.  Peter hopes to be a resource to the building principal in her efforts to continually support faculty and the delivery of the best education possible for each of our students.  Pete believe that a strong Cunniff Community will be a valuable asset to our school and the District as we face the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Jessica Middlebrook

Jessica has one child in Pre-K at Cunniff, and an almost two year old coming up the ranks.  Jessica is a Behavior Specialist for Cambridge Public Schools as well as a licensed School Adjustment Counselor with experience working in both general education and Special Education settings. Jessica is excited about the opportunity to work with the Cunniff School community in order to continue to develop a plan for the school that encompasses high academic standards, a focus on equity of access and social justice, and a strong social-emotional foundation for all students.

Kellie Spillane

Kellie is the parent of two Cunniff students.  Allison is in grade 4 and Kaitlin is in grade 3.  Kellie is a Reading teacher at the Watertown Middle School.  Her husband is an educator in the Watertown Public Schools as well.  Kellie would like to give back to the school that has helped her two children  thrive for the past five years.

We look forward to voting in all five parents on November 8th!

Joseph Lampman, Coordinator of Health, PE and Wellness is currently looking for a few parents to serve on our district-wide wellness committee.  The Watertown Wellness Committee recommends, reviews and helps to advise on policies and issues surrounding wellness in the Watertown Public Schools.  Members can include: students, parents, faculty, administrators, and community representatives.  Meetings will take place on four Wednesdays (11/1, 1/3, 2/7, 3/7) from 4:30PM - 6:00PM.  If interested, please contact Joe Lampman at joseph.lampman@watertown.k12.ma.us .

I close with a photo of Ms. York's Kindergarten students practicing letter formation using colored gel bags and a second photo of the the Fun Run team!  

   Gel Letters - Center       Fun Run Team! 

With warm regards,

Mena Ciarlone, Cunniff Principal

Dear Cunniff Families,    

The Cunniff School Site Council is seeking two parent representatives. Lisa Hayward and James Cairns will be stepping down.   The establishment of School Councils is a requirement of all public schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The role of School Site Council members consists of the following:  

  1. Advise the Principal in the identification of the educational needs of the students;  

  2. Advise the Principal in the review of the annual school budget; and

  3. Advise the Principal in the formulation of a School Improvement Plan.

The School Site Council will meet at least once each quarter.  In order to meet the needs of faculty and parents/guardians on the Council, meeting time will be determined by the members and this will include the possibility of before or after school and evening times.  If you are interested in becoming a member or exploring the idea further, please contact me at: mena.ciarlone@watertown.k12.ma.us.  I look forward to hearing from you.

The Cunniff Fun Run & Walk fundraiser has begun!  This fundraiser will take place on Friday, October 13th, during the school day.  We are looking for volunteers to help out.    If you are interested, please email Lindi Delorio at: jivejunction1940@yahoo.com

The Fun Run and Walk promotes health and community building.  We are already off to a great start and have raised $2660.00 to date.  Way to go Cunniff students and families!  Our first goal is to have every family register.  If you have not yet registered your child/children, you can do so by visiting:   https://www.thegetmovincrew.com   Team up as a family and make the most of this fitness fundraiser!    

This fundraiser will be the PTO’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Our goal is to raise $10,000.  The proceeds raised, will in turn go back to the school to support enrichment activities, purchase classroom supplies, cover field trips and much more.  

The Destination Imagination Instant Challenge Event will take place on Thursday, October 5th in the Hosmer cafeteria at 6pm. It will be a time for parents and children to do some fun instant challenges and learn more about the Destination Imagination program.  The Destination Imagination program is a fun, hands-on system of learning that fosters students’ creativity, courage and curiosity through open-ended academic Challenges in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), fine arts and service learning. Participants learn patience, flexibility, persistence, ethics, respect for others and their ideas, and the collaborative problem solving process.  For more information visit www.destinationimagination.org  and see the attached flier.

Destination Imagination.pdf 

The Watertown Fire Department is hosting an Open House on Saturday, October 14 from 9:00 AM -2:00 PM.  Please see the attached flier for additional information.    WFD Open House 

If you have not returned the PowerSchool Data Sheet sent home last week, please update and correct any contact information that needs to be changed and have your child return the form to his/her teacher.  Once we receive this information, we will be able to make the necessary updates in PowerSchool.  

A reminder that there is no school next Monday, October 9  in honor of Columbus Day.  Additionally, Wednesday, October 18 is an early-release day with a 12:15 dismissal.  Lunch will be served and there is Extended Day.

We ask you, as our partners in your child’s /children’s education, to help support  good reading habits at home.  Independent reading should be a pleasurable experience and we all know that the greater the proficiency, the more independent and curious students will become as learners.   Please see the attached photo of Ms. Cifrino reinforcing three ways to get to know a good book with her second grade students:  Read the pictures.  Read the words.  Retell the story.   MsCifrinoGr2 

Enjoy the week!

With warm regards,

Mena Ciarlone, Cunniff School Principal

                                                                                                                                        September 17, 2017                                                                                                                                      

Dear Cunniff Families,

The upcoming week is a busy one! We are looking forward to our Open House on Tuesday evening - September 19th. It will take place from 6:00 – 8:00pm.  Parents and guardians will have an opportunity to visit tables featured outside in the Main Lobby from 6:00 – 6:30 pm.  This display will include PTO/School Site Council, Extended Day, Food For Thought Program, SEPAC, Parent-Child Home Program for Preschoolers and Toddlers.  At 6:30pm, we will convene in the café and classroom presentations will follow beginning at 7:00 pm.  Please see the attached document for additional details.


A reminder that Wednesday, September 20th is an early-release day with a 12:15 dismissal.  Lunch will be served and there is Extended Day.   

Enjoy the week!

With warm regards,

Mena Ciarlone, Cunniff Principal


                                                                                                                                         September 10, 2017

Dear Cunniff Families,


I hope this letter finds students over the jitters that naturally come with the first few days of school and looking forward to the upcoming week.  Teachers have spent the past week introducing and practicing important routines that will enable students to meet with success when participating in whole group, small group and individual activities.   As I traveled around the school each day, it was wonderful to see the renewed energy that manifests itself in students and staff when a new school year begins.  

 We have started the school year with a model which will enable some co-teaching to take place throughout the day and in each classroom. Initial conversations regarding co-teaching began last spring.  Classroom teachers will be working closely with Special Educators, Reading Specialists and English as a Second Language Teachers.  Co-teaching pairs have been created based on student placement.   By having teaching teams in each classroom, it is our hope that we will be able to provide students with tiered instruction which is a match to their individual  and collective needs.    You will meet the team assigned to your child’s classroom during our Open House which will take place on Tuesday, September 19th from 6:30 - 8:00 pm.  

The excitement of a new school year includes watching each child’s independence blossom and grow to new heights.  Students will learn new concepts and skills and they will be exposed to a variety of challenges which will encourage them to work to their potential and challenge their thinking.  A district-wide plan is in place which will  provide teachers with a standards-based robust curriculum, professional development, and a support structure that enables each of us to grow as educators.  Additionally, Cunniff teachers have taken on roles as mentors, coaches, LAB teachers and teacher leaders.   All of this will support teaching and learning throughout the school year.   This is an exciting time to be in our District!

Dr. Galdston visited Cunniff twice last week.  She was impressed with our Cunniff Gardens in the Courtyard and also with the Cunniff landscape.  I want to take a moment to thank Judy Fallows, Carolyn Pipitone and Maria Penaggio-Phillips for consistently supporting projects which improve our landscape and provide opportunities for teaching and learning outdoors!

The Cunniff Handbook has gone through a few revisions during the summer and  it is posted on the HomePage of the Cunniff website.  Please take some time to read through it with your child/ren.   I hope that this handbook will help to familiarize you with the practices and procedures of the Cunniff  and your support in following these guidelines will help us to implement our values and support our goals.  I am asking that all families take some time to complete this process during the next week and to return the sign-off.

Tomorrow, students will take home a packet containing several sign of forms which require parent/guardian signatures.  Theses documents are: WPS Technology and Internet Acceptable Use Agreement, Permission for Student Publication on the Internet, and Acknowledgement that you have read the Handbook with your child/ren.  These forms are due on Friday, September 15th.  Thank you for your help with this.

On Friday, a fire drill initiated by the Watertown Fire Department, took place at Cunniff.  This is one of several drills students will practice throughout the school year.

On Tuesday evening (September 12), our first PTO meeting will take place in the Cunniff library at 7:00 pm.  We invite you to attend since his is a great opportunity to hear first-hand how the partnership between home and school is anchored by our PTO and to meet Co-Presidents Lauren Stefano and  Lee Haley.  We hope to see you there!

In planning ahead, a reminder that Wednesday, September 20th is an early-release day with a 12:15 dismissal for students.  Lunch will be served and there is Extended Day.  A Principal’s Coffee for Pre K and Kindergarten families is scheduled for Friday, September 29th right after drop-off.  This will take place in the cafe.  

Please visit our Cunniff website often as it will be updated regularly to reflect important  dates and events taking place in our school.

The Cunniff flag will be lowered tomorrow in remembrance of the victims and heroes of 9-11. 

 Thank you for being our partners in your child’s education!


With warm regards,

Mena Ciarlone, Cunniff Principal

                                                                                                                                            August 25, 2017

Dear Cunniff Families,

I hope this letter finds you enjoying summer and looking forward to the opening of school on Tuesday, September 5th.  The faculty and I will greet returning and new students and families outdoors - weather permitting, beginning at 8:05. The school day begins at 8:15 and dismissal takes place at 2:30.  Please note that PK and Kindergarten students have been assigned appointments for small group visits on September 5.  This information can be found in a letter issued on June 21st.   Before School and Extended Day begin on September 5th for students in grades 1-5 and September 7th for PK and Kindergarten students.

There are a few changes that I would like to make you aware of regarding the 2017-2018 academic year.  I will begin with staffing changes:

Several new faculty members will be joining our team at Cunniff.   We welcome  Ms. Amy Kirsch who will be co-teaching along with Ms. Lauren Kale in the Learning Support Program.  Amy holds a Masters of Education degree from Endicott College.  Amy has worked as a fellowship teacher at the Winthrop Elementary School in Hamilton, MA.    Ms. Laura Andreola will be joining the Kindergarten team.  Laura holds a Master of Arts with a major in Early Childhood from Tufts University.  She has completed a year-long internship at the Benjamin Brown School in Somerville.   Ms. Maria Koehler will be joining us as the FLES teacher and she will be teaching Spanish to students in Kindergarten and first grade. Maria has completed a Bachelor of Arts degree from Villanova University. She has worked as a long-term (FLES Spanish teacher) substitute at the Devotion School in Brookline.  Ms Isabel Stevens will be joining us part-time in her role as neuropsychologist.  Isabel has been working at  the Integrated PreSchool for the past eight years.   Additionally, Special Educator Andrea Morse has decided to stay home with her newborn son for a year.  The position has been posted and I am currently moving a candidate through the hiring process.

With regard to number of classrooms per grade level and class size, I believe that we are opening in good shape.  We are running a Prekindergarten classroom with a cohort of 18 students.  There will be three Kindergarten classrooms, and three first grade classrooms each opening with enrollment at or under 20 students.  In grades 2 and 3, we will be opening with two second grade classrooms and three third grade classrooms.  Enrollment in grades 2 and 3 is at or under 22 students.  In grades 4 and 5, we will run two sections of each with enrollment at or under 24 students.  

I am happy to announce that we will open with music and art rooms in place.  This will make it easier for Ms. Ward and Ms. Lucas to deliver instruction without having to transport materials on a cart.  Additionally, we have added a mobile partition in the cafeteria which will allow us the flexibility of sectioning the cafeteria when needed during lunchtime.

Some professional development has taken place during the summer months and I invite you to please take a moment to read the newsletter issued by Assistant Superintendent Dr. McGuinness which is attached.  This will provide you with an overview of the curriculum and instructional practices we are focusing on throughout the District.  Additionally, we will be moving forward with the beginning stages of co-teaching at each grade level.  Grade level teams have been assigned and these teams will plan and deliver tiered instruction to students.

It is our goal to improve instructional practices from one year to the next.

You will find instructions regarding entrance and dismissal routes listed below:

Grades PK and K Cunniff Courtyard entrance doors

Grade 1   Path side door adjacent to the cemetery

(except Ms. Breen’s class)

Grade 2    Cunniff middle Warren Street door

Grade 3 and Cunnff Cove entrance facing Warren Street

Ms. Breen’s first grade

Grades 4, 5, Front Main Entrance door

and Learning Support

In the event of rain, students will enter via the locations above and proceed to their lockers or cubbies outside of their classrooms.

A reminder that classroom teachers begin each school day with a morning meeting.  During this time, students are given a preview of the day’s schedule.   Please help your child get to school on time so that s/he can be part of this very important introduction to the school day.

The Cunniff values its commitment to building good reading habits in students. WeI hope that students have taken some time, during the summer months, to enjoy a good book.  We continue to accept photos which show students reading 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.

Our Cunniff Open House will take place on Tuesday, September 19th from 6:30 - 8:00pm.  This is a wonderful opportunity to meet your child/ren’s team of teachers and to hear about t the school year that lies ahead.  Please note that Wednesday, September 20th is an early-release day with a 12:15 dismissal for students.  Lunch will be served and there is Extended Day.

The Cunniff website has been updated.  For additional information regarding the Principal’s Update, PK, Kindergarten and grade 1 Teddy Bear Picnic, the PK, K staggered start schedule, the school calendar, registration information, Survival Guides for Families, the Handbook, and much more, please visit the Cunniff School website: https://sites.google.com/a/watertown.k12.ma.us/cunniff/ .  I encourage families to familiarize themselves with the resources and links provided on the Cunniff website.  This includes a link to the PTO site as well.

A special thank you to Cunniff parents/guardians who contributed to the care of the Cunniff gardens surrounding the school during the summer months.  It is greatly appreciated and we value your partnership.

Enjoy the last few weeks of vacation. The faculty, staff and I look forward to welcoming Cunniff students and families on September 5th!


Mena Ciarlone, Cunniff Principal

Mena Ciarlone,
Sep 17, 2017, 3:33 PM
Mena Ciarlone,
Aug 25, 2017, 1:56 PM