Volume 5 - Issue 4 December 20, 2019
Happy Holidays! I can’t believe it’s December already. I hope everyone has a chance to spend time with family and friends over the upcoming break. December is always a busy month both in preparing for the budget season and trying to make sense of weather forecasts that predict 2 inches to 2 feet of snow for the same storm. The night before our most recent storm I was at the market, and a parent asked, “Do you think we will have school tomorrow?” then wished me good luck as her son enthusiastically advocated for cancellation. So how do superintendents in the region make this decision that will bring great joy to some and cause great stress for others who may not have childcare and can’t go to work?
The decision to close schools is not an easy one, and I can assure you that meteorology is not a course offered in superintendent preparation programs. Ultimately, safety rules the day. The safety of our 4,896 students and 400+ staff is the top priority and is what I am often thinking about at 3 a.m. when a storm is moving in. The timing of a storm always adds a complex variable to these decisions. Consideration must be given to the current conditions of roads, sidewalks, bus stops and school grounds and what is predicted for dismissal time conditions. Other analytics include:
- Weather and radar reports
- Personal observation of road conditions from my window (yes, I live here in NA) and I will often get in my AWD 2012 Subaru for a drive to check out conditions
- Input from the DPW and NAPD who are actually on the roads
- Information on storm operations from the DPW supervisor (sand, salt, plowing, sidewalks, contractors, etc.)
- Input from Dr. Mealey, Assistant Superintendent who oversees operations and transportation
- Consultation with the bus company
- Collaboration with neighboring superintendents in Andover, Lawrence, Methuen, and Haverhill
After considering all of the above, a decision is made and communicated via Twitter, email, telephone, Boston news stations, and the district website. As you can see, school cancellation is never a hasty call, and after all of these factors are taken into consideration, a storm can still "go out to sea."
As we enter budget season, the Leadership Team is working on a recommended budget for presentation to the School Committee that is aligned with the objectives and initiatives set forth in the strategic plan. The Superintendent’s Recommended Budget will be presented to the School Committee on January 9, the School Committee will hold a Public Hearing on January 16, and the School Committee budget adoption vote will occur on February 6, 2020. I encourage you to follow the budget process by attending School Committee meetings or watching the meetings on local cable channels (Comcast 99 or Verizon 28). Videos of School Committee meetings are also available to stream from the North Andover Cam website. Budget documents will be available on the district website and will be linked to School Committee agendas. You can sign up to receive School Committee agendas via email by subscribing on the Town Website.
Happy New Year 2020!
did you know
Beloved Thomson Lunch Monitor Retires at age 90
Shirley Kern has been a noon attendant at the Thomson School for the past 25 years, and because she is turning 91 in a couple of weeks, she believes it's time to retire. Students were on hand to shower her with flowers and gifts during her last day on the job, and it's clear by the overwhelming response that she will be greatly missed. Dr. Gilligan, who at one time served as Principal of the Thomson School, remembers her as a remarkable person who had a positive influence on the Thomson School students and staff. Please click here to see the story that appeared on Channel 7 News.
Beyond the Classroom
With the three school cancellations in December, we have used up our traditional “snow days”. For any future snow days, we will be using our Beyond the Classroom assignments. This information can be found on the North Andover Public School website under Beyond the Classroom. Please check out the FAQs to help answer any questions you may have.
Teachers have posted assignments in the event of a school cancellation. Work is not due the next day; students have time to get the work done. Teachers will correct the work, and it will be counted toward the student’s final grade for the course.
Should we anticipate a school cancellation, we will send a reminder and instructions on how to access the website.
NAPS Music Program Recognized as the Best in Music Education
The North Andover Public Schools music program was recognized last year by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation as one of only 623 school districts from across the country to receive the Best Communities for Music Education distinction. North Andover Middle School Band Director, Chris Nelson, applied for this recognition and was on hand at the December 5, 2019 School Committee Meeting to present it to members of the School Committee and Superintendent Gregg Gilligan.
Pictured are SC Chair, David Torrisi, Dr. Gilligan, Chris Nelson, NAMA VP Natalie Kissel, and SC Vice Chair Helen Pickard.
North Andover High School Winter Chorus Choir
Competitive Grant Helps North Andover Schools Cut Food Waste
North Andover students from the Kittredge, Thomson and Middle Schools have been working hard to cut their school's trash by 30 percent by removing compostable food and converting it back to soil. Jane O'Connell, a mom and member of the Town's Sustainability Committee, applied for the highly competitive Sustainable Materials Recovery Grant from the MA Dept. of Environmental Protection, and two years later the district was awarded $30,000. The program has enjoyed great success and support from the students, cafeteria workers, and custodians. To learn more about this recycling program and the composting process, please click on this link to Wicked Local.
Academic Achievement and Endeavors
The 2nd Annual Massachusetts STEM Week took place from October 21 to 25. It is organized by the Executive Office of Education and the STEM Advisory Council in partnership with the state’s 9 Regional STEM Networks. It is a statewide effort to boost the interest, awareness and ability for all learners to envision themselves in STEM education and employment opportunities and complement the formal instruction happening in the Commonwealth beyond STEM week. Several North Andover Schools hosted STEM Week events with the support of grant funding from the Northeast Regional STEM Network.
North Andover High School students participated in a Women in STEM Career Day. Keynote Speaker, Amanda Deveny-McNamar, Senior Manager of the System Test Department for Integrated Defense Systems at Raytheon, kicked off the session by sharing her story. She encouraged students to listen to the voice that inspired them to come to the event, whether it was their own or someone else who thought it was a good idea. She reminded them to believe in themselves and keep an open mind as their futures are full of possibilities. Following the keynote, students had the opportunity to visit with fifteen local women to learn more about specific jobs and the challenges of being a female in STEM fields. Over 100 NAHS students attended the event and enjoyed the opportunity to learn about various careers. The female STEM professionals were impressed by the passion students shared and the questions they asked. We look forward to expanding the event next year!
North Andover Middle School 7th grade Applied Math Science teachers used STEM week to jump-start a new technology - 3-D printers. After winning a $500 grant to purchase a 3-D printer, the teachers turned to a new local business, SOGO Action, for recommendations. Not only did owners Tim and Bill Cleary guide the team in selecting a user-friendly model, but they also donated two additional 3-D printers and supplies, set up the new printers and ran a professional development session so the AMS teachers were ready to implement the new technology with their students. Students are looking forward to upcoming design challenges where they’ll get to put their creativity and spatial intelligence into action!
At the Anne Bradstreet Early Childhood Center, the Bulldogs and their families enjoyed a night of STEM activities. They became engineers while participating in Keva Plank, Lego and Magnatile building challenges. As computer scientists, they used their problem-solving and analytical thinking skills to program a Code-N-Go Robot Mouse. Families built rekenrek bracelets and used it to practice their counting skills. Students helped JiJi the penguin get across the screen in ST Math, an online visual instructional program used by NAPS students in grades K-5. They combined their literacy and math skills as they read Bedtime Math and worked together to solve related math problems. Students and their families had a blast engaging in a fun night together!
Parents and children at ABECC partipate in Keva Plank activity
SOGO owner trains NAMS teachers in 3-D printing
Racquel Bruton describes her duties as a Sr. Manager at Biogen
Medical Technologist Karen Melota presents to NAHS students
Atkinson Elementary School by Erin O'Loughlin, Acting Principal
Atkinson School is thrilled to be featured in the December edition of the Knightly News. I feel honored to be part of the Atkinson staff, who work tirelessly to ensure that they are providing the best education to our 350 students. Our students are consistently working to achieve goals set within the classroom and to accomplish individual goals that they have set. We continue to work on exhibiting RAISE values in all facets of our school. We started our year with an assembly to gather all staff and students together. The students shared their RAISE cheer with me. We had a pep rally where our own Mr. Dimauro (Coach) led both the high school and Atkinson students through a question and answer session and some cheering. We continue to discuss how we can receive and give kindness. On National Kindness Day (November 13th), Mrs. Connolly, our adjustment counselor, shared a moving video and talked with each grade level about the importance of being kind. Last, but not least, we had our first annual community potluck event. We are so proud of our diversity at Atkinson School, and our potluck allowed us to celebrate our diverse family backgrounds and our shared community goals. We are excited to give a glimpse into the hard work and fun that is happening within our school community!
ST Math - This year Atkinson School has been awarded a grant to implement ST Math. ST Math is a program that does not use language or symbols and requires students to use critical thinking skills to solve problems. The students have been enjoying the challenging games which help them explore non-routine problems and build number sense. ST Math aligns with our Eureka math curriculum, and teachers are able to use ST Math puzzle talks to help further explain concepts taught in Eureka. With visual learning, our students are better equipped to tackle unfamiliar math problems, recognize patterns, and build conceptual understanding. “Ji-Ji”, is an animated penguin that appears in every problem. Ji-Ji is posted in our classrooms, and the students love to look for Ji-Ji when logged into ST Math. Our teachers are able to use ST Math as another form of accurate assessment to see where their students are in their mathematics learning. First-grade students use ST Math 60 minutes per week, and grades two through five work on ST Math for 90 minutes per week. This program reinforces our goal of engaging students in a way that lets them lead their own learning and gain confidence within the challenge. There are many languages spoken by our students at Atkinson School, and because there are no language barriers within the program, all students can access it without limitations.
Diabetes Awareness Month -Two Atkinson students, Kathryn Campobasso and Morgan Kirby, have diabetes and wanted to be sure their classmates understand what diabetes is and how it can be treated. These student, along with their friend Leigh Cohne, and with the approval of Mrs. Fuller, Atkinson School Nurse, put together a PowerPoint presentation to share with their fellow students. The three students created the presentation on their own time and then shared it with third, fourth and fifth graders during lunch blocks. Not only did the students show the PowerPoint, but they spoke about their personal experiences and allowed time for their peers to ask questions. The students were comfortable speaking in front of their peers, and they showed courage talking about a personal experience. I am so proud of these girls!
Pep Rally - The music was pumping in the Atkinson cafeteria as the Scarlet Knight football players and cheerleaders entered. The students think of the high school athletes as professional players. Our PE teacher, Mr. Dimauro, also known as Coach, conducted a pep rally full of energy and spirit. Selected students were able to ask questions of the athletes including: Are there academic requirements to play a sport? If you don’t practice RAISE values, do you get kicked off the team? Has there been a girl on the football team? Has there ever been a boy on the cheer team? How many back handsprings can you do in a row? Can you hear the fans or are you so focused on the game, you can’t? What’s the best part of being part of a team? Has a player ever done a Gronk Spike/dance after a score? Are there players with disabilities on the team?
After the Scarlet Knights answered questions, Atkinson students chanted the RAISE cheer, and the high school athletes voted that third grade was the best! The pep rally was a great way to bridge together the high school and Atkinson Elementary School. The elementary students look up to the high school students. We have frequently discussed our RAISE values and our mission, #RAISENation. We have discussed that no matter where we are and who we are with, we are RAISENation, always displaying RAISE values.
Community Potluck - Students and families gathered after school in November for the first annual Community Potluck. The crowd consisted of 200 students and families who enjoyed entertainment from Irish step dancers (North Andover School of Dance), Pakistani dancers, books read in a variety of different languages, art projects including an ancestry map, and delicious foods from around the world.
The staff worked hard to plan this event which was spearheaded by two of our fourth grade teachers, Mrs. Amisson and Ms. Rivenburg. So many stepped up to contribute. Atkinson’s teachers, teaching assistants and other staff are amazing!
Atkinson School is a true melting pot where 30 different languages are spoken and over 40 countries are represented. Families were encouraged to bring a favorite dish that represented their culture. Atkinson staff decorated the school with flags from all over the world, prepared signs illustrating the
multitude of languages spoken by our families and organized buffet tables to serve everyone the delicious spread. There was a wide array of food from Italian biscotti to Brazilian Brigadeiro, ham and cheese pastalitos, Australian sausage rolls, Dominican coconut candy, grilled plantain, Irish soda bread, South African umngqushu le nyama and many more selections. The atmosphere encouraged families to mingle with each other and truly celebrate the school’s diversity.
This event bridged community groups including peer leaders from North Andover Middle School. These NAMS students who were under the direction of Ms. Blaney, volunteered their time to direct traffic, greet students and their families and offer assistance to the Atkinson staff.
Overall, the Community Potluck Night event facilitated conversations among families in our school and provided for learning and fun - we already can’t wait for next year!
What's Happening at Stevens Memorial Library?
In Town during the school holidays? Remember it's Staycation at the Library, with movies shown at matinee (2:00 pm) and evening (6:30 pm) times different days. Drop-in for a story time for the younger ages or take advantage of the many board games during a visit. Calendars are available in the Children’s Room, or check the Library website’s calendar.
If traveling, check out a travel activity bag in the Children's Room or plan a family story time with audiobooks while driving. And, remember you can take a stack of books to read without filling your suitcase using Overdrive.
The Library has special holiday hours. It closes at Noon on December 24th, Christmas Eve, and is closed December 25th, Christmas Day. The Library closes at 5:00 pm on December 31st, New Year’s Eve and is closed on January 1st, New Year’s Day.
And in this season, when the weather or travel conditions are questionable, check the Library is open before venturing out. The Library updates its website, Facebook, Twitter and telephone message as soon as any unexpected changes are known.
Have a safe and fun winter. And, Happy 2020 with all it will bring!
SCHOOL COMMITTEE CORNER
As I write this column, the snow is coming down, school has been cancelled, I am working from home, and my two kids are begging to watch the last Star Wars movie, “Episode VIII - The Last Jedi.” The final installment of the wildly popular film arrives in theaters this weekend, and we have tickets. We’ve been watching each of the movies again over the last few weeks, and Jack and Ella are itching to complete the series before we go and see “The Rise of Skywalker.” I want to watch it again, too, but my day job and school commitments beckon. Maybe later this afternoon.
I think we all wish we could “use the Force” to prevent these snow days from disrupting our work week and daily routine. I know that our superintendent wishes he had Jedi-like powers to foresee how much snow we are going to receive and when we are going to get it. Unfortunately, Dr. Gilligan doesn’t possess the same future-seeing power that Yoda has and must rely on weather forecasts just like the rest of us. It’s an inexact science at best, and postponing or cancelling school is a judgment call that weighs heavily on Dr. Gilligan. And while today’s decision disrupts our lives to some degree, the well-being of the 4,900 kids in our schools is the paramount factor when he makes that call. Getting safely to and from school, whether by bus, car or foot, is really the only thing that matters. Let’s try to remember that before we all run to Facebook or Twitter.
Speaking of accurately predicting forecasts, this is the time of year when the school committee takes its deep dive into revenue and expenditure expectations for the next fiscal year and works hand-in-hand with the administration to develop a fiscally sound budget that meets the needs of all
by David Torrisi Chair
our students. However, much like the aforementioned snow predictions, it’s not always easy. Revenue estimates are created by the town manager and are notoriously on the low end of the scale. It’s one reason that the town is sitting on more than $17 million in cash reserves. Budget expenditures are equally tricky because we don’t know the exact number or needs of the students who arrive in our classrooms in September when we approve our budget in the winter months. We have a moral and financial obligation to service each and every one of North Andover’s children, and we do the best job we can even though our per pupil spending average ranks among the lowest in the Commonwealth. Looking at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, you can see that North Andover is the tenth lowest school district in the state for in-district expenditures per pupil (http://profiles. doe. mass.edu/statereport/ppx.aspx). Dr. Gilligan will present his recommended budget on January 9, and a public hearing will be held on January 16. We are scheduled to vote on our final FY2021 budget on February 6, and then the Finance Committee will take their turn to review our work and decide what will ultimately be presented at our May Town Meeting. I urge you to pay attention to this process as it unfolds over the next few months and be prepared to advocate for our kids at every step along the way.
Before I attempt to make lunch for two hungry kids, I just want to wish all of you the best at this most special time of the year. No matter what holiday you celebrate, I hope it is filled with peace and love, joy and friendship. For me and my family, that means Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year. And may the Force be with you!
Tweet of the Month
I'd be remiss not to recognize our "Jack of all trades" Ass't Supt Dr Jim Mealey for clearing the front of the Central Office for his co-workers this snowy Tuesday afternoon!
566 Main Street
January 9, 2020
Budget Public Hearing - January 16, 2020