Welcome Back from the Principal

Welcome Back from the Principal
Posted on 08/15/2016
Dear Families,

Welcome back to another exciting school year filled with learning. As a reminder, the first day of school is Tuesday, September 6th, with Kindergarteners starting on Thursday, September 8th. A Welcome Back Coffee for Families is scheduled for Friday, September 9th from 8:30 – 9:30AM. The event will be held in the school library. Some staff will be available to speak with families. If you have any questions regarding student assignments, please go directly to the main office for assistance. Brenda Christie (KO Clerk) will assist you. Otherwise, students are to report to the cafeteria where adults will supervise them. Please review the document (mailed home) regarding building access and student safety.

While the Massachusetts State Standards inform our work, at KO we believe that learning experiences extend beyond the classroom. We work together with families to explore in-depth themes and projects that integrate subject areas. Each grade level has a yearlong project. As a school with a mission grounded in the principles of social justice, we teach students how to respect differences and KO staff are committed to using culturally responsive practices that help to advance student learning. One KO practice is to ground instruction in reading texts that are reflective of our students. KO is also a Responsive Classroom school that has embraced Mindfulness practices. In short, Responsive Classroom is a teaching approach that provides teachers with tools and strategies for creating positive classroom and overall school climate. The approach promotes our students’ academic and social-emotional growth. Mindfulness is a simple form of meditation. Students are taught how to take a moment to focus and reflect – a very important life-long skill to acquire. 2nd grade students will be exposed to the Mindfulness curriculum this fall.

Advancing student learning is a continuing KO priority. Objectives and strategies for school improvement are described in a document called the School Improvement Plan. The plan is being slightly revised this school year and parents will be given the opportunity to provide feedback. Another important component of this plan is continued teacher development. KO teachers will be given ample opportunities to extend and refine their instructional practice to support students’ social, emotional and academic learning. We have had success with the instructional priorities documented in the current plan and many of the instructional practices will be included in the 2016-2017 plan. For example, one important objective of the improvement plan is, “Students will develop more stamina to be successful by having ongoing practice with complex material (texts, questions, problems) in Math, ELA, Social Studies and Science - complex problems include inference/synthesizing. Complex math problems include non-routine (transfer), complex, multi-step tasks.” This objective will carry over to the 2016 School Improvement Plan. The school Improvement Plan, along with others topics, will be discussed at Principal Chats and School Council meetings. School Council meetings are held the 3rd Wednesday of each month from 6 – 7:30PM. Principal Chats are held on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 8:30AM. The dates of these meeting are on the school website. The meetings are open to everyone.

Family involvement is a very important aspect of our school community. Shortly after the start of school, we will be sending home additional information about who to contact to support school events. Neusa DaCosta is the KO Family Liaison. She is always available to support families and respond to questions about our school. Neusa can be reached by phone or email ([email protected], 617.349.6540). Bucky O’Hare is the KO After-School Manager. Bucky can be reached by phone or email (617.349.4469, [email protected]). For the immediate, I’ve attached a flyer that describes how to become a Parent Representative. If you are interested, please contact Sarah Christopher (parent) via email, phone or text ([email protected], 617.797.9540) or fill out the bottom of the attached flyer and either give it to your child’s teacher or bring it to the main office.

I want to remind all families that students are officially late for school at 8:55AM. Students, who arrive before 8:40AM, are to report to the cafeteria. Please do not bring your child to his/her classroom prior to 8:40AM. Teachers are using this time to prepare for the school day. It is absolutely imperative that your child arrives to school on time. If your child will not be taking the school bus, please have your child at school by 8:50AM so that he/she can benefit from the additional 5 minutes to settle in class prior to the morning announcements (made at 8:55AM), and Morning Meeting that starts at 9AM. The Morning Meeting – a component of Responsive Classroom – is a crucial part of the school day. In addition to providing students with an overview of the learning that will occur during the day, teachers use the Morning Meeting to provide students with opportunities to connect with each other in fun and creative ways. Students also have opportunities to role-play social misunderstandings and participate in social discussions grounded in topics that any student can initiate and feel comfortable about participating in – discussions that don’t always require prior exposure to academic content. Over time, students build the mental and moral capacity needed to manage their individual behavior.

In order to promote a healthy school climate, we will send home the School Based Expectations with your child shortly after the school year is underway. The acronym R.O.A.R. is the pillar of these building-based expectations. Your child’s teacher will revisit these expectations in class during the first six weeks of school and model to students what these expectations look like in practice. We will also send home information describing our philosophy about addressing student behavior. To summarize our philosophy, the end result to all unexpected behavior is to provide students with the skills needed to make better behavior choices and restore them to our community. A document describing what R.O.A.R stands for was mailed home. 

Please be sure to fill out and return all emergency forms and paperwork as soon as possible. Include in this paper work all current information as well as your preferred means of contact in the event of an emergency. Maintaining building security is a major priority and we want to ensure that we can contact you in the event of an emergency.

Regarding CORI Checks, the Cambridge Public Schools requires that all parents and guardians who volunteer in classrooms in the school, or who chaperone field trips pass a background check before they engage in these activities. We strongly recommend that all King Open parents, guardians, and caregivers submit a CORI form at the start of the year. A CORI check is good for one year. If you submitted a CORI form during the 2015-2016 school year, it has expired and you must submit a new one for the 2016-2017 academic year. To complete the process, you must fill in the form attached and then bring it along with a government issued photo ID to the King Open office. We will sign off on your form, take a photocopy of your ID and submit it for you. CORI checks can take up to 2 weeks to process, which is why we recommend that you complete it as soon as possible. The district will not make any exceptions for last-minute CORI requests and field trips that lack approved chaperones will be canceled. Again, we strongly encourage that all parents, guardians, and caregivers who think there is even a small chance they may chaperone or volunteer complete a CORI request now. A CORI form has been mailed home.

On behalf of the King Open Staff, I want to again express my sincere appreciation for selecting King Open as the extended learning environment for your child(ren). We value your trust. As always, the successful start of the school year is only the beginning. It is our collective responsibility to communicate with each other so that decisions and practices are grounded in equity and fairness and decisions are made in the best interests of students.

In closing, our role as educators is to provide our students with the skills, intellectual and social capacity to meet the ever-changing demands of today’s society. With the help of our families, KO staff will continue to work tirelessly to maintain a warm, orderly and safe building climate while vigorously taking the necessary steps to close the achievement gap while simultaneously helping students develop a lifelong love of learning.

I have included the documents listed below in a recent mailing to you. Please review and share any relevant information with your child: School Mission Statement, Become a Classroom Representative Flyer, CORI Form, R.O.A.R., Lunch Schedule, and Building Access/Safety Information.

Looking forward to our work together,

Darrell Williams
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