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Peirce evacuated after carbon monoxide leak

Peirce School

UPDATED, Oct. 8: Peirce School was evacuated before noon Friday, Oct. 6, because of a carbon monoxide leak in a storage closet in the basement.

In an email to parents and guardians at 12:20 p.m., Superintendent Kathleen Bodie wrote that the step was taken out of an "abundance of caution."

"While the level of carbon monoxide in the upper floors was below the acceptable range," she wrote, students were moved to the Ed Burns ice rink and would not return to the building while the leak is being repaired.

Patch reported that police said there have been no reports of illness or injury. 

Responding queries from YourArlington Fire Chief Robert Jefferson wrote at 2:29 p.m. that no carbon monoxide has been detected following the evacuation.

He confirmed that acid from a leaking battery had displaced oxygen in the room, causing the carbon monoxide monitor to go off at 9:50 a.m. 

Students were evacuated about 11 p.m., Bodie said Oct. 8.

A police tweet at 11:52 a.m. said closing was a precautionary measure and that the Fire Department and the gas company were on scene evaluating. 

YourArlington newsletter

"Fortunately, the need to evacuate a school does not happen often," Bodie wrote, "but it is important that parents and guardians know that the School Department has in place emergency protocols for these types of situations."

This news announcement was published Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, and updated Oct. 8, to add time of evacuation. Information included in this report from Patch is used with permission.

3 finalists chosen to design revamped Arlington High

State won't support indoor swimming pool effort

Adam Chapdelaine, Kathy Bodie, Jeff Thielman at MSBA on Oct. 3, 2017. / Amy Speare photoAdam Chapdelaine, Kathy Bodie, Jeff Thielman at MSBA on Oct. 3. / Amy Speare photo

UPDATED, Oct. 4: Three firms have been chosen as finalists to design a revamped Arlington High School. They are Arrowstreet  of Boston, Feingold Alexander Architects of Boston and HMFH Architects of Cambridge.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, Superintendent Kathleen Bodie and School Committee Chairman Jeff Thielman represented the AHS Building Committee at the Tuesday, Oct. 3 Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) meeting to choose the designer.

The Arlington High School Building Committee heard the announcement last night.

Last month, six designers submitted proposals to work on the AHS building project. The three that were not selected were Drummey Rosane Anderson (DRA) of Waltham, Flansburgh Associates of Boston and Kaestle Boos Associates of Boxborough and Boston.

Feingold Alexander is the architect for the former Gibbs School project. HMFH designed the Thompson addition. DRA designed the recently completed Stratton School renovation.

The MSBA designer selection committee plans to interview the finalists at its Oct. 24 meeting. The AHS Building Committee expects to hire a designer for the project by the end of October.

A-Pool applies to CPA 

A-Pool, a group of town residents who attended the first AHS Building Committee meeting last December, aiming to include an indoor pool in the school's design, has been rebuffed by the MSBA, but is seeking $20,000 of community-preservation funds.

Appearing at public participation of the Oct. 3 building-committee meeting were Renee Piazza and Kate Radville. They spoke about about having year-round access with a pool that would serve students and the community.

Piazza noted much support and energy at Town Day. "People are excited," she told the committee.

A petition supporting including the group in a feasibility study has 693 signatures as of Oct. 4. 

They noted it is very early in the process.

Thielman said a pool can't be funded by the MSBA, and he suggested applying for money through the Community Preservation Act.

A-Pool has already done that, applying by the Sept. 29 deadline.

Efforts in Winchester,  Wellesley

Radville said A-Pool members have spoken to similar groups in Winchester and Wellesley, where pools are underway. Read this account in the Swellesley Report >> 

Chapdelaine told Piazza and Radville that A-Pool is "on right track" in seeking CPA funding, and suggested also pursuing money via the town's Capital Planning Committee.

"We need to talk again ... [and] look at options," he said.

If Town Meeting next spring approves money for a needs assessment, the funds would be available next July 1.

The available pool in Arlington is at the Boys & Girls Club. Its space does not accommodate all practices for the Arlington High swim team.

Chuck Adams of Skanska, the owner's project manager, said the MSBA has required the building with the pool to be separate from a high school that receives authority money.

Thielman added that the architect chosen by the MSBA cannot add a pool to its design.

During discussion about the three design finalists, the building committee was told to have no contact with anyone connected with those architectural firms.

A lengthy discussion ensued about what questions to ask the candidate firms. Each of the three gets 30 minutes, and Arlington gets three votes.

Committee member Brian Rehrig asked how many issues should be raised at the Oct. 24 meeting in Boston. "Four, five, six," Adams suggested.

Finance subcommittee, communication

The committee voted unanimously to name the following to its finance subcommittee: John Danizio, the schools' chief financial officer; John Cole, chairman of the Permanent Town Building Committee, Chapdelaine and Rehrig.

Amy Speare of the communication subcommittee reported plans for a fact-based blog. Its proposed name, Ponder, drew a few groans.

She said she hope it would discuss the role of design and answer public's queries, such as what a feasibility study is.

Cole asked about the AHS newspaper, which not been in paper from since about 2011. He suggested having students write for the blog.

The committee's next meeting is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7, in the School Committee Room, sixth floor, AHS.

Opinion, Sept. 27: Ready to dive in to support including a pool at new AHS?
Official information about the high school building project 
Feb. 15, 2017: Arlington High School rebuild OK'd for next stage: Is it feasible? 
May 25, 2016: State says Arlington High School rebuild can advance
State Building Authority process >> 

This news summary was published Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, and updated the same day to add details.

2018 merit-scholar semifinalists include 4 from Arlington

School-awards logo

Officials of National Merit Scholarship Corp. have announced the names of about 16,000 Semifinalists in the 63rd annual National Merit Scholarship Program, including four from Arlington.

They are Charlotte J. Bell, Miles Bernhard, Linglong Le and Fiona J. Lessell.

These academically talented high school seniors have an opportunity to continue in the competition for some 7,500 National Merit Scholarships worth more than $32 million that will be offered next spring.

To be considered for a Merit Scholarship® award, semifinalists must fulfill several requirements to advance to finalist. About 90 percent of the semifinalists are expected to attain finalist, and about half of the finalists will win a National Merit Scholarship.

The not-for-profit organization that operates without government assistance was established in 1955 specifically to conduct the annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Scholarships are underwritten by the corporation with its own funds and by about 420 business organizations and higher-education institutions that share goals of honoring the nation’s scholastic champions and encouraging the pursuit of academic excellence.

Steps in the 2018 Competition

About 1.6 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools entered the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2016 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which served as an initial screen of program entrants. The nationwide pool of semifinalists, representing less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors, includes the highest-scoring entrants in each state. The number of semifinalists in a state is proportional to the state’s percentage of the national total of graduating seniors.

To become a finalist, the Semifinalist and his or her high school must submit a detailed scholarship application, in which they provide information about the semifinalist’s academic record, participation in school and community activities, demonstrated leadership abilities, employment, and honors and awards received. A semifinalist must have an outstanding academic record throughout high school, be endorsed and recommended by a high school official, write an essay, and earn SAT scores that confirm the student’s earlier performance on the qualifying test.

From the approximately 16,000 semifinalists, about 15,000 are expected to advance to finalist, and in February they will be notified of this designation. All National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from this group of Finalists. Merit-scholar designees are selected on the basis of their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in rigorous college studies, without regard to gender, race, ethnic origin or religious preference.

National Merit Scholarships

Three types of National Merit Scholarships will be offered next spring. Every finalist will compete for one of 2,500 National Merit® $2,500 scholarships that will be awarded on a state-representational basis. About 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards will be provided by about 230 corporations and business organizations for Finalists who meet their specified criteria, such as children of the grantor’s employees or residents of communities where sponsor plants or offices are located. In addition, about 190 colleges and universities are expected to finance some 4,000 college-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for Finalists who will attend the sponsor institution.

This announcement was published Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017.

Orientation held for new public-school teachers

UPDATED, Aug. 24: Following training and planning for new teachers in the Arlington Public Schools, held Aug. 22 through Aug. 24, orientation day was held Monday, Aug. 28, at the Ottoson Middle School, 63 Acton St.  

back to school

New kindergarten teachers also attend "Tools of the Mind" training Aug. 28 and 29. They do not attend the Monday orientation. Principals and school Arlington Education Association representatives are to review with new teachers agenda items missed Aug. 28.

Aug. 28 orientation is the last formal meeting of only new teachers and staff held at Ottoson. All new teachers -- except for new kindergarten teachers -- and staff must attend.

Important district information will be shared with you at that time as well as an opportunity for you to meet leaders, including Dr. Kathleen Bodie, superintendent of Arlington Public Schools; other administrators; those from the Arlington Education Association and town.

Here is the schedule: 

New Teacher Orientation Day  

Monday, Aug. 28, 8-2:30, Ottoson

8-8:30 Morning refreshments, cafeteria

8:30-9 Words of Welcome, Kathleen Bodie, Superintendent of Schools, and a School Committee member

Introduction of the administrative team

9-10 General overview of the role of Special education in Arlington with Alison Elmer, director of special education

10-10:15 Break

10:15-12:15 Arlington Education Association presentation (AEA)

12:15-1:15 Lunch: AEA provides bag lunch

1:15-2 Overview of teacher evaluation system and Baseline Edge

2-2:30  Q & A with the Assistant Superintendent Roderick MacNeal Jr.; Rob Spiegel, HR officer, Marie Janiak, coordinator of mentoring and induction program

Already held: 

Tuesday, Aug. 22, at Ottoson

Room assignments will be posted in the lobby.

Morning refreshments available

Grades K-5: General-education teachers, grade switchers, special-education teachers, general-education math mentors and math coaches, general-education science-support teachers

8-8:30 Overview of the elementary science curriculum with Larry Weathers, director of science; Cory Bavuso, science-support teacher

8:30-11 Overview of math curriculum and assessments with Matt Coleman, director of mathematics, math coaches and math mentors

11-2 Special-education teachers and kindergarten teachers are free to work in their own classrooms.

11-2 Math curriculum planning with math curriculum mentors and math coaches (individual schools/classrooms)

Lunch break one hour -- time will be selected by the group

Wednesday, Aug. 23, Ottoson

Room assignments will be posted in the lobby.

Morning refreshments available

Grades K-5: General-education teachers, grade switchers, special-education teachers, general-education literacy-curriculum mentors and district literacy coaches

8-9 Overview of the elementary social-studies curriculum with Denny Conklin, social-studies director

9-10 Overview of the elementary literacy program with Linda Hanson as well as Tammy McBride and Sandra Bergantz, district literacy coaches

10-2 Kindergarten teachers are free to work in their classrooms

Grades 1-5: Special-education teachers and mentors

10-2 New teachers meet with your special-education mentors in your classrooms for curriculum planning

Grades 1-5: General-education teachers, grade switchers, literacy curriculum mentors

10-11:30 Reading with grade-level literacy curriculum mentor at their school

11:30-noon Lunch break

Noon-2 Writing with grade-level Writing mentor at their school

Grades 6-12: Special-education teachers, staff, mentors

8-2 Curriculum planning in Special-education teachers classrooms with mentors

Lunch break to be selected by the group

Thursday, Aug. 24, Ottoson 

Room assignments posted in the lobby.

Morning refreshments available

Technical training

8-10 Prekindergarten to grade 5 general-education teachers, special-education teachers and staff as well as specialists: Power Teacher, acceptable-use policy -- with Susan Bisson, district technology specialist, and Jean Zilewicz, data specialist

8-10 Grades 6-12: General-education and special-education teachers, staff and specialists: Acceptable-Use policy, PowerTeacher, Grade Book, specific Google knowledge and use with Jeff Snyder, instructional technology specialist, Arlington High; Johanna Bradley, instructional technology specialist, Ottoson

10-10:15 Break

10:15-11 HR/benefits/payroll/certification/licensure with Rob Spiegel and Kelly Pigott of human resources

Kindergarten teachers only: 11-2 meet with "Tools of the Mind" mentors in your classrooms

Grades 1-5 General-education specialists (art, music, ELL, physical education)

11-2 Meet with curriculum leaders and/or your mentors

Grades 6-12 Secondary general-education teachers and secondary specialists: (nonspecial-education)

11-2 Curriculum planning with curriculum leaders, coordinators and/or mentors

Working lunch with a break  

ALL Prekindergarten through grade 12 special-education teachers, staff and mentors

11-2 Easy IEP and special-education procedures with Alison Elmer, special-education director, and Special-education coordinators

Grades 1-5 general-education classrooms

11-11:30 Overview of the elementary health curriculum with Guy Schiavone


Grade K-2 Fundations Training with Tammy McBride

Grade 3 Spelling training with Linda Hanson

Grades 4 and 5 Further work on literacy with literacy coaches

This news announcement was published Monday, Aug. 7, 2017, and updated Aug. 24.

What's new and old at Arlington High: A glimpse on opening day

Back to school logoPaul McKnight: new Collumb House dean

Arlington High Principal Matthew Janger sent the following email to the community Tuesday, Aug. 15: " ... the beginning of school is still a few weeks away for many, but the school is already a buzz of activity. The network capacity has again been doubled to support digital learning and student devices. Curricula have been reviewed, new staff hired, staff trained, schedules revised, programs planned and policies updated." 

Here is a summary of his remarks. 

Facilities: The staff has been cleaning and repairing all summer to keep the aging high school running as steps new building project continue. The project management company, Skanska, has been hired, and we expect to have our design firm in place by the beginning of October. [Read details here >>

Look forward to more communications about our planning process. For more information, look for updates at the building-project website >> 

New Collumb House office: This year, because of rising enrollment, the school welcomes a new dean -- Paul McKnight, who has been an English teacher at AHS. The new house office is situated to the right of the main entrance, near guidance. Houses are assigned by the first letter of the student's last name. 

Downs House: Dean Veronica Tivnan, seniors only A through K; freshman, sophomores and juniors A through G;

Collumb House: Dean McKnight, no seniors; freshman, sophomores, juniors H through N; and

Fusco House: Dean Rob Diloreto, seniors only L through Z; freshmen, sophomores, juniors O through Z.

Online communication

In this digital age, it is easier to keep in regular contact with the school. To remain connected, set up your information at the following three sites:

-- Powerschool Demographics and Alerts. Check the student name, email, phone numbers and address in the demographics section on the Powerschool parent portal. The settings have changed. The administration plans to make greater use of the email lists in Powerschool to communicate and update information.

-- AHS News Email List. Register your email address to receive emails and newsletters from the AHS administration and guidance. This will provide you with important information about activities and life at AHS.

-- AHS Calendars and News Site. A central location for AHS information is the Calendars and News of the high school website, where you can see the main events calendar, athletics calendar and links to read or sign up for our Google+, Facebook or Twitter news feeds. AHS Calendar. Early release days are included. Click here >>

-- Mailings. Many families still prefer paper mailings. Not every digital announcement is mailed, but major communications can be. If you need mailed notices, call Carolyn Simmons (781-316-3658).

The AHS website is scheduled to be updated. Watch for changes.

Student schedules, guidance

They will be distributed online through the Powerschool parent portal. The portal is scheduled to open by Monday, Aug. 21.

Some fluctuation may occur in the schedules before guidance meetings. Check your schedules before you see your counselors.

Counselors will be available Thursday, Aug. 24; Friday, Aug. 25; Monday, Aug. 28, and Tuesday Aug. 29, from 8 a.m. go 2 p.m., to assist students with schedule problems. Only students who are missing blocks of classes or whose schedules are inaccurate should come during these days. Check the school calendar for specific guidance-counselor schedules >> 

Mailing information

Students should bring all signed forms to their homeroom teachers during the first week of school. Your attention to this will help your student begin the year smoothly. These forms, including the Student Health and Emergency Information Form, updated every year, are all required for all students in the first week of school

AHS Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) agreement. To support connected learning, AHS invites students to bring their own digital devices to school, to use as educational tools.

All student and parent/guardians must read and sign the agreement, to ensure safe access to the Arlington High School network and digital devices. The program is explained in BYOD FAQs and the BYOD agreement.  

Important dates

Freshman orientation, Sept. 5, the first day of school. All freshmen should report directly to the auditorium at the beginning of the school day, at 8 a.m.

Parent/guardian/athlete night, Sept. 6, from 6 to 7 p.m. This mandatory meeting for parents, guardians, coaches and student-athletes of all seasons is backed by the MIAA. It is an important opportunity to share philosophies, expectations and procedures for the athletic department.

Sept. 14: Three meetings

-- Bring Your Own Device info sessions, starting at 6:30 p.m.: Support in the AHS Media Center during the parent open house, for parents/guardians to learn more about or get assistance with student devices.

-- Freshmen parent/guardian meeting, 6 to 7 p.m.: This informational meeting is exclusively for freshmen parents/guardians as an opportunity to ask questions and learn about the high school.

-- Fall open house, 7 to 9 p.m.: One of three opportunities for all parents/guardians to meet teachers and receive important class information.

End-of-School: Because of Labor Day, opening day is later. This means the last day of school, including snow days, is scheduled for June 25. No student will be able to take an early exam before the beginning of the finals week. Make summer plans accordingly.


Various forms, letters

-- Authorization form to publish names and pictures of students: AHS is working to improve communications, and the administration regularly shares student work and achievements. Make sure to fill this out whether or not you want your student's work published.

-- Military Exclusion Statement (juniors and seniors only). Complete this form, if you do not want your child's name to be forwarded to a military recruiter.

-- Letter from Health & Nursing Services

-- Parent Notification Law

-- Information flier for mandatory athletics night, Sept. 6

-- School lunch information

-- Friends of AHS request form (donations help to pay for enrichment activities)

-- AHS teacher-appreciation donation form (committee is organized to acknowledge and thank our faculty and staff at several events throughout the year)

-- A letter from your student's dean

-- Parent directory form (your name will not be included, if you do not complete this form) 

This news announcement was published Friday, Aug. 18, 2017.

Thompson addition unfinished at deadline; town employees to work on current classrooms

Hardy construction delayed until 2018

Thompson School

Hardy School logoUPDATED, Aug. 17: Meeting at the Stratton School on Tuesday, Aug. 15, the Permanent Town Building Committee wrestled with what to do with the stalled Thompson classroom construction project, which is not expected to be completed on time.

With the finish date of the six-classroom addition uncertain, officials voted to have town employees help finish work needed on six existing classrooms needed for the opening school. A decision has been made to proceed.

The Hardy addition will be delayed until 2018. Principal Kristin DeFrancisco told the public in an email Aug. 16: "While we were hoping to start construction in November, that will not be able to happen. Instead, our start will more likely be in March. The process to develop schematic designs, issue an RFP for a contractor, select a contractor and develop construction drawings could not be completed by November to begin construction.

"While I know this is not what we had hoped, it is very important that a project like this be done well because it is forever. Please know that I have been working closely with the architects and project managers to keep the planning moving. Every effort was made for a November start, but it is not in the best interest of the project." Read more below.

The opening of the six-classroom addition, missing the Aug.  18 deadsline, is possible in late September of early October. Students will use modular classrooms for the interim.

Steady progress at Stratton, Gibbs

In contrast, reports about the building projects at the Gibbs and Stratton revealed steady progress and needed no intervention on the part of the committee.

Brian DeFilippis and Burt Barachowitz of PMA Consultants, the owners' project managers, reported on what had been accomplished so far at the Thompson and enumerated issues that are holding up construction. The masonry, reported at the Aug. 1 meeting as not having been delivered in full to the site, has now arrived and has been installed, along with the windows.

Roof measurements, wallboard installation and painting are now ongoing. Electrical work is done, and the furniture delivered. Overall, all materials needed for the construction of the six classrooms are onsite and do not impede the progress of the construction, though it had been a problem earlier in the summer.

What has delayed the construction at the Thompson is the lack of manpower, a problem cited in an July 27 Thompson update, and one that had not been corrected. As DeFilippis reported to the committee, he "should see many more workers onsite, but [is] really not seeing them." Moreover, DeFilippis complained that he has had "trouble getting in contact" with the contractor.

Ruthy Bennett, town director of facilities and member of the Permanent Town Building Committee, told the committee that the classrooms needed to be done, and she proposed two alternatives: 1) hire another contractor or 2) give the contractor a new deadline of Aug. 20. It was also suggested that the contractor be given a deadline of Aug. 25 and let him now he has to finish connecting pieces and doors. He should be requested to work through the weekend.

After considerable discussion among the committee members, Bennett concluded that "it would be simpler to get our employees to do it than to get another contractor." A town crew could work on the classrooms, Bennett explained to the committee, but only if she took her workers off every other project. Because of the current building contract, the town workers could not begin until after Aug. 18.

The decision whether to use town workers will be taken up at a site-visit meeting Aug. 18. The contractor will be invited to join this meeting, but there was some speculation he might not show up. Meanwhile, the regular building meeting on Wednesdays will discuss the flooring contract. To make it possible to use town employees, if necessary, the committee passed a motion "to allow the town manager to authorize town workers to finish work on the Thompson." It passed unanimously.

Gibbs: Completing demolition, construction in the fall

Addressing the Gibbs construction project, Kim Baker from NV5 Consulting reported on the continued site demolition of building and existing pathway and curbing. Along with the demolitions, workers carried out abatements of the existing boiler and throughout the interior.

The contractor, Shawmut Design and Construction, has removed all windows to be replaced with cost and energy saving ones. Asked by committee Chairman John Cole about the work left to be done on demolition, Baker called it 60 percent complete and said he expected no further problems with the rest.

Some minor complications emerged this summer. The winning contractor for waterproofing and caulking withdrew, and the project manager had to rebid them. In addition, other problems arose with the steel beams, some of which were in the way of machine equipment. Finally, Baker described another unforeseen condition: uneven floors that will need to be leveled.

Once the demolition is completed by fall, construction will begin with the foundation for a new Foster Street entrance. The project will then move forward, erecting interior steel, replacing existing stairwells and installing new windows. Masonry contractors will engage in restoration work on the exterior of the building. The project is on schedule for the school opening in September 2018.

Baker passed around the table a new flier describing progress on the building construction with planned activities. The flier will be distributed to all abutters and displayed on the town and school website. Read a town update here >>

Renovated Stratton to open; landscaping remains

Before the meeting, the committee and attendees got an extensive tour of Stratton by the architect, Lee Rich of DRA. He pointed out the replacement of a number of walls with large, light-enhancing windows allowing daylight into classrooms, hallways and the media center. Wooden cubbies for coats that lined the hallways had been refinished. All doorways and entrances were now ADA-compliant. All of the large classrooms had been repainted in light, coordinating colors.

No major changes were possible as the building was renovated, not rebuilt -- the last of the town's seven elementary schools in upgrades that began in 1998.

The work not completed by opening of school involves landscaping the field and the play area. Rich explained that the work would include repairing a retaining wall and repairing the surroundings that had been damaged by construction. He plans to employ E&R Landscapers.

Hardy School addition

The project manager and assistant manger from JLL reported, despite the tight schedule, repirted Aug. 15 that they are up-to-date on the Hardy classroom project having completed the feasibility study and now working on the schematic design. Architect Reagan Shields-Ives announced that she had the layout for the design of classrooms completed. The manager assured the committee that all of this was accomplished with frequent consultations with the principal, Kristin DeFrancisco.

While the schedule is tight, the budget is even tighter with $3.5 million allocated for the project. The manager reported that they conduct frequent "pricing" to make sure they stay within the budget. Town manager Adam Chapdelaine said that if the Hardy project budget needs further funding, it could be considered by the Special Town Meeting, later this year or early next. A date has not been announced.

DeFrancisco reaches out to parents

As to the delay in the Hardy project, DeFrancisco told parents Aug. 16 what she had reported to the building committee the night before:

"All this being said, we will be looking for parent input for aspects of the project. We will mostly need and look forward to parent advisory with the outdoor playground space both, in the back of the school and on the Lake Street side of the school.

"I have decided that the best way to do this is to have the Hardy School Council serve in this advisory role. I am looking for 3-4 parents for council this year. The council will be able to serve in the advisory capacity as well as work on other school initiatives.

"The School Council is made of an equal number of teachers and parents. School Council meets on the first Tuesday of each month before PTO, beginning at about 5:15 pm. The Council positions will require an election if there are more than 3-4 parents interested in serving on the Council. The election, if necessary, will be by paper ballot during our Back to School evening in September.

"The Council will work on the following this year:

"1. Advisory for use of outdoor play space.

"2. Communication as necessary to parent community about outdoor space remodel.

"3. Revision of "Just the Way We Do Things Around Here" parent resource book with inclusion of growth mindset language and transferable skills language.

"4. Initial conversations about district and school work around cultural proficiency

"5. Feedback about curriculum celebrations and what parents might like to see

"6. Discussion about principal coffees and planning topics that will be helpful for parents

"7. Discussion about transition and welcoming of new principal in year 2018-2019."

July 27, 2017: Thompson moves toward plan B as August completion date looms

June 29, 2017: Hardy parents seeking parity keep up pressure for play areas

June 21, 2017: Bodie eyes Aug. 18 for Thompson completion, but keeps 'plan B' in place 

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. Bob Sprague contributed to this report. Information in the initial report about when the Hardy news was known, what town employees may work on and Hardy funding has been corrected.

Project chief OK'd, high school revamp looks toward next steps

How Arlington High School, parts of it built in 1914, looks today.How Arlington High School, part of it built in 1914, looks today. 

Skanska USA Building Inc., approved by the state as the owner's project manager for a reshaped Arlington High School, has built projects around the world as well as in our back yard -- the company manages the Winchester High School renovation/addition.

Jeff Thielman, School Committee chair and chair of the Arlington High School Building Committee, expressed his satisfaction with this approval in an Aug. 10 news release: "This is a big step forward in the process of making major building improvements at Arlington High School. We look forward to a productive and efficient partnership with Skanska."

YourArlington reported in mid-June that the building committee's choice was Skanska. The state School Building Authority (MSBA) announced approval of the pick in a July 12 letter.

The high school, whose earliest structures were built in 1914, faces extensive renovation or rebuilding -- a key decision still to be made. The project is expected to be completed in September 2022.

Skanska will help the AHS Building Committee to suggest architects for the project. The committee is next scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, in the School Committee Room, sixth floor, Arlington High.

9-member design committee

The architect will be suggested by a nine-member design subcommittee that includes schools' Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, AHS Principal Matt Janger and AHS Assistant Principal Bill McCarthy.

The final designer faces approval by the 13-member MSBA Designer Selection Panel, three of them from Arlington. Once chosen, the architect will meet with the full AHS Building Committee to discuss project expectations. The architect could be selected by October.

A community meeting will be held at some point in the fall, possibly in November, offering residents an opportunity to learn about the architect's view of the project.

A tricky matter for the construction timeline is this: The new high school will be built where the existing building is, and it will be done in phases. That is, parts of the building will be taken down one at a time.

Because soil below a cap under Peirce Field, behind AHS, is contaminated, the design is limited to the building's current, sprawling footprint. Starting 16 years ago, following an agreement from industries once sited where the DPW Yard is now, much contaminated soil was removed and that below a certain level was capped, giving the public by 2005 a remade Peirce Field.

Project constraints

To effect a renovation or a rebuild, high school space will face constraints. Affected will be parking and classroom as the builder tries minimize the impact on education.

For its designs, Skanska plans to create a budget outlining the parts of the project that are eligible or ineligible for MSBA funding. The state and town will fund eligible costs according a funding agreement.

Looking ahead to project funding, official expect a vote on a debt-exclusion override to occur in the spring of 2019.

Communications Committee Chair Amy Speare has said that the committee has bought the web domain, and has hired a designer to give shape to the site. She said the site is expected to go live with information about the project by early September.

In July, the committee compiled a series of frequently asked questions about the project. See it here >> 

The state approval also confirmed the key personnel and consultants included in the proposal that Skanska USA Building submitted to the Town of Arlington. The town used the required qualifications-based selection process that complies with Massachusetts law.

Skanska USA Building has deep experience in institutional projects, including municipal, K-12 and higher-education construction. It was involved in Lowell High School and Minuteman Career and Technical High School. In Winchester, Skanska is completing the high school renovation and addition for the opening of school next month.

The MSBA partners with Massachusetts communities to support the design and construction of educationally appropriate, flexible, sustainable and cost-effective public school facilities. Since its 2004 inception, the authority has made more than $12.4 billion in reimbursements for school construction projects. The rebuild of six of seven town elementary schools took place with funding from an early state school agency.

Official information about the high school building project 
Feb. 15, 2017: Arlington High School rebuild OK'd for next stage: Is it feasible? 
May 25, 2016: State says Arlington High School rebuild can advance
State Building Authority process >> 

This expanded news announcement was published Friday, Aug. 11, 2017.

Thompson moves toward plan B as August completion date looms

Stratton nears completion; Hardy, Gibbs planning on schedule


UPDATED, Aug. 2: Delays in Thompson School construction consumed most of the time and attention of the Permanent Town Building Committee on July 18. Meeting at Town Hall, the committee heard from construction managers, designers and architects from four major school-building projects underway this summer.

While the Thompson School six-classroom addition construction was reported to be in trouble for meeting an expected Aug. 18 completion date, all other school projects are on schedule.

Burt Barachowitz, operation project manager for PMA Consultants, and Kevin Nigro, also from PMA, reported on the progress and impediments to progress on Thompson construction. Barachowitz said recent substantial progress in several areas included a number of inspections and tests completed, structural steel for second- and third-floor openings installed, masonry completed (up to windows on third floor), removing part of a wall at the first floor in stairwell two for new storage room, 90 percent of ceiling finished and new walkway pads on the roof installed.

Thompson: 2 issues tied to delays

Despite this and other work completed, Nigro said the construction was behind schedule because of two issues. First was manpower. The project manager, Kyle McManus, abruptly left the construction company, GTC of Haverhill, and has been replaced by Jim McGrath. The latter was not at the meeting, though was scheduled to attend.

Brian DeFilippis, the owner's project manager with PMA Consultants, told YourArlington on July 27 that PMA was notified that McManus left GTC Construction on July 7, and McGrath took over the same day.

Time needed for McGrath to familiarize himself with the project delayed construction.

A larger manpower issue emerged as members of the construction team began not showing up for work. Nigro illustrated this point by describing a recent assessment of the construction site in which only six workers had come to work that day. Five of them were masons.

After questioning by member Bill Hayner, Nigro estimated that the construction site should average 14 full-time equivalents daily.

A supplier who "shorted" the masons on blocks caused a second set of hurdles to completion of the Thompson addition. Citing the ripple effect, Nigro detailed how the shortage of blocks will hold back construction. Without the full amount of blocks the mason cannot finish the masonry, causing the installation of the windows to be delayed.

Furthermore, the staging on which the masons work has to be returned soon, and the masons will have to work on a lift. The supplier has given estimates from "a long lead of five weeks to a short lead of three weeks."

Nigro said that if McGrath were there, he might say that the project would be done on time, but "we just have to tell you what we see .... the project will not be completed on time."

Asked for an estimate of when the project would be entirely completed, he reported mid-to-late September.

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine commented that construction company managers have no incentive to report delays early since they have to start paying fines at the time they formally report the delays. Hence, the construction company would wait until Aug. 18 -- the contracted substantial-completion date -- to announce a delay in the construction.

The evidence was so strong for a late completion of the Thompson construction project that the attention of the committee turned to plan B, or what is to occur if the addition is not ready to open when all schools do.

Chapdelaine asked Thompson Principal Karen Donato whether she had "a fully agreed upon temporary plan B" and if parents knew about it.

Donato said she had anticipated using the two modulars already on site plus the library to hold the three needed classrooms. The principal also inquired about students' access to the building and the playground if construction was still ongoing. After hearing the responses from the Thompson construction representatives, she concluded: "It will be a challenging beginning."

Stratton renovation: On schedule, within budget

Rob Juusala of engineering consultant NV5 and and Tim Rich, of Waltham architect DRA, reported on progress at the Stratton Elementary School. Much of the new construction has been completed and furniture moved into the classrooms. Linoleum flooring has now installed in all the corridors.

Juusala and Rich informed the committee that work on the gym and cafeteria has just started, as has dismantling the modulars.

Subcontractors have begun site work, following the overall landscape design. Still to be completed are the installations of the sliding glass door to the office and the exterior door handles.

All of this work, Juusala and Rich assured the committee, is on schedule and the school will be ready for a September opening.

[On July 26 and 27, trucks moved modular classrooms away from the project and out of town.]

Hardy, Gibbs project plans move forward

Beginning with the budget breakdown, the Hardy project manager and assistant project manager reported that it contained some fixed costs but at the same time some costs that were just estimates. Overall, however, they explained that “It was a tight project but [they] were working toward that budget” of $1 million.

The Hardy School architect Regan Shields-Ives of Feingold Alexander Associates presented renderings of the new classrooms to the committee. She announced they would move into feasibility and concept design soon. 

The playground, it was announced, will be relocated before winter. Parents were reassured that the gym will be free during recess time.

Plays areas were the focus of a parent petition in June. Read the details here >> 

Hayner did not recall the specifics of the discussion. "I do remember that the issue of playground space was addressed to my satisfaction, the intent to provide space for all the children once the construction is done," he wrote in an email July 27.

Reconstruction at the former Gibbs School is further along, with construction trailers moved onsite, and all electric power shut off.

Demolition and abatement was to begin July 24, and fences have been installed. The construction company is applying for a code variance.

The incoming Gibbs principal, Kristin DeFrancisco, has completed a walk-through with the designers and architect (from Feingold Alexander Associates) and made some suggestions for small changes which will be incorporated in the final plans.

In other business, the Permanent Town Building Committee heard reports about the kickoff of renovations to the Department of Public Works Yard along Grove Street. The company in charge of the DPW rebuild is KVAssociates, which is advertising for a designer, whom they hope to have hired by September. The town announced a request for proposals for the schematic design only on Aug. 2.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:28 p.m.

June 29, 2017: Hardy parents seeking parity keep up pressure for play areas

June 21, 2017: Bodie eyes Aug. 18 for Thompson completion, but keeps 'plan B' in place 

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published Thursday, June 27, 2017, and updated Aug. 2.

Arlington High grad wins national merit scholarship to NU

School-awards logo

About 900 additional winners of National Merit Scholarships financed by colleges and universities were announced Monday, July 17, by the National Merit Scholarship Corp.

Among them is Elijah S. Steres of Arlington High School, whose probable career is computer science. His merit scholarship is for Northeastern University.

Founded in 1898, Northeastern is a private research university in Boston and is a leader in interdisciplinary and use-inspired research, urban engagement, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. 

These merit-scholar designees join more than 3,200 other college-sponsored award recipients announced in June.
Officials of each sponsor college selected their scholarship winners from among the finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program who will attend their institution. College-sponsored awards provide between $500 and $2,000 annually for up to four years of undergraduate study at the institution financing the scholarship.

This year, 182 colleges and universities are sponsoring more than 4,000 Merit Scholarship awards. Sponsor colleges include 103 private and 79 public institutions located in 44 states and the District of Columbia.

This final group of winners brings the number of 2017 National Merit Scholars to more than 7,500. These distinguished high school graduates will receive scholarships for undergraduate study worth a total of over $32 million. 

In addition to college-sponsored awards, two other types of National Merit Scholarships were offered -- 2,500 National Merit $2,500 scholarships, for which all Finalists competed, and about 1,000 corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship awards for finalists who met criteria specified by their grantor organizations.

This year's competition for National Merit Scholarships began when more than 1.6 million juniors in more than 22,000 high schools took the 2015 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. Last September, about 16,000 Semifinalists were named on a state-representational basis in numbers proportional to each state’s percentage of the national total of graduatinghigh school seniors.

Semifinalists were the highest-scoring program entrants in each state and represented less than one percent of the nation’s seniors.

To become a finalist, each Semifinalist had to complete a detailed scholarship application, which included writing an essay, describing leadership positions and contributions in school and community activities, showing an outstanding academic record, and being endorsed and recommended by a high school official. Semifinalists also had to take the SAT and earn scores that confirmed their performance on the initial qualifying test. From the semifinalist group, about15,000 attained Finalist standing, and about half of the Finalists were chosen to receive National Merit Scholarships.

NMSC, a not-for-profit corporation that operates without government assistance, was founded in 1955 to conduct the National Merit Scholarship Program. Over the past 62 years, more than 330,000 outstanding young men and women have won National Merit Scholarships worth over $1 billion. The majority of awards offered each year are underwritten by approximately 420 independent corporate and college sponsors that support NMSC’s efforts to recognize scholastically talented youth and encourage the pursuit of academic excellence.

This news announcement was published Monday, July 17, 2017.

Ottoson interim principal to continue; search to resume in fall

Eileen Driscoll WoodsWoods

Dr. Eileen Driscoll Woods will continue next year as interim principal at the Ottoson Middle School following a failed search in the spring for enough finalists for the permanent position.

Woods, who is serving as a second time as interim principal "will provide strong leadership continuity for the school," Superintendent Kathleen Bodie wrote in announcing the decision to parents June 30. A reopened search for a principal will begin in the fall.

The position opened up in July 2016, about a month after voters supported ballot questions, including one that deals with an overlarge middle school, and Timothy R. Ruggere, Ottoson's principal since 2009, said he was leaving. He is principal of Triton Regional High School in Byfield, near New Hampshire. 

Asked for details about the search, Bodie wrote July 3 that Dr. Laura L. Chesson, when she assistant superintendent here, chaired the committee and interviewed nine candidates among the 40 to 50 who applied.

The position was posted in January, and the search was closed in May, when the administration did not have three finalist candidates to move forward in the process.

That would have involved a day at the school to visit classes and interview with teachers, staff, administrators and parents/community members, Bodie added, Thus, the decision was made to repost the position in the fall.

Woods came to Arlington after having retired from a distinguished career in Andover, where she was principal at both the South and Sanborn schools, and spent a year as assistant superintendent. This past year she served as the interim principal at the Driscoll School (K-8) in Brookline.

Before her tenure at Ottoson, Woods served as the interim head of the Dallin Elementary School from 2012 to 2014. 

While heading the Sanborn School in Andover, she prepared the proposal that led to the school’s Blue Ribbon School designation in 1991. The Blue Ribbon Schools Program is part of an effort by the U.S. Department of Education to identify and share knowledge about exceptional school leadership and teaching practices.

In 1998, Woods was named Massachusetts Principal of the Year, an award presented annually by the Massachusetts Elementary Schools Principals Association. The award recognizes those principals who have demonstrated clear leadership in developing successful programs for children and teachers, exceptional dedication to education, outstanding professionalism and an unselfish attitude toward helping others.

Woods received her Ed.D. at Nova Southeastern University and holds a master of education in school administration from the University of Massachusetts. Her undergraduate degree is from Boston College. She also holds a National Board Certification in mentoring principals.  

July 1, 2016: Ottoson interim principal named, served at Dallin
July 5, 2016: Principal leaves expanding Ottoson to lead more rural high school

This news story was published Wednesday, July 5, 2017.

Hardy parents seeking parity keep up pressure for play areas

Hardy logo

UPDATED, June 30: A group of Hardy School parents is keeping the pressure on the school administration about making sure the expanding student population has sufficient play areas at the East Arlington school.

A petition signed by 201 parents expressed support for the plan to develop the Lake Street yard as a play area and seeking community input as part of theprocess. "We're disappointed that there's no plan to make changes to the main Chandler Street playground anytime soon," parent Kate Leary told YourArlington.

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Kathleen Bodie said at a recent School Committee meeting that the administration would be working with a playground designer this summer, as well as the architect and contractor for the Hardy expansion to plan for playground space during construction.

Enrollment growth has compromised the quality of recess at Hardy, she wrote, "and the problem will worsen as our population continues to increase during thenext several years."

Learn more details at the petition, now closed. It was set to Bodie and School Committee members.

Most signers are current Hardy parents, a few are the parents of children who will enter Hardy kindergarten in the next couple of years and one is a neighbor who wanted to lend her support, Leary wrote.

Thirty-seven signers posted comments expressing their personal experiences of the current space as well as their hopes for the future.

After three parents spoke out at the June 8 School Committee meeting. One of them, Rachel Krebs, cited a "parity issue," which she called on the School Committee to address. 

During the 2016-17 school year, enrollment increases led to continuing four kindergarten classes at Hardy -- too many to have all kindergartners on the Chandler play area at the same time.

Recess time was split between the Chandler Street side of the building and the less-crowded area along Lake, and many parents did not appreciate that.

The petition says: "We need short- and long-term solutions for the Lake Street side that will offer students a sustainable surface (like wood chips or other fiber material) and engaging materials (a small structure and loose-parts play equipment are options to be considered) to encourage the kind of collaborative, imaginative free play our children need at recess. We are pleased that the administration is looking into interim solutions for next year and has worked to have funds allocated to place a play structure on the Lake Street side during the summer of 2018."

Increased enrollment has led to building a six-classroom addition at Hardy, supported by $3.5 million in the fiscal 2018 capital budget.

This news summary was published Thursday, June 29, 2017, and updated June 30.

Needham principal voted assistant superintendent

  Roderick MacNeal Jr.MacNeal

Cites goal: 'What's best for kids'

UPDATED, June 21: The principal of the John Eliot Elementary School in Needham has been selected as Arlington's next assistant superintendent of schools.

Roderick MacNeal Jr. is the choice for Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, and his name was put before the School Committee meeting at a special meeting Monday, June 19. 

Following a 7-0 vote, he becomes the first top-level town or school administrator in Arlington who is an African-American. He was chosen from among five finalists, who met with residents at a community meeting in May. 

Four Committee members who had met him during the interview process last month spoke highly of MacNeal in his first public appearabnce in Arlington. He gave a short presentation before questions and the vote. Member Paul Schlichtman offered a moment of levity, as well as an illustration of the candidate's playfulness, displaying a photo of MacNeal wearing oversize glasses.

Comfort with capital planning

MacNeal informed the School Committee that central to all his educational initiatives was "doing what was best for the kids."

Questioned by member Len Kardon about his readiness to be part of the Capital Planning Committee, MacNeal cited his experience in working with the rebuild of Needham schools that informed him about the various challenges inherent in these projects. Among these challenges, he reported, was not just cost efficiency "but meeting the needs of the students."

Later in the meeting, after an executive session, the committee voted to authorize the superintendent to negotiate a contract for the assistant superintendent, with a salary between certain parameters set by the committee. 

He is to start the Arlington position July 1. His compensation is undergoing negotiation, Rob Spiegel, the school's human-resources director, wrote June 21.

MacNeal would occupy the position held since 2012 by Dr. Laura L. Chesson, who is leaving this month to become the new superintendent of the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District. He said he would have "big shoes to fill."

MacNeal came to John Eliot Elementary in 2013 from Ely Elementary School in West Bloomfield, Mich., where he was also a principal.

Michigan native

Before that, he was an assistant principal in the Southfield Public Schools, which is where he also began his teaching career.

The native of Michigan has a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and a master's in education from Wayne State University. He is pursuing a doctorate of education from Boston College. 

In a 2013 interview recorded by the Needham Channel, MacNeal called parent participation "a very big positive" in that town, noting that parents there are invested in the school system.

He called teachers there wonderful and passionate about the students and always trying to improve.

The other finalists for the position were Jeffrey Strasnick, principal of the Wildwood Early Childhood Center and Woburn St. Elementary School in Wilmington; Joann Campbell Kilpatrick, principal of Acton-Boxborough Regional High SchoolMichael Tracy, principal of the Middle School in the Cape Elizabeth School District in Maine; and Thomas Martellone, principal of the Fiske Elementary School in Lexington.

The School Committee was told April 13, about Chesson's move. She was named a week earlier in favor of Jodi Fortuna, the superintendent of Hudson Public Schools. 

The Groton-Dunstable Schoool Committee voted April 26 to accept Chesson as the new superintendent, Arlington's committee learned April 27. She plans to remain in her current position until the end of June.

May 22, 2017: 5 finalists for assistant superintendent visited here

April 13, 2017: Schools' assistant super here until June before leading Groton-Dunstable

 This news summary was published Sunday, June 18, 2017, and updated June 21 with information from freelance writer Jo Anne Preston. 

Ottoson students gain national recognition for historical presentations

Subjects with impact: AIDS crisis, same-sex case

From left are Louisa Baldwin, Nate Pokress, Connor Rempe, Sagar Rastogi, Genevieve Baldwin, Eleanor Freed and Grace Walters.   From left are Louisa Baldwin, Nate Pokress, Connor Rempe, Sagar Rastogi, Genevieve Baldwin, Eleanor Freed and Grace Walters. / Jason Levy photo

History projects by three Ottoson Middle School students -- about AIDS and same-sex marriage -- have won national recognition.

Eleanor Freed and Genevieve Baldwin came in second place nationally in final competition for National History Day, in the Junior Group Website, for their project titled "Silence=Death: How ACT UP New York Changed the Public View of the AIDS Crisis."ACT UP New York Changed the Public View of the AIDS Crisis."

Grace Walters came in 10th place nationally in the Junior Individual Documentary category with a 10-minute presentation titled "The Massachusetts Seven: Goodridge v. The Department of Public Health." 

The Nov. 18, 2003, decision was the first by a U.S. state's highest court to find that same-sex couples had the right to marry.

"All the students who represented Ottoson Middle School at the national competition should be extremely proud of their accomplishment," wrote Jason Levy, a history teacher involved in guiding seven Ottoson eighth graders with their projects. He and colleague Tom Bushell lead the school's National History Day Club.

"Their dedication and effort has paid off. I am especially proud of each student's willingness to spend countless nights and weekends outside of school working on a topic they felt passionate about." 

5 projects are the most 

Five projects qualified for the National History Day competition, which took place June 11 through 15 at the University of Maryland. No other school in the state sent more than two projects. 

This year, 18 middle school projects (grades 6 to 8) qualified for the nationals.

In state finals of the competition in May, Nathan Pokress, Walters, Baldwin and Freed got first place in varied categories, while Louisa Baldwin, Sagar Rastogi and Connor Rempe got second.

Overall, half a million students participate in the National History Day competition annually, and 3,000 from all 50 states and international schools are selected for nationals.

Other Ottoson projects that advanced in May were:

-- Nathan Pokress: "Seuss, Social Justice, and Saving the World Through Illustration" (performance);

-- Louisa Baldwin: "Alan Turing: The Brains to Britain's Brawn" (performance); and

-- Sagar Rastogi and Connor Rempe: "Don't Tinker with my Free Speech: Tinker v. Des Moines and Student Rights."

How they got there

The process began last September, when the competition released this year's theme, "Taking A Stand in History." Students were asked to go beyond established facts and dates.

With direction from Levy and Bushell, students spent hours conducting primary interviews, collecting secondary research and documenting all with a bibliography.

The regional competition in March sent the top three in each category to the state finals; the top two in state finals advanced to nationals.

Baldwin and Freed fact-checked conflicting primary sources in portraying how ACT UP New York altered how the public saw the AIDS crisis beginning in 1987.

For her project, Walters interviewed five of the plaintiffs involved in the landmark Goodridge case.

Pokress, who took first in the junior individual performance state category, threw on a Dr. Seuss hat and portrayed Theodore Seuss Geisel, known for his children's books, such as, well, "The Cat in the Hat."

Rastogi, who worked with Rempe and did their project on the U.S. Supreme Court free-speech case Tinker v. Des Moines, a defining constitutional rights decision during the Vietnam War, said they two spoke to two of the plaintiffs in the case, as well as a First Amendment law professor at Harvard Law.

This news summary was published Wednesday, June 21, 2017.

AEF gazes at 2 STARS, raises $23,750 in 2017

Top Ottoson, AHS teachers

Arlington Education Foundation (AEF) has announced its STARS Teachers of the Year for 2017, and they are:

● Alison Sancinito, sixth-grade history teacher at Ottoson Middle School; and

● Danielle Raad, science and archaeology teacher at Arlington High School.

For 17 years, the STARS (School Teaches Are Really Special) program has given families an opportunity to recognize and honor teachers by making a donation to AEF in the teachers' names. Raised this year was $23,750.

All money raised through the program, helps pay for AEF's grant-making mission to enhance Arlington's public schools. Each year, the Arlington High School and Ottoson Middle School teachers who receive the most STARS certificates receive the Teacher of the Year award.

After receiving her award, Sancinito said in a news release issues June 20: "It is so nice to be acknowledged by the community for my work. Middle school is such a unique time for kids, [and] I am happy to do what I can to support students and to engage them in their learning. I appreciate the support of AEF in making this happen."

Earlier this spring, Sancinito was recognized for her hard work and was awarded the William Spratt Award for Excellence in Teaching Middle School Social Studies by the Massachusetts Council for Social Studies.

In 2015, she received an AEF Innovations in Education grant. Called "Flexible Classroom: Designing Spaces for Personalized Learning," the grant funded the transformation of four traditional Ottoson classrooms into more flexible and collaborative learning spaces that meet the needs of diverse learners.

After Raad received her award and was applauded by her students, she said, "I'm so honored for this recognition. I've had such a great year at AHS and want to thank all of my students for their enthusiasm, hard work, and positive energy -- they're really the reason why I love being a science teacher."

Last fall, Raad was awarded an AEF Innovations in Education grant to establish a new archaeology class. In January, her work was recognized when she was honored as the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Teacher of the Month. To read an interview with Raad, click here >>

This fiscal year, parents from all ten of Arlington’s public schools purchased nearly 800 STARS certificates to recognize teachers across the district.

For more than 25 years, AEF has been supporting public education in Arlington and currently awards approximately $120,000 annually in grants to teachers and schools. AEF pays for systemwide initiatives and creative new projects that enhance public education throughout the school district.

For more information visit  

This news release was published Tuesday, June 20, 2017.


Crowd of parents wants to know, but it's too early to provide some answers

Former Gibbs School, August 2015,Finegold Alexander Architects' sketch last January envisioning the entry to the renovated Gibbs School.

UPDATED, June 15: The number of questions outpaced answers for an estimated 90 people jammed into the School Committee Room on Tuesday, June 13, seeking to learn what they could about the Gibbs and its educational mission.

One answer is nearly certain, and Superintendent Kathy Bodie had it: "This building is being renovated, but it is not changed."

That is, its structural envelope is to largely remain as it was when it became the Gibbs School in the 1920s. Changes will be taking place inside -- in the physical plant and in classroom attitude -- as well as in the neighborhood.

The majority-female audience were bright and eager to learn, based on the questions asked. The teachers that night were Kristin DeFrancisco, principal at Hardy who will take over at a renovated Gibbs in September 2018, and Bodie.

Another near certainty: Renovations are to start June 30. After that, much remains to be assessed and communicated.

The return of the Gibbs to classrooms, after nearly three decades of other uses, is the answer to an overexpanding Ottoson Middle School. When the town's public schools open in 2018, all sixth graders will be attending the East Arlington school between Foster and Tufts.

Here is a summary of some of the questions raised and their answers at the event presented by Vision 2020's Education Task Group, the public schools and the Gibbs Parent Advisory Committee.

How will the renovated school look?

After Scott Lever of the Vision 2020 group provided background about how the year-old process involving the public has progressed -- including a film last November and a visioning session the next month, he introduced Rebecca Arnold of the parent committee.

She enthusiastically explained a series of drawings, comparing existing conditions and those devised by Finegold Alexander Architects. The overall impression was as if the bright light of modernity had flooded halls and rooms dimmed for decades.

Slides reflected much discussion of color, in displays attractive to sixth graders, but in others made less muted, in deference to those who would be there year after year -- the teachers.

In the main lobby, the notion of a graffiti wall had been scrapped in favor of a display area for more-formal student art.

The floor color, fashioned to distinguish clusters, looked like a muted version of the painter Piet Mondrian had been let loose, to positive effect.

Asked for more specifics about bigger-picture design, DeFrancisco said the architect is expected provide final plans as the school years ends (the last day is June 23).

Asked whether the renovation would follow LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (a rating system devised by the U.S. Green Building Council to evaluate environmental performance and encourage sustainable design), Bodie said the hope is LEED gold by completion, projected by August 2018.

She said the architect and contractor are working together on the project, a procedure to be followed as the rebuilding of Arlington High moves along.

What size will the school be?

As for size, the renovation is designed for 500 students, Bodie said, though more are possible. She said that projections for the next decade show that enrollment could top 500 by 10 to 20 students.

What about pickup, drop-off and other transportation issues?

As question veered toward transportation, the evening moved into murky areas.

One reason, Bodie said, is that Tufts and Foster are one-way streets that run in directions opposite from those needed for optimal pickup and drop-off. Changing that means redoing numerous streets in East Arlington.

Details about this well as busing remain to be worked out. Bodie said the administration is looking into the possibility of a fee-based bus.

As to cycling, bike routes and walking, Bodie said she has asked the selectmen's Transportation Advisory Committee to address these issues.

"The area will clog up quickly," she said, referring to morning and afternoon neighborhood traffic.

What is the principal aiming for?

For a good chunk of the 90 minutes, DeFrancisco outlined her goals and tried to answer questions. Bringing more than two decades of experience to the Gibbs experiment at a number of Arlington schools, she commented with characteristic humor that she is trying to be in them all.

She discussed her mission and the school's -- to provide an an age-appropriate transition for sixth graders to Ottoson -- adding that she had "homework" for the audience: What do you want the communication about Gibbs to look like?

She reviewed those who have come together in committee to shape the mission. All are listed in the full presentation >> 

Focusing on one -- "Culture and Climate," led by Denny Conklin, the social-studies chair -- she called it a "little bit more touchy-feely," because it aims to deal with the feeling inside a classroom. She added that she is "very pleased with this work."

The principal reserved her unrestrained enthusiasm for the responsive classroom, an evidence-based approach to teaching that focuses on the strong link between academic success and social-emotional learning.

On such emotional intelligence, she said, "I could go all night." Calling it one of best trainings she has had in 21 years, she said all teachers going to the Gibbs have had it.

Among other advantages, she said, the approach gives teachers time to test the mettle of smaller groups of students.

Diversity, ACE, SPED?

Asked what strategies are in place to address diversity, DeFrancisco the matter a "district conversation" and did not think new hires would be needed.

Bodie clarified that, saying a nurse would be hired and that the current 3 1/2 clusters were expected to expand to four. As to diversity, Bodie noted that it is a district goal.

To questions about including ACE and accelerated math, DeFrancisco said she did not yet know.

Asked why if special-education students were regarded as "integrated," were then separated, Bodie explained that a student's individual education plan may require pullout from class for support. Guidelines about this, she said, come from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

As to how such extracurricular activities as orchestra and theater would play out, Bodie said it remained to be seen, but that a children's theater could be at Gibbs.


To a question about an after-school program, Bodie said the current director, Todd Morse, would include Gibbs, but she did not yet know about the program for seventh and eighth grades in 2018.

Vision 2020's Education Task Group plans to have future public sessions as the renovation proceeds.

The names and contact information for the members of the Gibbs Parent Advisory Committee have been requested, so that the public can offer further feedback to them.

Full June 13 program >>

Jan. 23, 2017: Parents react to first look at planned changes for former Gibbs
Regan Shields Ives narrated a presentation of these slides (large file)
Slides shown labeled Finegold Alexander of Boston and New Vista Design in Jamaica Plain
Dec. 18, 2016: Visions and revisions: Dialogue about education seeks to map fresh course

This announcement was published Tuesday, June 6, 2017, and updated June 14 as a full news summary. It was updated again, to clarify copy.

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