July 9, 2020

From: Mary C. Gormley
To: Parents/Guardians and Staff
Re: Superintendent’s Weekly Update
Date: July 9, 2020

FROM THE DESK OF THE SUPERINTENDENT

At the School Committee meeting last night, the members and I heard incredibly powerful, emotional testimony from numerous parents and others about difficult and sometimes traumatic experiences in the Milton Public Schools. The testimony was painful to hear, and certainly even more painful to deliver. The School Committee and I were moved, outraged, heartbroken, and most importantly, motivated by these personal accounts. No parent, child, or staff member should ever feel unwelcome, stereotyped, mistreated, disrespected, underestimated, or discriminated against in the Milton Public Schools. The stories underscore the urgent need for us to accelerate and deepen our work to become a more welcoming, inclusive, equitable school system.

Above all, it is clear that we must expand our ongoing equity and cultural competency work to include a sharper focus on anti-racism. Our commitment to ensuring safe, welcoming learning environments for all learners – including closing access and achievement gaps – is already embedded as one of the six core goals of our Strategic Plan, and we have a great deal of excellent work on which to build. However, the nationwide call for greater awareness and change to eradicate racism, injustice, discrimination, violence, and oppression, as well as recent events that have occurred here in Milton, serve as powerful reminders that we must be more intentional in our efforts to build an anti-racism school system. Above all, we must equip our students with the knowledge and critical thinking skills to navigate the complex issues of race and racism in our society, and ultimately, to make a positive difference in their communities and in the world.

At the School Committee meeting last night, I announced two immediate steps to advance this work: 

  1. Establish the Milton Public Schools Anti-Racism Action Team, which I will co-chair, comprised of the existing Strategic Plan Subcommittee on Equity & Cultural Competency, as well as additional community and parent members and staff to be named; and
  1. Charge the Action Team with developing an Anti-Racism Action Plan for the Milton Public Schools, to present to the community and the School Committee, which includes immediate and longer-term recommendations across all aspects of the district, from pre-K to 12, including policy, practice, curriculum, resources, and more.

The School Committee expressed its full support for these actions and affirmed its commitment to partnering with the administration and the community in the work of becoming an anti-racism school district. The Committee also voted unanimously in support of a statewide resolution, proposed by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, stating a collective commitment to anti-racism work in school districts throughout the Commonwealth.

We are deeply indebted to the community groups, parents, guardians, and staff who urged, educated, and challenged us to be more proactive and comprehensive in our ongoing work to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. In particular, we extend our thanks to the Milton Anti-Racist Coalition (MARC) and to Citizens for a Diverse Milton for their leadership on these critical issues. We fully embrace and share MARC’s vision for an “excellence-with-equity, anti-racist educational system.” The MPS Reform Platform that MARC submitted to me and the School Committee provides valuable findings and recommendations for effecting change, and it will serve as the starting point for the Action Team’s work in developing the Action Plan. 

Last night, I also announced that we already are taking a critical step forward to implement one of the recommendations in the MARC platform. We will be  seeking feedback from the community on a Request for Proposals to select an external consultant that will conduct an “Equity Audit” of the entire district and serve as our lead partner in this work. We are seeking an organization with deep experience in anti-racism work to help us assess where we are and chart a course for reform moving forward. 

I encourage you to read the statement I presented to the School Committee and the community last night for additional details about our plans and my own personal reflections.

RETURN TO SCHOOL TASK FORCE

Please click on this link and take this important and anonymous survey about MPS Return to School and continue reading for more information.

The Return to School Task Force and MPS Leadership Team are working through the latest guidance from MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as we prepare for September, taking into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of students and staff, equity and student engagement, special education, family partnerships and support, reimagining our classrooms, technology needs, professional development, and staff and student support. To stay up-to-date on all state and district developments, please be sure to visit our website frequently. On this website, you will find a “Contact Us” tab. At any time, you can reach out to the Task Force through this comment form

Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeffrey C. Riley has released the state’s Initial Fall Reopening Guidelines which emphasize the priority of having students physically present in classrooms for the benefit of education and mental health. The state is asking school districts to create a plan that covers three scenarios: fully in-person, hybrid (combination of in-person and remote), and fully-remote. Read the full guidelines, as well as several supporting documents shared by DESE here and on our Return to School Website

We continue to conduct feasibility studies in each building, “pressure testing” each classroom (and other spaces, such as gym, library, cafeteria, outdoor spaces, etc.) to determine how many students and staff members, given current guidance, could safely be present in each available space. 

As we prepare for next school year, your thoughts, questions, and concerns are important to us. We are seeking input from all stakeholders on a variety of topics and the data collected will be critical as we consider and plan for various scenarios. Please take a few minutes to complete this anonymous survey. The purpose of this survey is to gather information about individual family needs and interests with regard to a return to school, to solicit reflections on remote learning to inform future plans, and to remind families of the supports in place to help those in need. Your responses will be used to help formulate plans for a safe return to school. 

Please complete one survey per family. Deadline for survey submission is Wednesday, July 17. 

We will also be holding Return to School Q&A Zoom meetings throughout the summer. Stay tuned for dates and times.

SCHOOL COMMITTEE

The next School Committee will be on July 29, 2020 at 7pm and all School Committee meetings can be watched on Milton Access TV.  In the days leading up to each meeting, call in/log in information is available on the Town of Milton website.

SUMMER LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES 

Join us for a MPS Virtual Summer Experience! All students K-5 (there are a few options for 6th grade, too!) are invited to join the fun and learning this summer at MPS Virtual Summer Experience! Do you want to:

  • Get moving each day?
  • Make some healthy snacks?
  • Buff up your language skills?
  • Get a jump on your summer reading?
  • Learn American Sign Language?
  • Work on some art projects?
  • Have fun virtually with friends and teachers?

If you answered yes to any of the above, MPS Virtual Summer Experience is for you! Classes start July 13, registration is now open at this link. All details can be found here. Email virtualsummer@miltonps.org with any questions. 

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Diverse Readings and Discussions for ChildrenAs always we recommend previewing texts and videos in advance to ensure they are a fit for your family.

  • Little Free Library Support: In addition to our regular Little Free Library titles,  we are excited to now have diverse reads that can be swapped and savored by Milton families. Inspired by Sarah Kamya and her Little Free Diverse Libraries project, MPS parents Winston and Nicole Daley have launched “Little Free Diverse Libraries – Milton” in our town. Their goal is to fill the “Take One, Leave One” libraries throughout Milton with books written by diverse authors, to promote anti-racist literature, celebrate a wider spectrum of characters, and support Black-owned bookstores.  With the prolonged closures of schools and libraries impacting students’ access to books, they are also hoping to directly distribute books to children for summer reading. In just 2 weeks they’ve received almost $5,000 in donations, purchased almost 300 books and placed them in 17 Little Free Libraries in Milton. They have also secured a donation of 230 books from Houghton Mifflin. There has been tremendous support from individuals and families willing to share resources and donate. There is a  Little Free Library at each elementary school and the Pierce Middle School, at every playground and next to the Milton Public Library. To learn more or to donate,  please follow @littlefreediversemilton on Instagram, Venmo @Winston-Daley or email winston.daley@gmail.com.
  • Build up your child’s personal library virtually and in print: There are many suggested titles and booklists that support diversity and inclusion. Here are a few of note.
  • Watch and Discuss Together:

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All MHS  summer assignments can be found at this link. In addition,  the link for the summer reading challenge that all high school students will complete can be found here.

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Pierce Summer Reading: This year’s approach to summer reading will focus on a school-wide read of Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson. Our goal is to provide a common book for students, staff and faculty to read over the summer with the intention of holding small group conversations in the fall.  The conversations will focus on the themes of equity, access, belonging, and community.  By ensuring that all students and staff access the text, the focus will be less on accountability and more on rich conversation in relevant topics. Please see this  link to learn more about Harbor Me. If you have not yet picked up your child’s copy of Harbor Me, you can do so on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of this week or any day next week, between 8am and 3pm at Pierce.

Pierce Summer Math Enrichment: All rising or current Pierce Middle School students, as well as their parents, are encouraged to enroll this summer in the free online self-paced course titled How to Learn Math: For Students offered through the math education department at Stanford University. You can find a description and enrollment link for this course, which will address math myths, growth mindset thinking, the valuable role that mistakes play in mathematical development, and much more, here. Please also see this link for additional resources, enrichment activities, games, and puzzles.

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The MPS At Home Learning website will continue to be available to students and families all summer long. All weekly plans will be archived and available throughout the summer!

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It’s not too late to sign up for summer reading! Milton’s elementary schools are once again partnering with the Milton Public Library for our Summer Reading Challenge. This year’s theme is “Imagine Your Story!” All details can be found here and you won’t want to miss this video featuring MPL Assistant Director Sara Truog and children’s librarian Jen Struzziero, with cameos from our elementary principals.

Registration is open for all students entering Grades K-6. Students can sign in to their old summer reading account or create a new one here.  Register your child for the 2020 Challenge with one click, then submit this short Google Form to let their teacher know they’re registered. For more help, view this slideshow or contact Sara Truog at struog@ocln.org.

The Challenge will run through September 2. By logging the minutes they read, students will receive virtual badges, win prizes, and earn virtual tickets that they can put into drawings for a host of other prizes, like gift cards, mystery book boxes, and swag bags. Readers can also earn rewards for writing book reviews, attending virtual library programs, and completing fun activities. Happy reading!

SPECIAL EDUCATION

Administrator for Pupil Personnel Services Susan Maselli shares that this week  we began summer special education services for students in Milton. 12 groups of students participated in in-person learning and fun and over one hundred students began remote academic services. More than 30 out-of-district students resumed services in person or remotely as well.

Special thanks to staff and families for their patience and exceptional efforts. We appreciate all the work families have done helping students prepare to return to school, and we’re glad to see so many who were able to successfully wear masks and face shields.

We will host a mid summer parent/guardian check-in, and welcome parent/guardian input on their student’s experiences at anytime along the way.

As always, please be in touch with your questions or concerns. You can reach Susan Maselli via email at smaselli@miltonps.org

FOOD SERVICE

Weekly to-go bags with  7 breakfasts and 7 lunches are available for pick up every Wednesday from 8-9am and 5-6pm at MHS and Tucker through August 26. Weekly produce boxes are also available for pick up. Each box contains 22lbs of produce including carrots, onions, potatoes, romaine, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, oranges, pears and cantaloupe. ANY Milton family is welcome to pick up a weekly to-go bag as the goal is to support any food insecure student.

If you have a hardship and are in need of more convenient hours for pick up, please contact Food Service Director Jackie Morgan via email or phone at 617-898-1051. MPS families in need of support during this time are also encouraged to email MPS Family Outreach Liaison Marti O’Keefe McKenna via email at or by phone at 617-980-7343.

HIGH SCHOOL HAPPENINGS  

MHS Adjustment Counselors will be available this summer to provide additional support to our MHS students as needed. Our goal has been, and continues to be, supporting our students social and emotional health. MHS Adjustment Counselors will have office hours on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through Friday, August 21 and will  schedule a phone call or Google meet with students. Please contact counselors via email:  Jennie Beliveau @ jbeliveau@miltonps.org; Mary Bianca Mattocks @ mmattocks@miltonps.org, and Ken Adelman @ kadelman@miltonps.org.

The Interface Helpline is also available all summer Monday-Friday from 9-5. This service provides free referrals for mental health support and can be reached by calling 888-244-6843. Additionally, attached are great mental health resources that are available for all of our students and families.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact Principal Jette at jjette@miltonps.org at any time.

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In early March, MPS students, families and staff enjoyed an evening with the Harlem Wizards! Thank you to Milton Access TV for filming and compiling the  Harlem Wizards event. You can watch the fun here.

INSIDE OUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS

Each year Tucker students join together for a special evening to celebrate our diversity and community through song and dance. You can tell each grade apart as they always wear a unique color to show their teamwork. Although we were not able to hold our annual event this year, the spirit of the event lives on in the form of unique summer opportunities hosted by Tucker faculty members and sponsored by the Tucker PTO. The exciting summer calendar kicked off Monday, July 6 with an opportunity to pick up Unity Night t- shirts outside of Tucker to wear and represent the community spirit of Tucker. A special shout out of thanks goes to our student designer, fifth grader Samara Solomon-Sanneh, who created the design following a contest this past winter!

TECHNOLOGY 

It is with great excitement that the Milton Public Schools shares with you the new Family Technology Support Help Center website.  This site was created after hearing the feedback MPS families provided.  The site provides the following information:

PlusPortal: Support instructions; Tutorials; Mobile app information

Google: Information & tutorials on; Google Classroom; Google Calendar; Google Drive; Google Keep & Tasks

Clever: Information & login instructions

Guardian Monitoring: Information on how to monitor online activity at home

Who to Contact: List of MPS staff to contact with help on specific issues

STAFF NEWS

Congratulations and welcome to Allyson McHugh who has been appointed as the English Department Head at Milton High School. Ms. McHugh joins the Milton Public Schools with outstanding accolades from the Waltham Public Schools where she has served as both the Grade 6-12 ELA Director and the ELA Director of the Changemaker Academy, a program within the Waltham Public Schools.  Ms. McHugh was the unanimous choice of the Screening Committee for this position as she comes with a wealth of experience as a coordinator and leader, she is knowledgeable, skilled and extremely gifted. Waltham’s Assistant Superintendent describes Allyson as “a team player and go-getter.” She has a great sense of curriculum development with a strong desire to focus on diversity and equity. We look forward to working with Allyson McHugh in her new role as the English Department Head.”

Congratulations and welcome to Magen Slesinger, our new Director of PreK-12 Fine Arts (Music, Fine Arts and Consumer Studies).  Ms. Slesinger comes to us after five years as Coordinator of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts for the Watertown Public Schools. Tucker Principal Dr. Elaine McNeil-Girmai writes that “We are so excited to have identified Magen for this role. Magen stood out for her commitment to the arts, equity and school culture experience. Her experience in the music field as well as her experience as a Coordinator in Watertown will support the excellent programming for  Arts that has already been established in MPS.” I know you will join us in welcoming Magen Slesinger to the Milton Public Schools.

ART AND MUSIC

We are pleased to share MHS student Sam Higgins’ recent  interview on CS Music. Sam recently won the 2020 Classical Singer Competition, Classical High School Division!

MSAPC 

On July 15 at 8pm, the Improbable Players will perform for the MPS community via Zoom.

“Teens at Milton High School were moved watching the Improbable Players last year and we are thrilled to be bringing them back with their updated virtual performance called ‘The Group Chat’,” said Laurie Stillman, Director of the Milton Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (MSAPC).  The performance will take place on July 15th, 2020 at 8pm and is sponsored by the Milton Public Library, the Milton Health Department along with MSAPC.  Improbable Players is a theater troupe made up of young people in recovery. Their performances, based on real life, include a talk back session in which audience members can ask questions of the actors about the play and about their struggles with addiction.

“The Group Chat” follows four friends during their first year out of high school.  As one friend begins to use alcohol to deal with stress, the other friends in the group struggle to understand the true nature of addiction and how they can help.  This play explores how addiction can affect relationships, how to talk to someone you love when you feel concerned about their use of drugs and alcohol, and ultimately, the different pathways to recovery.

Ideal for teens and the adults who care about them, the audience will be able to log on to the performance through Zoom to watch and then interact with the members of Improbable Players.  The link and instructions will be widely advertised and also available on the MSAPC website, milton-coalition.org as well as the events page of the Milton Public Library at www.miltonlibrary.org.   This performance is made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

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The Milton Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition has opened registration for Youth Leadership Trainings to be held later this summer.  Registration is free, space is limited, and registration will close on July 15.  More information and the registration link can be found at www.milton-coalition.org.

The trainings will be focused on creating a healthier Milton by fostering youth skills in such areas as community planning, advocacy, public speaking, and civic and political engagement.  We plan on using dynamic trainers who specialize in youth development.  Trainings will be online unless the public health situation allows for in person trainings.

Our goal is for Milton to develop a group of diverse youth who can effectively use their voices to speak out for themselves and their peers in order to improve their community.  Youth need to be involved in decisions that impact them and we believe they have important contributions to make.

Why is the Milton Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition interested in Youth Leadership?  Because youth are the experts on what is needed in Milton to support their well-being and to make healthier choices, including around substance use.

All teens who are interested in making a difference are encouraged to sign up.  All teens welcome; priority given to those entering grades 8 and 10,  IF we need to limit numbers.  Community service hours available to those who complete the series.  Exact dates and times are to be determined but will likely be afternoons or evenings in August.

FAMILY RESOURCES 

Food Resources: MPS Food Service To-Go Program is a valuable resource to assist families in providing nutritious breakfast and lunches to their children. Pick up times are Wednesday from 8-9am and 5-6pm at both the Tucker School (behind the school) and Milton High School (on the Canton Ave side of the building). ANY Milton family is welcome to pick up 7 days worth of breakfasts and lunches in a To-Go bag and a 22lb box of produce every Wednesday through August 26th.

The Milton Community Food Pantry located in the Parkway Methodist Church, 158 Blue Hills Parkway is open this Saturday, July 11 from 9:15-11:15am.  

Interfaith Social Services Pantry Shelf If you are in need of additional food the Interfaith Social Services Food Pantry, located at 105 Adams St., Quincy is open Monday – Friday, 10-11:45am and Wednesdays 5-7pm for families in need during this difficult time.

Project Bread shares information and links to food assistance programs in Massachusetts here. 

If you have received a P-EBT card in the mail and are having trouble activating the card, this link will help you correctly set up your P-EBT card.

Brookwood Community Farm is accepting applications for SNAP farm shares.  This produce would be picked up at the farm every other week July through Sept and/or Oct and Nov.  The on site pickup not only allows for a visit to the farm but also allows for more choice and some weeks there is pick-your-own (PYO) included.  If transportation is not possible, the farm will work out  delivery through a farm member.  The application can be found here.

Health Insurance: If you do not have health insurance, MassHealth open enrollment has been extended.  Visit their website for details on how to apply.

Financial Support:  Milton Residents Fund MRF Any Milton residents 18 or older facing a financial crisis can reach out to the MRF for help with things like rental or mortgage assistance, utility assistance, winter heating oil, small car repair fees, educational or professional development fees, or medical expenses.

MPS Family Liaison: Milton Public Schools is committed to being a resource for you. Whether you are unsure of how to connect with school staff or directly need a referral for services or supplies please don’t hesitate to reach out to Marti O’Keefe McKenna, MPS Family Outreach Liaison at 617-980-7343 or by email at mmckenna@miltonps.org. All calls and emails are confidential.

COMMUNITY NEWS 

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Milton Early Childhood Alliance is offering a free Parent Café: Getting Ready for Kindergarten.  Will your child be attending Kindergarten in the fall? Then, our free Parent Café is for you! Join us on July 23, 2020, 7:30 PM via Zoom. Email cpcmecasld@verizon.net to receive meeting link and password.

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Milton Soccer Registration is open for children entering grades K-8 through August 1st. Please click on this link: Milton Soccer Website for more information and to register your child. Milton Soccer intends that no child be denied the opportunity to participate in the soccer program due to family financial problems. Portions or all of player registration fees may be waived if situations warrant such action. Requests can be made during registration and questions can be sent to registrar Heather Montgomery at hjmontgomery@me.com.

IMPORTANT MPS CONTACTS

MPS school Adjustment Counselors:  Jennie BeliveauMary Bianca MattocksKenneth Adelman (Milton High School); Myriam FrancoeurKara Sheridan, Kelly Dearing (Pierce) Jaclyn Germano (Cunningham); Elizabeth Caruso (Collicot) ; Ramsay Cadet (Tucker) Brian Powers, Christine Howley (Glover)

Central Office is staffed every day and you can reach the Superintendent’s office any time via phone at 617-696-4808 or via email.

The Milton Public School system does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, gender identity, transgender status, gender transitioning, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its programs, activities or operations. These include, but are not limited to, admissions, equal access to programs and activities, employment, provision of and access to programs and services, as well as selection of volunteers, vendors and employers recruiting at the Milton Public Schools.  We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of our staff, students, volunteers, subcontractors, and vendors. The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies: Asst. Superintendent for Curriculum & Human Resources, Dr. Karen Spaulding, (617) 696-5040 ext. 5582.

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