Showing posts from 2014

Wrap Up: Bridge, Bowman, and Estabrook Elementary Schools

In 2010, the Town of Lexington Public Facilities took advantage of an indoor air quality test offered by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Results revealed that in two schools (Jonas Clarke Middle School and Estabrook Elementary School), concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (known as PCBs) were higher than normal.

Locating the source of PCBs then took considerable sleuthing and further testing. At Clarke, PCBs were found only in window caulking; mitigation was relatively simple to do: remove the caulk, encapsulate the surrounding building masonry, and recaulk windows with non-PCB material.

At Estabrook though, it was an entirely different matter.

Eventually, PCBs were found in all of the floor and ceiling mastic, as well as the window caulk, and in the mastic used to affix both interior and exterior decorative wall panels.

In January of 2012, Lexington voters approved a debt exclusion override to appropriate funds for extraordinary repairs to the Bridge and Bow…

Remembering Summer Learning

This year, and summer especially, will remain in my memory as one where I explored new methods of learning.

I had already discovered the power of twitter as a personal and professional learning tool, what with various twitter chats in which I began participating in 2011.
Last Spring, I signed up for my first MOOC with coursera. I logged in for the first few days, then, never again. Failure to continue the course was a combination of being somewhat disoriented there, not being as interested in the course as I thought I would be, and a general lack of time.
Undaunted, in July I signed up for an EDx course: The Future of Learning with Professor Richard Elmore. Happily, I found this one to be a topic in which I was not only interested, but engaged in right from the start.

I had been fortunate to attend an introduction to the MOOC on the Harvard campus with Prof Elmore in June. In the course we explored modes of individual and distributed learning and leading through exploration and under…

Addendum to Post on Prioritizing

Proposed Regulations on Time-Out and Restraint were approved by the Board at its Regular Meeting December 16, 2014.

The next FBRC Public Hearing is scheduled for Western MA on January 10, 2015, 11:00 AM. Location: Northampton High School Auditorium, 380 Elm Street, Northampton MA 01060


On Tuesday, December 16, 2014 I will attend my fourth regular state Board of Education meeting. Meetings are public, of course, and are recorded, but are not broadcast live, which is different from many School Committee meetings across the Commonwealth.

Following that first regular Board meeting in September, I realized it would be valuable for me to prioritize my time and energy as I become more familiar with this role. I decided to put my energy in three areas:
The Dever School turn-aroundProposed Updates to Regulations on Time-out and Restraint andFY16 Budget/Chapter 701. The Dever School Turn-around.
The Dever School is a K-5 elementary school in Boston,
designated as a Level 5 "chronically underperforming school" (Spring, 2014). This being a new development for the Dever School, the Department of ESE, and a turn-around partner (Blueprint Schools Network), and also co-terminous with my Board appointment, I thought it useful to follow the school's progress until it exits…

Monks and Ripples

Back in my twenties, after attaining a First Degree Black Belt in Shim Gum Do Korean Zen Martial Arts, I moved into the monastery located on the outskirts of Boston. I lived with other residents and the Founding Master, Zen Master Chang Sik Kim, a Korean Zen Buddhist monk who taught us and other students at Shim Gwang Sa, the Mind Light Temple.

Shim Gwang Sa is a renovated 100+ year-old building, a former church. Students in the Residency Program have professional jobs or attend college classes during the day and maintain a daily morning and evening meditation and martial arts practice and weekly temple work schedule. During the nearly four years I lived there, the number of residents varied between nine and sixteen, and ages ranged from adults in their twenties and thirties, primarily, with a few folks in their forties.
None of us at Shim Gwang Sa aspired to monkshood. We took no vows of celibacy or poverty; we were training for good health and successful living. In ideal terms though,…

The Journey of a Thousand Meetings

Looking back, I will tell you that each step was borne of on-going curiosity, learning, and interest. I'm writing about it because it's important to reflect back. Parent voice is not only important, it is necessary on the issues that have an impact on our children, our schools, and our communities. I have been supported by family, friends, neighbors, community members, the PTA, and the Governor. I sincerely hope my experience and common sense - and curiosity to want to know and do more - will continue to serve our children's best interests and success.

When our eldest entered Kindergarten my husband and I joined the school's parent group - it happened to be a PTA, and we joined to get to know his teacher and school better, connect with students and families in his class, and generally, be engaged from the outset.

As the years went by, and two more children entered the school system, I found myself more and more interested in making a difference at this school. Over ti…

Community Matters

The link between breakfast and school performance is well documented. Even before the economic downturn of 2008, the face of poverty had changed, though most of America hadn't recognized it (The Rich and the Rest of Us | Tavis Smiley & Cornel West). The income inequality gap (already huge) is growing - homelessness and hunger are symptoms of poverty caused by many factors.

In Lexington, a working group of school and municipal staff (primarily) along with several community leaders, has been convening since late last fall to share information about the growing homelessness issue in our own community. 
Working Group conversations led to a convening of the Lexington Interfaith Clergy Association (LICA) who hosted a meeting with the community to discuss the issue and consider concrete next steps. More than 50 people came out from at least 10 Lexington faith-based congregations. Breakout sessions focused on addressing steps necessary to aid individuals and families across Town in real…

Family-School Partnership Models

In thinking about the type of partnership your school culture embraces, consider how well it engages families and the greater community in:
Building RelationshipsLinking to LearningAddressing DifferencesSupporting Advocacy andSharing PowerBake Sale authors point the way with these four partnership models:

The Partnership School
This school's culture holds that all families and communities have something great to offer and the school will do whatever it takes to work closely with all stakeholders to make sure every single student succeeds. Home visits are common with new families. The building is open to community use and social services are available to families at all times. All family activities connect to student learning and parents and teachers look at student work and test results together. The parent group includes all families and there's a clear, open process for resolving problems. Student-led Parent-Teacher conferences are held three times a year for 30-minutes. In a …

Intro to What I Learned at #PTcamp

Sometimes we forget. We don't mean to, but we forget that our children are whole children who come to and from school from families and communities.

But, what if we didn't forget? And what if we engaged parents as partners, allies, and advocates in children's education at home and at school?

Because more than 40 years of research shows that when families are engaged in their child's learning, that child does better. And this holds true regardless of a parent's level of education, country of origin, or socioeconomic status.

So, why do so many schools struggle to engage families? And does it really matter how family-friendly your schools are?

These were some of the questions I had in mind this summer when I participated in #PTcamp: a free and open, virtual bookchat spanning 10 time zones and involving more than 100 educators and parents. Together we read Beyond the Bake Sale: the essential guide to family-school partnerships. Each week we read a couple of chapters, then …

Core Beliefs

Change is easy. You go first. ~ Wisdom of Anonymous
These 4 Core Beliefs are found in Chapter 3 of Beyond the Bake Sale; by placing them at the heart of family-school partnerships, the authors promote and affirm the valuable role of families so necessary for all students to achieve academic proficiency - and beyond.

If we are serious about engaging families for student success, and if we do not take our families' involvement for granted, we will want to improve family engagement practice in the most authentic ways and we will want to adopt these core beliefs. When schools work with and engage families, those families become powerful partners, allies, and advocates of the school. Family engagement matters.

Core Belief 1: All parents have dreams for their children and want the best for them. When we take the time to hear from parents directly about their hopes and dreams for their children, it deepens the relationship. How often do schools take the time to hear from parents directly ab…


As I have done for the past eight years, I attended Lexington's Democratic Caucus last Saturday, February 8. What was different this year was that there was a push for electing a slate of unpledged progressive delegates to attend this year's Democratic Convention. I ran (and won) as an unpledged progressive (UP).

I am unpledged but not uncommitted! I am committed to identifying the best progressive candidate for Governor and to push all the candidates for Governor to speak up for progressive values and issues.

Read the related post by Peter Enrich to Blue Mass Group.

Our initial effort was a great success in Lexington. Of a total of 23 possible elected delegates, all 11 from our slate were elected, plus one more who joined the slate at the last moment.

And I've heard that we also have a big UP slate from Arlington, with good prospects elsewhere.

Bottom line is that it feels like we may really be onto something here. I'll be rolling up my sleeves for the follow through. …

Digital Learning Day

The third annual Digital Learning Day (#DLDay) is this Wednesday, February 5, 2014. DLDay is more than just one day; it's an ongoing campaign to ensure every child gets the best possible education in today's world economy and global society through technology integration and digital citizenship across the school and classroom, as well as at home. It's about giving every child the opportunity to learn in a robust digital environment everyday, with the goal of success in college and career. Each person can make a difference with digital learning in our nation's schools - and support the effective use of technology to improve education for all students.

Join the tweetchat on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM (Eastern) with Lexington's Estabrook Elementary School Principal, Sandra Trach, using the hashtag #digisafety. (For some background in advance, read Principal Trach's article HERE that inspired the chat.)

2014 #DLDay Resources: 
Safe Digital Ci…

School Leaders @Social Media

More and more people are using platforms like twitter, facebook, and LinkedIn to engage, inform, educate, and network.
I set up my facebook page early in October 2011 in anticipation of my 2012 re-election to the Lexington School Committee (feel free to visit and "Like"...)I joined twitter in February 2011 (tweets at right...). If one thinks of twitter as a microblog, then this blog elaborates on thoughts, ideas, and scenes I have tweeted about.I beefed up my LinkedIn profile after attending a women's leadership conference - I've tried to maintain and build connections ever since.So, it was with interest that I responded to a query sent to American School Board Journal subscribers last year about using social media - and would I be interested in talking to someone from ASBJ about it?

A small part of my conversation with ASBJ senior editor Lawrence Hardy is featured in the February edition of ASBJ and may be accessed HERE. I was pleased to contribute to the topic and ag…

An Estabrook Update

MT @MAStewartMA: Exciting! MT @SandraTrach NEW #EstabrookSchool 02.24.14! art rm in final stage overlook green roof”— Sandra Trach (@SandraTrach) January 15, 2014