I had originally wanted to collect some examples of academics to share with you this week, but instead I got wrapped up in some of the amazingly adorable things I have seen here at Peirce lately.

In Kindergarten, I joined the kids as they worked on some ocean study. One little boy mentioned that he would like to be an octopus.  Naturally, I had to ask, “What would you do with all those arms?”

“I would hold all my babies.” he replied.

In first grade, a little girl gave her teacher a plastic ring for her birthday.

In second grade, I saw a little boy take time out from playing to tie a classmate’s shoe.

In third grade, friends working together to find a student’s missing toy.

The 4th grade, as you probably know, has been putting in hours before and after school to raise money for the Alanna and Joshua fund.

In 5th grade, I saw a young man wave to his K buddy, who was frantically trying to get his attention – and made that little guy smile.

And of course, all of them did such a great job at the concert rehearsal.  These kids just could NOT be more adorable!!


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Kicking off a Great Spring!

It seems the weather is finally catching up with the calendar, and spring has arrived!  The kids are able to go outside more often, which always makes learning easier.

As I’ve walked through the halls and classrooms, I’ve seen wonderful things; home-made instruments that produce sound (attached to a science unit), structures made of recycled materials, bridges built, neighborhoods designed, and lots of spectacular writing.  Stop and look at a bulletin board the next time you are here, there are great things going on!

Our 4th graders have been especially busy, they have worked with CBS Meteorologist Todd Gutner (you may be able to catch them on the CBS news website) and they are running a baseball store.  All proceeds go to ‘Pitching in for Kids”.  The store is open before school, come on in and shop!

We are in the last ten weeks of school, so we are already planning for next year.  Look for an email from me soon that will give you the line up of staff.  With the shifting in the co-taught program, we will be reducing staff, and I know you have questions.  I will get that out to you as soon as I can.

Enjoy the weather!!!

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SIP (School Improvement Plan)

Each year, the Peirce School Advisory Council, consisting of the principal, teachers, and parent, meet to discuss the hopes and visions we all share for the improvement of our school.  We are not unique in this process, as each Massachusetts School is mandated to have such a council in place.  You can find more about the council and our members through the Peirce website.


This year, you will notice there is a strong push for improvement in math.  By no coincidence, that is a district goal as well. Our school improvement plan strongly reflects the goals of the district.  We have three major goals and action steps, and the APS goal it reflects:

Arlington Goal 1: 

The Arlington Public Schools will ensure that every graduate is prepared to enter and complete a post-secondary degree program, pursue a career, and be an active citizen in an ever-changing world by offering a rigorous, comprehensive, standards-based and data-driven K-12 system of curriculum, instruction, and assessment that integrates social, emotional and wellness support. Student Achievement

  Peirce Goal 1:  70% of students in grades 3, 4, and 5 will score either advanced or proficient in the MCAS


Action Steps Person(s) Responsible Timeline Resources Needed Success Indicators 2013 Progress
Incorporate  challenge activities into each math unit




Principal, Teachers, Math director July 2012 – June 2013 Think Tanks (previously purchased, already in classrooms)

Teacher and math director time, AEF grant funds (already acquired)


3% or more increase in MCAS scores in proficient and advanced

Bring in and utilize a math coach for teachers


Principal, Math director 2012-2013 school year Title One funds,

Teacher time beyond the school day


Increase PPI to 50% in MCAS scores  
Implement an after school tutorial program for at risk students Principal,


Math director

2012-2013 school year Title One funds, teacher time,



Tutors pre-assessment and post assessment  results, teacher observation  


Arlington Goal II – Staff Excellence and Professional Development

The Arlington Public Schools will recruit, hire, retain, and build the capacity of a diverse staff to

be excellent teachers and administrators by providing high quality professional development

aligned to needs, instructional support, coaching, and an evaluation framework that fosters

continuous improvement.

  Goal 2: Ensure that Peirce teachers are providing assistive technology for all students

Action Steps Person(s) Responsible Timeline Resources Needed Success Indicators 2012-2013 Progress
Expand use of assistive technology in the classroom Building tech person (Rebecca Kapler), Principal


2012-2013 IPad, lcd projectors, professional development from the district and school leadership, feedback by teachers formalized in a survey Kid survey? To measure their opinion of the impact

Identify classrooms in need of lcd projectors & document cameras, and acquire them IT, teachers, Building tech person 2012-2013 IT department, possibly PTO funds Equitable classroom inventory by 7/13  
Expand PD at the building level Principal, staff, Building tech person 2012-2013 PTO, Grants, Teachers, 25% of building meetings devoted to technology related PD  

Arlington Goal IV – Operations, Communication and Stakeholder Engagement

 The Arlington Public Schools will be run smoothly, efficiently and professionally. The district will operate transparently and engage in effective collaboration and responsive communication with all stakeholders. It will provide timely, accurate data to support financial decision-making,

envisioning of the district’s future, and long-range planning in partnership with other Town

officials. Through these actions it will create broad support for a high quality education system,

that is the community’s most valuable asset.

 PEIRCE Goal: 3 Improve Communication Between School and Home


Action Steps Person(s) Responsible Timeline Resources Needed Success Indicators 2012-13 Progress
Needs assessment from the Peirce Community via survey. Principal, secretary,



Advisory CounciL




Teacher communication with parents, office communication (summer) Survey Monkey and  hard copy results; protocol for creating a hard copy list

Communicate  confidentiality policy and FERPA law to staff and community


Principal, Advisory Council 2012-2013 Information provided by the DOE, slide show at PTO


Information shared this year and annually.


Create Grade level websites: Prepare supply lists and class lists before the end of the 2013 school year for 2013/2014 Teachers, Principal

Building tech person






Faculty time; teacher time



Completed websites and lists by June 2013




Some of these goals will be met at the end of the school year, and that progress will be reflected in the progress column. Others will continue, or be altered, to reflect the ever-changing needs of our school.

If you think you would like to be a member of our council, we are always looking for candidates, check the Peirce website for more information!

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The New Common Core

Many of you may be hearing about the new curriculum standards, “The Common Core”.  Next year, we will be shifting away from the Massachusetts Standards and into the Common Core.  There will be some changes in your child’s curriculum, and I think it is for the better.

For those of you with iPads or smartphones, there is a great, free app called, simply, CmmonCore (no spaces if you want to look it up).  It is clear about the standards in English Language Arts and math at all grade levels.  With just a few taps, you can see what will be expected of your child next year in any grade level. 

Arlington has been preparing for the change, and adaptations have been made along the way.  The Common Core will be the national benchmark for students, as opposed to states determining their own.  Massachusetts was already well ahead of the game.

There is oodles of information on-line, but the important thing to remember is that we are ready for the transition.  Our school is ready for the change!


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What’s Happening At Peirce

It is so nice to be in and out of our classrooms every day, and to see the rich learning experiences going on at all grade levels.  I love taking a minute to share some with you:

In Kindergarten, I’ve seen some great work with patterns, shapes, and colors, and using them to record data.  I’ve seen children build sentences, with the understanding that all sentences start with a capital letter.  Not too bad for November!

In 1st grade, I’ve seen some great story writing, complete with beginning, middle and end. I’ve seen them some tricky solve word problems in math.  I am very impressed!

In 2nd, I’ve seen some fantastic estimating going on, and strategies for counting large numbers.  I’ve also seen some really great story writing!

In third, I saw a math measurement activity that all 3rd graders participated in.  In small groups, they had to ‘launch a rocket’ (by blowing into a straw) and measure the distance.  AND they had to use a graph to record their group’s distances.  Boy, did we have fun!!!

In 4th, I saw reading groups that were a combination of small groups.  Some were reading independently, some were using Nooks or iPad, and I joined  a group reading “Stone Fox’.  One of my favorite books, and not to give away the ending, but keep some tissues ready! 

In 5th, I HAVE to mention Science Camp.  I made it down for a visit, and I learned that coniferous trees never grow back once they are cut, but deciduous trees do.  We saw an example of a tree that had been cut to a stump, but grew back, maybe as far back as 100 years ago!  And probably to clear the land for farming, even though now it is a forest.

And in library, I’m watching our students turn into authors, preparing to publish their final draft.

When you ask your child today, “What did you do in school?”, don’t settle for ‘nothing’.  They did plenty!

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Summer Professional Development

Many of you noticed how busy the school was this summer.  It was as if our school year never stopped.  Not only did we host summer school, but we had several great professional development projects going on. Peirce teachers worked on “Think Tanks’, which are math challenge activities for students.  We also worked on “Number Talks” and “Zupelz”, also related to math enrichment, but are used for children of all abilities.

On top of that, many teachers took course in and out of district.  In 5th grade, there was training for ‘response clicker’, where students all respond anonymously to A,B,C,or D, so the teachers knows if the material is understood, and by what percent of the class.

Ms. Power and I took a hearty math class, I unfortunately couldn’t stay for the whole two weeks, but Ms. Power stuck it out like a trooper.  (I hadn’t had homework like that since, well, a LONG time ago).

You also may have notice all the early release days this year.  Those are also for professional development, in all academic and social/emotional areas.

We are DEFINITELY a learning community!!!


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A Great Start

Thank you to everyone who worked hard to make these first few days of school so great!  I’ve had a chance to visit all the classrooms, and I am seeing some really great things already.  In first grade, I got to listen to a great discussion about classroom rules, and I watched two boys who had argued about materials (crayons) work on their negotiating skills with the guidance of their teacher.  They came up with some great language and strategies to avoid the conflict again.

In third grade, I saw a great Open Circle lesson, and I got to watch a star get added to the “star jar”

In second grade, I got to join in on a spelling activity (my table spelled “little”…wooo!!!)

In all the classes, writing is well under way.  I saw wonderful personal narratives, which shared all kinds of summer memories.  We had first roller coaster rides, trips to Ireland, the cape, and beaches up and down the coast.  What a jet set crowd we are!

It is so good to have the school back in the swing of things!

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Welcome Back Everyone!

I hope you all had a wonderful summer, and enjoyed all that warm weather ( “It’s not the heat so much as the humidity”..)

Thank you to Dorothy and all of you who kept our gardens going this summer!  Also, thanks to the Peirce Advisory Council members Lisa, Charlie and Cate for putting good ideas into action.  Check out the new number line out back!

Additionally, a retaining wall was finally built to hold back the erosion on the little hill out back.  The council has been working on that for years, with a lot of ground work laid by Kristin Garrigus.  The kids will love the clean hard top, and Frank and Walter will be able to use the snowblower out there without breaking it!

Thank you to all of you who help us improve!

I’ll be writing several posts over the next few days, as we will have lots of exciting news to share, so check back regularly!!

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That Sad Day

On March 19th, the Peirce Elementary School suffered an unimaginable loss.  One of our teaching assistants, Alanna DeMella, had been killed over the weekend in a tragic accident.  We started that morning in complete shock.


As the Peirce staff arrived, some were aware of the incident and arrived in varied states of shock and dismay.  Others accepted the news with disbelief and overwhelming sadness.  However, all were prepared to put their own grief aside and work toward helping the children through this difficult day.


By the time the students were arriving, administrators from all over the Arlington Public Schools were in the building.  Special Education administrators Lori Villani and Chris Carlson were among the first to arrive, as were Superintendent Kathleen Bodie, and Cindy Bouvier, Director of Wellness.  They immediately called in social workers from all schools, and the STARS team, a crisis response system composed of trained individuals from all over the state.


Once this team assembled, they sprang into action.  Social workers went into classrooms in pairs to discuss the tragedy with students. The rest of the team initiated the Alert Now system to get the information out to the community.


After all the classrooms had been visited, several social workers stayed in the building, and the children were informed they had access to them for the rest of the day.  STARS members provided counseling for staff members for the remainder of the day as well.  Plans were made with The Children’s Room of Arlington to come to Peirce later that week to educate teachers and parents on how to help children, and adults, cope with the grief surrounding Alanna’s death.


As this was all happening inside the building, parent support was building all around us.  We were receiving emails and phone calls offering support and sympathy.  Other schools were doing the same, offering assistance in any way possible. 


For the rest of the week, social workers were available to the students and teachers.  Emotional support from parents and the larger community continued.  Parents and other schools sent food, flowers, and condolences.  The level of support from the Arlington community was outstanding.


Weeks later, we are still grappling with that loss.  We are keeping a close eye on our children, watching for lingering signs of stress and anguish.  As always, the children impress us with their resilience, and they are a great source of strength.


We still have people checking in on us, and social workers available to help children if needs arrive.  For today and tomorrow, we continue to depend on each other’s support and kindness, which seems to be an inexhaustible resource in the community.  The loss will always be here, but good memories are replacing hard ones, and we are moving on.

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In Memory of Alanna DeMella

Today, the third grade classroom where Mrs. DeMella worked planted a beautiful ‘snow blossom weeping cherry’ tree in our front yard.  You will notice it next time you drive by, sitting to the left of the ‘Peirce School’ sign.  It is a beautiful little tree, currently in bloom.

Mrs. Schuette, mother of a student in that class, shared some lovely words from the heart, and all the students helped plant the tree with a scoopful of dirt.  The kids were excited and positive, promising to care for the tree.  One student mentioned that when they graduate, they can ask their younger siblings to care for it.  I thought that was a wonderful idea.

Thank you to Ms. Orrell for taking pictures of this moving event.

 I have let the family know of the tree, and they were in agreement that it was the perfect way to honor Alanna’s memory.

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