Tuesday, September 5, 2017

We're Ready for 2017-2018!

We are excited for the year ahead, and we look forward to seeing you and the students tomorrow!  It is going to be an exciting and busy year for MERSD!  I encourage you to stay involved, and I thank you for your ongoing support of our students and of our schools.  As we transition into the new school year, please do not hesitate to contact your child's teacher, counselor or building Principal with any questions or concerns you may have.  Additionally, I welcome and value your input so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a suggestion or need assistance with an issue.

Here’s a quick look at some of what has gone on over the summer and some of what is on the agenda for the year ahead: 

Making the Grade - PISA Results & Boston Magazine:  With the kick-off to a new year comes Boston Magazine’s annual school rankings, this year MERSD ranked 9th among all Boston area schools and first among North Shore Districts.  This is on the heels of the release of the PISA assessment (Program for International Assessment).  During the 2015-2016 school year, MERHS high school students participated in the assessment, and this summer we received the results.  I am proud to report we are tops in the world!   PISA publically reports out country results, but participating schools receive individual reports that show how we compare to other countries.  In ELA and Science, we have outperformed all other participants, and in mathematics we have matched the performance of world leaders China and Japan.   

Social Emotional Learning:  Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. At MERSD, we are committed to teaching the Whole Child, and, as a community, we endeavor to do so in ways that best fit our educational and social-emotional goals for children. In order to meet this goal, this summer, twenty two teachers, principals, and directors were trained at Yale’s Center for Emotional Intelligence in an approach called RULER.  This team of teachers will help develop and implement a two-year action plan for staff training and student roll out of the RULER program in grades K-12.  Learn more about Social Emotional Learning and Emotional Intelligence on MERSD Curriculum Highlights Blog.

Parent Resource Page: Dr. DeRoche, Dir. of Curriculum & Instructional Technology, has rebuilt our Parent Resource page and updated it with helpful articles and websites for parents.  The resources on this page are aligned to our K-12 curriculum initiatives and support a balanced approach to technology.   Additionally, we have added a parent resource section to MERSD Weekly that will also include timely articles and tips on social media and a wide range of student related issues.

Mark Your Calendar:  Dr. Elizabeth Englander, October 19, 2017 @ 7:00pm – MERMHS 

Dr. Englander is a professor of Psychology and Founder and Director of The MA Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) at Bridgewater State University, a Center which delivers anti-violence and anti-bullying programs, resources, and research for the state of MA. She was named Most Valuable Educator of 2013 by the Boston Red Sox because of her work in technological aggression and how it interacts with peer abusiveness in general.  As a school district, the Manchester-Essex Regional School District is proud to work with The MA Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) through student, faculty, and parent trainings on social awareness and anti-bullying. In addition, MERSD participates in Second Steps, YALE's RULER Social Emotional Training, and MARC's student workshops focusing on anti-bullying curriculum development programs.

2017-2018 Program Reviews:  MERSD is committed to continual improvement focused on creating a learning environment that encourages creativity, innovation and critical thinking.   While we continue to perform highly in traditional measures, we have focused our recent improvement planning to increase our capacity to reach a broader range of learners.  During the 2017-2018 school, year we will be undertaking program reviews in the areas of Middle School Special Education Program and Athletics.   Through surveys, observations and focus groups with students, parents, faculty, and staff, our reviews will assess how well MERSD has performed against key goals and standards.  The findings will be reported out at a School Committee Meeting and be used to inform future strategic improvement planning. 

Memorial Building Project Update:  In the Spring of 2016, MERSD established the Memorial School Building Committee (MSBC) and received support from our communities to enter into a Feasibility Study with the Massachusetts School Building authority (MSBA).  The MSBA provides state matching funds for construction, and an oversight process to promote efficiency and effectiveness of local building projects.  As one of its first tasks, the MSBC was charged with identifying an Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) for the upcoming building project.   The OPM, who will be with us for the duration of the project, works to oversee the building process and helps to safeguard the District’s interests.  Last March the MSBA approved the Memorial School Building Committee’s recommendation of Dore & Whittier to serve as MERSD’s OPM for the Memorial project.   With the assistance of the OPM, and in adherence to the MSBA process, the MSBC then identified and contracted with JCJ Architecture to act as the design team for the Memorial Building Project – Feasibility Study.  Together the MSBC, Dore & Whittier, and JCJ will work to find fiscally responsible, forward-thinking solutions for the Manchester elementary school building that meet the needs of the District’s current and future curriculum program, are mindful of future maintenance and the impact on the environment, serve the school community, and are supported by voters in Manchester and Essex, as well as the MSBA.  In the end, the Feasibility Study will determine whether to renovate or replace the Memorial School.  There will be several opportunities for public input throughout the process, with the first Community Meeting scheduled for October 4, 2017
Knowing that facility needs of Memorial Elementary School have been prioritized by the MSBA process, MERSD has turned its attention toward developing a multi-year capital plan for extending the useful life of Essex Elementary, which is more than fifty years old, but in better condition than Memorial.  MERSD is currently working with the Town of Essex to leverage Green Community grant funding for energy saving improvements that can minimize the annual cost of operations.  To learn more about the Memorial Building Project Background & Process please visit the MSBC-Memorial Building Project

Meet the New Faculty 
We are very fortunate to have a fantastic group of new faculty and staff joining the MERSD Team.  Their talents and student centered outlook will certainly make our team stronger.  Meet the Newest Members of Our Faculty.

District Calendar:  The District Calendar  has been updated over the summer, and the most recent version is available under the Parents & Students Section of the district and school homepages.  Please note that the last day of school, if all snow days are used, will be June 20th, without the use of snow days, we are scheduled for the last day of school to be June 13th. Should we exceed five snow days, additional make-up days will be added to the end of the year through June 30th.

Lincoln Street Traffic:  We will be dealing with another road construction project this fall.   Over the next two weeks, there will be road construction on Lincoln Street between Summer and Vine Streets.  Lincoln Street will be closed to cars, pedestrians and bicycles between 9:00am – 2:00pm.  This should allow regular drop off and pick up.  Should there be unexpected closures, please follow any detour signs that may be placed on the road.  We understand that this may cause delays and late arrivals.   We will keep you posted about updates we receive. 

Fall Open Houses

  • High School Open House: September 14th @ 7:00 pm
  • Essex Elementary Open House:  September 21st @ 6:00 pm
  • Memorial School Open House: September 21st @ 6:00 pm
  • Middle School Open House:  September 28th @ 6:00pm

Have a wonderful 2017-2018 School Year!