January 2012 letter to Parents
Dear Amigos Parents and Families,
Jan. 20, 2012
Greetings friends and families at Amigos! We have launched a new year at school and the buzz is great! There are many activities underway in our professional learning community that speak to our skilled staff, engaged students and highly involved families!
The focus from the district has been on the IA, the organization and staffing of the four new upper schools. Amigos has been at the table, engaged in all of the professional development – interdisciplinary curriculum, common core, understanding by design, (a backward design approach to developing curriculum), discussing and planning for developmental design advisory structures (Circle of Power and Respect) and building inclusive school communities where respectful and caring relationships are a high priority.
Our Kindergarten through 5th grade teachers have also been engaged in professional development through the district and through our in-school coaching program. Teachers are serving on a number of teams within the district and, in total; we have five (K – 5) aspiring teachers across the content areas. Aspiring teachers work with teachers across the district, receive additional training on best practices and visit each other’s classrooms to observe model lessons. They, in turn, provide leadership and training to teachers at Amigos and/or workshops for parents.
The staff development, system wide, has served to increase the staff’s collective capacity to achieve the school’s academic vision and goals. Additionally, however, our work on examining our two-way structure and success as well as the cultural proficiency of students and staff has been a primary focus in the last two months. In December and January we met in clusters to review and rate ourselves in the 7 principles of dual language education. More recently, we examined ways to ‘shift’ or increase the input and production of Spanish starting in the early grades. We are drawing on the work from the Center for Applied Linguistics, (CAL) and will be meeting with a consultant to TWI education in February. I have been an active participant in those discussions and teachers are excited about having time to reflect on these important ideas. The staff at Amigos has a sustained commitment to the goals of increasing students’ Spanish language use and overall performance. We look forward to sharing some of the data that we have uncovered and recommendations that we will be making with parents in the future.
The Amigos School Council (ASC) continues to meet on a monthly basis. Six parents and four staff members sit on the council: Joseph Panepinto (co-chair), Helen Bryant, Liz Lyster, Hannah Sevian, Sandy Gould, Mary Ciampa, Jim StClair, Caroline Butler-Rahman, Noelle Danian and Lillian Rater. The Amigos School Council serves as the main teacher – parent advisory board for the school and welcomes new families and friends. This year, many of our discussions have centered around updates from the sub-committees, whose members have been working hard to address some of our key issues, such as the development of a ‘coherent’ before and after school plan, effective outreach and recruitment strategies, the design and preparation of the Upton building and playground, support for our partnerships, such as City Sprouts, City Step, and Science Club for Girls, launching of the new Amigos web-site and overall communication and community building activities within the school and across the district.
As many of you probably know, planning for the new budget has begun. I will be addressing the district’s proposed budget as it relates to Amigos at our ASC meeting in February. (2.8.12 – 6:30 PM). There are some proposed cuts that will adversely affect our school climate. There is also one in the area of World Languages. The district is eliminating the teaching of ‘world’ languages in the elementary schools and will offer students in the 6th grade a chance to take either Chinese or Spanish. In the 7th and 8th, students may also continue in either Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese or Arabic.
The district will also be adding theatre to the mix at the upper (our middle) grades, on a very part time basis. If any parents know of anyone with a background in theater, who is bilingual in Spanish and English and looking for a part time position for ‘12-‘13, please be sure to forward that information to me as soon as possible.
As part of our goal to increase our ability to deliver Spanish through Specialists, I will be meeting with the Coordinator for the Visual and Performing Arts to request ‘bilingual’ personnel for openings in the future. This strategy will also be discussed at our next ASC meeting.
In the last month, our former recess coach, Colleen Ryan, moved on to a full time position in Brookline! Teresita and I posted the recess coach part time position and have since hired Dave Burke. Dave has a BA in History from Northeastern and has been involved in a number of coaching and recreational activities since his graduation. He rows on a crew team for alumni at Northeastern and works in an after school position in Belmont. Dave is open to learning about the principles of ‘Playworks’ and is eager to meet our students and create a positive and playful recess environment at Amigos. We are pleased to welcome Dave to the Amigos staff.
One exciting activity coming our way is the dialogue that Sarah Miller, our counselor, and Caroline Butler-Rahman, SSL teacher, are creating with elementary and middle school students about Black History month. Within a series of planned activities, the goal is ask guiding questions, which we will explore individually and as a school, such as, “What does Black history mean to you?” and “What are the many African roots that are represented in our Amigos community?” We will be exploring these questions on the classroom level in many different ways in the different grades with the objective of sharing our reflections at an assembly in February!
Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of ‘Black in Latin America’, a PBS film that examines how Africa and Europe came together to create the rich cultures of Latin America and the Caribbean, has been invited to speak at Amigos at the February assembly. Unfortunately, we have not been able to confirm his availability as of yet.
In December, Amigos held an Open House to welcome new families to visit our Kindergarten classrooms. With special thanks to Amy Britos and Lillian Rater and a number of families and middle school students who acted as tour guides, parents were able to spend extensive time in the classrooms, talking with students and teachers. Although the numbers of families visiting were fewer than the prior year, those that came represented more Spanish speaking families and other languages and were highly committed to attending the school. Two families in particular, are planning to move to Cambridge just to attend Amigos. Amigos enrollment is presently at 335, the highest that it has been in the last five years.
This year, we have a large number of siblings (our families are growing) who have preference and will fill 20 seats in our new JrK and K classrooms. News from the FRC indicates that Amigos is one of the most highly chosen schools for 2012. Our recruitment and retention sub-committee has been hard at work and has produced a new brochure that will be distributed the week of January 23rd. Special thanks to Hannah Goodwin, R & R chair), Penn Loh and Liz Lyster for making this happen! They have also planned a radio announcement that will be broadcast on the Spanish radio 1600 AM during the last two weeks of January. Thanks to Bertha Pantoja for making the recording – she sounds amazing and packs a lot into 30 seconds.
A special thanks to Paul Ciampa for his efforts in organizing the Amigos first Horizons for Homeless Holiday Drive at Amigos. The donations from Amigos families were generous and Paul has sent along a number of beautiful photos from the ‘Celebration of Light’ party that was held for participating families. I will forward the pictures to Ralph Collins who will put them up on our website!
Our JrK – 4 Winter concert is planned for Thurs. Jan 26th with our new music teacher, Ms. Katie Bach and wonderful singers in grades K - 4! Amigos welcomes you to this musical event!
Finally, the date for our next community event, La Noche Caribeña, has been set for Friday, March 2nd. Please reserve this date as the FOA and families are making plans that will set this event apart from all of the others!!
Thanks to everyone for your continued support for our community,