OSS Newsletter: December 2016
Published on Dec 8, 2016 11:18

OSS Newsletter header

Happy December,

December is a short month due to the holidays, however, this month’s newsletter is filled with exciting news and information.

This past month was very eventful visiting students, teachers and administrators at Cambridgeport, Amigos, CRLS and Shore Collaborative. We saw great things happening with our students and teachers doing great work with them.

Inclusive Schools week is this week, December 5-9, the theme for this year is “Champions of Inclusion: POWerful Things Happen in Inclusive Schools.” You will learn more about inclusive schools week further in the newsletter.

Make It Great!


pd update

Professional Development Update
The Office of Student Services (OSS) is excited to announce a new Landmark online professional course, Executive Functioning: Impact on Academic Proficiency. This course is open to all Cambridge Public Schools staff and is aligned with the OSS Strategic Plan: Professional Development, Objective 2.

This course provides educators with an overview of the components of executive function. It covers the impacts of having both a language-based learning disability (LBLD) and executive function deficits, as well as practical instructional strategies to support students. The course is divided into six, self-paced modules. The module topics include: Overview of Executive Function; Attention and Memory; Effort; Emotion; Motivation; and Executive Function and the Landmark Teaching Principles™. Each module includes key information about the topic, demonstration of specific strategies, assignments that put theory into practice, and opportunities to discuss and reflect on course content with peers.

Celebrate Inclusive Schools Week
December 5-9, 2016
The Inclusive Schools Network announced that Inclusive Schools Week has been scheduled for the week of December 5-9, 2016! This year's theme is "Champions of Inclusion, Powerful things happen in Inclusive Schools" and focuses on the concept of being a hero. This is particularly fitting because the definition of a hero, a person noted for courageous acts and brave accomplishments, resonates with all of the students, parents, teachers, principals, and community leaders, who take courageous steps forward each day to promote acceptance for all. For example, consider the courage it takes to:
–Speak in favor of inclusive practices when others continue to insist that students should be grouped homogeneously to make instruction easier for the teachers and less demanding for students.
–Model a sense of shared responsibility for all students rather than labeling or categorizing them.
–Raise the issue and ask difficult questions surrounding underrepresentation of children of color in special education services and the underrepresentation of this same group in accelerated instruction.
–Ask difficult, but necessary, questions of school administrators around subjects of progress toward inclusion, the barriers that remain and the ways in which we can support the effort toward inclusive schools.

For more information about the Inclusive School Network and Inclusive Schools Week, check out their website at http://inclusiveschools.org.


Marcia "Marty" Mittnacht, the Massachusetts State Director for Special Education, will retire, after many years of service, from her position effective in January, 2017. Marty will be remembered for her strong advocacy for students with disabilities and for spearheading the development and implementation state policies and practices that ensure that Massachusetts schools provide the services, supports, and programs required to educate student with disabilities in the least restrictive environment.

School Discipline Project Update: This fall, DESE established a professional learning community for districts and schools identified as having inappropriate or excessive use of longterm suspensions and expulsions for students with disabilities and students of color. The initial group includes 25 schools in 18 districts, some of which are participating at both the district and school level. An additional 3 districts will participate at the district level only, and 10 charter schools (which are technically regarded as districts under both state and federal classifications) will also participate. The collaboration will be an opportunity for DESE to understand the reasons why schools and districts suspend and expel students as well as how the department can be helpful to and learn from schools and districts statewide around these issues. For more information, this project can be found at: http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=21719

Providing behavioral supports to students with disabilities: The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), U.S. Department of Education has issues a "Dear Colleague Letter" that emphasizes the requirement that schools provide positive behavioral supports to students with disabilities who need those supports to access and participate in the general education setting. For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2h2ooPS
JS/OSS: 12/16

It is with mixed emotions but the warmest wishes to announce the following retirees from the Office of Student Services.

Amy MacLeod, Special Start Lead Teacher (Effective 1/12/2017)
Sabine Gyory, Speech/Language Pathologist at Vassal Lane Upper School (Effective 12/31/2016)

We would like to thank Amy and Sabine for their outstanding and innovative work over the years, making a substantial contribution in our department and for the Cambridge Public School District. As they come to the end of this chapter, we want to honor and recognize their hard work and wish them well on their new and well-deserved passage as they transition into a new beginning.

student engagement

Student Engagement
Teachers face challenges each day when presenting new and difficult material. Despite thoughtful planning, teachers can find that even a well-prepared lesson can flop.  When this happens, teachers ask, “How can I motivate my students to engage in this learning?” Research has shown that the brain is selective about paying attention to new information. For students, this means, “they need to know why something is important, personally relevant, and worthy of their attention” (Saphier, Haley-Speca & Gower, 2008). When a teacher is presenting new and difficult material, imagine a student asking these four questions: “How do I feel? Am I interested?  Is this important?  Can I do this?” (Marzano & Pickering, 2011).

One strategy for increasing engagement is to complete a Student Learning Inventory. Inventories help teachers gain a better understanding of each individual student. Teachers can survey students about their own learning preferences, academic strengths, family traditions, hobbies, and personal interests.  This information can be used to connect lessons with student interests, and to help teachers create personal relationships with their students.  When a student knows her teacher is personally invested, this increases the likelihood that she will attend and participate.  

Another way to elevate student engagement is to ask students to set their own learning goals. Student goal setting can be a powerful way to motivate students to drive their own learning. When students design their own specific learning targets, it instills a sense of ownership and responsibility towards achievement.  Students gain a sense of agency and self-efficacy as they work towards mastery of skills within the content.  Studies have shown that students are motivated by goals that they see as challenging, yet attainable (Locke & Latham, 2002).   

When students are engaged, they are more invested. Students can reframe “This is hard” to: “This is hard, but it’s important to me, and I can do it.”

Academic Challenge and Enrichment
Wondering what to do with all that vacation time at the end of the month? There are many interesting places to visit free of charge in and near Cambridge. Think about how much fun your child will have! They might not even realize they’re learning!

Cambridge Public Library:
The library has hundreds of events every month for people of all ages. For more information on library events, visit http://bit.ly/2gZpM5j. While many museums offer free and reduced admission at certain times of the week (see below), the library also has passes for free admission to museums The Children’s Museum, The Museum of Science, The Stone Zoo, The Franklin Park Zoo, The Peabody Essex Museum, and more. Please call to reserve a pass: Main Library: (617) 349-4041; Boudreau: (617) 349-4017; Collins: (617) 349-4021; Central Square: (617) 349-4011; O'Connell: (617) 349-4019; O'Neill: (617) 349-4023. Learn more about using the passes: http://bit.ly/2gZxRHc

white board


Parent Support Groups
Time (Daytime Group):
12-1:30PM *1st and 3rd Friday of the Month*
Location: 1 Broadway St, Cambridge, MA 02142
Time (Evening Group): 6:30-8PM *2nd and 4th Friday of the Month*
Location: TBD
More information and registration >>

Sensory Friendly Dinner
December 6
*First Tuesday of each month*
Time: 5:30PM
Location: IHOP, 16 Eliot St (Harvard Sq), Cambridge, MA 02138
On the first Tuesday of each month, C-PAC will reserve space at a local restaurant. More information >>

Coalition for Educating Boys of Color
December 9
"Trauma in the Village"
Location: Boston, MA
More information >>

Free Family Workshop
December 10
"Healing in the Village" 
A Gathering of Parents and Families
More information >>

Cambridge Public Schools has embraced the key philosophies for Crisis Intervention Prevention (CPI) in the district.

These philosophies are:
–Care: Demonstrating respect, dignity, and empathy; providing support in a nonjudgmental and person-centered way.
–Welfare: Providing emotional and physical support; acting in the person’s best interest in order to promote independence, choice, and well-being.
–Safety: Protecting rights, safeguarding vulnerable people, reducing or managing risk to minimize injury or harm.
–Security: Maintaining safe, effective, harmonious, and therapeutic relationships that rely on collaboration.

Myth: Many staff and families believe that the main focus in the course is to promote and teach how to physically intervene when students are escalated.

Fact: The primary purpose of the course is to learn a variety of preventive skills, de-escalation skills, and communication techniques.

People benefit from this training when dealing with students who are in the Defensive Stage and are starting to act irrationally. Staff will learn that the only behavior they can control is their own. Another benefit is that staff learn and practice psychological and physiological responses that will minimize potential harm of disruptive and abusive behavior. Overall the course and philosophy has been widely accepted and when done correctly and consistently has been a valuable tool to support students in need. There will be many staff opportunities for CPI Professional Development in the coming months.  (CPI and Nonviolent Crisis Intervention, 2015) 

The Guidance Center: This organization works in consultation with CPSD staff to support the social emotional needs of students, schools, and programs.

Safety Net Collaborative: This group includes professionals from CPSD, the Cambridge Police Department, Cambridge Health Alliance, and the Department of Human Services who work together to mentor youth and support families.

Doc Wayne: This organization fuses sport and therapy to heal and strengthen youth. 

Cambridge Health Alliance: CPSD has a long-standing relationship with the CHA School-based Programs through the Division of Child and Adult Psychiatry.

State Agencies: Such as the Department of Mental Health, MA Rehab Commission, Department of Developmental Services, etc.

City Agencies: Such as the Department of Human Services, Early Intervention (Cambridge/Somerville/ Riverside & Eliot), etc.



Cambridge Public Schools
159 Thorndike Street
Cambridge, MA 02139


Dr. Victoria Greer
Assistant Superintendent

Jean Spera

Karyn Grace

Shelagh Kelly-Walker

Desiree Phillips



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