Attention Incoming 7th Grade Parents

Did you know that a change in the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts last year brought new requirements for childhood immunizations?  All 7th graders are required to have updated information on file with the TMS nurses.

In order for your child to start 7th grade, here’s what is needed:

• 2 doses of MMR vaccine
• 3 doses of hepatitis B vaccine (or 2 doses if adolescent has received the Recombivax HB 2-dose adolescent schedule option)
• 2 doses of varicella vaccine or physician-certified reliable history of chickenpox disease
• 1 booster dose of Tdap (if it has been > 5 years since the last dose of DTaP, DTP, DT, or Td was given)

A printable copy 7th grade immunizations is in PDF format.

Why Use Social Media?

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working to create a social media presence for TMS. Yesterday I went live with both a Facebook page and Twitter account. I’ve used both in the past, and found each to be an excellent way to increase communications between school and home.

While nothing beats face-to-face interaction, in this face-paced world actual conversations are often few and far between. By reaching out to families on social media, it allows the school to communicate in a way that some parents access daily (or in some cases hourly), and for us to be able to share information that may or may not make the weekly email or website.

If you use social media, please consider following us on Twitter and/or “Liking” our Facebook page.  Either one can be accessed by clicking on the small icon in the top right hand corner of this page.

With Many Thanks

It has been quite an experience for me since I transitioned to Winthrop Elementary School last summer, and I still can’t believe the school year has come to an end.  There have been days and events that stand out as absolutely stellar and memory making for our students, but it’s the day-to-day dedication of the adults in our community that I think about most often.

Specifically …

  • The commitment and concern of the dozen or so staff members and parents who came in last summer to meet with me and talk about Winthrop, both in terms of strengths and challenges.
  • The involvement of the parents – from day one to day 180 there were family members in our school, volunteering in the classrooms, the lunchroom, with projects, with parties, with field trips, with performances and special events, etc.
  • There were also plenty of volunteers who worked from home and helped with project prep, phone calls, emails, and our weekly e-Notices!
  • The experience of our teaching staff – Winthrop has very few teachers with under five years of service and that is a rarity in education these days!  There is a wealth of “institutional knowledge” and best practices within the school walls, and a variety of styles and approaches to teaching and learning.

So, many will say, “Why go?” and others will talk about the “mass exodus” of administrators in Melrose, and that’s the reasoning behind this post.  There’s a cliché … timing is everything, and the timing in my situation has been less than ideal.  I understand that my sudden departure may cause people to speculate on why I’m leaving.  Throughout the year, I have striven to be transparent and truthful, and in continuation of that I assure you I was not out looking for a new job, and had dully intended to help work Melrose through this transitional phase.  I think it is exciting to see new district leadership in Central Office positions, and am impressed with both Cyndy Taymore, and what I’ve recently learned about Dr. Adams.  I have been working diligently with Lincoln principal, Brent Conway, on how best to transition in three new principals for Hoover, Horace Mann, and Roosevelt, and continue to do so.

This late breaking opportunity to return to Tyngsborough was truly a family decision, and heavily debated and agonized over in the Herrera household.  Time is the number one detractor in our lives, with my husband’s hectic police schedule, having a soon-to-be 18-year-old college commuting son, two rambunctious dogs, and my busy principal life!  The ability for me to be home between the school day and evening events is the biggest time-gaining factor for us and weighed heavily in this decision.  Returning to the district where I grew in my teaching methods, and in my administrative style and practice was also a strong motivating factor.

I think Winthrop Elementary School is a fabulous place for students to be, and believe that the dedication of the adults who are part of this community makes Winthrop truly stand out.  I am thankful for a wonderful year, and will miss being part of helping Winthrop and Melrose grow and move forward.

Step-Up Activities

All students in grades K-4 “stepped-up” today to meet the team of teachers that will be at their grade level next fall.   At Winthrop this involves some staff moving into new roles and positions, so it was important for students to be able to match names and faces before receiving welcome letters in August!

  • Rising 5th graders met Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Lewis, and Mr. Yeaton
  • Rising 4th graders met Ms. Bruce, Ms. O’Brien, and Mrs. Ogiba
  • Rising 3rd graders met Ms. Bates, Ms. Hatch, and Mrs. Herook
  • Rising 2nd graders met Ms. Gorevitz, Ms. McElligott, and Mrs. Orlofski


  • Rising 1st graders met Ms. Hurwitz, Mrs. Twist, and Ms. Wilcox

All students were given information* to bring home about grade level supplies, and our almost 2nd-5th graders also received packets of information* regarding summer practice for literacy and math.  Having sat through each session, the resounding plea was for students to become more automatic with basic facts (addition and subtraction in the lower grades, and multiplication in the older grades!)  One teacher reminded students of their younger days when learning the alphabet.  The teacher asked the students to think about how hard they worked to recognize their letters, and how easily the alphabet comes to them now.   She then related that to practicing and becoming automatic with math facts!

Yesterday, children’s librarian Marianne Stanton presented to students and sent home information regarding summer reading, summer programming, and a suggested book list for Dream Big – Read!   The Melrose Public Library will not charge children this summer to replace any lost library card, and all were encouraged to visit Monday-Thursday from 10-8, or on Fridays from 10-5.  Books from the library are a great way to keep busy this summer, and an inexpensive way to reinforce learning and academics from the school year.

*All supply lists and summer packets will be posted on the Winthrop website within the next week.

End-of-the-Year Blues!

For those students not leaping with joy about the end of the school year, some web resources to help families work around anxiousness, worrying, and/or sadness:

I found all these sites by “Googling” and I’m sure there are many more!  Allowing your child simply to voice his or her feelings often goes a mile towards improving things, and these websites contain specific suggestions on how to do so.

The Great Book Swap of 2012

This year Field Day will also serve as the kick off for our summer reading push!  During a break in the games, activities, and performances, all students K-5 will be able to attend The Great Book Swap.   This new event will take place on the grassy area outside the main office, and will be run by Mrs. Herrera and some literacy loving volunteers!

The rules are quite simple – for every book a student donates (up to ten) he or she will be able to swap for the same amount of new reading material.  Students can bring in books from Monday through Wednesday, and there will be donation bags set up in each classroom.

Families with overflowing bookshelves or personal libraries may donate excess books (that is – over the 10 book student maximum) at the main office!  If we have enough “extra” donations, we’re anticipating every student will be able to go home with at least one new book to read over summer break, regardless of participation.

Just a reminder that field day is Thursday, June 7th.  All students who chose to participate in The Great Book Swap should have books to their classroom teacher by Wednesday, 6/6/12.

Further Book Swap 2012 Information

A Closer Look at “Co-Teaching”

Over the past few years in Melrose there has been a push to adapt classroom instruction to better address student learning.  “Meeting the Needs of All Learners” has brought assessments for gifted and talented, along with cluster grouping of those identified as G&T.  Additionally, many schools have adopted a “co-teaching” model of special education support, although the models are quite different across the district.

Co-teaching is when two licensed teachers share responsibility for teaching some or all of the students assigned to a classroom.  One teacher is typically a general ed teacher, and the other a special ed teacher.  The responsibilities for planning, instruction, and assessment are divided between these adults, and students benefit from the opportunity to learn from teachers who may have different ways of thinking, teaching, or interacting.   The key to co-teaching is the division of labor:  general educators are responsible for the content of the instruction and special educators are responsible for facilitating the learning process.

Any student can be in a co-taught classroom, and indeed these classrooms should contain heterogeneously grouped children.  These teachers utilize a variety of groupings, and both teachers work with all students.  All students have strengths and these are put to good use throughout the day!

Over the past two years Winthrop has had the student population to support fully co-taught classrooms at 1st grade and 2nd grade, while having partially co-taught classes  in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.  We  have had success with both models, as teachers spend more time planning and talking with each other about curriculum, learning strategies, and student growth.  As our students rise to the following grade each year, and that new group of kindergarten children get ready to join us, time is spent assessing the needs of our special education students, looking at staffing, and reconfiguring the make up of our classrooms.  Additionally, we look for ways to better utilize paraprofessionals, and increase support for struggling readers, writers, and/or mathematicians (who may or may not be on IEPs.)

The calendar is busy with school events and social functions, but please know that every day the Winthrop staff is actively planning and preparing for the fall of 2012!

Walk to School Wednesday – 5/2/12

On Wednesday, May 2nd, Mass in Motion© and Chartwells School Dining Service, are encouraging Melrose elementary and middle school students to walk/bike to and from school in order to promote healthier lifestyles. Encouraging healthy changes in our everyday behavior will promote positive changes in our students, parents and community.

Did you know that students are encouraged to get 60 minutes of exercise daily? Just by walking to and from school with a parent can give students a chance to gain some exercise, fresh air and quality one-on-one time. This dedicated day is an opportunity for Melrose children to get even more active!

Are you ready for a breath of fresh air? Parents, this is a chance for some volunteerism while reducing some traffic congestion and pollution. If your student is old enough to walk to school without an adult please encourage them to walk with other students. Otherwise, please join your child if you can.

Chartwells will be rewarding participating adults with a hot cup of coffee and students with a healthy frozen juice treat when they arrive at school.  I hope to see you all out and about Wednesday morning!

Thinking about next year ….

In last week’s e-Notice (4/9/12) I mentioned class placement for next year.  I will continue to do so over the next few weeks, but wanted to provide a more detailed explanation as well.

From the e-Notice … “Also at this time of the school year, the staff begins the complicated process of developing class assignments for next year. Winthrop will continue to “roll up” the current class configuration from grade level to grade level, and I’m excited that we’ll again have three Kindergarten classes next year. The placement process has many layers as all educators in the school work hard to ensure that each student is in a position to succeed academically and socially. You will not be notified until August as to who your child’s home room teacher will be. At that time, alterations will not be made. If you have a specific concern regarding the placement of your child next year, please contact me as soon as possible. Specific teacher requests will not be honored as it is impossible to provide a fair and consistent process when teacher requests are allowed.”

Historically, student placement is one of the most difficult job functions of both teachers and administrators, as we are sticklers for perfection and want what is best for all our students.  Most of us are also parents ourselves, and know this is a difficult process at home as well.  As this is my first year at Winthrop, I want to assure you our focus will be in creating good instructional groupings of students, taking into consideration academic proficiencies, social/emotional needs, friendships, and keeping in mind students who did not work well together this school year.  Additional factors include keeping a balanced gender split, as well as dividing students from “sending” classrooms evenly throughout the next grade level.  An overall goal of elementary schools is for students to have a broad range of experiences, and to adapt to a variety of personalities and learning styles, while becoming more comfortable in what works for him or herself.  Please also remember what was best for an older child may not be the same for a younger child.  Every student is unique!

Winthrop teachers have been asked to direct any particular parent requests for placement to me, and I ask that if you have concerns or information specific to your child’s placement you contact me as soon as possible.  One of the most difficult issues to navigate are parent requests that come after the placement process has begun.  A change to one student in one classroom has a domino effect on every other student and classroom at that grade level!

End of the Year Crunch

I was working with the third grade teachers the other day when one of them asked how many weeks were left in the school year. The answer (9 weeks plus a day) came as a bit of a shock to us, even though we were all fully aware of the date!

There are many opportunities for families to join us at the end of the school year, but those functions also put stress on working parents as they are primarily scheduled during the day.  Also, with May 22nd as the final testing date for the May MCAS administration, and our lack of snow days this year, most of our end of the year events are crammed into a short few weeks.

I hope with this much advance notice families will be able to prioritize and attend whichever events are most important to you and your child(ren.)

  • Wed, 5/23 Ice Cream Social and Family Book Fair Night
  • Tues, 5/29 Academic Day
  • Thurs, 5/31 5th Grade Parent Info Night @ MMVMS – 7pm
  • Mon, 6/4 Spring Concerts
  • Thur, 6/7 Spirit Day
  • Mon, 6/11 Gr 5 Moving On Ceremony

All spring concerts will be held on the same day this year, however to accommodate families in the All Purpose Room we will continue the alphabetical split.  Students with last names beginning with A-L will perform at 8:30AM, and students with last names beginning with M-Z will perform at 10:00AM.  Each concert is anticipated to last approximately 45 min – 1 hour.

Tuesday, June 12th is the last day of school, and it is a full day.