In the last “regular” updates that I shared, all the way back in January and February, BHS was celebrating student authors who had won recognition for the school’s literary magazine, athletes who had qualified for state tournaments, musicians who had performed in Symphony Hall, and our first BHS PRIDE pep rally, which celebrated the range and diversity of clubs, organizations, and cultures here at BHS.
At that point, it would have been difficult for any of us to have predicted how the rest of the year would go, in this spring that has been unlike any other in living memory.
COVID-19 shuttered our school, spread across the entire world, and caused staggering levels of illness and death. Massachusetts was struck particularly hard, and our community felt the impact of both the public health and the economic crises. BHS teachers and students rose to the challenge, re-inventing how school was done, and managed to complete classes, prepare for AP exams, and stay connected to one another throughout the spring. During the unprecedented closure, teachers innovated to create engaging curricula and lessons, students supported each other’s learning, and housemasters and guidance counselors provided one-on-one support for students and families. The level of participation across all grades was impressive, and the district is scheduled to issue final report cards for both remote learning and the full year on June 25th. In addition, thank you to the many parents who completed the district’s remote learning survey – those of you who did and would like to follow up on your feedback should feel free to contact your child’s housemaster directly.
More recently, our school community, along with the entire world, has been stunned by yet further unconscionable acts of violence against African American men and women. The unrest across the country has forced all of us to reckon with the still-unaddressed racism that persists in our nation, and to think deeply and personally about how each of us is obligated to become part of a solution. BHS students again showed all of us how to act during these times, as they organized and participated in a protest at Town Hall and a peaceful march that followed. Braintree Public School and the Town of Braintree spoke to the situation; BHS’s own Diversity Council, made up of student leaders from across the school, has begun making their voice known and planning for the coming year; and teachers and administrators have started to expand their own professional knowledge in this area.
With the end of the school year, BHS also said farewell to its graduating seniors. This past weekend, the entire community participated in honoring the BHS Class of 2020 during our parade-style graduation, turning out in incredible numbers to support them as they rode through town. Even with all of the challenging times in this school’s more than 150-year history, their story is unlike any other class’s, and it was only fitting for them to have a ceremony unlike any other in the history of the school. A thank you to everyone who made it possible and an incredible film of the entire event are available on our 2020 Graduation webpage. We have also begun plans for an in-person ceremony in late July, and look forward to sharing more details with seniors and their families in the weeks to come.
Finally, one question remains on everyone’s minds, and that is what school will look like in the fall. As of this writing, we are still awaiting initial guidance on the re-opening of school from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and we anticipate that schools will re-start using protocols similar to those used by other parts of our world as they have re-started. The BHS administration is committed to making next year effective and engaging, and has already begun thinking about ways in which we can adapt. Because of the uncertainty concerning next year, we will be issuing student schedules and other information about the 2020-2021 school year later in the summer than usual, so as to ensure that everything is as accurate as possible.
Even through this closure, BHS has remained a vibrant place of powerful learning. Over the past three months, students planned events, ran our morning announcements, sponsored spirit weeks, performed in virtual music ensembles, and stayed connected to their classmates. They never fail to impress, and the administration and faculty look forward to seeing them all again soon.
Until then, may your summer be healthy and safe, and may you and your entire family be well.
On Tuesday, May 19th, I shared with you BHS’s graduation plan, as endorsed by district administrators and the School Committee. In that message, I indicated that we would strive to hold an in-person, sit-down graduation ceremony on either June 13th or June 27th, if the necessary approvals from local and state public health officials could be obtained. Later that week, on Thursday, May 21st, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released previously unannounced guidance indicating that no graduation ceremonies following a traditional model would be allowed until late July, and potentially not at all.
As a result, we will not be able to hold an in-person, sit-down graduation in June. For the reasons that I included in my previous message, however, I still feel strongly that all students and families deserve the inclusive sense of closure that a June graduation brings. At the same time, since as of right now there is a good possibility that conditions later in the summer may allow a ceremony that incorporates some elements of a traditional graduation, BHS will be implementing a two-phased plan for honoring and celebrating the Class of 2020. This plan will incorporate a parade-style graduation and diploma distribution on Saturday, June 13th that will allow both families and the community to participate, and an evening ceremony in the stadium on Thursday, July 30th, that will allow those seniors who choose to participate to gather as a group under proper social distancing guidelines, to hear their names read as they walk across a stage, and to have the experience of a traditional graduation.
While this two-phased approach does not match exactly the options presented in our original plan, it both meets the spirit of that plan and acknowledges the changed situation that the recent state guidance has created. In deciding on this approach, I have been informed in part by the comments and suggestions offered by both seniors and their parents. I have heard the desire of some to have an event using some traditional aspects of high school graduations. I have heard from elected student representatives, who have indicated that they value gathering together as a class very highly, even more than having an audience present, if necessary. I have heard from students and families whose other responsibilities will make a graduation held later in the summer impossible for them to attend. Finally, I have also heard from a number of BHS families who are facing significant health challenges and will likely not be able to participate in any ceremony that involves a large gathering.
This plan is not perfect; no plan could be, other than one that called for the traditional graduation that we all would prefer. What it does do, however, is allow all seniors to participate, regardless of how they have been affected by the current public health crisis; it allows families to take part in celebrating their graduates, even if this is done in a non-traditional way; and it allows the community at large, which has already shown an incredible amount of support for the Class of 2020, to participate in celebrating their accomplishment.
Further information about each of these celebrations will be distributed to students and families as it becomes available, but below are some key details of each.
June 13th parade-style graduation and diploma distribution:
- speeches and musical performances pre-recorded and aired on Friday night
- graduates ride in cars with immediate family; encouraged to wear caps and gowns and decorate their cars
- cars form up in the RMV lot, entering from Mahar Highway, starting at 8:30 a.m.
- procession begins at 9:00 a.m. with police escort
- graduates proceed through South Braintree Square and past Town Hall for congratulations by Town officials
- graduates proceed into BHS via the access road, passing faculty members along the way
- graduates pass the back of the school, congratulated by school and district officials
- graduates then proceed to three different stations, by house, to receive diplomas, congratulations from administrators, and have their photo taken
July 30th celebration of graduates:
- students will be required to RSVP for this celebrationin early July, so that BHS may plan based on an accurate count of who will attend
- final details of the event will be dependent on a number of factors, including how many graduates choose to attend
- celebration will take place in the evening
- since the celebration cannot be held indoors, the rain date will be July 31st
- the ceremony will follow DESE/DPH protocols, such as the following:
- all participants will wear masks
- it may not be possible to accommodate a live audience
- administrators will read graduate names, but graduates will use a tassel salute on the stage instead of receiving a diploma
- social distancing rules will preclude hugging and handshaking
As we have all seen, the facts of our current situation can change rapidly, and the BHS administration will adapt the celebration scheduled for July 30th based on any further guidance provided by state or local agencies. If social distancing rules are eased, it may allow for a limited audience to be present. If the situation worsens and rules are tightened, it may prove impossible to hold a gathering of any sort on July 30th; in this case, the celebration will not be rescheduled.
This spring has been a trying time for many in our community, as uncertainty, job loss, illness, and in some cases death have affected many Braintree families. Braintree High School stands with our families, and hopes that the celebrations described above will allow us to properly acknowledge our seniors and their accomplishments while allowing all of us to stay safe and to do our part to help everyone through this crisis.
As you know, this spring’s public health crisis has disrupted not only the end of the academic year, but also many highly-anticipated end-of-year traditions. Many of these are difficult to re-create in virtual or socially-distanced formats, but over the past several weeks BHS administrators have developed plans for several. While we continue to develop plans for others, I’d like to provide details about a few significant events that many of you have asked about.
While we have been able to modify many of end-of-year events to create virtual equivalents, graduation is one that all of us feel strongly should, if at all possible, take place in person.
To that end, the BHS administration has worked over the past several weeks to develop a plan for how best to celebrate the accomplishments of the Braintree High School Class of 2020. During that time, we have received input from dozens of seniors, including both Senior Class and Student Body officers; multiple groups of parents; town officials; and various other members of the community. We continue as a team to review all such input, and will continue collaborating with class representatives on plans for both graduation and other end-of-year events.
Clearly, everyone’s preference would be to have a traditional graduation ceremony on June 6th in Alumni Stadium; such a ceremony, however, will not be possible under current conditions, nor, does it appear, during the foreseeable future. The feedback that we received over the past weeks has urged us to delay the date of graduation and prioritize a live, in-person event over all other options. With that in mind, the BHS administration presented the following plan to the School Committee, which endorsed it at their meeting on May 18th.
1. Delay the date of graduation to Saturday, June 13th, and pursue plans for a socially-distanced, sit-down ceremony in the stadium. Such a ceremony would likely require the elimination of a live audience, in favor of producing a livestreamed broadcast of the event, the scheduling of multiple ceremonies involving only a portion of the class, or both. Any in-person ceremony involving a gathering of any size would need to meet with the approval of local and state health and public safety officials.
2. If no such ceremony can be held on June 13th, then delay the ceremony again to Saturday, June 27th. On that date, plan again for an in-person, sit-down ceremony in the stadium following the appropriate social distancing protocols.
3. If no in-person, sit-down ceremony can be held on June 27th, plan instead for a combined parade and diploma distribution ceremony. Such a ceremony would involve the pre-recording of speeches and musical performances for on-line viewing Friday evening, and then a procession by car partly following the route of the town’s traditional Fourth of July Parade through the center of town, past Town Hall, and then into Braintree High School, where graduates and their families would pass assembled faculty members and receive diplomas at the front of the school.
We realize that this plan requires flexibility on everyone’s part, since the date and format of graduation may change over the course of the next month. We appreciate the BHS community’s patience throughout this process, and we will provide frequent updates as details are finalized.
While some have suggested a delay until late July or early August as a way of making a traditional graduation more likely, the BHS administration does not believe that this would be the best course of action. For one, it appears that the social distancing protocols we have become accustomed to over the past two months will likely remain in effect for several more to come. In addition, the possibility exists that an event scheduled for later in the year may be impossible for many to attend, due to military, education, or family commitments. On a more emotional level, the current school year, as disrupted as it has been, deserves the appropriate sense of finality and closure that a June graduation will confer.
With last night’s approval of this plan, Braintree High School administrators have already begun planning for all of these contingencies, and will communicate more details as they become available. In addition, we recognize that there may be families who decide for health and safety reasons that any form of in-person graduation ceremony would not be appropriate for them, and we have begun planning for how those students and families may be recognized and honored in an alternative manner. While we all await further guidance from state and local health authorities, we also will continue to review feedback from all interested stakeholders.
With the adoption of our new graduation plan, we have also adjusted the schedule for seniors to pick up caps, gowns, cords, sashes, and any other attire needed for graduation. Because of the disruption to the end of year, we were unable to hold our usual pre-ordering of gowns this year. Instead, seniors will be able to select the size and color of their gown when picking them up; in addition, thanks to the support of the central office, all graduation attire will be free for families this year. This distribution will now take place on June 3rd, 4th, and 5th, using a schedule arranged by house and by student last name. Details and a full schedule will be sent to all seniors in the coming days.
Certainly, none of us could have planned for the events of this spring, and no one would prefer any of the options presented above to a traditional graduation ceremony. This plan, however, will provide a timely conclusion to the school year, involve the entire community in honoring our seniors, and ensure that the Class of 2020 is celebrated for its accomplishments.
End of year celebrations
Along with graduation, we all truly miss the many traditional end-of-year activities that allow us to celebrate the many accomplishments of both our seniors and our underclassmen. Although the experience will be different, we will be holding many of these events in a virtual format in the coming days and weeks. Starting this week, we will publish each event on a specific day and time on a dedicated website, located at braintreeschools.org/bhsevents, so that students and families can watch together. Each event will also remain available to be watched at any time in the future. We hope you enjoy celebrating with us as part of the BHS family.
Along with this week’s delivery of graduation signs and distribution of yearbooks, administrators are also working with Student Council and Class of 2020 officers to plan other senior-specific events, including potentially a car parade and a viewing of the senior video. Details on these events will be shared as they become available.
Retrieval of belongings
Housemasters are organizing an opportunity for seniors to pick up the contents of their lockers, receive any medications left in the health office, pay any outstanding debts, and return textbooks. This process will resemble that used for yearbook distribution, again be scheduled by house and by student last name, and will take place on May 27th, 28th, and 29th. More information and a detailed schedule will follow.
The retrieval of belongings for underclassmen is currently scheduled for June 17th, 18th, and 19th, and will be organized in the same manner as for seniors. We are currently working on plans for students to retrieve musical instruments, completed art work and supplies, and contents of gym lockers and will communicate details of this process at a later date.
Back in March, when our current school closure began, it would have been hard to predict that all of us in the BHS community – students, families, teachers, and administrators – would eventually be tasked with re-inventing, on the fly, every aspect of secondary education. Over the past two months, however, I have been heartened almost every day by the resilience of both students and teachers, and proud of what this school community has been able to accomplish. Although this school year will conclude in a different manner than we would have expected, I still believe that we will be able to celebrate and recognize the accomplishments of all of our students in an appropriate and memorable way.
The current public health and economic situation continues to be exceptionally trying for so many families, and all of us at BHS sincerely hope that you are managing this unprecedented crisis. Even as the recent days have offered suggestions that here in Massachusetts we may soon be approaching a tentative resumption of some aspects of normal life, we all recognize that the weeks and months to come will continue to present us with many challenges.
To help with some of those challenges, I wanted to share with you two resources. The first is the Braintree Public Schools Family and Community Resources Page, which some of you may have read about in an earlier district email. This page offers links to a wide range of social and emotional supports for students and adults alike, and is an excellent place to start if you are looking for assistance in one of these areas. In addition, the BHS Health Office has written a letter for families reminding us all that they continue to be available for any medical concern you may have.
You also have likely seen the most recent update from the district regarding the use of interactive conferencing as an enhancement to our remote learning plan. At BHS, this will mean that some teachers and club advisors will now be incorporating videoconferences into their remote learning, starting as early as next week. Since we recognize that every family’s current situation may not allow for this type of instruction, and that not every subject lends itself to this tool, interactive conferencing is intended to supplement and not replace our asynchronous remote learning model.
Even as we start to grow accustomed to this new way of teaching and learning, we are also starting to draw near to the end of the school year. This past Wednesday marked the beginning of our fifth week of remote learning, and to ensure that parents and students can accurately gauge their academic progress, teachers will have the record of students’ weekly Credit or No Credit grades up-to-date in Aspen as of this coming Monday, just as it would be near the mid-way point of a normal term. In addition, the end of the school year for seniors and students in grades nine through eleven will be as follows:
o Last remote learning cycle ends: Tuesday, May 26
o Make up and wrap-up days: Wednesday May 27th – Friday May 29th
o Report cards posted to Aspen: June 9th
· Students in grades nine through eleven:
o Last remote learning cycle ends: Tuesday, June 16th
o Make up and wrap-up days: Wednesday June 17th – Friday June 19th
o Report cards posted to Aspen: June 26th
I also wanted to provide an update on end-of-year events, particularly those involving our seniors. The outpouring of support over the past two weeks for the members of the class of 2020 has been inspiring, as members of the community, town officials, parents, teachers and administrators have started work on videos, mailings, banners, displays, lights, and gifts for the graduating class. More is on the way, and in the coming days look for an announcement about a web page dedicated to the alternative end-of-year celebrations currently being created. Dates for these and for other end-of-year activities are given below.
Finally, I also want to acknowledge the feedback and input that I have received concerning this year’s graduation. I appreciate the suggestions that many parents and students have offered, and I know that we all share the same desire to ensure that the Class of 2020 can celebrate their accomplishment in an appropriate, memorable, and safe way. As of right now, no final decision has been reached as to the format of that celebration, but more information will follow in the very near future.
Once again, we sincerely hope that you and your family remain safe, and please consider all of us at BHS as a resource for any concerns you may have.
Tentative Schedule of Year-End Events (Subject to change)
Seniors: Cap/Gown, Cords, and Awards pickup
Seniors: Textbooks, Debt, Lockers
Seniors: Yearbook Distribution
Soon - stay tuned!
Underclassmen: Textbooks, Debt, Lockers, Awards
Just the fact that you’re reading this on a computer screen, or on your phone, lets you know that things are different. I’d much rather be telling you this in person, while you squeeze into the extra chairs in the auditorium, or sit in the stands in the gym, or even pass by the hall outside my office, heading to your next class.
But you’re not, and I know that there’s nothing that I can say to make that fact any less painful. Yesterday’s announcement that schools would be closed for the rest of the year was tough, and even though our heads knew it was coming, our hearts were still telling us something else. Maybe we could get back for a few weeks, for one more performance, for a couple of games, for another project in class, maybe even just for a lunch or two.
After yesterday, we know that won’t be the case, and there’s no way around it but it hurts. You should know that it hurts the adults in your lives, too, largely because we don’t like seeing you unhappy. We recognize, though, that there is no real way for us to understand how you’re feeling: we can only acknowledge that you are hurting and agree that this whole thing is entirely unfair.
I won’t launch into a long grown-up talk at this point about life being unfair, because I know you don’t need to hear it. What I will say is that I have complete confidence in your ability to overcome this. I have this confidence because I’ve already seen you do it in ways large and small. You are the ones who have overcome academic and personal challenges, who have created art in the face of loss, who have spoken your beliefs to power, who have competed with bravery in hostile arenas, and who have completed dozens of other feats that all of us adults can only marvel at.
So my only request is to just keep being you. You know that the Class of ‘20 isn’t done yet, and this whole school - this whole community, to be honest - needs you to show us one more time just how resilient you are. You’ve inspired your teachers for twelve years, and now, with everything in the world upside down, we need you to inspire us again, just by being the incredible class that you are.
And I promise you’ll have the chance, even if none of us know yet exactly what that will look like. I promise that you will celebrate and you will be celebrated for all your high school achievements, just as you deserve. I’ve already heard from several of you about how we might properly mark the completion of your high school careers, and I want to hear from more of you, even if we can’t realize every idea.
Mostly, though, I just want to say that I know it hurts, and that it will get better. And that you are an incredible group of people, an amazing collection of students, and a truly inspiring class.
As most of you know, Governor Baker announced yesterday that all Massachusetts schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Even though this possibility had started to seem more and more likely in recent days, hearing it announced formally was difficult. So many families in our community have experienced health and economic challenges in the last several weeks that could not have been imagined even a short time ago, and feeling that the end of the school year has somehow vanished has made the situation feel even more difficult.
Given the uncertainty of the moment, I wanted to provide you with information about two aspects of remote learning at BHS. Later in this message, I will offer some specific details about how teachers will be evaluating student work under the Credit/No Credit system that we are using for the remainder of the school year, but first I’d like to explain how we will be addressing the many end of year events that we all look forward to as a school.
End of Year Events:
The extension of the closure through the end of the year means that all of the events that make this such a special and anticipated time will look significantly different this year. Building and district administrators had already begun discussions about alternative formats for end of year events, and look forward to including the BHS community in further discussions. The BHS administration will form working groups to help plan some events, and has already begun to receive family and student input on how certain events might work during these times. We recognize that from performances to inductions to celebrations, events take many different forms, and our goal is to re-create as many as we safely can in appropriate formats.
In reality, this means some events will be held virtually, some postponed, and some may have to be canceled altogether. In the coming days, we will communicate in as timely a manner as possible how different events will be handled, and we will ask in some cases for further input and ideas from our school community. All ideas are welcome, even though not all may be able to be implemented, so please feel free to contact me or the housemasters with any thoughts or suggestions.
I’ll be addressing the seniors themselves in a separate email, but the entire BHS administration wanted to be clear on one point: the extension of the closure is disheartening, and it may be hard to know right now what traditional senior events will look like this year, but BHS seniors absolutely will be honored and celebrated for their years of hard work and for their many outstanding achievements as both individuals and a class.
Remote Learning Marking Policy:
As a follow-up to the adjusted marking term and grading policy that we recently shared with you, we wanted to provide students and families with more detail about how work will be evaluated during the length of this school closure. For each week of work during Extended Term 3, students will receive a mark of either Credit (CR) or No Credit (NC). Teachers will determine this mark using two criteria: completion and engagement. If a student either completes the majority of a week’s assignment in good faith or shows authentic engagement through their Google Classroom work, their teacher will issue them a grade of CR for the week.
Unlike during the regular school year, accuracy of student work will not be a factor in determining weekly CR/NC grades. BHS has implemented this approach because we understand that there may be concepts and skills that are challenging for some students to master on their own, even while putting forth true effort. Because of this fact, we want to ensure that students are recognized for making good faith attempts to complete their assignments and engage in their learning.
Student work completed in February and March prior to the school closure will be re-evaluated by teachers holistically using the same completion/engagement criteria. Teachers will then assign a weekly grade of CR or NC for each of the six weeks that school was in session. At the end of the current extended term three, students who have received a grade of CR on at least 60% of weekly assignments will receive a CR for the term. (As a reminder, students need to earn a CR for extended term three in order to earn the full five credits for a course.)
We are currently working to make changes to what families see in the Aspen portal in order to make this CR/NC system as clear as possible. In the coming days, assignments from before the closure will no longer be visible, and weekly assignment grades of CR or NC will begin appearing for each student in each class. (You may also notice the word “exempt” next to each CR/NC grade, which simply indicates that these grades are not included in a student’s GPA calculation). In this way, students and families will be able to measure the academic progress made in each class during remote learning.
As with so many institutions in our lives, BHS has had to make significant changes to how we operate during this uncertain time. As we all adapt to an entirely new way of learning and holding events, please feel free to reach out to me or to your housemaster with any questions or ideas you may have.
It would have been hard to have predicted our current circumstances from the vantage point of last month’s BHS update. In that update, we were celebrating our BHS PRIDE rally, cheering on teams in post-season play, and looking forward to the spring’s academic and artistic activities.
Now, we’re facing a significantly changed and uncertain situation. While all of us are processing our current closure and our changed patterns of life, I wanted to highlight for you some of the most important items that have appeared in recent district communications, as well as give a few BHS specific updates.
- As you know, Governor Baker has directed Massachusetts schools to remain closed until April 7th. While BHS is scheduled to re-open on that date, we also realize that the situation is fluid, and will keep you informed of any further changes. No matter the length of the closure, our last day of school for this year will be Thursday, June 25th.
- As of this time, BHS, along with all district buildings, are closed to the public. Over the past week and a half, the BHS custodial staff cleaned and disinfected every classroom and common area in the entire building using cleaning products specifically approved by the CDC to address the current issue.
- The district’s student learning resources page is up and running, and will be updated each week with suggested learning opportunities for the week. Anyone with questions about the activities listed, or with problems accessing the site, can either call the central office or email their child’s housemaster.
- Students enrolled in Advanced Placement classes should have received a communication from Mr. Garofalo, our Director of Guidance, about changes to this year’s exam administration. AP teachers have also begun sharing resources with their students about how best to prepare for the upcoming exams.
- As Dr. Hackett’s email stated, any decisions regarding the timing and weighting of marking terms will be made once the date of our return to school has been finalized.
- MIAA recently set April 27th as the start of the spring athletic season, barring further adjustments. This would allow competitive games to start the following week and continue through the end of the school year.
- The district’s Grab and Go meal service is currently in operation at the Ross and Hollis elementary schools. Breakfasts and lunches are available via drive-up distribution on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon.
Two other quick updates: The ARTfest celebration of student art from throughout the district was canceled last week, but that didn’t stop Ms. Hurley, our Director of Art, from putting together an incredible slide show of student work featured in the show. You’ll enjoy viewing it. And the only interscholastic competition still in action in the state – the MSAA’s ESports league – has continued, with all players taking part remotely. BHS’s team, under the direction of Mr. Troy and in only their first year, has raised their state ranking to seventeenth with yesterday’s win.
I also want to acknowledge the many questions we have received about our many traditional spring events. While all BHS field trips scheduled for the rest of the year have been canceled, no decisions have been made for any other events. BHS administrators, working in conjunction with District administrators and the school community, will adjust this spring’s schedule as necessary based on the date of our return and any social distancing rules still in place at that time.
Finally, I’ve had the opportunity to communicate with many administrators, counselors, and teachers since the closure began, and I know I speak for all of them when I say that we miss your kids greatly – we miss their hard work, their joyous learning, their extracurricular passions, their intelligence, their creativity, the enthusiasm that they bring to everything they do. The uncertainty and disruption of this closure is hard for everyone, but we know it is especially difficult for students. They should know from all of us at BHS that we are thinking of them, and looking forward to seeing them again. We will continue to communicate updates to you throughout this closure, and we hope that you and your family remain well.
Rather than a full update this month, I wanted to share some photographs from our recent BHS PRIDE rally. For the week prior to February vacation, Student Council, Diversity Council, GSA, and Cultural Awareness Club planned a week of activities, culminating in a rally celebrating the diversity of BHS’s clubs, cultures, and identities. This full scale rally included a procession of clubs and organizations, students wearing pink for kindness, dances from a range of traditions featuring students and teachers, and a keynote address from BHS World Language teacher Mr. Nichols. Congratulations to all of the students and faculty members who planned and participated in the rally, and I hope you enjoy the photos!
I’ve always found it noteworthy that the “E” is our BHS PRIDE acronym stands for the core value of educational excellence, not simply academic excellence. Because while Braintree High School is a place of incredible academic accomplishment (more on that later), it is also an institution that recognizes that education, as a concept, surpasses what happens in our individual classrooms.
“Education,” the American educator and philosopher John Dewey argued, “is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.” Dewey’s observation cuts two ways: our lives should always be centered around education of one sort or another, as we continuously learn throughout our lives. At the same time, we as educators should make sure that our students’ education encompasses as much of the passions and pursuits that will inform their future lives as possible.
We have been working at making sure this takes place at Braintree High, and the increasing prominence of events like this winter’s Health Services Career Fair, our Naviance college and career training, and the highly successful first year of our off-campus LAUNCH transitional program attest to that. We also have had a number of students and programs demonstrate similar success over the course of the past month, including
• Two students who were named to the All-State chorus and band, respectively, and will be performing with those groups later this year at Symphony Hall
• The BHS math team, which has registered multiple positive results in recent meets
• The mock trial club, which has traveled to recent contests and garnered high praise from legal professionals for their poise, maturity, and sophistication of argument
• The student contributors and editors of Stone Soup, BHS’s literary magazine, who were recently awarded an “excellent” rating from the National Council of Teachers of English
• And the eight BHS student artists whose work earned entry into the Massachusetts Art Education Association’s statewide show in honor of Massachusetts Youth Art Month
These are just a few of the many student accomplishments that demonstrate how broadly Braintree High School understands it core value of Educational Excellence. At the same time, as I noted above, achievement in courtrooms and on concert stages has to rest on a solid foundation of academic attainment. In this regard, we are also proud of the efforts of our students and teachers, whose passion for their subjects is evident every day in their classrooms.
Recently, the state released Braintree High School’s “Report Card,” (available at http://reportcards.doe.mass.edu/2019/00400505) which encapsulates some of the academic success our students have enjoyed over the past year. The state report has plenty of details, but in summary our graduation rate, performance on MCAS, and achievement on SAT tests significantly exceed the state average, and over 84% of our graduates go on to higher education. Based on these academic and their many co-curricular accomplishments, BHS students are clearly living their passions through their educations.
If Braintree High School were its own town, it would have a larger population than sixty-seven municipalities in Massachusetts. Unsurprisingly, our school has a community life that resembles that of a small town – we know each other well, we look out for one another, we celebrate our shared successes, we debate decisions large and small, and we learn and grow together.
We also mark the seasons, especially the current festive one. We do this in many of the same ways that different cultures and traditions throughout history have marked this time of year – when the daylight grows scarce and the weather turns cold – with countless different celebrations, many of which encourage us to reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the year to come.
Here at Braintree High School, the last month has showcased many of the things that make this a great place in which to learn and to live. Some are the culmination of months of efforts, some recognize those around us who can use our help, and some are only beginnings and will stretch into the new year. Here are just a few:
• Hundreds of student athletes started their seasons this month as members of almost two dozen winter sports teams
• Forty BHS student leaders took part in a full day of training to become peer mentors in violence prevention; these students will now deliver lessons on healthy relationships to their peers in the coming year
• The Bistro, BHS’s student-run café, spread holiday cheer by hosting events, receiving visitors, serving delicious coffee and breakfast foods, and giving scores of students an invaluable real-life educational experience
• Key Club demonstrated its growing presence as a leader in service to our school community by gathering nearly one hundred coats to be donated through a local winter coat drive, as well as raising money for disaster relief efforts
• Student Council organized the efforts of the entire BHS community into its incredibly successful Adopt-a-Family program, which brings gifts and groceries to numerous deserving families
• The National Art Honor Society sponsored its annual gingerbread house design contest, featuring numerous participants and remarkably creative entries
• Best Buddies hosted a highly successful holiday craft activity in the cafeteria for dozens of BHS students
• The Music Department gave several outstanding concerts, filling this entire week before break with festive music and good spirits
As you can see, this time of year brings out the best in all of BHS, as we both celebrate the season and do our part to spread joy to everyone in our school community, particularly to those who need it the most. BHS isn’t an actual small town, but it does remain a great place to live.
I want to take a moment at the start of this month’s update to thank everyone in the BHS community for their patience and cooperation during Tuesday’s delayed dismissal. Students and teachers were incredibly responsible, and the phone calls that we received and the parents in cars that we spoke with were overwhelmingly positive and supportive. Even though the situation was fluid and difficult to predict, I thought the entire BHS community did a terrific job reacting to the unexpected and keeping their poise throughout.
We have been talking a little bit this month about Involvement, the third of our BHS PRIDE values. As many of you know, students and teachers at BHS are incredibly active and committed to their school, as their many activities and pursuits demonstrate. Just in the past few weeks, we’ve seen
• An incredible production from the cast and crew of the Theatre Guild
• Several student-artists honored with exhibits at a state art educators’ conference
• Many student-musicians accepted to their District ensembles, several with All-State recommendations
• A state championship for our Dance Team
• Impressive playoff performances from multiple athletics teams
• Multiple student-athletes signing national letters of intent to play at the collegiate level
• A full day of classroom visits from veterans, sponsored and supported by our own Veterans Appreciation Club
• An incredible Spirit Week, Pep Rally, and Mix-it-Up Lunch organized by the BHS Student Council
As even this brief listing suggests, BHS students are involved in so many aspects of their school that it is sometimes hard to understand how they find the time. It is even harder to understand when their academic involvement is considered. We are proud of our teachers’ and students’ commitment, and I am lucky enough to witness first-hand the incredible learning that takes place throughout the building every day. And, as our AP and MCAS scores attest, our students continue to achieve at remarkably high levels.
If you too would like to be involved in the life of BHS, there are many opportunities to do so in the coming month. The performing arts will be featured with our Chorus concert on December 17th, our Band concert on December 18th, and our Orchestra concert on December 19th; Fall Athletic Awards will be given on December 10th, immediately followed by Winter Sports Parents Night; and our next BHS Parent Teacher Partnership meeting, featuring a presentation by BHS administration on school safety, will be on December 3rd at 6:30.
Finally, we talked this week in Advisory about gratitude. Working with their Advisors, students may have learned about how being grateful is not only the right thing to do, but also can improve their own happiness; shared examples from their own lives of what they were grateful for; completed a reflection exercise on the idea of gratitude; or even penned short notes thanking others in their lives. It was obviously appropriate that this activity took place at the end of November, and so let me end by expressing my gratitude for the continued support that the entire school community shows BHS, and by wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.
On the bulletin board in my office are helpful reminders drawn from authors who have resonated with me over the years. Here in October, as we have been highlighting the BHS PRIDE value of Respect, I have been reflecting on one of the most fundamental of these quotes, written by a school teacher over one hundred years ago: “Without affection, the schoolroom is a hard, forbidding place. With love, it becomes the next best place to home.”
For so many of us, Braintree High School is truly a home. We learn here, yes, but we also do things that families do: we laugh and we cry, we create and we play, we celebrate accomplishments and we mourn losses. There have been times, however, when whether due to words or actions, whether consciously or inadvertently, some members of our school community have been made to feel unwelcome. And so it is important that periodically – and particularly at the conclusion of a month in which our focus has been Respect – we re-affirm that anything that makes any member of our community feel unwelcome is contrary to what we stand for at BHS and in our community.
Braintree has a long and well-earned reputation of being an inclusive community. We embrace diversity first and foremost because we believe in the inherent dignity and worth of all people; we also do so because we know that standing up for the individuals who make up our community makes us stronger as a group. People of all races are welcome here, as are people from all countries and speakers of all languages. Observers of all religions, as well as those who follow none, are welcome here. People of all abilities are welcome here. People of all sexual orientations and people of all gender identities are welcome here. We best embody our BHS value of Respect when we ensure that every member of our school community feels welcome and safe at all times.
One of our greatest strengths here in Braintree is being able to draw from both a strong community tradition and from an increasingly diverse range of experiences and identities; nurturing both of these resources is both the right thing to do and a sure way to make our school a better and richer home.
It has been a terrific opening here at Braintree High School, with lots of spirit, teaching and learning from the very first day, a true sense of welcome for our new ninth grade students, and displays of BHS PRIDE at every turn. This year, we are re-emphasizing each of our BHS PRIDE values each month, beginning here in September with Partnership. For me, Partnership is a key element for the learning process, since none of us are capable of learning alone - even in the library with a book, we are connected to the author, previous readers, and all the texts that we have encountered before. In a school like ours, Partnership is fundamental to the learning process, and informs not only our academic identity, but also our sense of community.
In just the first few days of the year, BHS has seen numerous displays of Partnership:
- Dozens of teachers collaborated on numerous professional development initiatives in the weeks leading up to the start of school, learning new instructional approaches and building new curriculum
- Over fifty returning students chose to come to BHS on their last day of vacation to lead incoming ninth-graders on tours of the building during their orientation
- The school welcomes the addition of a new position in the mathematics department, thanks to the efforts and support of district and building administrators, along with the School Committee
- Building custodians and district maintenance staff worked together to create a new classroom, renovate stairwells, and complete the installation of new HVAC controls
Personally, it has been exciting to see how quickly and effectively instruction has begun this year: as I've been visiting classrooms throughout the building, I've seen labs in action, analyses of great works of literature, students creating models of their scientific understanding, and math classes engaged in open-ended investigations of their own thinking. In addition, performing groups are already in rehearsal, design classes are analyzing each others' work, and clubs and athletic teams are already in action.
We would all love to share what is going on with all of you, and so we hope you can attend our Back to School Night on Thursday, 12 September, at 6:00. Parents of ninth-graders are also invited to our Ninth-grade Parent Orientation on Thursday, 3 October, at 6:30. Finally, everyone is welcome to come to our first Parent Teacher Partnership meeting on 1 October, at 6:30. More information about the newly-organized PTP and our pilot Advisory program will be coming soon.
All of hope that the school year has started well for your family as well, and I hope to see you around the campus!
August 8, 2019
One of our most enduring summer traditions is talking about how it all goes by too fast. Sometimes it seems that as soon as we get through the Fourth of July, we start worrying that summer is winding down.
In reality, we still have plenty of time left: time to get up to the mountains or out to the beaches; time to read one more novel; time to get away for a week; maybe time to just relax at home, with our families, after all of the great experiences from earlier in the summer.
And, maybe, time to start thinking about the start of the school year. The first day of school this year for all students is on Wednesday, September 4th. The attached letters, one for first-year students and one for returning students, will arrive at your house shortly in hard copy and talk a little bit about what to expect and how to get ready for the start of the year. If you have any questions about their contents, please feel free to contact my office.
I hope that your summers have been joyous and relaxing so far, and I hope that you have a chance to enjoy the weeks that are left!
Term Dates 2019-2020
|Term Number||Start Date||Progress Update|
on Aspen Portal
|End Date||Teacher Grades|
Posted to Aspen
Midyear Exams: January 22-24
Final Exams*: June 16-18
*Tentative Dates, depending on snow days