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