Message from Chad Leith: August 21, 2020

Dear Morse School Families and Caregivers,

I hope that this message finds you and your family healthy, safe, and enjoying the final weeks of summer vacation. With our return to school fast approaching, I want to reach out with some updates and helpful information about what you can expect and how you can prepare.

Revised Reopening Timeline
Superintendent Salim has proposed a revised timeline for welcoming students back to school. The updated in-person start date of October 13th will provide us with additional time to fully address all of the important staffing and safety requirements for a successful reopening. Please note that all students will begin schooling in a remote format on September 16th.

What Will Schooling Look Like This Fall?
Whether your child is attending school in person or continuing to learn from home, you can expect your child’s experience to be nurturing, joyful, culturally-responsive, and appropriately challenging. While there is no question that the schooling experience will be very different from years past, we are committed to innovating, collaborating, and re-imagining our approach so that our students feel connected to their classroom communities and engaged in their learning. Establishing strong relationships and attending to each child’s social and emotional development will be a key component of our approach, regardless of the learning format.
For all students, we will continue to look to schedule regular virtual “extracurricular” events and experiences (such as afterschool grade-level game days, etc.), so that students learning in-person and remotely can continue to maintain a sense of community. Whether participating in in-person or remote learning, all students will engage in remote learning on Wednesdays. While we are still finalizing many of the details, here is a Fall 2020 Learning Overview we have created, based on the parameters proposed by Superintendent Salim at last night’s School Committee meeting. It provides basic information about the way in-person and remote learning will be structured, including a side-by-side comparison of these two learning scenarios. Additional information about the coming year can be found online at www.cpsd.us/fall2020.

2020-2021 Staffing
We are very much hoping that all Morse School students will be taught by current Morse School teachers. However, it may be that some of our educators have pre-existing conditions or family circumstances that prevent them from participating in either in-person or remote teaching. We are in the process of gathering information from our teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff members so that we can properly staff each of our classrooms with qualified educators. Due to the very unusual times that we are experiencing, however, it may be that our grade-level staffing assignments look differently than what we anticipated and hoped for. This may include the hiring of new staff members. Please know that both Ms. Headley and I are committed to ensuring that whether learning remotely or in person, each Morse School student is taught by a caring, culturally competent, and skilled team of teachers and paraprofessionals.

Introducing New Morse Staff Members
Over the last two months, we have been working to successfully fill our vacant positions with qualified staff members who we believe will bring solid experience supporting children and families from diverse backgrounds, a strong commitment to anti-racist practice (and the personal growth and reflection this requires), and a culturally-proficient, collaborative approach to working with parents, caregivers, and colleagues. I am very pleased to introduce our new staff members to you, in alphabetical order by first name:

Ana Sanchez will be joining us as an Extended-Term Substitute Teacher, and will lead Ms. Fallon’s 2nd grade class while Ms. Fallon is out on maternity leave. Ms. Sanchez, who earned her B.S. in Elementary Education from Florida International University, completed her student teaching in the Miami, FL area before becoming a Kindergarten teacher in the Fairfax County Public Schools. Her experience also includes a year of AmeriCorps/City Year service in New York City.

Although not “new” to the Morse School, Elsa Roderick will be taking on a new role this year. After teaching 3rd grade at the Morse School since 2004, Ms. Roderick will be stepping into the 5th grade position previously held by Julia Bishop, who retired in June. Ms. Roderick is excited about the opportunity to work with older learners and to help them build upon the independence, social awareness, and advocacy they have developed in the 4th grade.

Our new full-time Building Substitute, Krystal Figueroa, brings over eight years of experience working with youth in a variety of settings, most recently as an Assistant Teacher with the Martin Luther King 2-5 Afterschool Program and as Assistant Coordinator with the Mayor’s Summer Youth Program. She believes that all youth have inherent assets that should be capitalized on to promote an educational environment where youth can grow mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially. A graduate of CRLS, Ms. Figueroa was a POSSE Scholar and earned her B.A. in Sociology from Union College and her Master’s in Education from Boston University.

Liz Pizzi-Evans, who will join us as our new 3rd grade teacher (replacing Ms. Roderick), comes to the Morse School with over five years of elementary teaching experience in the Newton and Westwood public schools. Originally trained as an opera singer, Ms. Pizzi earned a B.A. in Music from the Boston Conservatory and a Master’s from the Juilliard School before shifting career paths and pursuing an additional graduate degree in Curriculum Design & Instruction at Fitchburg State University.

I am also pleased to welcome Ruth Kim, who will be joining our team of Special Educators (in the role previously held by Mil Crowley, who retired in June). Over the past several years, Ms. Kim has served as a Gr. 2-5 Special Education Teacher in Lincoln, Arlington, and Burlington. She also teaches enrichment math to elementary students at the Lexington Singapore School. Ms. Kim holds a B.A. in English Language & Literature from Gordon College and a Master’s in Special Education from Lesley University

Sosa Samura will be joining the Morse School as our new full-time Social Worker. She brings both school-based and clinical experience to her role, having supported children and families in settings ranging from the Cambridge Public Schools to Cambridge Family and Children’s Services. A Cambridge native and CRLS graduate, Ms. Samura earned her B.A. in English from UMass/Boston and her Master’s in Social Work from Simmons College.

And last but not least, Viria Guillén will be joining us as our new 4th and 5th grade Spanish Teacher. Originally from Costa Rica, Ms. Guillén brings over 20 years of experience teaching Spanish to elementary-aged children in Massachusetts and Connecticut. She earned her B.A. in Social Sciences and her Master's in Elementary Education from American International College.
Please join me in welcoming this talented group of educators to the Morse School community!

Student Class Assignments
Even as we celebrate the arrival of new staff members, we are aware that final student class assignments will depend heavily upon the decision-making of our families and staff members. If you have not done so already, I ask that you please take a moment to log in to the family portal and complete your Fall 2020 Enrollment Form with your choices for the upcoming school year. The form is due tomorrow, Saturday August 22nd. Once we have a sense of which students and staff members will be returning, we will be able to finalize class assignments and schedules. As always, we will look to build balanced cohorts of students that reflect the diversity of our school community and create classroom communities where all students can do their best learning.

construction photosBuilding Improvements
If you have been by the Morse School building lately, you have probably noticed a lot of work going on! While our teaching staff and students have been away, our building has been undergoing some comprehensive upgrades. I’ve included a couple of photos here of workers installing our new roof, and you can click here to see a 30-second video of Project Manager Jarrid sharing a little bit about the nuts and bolts of our roof replacement. Workers have also been in our building to refinish the gymnasium floor and to install new hand washing stations. Of course, our custodians Dan, Neph, and Roberto have also been working hard to prepare our classrooms and workspaces so that our building is clean and safe when we make our eventual return.

There will be much more information to share over the coming days - as well as opportunities for you to ask questions and share ideas:
  • Ms. Headley and I are planning to host parent meetings during the week of August 31st.
  • Our Race & Equity Working Group is planning to host its first meeting of the 2020-2021 school year before our students return to school.
  • We will be scheduling 1:1 parent/teacher conferences in September.
  • We will be offering workshops and training opportunities for parents and caregivers on the different technology platforms we will be using this fall.
Whether we welcome your child back in person or through a remote learning model, we will continue to ground our work in collaboration, a focus on meeting the needs of all learners, and a commitment to taking the personal and collective steps necessary to provide an equitable and just educational experience for all of our students. We are grateful that you are part of our community and look forward to working with you to make this as positive and enriching a school year as possible.

Sincerely,

Principal Chad Leith
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