Message from Chad Leith: February 24, 2020

Dear Members of the Morse School Community,

Welcome back! I hope that you and your children enjoyed a wonderful February break and that you are rested and ready for the busy weeks ahead.

Meeting the Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) Needs of Our Students
One of the most important responsibilities of a school community is to establish a safe and supportive environment for learning and teaching. Our current approach to fostering students’ positive social and emotional learning (SEL) draws upon two nationally-recognized models, Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) and the Responsive Classroom. Our teachers and staff members teach and model our core expected behaviors. When a child has engaged in behavior that is unexpected, we apply logical consequences through a progressive discipline approach aimed at reinforcing school rules and preventing future similar behaviors.

To ensure that our SEL model is as consistent and effective as possible, we have begun a process of reviewing our approach. We have recently introduced classroom teachers to a framework developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which will help us to better understand our students’ needs and reflect upon the ways we support them. We have also established a PBIS team made up of teachers, our school counselor Ms. Wheeler, and our social worker Ms. Gordon. This team is working on a plan to ensure that our PBIS model is current and well-understood by all members of our community.

While we have found that our PBIS, Responsive Classroom, and progressive discipline systems are very effective in helping most students develop their core SEL competencies, we also recognize that some children require additional support to self-regulate and manage the negative behaviors that they can demonstrate when they are in distress. To understand and address the complex needs of such learners, we are collaborating closely with district partners such as SEL lead teacher Alice Cohen, who supports schools across the district with their SEL planning and implementation. We have also recently hired a new full-time SEL paraprofessional to work in classrooms where we know children need additional assistance and support.

Building a strong and systematic SEL model at the Morse School is important and ongoing work. To enhance our approach over the long term, I have joined Ms. Cohen and other Cambridge principals in advocating for enhanced SEL resources and protocols, including converting Ms. Gordon’s part-time social work position into a full-time role. Morse School teachers and School Council members are also planning to request additional funding for SEL supports as part of the 2020-2021 budget process. With the work that we have already begun and the continued support of our district partners, I am confident that we will develop an even more robust, consistent, and effective SEL model for the children of the Morse School.

Ongoing Race & Equity Work at the Morse
Systematically addressing the SEL needs of our students connects in important ways to our efforts to understand how instances of oppression in society show up and impact our children. This Thursday (Feb. 27th; 5:30-7:00pm in the Morse Library), our Working Group on Race & Equity will come together again in our ongoing effort to organize the learning and growth that we need to do in order to become a more inclusive, welcoming, and anti-racist school community. All staff members and parents/caregivers are welcome to attend, regardless of your previous level of experience engaging in conversations around race and racism. To learn more about the way we frame our meetings, please see our meeting norms.

family gym nightJoin Us for Morse Family Gym Night this Friday!
Looking for a way to reconnect with other families after the winter break? Please consider dropping by this Friday evening (2/28) for our second Morse Family Gym Night! The event will take place in our gym, cafeteria, and auditorium from 6:00-8:00pm. Morse students and families are invited to participate in small-sided soccer games, basketball, line dancing, and climbing and tumbling in our indoor playground. Friends of Morse will be selling pizza, drinks, and snacks. As a reminder, to ensure a safe and fun event for all, children must be supervised by their parents/caregivers at all times. We hope to see you there!

Please Complete the CPS Family Survey!
Finally, a reminder to please take a moment to complete this year’s CPS Family Survey. Your feedback is extremely helpful to us as we plan for ways of building upon our school’s strengths and making changes that will make the Morse School an even better place for your children to learn and grow. The online survey takes about 15 minutes to complete. If you would prefer to take this survey on paper, we also have a pdf version which can be returned to our Family Liaison Ms. Sullivan. The online survey will be available until March 13.

We have a great team of teachers and staff members at the Morse School, and with your support and collaboration, we will continue to make our school a great place for teaching and learning. Thank you and my best wishes for a great start to your week!


Chad Leith

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