Welcome Back from the Principal

Dear Morse School students and families,

I hope that you are having a fun and relaxing summer break. My wife Edna and I, along with our children Aléx and Isabella, enjoyed a wonderful three-week trip to visit family in Cape Verde and Portugal. Now that we are back in Cambridge, I am feeling rested, recharged and ready for the 2019-2020 school year! With only two weeks left before students in grades 1-5 return on September 3rd, I am writing to share some updates, information and reminders to help you get the year off to a great start.

Welcoming New Members to Our School Community
I’d like to offer a special welcome to the parents and caregivers of the 95 new students who will join our school community in September! In addition to new children and families, we are also fortunate to be welcoming a very talented group of new staff members to our team. Here is a little information about the new grownups your children will meet in September:
I am very pleased to introduce Deja Applewhaite, who will join the Morse School as our new building substitute. Ms. Applewhaite is a former Morse School student and has most recently served as a substitute teacher at Vassal Lane and Rindge Ave. Upper Schools. Ms. Applewhaite earned her bachelor's degree from UMass Dartmouth, where she served as an AVID tutor and algebra teacher's assistant. Stephanie Jarvis, our previous building substitute, will take on a new role at the Morse this year as our full-time 2nd grade paraprofessional.

I am also pleased to introduce Isabel Eccles, who will serve as our new full-time math interventionist. Ms. Eccles brings to this role nearly 35 years of classroom teaching experience, including over 20 years at the Cambridgeport School, where she has specialized in 5th grade math and science instruction. At Cambridgeport, she established a reputation for successfully helping her struggling students to become confident and successful math learners. She will play an important role in our efforts to address math learning gaps at the Morse School.

Danielle Fitzpatrick will be leading the Morse School’s new Special Start classroom. For the last 6 years, Ms. Fitzpatrick has been teaching an Intensive integrated Special Start class over at the Cambridgeport school. This upcoming school year will be her 13th year teaching preschool special education. Ms. Fitzpatrick earned her undergraduate degree at Stonehill College and her Masters at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Although he is not really “new” to the Morse School, Phil Fousek will be returning this year as our full-time physical education teacher. Mr. Fousek served last year as our part-time Health and K-1 P.E. teacher, and helped to organize our first annual Morse Marathon. Prior to joining the Morse School staff, Mr. Fousek taught P.E. at the Cambridgeport School for thirteen years. He also serves as the boys’ varsity soccer coach at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School.

Nicole Hamblet joins the Morse School as the full-time instructional aide in Ms. Grunes' 1st grade classroom (A4). Ms. Hamblet recently completed her student teaching internship as a 1st grade teacher at Fletcher Maynard Academy in Cambridge. She holds a B.A. in art history at the College of Charleston in South Carolina and a Master's degree in elementary education from Lesley University. Ms. Hamblet also completed a semester abroad in Paris, France!

Sarah Moore will be joining the Morse School as our new inclusion instructional specialist. Ms. Moore holds a master's degree in integrated elementary and special education and has worked as a special educator in both the Boston and Cambridge Public Schools. Her experience and vision will help us strengthen our school’s inclusion model. Marissa Costello, who served in this role last year, will be supporting our upper-elementary classrooms this year as a special educator.

Daniel Offley will be joining us as a 4th grade humanities teacher. Mr. Offley is licensed in both elementary education and moderate disabilities and has worked in both the Brookline and the Boston Public Schools, where he served as a math interventionist and a 5th grade teacher. Mr. Offley has already made Morse School connections, having worked over the summer as a teacher with our Title I summer program!

Also joining our 4th grade team as a full-time instructional aide is Amel Younis, who previously served as a paraprofessional at the Cambridgeport School. He earned his bachelor's degree in Early Education and Special Education from Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania, where he also completed his student teaching. Mr. Younis is a competitive rower who trains regularly on the Charles River!

School Improvement Goals for 2019-2020
Over the remaining two weeks of summer Cambridge Public Schools teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators will meet to review our goals for strengthening our approach to meeting the academic, social and emotional needs of our students. Although I will present additional information in September about our broader school improvement goals, I wanted to share with you some of the ongoing work that the Morse School team will engage in over the coming months:

  • First, we will continue to work together to strengthen our approach to challenging and supporting students at every grade level through engaging and appropriately-differentiated learning experiences.

  • We will also focus on enhancing collaboration and communication to foster a safe and respectful learning environment for all students and staff. Among the steps we will take to achieve this goal is improving protocols so that our team can respond efficiently to any issues that might interfere with a child’s academic progress, safety or emotional well-being.

  • Finally, we will continue to examine the way that race and culture impact the daily experiences of children and adults in our community, and how we can work together to address persistent inequities and the lingering effects of systemic racism.

I look forward to sharing more information over the coming weeks and engaging all members of our school community in these important initiatives and conversations.

Strengthening Our Sense of Community

This year, we will introduce exciting new ways of nurturing positive relationships between students, teachers, and families. We are expanding our before-school offerings for students in Grades 3-5 to include a new co-ed Morning Intramurals program led by our P.E. teacher Phil Fousek and designed to help kids get their Tuesdays off to an active start through team sports. We will also be introducing a Thursday morning Computer Science Club led by our tech specialist Jen Lavalle, which will encourage students to explore activities like Scratch, 3D Design, and physical computing with robots! Of course, our music teacher Kelly Graeber will continue to lead the Morse Morning Singers on Wednesdays! We are also planning additional evening events for families to enjoy together, including a family “paint night” in October, grade-level pasta dinners in the fall, and monthly family gym nights in the winter. If you are interested in volunteering for any of these events - or in helping to plan and organize additional events that bring Morse School families together - please consider attending the first Friends of Morse meeting on September 12th from 6 - 8PM in the Morse School library.

Upcoming Events
The first weeks of school will be very busy! Please be sure to jot down the following dates on your family calendar:

Wednesday, 8/21 | JK/K meet-up at Old Morse Park
Tuesday, 9/3 | First day of school (Grades 1-5)
Wednesday, 9/4 | Kindergarten orientation
Thursday, 9/5 | First day of school (JK/K)
Friday, 9/6 | Welcome back “Picnic in the Playground”
Thursday, 9/12 | Friends of Morse meeting
Wednesday, 9/25 | Open House & Curriculum Night
Friday, 10/4 | 2nd Annual Morse Marathon

Drop-Off and Pick-Up Procedures
The Morse School is located in a busy city and we need to be mindful about properly monitoring the access points to our school. In order to maintain a secure learning environment, we ask that all parents and children enter the building for morning drop-off through our school's main entrance. As a reminder, children in grades JK-5 may be dropped off as early as 7:55AM. We offer free breakfast in our cafeteria and supervised play in our Granite Street playground (weather permitting). At 8:10AM, students (and parents dropping off young children) may proceed from our main lobby to their classrooms. During afternoon pick-up, we ask that all parents wait outside until our 2:25PM dismissal bell, so that we can safely transition our bus riders to the auditorium. Please keep an eye out for additional information about dismissal procedures for your child’s grade level and classroom.

If you have any questions or concerns as we approach the first day of school, please do not hesitate to reach out to me, Assistant Principal Sam Headley, or our fabulous administrative assistant Elaine Delaney. We can also be reached at 617.349.6575.

On behalf of the teachers and staff of the Morse School, I wish you all the best for a wonderful end to your summer vacation. We can’t wait to welcome you back in two weeks!


Chad Leith

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