Dear Parents and Guardians,
I wanted to share some important work our students will be engaging in as a part of our advisory program in the coming months. Feedback from our 2015 Safe School Climate survey solicited the perceptions of safety in social-emotional terms among students, which included their experiences regarding verbal abuse, harassment, and exclusion. While 82% of our student survey-takers responded within the neutral or positive range, 17% indicated negative experiences. Using this information, one of the goals in our student improvement plan focuses on the following, “To increase a sense of social, emotional, and physical safety and well-being within the school community.”
In the weeks ahead, we are planning to work with students across grade levels and have courageous conversations around harassment and exclusion, as well as to emulate actions that promote diversity, tolerance, and inclusion. Although the news and social media continue to highlight negative school incidents, the reality is that the majority of our students, teachers, and administrators witness acts of kindness and “stand up” behaviors on a daily basis. We need to expose and celebrate students in our Unified Sports, Unified Theater, GSA, Student Government, and all of the clubs and sports groups who support their peers and the community.
However, more needs to be done. Lessons at the high school level around social and emotional learning (SEL) are critical, as research indicates these are directly linked to students’ success in school. The following are ongoing actions we continue to employ as part of our school improvement plan:
- Use of advisory program to develop strategies for improving diversity, tolerance, and inclusion
- Student-generated activities that embrace social and cultural differences and build community
- Freshman evening forum that focuses on making positive decisions
- Clarification of school expectations through advisory, discipline policies, as well as student and parent meetings
- Lessons both in and outside the classroom that promote diversity, civic responsibility, and empathy
Staff, parents and community members play an equally important role in setting high expectations in these areas. Unfortunately, social media often encourages inaccurate information about school incidents and follow up. Please continue to rely on school administrators to receive information or to ask questions. Our most important objective is to establish a strong and unified school-to-home partnership in the best interest of our students.
Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue
Dear NHS Students and Parents,
I hope everyone is enjoying a beautiful October weekend with family and friends. I just wanted to send a sincere thank you for the time, effort, and genuine enthusiasm members of our school community shared during the high school accreditation visit by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). While we will not receive the draft report for a couple of months, the team did share their positive response regarding the overall climate and culture of the school community. Teachers, administrators, parents and students alike shared their thoughts with the team about the connections teachers and students make on a daily basis, the caring community that exists, and activities that take place to meet the needs of all students. The report, when released, will be shared with all stakeholders, and there will no doubt be specific recommendations to ensure we continue to improve our practices in the best interest of all students. However, until then, I wanted you to know that….
In other news…
Students and staff are getting ready for an exciting month celebrating school spirit and community. A special “door decorating” competition using photos and images will be taking place on October 23rd to represent school spirit. This is leading up to our traditional high school Spirit Week scheduled for the week of October 26th. Students will be working during morning advisories to prepare their ideas for the design and theme of their Spirit Halls, as well as to plan for the activities that will occur on the field at our Blue and Gold Stadium during our October 30th pep rally.
After a long and reflective accreditation process, these upcoming events are rather symbolic, highlighting the most important aspects of our school’s core beliefs: collaboration, community, kindness, and support. We hope all students participate in these events, especially since they are meant to honor and recognize the talented students who are a part of our high school.
Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue
Dear Students, Parents, and Staff Members,
I needed to take a moment to thank all of the members of the Newtown High School community who took time out of their Sunday afternoon to participate in the panel presentation, interviews, and welcome reception to kick-off our high school accreditation. Students and staff welcomed visitors from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), who will be evaluating the school’s self-study reports, visiting classrooms, and interviewing members of the school community through Wednesday, October 7th. The welcome started with a “gauntlet” in the auditorium, which included our faculty and student members of our Link Crew program. This line of cheering staff and students mirrored the welcome all freshman get upon arriving at Newtown High School during orientation in August. Cheryl Lombardo, Link Crew Advisor, led a series of activities that energized the audience and simulated the connections students and staff make with freshman throughout the year.
During the panel presentation, teachers and administrators shared interesting facts about the Newtown community, provided an overview of the school’s core values and graduation standards, and outlined short and long-term plans for future improvements. Student actors even created a skit about the impact of graduation standards on their role as learners throughout their high school career. A special thanks to Newtown First Selectwoman, Pat Llodra, for reviewing the school’s core values and beliefs as part of the program. To conclude the presentation, Dr. Erardi, Superintendent, after sharing some preliminary remarks about the high school, provided an introduction to a video, created by Gary Franklin, social studies chair, to illustrate the 4-year journey of a Newtown Nighthawk. The video can be viewed at the link below.
A special welcome reception followed the panel presentation in the school cafetorium. Members of the culinary program put out an outstanding spread of hors d’oeuvres for the faculty, community members, and NEASC site visiting team. The NHS singers and the Strings Ensemble provided musical interludes throughout the afternoon reception. The positive energy and enthusiasm by the NHS community was outstanding and showed a deep pride in our school!
Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue