August 31, 2014
Dear Parents and Guardians,
On behalf of the faculty and administration at Newtown High School, I wanted to take a moment to review impressions from the opening days of school, including freshman orientation, schedule changes, student assemblies, as well as to update you on events planned for our students in the days and months ahead. First and foremost, I wanted to thank parents for helping us with student drop-off in the morning. Traffic moved at a steady pace and students arrived on time. Moving student drivers to the front parking lot has made it more convenient for students, especially those arriving for class following morning rush. Students no longer have to walk around the building to enter the school. We welcomed more than 400 freshmen to the high school this year, and students were greeted enthusiastically by staff and student Link Crew members, upperclassmen who worked with incoming students in small groups throughout the day and who will continue to reach out to freshmen during the year. As always, this was punctuated with a high level of school spirit and celebrated as a resounding success.
Our school counselors have been working diligently to welcome all students back to school and to make last-minute schedule changes. While this is always a high school’s biggest challenge at the onset of a new year, our staff has made a concerted effort so that all students are placed in appropriate classes to ensure their ongoing success. I feel confident students are settling in to the classes they requested with teachers who are prepared to engage, challenge, and motivate their learners.
On another note, the administrative team held assemblies with all students to review school expectations. Some of these expectations have changed from previous years. After multiple meetings with faculty and administration prior to the start of the school year, and in the context of school safety, it became clear that specific issues had to be addressed. The faculty and administration expressed serious and growing concerns with attendance, class cuts, and the number of students who were in unsupervised areas of the building. Staff and administration agreed that we are ultimately responsible and accountable for knowing where our students are at all times. With that in mind, attendance in class was made a priority, class cuts are being reviewed daily, and students were asked to sign out and/or use passes to move around the building. Another change this year was the restoration of morning advisory periods so that staff would be able to “touch base” with students on a daily basis and continue to strengthen staff and student relationships.
In our effort to build a strong school-home partnership, I do want to recognize the many parents who called me directly to ask questions, clarify misunderstandings, or offer new ideas and solutions. Some of you even shared social media “myths” about students receiving harsh consequences for resistance or non-compliance – none of which are true. In fact, privileges for students are still evident, and areas of the school (cafeteria, cafetorium, Media Center, Senior courtyard, and patio) continue to be available to students. We are working on areas where student IDs might serve as passes for upperclassmen, and a more common, less cumbersome pass system for bathrooms. These and other issues are currently being discussed and addressed by my administrative team.
The voices of students are equally important. I have been and will continue to meet with students to both empower and encourage them to find solutions or offer new insights into making this a safe, positive school environment. Members of student government have already begun to outline a plan to bring back spirit week and a pep rally to celebrate our October 24th homecoming game, events for students that previously represented a celebration of community, school spirit, and a public recognition of our students and athletes. Students interested in developing future activities for extended advisory periods have already come forward, and a committee has been established to discuss these in relation to building more meaningful student-staff relationships.
I thank you in advance for your understanding and patience. Please trust that we have our students’ best interests in mind. Our goal is to sustain a school culture that engages students intellectually, encourages positive student-staff relationships, offers activities for involvement or enrichment, and considers the safety and well being of all students as its top priority. Please feel free, at any time of the day or evening, to call me at school or on my cell (203) 360-2566. I welcome dialogue in the future for these and any other topics.
I hope to see you at the Newtown parade on Labor Day or to get to talk with you during one of our Open Houses in September.
Dr. Lorrie Rodrigue
Principal, Newtown High School