The MHS Community Update

February 24, 2020

Middletown is an educational community committed to providing academic, civic, and social tools essential for the future success of our students.

Principal's Report

Hello Everyone!

I hope that you all had an excellent February Break!

This month's community memo is once again packed with useful information and helpful tips. In a slight shift from previous memos, I'm using this space to ask for some assistance regarding a few items that have progressively been becoming more difficult to manage over the past month.

Please note that these asks are in no way complaints, just ways that I feel we can collaboratively improve the ongoing experiences for our students.

In addition to these asks you will find updated to my yearly objectives, references to the great charity work that's currently happening in our school, important timelines, and more!

As we prepare to wave goodbye to another New England winter, I'm really excited for the great things that are awaiting the Islander Community this spring!

Yours in partnership,

Jeff Heath

Dr. Heath's Dashboard

In the spirit of transparency and personal accountability, I plan on sharing monthly updates to each of these initiatives so that we all can share in the various successes and shortcomings that each of these categories will surely experience throughout the school year, So without further ado, here are my 5 primary focal points for the 2020-2021 school year and some related updates :

1) Monitor and creatively consider ways to increase reading, writing, and math proficiency across disciplines (UPDATE).

  • COVID has shifted this goal somewhat to a credit recovery focus
  • Currently working with Ms. Linda Leonard, our Beyond the Bell credit recovery coordinator, to plan an April Break intersession opportunity for Senior students who are at risk for not graduating
  • Have been actively reviewing longitudinal data across the past 5 years' SAT scores to determine trends and areas for improvement

2) Enhance the MHS brand across a variety of mediums including social media, building-based documents, the school website, social media, and traditional/non-traditional programming (UPDATE).

  • Continuing to make a concentrated effort to post regularly across our district Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube social media platforms (see links below to follow).
  • We continue to add to the NEW MHS website every week to help improve communication and streamline the sharing of important resources
  • Proud to report that the NEW AND IMPROVED MHS School Profile has been completed. School profiles are shared with colleges and universities as a "snapshot" of MHS's academic program and prestige. The product linked above is the result of a collaborative effort between MHS Guidance and Administration. Collectively, we reviewed over 40 school profiles from high preforming school districts across RI, MA, and CT. We borrowed some of our favorite features and related metrics to come up with what I would consider to be an AWESOME final product
  • We created a NEW Career and Technical Education website to help promote our programs and provide more clarity for those interested in applying/enrolling

3) Establish and begin wok on a 3-year, rotating Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment (CIA) Curriculum cycle to improve the continuity and outcomes associated with MHS instructional; practices (UPDATE).

  • Finalized the Program of Studies (minor edits left to complete) including a list of our Core Competencies that each course touches upon
  • Career and Tech grant applications have been completed and passed along to central office for review. After this phase, the Rhode Island Department of Education and URI will review our grant submissions. Once approved, we are slated to be receiving updated computers for ALL of our CTE programs, virtual reality headsets to enhance college visit and career-based learning opportunities, new furniture for several classrooms, podcasting studio equipment, and more!! Stay tuned for more exciting updates on this front in the near future.

4) Assist Mr. Soares and Mr. Clancey in decreasing the number of "serious" disciplinary infractions in comparison to SY 2019-2020 (UPDATE).

  • I am happy to report that we are continuing to see next to no "serious" disciplinary infractions thus far at MHS. This is due to a myriad of factors including a smaller student population in the building from day to day, vigilant efforts by Dean Clancey, Asst. Principal Soares, and our amazing support staff, and COVID-related social-emotional considerations.

5) Increase the number and diversity of enrichment opportunities for all students (UPDATE).

  • Update from last month's post: We have since touched base with East Providence High School to pitch a "school partnership" initiative. While EPHS is similar to MHS in many ways, there are significant differences between the 2 schools that I think would make for a mutually beneficial relationship. After a conversation with the EPHS principal, we have a second meeting scheduled for mid-March in order to build upon our initial thoughts and conversation.
  • Clubs and athletics, while still bumpy, are beginning to open up more. Our hope is that we will be able to get drama and sailing up and running in some capacity in the near future. Additionally it's the time of year where the National Honor Society gets back up and running. There are some exciting initiatives being discussed here as well. Most notably, the scaffolding for a Peer Tutoring program is being laid with astounding success. Stay tuned for more...

Social Media Reminders

To begin the year, the district is making a big push to increase our communications via social media. Please be sure to follow, retweet, like, and recommend our district social media accounts to anyone who is interested in following along with the countless successes of the Islander Community. #JointheWave

Reminder: The Middletown SurveyWorks Survey is LIVE until Monday, March 1

The window for our Middletown SurveyWorks district survey is currently open and ready to go! Students, families, faculty, and administration all take part in filling out these brief surveys with the goal of informing change and taking an inventory of the current school climate and operating logistics.

There are many surveys that come your way throughout the year... this is BY FAR THE MOST IMPORTANT! Why? In similar fashion to many other high schools across the state, when we look to make programatic changes at the high school, this is the primary reference tool that is utilized to prioritize what needs to be addressed. The more responses that we have across stakeholders, the more accurately we can "steer the ship" when seeking to institute an academic program that is reflective of the goals, needs, and wishes of the community.

Please, if you are not one of the near 100 families that have already completed this survey, consider taking 20 minutes to let us know how you feel like things are going!

Access the SurveyWorks Family Survey Here!

Reminder: AP Exam Fees are Due March 1!

REMINDER! All students grades 10-12 who signed up for taking AP exams this upcoming spring, the fee for exams is due to be submitted NO LATER THAN Monday, March 1. The fee per exam is $95. Checks can be made payable to Middletown High School and should be handed in to either Mr. Soares or Ms. Dowler in the main office. If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to Mr. Soares, our AP Coordinator, at

Reminder: Absentee and Dismissal Phone Calls

If your student needs to be absent or dismissed from school, please be sure to provide a reason via the phone call, email, or written note provided. The RI Department of Education requires that all student absences and dismissals have an attached "reason." While "undefined" is an option that we may select, RIDE often contacts us to get clarification on attendance records with the "undefined" designation. Providing a reason for absences and dismissals avoids this problem and allows us to more efficiently track the attendance patterns and general whereabouts of our students. Thanks in advance for your assistance!

Career and Technical Education Information Night Success!

Monday, February 8th the MHS Career and Technical Education faculty hosted a CTE Informational Session for any students and families who may be interested in enrolling in one of our 3 pathway programs. The programs include Computer Science, Engineering, and Biomedical. If you are interested in browsing a recording of the night's presentation, I've included the video below. Be forewarned... it's relatively long (approx 90m).

If you want a flavor of the presentation without watching the entire thing, check out the presentation slide deck LINKED HERE!

MHS CTE Info Night Feb21

Clarification on MHS Policies Relating to 2-Day, 4-day, and Distance Learning Attendance Patterns

Recently we have been noticing an "uptick" at the high school of students who have been attending school "off-track." This means that a student who is slated to be in school 2 days or 4 days per week is logging in from a computer rather than attending in-person school.

While this might not seem like a major issue, this does cause significant problems for the high school. In an attempt to summarize some of the pressing issues, I've added some bullet points below:

- MHS is required to report attendance data DAILY to the department of education. If a distance learner is marked as "Present" in school or an in-person learner is mark "Present- Remote Learning" on a day where they are supposed to be attending in a different format, RIDE flags this and we get a call at the high school asking what's going on. More flags lead to more calls and slaps on the wrist. This data needs to be accurate and ebbing in and out of tracks makes this super-hard to report with fidelity

- Students who opt out of their in-person days for reasons not reported to the school limit our capacity to accommodate students who are struggling and NEED to be in the building as much as possible. For example, if I look at a class roster and see there are 15 occupied seats, but travel to the physical space only to find 7 people in person, we are essentially wasting 8 in-person seats that could be being used by additional students.

- Should we need to contact trace in the result of a COVID-positive student/faculty member, trying to track "who was in-person and who was remote" on a given day is difficult under the best of circumstances. When our records indicate that specific students were in the room when they might have actually been remoting in (off track) this leads to discrepancies with our contact tracing reporting and has caused some significant issues with quarantining guidance administered from the RI Department of Health.

- Faculty members plan their lessons with the expectation that X number of students will be physically present and Y number of students will be remoting in. When these numbers are significantly off due to avoidable circumstances this can make what is already a difficult teaching environment near impossible to maintain in an engaging manner.

For these reasons (and many more), it's EXTREMELY important that if you would like your students attendance track to change, all requests are forwarded directly to me, Dr. Jeff Heath at I do my best to process all requests as quickly as possible and should be able to get back to you in a timely manner.

Additionally, I was recently made aware of some concerns regarding attendance patterns at the high school and "who is allowed in for which types of attendance and who is not." In the spirit of transparency, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some details about why certain students are allowed to attend "4 day schedules" while many others remain on 2 day rotations.

4-Day Per Week Request Protocol:

The process and criteria for considering family requests for students to attend 4 days per week in person are as follows.

Speaking specifically for the high school, 4 day per week requests are initiated by one of the following parties:

  • MHS faculty/staff
  • Parents/guardians
  • MHS administration
  • District administration

Every 4 day request comes to the building principal directly for review. I consider a broad range of variables when considering whether or not to approve a request. As the first step in the review process I look at the student's current academic standing. If the student is involved with our special education program this also includes a dialogue between myself and the student's case manager.

Next, I examine the student's attendance record to get a better feel for how the student has (or has not) been attending under their current track. At this stage I will sometimes reach out to one or more of the student's teachers to receive their input but this step is enacted on a case by case basis.

Finally, I take into account the parent/guardian's reasoning as to why their student needs to be allowed into the building 4 days per week as opposed to the traditional 2. It is my feeling that each individual parent knows their student and what they need/do not need better than anyone else. Generally speaking, unless I have significant evidence that is contrary to the parent/guardian's claim, I take parents at their word. I should note however that these conversations vary greatly depending on the circumstances surrounding each request.

The final logistic that I review after gathering this information is to look at the student's entire classroom schedule. I personally review the 7 courses in which the student is enrolled to make sure that adding a student on their "remote" days will not overload a classroom and prevent us from being able to appropriately socially distance. Once again, this is a variable process as different classrooms in our building can accommodate different numbers of students (i.e. science classrooms can safely house 15-16 students while most traditional classrooms cap out at 12-13 students given current RIDoH guidelines). When there is a close call, I go one step further to review how many students are currently on distance learning per class to see if we can accommodate requests.

There are rare circumstances when there is only one course that limits a student from being able to attend 4 days after initiating a request. In these instances I try to work with support professionals in the building to see if there's a way to supervise that student in a "remote" setting in the building so that they may attend their other classes in person while "remoting in" to the "packed" room from a conference space.

If there is more than one class that is "packed" in a student's schedule, their request is denied. Also, if the preponderance of evidence does not demonstrate a visible need for a student to be in 4 days a week, those requests are also denied.

I hope this helps to provide some insight into our current attendance practices at the high school. While these are by no means perfect, we are hopeful that via continued collaboration and creative thought, we will be able to continue to improve as the year rolls on.

Thank you for your patience, understanding, and assistance!

Course Selection for the 2021-2022 School Year has Begun!

Yesterday, the high school began the process of selecting courses for the 2021-2022 school year. Please see the email that was previously shared below for more information regarding this ongoing process including directions, timelines, course selection sheets, and more.

I hope that February Break provided everyone an opportunity to step back and take a much needed break from the hectic nature of this school year.

This email is being sent out to inform you that this upcoming Tuesday (tomorrow) and Wednesday during our Advisory periods (10:21 - 12:07), students in grades 9 -11 will be officially asked to begin choosing their courses for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year.

The window for students in grades 9 - 11 to choose their courses will be from Tuesday, February 23 - the close of school on Wednesday, March 3.

Before school ends on Wednesday, March 3 all students should submit their Course Selection Sheets to either Ms. Richardson ( or their guidance counselor via hard copy or email.

The powerpoint presentation linked via the button below will help guide students through the process. Below you will also find links to several important resources that will be essential when making thoughtful, informed selections regarding your course of study for next year.

Should students and families still have questions about course selection, please contact one of the following individuals:

Guidance counselors:

Department Directors:


Essential Resources for Selecting Courses:

- MHS Program of Studies Website (SY 2021-2022)

Description: A comprehensive list of courses that we are seeking to offer this upcoming school year. Please note that ultimately, which courses we will be able to run will depend on student requests and available resources.

- Course Selection Sheets (*Hard copies to be handed out in Advisories for in-person students on Tues, 2/23 and Wed, 2/24. Additional hard copies may also be found in the main office and Ms. Richardson’s office by guidance)

Description: Students should use the appropriate course list and selection sheet that pertains to their class to select their courses. Every attempt should be made to get signatures of teacher approval for the courses that the student would like to take. That being said, we understand that this may not be possible for all students depending on their current method of attending. As mentioned above, selection sheets can be turned-in to either Ms. Richardson or your guidance counselor in hard copy or digital form (i.e. email).

- Course Recommendation Waiver Form

Description:Must be submitted for any core courses where a family disagrees with a written teacher recommendation. The submission of this form indicates that the family would like their student to be considered for a different “level” course.

Once a student’s courses have been selected and their sheet submitted, guidance counselors will actively be reviewing student selections between March - May. If there are any questions regarding a student’s choices, their guidance counselor may request a meeting to review course choices. Students are expected to attend these meetings if they receive an invitation.

Thank you for your time and close attention. As mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our administrators, guidance counselors, or your student’s advisory teacher if you have any questions regarding the course selection process or related events.

Looking for Access to Your Learner's Information/Grades?

Are you looking to update your contact information? How about looking to access your student's grades? Curious if your student has any recent disciplinary infractions or attendance hiccups? All of these items and more can be accessed via the parent portal of our student information system, PowerSchool. To create a PowerSchool account, please put in a request for a login name and password with our district technology department. The link to make this request can be found here. Click on "IT Help Desk" and follow the associated prompts to get your information.

MIddletown Prevention Coalition Survey Forthcoming (March 2-3)

The annual Middletown Prevention Coalition survey will be administered to students and faculty this on Tuesday March 2 and Wednesday March 3 during advisory. Community members are strongly encouraged to complete their versions of this survey as the data helps to inform the MPC on the state of substance use, abuse, and prevention in our community. More info will be shared with MHS and Gaudet families in the near future so please be on the lookout!

Warm Welcome to New Faculty and Staff!

Please join me in welcoming several new faculty and staff members! Several of these individuals have been with us for a few weeks now, but this is the first opportunity I've had to acknowledge them in the Memo!

Please join me in extending a warm welcome to:

A) Ms. Leticia Rivera! Ms. Rivera will be in for Caroline McNamara in Spanish for the duration of the year.

B) Ms. Ashley D'Antuono! Ms. D'Antuono was hired as a building based substitute and is currently helping out in the World Language department.

C) Mr. Matt Kessler! Mr. Kessler was recently hired as the incoming Varsity Football Coach. Welcome aboard Coach Kessler!

#IslanderPRIDE Highlights from December/January

Important Events

2/5- Close of Quarter 2 (Semester 1)

2/9 - 3/10 - SurveyWorks survey is open for community, students, faculty, and administrators to complete

2/15 - 2/19- February Break

2/22- Final day to turn in work for students who had received an "Incomplete" grade

2/23 - 3/3- Course selection window for Grades 9 - 11

2/25- School Committee Meeting

2/26- Q2 "Incompletes" to be replaced with numerical grades

3/1- Final day to submit Advanced Placement test money ($95 per test)

3/1- Weekly Binex COVID testing begins for all current athletes and coaches

3/2- Middletown Prevention Coalition's Community Health Survey window opens

Want to learn more about our school and our guiding principles? Check out these resources...

Book: Reframing Organizations: Artistry, Choice, & Leadership (Bolman, L.G & Deal, T.E. 2014)

There's a reason why this one is required reading for entry-level Harvard Business School students. This is such a great book for any organization from schools to businesses and beyond. This book asks the reader to consider events from 4 different frameworks (political, human resources, structural, and symbolic). For me it was a TOTAL game changer that helped me to refine my personal decision making process. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in doing the same.

Dr. Heath's Video of the Month

As we close in on the end of Black History Month, I watched this video just a few nights ago when I was laying in bed. I've been thinking about it ever since. A super quick watch that contextualizes global instability in a thought-provoking way.

Duration: 5m 24s
The Atlantic slave trade: What too few textbooks told you - Anthony Hazard