All Around APS

News from the Andover Public School District

Wednesday, January 22, 2020 - vol. 10

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Student's Spotlight- Celebrating Chinese New Year at South Elementary

Happy Chinese/ Lunar New Year to all who celebrate!

South Elementary fourth grader Kaylee Fan is excited to share Chinese traditions and customs with her classmates this week as she and her family prepare to celebrate Chinese New Year. Kaylee will welcome her mother, Liang, into Ms. Walsh’s classroom on Friday for a presentation on the “Year of the Rat,” which is the zodiac sign celebrated this year. Chinese New Year begins on January 25, 2020 and continues for 15 days. It is also known as the “Spring Festival,” and the holiday marks the end of the coldest days.

“The rat was the first one to cross the finish line in the Jade Emperor’s race, so he used strategy to his advantage,” explains Kaylee, referring to the Chinese zodiac legend of the Great Race. “It will be fun to teach my class the background of the Chinese New Year and how my family celebrates. We can learn from our differences and respect each other’s customs.”

Kaylee’s mother, Liang, emigrated from Suzhou, China, 25 years ago to raise her family in Massachusetts. She explains that the customs of Chinese New Year have changed in China over the decades. “It used to be similar to how American’s celebrated Thanksgiving, with everyone making their way to the family home to celebrate together. These days, transportation in China is difficult, it is hard for everyone to be together in one place. Also, with pollution such a challenge to the environment in China, we no longer light fireworks. Even with these changes in China, it is still such an important celebration for our culture, and I am thrilled that Kaylee’s teachers welcome us into the classroom to share our stories.”

Liang is preparing some of the traditional favors for Kaylee’s classmates such as red envelopes filled with “money” to offer good luck to the recipients. In China, it was typical to use gold coins for the envelopes, as gold is considered the most vital of metals and signifies riches. The Chinese New Year ends on February 8th with a celebration called the Lantern Festival. Kaylee and Liang will also bring some paper lanterns, which light the way for a bright and prosperous future.

In some countries, like South Korea and Vietnam, it is called the Lunar New Year. The Spring Festival was originally a ceremonial day to pray to gods for a good planting and harvest season. Traditions include wearing red to protect from bad luck or evil, eating certain foods for good fortune, and giving the red envelopes with money as gifts for children.

Enjoy the New Year!

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Featured Educators- Ann McNamee & Megan Donahue

January is National Mentoring month! At APS, our first year teachers are supported by the Andover Induction Mentoring (AIM) program led by our mentor coordinator, Ann McNamee. While some have referred to Ann as the “Queen of Mentoring,” she is quick to add that the program wouldn’t be as successful as it is if it wasn’t for her facilitators, Kate Gerry at the elementary level, Norma Villarreal at the middle school level and Lauren Ream for the high school.

The mission of the Andover Induction Mentoring program is to improve teaching and learning by providing a collegial support network and opportunities for ongoing professional learning to educators who are new to the profession, as well as those new to APS.

Ann, in her 25th year of teaching Social Studies at Doherty Middle School, has been the coordinator of the mentoring program for 11 years. She oversees the year-long program, which acclimates new teachers to the district. Ann and her team work with the principals at each school to pair a new teacher with a mentor who will provide guidance as he or she navigates the first year in an APS classroom. The mentor-mentee relationship is non-supervisory, teaching best practices and lending support to new staff. “No question is too small,” says Ann. “Our mentors are amazing, and are positive role models who work throughout the school year to offer compassion and create a supportive structure.”

Megan Donahue is one of the mentees in the AIM program this year. Megan is a Speech Language Pathologist at Doherty Middle School who has been assigned a mentor for her inaugural year at APS. “The value of having a mentor is huge,” says Megan. “Even after years of college and clinical rotations, a new school environment can make you nervous. This program, and my mentor, have really taken the anxiety out of being in a new district. There are so many complex challenges to starting somewhere new, having a compassionate mentor who I can talk to is invaluable.”

“We have worked hard so that APS is not a sink or swim environment for our newest educators,” adds Ann. “It’s important our educators support one and other, and our newest teachers know they have an ‘umbrella of support’ around them. Working as a team is what makes us all successful and able to provide the best possible experience for our students.”

Student's Story- Gustavo Lima at High Plain Elementary

“My name is Gustavo Lima. I am 10 years old and attend fifth grade at High Plain Elementary School. My teacher is Mrs. Farquhar and we recently completed a project called Boxes of Hope in the classroom during the holiday season. The focus of this project was to create a box of positive compliments and inspirational homemade items for a classmate you have been secretly partnered with.”

“Then, the day before winter vacation, there is a big reveal where each student discovers who their secret partner was and the content of their Boxes of Hope. Participating in this project helped me to learn more about one of my classmates and to practice empathy and compassion. It also connects to our school theme of ‘Say Something’.”

“My proudest moment during this experience was when I got to share an inspirational story I wrote for my partner called “The Journey.” It told about my experiences moving from Brazil to Andover, learning to understand and speak English, and transitioning into another culture. Although I encountered many obstacles along the way, hard work, perseverance, and the guidance of my teachers allowed me to overcome those challenges. Now, I am doing great in fifth grade, and am looking forward to attending Wood Hill Middle School next year.”

Please take a moment to watch Gustavo tell his story on his experience moving from Brazil to Andover in this inspiring video.

Superintendent’s Message- Full Day Kindergarten

I am honored to announce that following many years of effort, families with students entering kindergarten will no longer pay tuition for full-day kindergarten. This marks a significant milestone in our community, and follows years of collaborative work between the administration, School Committee, Andover educators and families. The School Committee voted to make full day kindergarten tuition-free in December and the Andover Finance Committee and Andover Select Board voted to approve the School Committee’s recommendation of the elimination of full day kindergarten in January, 2020. Tuition-free full day kindergarten will begin in the 2020-21 school year.

We are pleased the tuition-free FDK plan comes at no additional cost to Andover taxpayers, and instead leverages the Massachusetts Chapter 70 funding model to bring increased state aid to Andover in the 2021-22 school year. With potential tuition revenue now roughly equivalent to expected state aid revenue, it no longer makes financial or common sense for Andover to charge for kindergarten tuition. Next year the district will cover tuition through reserves in the full-day kindergarten revolving account.

Credit for moving us in this direction goes to a Sanborn parent, Karyn Sibbernsen who came to the School Committee four years ago with data showing Andover had the second highest tuition for full-day kindergarten in the state and was one of a declining number of communities that charged tuition. Her message was well received by School Committee members who began budgeting district funds to replace tuition and reduced the tuition each year in order to finally reach the inflection point where state aid would be relatively equivalent to tuition. We have reached that point and are now able to move this important move.

As the district provided funding in order to lower tuition for full-day kindergarten, the participation rate in Andover FDK rose each year, reaching 93% of our kindergarten students attending full-day kindergarten this year. This has made the move much easier and more financially feasible.

Although it took four years to achieve, this is a major accomplishment that will not only enhance services to our families and provide all students with a richer kindergarten experience, but will also make Andover a more attractive community for families to move to. Much thanks goes to those parents who got us started in this direction, the School Committee members for their leadership, and the Finance Committee, the Select Board and the Town Manager for their support.

Shelley Berman


APS Community News

APS Health Advisory

Some of the schools in our district have seen higher incidences of student illnesses over the past week. Most of the symptoms are related to fever, cough/colds, flu and gastro-intestinal illnesses. With the addition of the high incidence of flu in Massachusetts, we are taking steps to protect staff and students from further illness as much as possible.

Therefore, in addition to practicing good hand hygiene, we ask that you monitor your child's health closely and keep them home from school if they are sick; especially with flu-like symptoms, which include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and fever. They should not return to school until these symptoms have subsided and they are fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication. To help us monitor the situation, when calling your child's school to report absenteeism also provide a list of symptoms your child is experiencing.

In our schools, we have instructed our custodians to be extra vigilant with their cleaning routine in our buildings. Flu vaccine is still available through our public health department and is recommended to protect against flu illness. If you or someone you know is in need of flu vaccine call the Andover Health Department at 978-623-8640.

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AHS Team Qualifies for WGBH High School Quiz Show’s 11th season

The AHS Quiz Show team will head to WGBH studios in Boston on January 26, 2020 to compete against Wellesley High School and they need an audience! The team has worked hard to make it to this stage of the competition, so wouldn’t it be great to fill the studio? Tickets to the show are FREE, but need to be reserved in advance. For more information, click here.

This will be AHS’s fourth time competing! The team at AHS won the MA State Championship in 2017-2018 and were also the High School Quiz Show Invitational champions that year.

AHS Chamber Choir performs at the 13th Annual MLK Jr Unity Celebration

Students from the AHS Chamber Choir performed at the 13th Annual MLK Jr Unity Celebration at the Andover Baptist Church on Monday.
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AHS Junior Highlighted in India New England as 20 under 20

Last spring, APS featured AHS junior Aparna Shanmugam for her work with Alzheimer’s research. Aparna and her friends started the Alzheimer’s Foundation America Teen group at Andover High School. AFA’s national teen division was founded in 2002 to help educate and support teens whose lives have been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, as well as those who are interested in getting involved in the cause.

Recently, Aparna was chosen as one of India New England’s 20 under 20 for her research. In March 2020, Aparna will present her research on Alheimer’s potential cures and awareness in developing countries at the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry conference. This summer, Aparna will be going to India to complete an internship/research at the Schizophrenia and Dementia Center (SCARF) at Chennai, India. Congratulations Aparna!

Chinese New Year Celebration for the Community

Andover English Learner Parent Advisory Council (ELPAC) would like to invite the community to celebrate cultural diversity within the Andover community at the 2020 Chinese New Year Gala on February 1st at Wood Hill Middle School. The event will feature traditional Chinese performances, crafts, games, and authentic Chinese food. Everyone is welcome to join the celebration, for more information please click here.

This event is co-hosted with Chinese American Association of Andovers, Chinese Language Program (AHS), Chinese School Andover, Step by Step Chinese School, New Millennium Institute, and the Andover Chinese community.

APS offers condolences on passing of long-time bus driver

It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of APS bus driver, Rick Fredrickson. Rick served our students and community for 45 years and most recently drove bus #13.

Rick was a dedicated and valued part of the APS community. He worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of generations of APS students, always willing to go above and beyond for our families.

The Andover Townsman wrote a wonderful article on the impact Rick had in our community. Rick will be greatly missed and our deepest condolences to his family and employer, Trombly Motor Coach Service, Inc.

Angst: Raising Awareness around Anxiety

Andover Public Schools will hold a special screening of the documentary Angst on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 at 7 PM at the Collins Center, 100 Shawsheen Road, to open up a dialogue between local families, community leaders and experts about anxiety and anxiety-related disorders.

The event will feature a viewing of the 56-minute film, followed by an informative panel discussion, led by APS Director of School Social Work Joe Yarid, with special guests Dr. Bubrick, a senior clinical psychologist in the Anxiety Disorders Center and Director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Service at the Child Mind Institute in New York, NY. Click here for more information and to RSVP to the event.

Volunteers needed for CAPStone Literature Review

The 2019-2020 CAPStone Cohort has come to a critical point in the course, when students are required to present their Literature Reviews on their given topics. The Literature Review is a crucial step in the Capstone experience; it defines the jumping off point from secondary to primary research, which is a new learning experience for most of the students.

Last year 54 CAPS students presented their Literature Reviews to a group of administrators, School Committee members, town officials, teachers, and parents, who then offered critical feedback on their secondary research. This proved a vital experience in the development of their research projects.

This year 73 CAPS students will be presenting their Literature Reviews on Thursday February 6th from 8:00-11:00 in the Media Center at AHS.

The Cohort is in great need of adults, who would be willing to read through a small selection of Literature Reviews and sit on panels to offer feedback to students. If you are able to participate, please fill out this Google Form by January 31st to register.

SEPAC Workshop

There will be a SEPAC workshop held in the West Middle School library on Wednesday, January 29, 2020 at 7:30 PM. For more information, including the agenda for the evening, please check their Facebook page.

Every public school district in Massachusetts is required to establish a SEPAC, and state law assigns both an advisory and participatory function to SEPAC. The purpose of a SEPAC, as a public body, is to serve as an advisor to the School Committee on matters that pertain to the education and safety of students with disabilities. Further, a SEPAC is a self-governing body and is open to all parents of children with disabilities and other interested parties and will serve all families of children with special needs across the district.

School Committee Informal Forums for 2020!

The School Committee welcomes the community to join us for an informal forum on the top floor of Memorial Hall Library on Saturday, February 1, 2020 at 9:30 AM.

These forums have no set agenda, and the community is welcome to drop in at any time to speak with two members of the School Committee on any topics related to our schools.

Because these session are attended by only two School Committee members, they allow an interactive dialogue outside of the Open Meeting Law legal parameters. Issues raised at the forum that might require further discussion with the entire School Committee will be communicated during a regular business meeting.

Additional dates & times for 2020:

  • Tuesday March 3rd at 7 PM
  • Wednesday April 8th at 9:30 AM
  • Saturday May 9th at 9:30 AM
  • Tuesday June 9th at 7 PM