Gill-Montague District News

"Challenging and Supporting Every Student"

GMRSD District Updates June 12, 2020

Responding to Racism

Dear GMRSD Community,


A white police officer kneels on a black man’s neck, casually, hands in pockets, while colleagues assist, until the man dies. A white woman dog walker in Central Park calls the police on a black man bird watcher, and in a contrived call for help she attempts to use her power and privilege to endanger him. Meanwhile, across the nation, twice as many people of color contract and die from this awful virus. We are all outraged. What is a school community to do?

Two tracks are active in Gill-Montague. First, as our mission is learning, we will continue to grow our efforts to teach and learn about multicultural understanding, prejudice reduction, and social justice. This work is ongoing for educators, administrators, and students. In this time of physical separation and with the school year ending, we would like to extend our efforts by inviting parents and caregivers to learn more about racism and to engage in conversation about it with their children. To that end we are providing this link Teaching Tolerance Resources to a list of resources developed by our administrative team. These particular resources are ones we have found to be particularly useful.


Second, school committee member Haley Anderson has recently drafted an eloquent expression of sentiments and potential commitments that would call upon the district to become a more culturally proficient organization. My hope is that this statement will provide a catalyst for the committee and the community to continue the hard and important work of learning more deeply together and then acting from a place of common understanding. I will close with Haley’s draft statement and by inviting community members to share your thoughts about it with school committee members.

Regards, Michael Sullivan


The GMRSD school committee stands in solidarity with protesters across the world to decry the brutal and unfair treatment of Black people at the hands of the police and the criminal justice system. We recognize that we live in a nation founded on white privilege. Systemic racism pervades our society. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color experience racism every day, and the Gill-Montague community and our schools are not exempt from this problem. Sitting on this committee, we have heard families’ accounts of incidences of racism in our schools. While we have made efforts to address and resolve these incidences, it is clear today that we must redouble our efforts. Our district mission statement is: Challenging and supporting every student to succeed through strong leadership, excellent teaching, and community engagement. In order to fulfill that mission, we need to commit our energy to dismantling the system that presents extraordinary barriers to happiness, health, and success for so many of our students of color.


As the governing body of this school district, we promise to:

-Actively seek out anti-racism professional development opportunities

-Recognize and actively challenge unconscious and implicit bias in ourselves and

our colleagues

-Closely examine our policies, curriculum, discipline, hiring practices, and student

Assessments with a lens for equity

-Cultivate an inclusive space for non-white staff, students, and families

-Represent diversity of skin tone and perspectives in our resources classroom materials

-Talk in an age-appropriate, open, and honest way about race and racism with our students

-Provide venues for staff and administration to engage in dialogue about race, racism, and

privilege

We encourage community participation – actually, we implore it as we do this work.

As we have heard many times from community members in our meetings, pretty words are not enough. It is up to us to take these ideals and translate them into meaningful action. What we do is more important than what we say. This process will not be easy; it will not be comfortable. But it must be done.

Summer Meals Program and Distribution Sites

It doesn't feel possible that the school year is coming to an end. While our cafeteria staff have been hard at work preparing bagged lunches to keep our meals program going we have missed seeing our students! No doubt, we will all hope for a good summer and will look forward to the future as reopening of businesses and schools is more possible.


June Menu & Meal Distribution information


Please note our summer meals program will continue through August 21, 2020. Please check back for updates to the menu on our website.

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Year End Recognition & Planning for Reopening of School in the Fall

As this school year comes to a close on June 12th we want to take a moment to recognize our faculty, staff, building administrators and most importantly our students and families. We did it! All of our lives have been completely disrupted, as not one of us imagined or planned to have our school year end this way. It has been a hardship for everyone and we miss our students terribly. We are also humbled and impressed at the countless ways members of our greater school community have supporter one another during this time.


School Reopening:

Our superintendent and district leadership team has been closely following state guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on preparing for the reopening of school in the fall. Contingency planning is already underway. We encourage families to follow district communications over the summer as we look to gather stakeholder input, implement evolving state guidance, and put forth a comprehensive reopening plan that addresses the educational needs of our students while maintaining health and safety standards for all.

Update on Summer Programming for Eligible Special Education Students

On May 22, 2020, GMRSD electronically posted our plans for eligible special education students to participate in a remote extended school year summer services program. We also subsequently mailed out hard copies of letters and sign up forms to families the following week. Additionally follow up phone calls were made by the office as well as by Celia Snow, our Elementary team Leader, and in some case emails and text messages were sent out. Can you tell we want to be sure to connect with families about providing services for which their students are qualified to receive?! The ESY family letter and sign up sheet are linked below for convenience.

Family ESY Letter

ESY Sign up Sheet


On June 8, 2020, DESE released a new guidance document that allows school districts to provide limited in-person instruction to eligible "high-priority" special education students if all training, health, social distancing, and safety conditions can be met. While all of our students are a priority the state considers "high priority' students as those who have multiple educational and service needs and for those who are not able to easily engage in remote learning on the basis of his/her/their disability. We have also been advised that we cannot use window air conditioner units or portable AC units in classrooms. This is very problematic as some of our students have sensory or medical issues that require adequate climate controls. If anyone has spent time in our classrooms over the summer they know these old buildings can get very hot. Additionally, meeting transportation standards presents another set of significant challenges.


Given this late guidance we are moving forward with our plans to provide summer services remotely for all ESY participating students to start. We will then look to see how we may be able to bring in a few "high priority" students for limited in-person instruction with all staff and students being expected to wear and utilize personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, social distancing). Our staff are creative and invested, so we are also looking at whether there may be opportunities to meet outside for instructional services or even to do home visits in student yards.


We are seeking feedback from our special education families on your student's ESY program. Please feel free to email Director Ellis at Dianne.Ellis@gmrsd.org or to call the office at 413 863-7507. You can also reach out to Celia.Snow@gmrsd.org who is coordinating our summer program. We want summer programming plans to work, best as possible, for students and families given our circumstances.

Summer Learning for English Learners

Our district is pleased to announce we will be providing some remote tutoring opportunities and community engagement support for elementary and secondary English Learners (ELs) We have a small amount of Title III grant funds to further support language and content area skills for some of our EL students. Last year we worked in partnership with the MA Migrant Education Program to run a summer program for our eligible students and unfortunately given the virus we are not able to offer that partnership program this year.


We are encouraging all our English Learner students to continue to practice their language development skills of speaking, reading, writing, and listening over the summer. Being a bi-lingual person is highly valued, and one that is recognized in the State of Massachusetts for high school graduates earning the State Seal of Biliteracy. We would also like to encourage families to promote continued learning over the summer and hope you find our linked resources below to be helpful.


GMRSD English Learners Educational Resources

It Takes a Village

It Takes A Village

That’s a popular phrase, and it’s true more than ever these days. In the midst of a pandemic and deep racial unrest, I feel that we need to reach out to each other more than ever – with social distancing, online, and on the phone.

As school ends, parents and guardians are faced with a long summer of uncertainty: will camps and childcare businesses be open? Will they be safe?

We also have the challenge of continuing to live in restricted situations for the health of all, but sometimes not always the safety of all. This is where you, as a community member, family member, neighbor, friend, and good citizen, can be helpful. It’s difficult to think about adults and children not being safe in their own homes, but unfortunately it’s true for some people. Seeking help is often not safe for them, but it may be for you. If you notice anything amiss, if you worry about a child, a friend, a neighbor, do something. Below are resources, and you are also welcome to contact me – I work through the summer. If you are unsure of what to do, contact me. If you feel that one of the resources below is the right way to go, contact them.

The GMRSD community is a caring one where we can support each other!

Stacey Langknecht

Family Engagement Coordinator

Gill-Montague Regional School District

413-863-7200 x7210

stacey.langknecht@gmrsd.org

www.gmrsd.org

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Remote Learning Technology Survey

In case you missed it ...please don't forget to take this remote learning survey linked below.

If you need a paper copy of the survey please call your child's school or our central office at 863-9324.


June 3, 2020

Dear District Families,

We would like to invite you to take a brief survey about what this spring’s remote learning experience has been like for your students and for your household. The survey may be found at this link and you may take it multiple times if you have multiple students: PARENT SURVEY FOR REMOTE LEARNING . We plan to use the information provided in this survey to help inform changes to any remote learning we may need to provide in the fall. I expect your feedback will be quite useful in this regard. So, thanks, in advance, for taking a few minutes to help.


In terms of what to expect, in the fall, the commissioner of elementary and secondary education has informed us that we can expect very specific preliminary fall plans to be released in mid-June. The commissioner has informed superintendents that he anticipates remote learning will need to be a component of districts’ plans as a necessary means of providing adequate social distancing and meeting other safety requirements at schools. In other words, it may be likely that approximately half of our students will be learning from home while half are at school on any given day. How we rotate students in and out of school has yet to be determined. While such a scenario is likely, it is not absolutely going to be the case. We just want to let you know how things are looking at this time. As you can imagine there will be a huge number of details to be worked out within schools and households for any fall plans that involve a component of remote learning. Administration, staff, school committee, and public conversations about all of this are surely going to be taking place in the days ahead.

As the school year wraps up, I would like to thank you for how hard you have worked to support your students’ continued learning during this pandemic. And, as the upheaval in our society becomes even more grave, with the recent high profile acts of racial violence and injustice, we would like to express our shared anger and frustration. With all the changes needed at school in the days ahead, we will certainly still need to be prepared to increase our efforts to teach, learn, and act for improved multicultural understanding, prejudice reduction, and social justice. Fortunately, this community provides strong, capable, and big-hearted friends and colleagues with whom to engage in all of the work needed in the days ahead.

On behalf of the administrative team,

Michael Sullivan, Superintendent

Community Resource Information and Events

Gill-Montague shares community resource information that may be of interest to our families as a public service. These programs are not sponsored or specifically endorsed by the district.

Mass Support Network

How We Can Help?

MassSupport Network provides community outreach and support services to residents of all ages in response to the unprecedented public health crisis, COVID-19. This Crisis Counseling Program (CCP) is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and managed in partnership between the MA Department of Mental Health and Riverside Trauma Center, a program of Riverside Community Care. Our anonymous, confidential, and free program is for individuals (including youth), families, schools, organizations, businesses and communities. We provide emotional support, coping strategies, resources, and up-to-date, factual information; also psycho-educational presentations, consultations and group supports.

Contact 888-215-4920 or MassSupport@riversidecc.org.


Some of our Western Mass team’s outreach clinicians:

Anna-Stina Wardlaw, M.Ed. awardlaw@riversidecc.org, 781-805-5573

Monica Bellucci, LMHC mbellucci@riversidecc.org, 781-805-5456

Sean McHugh, RN smchugh@riversidecc.org, 781-805-5353

Team Leader Sarah Gaer, MA sgaer@riversidecc.org, 781-805-5422


MA Support Network Flyer in English and Spanish

Community Action Programs & Family Center

Community Action Family Center located at 90 Federal St., in Greenfield offers a range of resources for Gill-Montague Families. This includes, but is not limited to, early childhood activities, support groups for new moms, diapers, formula, and basic needs (food, clothing) and community supports and connections. Being a parent is a tough job, made much more challenging, with Covid-19 and emergency measures. You can check out the Family Center and their current offerings at their website.

https://www.communityaction.us/family-center


Community Action also offers Nurturing Fathers groups, fuel assistance, WIC, HeadStart, youth & teen programs, training, and more.

GMRSD Student Services & Family Engagement Department

  • Special education
  • Guidance & School Psychology
  • English Learners
  • Specialty services- OT, PT, speech & language
  • Nursing & health education
  • Home & hospital tutoring
  • Homeless education and more
  • Family Engagement Coordinator


Dianne M. Ellis, Director of Pupil Services