October Newsletter

From the Principal

For all schools the Columbus Day holiday marks an appropriate checkpoint on how classroom routines have been established and positive relationships developed between staff and students. Of course, at Helen Morgan School the past few weeks have presented some obstacles on this journey. However, through this annex-closure process, the HMS staff has modeled for our students the importance of embracing obstacles as opportunities to get creative, share and collaborate with those outside our established and comfortable routines, and practice patience and adaptability. That being said, it would sure be nice to return the 5th grade students to their original classrooms and allow many of our related arts and services teachers to get back to their typical routines and procedures. I am estimating that this will all take place by Tuesday, October 16th.

For those new to this newsletter, the HMS Update is my way of sharing- in one place and in one e-mail- insights into the principal perspective, good news about our students and staff, explanations of upcoming curricular and instructional initiatives and a general snapshot of the Helen Morgan experience. Please be sure to check out the entire newsletter, I think there are some helpful links at the end that can help keep you informed of all things HMS. (For example: did you know that on our website we keep a log of the whole-school and whole-grade e-mails that we send home?)

Happy Fall, HMS. I think we are off to a great start, not despite of the aforementioned challenges, but partially because of them.


Doug Layman





12. HMS PTO Meeting (10am). Invite to be sent separately; RSVP Recommended.

15. 4th Grade Trip to Sterling Mines (O'Neill/Martinka,Spence/Shepherd,DelCoro/Verhalen)

16. 4th Grade Trip to Sterling Mines (Gorecki/Smulewicz, Jennings/Pitzer)

18. World Language Club Begins

19. Halloween Extravaganza Night Event (5th Grade)- Details to be sent separately

23. Last Tuesday Explorations Class

25. Wendy Mass Assembly

29. Last Monday Explorations Class

29. Book Fair Late Night


5-7. Early Dismissals for Parent Conferences

8-9. Schools Closed

12. Early Dismissal for Parent Conferences


Meet Mrs. Rivera

1. What and where was your first teaching job?

My first teaching job was teaching 3rd grade to 32 students at P.S. 95 in the Bronx.

2. Introduce us to the Rivera family.

Mrs. Rivera is married with two daughters. One in 9th grade and one in 7th grade. She has a large Bernese Mountain Dog named Reese.

3. When you were ten what was one of your favorite hobbies?

At age 10 my favorite hobbies were swimming and learning how to use a computer

4. If you weren't in education you would be...

If I wasn't in education I would be a baker or party planner

5. What has been your impression of HMS so far?

My impression of HMS is that it is a wonderful place to work, learn and collaborate. Everyone is happy to be here and wants to do the best they can at all times, which makes learning fun and exciting. There are many extra offerings to the students and they are excited to participate in what interests them. The students are kind and respectful and the environment is very positive making it a joy to come to each and every day.

6. On weekends we would most likely find you...

On weekends I can be found on a lacrosse/field hockey field with my daughters or spending time with my family.

7. What is one thing you want the HMS students to know about you?

One thing students at HMS should know about me is that I like to visit classrooms a lot and see what is going on. It is okay to ask me for help when I am there because I used to be a teacher and still like to help students in any way that I can, especially because we are all different and have our own strengths and areas we need some help in.

If we were all the same life would be boring! Being individuals is what makes us all special.


Author Wendy Mass will be visiting Helen Morgan School on Thursday, October 25th. If you would like to pre-order her newest book, BOB, complete this form and return it with your payment to HMS by October 16th.

STPS Strategic Planning Process

The second of three district strategic planning meetings will be Thursday, October 18th. For more information on strategic planning please visit this page on the district website.

If you are interested in attending please RSVP on the page linked above.



After a great turnout last year, the World Language department is proud to, once again, offer our after school program at HMS! The HMS World Language After School Program offers students the opportunity to learn the languages offered in grades 6-12. HMS students are taught by SHS students who are World Language Honor Society members. For the fall session, we will be offering French and German. Please use this link to register: Specific program dates can be found within the link. Sessions begin right after school and conclude at 4:30 pm. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Mr. Layman or Mr. Lauricella (

Upcoming Early Dismissal Days

While listed above here is the school schedule for early November, featuring several early dismissals and closures:

Monday, Nov. 5: Early Dismissal, K-5 only. HMS dismisses at 1:05pm

Tuesday, Nov. 6: Early Dismissal, K-5 only.

Wednesday, Nov. 7: Early Dismissal, ALL SCHOOLS.

Thursday, Nov. 8: Schools Closed

Friday, Nov. 9: Schools Closed

Monday, Nov. 12: Early Dismissal, K-5 only.


With the advancement of technologies such as the Chromebook, Google Apps and Google Classroom, more and more student work is completed online. While we still believe in the value and importance of old-fashioned notebooks and journals we also acknowledge that more and more of what we (nationally) ask students to do is online. How can a parent keep track? One suggestion is to access your child's Google Drive account. A student's Drive is where they store most of their online work, including all writing pieces. You can access these documents by logging into Google Drive with your child. They do not need their own chromebook to do this, you just need any computer with an internet connection. Your child will be able to show you the rest. So instead of a "hey, how was school?" greeting or conversation-starter, next time try "what's Google Drive and can you show me how you use it?"

Halloween at HMS

HMS Halloween Guidelines:

-HMS students are welcome, and encouraged, to wear a costume. We do ask that all costumes are appropriate for the age of our students, are not overly scary, and do not include costume-related weapons.

-No students or staff members will be permitted to wear a clown costume.

-Please have any hair coloring or similar sprays and make-up applied at home.

-As per Sparta’s Elementary Student Handbook- class parties will feature creative, theme-based activities and we will strictly enforce our “no food” policy.

-If you will be visiting our school for any reason that day, we will not be allowing visitors wearing costumes access beyond the main office.

Your cooperation with the Helen Morgan School procedures is greatly appreciated.

Annex Remediation Update

Servpro has nearly completed their clean-up work in the annex. Ducts and vents in each annex classroom where cleaned, vacuumed using HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuums and all classroom surfaces wiped and vacuumed. The final step in this remediation process is to receive air quality testing reports that indicate that all annex spaces are safe and comfortable for staff and students. Our hope is that by Tuesday of next week we will fully back in the annex.

We have not yet determined when the make-up day for our 9/20 closure will take place.

When we are able to return to the annex, we will resume with our previous dismissal pick-up process in which parents/guardians park in the playground parking lot and enter the annex gym to pick up their student. While our "valet" pick-up process has been getting positive reviews, staff availability, schedule disruptions, and upcoming cold, winter weather will require us to go back to the annex gym for pick-up.

What's up with PARCC?

Staring this spring, students in grade 3 and higher will be taking the New Jersey Student Learning Assessment. This assessment will replace the PARCC, but be similar in design and format. The Department of Education has announced some positive changes to the amount of time students will be testing.

2018 PARCC ELA: 3 x 90 minutes

2019 NJSLA ELA: 2 x 90 minutes

2018 PARCC Math: 4 x 60 minutes

2019 NJSLA Math: 3 x 60 minutes

For a comprehensive report on state assessments from the New Jersey Department of Education, please click here.

Lobbyguard/Visitor Entry

Our new visitor policy requires those with an appointment or other expected guests to ring the outside bell and then scan their license in our vestibule. The following guidelines are posted in our vestibule:


  • If you have an appointment, scan your license in Lobby Guard. A badge will be printed. Do not peel the sticker. Press the buzzer to the right of the door, you will be buzzed into the building and MUST report directly to the Main Office. You will be provided with a lanyard and a plastic sleeve to insert your badge into. You will be escorted to your destination. The badge MUST be visible at all times and be returned to the Main Office at the end or your visit.


  • If your child is arriving late to school you do not need to scan your license in Lobby Guard. Sign-in your child on the orange “Student Sign-In” sheet. Press the buzzer to the left of the door, your child will be permitted to enter the building and must report to the Main Office for a late pass.


  • If you are picking up your child scan your license in Lobby Guard. Sign-out your child on the yellow “Student Sign-out” sheet. Your child will be called to the Main Office and escorted to you in the vestibule.


  • If you are picking up your child from the nurse, scan your license in Lobby Guard. A badge will be printed. Sign-out your child on the yellow “Student Sign-out” sheet. Press the buzzer to the left of the door and advise the office your child is in the Nurse’s Office. You will be buzzed into the building and MUST report directly to the Main Office.


  • If you are dropping off item(s) for your child, you do not need to scan your license in Lobby Guard. Please sign the pink “Drop-off” sheet in the vestibule and leave item(s) in designated area.

6th Grade Math Placement

As some of you may be aware of, beginning in 6th-grade there are different math trajectories based upon specific criteria including performance on various assessment and teacher recommendation based on demonstrated student effort and ability. 5th-grade math plays a substantial role in determining the pathway for your child’s future math career in Sparta. Please be on the lookout for more information from Central Office regarding placement and criteria in the near future. If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact Mrs. Arbolino.

Katie Arbolino

K-12 Math Supervisor

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# Day

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4th grade math class

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performing at back to school night

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No-Bully Magic

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a special guest

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a view from the reading garden

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Click here to view the latest announcements and invitations from local organizations.
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Forgot about that Genesis e-mail, or you accidentally deleted it? Check out our Genesis e-mail log on the HMS website under the "Newsletters and Publications" tab.


Also, on the HMS website, the HMS suggestion box. Have an idea, comment, concern but don't know who to contact? The HMS Virtual Suggestion box is there for you.

Where to find these on the HMS website

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Click here to sign up to receive general, non-emergency and sometimes just for fun, text messages from HMS.

Do you have the STPS Blackboard app? The right one?

If your mobile app for Blackboard doesn't have the Spartan Head logo then you need to reinstall the correct app.

Here are some Blackboard/STPS App resources:

How to...?

All guides and tutorials for the app and website can be found here:

Basic Steps for Installing the App:

1. Download the app (instructions here). You want the app with the Spartan Logo.

2. Once in the app, swipe and click the "student info" icon. Type in your login and pw referenced above. Once logged in, you should see icons for any of your children that attend STPS.