Auburn Public Schools

February 2023

Dr. Beth Chamberland, Superintendent of Schools

Alone we can do so little. together we can do so much. ~ Helen Keller


The Auburn Public School District continues to be an amazing place to learn and to work. Now, midway through my first official year as Superintendent of Schools, I am proud to say that we are on our way to getting even better than before.

This year our focus has been on building relationships with our students and one another and further developing our instructional skills through the application of the principles of Universal Design for Learning(UDL). UDL provides a set of concrete suggestions that can be applied to any discipline or domain to ensure that all learners can access and participate in meaningful, challenging learning opportunities. We are updating our Strategic Plan to include information from the Equity Audit conducted last year along with survey and focus group information from students, staff and families. The Strategic Plan will ensure we are all ‘rowing in the same direction” with our gaze firmly on the success of all students. We are working diligently to ensure that every student and staff member feels a sense of belonging in our schools, they feel welcomed, they feel safe and they feel empowered to grow in new and exciting ways.

None of these things would be possible without all of you, the members of the Auburn community. While I am new to my current role, I have been privileged to be a member of the Auburn school community for over 12 years. Throughout this time, there has been one constant…the support we have received from the townspeople and town leadership. We are so thankful for the ongoing support you have shown as we work to shape the minds and hearts of our students.

The following pages will provide you with a more specific glimpse into what is happening in the Auburn Public Schools from the members of our Leadership Team. I am so very proud to be a part of our Leadership Team as they each exemplify the knowledgeable, dedicated and caring qualities that are needed to educate our students.

I hope you all agree that working together matters. Thank you all for being our partners in education. As I look ahead, I see great things for the Auburn Public Schools because we know that “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” ~ Helen Keller

Alan Keller, Assistant Superintendent

Although the school year officially starts just before Labor Day, many of our teachers continue their efforts throughout the summer, supporting students in our Summer School programs or developing, enhancing and refining their curriculum and units of study. Summer offers great opportunities for reflection where our teachers can build upon and refine the learning experiences for our students. Our educators dedicate concerted efforts to refining the scope and sequence of science, technology and engineering and health units, enhancing reading and writing interventions, designing a new middle school literacy class and developing greater consistency in our writing practices and routines, to name a few.

Our professional development has been focused on two topics: Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Anti-Bias education. This initiative is focused on having all staff designing instructional goals, methods and materials that accommodate the needs of all of our learners. Throughout the year, staff are guided by a UDL consultant and teachers coaches who have been trained at each building in examining exemplar lessons and, together with teaching partners, develop and refine lessons rooted in the principles of UDL. Beyond the classroom, we examine the offerings we provide to all of our students, the supports available to some of our students, and those additional supports for a small group of our students who need intensive support. Informed by feedback of students, staff and families as part of our Equity Audit and Strategic Planning process, our district has engaged in anti-bias work focused on establishing an understanding of bias, its impact on students, staff and families, and identifying specific steps to ensure that each classroom and school is an inclusive and equitable place for each of us.

Similar to our work in UDL where we are carefully examining our academic offerings, our District Mental Health Team brings together all of our K-12 counselors to take a comprehensive examination of the supports and interventions we offer at each school and as a district, the goal of which is to ensure our programs are meeting the ever evolving needs of our students.

Finally, in September, we launched a monthly Teaching and Learning Newsletter, for district employees offering highlights from the past month on curriculum, instruction and assessment, professional development offerings, student enrichment and engagement opportunities, articles or resources on topics and trends in education, and features on the newest members of our Auburn staff community.

Despite the fact that I have been a part of the Auburn community for a short period of time, I am honored to work alongside this hard-working, committed staff and in this supportive community.

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Gregory Walton, Director of Pupil Services

The Auburn Public Schools continues its partnership with the Special Olympics of Massachusetts. Auburn High School’s very successful Unified Sports program brings our student-athletes with and without disabilities together in the spirit of sportsmanship and fun. The Unified Basketball team is a team built on inclusion and acceptance that focuses on learning and improving basketball skills while building relationships. This past fall, the Auburn High School Unified basketball team practiced two to three times a week, with one game during the week as well. The 2022 season included multiple fourth-quarter comebacks and even some halftime dance parties! The team had one loss, which came in overtime; however, they followed up by crushing the Auburn Public School faculty team! The Unified Basketball team finished this season with a winning record and lasting memories and relationships. Thank you to all the volunteers and participants.

The Auburn Public Schools has partnered with the Auburn Police Department to start up a program inspired by the parents of the Auburn Special Education Parent Advisory Council. The Take Me Home, Keep Me Safe Project was designed with safety in mind and is currently being used in Florida and New York for people of all ages including individuals with disabilities. Auburn Public Schools wants to ensure the safety of students in and out of school. This program allows students with disabilities to be voluntarily registered. The special education department and guidance staff have worked together to identify students and families that may benefit from this program. Packets have been handed to families and can be returned at the school the student attends and at the Auburn Police Department. The program will help students who may wander off, are nonverbal, or have a physical disability. Once the address or student's name is run through the Auburn PD system, a photo, and description of the student will immediately be available as well as any pertinent information about the student and/or where they may go. We’re hoping this project will help us locate individuals faster when they wander or help us better understand and assist an individual who may have a handicap or a special need. We are also hoping to expand the program to students without disabilities and to the elderly.

One of the most rewarding experiences in the field of education is to observe change and growth firsthand within a student. Zachary Couture, an associate in the Encore Program is a good example of a student that graduated from Auburn High School with a high school diploma without direction in life, very apprehensive, and shy to new beginnings and opportunities. Just a year and a half later, this confident young man is outgoing, employed, social, and considering enrolling in college courses in the fall. How did this all happen? A key component was the relationships built between Zachary and his mentors. When “Zach” first arrived he had a fear of anything new, or different. He would be anxious to meet new people, engage in new experiences, and even hide to avoid new activities such as fitness classes. But over time Zach’s relationships with his Encore Team began to develop and Zach gained trust and belief in the staff and himself. The relationships and personal conversations that took place prior to every new experience have led Zach to be the successful young man that he is today. Zach has gained confidence in himself and developed social skills, independence, transition, and life skills in his time at Encore. This young man has shined and was given the opportunity to speak in front of the school committee on live local cable TV. To say that he blew the audience away with his openness and sense of humor is an understatement. This brought tears to his mother and the Encore staff member that attended. Encore is proud to share that Zach is now employed part-time working afternoons and weekends at Crumble, located at Blackstone Valley in Millbury. He also interns at Masterman’s and Here We Grow Preschool, both in Auburn.

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Daniel Delongchamp, High School Principal

“Relationships take effort, but eventually become second nature, and it is 100% worth it.” -AHS staff member

At the onset of the 2022-23 school year, one of our primary focus areas was to develop and enrich our relationships with our student body. It is well known that strong relationships are the cornerstone to being healthy and well. Being able to share our time with people who care is very rewarding. Establishing trust and making someone feel heard is crucial and beneficial when trying to work through obstacles. With the many obstacles our students faced over the past three years, it was essential for us to make sure that every student felt connected to at least one staff member in our schools. In addition, all of the students were assigned a teacher and a homeroom community this year. Two to three times a month our students meet in their communities in order to work on a variety of skills as well as have time to work together with their teacher. Our students will have the benefits of staying connected to their communities for the four years of high school, thus further strengthening their bonds with classmates and staff.

“I love that we have committed to Wednesdays as Community day and that we have stayed committed to it. We need to interact with our Communities and each of the kids these days”.

AHS staff member

Listening to what our students have to say is also extremely important. Many of the programs and activities we offer at AHS come from the many conversations and interactions we have with our students daily. We strongly believe in creating a varied group of activities that capture the attention of the diverse interests of our population. Whether it is Robotics, bowling, Quiz Show, Rockets to Rockets, Mathletes, Fine Arts, or athletics, we have so much to offer our students. Our hope is that by offering these activities students will find a group of students or an adult who shares their same interests.

Why do Relationships Matter?

Plain and simple, relationships are essential to our students' success. The stronger the relationships in the classroom the more comfortable our students will feel taking on academic challenges. While this is rewarding work it is also ongoing. Building and strengthening relationships has to happen everyday from the moment a student walks into the building until they leave. It begins with a “good morning” or a smile from a teacher greeting them into their classrooms. From these simple welcoming gestures our next focus area is our ability and awareness of “reading the room”. Being able to observe when someone is not having a good day and allowing them to be able to take the time to reset. Feeling connected is important because it allows students to seek out staff when they have something exciting to share or when they need someone to support them.

Relationships further strengthen when staff members take the time to participate and take part in the interests of their students. Many teachers build relationships with their students by attending school related activities. It is common to see staff members at games, attending meetings with their students, taking part as a club advisor, and even visiting students at their workplaces. In addition we have staff members that do their best to learn one or two important aspects of each of their students lives. These simple acts are powerful because they reinforce that we care about each other.

“Students appreciate my flexibility with things such as seating charts, project timelines, and homework due dates. They recognize that as humans we have hectic schedules and sometimes you just need grace”.

-AHS Faculty Member

“In art class, I appreciate that my classroom teacher takes the time to remember my birthday”

-AHS student

In closing, I want to highlight our Rockets 2 Rockets program because it speaks to all of what has been discussed in this article. Rockets 2 Rockets fosters one to one relationships with students both with and without disabilities. Students have the opportunity and take the time to share common interests, experiences, and activities they enjoy. This group does social events in our building, participates in crafts, field trips, and “getting to know you” activities. It is an inclusive environment where all students are welcome with the overall goal of building lifelong authentic friendships.

Auburn HS students had this to say about Rockets 2 Rockets…

“I like hanging out with my friends and doing crafts at Rockets 2 Rockets”

“Rockets 2 Rockets is a place where everyone belongs and there is no separation. People come together as one and are able to build relationships, gain skills, and leave a little bit happier every week”.

Gregg Desto, Middle School Principal

You don’t hear too many people say that their middle school years were easy. For most students, grades 6-8 can be a difficult time of changes and figuring things out. Auburn Middle School, however, is a great place for a student to be during these challenging young adolescent years. We offer a truly well-rounded educational experience for our 630 plus students, rooted in the Auburn Public Schools Strategic Plan. That includes top notch teaching and learning, cutting edge technology and strong community connections - all in an environment that emphasizes health, wellness, safety and the “whole child.”

We strive each day to teach our students not just to be good academic students, but to learn to be people who will work well with others and make a difference in their community. At the heart of everything we do is a 5-Point Plan that includes treating others with civility and respect, helping others when they need it, advocating for self when necessary, trying to improve every day in every class and getting involved in productive activities beyond the school day. Because modern life is complex and stressful, we try to show our students that you can do really important things even while you smile and enjoy your life.

Teaching and Learning

Students at AMS experience a truly relevant program of study. In addition to the English, Math, Science and Social Studies courses that are offered at most schools, AMS students experience foreign language courses in every grade level. Additionally, the STEM program at AMS is cutting edge, with creative, hands-on offerings in each grade level – Computer Technology in grade 6, followed by STEM 1 in grade 7 and Technology Engineering and STEM 2 in grade 8. Media Literacy is available to all grades, and all our STEM courses are taught in state-of-the-art facilities.

While people of any age are diverse, middle school students often come to us with drastically varied levels of physical, mental and emotional development. As such, AMS continues to grow in the area of social-emotional learning, and we continue to offer opportunities for students to enrich their education with extracurricular programs and/or to receive additional instructional support when necessary. Most importantly of all, AMS proudly includes all our students in all opportunities, both within and beyond the school day.

Community Partnerships

While the events of the past three years have made it more difficult to connect in person with our community partners the way we usually do, AMS continues to enjoy strong partnerships with community organizations such as Auburn Youth and Family Services. Several times throughout the year, our students and staff provide meaningful service to the community through, for example, food and clothing drives, volunteering at events or assisting younger children. In addition, we continue to benefit from our relationship with the Chamber of Commerce. Each year, students benefit from the many enrichment grants provided by the Chamber.

AMS is very grateful for the opportunity to work with the Police and Fire Departments in many capacities, from emergency procedures all the way down to just an informal conversation about the well-being of a child. In addition, we are grateful for the good work of the Highway Department, whose employees make our driveway, parking lot and ground safe and presentable.

We are currently in year four of offering a first-class Civics course to our 8th grade students. Students learn all about their governments, local, state and federal, while also participating in mock elections, debates and other opportunities to learn about and “practice” what it takes to be actively engaged citizens.

Health, Wellness and Safety

The mental health of our students has emerged in recent years as a major emphasis. Understanding that we need to focus on our kids’ mental health and social adjustment, we are fortunate to have a program called BRYT (Bridge for Resilient Youth in Transition), now in its fourth year, which serves a population of students who have difficulty accessing school due either to long term absences or challenges associated with emotional and mental health. This trendsetting program has already proven to be a positive “game changer” for a number of students who may otherwise have struggled to make it through the school year successfully.

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Dr. Susan Lopez, Swanson Road Intermediate School Principal

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“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” — Paulo Coelho

Relationships are at the heart of building our community, both our school community, as well as our community at large. The need to be connected, have meaningful relationships, and be valued is clearly evident, especially post pandemic. As educators, we recognize that our school serves as a connective common ground that binds us together as a community with the common purpose of supporting our most precious resource, our children.

These relationships begin to be fostered at the start of each day. Every child is greeted by SWIS staff as they walk through the campus. As they enter the doors of the school they are welcomed into the building by school adminiatrators, counselors, specialists, cafeteria staff, and support staff. Upon arriving at classrooms, they are met by their teacher who engages them in conversation about their morning. These social interactions help to build a welcoming and comfortable learning community and makes SWIS our second ‘home’.

Brain science reveals that students’ brains are working hard every day learning skills that connect old information to new. This is also true when it comes to their relationships with teachers and the loving adults surrounding them each day. These positive relationships are fundamental to their success. The SWIS staff understand that the more students feel connected, the more likely they are to engage in learning thus achieving greater academic success. Understanding the changing needs of our children, ongoing conversations throughout the school year occur, to be sure that every child has a trusted adult within Swanson that they can talk to and share their successes, fears, and challenges on a regular basis.

Time designated each day to relationship building is maximized, for instance, during morning meetings, small groups, and other special times. Teachers and children alike get to know about each other's interests, hobbies, and background during these times. These opportunities, both organic and created, not only provide time to strengthen relationships it also allows students to see the many commonalities they have with others.

Similarly, our relational connections with families are critically important to our children’s success. As partners in our children’s education, the home school connection is paramount. The administration, teachers, counselors, and specialists have daily communications with students’ families for a variety of reasons. Whether these are during arrival and dismissal, phone calls during the day, weekly check ins, face to face meetings or daily emails, communication and open dialogue is continuous throughout the year. On the community end, special opportunities and larger community events continue to draw families together with school staff to celebrate progress, performances, or highlight different groups of students. Plays, performances, races, evening events, and ‘club’ showcases are just some, to name a few. We love having our families involved to the degree they are able and certainly appreciate the insights and diverse perspectives they bring to our school.

In that same vein, sharing success no matter how small can have great impact, is so important, and of course varies from class to class and teacher to teacher. Whether it’s the daily Student SpotLight sent home, a ‘positive email, or Weekly WOW note sent home we all try to ‘catch’ our students doing something wonderful then share the good news with families.

As a school community we know how impressionable young children are. They imitate the behaviors they see because they are still learning the social skills and appropriate behaviors/responses to situations. As a staff, we too, seek to build relationships with one another, have fun, and enjoy playful time ‘while at work.’ This is not only healthy but also important for children to see.

In closing, and on behalf of all of us at SWIS, it is a privilege to be part of the lives of so many children and appreciate the many members of our community that work together to develop these youngsters socially, emotionally, and academically.

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Jennifer Stanick, Pakachoag Elementary School Principal

“PAK Pride”s Itself on Positive Relationships

I am so proud of the perseverance, collaboration, and resiliency shown by the students and staff at PAK. None of this would be possible without the relationships we build and have with our students, each other, and our community.

As students exit their vehicles, or the buses, or walk to our front doors first thing in the morning, they are greeted by staff members to acknowledge that we are happy they have joined us for a day of learning. Our cafeteria manager, Mrs. John, serves breakfast with a smile to students who pass through her line in the morning. Classroom teachers greet their students in many fun and engaging ways to let each of them know that they matter. Setting a positive tone starts the day off on the right foot and is the start of building positive relationships with our students.

It is our goal to meet the academic, social, physical, and emotional needs of each child on a daily basis. When students have positive relationships with their teachers, research shows that students develop better social-emotional skills as well as perform better in school. As James Comer has stated, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship”. To this end, we are utilizing Relationship Mapping to ensure each and every student feels welcomed and has a trusted adult they can turn to at PAK. Assistant Superintendent, Alan Keller, has introduced the Leadership Team to this practice, and together with the Bryn Mawr Principal, Mrs. Beverly, we are creating a systemic approach to ensure each and every student has a trusting relationship.

As you know, Pakachoag is referred to as PAK with our lion mascot, Takoda. The PAK pride is a home for education where kindness, inclusion, and equity are at the forefront of our work with students. Our PAK motto is recited daily to remind us all of the importance of safety, responsibility, and respect, all of which are necessary for positive relationships. As we spread kindness during the Great Kindness Challenge and bring emphasis to the K for Kindness in PAK, we hope to instill a culture of kindness to foster positive relationships.

Every student in the Pakachoag community matters and deserves a champion just as Rita Pierson has so eloquently stated, “Every child deserves a champion - an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be”. We strive to be the champions and cheerleaders of our PAK students.

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Brooke Beverly, Bryn Mawr Principal

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“No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” Dr. James P. Comer

Bryn Mawr School is a special place to be. We care about people here- our students, our families and our staff. I believe this to be true about all of the Auburn Schools. The culture of our school community is about doing what is in the best interest of students. We live and breathe by fostering positive relationships with our students. Yes, we are invested in our students’ academic growth and we continuously challenge them, provide scaffolded interventions and encourage them to give their very best effort each and every day. But, more importantly, what matters to us here at Bryn Mawr is how we make students feel. This feeling comes from the sense of excitement or discovery our students feel as they learn to read, when their teacher knows that they need a hug because they see they are upset, the pride students’ feel when they earn a positive penguin, when teachers instill the belief that school is a safe place, encourage our students to take academic risks and to learn from their mistakes, and when teachers build our students’ confidence and value them as human beings.

Throughout the school year, our staff has participated in several professional development sessions related to relationships and building connections with students. The Bryn Mawr staff does this naturally, but ensuring this is at the forefront of our work everyday is important. Our school community has focused on our PBIS traits to be respectful, responsible and safe. We have revamped our expected behaviors and our PBIS program here at Bryn Mawr. We have had two school wide PBIS assemblies (one in October and one in January) where Bryn Mawr’s Positive Penguin provided interactive reminders about what our school expectations are. In addition, we have focused a lot on kindness and helping others here at Bryn Mawr.

Since our students are our focus here at Bryn Mawr School, I wondered what our students would say if I asked them how their teachers showed them they cared about them, loved them, or how they made them feel important. You never know what the answers are going to be from five, six, and seven year olds! Here is a sampling of the responses from our students.

“She says good morning every day I come to school, and it comes with a hug.”

“At recess she makes sure we stay close enough so she can see us so we stay safe. She tells me if I’m too far away.”

“She helps me and when I help my friends she says her heart grows.”

“We are important because we are kids and kids are important here.”

“When I get the answer right she says ‘great job.’”

“When we need breaks, she gives them to us. She kinda just knows and I don’t even have to say it.”

“She helps me all the time. Like all the time. Today I was stuck on math and she told me my brain was growing. Can you see it?”

“She thinks I’m important because she tells me I’m special and she is nice to me.”

“She says she loves my drawings and I want to be an artist.”

“She listens to me.”

It is truly a privilege to be part of the Bryn Mawr Community.

Please know that when you send your students to us everyday at Bryn Mawr that we love them. We want what is best for them. We believe in them. We truly care about each and every one of our learners.

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Alan Keller, Auburn Integrated Preschool Principal

Our Auburn Integrated Preschool students continue to thrive in a safe and nurturing age-appropriate environment that encourages collaboration. Our teachers are highly skilled professionals who love working with our youngest students each and every day who place positive relationships at the heart of their work. Our staff promotes each child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development in experiences within the classroom and in special opportunities throughout the year where they can share their successes with the staff and students of Auburn High School.