August Focus

The Welcome Back Edition

As we move toward the end of August, It's hard to believe that I'm writing a welcome back to school message to all of you already. I'm sure we say this every year, but that doesn't make it any less true. Sometimes I think the summers are busier than the other ten months of the year! I know that I have certainly packed quite a bit into these last two months, and I am very much looking forward to getting back into the routine of the school year, as well as the cool embrace of September and October. Summer is great, but if we're being honest I am 100% behind autumn's nomination as best season of the year. Cooler temps, jeans, sweaters, apple cider doughnuts, and the exciting promise of a new school year are all things that make me excited to see September roll around.

As always, the building custodial staff has been working very hard to make sure the school is ready to go for the beginning of September. They have gotten quite a bit done in a rather short amount of time, especially considering that the Summer Success Program in this building limited their access to many of our 6th grade classrooms. A big thanks to Bill Ramsey, Mike Perkins, and our entire cleaning crew for the end-of-the-summer hustle. Meanwhile, there have been some other big things happening in the building when it comes the physical appearance. Many of you have been in to see the first floor paint job that happened over the last few weeks. I think the blue and red on the walls adds character to the building! I'm also very excited about the addition of a maker space to our library. It's coming together nicely, and I'd like to send a huge thank you to Alex Spada, Paul Stoutenger, Maureen Borgeest, and Deb Kearney for the time and effort they put in at the end of last school year and during the summer to get us up and running. It's going to be a truly innovative space! There will be more to come on this as we begin the year.

With a new school year comes new faces. This year I'd like to welcome Ashley Tarello to our 7th Grade Blue Team as the new Home and Career Skills Teacher. Ashley comes to us from teaching on Long Island, but she did grow up in the area, and I know she is excited to be back. Thanks to Karen Cornell for being Ashley's mentor this year. Please take some time to welcome Ashley to our OWWMS family when you get a chance.

I anticipate that the 2015-16 school year is going to be the best one yet for OWWMS. There is potential for many exciting things on the horizon at our building. As you scroll through this Smore you will see information on a number of different subjects. Just like in my Friday Focuses (I know you've missed hearing from me every week), I have provided links to articles and blog posts that caught my eye of the summer. Please note our schedule for the two superintendent's conference days next week. Additionally, I am looking to start two new committees that will be essential to building-level decision making. Please read through the descriptions and consider joining one of these groups and share your voice.

I was talking with one of my administrative colleagues the other day who reminded of the good and important work that we do at the middle level every day. I am thrilled to be heading into year two with all of you to continue this work. Enjoy the next few days, and I will see you all on September 2nd.

Conference Days Schedule - September 2nd and 3rd

Wednesday, 9/2

8:00 – 8:20: Coffee at the High School

8:25 – 9: 30: District Welcome Program (All Staff) - HS Auditorium

9:30 – 10:30: Faculty Assoc. Meeting

10:30 - 12:00: Return to OWWMS & Meet with ITLs in Departments to discuss student data

12:00 – 1:00: Home School Association luncheon in the cafeteria

1:00 – 3:00: Team Meetings/Work in Classrooms

Thursday, 9/3

8:00: Arrival

8:30 - 11:30: MS Faculty Meeting/Vision and Goal Setting for 2015-16 - Library

11:30 - 12:30: Lunch (on your own)

12:30 - 3:00: Work in Classrooms

**Please remember to reference your safety and security manual for the schedule of fire and lock-down/lockout drills.

Important Upcoming Dates:

  • Our annual 6th Grade Orientation Program for students and parents will be held from 6:00 – 7:00 PM on Tuesday, August 25th. All grade 6 faculty members are encouraged to attend and welcome our new students.
  • On Tuesday, September 1st, following the Principal’s Building Tour at 1:00 PM, an ice cream social for incoming 6th grade students and their families will be held in the cafeteria. All faculty and staff members are invited to participate.
  • Students return to classes on Tuesday, September 8th
  • Parent Open House this year will be on Thursday, September 24th beginning at 6:30 PM. All schools in the district have set a uniform start time of 6:30 PM this year.
  • The first Home School Association meeting will be held on Monday, September 28th at 6:30 PM. I know this is one more night out, but if you are able to attend, even for a short time, your support at this meeting would be greatly appreciated.
  • Our annual Parent-to-School Day has been moved from February to the end of October this year, 10/29. I heard from a handful of people last year that the proximity of this day so close to February break as well as state testing made things a bit chaotic. I am hopeful that having this well-attended event earlier in the year continues to set a welcoming tone for our families as we build on what is presented at Parent Open House.

2015-16 Meeting Schedule

This link will take you to our comprehensive meeting schedule document for the year, including faculty meetings, ITL meetings, and our two new committees: Building Leadership Team and Shared Decision Making Team.

Building Leadership Team: I am looking for faculty volunteers to join this committee ASAP. I'd like our first meeting to be in October. The purpose of the committee will be to come together on a monthly basis to discuss various topics that effect the daily operation of our school. An agenda document will be sent out each month, and all members will have the opportunity to suggest discussion topics. We will meet in the Library Media Center classroom at 2:15 on the second Thursday of the month. Meetings will last no longer than 1 hour. Ideally I would like at least one member from each grade level team and a representative from non-teamed subject areas to participate.

Shared Decision Making Team: I am looking for approximately 2-3 faculty volunteers for this committee. We will meet once per quarter with a wrap-up meeting in June if necessary (5 total meetings). The SDM Team will be made up of staff, students, parents, and administration. We will focus on a small handful of topics that would benefit from voices from a broad cross-section of the school community. Again, meetings will take place at 2:15 and will meet in the main office conference room.

If you are interested in joining either of these teams, please let me know via email or in person next week. They will be essential when it comes to comprehensive decision making. I hope you consider contributing your voice.

Our Maker Space is coming together!

What is a MakerSpace?


  • I had a very busy summer that was, in some ways, book-ended by two very significant events. First, my wife, Amy, and I had the trip of a lifetime as we spent 19 days in Italy at the end of July into the beginning of August. It was truly amazing and filled, as you can imagine, with non-stop eating. Let me know if you want to see pictures. I've got several hundred! Unfortunately, when we got home from our trip we were immediately knocked back into reality as our 6 year old boxer, Olive, was diagnosed with lymphoma less than 24 hours after our plane landed. I wrote this blog post as I reflected on my struggle with losing a beloved companion and connected it to the importance of building relationships with our own students. I hope you'll give it a read when you have some time.
  • The first days of school are an important time and perfect opportunity for us to begin to really get to know our students. Strong adult relationships at school are one of the best ways to keep our students tuned in to the positive power of education. Check out this blog post by Jennifer Hogan out of Alabama about how her staff is getting to know their students in the first two days.
  • 10 Truths Middle Schoolers Should Know: Please take the time to read this article and share some of the lessons with your students in the first few weeks of school. I know that Kyle and I will be. These 10 statements about life at the middle level are great talking points for any social-emotional development lesson.
  • I had the pleasure of connecting in person with middle school teacher Pernille Ripp (@pernilleripp) over a 10:30 am pork, provolone, and peppers sandwich from Dinic's at the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia this summer. I have been following her on Twitter for a while, and her blogs are truly gems in the loud space of the Internet. A recent post of hers about small changes we can make to support our students really hit home for me, and I want to share it here.
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