Duffy Dateline

March 14, 2019

Our Duffy Promise:

As Duffy citizens, we show respect, demonstrate compassion, and take responsibility for our learning and our actions.

From Our Principal

Dear Families,

It was wonderful connecting with so many of you last week! I hope you found your parent-teacher conference to be informative, meaningful and productive.

In 2019, we are building our character as a school community by infusing one positive character trait a month into our curriculum. Kindness was the focus in January, as we all performed one small act daily to make the world a better place. In February, we cultivated grit. Dragons are brave, strong, and determined, and believe that having grit helps us take risks and learn! Led by Mrs. Ruocco and Mrs. Coursey’s classes, over 50 students participated in a powerful, student-led assembly to reinforce and share learning. This month, our focus is respect, and preparations are underway for our next student-led assembly!

Thank you to everyone who responded to our Welcoming Schools Survey. We were pleased to receive 155 responses! We have begun reviewing the data, and the information will be used to further strengthen our practices in order to more fully welcome and partner with families to support student growth and success. In April, we will host two “Family Focus Groups.” These small group discussions will provide an opportunity to deepen our understanding of what is working well at Duffy and what we can continue to improve upon. We hope you will join us!

In April, we will begin the process of grouping students into classes for the 2019-2020 school year. Student placement is a thoughtful, collaborative process that occurs over several months. We follow these steps to ensure the best outcome for all students:

  1. Families are invited to write an informational letter about their child.

  2. Classroom teachers, in consultation with support staff, work to create balanced classes (number of students, instructional levels, learning and behavioral needs, etc.).

  3. The Duffy Leadership Team (Principal, Curriculum Specialist, and Reading Specialist) read parent letters and adjust groupings as needed.

  4. All staff review the lists.

  5. The Principal assigns a teacher to each class and makes any final adjustments to the lists.

  6. Teacher assignments and class lists are mailed to families in early August.

Although a letter is not required, we value your input. If you choose to write to us, please follow these guidelines:

  • Describe your child as a learner. What are his/her strengths? What are areas for growth?

  • Describe your child as a person. What are his/her personality traits? In what type of environment does he/she learn best?

  • Inform us of any special circumstances involving your child and his/her peers.

  • Do not request a specific teacher. Numbers of sections and teacher assignments are subject to change.

Letters are due by Friday, April 5th. You can drop off your letter in the Main Office or email your comments to me at kristi_laverty@whps.org. Thank you for your partnership in this important work!

Finally, on behalf of the Duffy staff, I would like to acknowledge the work of our PTO board and committees. We have accomplished some incredible things these past few months, and I am grateful and proud! By opening our board meetings to all, posting minutes, and streamlining our weekly e-blast, we have increased transparency and improved communication. We hosted a successful cultural event and two coffee hours focused on equity. We continue to welcome our youngest Duffy Dragons to playgroup on Wednesdays. A bookroom to benefit all students and teachers is being built. Looking ahead, the PTO is supporting a week-long Hip-Hop Residency. In gym class, students will explore Hip-Hop culture and dance and learn how dance is an awesome outlet for expressing our emotions. Please join us on Wednesday, March 27th at 5:00 pm for Hip Hop Family Night, where we are sure to impress you with our dance moves!


Kristi Laverty

Curriculum Corner With Christine Mori


The NGSS is a part of the West Hartford District Curriculum. Over the last two years, the science units have been rolled out in grades 1, 2, 3, and 4. In 2019-20, our K and 5th grade teams will learn about the standards.

Here is what's happening in science:

Grade 1 - Learning from Nature Through Our Senses

Students are introduced to the concept of biomimicry. The focus of this new unit will be on the structures and functions of animals and plants. Wait until you see the plants the students will be inspecting!

Grade 2 - Ecosystem Dynamics

Students will learn that plants and animals are dependent on each other and the environment in order to survive. The focus will be on traits that organisms have and what they need to survive.

Grade 3 - Movement and Interaction of Objects

Students are secret agents and their mission is almost complete! The agents will need to describe the forces and motion to the inspector. Students will use their evidence to solve this case of odd motion.

Grade 4 - Engineer’s Secret Tool

Can you believe that our Grade 4 students are learning about bears? What are the chances that one would be in the news last week, up a tree near Norfeldt? In this new unit, students will solve a design problem involving bears unwanted access to easy food resources in human communities.

At the end of March, our fifth graders will take the NGSS Assessment. This assessment will score students overall on three claims. These three claims are clearly outlined in the NGSS: science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts. Students will be asked questions about: Life Science, Physical Science, and Earth/Space Science.

News from the Art Room

The art room has been a flurry of activity this winter. Students have been using a wide variety of materials to explore, problem solve and express themselves. (See below for what is going on in your child’s class.) March also brings forth our town wide exhibit, ARTBEAT. This show, held at the West Hartford Art League, is meant to display a small cross section of work from each school, grades pre-k through 12. It is an excellent opportunity to see what the art curriculum looks like throughout your child’s education in West Hartford. The galleries are open 1:00-4:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through March 24th. We hope you can go and see the amazing work all of the artists created. Congratulations to the following students who were chosen to represent Duffy School:

Kindergarten - Katie M., 1st grade - Benjamin M., 2nd grade - Sarahjane D., 3rd grade - Caroline G., 4th grade - Nora G. and Luke S., 5th grade - Don L., Skylee V. and Jonah W.


It’s all about scapes in K-2!

K - After reading and looking at the book, “Winter Waits,” kindergartens have been exploring how to create a winter landscape reinforcing the idea, horizon line. Using dark construction paper and colorful crayons, students learned how to create an underpainting (base) for their wintery picture and then painted using primaries and white to create icy colors. We are now done with winter and are ready to move onto spring ideas!!

1st - Students in 1st grade are also using the ideas of landscape and horizon line, but adding in foreground/background. By drawing simple shapes within the two distinct areas they are creating space. Using English artist, David Hockney’s landscape paintings for inspiration we are creating patterns to help create the illusion of texture.

2nd - This grade level is looking at Seacapes from the perspective of mood and setting. After comparing two distinctly different paintings, one a calm serene ocean and the other a boat on a raging sea, students chose what story their picture would tell and are creating oil pastel images working on how color can set the atmosphere. Next up is drawing themselves in a seafaring vessel to add to their picture.

3rd - This is 3rd grades first “choice” project. They may use any two dimensional material and either a bust or full figure to create their self-portrait, but have to use a simple grid to show correct placement for their facial features and expressive colors reinforcing complementary color.

4th - Fourth grade has been looking at the illusion of space and perspective all year! We are continuing that work creating a full figure self-portrait but from an ant’s perspective. Also building off of the simple grid used in previous years, this grade level will learn more specific placement rules and will apply it to their face.

5th - 5th grade is getting ready to take their grade level post assessment focusing on portraiture next month, but right now it is all about creating Surrealistic mashed up drawn animals using specific photographic reference. They look fabulous!

Please be on the look-out for a Konstella request in April for Art Show help. The art show opens May 7th and closes with a fabulous STEAM night event on May 23rd!

Mrs. Schott

Duffy School Calendar


Monday, March 18th

  • 2:15 - 3:15 p.m. (at Duffy) - PTO Board Meeting (All Welcome!)

Thursday, March 21st
  • All Day - Rock Your Socks! Wear bright, fun socks in honor of World Down Syndrome Day!
  • 5:45 - 7:00 p.m. (at Duffy) - Kindergarten Info Night (Adults Only)

March 22nd, 25th - 27th

  • All Day - Artist in Residency. Classes participate in hip hop lessons and workshops.

Monday, March 25th

  • 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. (at Sedgwick) - 5th to 6th Grade Transition Night (Students & Guardians)

Wednesday, March 27th

  • 5:00 - 6:30 p.m. (at Duffy) - Hip Hop Family Night!

Dragon Dirt

(Policies, Announcements, & Celebrations)


In addition to celebrating the students whose art work was chosen for the town-wide exhibit ARTBEAT (identified in Mrs. Schott's art room update above), we'd like to celebrate a published poet in our midst ...

Fifth grader Kiersten Sipe's poem, "Mom and Me", was selected for publication in the 31st issue of Connecticut Student Writers (CSW) magazine! This magazine, published by the Connecticut Writing Project (CWP) in Storrs, Connecticut, recognizes excellence in student writing from grades K through 12.

Kiersten's piece was selected from 1,800 entries, and she'll be recognized at a special Student Recognition Night on Thursday, May 16th at UCONN. As if that weren't enough, she was also chosen to represent her grade and read her submission that night! Congratulations to Kiersten and her family and to Mrs. Coursey, Mrs. Mori, and other Duffy staff who supported and encouraged her. Please take a moment and enjoy her masterpiece here!

We're so proud of ALL our Duffy students!


The West Hartford Cultural Council's campaign has started. Donation envelopes and letters were sent home with your child/children after the February 27th performance of Karim Nagi’s Arabiqa, an uplifting exploration of Arab cultures and traditions. Please consider returning these envelopes with a tax-deductible donation made payable to the West Hartford Cultural Council this week; no amount is too small. These donations will ensure that the Duffy students will continue to benefit from these enriching cultural performances in future years. Thank you for supporting the arts in education campaign.


Check out the suggestion box located in the front lobby under the portrait of Louise Duffy. Feel free to drop in your anonymous comment, concern, or compliment. We appreciate your feedback. Thank you!


Want to know what time school gets out when the Superintendent announces early dismissal due to snow? Looking to find out how to update emergency contact information for your child? Information about the

  • Emergency Closing policy;
  • Outdoor Recess policy;
  • Public Act 16-189, An Act Concerning Student Data Privacy; and
  • Parent Portal

can be found here.


Follow us on twitter and visit our website.

Celebrating Equity, Diversity & Inclusion


On March 21st, Duffy Dragons will wear fun, bold and bright socks to school. When someone asks “what’s with the socks?” they'll be able to explain that 3/21 is World Down Syndrome Day. While every single one of us has attributes that make us different from others, we're all capable of many things and beautiful and colorful in our own way (like our socks!). Will you join us and "Rock Your Socks" in support of those with Down Syndrome?

Please enjoy the following video in honor of World Down Syndrome Day. This was shared in many of the classrooms. Caution: May cause happy tears for moms!

March Diversity Images

PTO News


We put together a Spring Fundraiser to generate revenue toward ongoing needs to update technology used in our classrooms. Technology needs are supported by the town annually, but not at the pace needed to keep all of our classrooms up to date. Just in the past 2 months, 3 classroom Promethean Boards have broken down and have been deemed irreparable. The town replaced one already and teachers are doing their best to accommodate, but we would love to be able to replace at least one before the end of the year at the cost of 5-6K. In addition to Smart Board needs, Mrs. Laverty shared other technology needs at Duffy, including organizational systems to hold classroom IPADS and Mrs. Tierney would love 5 or 6 IPADS for her classes. Once we have collected all donations, we will vote on allocation of this money. Please join us at our PTO meetings to be a part of these money allocating decisions. Thank you to everyone who supported the Spring Fundraiser as preliminary revenue is over $1500! If you would like to support this cause, we are still accepting straight donations with checks payable to DUFFY PTO.


The Duffy PTO, supported by our EDI committee, is committed to supporting a school environment which is welcoming to all families and assists our school leaders with ensuring a learning environment which allows all students to succeed. Our EDI committee hosted 2 Coffee Hours where Duffy staff shared how they are making adaptations to school wide and classroom level curriculum to reach this goal. At Thursday’s coffee hour, we also welcomed Gloria Mengual, the Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator from the Hartford Region Open Choice Program. She provided us with an overview of programs which she is available to share with us at Duffy! We are excited that, together with Mrs. Laverty, Mrs. Mori, and our EDI committee, we are planning to bring a thought-provoking program, “Storytelling as an Empathy-Building Tool”, to Duffy on May 2nd. Please mark your calendar with details coming soon!


We are very happy that we have had several SELF NOMINATIONS for 2019/20 Board members!! Although we are continuing to accept self-nominations for all open board positions (Vice President, Treasurer, BOE rep, Fundraising, Volunteer Coordinators), we have had no volunteers come forward to take on our TWO VOLUNTEER COORDINATOR POSITIONS. If anyone is interested in getting to know a lot about what is going on at Duffy, while working with passionate parent/family volunteers, please consider self-nomination for these critical positions. Find a friend or two and do it together, as we generally fill this position with a team of 2 or 3! Please reach out with any questions about these roles at duffypto@gmail.com.


Just to keep everyone informed as everyone will have a 5th grader at some point (it sure does go fast!), the PTO contributes $2000 toward each 5th grade class along with additional parent contributions to support the costs for class T-shirts, class yearbook and slide show, class gift to Duffy, Fun Day at an outside venue, and Class Day/” graduation” celebration. However, for the past 5 or 6 years, 5th graders have also put on a class play, which has been extremely low budget ($250) due to passionate and available parents who have taken this on annually. This year we have not been successful in finding a 5th grade parent volunteer to take this large and meaningful project on. If any Duffy parent across the school is interested in taking the lead role, we welcome your support!


Did you know that our Duffy community includes children/families who speak TWENTY different languages?!!

Did you know that supporting the Foundation for West Hartford Public Schools (FWHPS) directly impacts programs at Duffy?!! Our teachers submit grant requests to the FWHPS annually to bring amazing programs into our school and classrooms!

Some recent and upcoming Duffy programs that have been funded through the foundation are:

  • Science Mike (4th and 5th grade)

  • Hip Hop Hooray (school wide enrichment program coming this month)

  • Phase 1 of Books as Mirrors and Windows (Diverse guided reading books-K and 1st grade)

  • Books in Many Languages (expansion of our multi-lingual book selection for school library)

  • Be Somebody-Rob Surette in residence program this past Fall.

Donations to the FWHPS in honor of classroom teachers at gift giving times and participation in the annual West Hartford's Cookin' 2019 fundraising event March 30th are great opportunities to support all of our children's learning experiences!!

  • Duffy March Board Meeting (All are Welcome!)- Monday 3/18. 2:15-3:15

  • Hip Hop Family Night (All Children will be performing!)-sponsored by a grant from the FWHPS-Wednesday March 27th, 5-6:30

  • PTO/EDI/Duffy School sponsored Family Night- “Storytelling as an Empathy-Building Tool” (All are Welcome!)-Thursday 5/2, 6-7:30pm-details to follow

Karyn Turner and Joy Russell, Duffy PTO Co-Presidents


(Click on picture to view flyer.)

Dateline Publication & Submission Dates

Submissions are due the Monday before publication dates and can be sent to Kristi Laverty at Kristi_Laverty@whps.org and/or Martha Kehoe at martha_kehoe@whps.org.

Upcoming Publication Dates:

March 28th - The Duffy Short. Flyer submission only by March 25th.

April 18th - Duffy Dateline. Submission deadline is April 16th.