Welcome Back from Tony Byers: August 2018

Welcome Back from Tony Byers: August 2018
Posted on 08/28/2018

Dear Families,

I’ve worked in education for a long time and have experienced many first days of school. But this one is a little different for me because, for the first time, I’m on the other side of the equation: my daughter will start kindergarten on September 4th (sadly, not in Cambridge). She’s my oldest and first to attend public school. I told incoming kindergarten families last year that I owed them an apology. For years, I’ve reassured families that there’s no need for parents to worry about their child’s first day of school. And as an educator, I stand by this statement. But as a parent, it turns out I was wrong. There is so much to worry about! Will my daughter make friends? Learn to read? Treat others with kindness? Will her teachers “get” her? Will she manage to eat even a single bite of lunch in the cafeteria? Probably not. I was a kindergarten teacher, and I know from long experience that my daughter is going to be fine, but there’s no reasoning with a parent’s anxiety about the first day school, rapped up as it is with all the hopes and dreams we have for our children.

So parents and caregivers, I give you permission to worry! We get it. But know that your children are going to be okay, often better than okay. Yes, there will be challenges ahead requiring grit and perseverance. And some children will face more challenges than others. However, they’ll face those challenges within a supportive and caring school community. Above all, Graham and Parks is a school that believes in community, in the collective ownership of all students. I’m delighted to be beginning my fifth year as part of this community and am looking forward to the year ahead. I hope you are too!

Our community, in terms of staffing, is growing and changing. We have a number of new staff, longtime staff moving into new roles, and staff returning from leave. I announced a number of new hires last year, but I realize they’re hard to keep track of, so I’ve attached a complete staff listing to this letter. However, I do want to let you know about two staffing changes that occurred over the summer. Erica Clem, 1/2 general education teacher, accepted a school-level special education administration job in another district. This is an exciting step for her, but also a loss for us. Thankfully, we’ve hired a great new teacher to replace her, Zoralys Molina, who joins us from the Kennedy-Longfellow School. Also, Anne Morin, a longtime G&P special educator, accepted a position in her hometown school district. Anne will be greatly missed. I will announce her replacement once our hiring process is complete. I know you’ll join me in welcoming our new staff to G&P!

This has been a busy summer for the G&P physical plant. Contractors have been hard at work replacing classroom unit vents and heaters. We also have new air conditioners in all classrooms and new flooring in all kindergarten and special start rooms. Our custodians have been working around the contractors to prepare the school for a new year. It’s been a long and productive summer inside the building. Outside, work has not progressed as quickly as I had hoped. Our playground is scheduled for substantial maintenance and renovation, which is unlikely to begin before the start of school. I reached out to DPW, and they’ve provided us with the following update:

Graham & Parks is one of three Cambridge schools scheduled to undergo parks and playground construction this year. As you may recall, the repair and maintenance work for Graham & Parks included repairs to the main play structure, a resurfacing of the area around the main play structure with rubber, and additional play equipment. Unfortunately, due to complications at the Amigos and Morse Schools, the timeline has shifted. We expect work to begin at Graham & Parks in September 2018. Most of the equipment has already been delivered and is on site. Once the contractors begin their work at Graham & Parks, we estimate that it will take roughly one month to complete. However, this could be subject to change. The playground may be used in the interim, and the field will remain open and accessible throughout the construction process. We apologize for the inconvenience and will keep you informed.

Students enjoyed watching the construction of our new field last year, and I expect they’ll enjoy watching our playground construction as well. We’ll keep you posted.

Check out the G&P handy reference. It’s a shorter version of our family handbook, which can be found on our school’s website. Also take a look at the Graham and Parks Family Calendar that outlines important dates for the upcoming school year. I would like to highlight a few especially important upcoming dates:

  • The first day of school is September 4th. 
  • Kindergarten starts on September 6th, with an orientation on September 5th (further information will be sent to kindergarten families).
  • Back-to-School Curriculum Night is the evening of September 20th from 5:30 – 7:30PM for all grades. At Back-to-School Curriculum Night, you’ll join your child’s teacher to hear about their classroom, all the exciting things students will learn this year, and how you can help support their learning.
  • Our International Potluck and Dance Festival is on October 3rd from 5:30-7:30PM. The food is always amazing!

Also, take a look at the dates for Steering Committee and Friends of G&P meetings and join us if you can!

We’re looking forward to a great year ahead. We will see you all soon.

All best,

Tony Byers

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