Friday, January 31, 2014

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Giving Back

This weekend I took my 3 year old with me when I went to cut and donate my hair.  We started a conversation about why somebody would need it and why I would donate it even if I didn’t know the person that would use it.

It got me thinking about how we teach our children about the impact they can have on the community around them.  Many of the tasks/activities our children are involved in have a clear reason for participating; it’s fun, my parents told me to, my teacher told me to, my friends are doing it, etc.  Talking with you child about doing something to make somebody else feel good (with no other need for reward or recognition) is a great way to develop empathy, charity, and compassion.  What could your family do to help others around you?  Check out some of the ideas below.  My daughter and I will be heading to visit a local nursing home to spend some time with the residents soon and she's participating in a "hop-a-thon" to raise money for local animal aid.  I’d love to hear what your family gets involved with!


Consider some of the following ideas:

*With your child, go through their clothes and toys and collect any items they have outgrown or no longer use.  Drive together to a donation site to donate these items.

*Visit an elderly neighbor or a local nursing home to drop off homemade cards, or visit to play games or read books together.

*Clean up a community space – collect trash and recycling

*Donate part of their allowance to a charity of their choice (help them decide what they would like to support!)

*Plant a tree

*Bake homemade treats and drop them off for your local fire or police station

*For older children, look to see what they can do actively with a local organization to give some of their time.  Consider using your child’s interests to find the right match.  Like sports?  Consider the Special Olympics.  Animals?  Local animal shelter, Audubon society, etc.  Books/reading?  Check out opportunities at the local library for volunteering.

*Purchase and decorate reusable grocery bags and fill with kid’s favorite non-perishable food items.  Drop them off at the local food pantry together

*Practice Random Acts of Kindness and ask your child periodically; “What nice thing have you done for someone recently?”  Share your random acts too!

*Decorate cards, letters, or supplies and send overseas for local soldiers.

Friday, January 17, 2014

This Week

Wow, what a week we have had!

I had the opportunity to go around to every classroom today to meet with students about the crazy events of the week.  In a manner that is age-appropriate with each class, I shared with students what happened and answered every question or concern they shared.

Dr. Doherty shared a comprehensive summary of what happened in his blog here:

The key things I stressed with students were;

(1)    They were and continue to be safe.  The amount of time between the faulty equipment being turned on and the alarm going off were short, eliminating concerns of lenghty exposure.  Additionally the levels within their working spaces were low enough to prevent students from having any side effects.  Finally, the Fire Department continued to monitor our building throughout the week and would not have allowed us to hold school unless they cleared our building as safe to use.

(2)    We were so proud of them.  Even during situations that may have felt scary, overwhelming, or confusing, our students were so brave.  They stayed so calm, helped each other out, listened to the adults, and were so respectful during our evacuation procedures.

 I did also let students know that they may continue to have questions.  I let them know that I would be available to them at any point, and if they had a question over the weekend (or if their parents did) they should ask you to send me an email, as I will be checking it throughout this long weekend stretch.

Please know I’m here if you have any questions or remaining concerns! or 781-942-9166.

Thank you all for your continued support,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Barrows Evacuation Today

Barrows Community,

Thank you all again for your support during our evacuation today.  Students, staff, and parents all did an amazing job and our community supports from Fire, Police, and Austin Prep were fantastic. 

Although they have narrowed down the cause of the CO levels today and are in the process of eliminating all other possibilities, I know some concerns lie in the fact that it happened twice.  I will share more information as I get it, but I do want to reassure you that although there was another evacuation today, students and staff were safe.  Our evacuation was precipitated by the CO monitor alerting us to the problem followed by a quick response from our Fire Department.  We have had no illnesses reported by students or staff and were able to quickly, safely, and efficiently evacuate.

So you are aware, after our evacuation on Tuesday the district installed 3 additional CO sensors and has had the fire department in each morning to check the levels throughout the school, which measured “0” both Wednesday and this morning.

Precautionary measures that were put in place ensured that we were able to respond quickly as soon as the CO levels increased.  As we get more information, the district will notify parents and families about the status of school tomorrow.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support.

Heather Leonard

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Barrows Evacuation

Thank you Barrows Community!

     We had an unexpected evacuation today due to a Carbon Monoxide monitor going off.  Our Reading Fire Department recommended that in order to ensure the safety of all students and staff, doing an evacuation to Austin Prep was an appropriate preventative measure.  Our Reading Police Department and Fire Department provided support to ensure student transport happened in an efficient and safe manner, while our School Department worked to help us communicate with families and provide transportation for our students.

     Austin Prep was a gracious host and provided us with staff, space, microphones, and continued support for our students (including those few last students waiting to get picked up with some waters and snacks!)

     I was so proud of the Barrows Staff members for their calm interactions with students, which contributed to the calm, positive tone!  I enjoyed the squeals of delight of the students when they heard they got to ride the bus, or thought they were famous seeing the news helicopters above!  The students did a wonderful job, were so patient, and listened to their teachers while going through a process that might have been scary for some.

     Finally, my appreciation to our families.  I know that it was an inconvenience for parents and family members, but the fact that our Barrows parents were willing to patiently wait in the rain, readily show their IDs, and reached out to other parents on the phone to confirm permission made the entire process move as smoothly as possible.

     We will be meeting to debrief the situation with staff, school administration, and get feedback from police and fire to ensure that we make adjustments as necessary to any evacuation plans (hoping that they will only be needed in ”drill” form in the future!)  If you have any feedback please feel free to get in touch with me, as it only helps us do better for our students.

     The Reading Facilities Department, along with various experts and technicians, examined all potential causes of the Carbon Monoxide increase.  They identified and remedied the concern.  As a preventative measure they will be installing additional Carbon Monoxide detectors while also having periodic checks from the Fire Department to ensure our continued safety.

     Thank you again (and enjoy the photos below from our Library/Media Specialist Lori Hill!)

Our students wait to be picked up at Austin Prep

The happy Barrows Staff heads back to school after all students are picked up!

Monday, January 13, 2014

What a great day!

I had the opportunity to meet with some go-getters today!  A 3rd grade Girl Scout Troop made up of Barrows students presented a community service project that includes a toy/supply drive to support a Reading charitable organization that provides birthday parties to homeless youth.

Additionally I had the pleasure of working with (student) Principal Allie Zurcher, second grader in Ms. Mustone's class.  Miss Zurcher won the opportunity to be principal for the day in the raffle at the winter craft fair.  She was a wonderful principal and visited each of the classrooms, held a few meetings, had lunch in her office with friends, and provided the school with an extra recess this week.  Great job Principal Zurcher!

Principal Zurcher helping a Kindergarten class
Principal's Lunch Group

Principal Zurcher takes the lead!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Amazing Barrows Teachers

Please see postings below from the MA Department of Education.  They have posted nomination papers to nominate those outstanding educators in our schools.  I hear from so many Barrows parents about the positive impact our staff has.. this is your chance to share your thoughts with a wider audience!  If you are interested in nominating one of our fabulous staff for recognition, please see the various awards below.

MA Teacher of the Year Award
Each year the program honors a Massachusetts teacher who exemplifies fine teaching in the Commonwealth. The purpose of the program is to select a teacher who is worthy of speaking for and energizing the teaching profession, and representing the positive contributions of all teachers statewide. The Massachusetts Teacher of the Year automatically becomes the state's candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Program.
How to nominate:

Elementary Educator Award
     The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would like to identify distinguished elementary (K-5) teachers and principals throughout the Commonwealth. These educators may be considered for advisory boards, task forces, and special recognition programs.
     We are very fortunate to have a rich pool of exemplary, experienced educators who have been identified in previous years. However, our goal is to continually replenish this important resource of educator commitment and expertise by identifying educators relatively new to the profession who demonstrate unique instructional and leadership ability. Such educators exemplify teaching and leading at its best and their contributions have a profound impact on students, colleagues, and the community.
     We ask that you recommend one to three educators who have not received major recognition beyond their school or district. Because we are looking for educators who will continue to serve the profession in the future, please only consider educators with fewer than eighteen years of experience in education.
     Please provide CONFIDENTIAL, specific information about your candidate(s) on the enclosed three-page form. Please include a one-page letter in addition to the form in which you address how the candidate meets the criteria mentioned in this memo. Completed forms must be sent by Friday, March 7, 2014, to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Attn. Deborah J. Walker, 75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148.
     If you prefer, you can fax this information to 781-338-3370, Attn. Deborah Walker, or email
     I encourage you to recommend outstanding local candidates.
Recommendation Form:

Math & Science Teaching Award
     I am pleased to announce that nominations are open for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). The PAEMST Program was established in 1983 by the White House and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The program identifies outstanding mathematics and science teachers, kindergarten through 12th grade, in each state and the four U.S. jurisdictions. These teachers will serve as models for their colleagues and will be leaders in the improvement of science and mathematics education.
      The competition alternates year by year between teachers of grades K-6 and teachers of grades 7-12. Teachers of grades K-6 mathematics and science are eligible for nomination for the 2014 Presidential Awards. Teachers of grades 7-12 will be eligible for the 2015 Presidential Awards.
In order to apply for the 2014 PAEMST, a teacher must be nominated. Anyone (e.g., superintendents, principals, teachers, students, and other members of the general public) may nominate a teacher. Self-nominations will also be accepted.
      Each Presidential Awardee will receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation. Each Awardee will also be invited to attend, along with a guest, recognition events in Washington, D.C.
     I have enclosed a nomination form  for you to copy and distribute. The deadline for nominations is April 1, 2014. Nominations may also be made by going to For further information, contact Deborah Walker at or call 781-338-3347.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Congrats Nora Lafferty!

Barrows third grade student, Nora Lafferty, from Ms. Gerrin and Ms. Nagle's class was awarded 3rd place in the Reading Municipal Light Department T-shirt contest.  She was awarded her recognition Thursday night.  Nice work Nora!

our red flag?

So I'm hearing that our Red Flag (indicating that it is indoor drop-off) is a fond friend for many of our families.  Some of our parents have even been waxing poetic about it on Facebook;

Red flag gently sways.
I freeze, yet heart swells with hope.
Indoor drop off. Yes.

 ~ Liz Whitelam

I crane my neck to see it
Ahhh, Red friend is there

 ~ Maria O'Callaghan

I gave it a shot myself:

wind chill and low temps
frozen students, parents wait
red flag says "come in!"

Stay warm out there, share your poetic thoughts below, and hope for warmer temps!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Barrows School Rules Posters

I issued a challenge to students to create posters that display our new Barrows School Rules.  There were so many amazing submissions that I could not possibly pick just one, so all of our posters will be displayed throughout the Barrows hallways.  Please click below to see the efforts that our students put into these posters - WOW!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

I hope the Barrows Community is enjoying a restful (extended!) winter vacation.  I am enjoying this fluffy snow and sledding potential for this weekend, but have to say that I miss seeing all the happy Barrows student faces!  I have enjoyed the vacation time with my family, and went birding out on Plum Island on New Year's Day (check out the pictures below - even saw some snowy owls!)

Please join me in the new year for two opportunities:
* Tuesday, January 7th, 7:30 P.M. in the Barrows Library for our monthly PTO meeting.  (I plan to share some information about Reading's anti-bullying efforts and the steps Barrows is taking.)

* Friday, January 10th, 7:45 - 8:30 A.M. in the Barrows Library for Coffee and Conversation with the Principal.  Come to chat about your winter vacation fun, ask questions, or share thoughts/concerns.  All are welcome!  (come for 5 minutes or stay the whole time!)

I look forward to seeing you all.  Here's to a new adventure in 2014!

~Ms. Leonard

Long Overdue

Please enjoy these long overdue photos from the exciting Barrows happenings!

December - Barrows Happenings (all-school assembly, classroom events, seasonal activities):

November  - 5th grade Publishing Party & 3rd grade Colonial Day:

November - 1st grade's Veterans Day work from Library/Media Class:

Our very generous Reading Rotary donates a Thesaurus to each 3rd grader and spoke about community service.  Thank you Reading Rotary!