Friday, February 27, 2015

Pete Bouchard, WHDH Chief Meteorologist, visits grade 3!

Upcoming Student Surveys

Dear Barrows Community;

I’m writing to share information about the surveys our students will be participating in to provide feedback to our teachers and school.  Please see the other side of this letter for more information from our district about the surveys.  I wanted to also add my own personal thoughts about the student surveys, share my experiences, and invite you to reach out to me with any questions or concerns you may have!

            As a classroom teacher, twice a year, I would ask my students to complete anonymous surveys about my classroom practices and instruction.  I found this information to be one of the most powerful tools in shaping and changing my classroom practices.  The reality is, as much as we do our best as educators, there are always ways for us to grow.  Growth does not happen in isolation and independently.  Administrators and colleagues work together to try to help shift and strengthen what we do, but only our students are with us every day, all day.  They have the most comprehensive perspective about what happens in our classrooms – and the reality is they are the most important voices to provide us with feedback as it is their learning that should drive everything we do.  I still have all of the paper copies of the feedback that my students completed for me over the years and at least once a year I go back and review it because the voice of students should drive our work. 

            For those of you that are not aware, at the end of last year I asked every student in Barrows (K-5) to complete a survey for me.  It asked students some questions similar to those they will be completing about their teachers in the upcoming weeks.  I went through every survey and found some wonderfully helpful feedback that I have worked to try to address this year, including little things I didn’t know were positives that students acknowledged, and other areas that I could improve (I have gone much slower on the pledge of allegiance this year!)  It is likely that teachers over the years have asked your students to provide them with feedback about their practices and routines; feedback is an established part of what we do.  The difference this year is we are utilizing a third party to host the surveys online in an anonymous format.  This data will be complied and provided back to the teacher (not the administrators) in an anonymous aggregate manner so they can see the trends in their classroom and help them consider their own professional growth and goals.  This survey data will not have any identifiers of students.

            Through the use of student feedback, we are modeling what we want our students to do, take feedback about their strengths and about potential areas of improvement and utilize that information as life-long learners.  We all know that to truly be a life-long learner means that you never stop growing and improve and that everybody around us can help us get better at what we do every day – especially our students.

            As always, I invite you to reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns.  As a school, we will continue to work hard every day while also modeling our own learning behaviors as a school community. 

Thank you for your continued support Barrows!  Heather Leonard, Principal


Dear Parent/ Guardian,


I am pleased to let you know that over the last few weeks, our school has been participating in the 2014-2015 Massachusetts Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) Model Survey Administration to use student and staff feedback to inform professional growth and support school improvement.  As you may know, all public schools in Massachusetts are now using student feedback as one of many ways to help improve teacher practice, although many teachers have been using student feedback for years as part of their professional practice.  As part of this feedback process, students in K-2 are taking one paper based feedback survey to give feedback to their classroom teacher and students in Grades 3-12 are taking online surveys for up to two of their classroom teachers.  Each survey takes about 15 minutes and will be administered a couple of times per year.


While many teachers may already regularly use student input as part of their practice (both formally and informally), the questions in these brief surveys are specifically aligned with the teaching standards that are used throughout the state as part of the educator evaluation process, allowing all educators to receive feedback from students in these key areas.  By working with the Massachusetts DESE and Panorama Education, the validity, reliability, and confidentiality of the online surveys can be assured, and the information can be shared with educators as a way to inform their own professional growth. As the survey information is part of an educator’s evaluation process, individual results are of course not reported out.


As always, our students regularly provide us with perhaps the most valuable feedback of all, as we work to ensure their continued success.  If you would like more information or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

100th day of school

Yesterday was our official 100th day of school.  The snow days bumped it back 2 weeks from its original date!  What a great day in the younger grades celebrating this century number.

Pictures below from Ms. Lentz's 100 day "Oscars" celebration!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Safe returns from Feb. vacation

Dear Barrows Families,
As we prepare to return to school on Monday I wanted to let you know that our custodians, the Facilities Department, and the DPW have been hard at work to get our campus safe and ready for our return. Understanding that this is an unprecedented amount of snow, all of the Reading Employees have worked hard to make our grounds safe and passable. I understand that the gutters on the staff-parking lot side of the library have caught some folks attention. I wanted to let you know that these gutters had been observed earlier in the year (prior to any snow) as needing repair. The Facilities Department responded by sending a roofing company out to check on the fidelity of the roof and the area. The roof above the library is safe and secure, it is simply that the gutters have aged and will need to be replaced in the near future. Unfortunately the intensity of this winter has exaggerated the issue so we will be blocking off access to the walkway directly under these gutters as a precautionary measure. I am sure that both the Facilities Department and Reading Fire Department would intervene if they had any concerns about safety. Although the gutters were re-secured prior to this winter, we will be limiting access to this walkway as an extra safety measure.

Thank you to all of the Barrows Community for your continued communication about our campus and areas of need. Your help in identifying any potential areas of need or by sharing your questions allows us to make sure we do what we can to maintain our grounds during this extreme winter. Please feel free to reach out to me with any additional questions or concerns about our grounds with the understanding we are doing our best with what we have to keep everybody safe. Please view the Barrows Principal Blog here for extra reminders about safety around our school during the winter months:

 Thank you all and welcome back!
~Heather Leonard

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Congrats to Mrs. Payack!

Natalie Payack was born February 19th. She was 7 pounds, 14 ounces and 20 inches long.  Mom and baby are doing well!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Principal Problem of the Week

 Dear Barrows Families,

I hope you are enjoying this week with your families! I wanted to let you know about a fun way for our Barrows Students to stretch their thinking and show some of their perseverance and problem-solving skills. When students return to school after vacation they can participate in a weekly challenge called the Principal’s Problem of the Week. The problem type will vary each week— They could be math/science/literacy/history/arts/other based, problems could have one correct answer or multiple solutions, and I may have one school-wide problems, and other weeks that it is differentiated by levels. The commonality between all of the problems is that they will demand students use their problem solving skills, perseverance, risk-taking, research, creative thinking, and "proving" that their answer is correct. I hope this is a fun way for us all to try stretching our brains a bit! I will share the problems of the week on the blog, they will be posted in the school, and I may occasionally share them in the Starburst too! If your child decides to take on the Principal’s Problem of the Week challenge and you want to help them consider how to support the learning and problem-solving strategies of your child;

  • Ask you child what information they can learn from the question
  • Ask your child where they think they could go to get more information
  • If your child thinks they have it right tell them to prove it to you or give them a non-answer and make them prove you wrong
  • If your child gets stuck, ask them what information they would need that would make it easier to solve…then see if they can identify where to get that information!

Get a sneak peek of our first Principal Problem of the Week below! I hope these fun problems will help encourage our students to ‘stick-to-it’ and do their best in an unknown situation! I look forward to seeing the creative thinking of our Barrows Shining Stars!

~Heather Leonard, Principal
Student Name: 
Teacher’s Name:

Principal’s Problem of the Week

1. Draw a picture of a puddle

2. Clearly show or write how you would measure it

3. What tools will you use for measuring?

Monday, February 16, 2015

The beauty of snow

Ironic timing right?  I think the last thing most of us are thinking about while looking out our windows is the beauty.  This website was shared with me and it captures the microscopic beauty of snowflakes - pretty awesome!  (I just wish we had less of them!)

Has your child ever looked closely at a snowflake?

Budget Update from the Barrows Budget Parents

School Committee Approves Superintendent's Budget

The Reading School Committee approved the Superintendent’s Recommended budget with no revisions. The budget includes an additional $75,000 of additional revenue that was added to help reduce the reduction in regular education paraeducators at the elementary level. This additional funding will help restore the kindergarten paraeducators to current staffing levels and provide adequate lunch/recess coverage. What was not restored was additional paraeducator time to support classroom teachers and the office.

All other reductions and restructuring were approved, including the two instructional coaches, the BCBA, the TSP/SSP Program Director, and the Technician.

The next step in the process will be for the School Department to present their budget to the Finance Committee on Wednesday, March 11th at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall. 
Michele and Cindy

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Snow Safety Practices

Hello Barrows Families!

We are excited to have you all back tomorrow.  Our maintenance and facilities staff has been working diligently to ensure our schools are ready for our safe return.  They have and will continue to shovel the room, shovel and treat walkways and stairwells, and monitor the condition of our school campus. With the return to school, I wanted to share a few reminders with you all to help ensure our Barrows community stays as safe as possible.

·         Due to the record-breaking amounts of snowfall, the snowbanks are very high.  Drivers, please slow down, especially in school zones and as you pass driveways and crosswalks.

·         Many of our students are shorter than the snowbanks, which means they will not be seen by passing motorists.  Parents – please walk next to your children to ensure that you can view their safe passage and the cars can see you.

·         CAR POOL!  The fewer cars attempting to maneuver our streets and very limited parking, the better.

·         Review with your child safe pedestrian practices before leaving in the morning (walk only on walkways – not in streets, not in parking lots or driveways.)

·         Utilize the kiss & go lane

·         Be patient with each other – slow vehicles, slippery walkways, and snowy streets will require us all to take it easy.

·         Walk carefully, the temperatures have created some icy conditions and with the limited space to put snow our walkways may be a bit slick.

·         Send your children with appropriate outerwear for outside conditions (books, hats, jackets, gloves, etc.)

Thank you all for helping keep our Barrows Community safe! J

See you tomorrow!
~Ms. Leonard

Monday, February 9, 2015

Jessica Minahan Presentation

What a great event - Our staff and parents were able to hear from behavior/anxiety expert and BCBA Jessica Minahan and learn some wonderful techniques.
Thank you to the PTO for their support of the parent presentation!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

snow day tomorrow


Good Afternoon,

This is Superintendent of Schools John Doherty with an important message.  Unfortunately, due to the additional significant snowfall accumulations that we will be receiving this evening and tomorrow there will be no school or extended day programs for the Reading Public Schools for Monday, February 9th.  

Have a great day and stay safe.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

PARCC presentation

The PARCC Presentation that will be presented by the Reading Public School building principals is now online at the link below. On February 4th, the Parker, Barrows, and Joshua Eaton Principals will be presenting at Parker to begin at 7:00 p.m.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your child's building principal.

Excited to see you all tomorrow!

Enjoy the snow today - we're ready for you to come back tomorrow!

Monday, February 2, 2015



Good Evening,

This is Superintendent of Schools John Doherty with an important message. Due to the high volume of snow that we have received over the last 7 days, including today's significant snowstorm, there will be no school or extended day activities for the Reading Public Schools for Tuesday, February 3rd.

Thanks and have a great day.

PARCC Parent Presentations - TOMORROW & WEDNESDAY

Sent: Saturday, January 10, 2015 7:11 AM
Subject: PARCC Parent Information Sessions in February


Good Afternoon,
This year, the Reading Public Schools will be participating in the PARCC Online Assessments for Mathematics and Literacy for Grades 3-8 during the months of March, April, and May. Since this is the first time that the district will be participating in this assessment, we will be holding parent information sessions on the following evenings:

Tuesday, February 3rd, 7:00 p.m., Coolidge Middle School Multipurpose Room

Wednesday, February 4th, 7:00 p.m., Parker Middle School Auditorium

Both sessions will be identical in content and will be presented by our elementary and middle school principals. Prior to the presentation, we will send out the power point presentation to all parents. These information sessions are open to all who are interested in learning more about the PARCC test, but will be especially informative for parents in Grades 3-8. PARCC testing schedules for March/April will be sent out in the next few days by your child’s building principal.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call your child’s building principal.

Building Independent Learners by Fostering Grit

Building Independent Learners by Fostering Grit

Screen Shot 2015-01-17 at 3.16.25 PM.pngGrrrrrr. Teeth gnashed. Eyes focuses. Grit.
Imagery of football players and olympic athletes who put all they have into their performances. Day in and day out of practices and a real sense of commitment to their sports permeate their beings. It's beyond talent; it's passion.
Academic grit may conjure different images, but the amount of work it takes to develop the tenacity to be great at anything is substantial. And it is sadly lacking in many of our 21st century learners.
Perhaps things have come to easily. Perhaps they are all used to getting trophies for participation. Perhaps they don't see the value in putting in the effort.
Whatever the reason, it's a teacher's job, a school's job, a family's job to help develop children who can hack it in a world that won't be as forgiving.
So how can teachers contribute to this important lesson. Check out these possibilities:
  • Students need opportunities to try and fail without anyone fixing it for them. It's okay to let them struggle. Know your students. Know how hard to push and when to lend a hand without enabling them.
  • Model the behaviors you want students to emulate. Be willing to take risks and fail in front of students and then model how to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and try again.
  • Remind students that grit is not an innate ability, it is the heart of what it means to practice and persevere. Grit takes work. Remind them not to be afraid of work.
  • Learn with intention. Students shouldn't want to develop grit just to get better grades, they should want to develop it because it will make them successful people. Great working habits develop strength of mind and character and that is more important extrinsic motivation.
  • Coach kids through hard times, don't do it for them. Regardless of how challenging a task is, never allow a student to quit. Remind them that there is no time limit on success and that it is in their best interest to push through the challenge. There is no accomplishment greater.
We all have difficulties we will face in life. School is usually a microcosm of those experiences. If students can achieve their goals even in the hardest times while in school, it is usually a precursor of things to come.

Box Tops!

The next submission for Box Tops is in March! Here's your chance to raise some easy cash for Barrows. Don't forget to clip, save, and send in your Box Tops.

You can also help out by creating an account at and participating in the bonus box tops daily activities. It's simple and fast and earns us cash!