Friday, September 29, 2017

Barrows Safety Drill

Dear Barrows Families;

I am writing to inform you that we participated in a safety drill this morning.  The purposes of these drills are similar to a fire drill, it allows staff and students to practice a routine that we hope to never have to use.  It allows us to examine our protocols and facilities to ensure we are addressing any needs that arise.  Today our Barrows students and staff did an excellent job.  The Reading Police Department worked with us and found many positives about the safety in our building.  We also went around and visited each Kindergarten and 1st grade classroom following the drill to celebrate their efforts.  I am proud of our Shining Star students today!

As always, if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me. 

Thank you,

Heather Leonard

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

"Red Flag" Days

We have enjoyed such beautiful fall weather that I haven’t had the opportunity to remind our community about our “Red Flag” weather days.  With the rains projected for the next few days, it seems timely to share these reminders now.

“Red Flag” days are applicable to morning drop off only (sorry, we cannot allow parents/guardians to wait inside at pick-up times.) When the weather is determined to be inappropriate for outside drop-off, a red flag is posted outside on the front of the building (right by the Kiss & Go lane.) I also do my best to post on our Twitter Page when we put the flag out (

On these "Red Flag" days students may begin to enter the building at 8:05a.m. Prior to this time doors will remain locked. At 8:05 a.m. students may enter the building through the following doors: Door #1 (Main office), Door #19 (cafeteria front entrance), Door #12 (blacktop entrance by cafeteria), and Door #16 (front of building by the gym.)

Especially on these foul weather days please observe our traffic safety laws (one-way on Edgemont, no idling, no parking on the school-side of Edgemont Ave, active drop-off in the kiss & go lane only, etc.) to help ensure the safety of all our students.

If you would like additional information about our “Red Flag” day determinations, read a previous blog post here:

Thank you for observing our safety procedures!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Why were our teachers out?

I love this question, because it invites a sharing of important information for our school community.  Often the question is coming from a place of frustration or confusion, as it is always challenging to have the classroom teacher out – even more so at the start of the school year.  Thank you to those parents that have reached out to ask this important question.  Your question helps us to share the important work that is happening for our adults in the building on behalf of our students.

Image result for professional development images

Image result for talking drawing writingOver the course of this month many different teachers will be out for a few days. Most recently, our Kindergarten teachers were out this past Thursday and Friday.  Our teachers were participating in a training designed specifically for Kindergarten teachers around the teaching of writing.  Developing students as writers is a big focus for our elementary schools this year.  Our staff was lucky enough to work with the person who literally wrote the book on early childhood writing development; Martha Horne.  Talking, Drawing, Writing( focuses on developing our youngest learners as storytellers and the guided shift towards becoming authors of rich stories.  We are lucky to have Martha, an expert in the field, working with our staff.

Image result for teacher quotesI acknowledge that having our teachers out at this early point in the year is a challenge.  I apologize for any difficulties it has created for your child as they are newly navigating the classroom routines, expectations, and relationship building.  I will note that the benefit of this professional learning happening now is that it will allow our teachers to implement these instructional strategies throughout the year with ongoing coaching from Ms. Horne starting right away.  Additionally – we must work within the availability of the professional trainers, consider scheduling across all grades, all schools and all district, while ensuring our teachers get timely training to improve their craft on behalf of our students.

Another challenge we encountered at Barrows this past week was a lack of substitute coverage.  Our amazing staff worked hard to step up and lend a hand in the classrooms, but this is a challenge that we do face.  If you (or a neighbor or a friend) have ever considered substitute teaching, I encourage you to reach out to Reading Public Schools HR department to learn more! (if not here at Barrows, then at least at another school in district!)  We have opportunities for teacher substitutes, paraeducator substitutes, and more!

I encourage you to revisit a blog post from last year about teacher professional development here:
Image result for parent school partnership 
Please reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns.  Of course, we always want our staff in their classrooms with students. We also want our teachers to be the best equipped professionals with the most current knowledge and pedagogy possible.  In the end, this is the best way for us to continue to meet the needs of all our children!

Thank you for your support,

Heather Leonard

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

More (more) new staff join Barrows

Dear Barrows Community;

We are excited to continue to welcome new staff to our Barrows Campus.  Today I am introducing you to our newest staff member, Joan Duffy.  She is joining our team as a 3rd teacher in our special education learning center.  Please check out her introduction video below;
Please join me in welcoming Ms. Duffy to our Barrows Shining Stars community!

Love, Mrs. Leonard

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

MORE New Staff at Barrows!

Dear Barrows Community;

We are excited to continue to welcome new staff to our Barrows Campus.  Today I will showcase 2 more of our newest staff members.  Please check out their introduction videos below;

We are excited to welcome both Ms. Jacobs and Mr. Dittman to our Barrows Shining Stars community!

Love, Mrs. Leonard

Friday, August 11, 2017

Barrows Summer Reading Challenge

Barrows’ Summer Reading Challenge

Please select a book from the Reading in Reading booklist for elementary school students prepared by librarians at the Reading Public Library

 After you have read the book visit to answer the questions and submit your entries into the Barrows’ Summer Reading raffle! All entries are due by September 1, 2017 and winners (one per grade) will be announced at the September assembly. Prizes will include a pizza lunch or a book.

Reading Public Library

The Summer Reading Program began on Friday, June 16, 2017.   On Friday, June 2nd Ms. Fischer and Ms. Wettergreen, children’s librarians from the Reading Public Library, visited Barrows and spoke to the children about the summer reading program.  Please stop by the library to register for the program.  More information can be found at

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program


Step 2: Bring the completed Summer Reading Journal  to your local B&N store before September 5, 2017.
Step 3: Choose a FREE BOOK from a featured list (found on the Summer Reading Journal).
Please visit the website for more information.

Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Program


Barrows’ 4th and 5th grade students are eligible to participate in the 2018 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award Program (MCBA).  Students currently in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade were given a book mark listing the 2018 nominees.  We have three copies of each of the 25 titles thanks to the generosity and support of the Barrows’ PTO. Additionally, the Reading Public Library has print and electronic copies of each of the 25 titles.  For more information about the program and for a Master List please visit

Family Book Talk

Are you looking for a fun way to connect around literacy this summer? Check out this great challenge - a Family Book Talk. Make a family video about some of your favorite books, then post it to our Barrows social media (Facebook or Twitter) with the hashtags #BarrowsShiningStars #FamilyBookTalk
Check out more information about Family Book Talks (along with some hints!) here:

Have fun reading!

New Staff at Barrows!

Dear Barrows Community;

We are excited to be welcoming new staff to our Barrows Campus.  Today I will showcase 2 of our newest staff members.  Please check out their introduction videos below;

* Vittoria Penna, 2nd grade
* Katie Jones, 5th grade

These candidates both rose to the top of rigorous interview processes that included many qualified candidates.  Please join me in giving them a warm welcome to our Barrows Shining Stars community!

Love, Mrs. Leonard

Heather Leonard, Principal
Barrows Elementary School
16 Edgemont Ave, Reading

Follow Barrows on Twitter and Facebook

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Seeking Barrows Shining Star Scientists...

Dear Barrows Shining Star Scientists – its that time again!
We need you!

I need your help because I have eggs that need a “butterfly-sitter” to watch over and take care of until they hatch into caterpillars, turn into a chrysalis, and finally transform into a butterfly. This is a really cool way to see this life cycle up-close and personal! Are you interested?  Here is what you would need:

A small container with a top that you can poke a hole into: 

A “pet pen” that can close – either a plastic style or mesh style will work!

A grown-up that is willing to help you find *Milkweed and *nectar flowers to cut as food sources as your butterfly grows!
Related imageImage result for monarch on flower

That’s it!  If you’re able and interested, come by Barrows Thursday 8/10 or Friday morning 8/11 (or send me an email: and I will set up a time for pick up at Barrows.)

One of our Barrows Families (The Granara family) volunteered to butterfly-sit last summer, and caught both of these AMAZING videos - the butterfly turning into a chrysalis and then emerging... both events that happen pretty quickly and are hard to capture on video - thank you for sharing!

As many of our students know from their experiences over the last 2 years, my family and I have become very invested in saving and supporting the Monarch Butterfly population. It is an awesome process to watch, but also contributes to a population in need.

Did you know that only 2-10% of eggs laid in the wild survive? Some scientists have filed a petition for endangered species act protection for the Monarch and its habitat in 2014. Monarchs are important pollinators for our gardens.  My family has found many monarch butterfly eggs/caterpillars to protect and keep safe until they become butterflies – then we release them into the wild!  This is why I need the help of our Shining Star Scientists!

Can you believe that they go from this:

To this (caterpillar)

To this (Monarch butterfly)!

Just amazing!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Field Day is ON!

Hello Barrows Community-
I am wondering where our JUNE weather is?  This is feeling more like April Showers lately!
I am writing to let you know that we are going forward as planned; Barrows Field Day will be TOMORROW 6/7.  This decision was made following reviews of multiple weather reports.  (most of which predict Wednesday to be partly cloudy in the 60s, but Thursday night with 90% chance of rain and Friday, our rain date, with 100% chance of rain.)  I wish we had a crystal ball to tell us what it will turn out to be, but given the current information we have, this is our effort to make the best call we can.
That being said, we know that the fields and grounds will be wet and muddy due to the current rain today and tonight.  Please consider this as you dress your child for tomorrow.  You may want to send in extra socks, consider layers, and give your child a heads-up that they will likely get wet from the grass.
With all of that, we plan to embrace the FUN and enjoy this community day with our students (because I’m sure we all remember jumping in puddles and playing outside in the rain or soon after the rain as fond memories from our childhood.)
Thank you for your ongoing support.  We look forward to a great day and a strong finish to our school year.

~Heather Leonard

Friday, May 5, 2017

Thoughts of the day....Fidget Spinners

Ah, the new craze of fidget spinners.  Just the last couple of years have included bottle flipping, thinking putty, slime, and rainbow looms.  Many of our Barrows Shining Stars have become interested in this newest fad  (They are not alone!  Google “Fidget Spinners” and you will find many postings, news articles, and blogs about these items.)  

If you consider “fidget spinners” a calming, stress-reducing, attention focusing item, then you can equate it to other learning equipment (let’s say a technology device.)  Just like that device, we have to establish our expectations for them with our students to ensure we can all find a positive learning environment.
  • If used as a tool, it helps students to focus on their work (not be distracted away from their work)
  • It is used subtly and as intended (i.e. one device in one hand)
  • It does not have noises, lights, or sounds
  • No child requires more than one at a time while in class (a stack of 3 spinners is a toy collection)
  • It is used at times when it is appropriate (i.e. while working on an independent task) and is stored in an appropriate place when it is not being used
  • As with any tool, if it is used inappropriately or in a way that creates distractions for the student or those around them, the staff will ask that the child put it away

The appropriate timing for the use of the fidget spinners and other calming/fidget tools continue to fall within the discretion of the teacher’s classroom.

If you child wants one because everybody else has one, you might recommend he/she uses it during play times/free times like snack, recess, etc.  If your child benefits from the fidget tool as a way to calm and focus, set expectations for their use at home to help establish expectations for use (i.e. not at the dinner table.) 

As with anything – we want to make sure we support our students getting what they need, but we also want to help provide a thoughtful learning environment for all our students.  Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions!

Principal Leonard

Monday, February 27, 2017

Writers Workshop

It is amazing to see the growth of writers all around Barrows Elementary.  Over the last 2 years our staff has been embracing the Writers Workshop process.  I have to say, that I see more students engaged and enjoying writing with this shift.  This new process does create changes for families, as you may not be receiving as many 'polished' final drafts as previous years.  The Writers Workshop supports the authentic writing process of sticking with a piece for a longer period of time and continually adding, editing, and improving it to completion.  This is what "real" writers do, and it encourages that thinking that you're never done and can always enrich and enhance your written pieces.  I found the information below posted by a NJ school district that thoughtfully captures an overview of the Writers Workshop model; I thought it was worth sharing with you all.  If you want to learn more I encourage you to check it out here:  Teachers College Reading and Writing Project:

Love, Mrs. Leonard

Teachers College Writing Workshop “Lucy Calkins” Guide for Parents

...The Teachers College Writing Workshop model allows students to have the “last” word; it allows students to take something pedestrian and make it meaningful.  We believe that our lives are worth writing about, and that our students need to care about what they write. We believe that writing is a craft; it can be empowering for students to learn how to become better writers.  We believe that writing should happen every day. Students in each grade write in different genres throughout the year. Students are not assigned to specific topics, but rather choose their own topics within the genre being taught. 

What does Writing Workshop look like in the classroom?
Writing Workshop begins with a mini-lesson that teaches a new strategy: Teachers start with, “So far we’ve been……Today I want to teach you…” or with a small moment that connects to what the teaching point of the day is. Or the teacher can let students know that she has been thinking about them as writers and that he/she is going to teach them something that they are actually ready for: “Watch me as I…”

The teacher may begin with a sample of her own writing or a sample of someone else’s  writing, a mentor text specific to the unit or genre being studied or with a shared writing  piece that the class is working on together.

Various charts will be on display in the classroom. These charts are visual reminders that reinforce writing strategies; they may help with dialogue, structure, elaboration, or conventions.

Ideas are generated and students practice telling their story to a partner. Storytelling is a rehearsal for writing; students develop ideas (time is spent on teaching students how to generate, and choose, a seed idea. Students may choose a good seed idea by asking themselves the following: Do I remember it well? Is this a moment that taught me something? Am I comfortable sharing it?

Revision and development of stories may include;
  • ·    Nurturing and growing the seed idea comes next through rehearsal: students are encouraged to re-read their entry and think about the big, important events in this moment, what they were thinking/feeling at each point, how did they change as the story unfolds.  Students then learn to make a writing plan.
  • ·    Students revise, making sure that we show our emotions and thoughts at the time.  
  • ·    Students take small moments and break them into beginning, middle and end. Develop the tension and the problem. The problem is not the event.
  • ·    Use illustrations to tell the story - Draw pictures and label them with words. Adding words helps formulate the story. 
  • ·    Students tell their story to their writing partner. They show each other their sketches, and they may be prompted to add more pictures and words. Partners ask questions like, what would they be saying? What would they be thinking? Students can draw dialogue boxes to reflect inner thinking; it is often easier to hear voice before writing –
  • ·    The teacher may say, “How can you bring that feeling out with your words?”  

Paper choices vary according to grade level, and there is paper choice within each grade level. Students may draft with just picture boxes, or older students may draft on paper with lines skipped so that there is room to go back and add new ideas and revisions. Students in upper grades are encouraged to write “long and strong,” or “fast and  furious” using thought prompts to push our thinking (all in all, what I mean is, this is important because…)

They consider how to begin…with dialogue, setting, action, or inner thought. They usually spend a day writing out the entire story. Teachers are modeling throughout this process: For example, a teacher may share, “My story is really about how when you’re a teenager, your parents become embarrassing. For example…” 

A few days of revision then occur. Teachers do not mark-up students’ papers with edits, but rather facilitate a process where the students themselves are thinking about what to revise. The teacher may encourage the use of prompts to push our thinking include: for  example, another example, in addition, in other words, on the other hand, this is important  because, all in all, what I’m saying is….The goal is to stretch out the heart of the story, or  what the writer believes the story is really about.

The editing process also includes a focus on grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. Students may use an editor’s checklist.  Students learn that good stories have dialogue, detail, inner thinking and setting. This is what we are looking for when we revise. The teacher may demonstrate, and then have the students try it: “Watch me, now you try it right now in your piece.” The teacher may demonstrate by showing the students a mentor text of a great writer. The teacher encourages students to try a similar style in their own writing.  

The publishing process (writing celebration) can take place in many different ways: a museum walk where students walk around and read others’ writing, student read‐alouds in front of the class, a publishing party with parents, leaving writing out on students’ desks and having others walk around the room, read the stories silently, and leave a comment. The students are taught that their writing is not solely for the teacher anymore; it is to be celebrated by all!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Super Lunch Hero!

The School Nutrition Association has named May 5, 2017 as Super Lunch Hero Day, to kick off Child Nutrition Employee Week, which is the week of May 1-5, 2017.

School nutrition employees are often the unsung heroes of the school community. There are so many individuals in our state who do wonderful and amazing things for the students and staff; we're sure that every district has at least one very special employee like this! 
SNA of Massachusetts would like to celebrate these "Super Heroes" by holding a contest describing your extraordinary food service employee. We would love to see letters from students, parents & administrators describing their favorite lunch employee. Nominations are due March 31, 2017

Nominations are for INDIVIDUALS only, not entire an entire kitchen staff. The flyer below has more information. Letters can be emailed to: Thanks, in advance, for your participation!

I invite the Barrows community to shout out our awesome Lunch Heroes!
Mrs. Leonard

Friday, February 10, 2017

Typical Day of a Principal?

Wow, today was quite an adventure!

this picture is from earlier in the week - but same idea (& same size coffee!)
As I sit here trying to catch up on some emails, I was reflecting on this day... which as unplanned as much of it was for me, was what I would consider a "typical" day for a Principal.  The benefit (and sometimes challenge) of my job, is that the typical day-to-day routine of the job is there, but often my time is filled with the unplanned or unexpected.  Today was a great example of this, starting with a 2 hour delay, a short bit of subbing for the secretary, leading to some work ensuring all classrooms and meetings had appropriate coverage and supervision.

Not long after that I received a call to let me know we had a few cars stuck on Edgemont Ave., creating a bit of a back-up.  Outside I went to try to help direct traffic and move cars was unplanned, but fun nonetheless!  As I noted in the Starburst, I loved the fact that every car that drove by was filled with smiling and waving parents and students. This is such a positive and supportive community that takes challenges in stride - it's awesome!

I also had the opportunity to fill in and help cover for supervision at all of our lunches - both to support the students and also jumping behind the line to serve when the line got too backed up!

With that I could still squeeze in a couple of meetings and phone conferences.

Although a short day - it was a full day - and although today I wasn't able to get into all of our classrooms, it was a good reminder that there are other pieces of our learner's days that are important (and it was wonderful to see all of our students' faces during drop-off and during lunch!!)

So, a typical day?  Yes... but for Principals (and for many of us in education each day) a 'typical' day means flexibility, unexpected changes, and going with the flow... but always putting our students first.

Enjoy the weekend!
Mrs. Leonard

Our Twitter account:  (you don't have to know how to tweet to check it out!)
Our school Facebook page:
Check out our weekly Starburst:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

What's up with the BMI Screening?

Families in grades 1 and 4 will be receiving a letter from Nurse Rose about upcoming health screenings.

The BMI screenings that will be taking place with Nurse Rose soon come from a Massachusetts General Law that mandates schools provide health screenings for students (M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 57 and 105 CMR 200.000). Regulations requiring BMI screening for students in grades 1, 4, 7, and 10 (or of comparable age) were implemented by the state for all public school districts about 7 years ago. 

The purpose is to provide information that families may need to support their child’s health as well as provide the state ongoing data about health trends of children in the state to inform their work as well. The information reported by the schools helps MA Department of Public Health target necessary areas of education and resources.

Although we are required by state law to perform these screenings, families always have the option to opt-out (as it is written into the regulations as well!) 

If you are curious to learn more, please feel free to check out the guidelines here:
Image result for healthy student clipart

Friday, January 13, 2017

FY18 Budget Information from Elementary Principals

January 10, 2017
Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Impacts on Elementary Schools

As many of you know, Dr. Doherty presented the Superintendent’s Recommended Budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 18) to the School Committee on Monday, January 9th. The budget is complex and detailed. There are three more School Committee meetings to review the budget with a final vote scheduled for January 26th.

Over the next month, the elementary principals will share information about the FY 18 budget and its impact on elementary schools. We hope to provide you with accurate information that will answer some of your questions. We will be highlighting specific parts of the budget that affect elementary schools. We encourage parents to attend the School Committee meetings to hear a more in-depth presentation of the budget impacts across the district.

Several recommended reductions from last night’s presentation are of particular interest to elementary parents.

  • There is a recommended reduction of 2.0 full time equivalent elementary teachers.
  • Prior to 2013, full day kindergarten para-educators were scheduled for 19 hours per week in each kindergarten classroom. In 2013, their hours were increased to 28 hours per week. In the FY 18 recommended budget, full day kindergarten para-educator hours will be returned to the pre-2013 allotment of 19 hours per week. Half day kindergarten para-educators will work 12.5 hour per week.
  • The Instructional Mathematics Coach position has been removed from the recommended budget. This coach provides support with assessment planning, instructional planning, and professional development to teachers from kindergarten to 5th grade.

For complete budget information please review the Reading Public Schools website at We will continue to provide accurate and up-to-date information regarding the FY ’18 budget on the district and individual school websites. If you have questions you can contact your school principal.

Heather Leonard, Barrows Principal
Julia Hendrix, Birch Meadow Principal
Eric Sprung, Eaton Principal
Sarah Leveque, Killam Principal
Joanne King, Wood End Principal