Teachers Matter.

In this season of reflection and celebration, we want to take a minute to put our teachers front and center. We know. You’ve heard it all before.

We think our teachers are among the very best. We cannot say it enough.

inspire-teach-changeThis time out, though, we are going to defer to researchers from MIT, Columbia, Michigan, and Berkeley. A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times (“Schools that Work,” 11/6/16) summarized findings from comprehensive studies that measured the impact of Boston-area charter schools recognized as “high expectations, high support” schools. These schools are reported to have a couple of things in common—many of which should sound familiar:

  • They invest in teachers. All else in the budget comes in as a distant second.
  • They run longer school days, relative to the other schools around them, and in doing so leverage extended contact between teachers and kids (and not always in the traditional classroom).
  • They expect students to do well and back that expectation up with sufficient and differentiated instructional support, meeting kids where they are and making a path forward.
  • They position teachers themselves as learners who benefit from and respond to feedback offered by peers and administrators who are frequent visitors to the classroom.

Continue reading


Start a Habit: Attend our Parent Advisory and Education Mtgs


Help start the conversation on Tuesday, October 4.

In the morning Parent Advisory meeting at 9:00 a.m. in the 8th Grade Spanish Room at the High School:

Our October 4th meeting will focus on the topic of bullying. To stimulate discussion around this important topic, we ask that parents read the following article: Rude Vs. Mean Vs. Bullying: Defining the Differences.

OR in our first Parent Book Study of the year at 7:00 p.m. in the middle school media center. – Words Can Never Hurt Me: Helping Kids Handle Teasing, Bullying, and Put Downs by Sally Ogden.

Please use the sign-up genius link if you would like to join us!
Order the book

New Year’s Resolutions: Establishing Good Habits

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about habits. Like many educators I use the summer to take stock and reset. Think of August 1 as our New Year’s Eve. img_8882Many of us head into the school year, determined to begin anew or recommit to habits that we know equip us better for learning and instruction. I’m sticking to a new routine that allows me to take 10,000 steps a day, both because the practice makes me healthier and because the quiet reflection makes me more effective as a leader. Internship and independent study students will meet several times this year with me as a class because learning flourishes in the spaces where we connect. I am finding ways to share poetry at the start of every week with students because a sustained commitment to the arts requires more than mere words.

Similarly, the Admin Team as a whole has undertaken some resolutions for the new school year. Each of us is setting aside time in the week to be at each other’s campuses–in classrooms with kids and teachers. We’re taking on direct instruction and mentoring responsibilities that allow us to build connections with students and walk the walk with our talented teaching staff. And we’re determined to find a way to engage our entire school community in experiences and conversations that broaden our sense of each other and the perspectives that we hold about the world around us. Continue reading

A Winning Strategy

horseraceOver the past school year, we five started to notice a curious thing. High school students bestowed by fiat the title of “Principal” on their Spanish teacher. They routinely referred to two teachers in particular as “admin” and started going to the two of them for issues about which they might previously have reached out to Connie or Joy. Staff and parents alike began noting and commenting upon the presence or absence of one or the other of us five on each of the two campuses. It all had a little bit the feel of a horserace.

We get it. It’s human nature to want to know what’s up. Is someone’s star rising? Is another person’s star falling? In the absence of clarity we perhaps should have been quicker to provide, we suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that the reductive place all the speculation seemed to be headed was to laying odds. Is Joy leaving? What about the other four of us? Are we getting ready for some big reveal that recasts who’s in charge at either or both schools? Are there “promotions” in the works? Continue reading

Getting in Trouble.

img_0609Before you get started reading, let us try hard not to let the opening sentences chase you off this post! Please believe that we never, ever judge you or your kids by their missteps. We, too, are parents to two high schoolers. It’s a full time job helping kids navigate the very precarious waters in the safe harbor they’re getting ready to leave. It’s uncomfortable to see our kids run aground occasionally–even worse to think that others are watching from the safety of their own decks. We are all in this journey together and we know as well as anyone that all of our kids will make mistakes. They are supposed to!

We’ll be honest. Every year, we hit that place where it’s rough-going as leaders. We’re at it, so this break comes at exactly the right time to help us re-center.  We, like our students, need time to recharge and get ready for the sprint to the end of our school year so that we can end at our best!

We work every day to ensure that CSD is a safe place. Despite all that we do, we know we are not immune to the troubles and challenges of the world all around us. Our kids have good, true souls, and yet we stumble over the implied racism of casual language and popular culture. Their characters are sound, but we nonetheless confront age-old issues like underage drinking, academic dishonesty, and bullying. And while technology brings so many wonderful opportunities to our lives and our education, it also brings new challenges for us as educators and parents and certainly new opportunities for giant mistakes for our children.  Affluence and abundance surround us but nothing insulates our students from struggles with emotional well-being. Continue reading

The Art of Backward Design & Raising Adults

img_0600Sometimes, it helps to focus on what you’re shooting for.

Perhaps nowhere is that a more apt assertion than when it comes to working with teenagers. The easiest answers are, of course, that we want them to graduate. As our day-to-day work as parents and educators nears its end, it’s fair to say we want some certainty that these kids of ours are going to be okay. We search for signals that we’ve given the burgeoning adults all around us all of the tools they’ll need to be safe, happy, and productive. Continue reading

Finding the Hope in Community

December 15, 2015

To Our CSD Community,

As we head into the Winter Break, we find that we have lots on our minds. All of those many thoughts and concerns begin and end with the children this school community is meant to serve. The world throws an awful lot at them in the relatively short time candlesthey walk it as kids, and the last few months have been no exception. It’s difficult for us as educators and parents not to feel a little battered by the violence and need that seems to crowd in, no matter how hard we work to shelter children from it.

And yet we must not let tragedy and fear overtake us even as we acknowledge it. As adults we owe it to our kids to respond in ways that carry us past fear and isolation. To do otherwise is to reject all that we know about the trust and security that comes from strong communities. Without it we labor under the mistaken conviction that we are best protected by hunkering down, fencing ourselves off, and seeing every person as the “other” who may harm us.

Continue reading

Reflections on Gratitude in the Midst of Fear

As we read the newspapers and watch the news, we’re often asked to stare down events
so tragic that they can paralyze us with fear. I find myself searching for meaning and even looking for someone to blame for the dearth of good answers to the challenges we see all around us. I don’t know about you, but the emotional roller coaster wears me down. I find myself stumbling a bit as I try to ascribe purpose to the events around me.

When I see tragedy, I can’t help but view it through the lens of education. For every lost adult I see on thHopeless-Hopefule news, I see the face of a child failed by a system that too often puts the needs of the grown-ups in front those of the kids. That’s why the commitment we’ve made here at CSD to never, ever fail a child is both our sincerest hope and our most daunting task. The weight it carries can truly be staggering.

Rather than surrendering to this feeling of hopelessness, let me suggest another route as we approach this Thanksgiving holiday:

Reflect instead upon the goodness that surrounds us and celebrate with gratitude.

I’ll start: Continue reading

Let’s Talk.

“The highest result of education is tolerance.” –Helen Keller

We’re in the process of starting a conversation with our high school students.

We know that at first blush the concept may sound redundant or even a little silly in a school community where dialogue is so central to the ebb and flow of daily routine. In fact visitors are often quick to point out how skilled our IMG_5716students are in the art of conversation and are struck by the range and depth of the exchanges that take place between students, faculty, and administrators. Occasionally students and parents even say we talk too much and that we’d be better served by just getting on with it.

We couldn’t disagree more. Continue reading

Finding Our Bearings.

This summer our school community lost a child.

compassTo say that the loss was devastating is to go far wide of the mark. The Admin Team, just as surely as many others among us, wrestled with raw grief, with blinding confusion, and with roiling concern for all of the friends and family that Tessa left behind. We all will miss her forever.

It’s easy to say that no one can be prepared for the loss of a child. Far harder is the effort to explain the aftermath. There are questions for which we will never have answers and, more pointedly, to which none of us can lay claim. What we can say for sure is that we are awed by the strength and resilience and wisdom of Tessa’s family in confronting their loss.

This piece is testament to all that they wished to honor and share in holding us all up at a time when we mistakenly thought we were holding them.

So, what are we to do in moving forward? Continue reading