Friday, March 9, 2018

Principal Report: Kate Retzel: March 2018

LES Weekly Staff Newsletter
“In the desert of life, you are my oasis.”
(I thought this “desert” camel was more appropriate to our situation this week!) By Kate Retzel on March 8, 2018
I will be out for the full week next week. I know this is not the typical behavior of Principal not at a conference or for medical reasons nor will some of you appreciate the “do as I say and not as I do” quality of the whole thing. Over your reactions, obviously, I have no control. I have decided to be honest as I have absolutely no poker face and I want to sleep next week and thereafter so I have to come  clean.
Also, I think this can inform our practice of a Heart-Centered Learning environment as it is not a notion just for the students in the building. different points in the past four years, I have been dually-diagnosed with Vicarious Trauma and Seasonal Depression. I do have symptoms of anxiety at times, but it’s not considered clinical anxiety. I have been and continue to be in the meds, healthy living and counseling course that we so often fight so hard for our students to access. I was quite possibly at a “3 or above” on our beloved 5 Point Scale for many of these prior school days. Did I breathe my way through? No. Did I make sure I move enough? No. Was I in the moment? No. Did I ask for help or accept help offered? No. Did I practice self care? Only a little. Fast forward to last year where “empty nest” x 2 happened and the added bonus of one bird flying the nest was a deployed soldier. The former a typical 40-something occurence and the latter not your typical experience as much anymore.  You all know what happens when a child already functioning at a 3 encounters a typical stressor - Kablooey!!!! I have entered “Fives”ville way too many times over the past years, especially last year, and need a break with all my family intact to recoup. Lesson learned - I have let the absence of breathing, moving, living in the moment, seeking help, and practicing self care go for too long.  Therefore, I need a break and thanks to the US Army I have to take it now rather than just wanting one at a school vacation time.  Also, I

would have preferred one that doesn’t include relying on my colleagues to cover for me, missing my peanuts at school, and abdicating responsibility for a week. I say all this not for sympathy, but to give a needed explanation to staff for which I am responsible. Also, this is a time where possibly I can implore fellow staff with diagnoses and without to learn from my poor example and breath, move, live in the moment, seek help, be healthy and practice self care so our arguably highly stressful job doesn’t consume us!!! Normalizing the struggles of humankind is what our school culture is all about.  Recognizing what we all need habitually is the key so we can want a break more than we need one at colleague and student expense. Thank you for trying to understand.

DR. SUESS invades LES!

Despite the snow day, fun was had at LES in the preparation for the big day! Much appreciation to our planners, Lori, Mia, and I’m sure a few additional “Thing 1s and Thing 2s!” Much appreciated for their tireless work and enthusiasm year after year to make this day meaningful and a key yearly event. More Dr. Suess fun coming on March 16th - STAY TUNED!!!

LES Meets National Public Radio!!!

Word has spread that we are passionate about creating a trauma-sensitive community aka a Heart Centered Learning at LES.  I spoke to a reporter

yesterday who is doing a story about Berkshire County’s trauma work and we will be the featured school of the county. She is going to come visit us on April 4th to record what she can to represent our work.  Recordable options in my mind are Facilitated Play, mindfulness or movement/brain breaks, food insecurity work and a fair amount of interviews with staff, students, and maybe a parent or two. I will be making a schedule of suggested times and places she can be.
Please let me know if you are a willing victim… I mean participant.

Summer School Is Once Again A  Go

“Fish, fish, we got our wish”. Summer School is once again in our budget and our toolbox for keeping kids growing - all in time to catch parents as summer plans are being made. I know I have already begun mentioning it in SIT meetings and will post the teacher openings for it momentarily. I have included transportation and LYA sponsorship in the cost so we can minimize any barriers to access.  This is a huge relief and blessing, once again.

Below are Meetings, Presentations, and Assemblies:

*****The following is the most up to date information concerning coming events that I have. I am hoping there are not any major conflicts, but do let me know if you notice anything. Feel free to share events back to me.
Thursday, March 15th - Coffeehouse Performance (by bands chorus students)
-  7-8:30 pm - LES Cafeteria

Monday, April 2 - MCAS testing begins (Final schedule coming - doing a last check with LMHS so we don’t overload the system on any given days)
Tuesday, May 22nd - 3/4 Spring Concert - 7pm   in the  “Z”
- 3-6 SRSD Writing Training - Day 1
Wednesday, May 23rd - Field Day for some.
- 3-6 SRSD Writing Training - Day 2 Thursday, May 24th - 5/6 Spring Concert - 7pm in the “Z” Friday, May 25th - MCAS testing ends

MCAS Tryout Feedback:

Thanks for taking the time to try out the MCAS even in the non-MCAS grades.  Even though they are not required until 3rd grade, awareness of needed computer skills and curriculum begins way before they enter the third grade as you know.
The most noted feedback as “remarkable” during our staff practice testing was the difficulty in maneuvering / unfamiliar symbols and controls (bookmarking info.; scrolling through text; drag and drop; magnifier; answer eliminator, etc.) - 14 feedback forms noted this. It is clear to me that practice tests should be utilized with all grades not familiar at least (grades 3, 4 and 6 - at least current 5 grade students have done it once).
The following were suggested as easy changes to practice for immediate use so students might be more prepared for the new format and computer testing:
       Students should type out answers whenever possible.
       They should double check work.
       Have lessons with tools (this was the most commented on).
       Use more on-line tools in general if appropriate.
       Do the tutorial feature on the DESE site with students.

       Ensure no other access on the Chromebooks while students are working on the test (this is not possible if the test is still open).
       Overall development of vocabulary whenever possible in lessons. (This is a district-wide ELA goal.)
       This from teachers who have done STAR and also MCAS, we need to have a set exiting and resuming protocol. (There were some nightmare issues last year for grade 4. DESE and Marie and I became good friends!)
       Prepare for headphones for students.
       Keep overlays/backgrounds a standard color unless an accomodation.
       Print the practice test scores and open responses to analyze data.
       Use a math reference sheet.
I am remembering the format being a big issue when the MCAS came out in ‘97 on paper.  Schools spent time aligning materials to look like the tests and schooling students on question formats. Also, overall, the scoring differences and what they really mean being worked out is again familiar. I stand, as I did then, with the believe that students taught standards and familiar with format should do great things on the tests.  They can do this.

PK Grant Sought

I know I sent an email about a PK grant, but it bears repeating as this is a small town and misinformation can be threatening to programs hearing untruths or disappointing to parents thinking it is coming sooner than might be possible. The grant we applied for is to plan a potential expansion of PK services for our students - an exploration of the perceived need for it based in facts and figures. It is a partnership with LYA, South Berkshire Kids (Jess Maloney), United Way, and Lee Public Schools endorsed by Smitty Pignatelli and Chris Ketcham from the Town of Lee. The plan that comes from this enables us to move forward to apply for funding for the said PK program, whatever it ends up looking like. Thank you for not promising a PK program and joining me hoping to get the grant sure to help us know our needs more clearly

and potentially be able to act on that information for the betterment of services for the Lee families.

Department Head Meeting Highlights:

I won’t bore you with the details, but our Department Heads have been giving input on budget questions and priorities. I thank them for their input for sure.  Fingers crossed for a smooth passage and many things we need.

School Safety Check

Jake will be giving a district overview to the School Committee Tuesday night about our safety plans. Our emergency books are to be updated with ALICE information. Jake has proposed consideration of an emergency bag containing necessary items for each classroom as well.
Where LES school safety is concerned, please remember to lock doors at all times. Tim will be circling the building starting Monday and every morning after ensuring classroom doors are closed and locked. If you see him quietly pull your door shut and lock it, it isn’t a judgement. He is just ensuring an existing barrier to any intruder entering our building is fully engaged/ one more thing to deter them. Never hurts to have a reminder like this from time to time. Additionally, we will work with Officer Hopkins and LPD to have a day where an officer works through preps for a day, brainstorming what lock down, barricade, and escape may look like in the different settings of the school - not just our classrooms. Also, I want people to know that Gregg is following possible grants for products that may assist us in keeping kids safe in God-forbid an incident here.

Some logistical comments in my absence:

        Jen will be the Administrator on Duty every day except Tuesday, where Tim will be the first contact.
        Tim is covering the K Parent Night for me. Thanks, Tim. He has also agreed to sing and dance for all the Community Readers on

Friday. Just kidding. I am hoping he can represent me there, though. Also, I would love to be supporting our band and chorus students at the Coffee House Performances on Thursday night at 7 pm in our Cafeteria. Maybe some teachers can make an appearance?  (Hint, hint.)

        I am available by email at all times if you need me. I plan on checking at least early every morning. If it is urgent, Jen and Tim are quite capable, but they have my number if a call needs to happen directly.

        Lea will be asking for help to cover my lunch duty, traffic duty, and morning greeting out front. Please help if you can.

Thanks in advance for  your help.   Think, “NO MORE SNOW.”

Principal Report: Gregg Brighenti: March 2018


Principal’s Report

March 2018



Between vacation, snow days, delays and late starts it has been a short month! 


  • As always, the Lee community continues to be extremely generous to our students. 

    • The Marjorie Wickham Memorial Scholarship Fund was recently designated as a recipient of donations in memory of Thomas Wickham; to date the Fund has received $14,400 in contributions from family and friends of Mr. Wickham, including matching donations from the Raytheon Company.  While these are not donations to the school, as the Town is the holder of the scholarship funds, we have acknowledged each gift with letters of thanks.

    • We are grateful to the Lee 500 for donating $300 toward the cost of a “Ready or Not Tot” doll for our psychology class.

    • Greylock Federal Credit Union continues to have success in issuing Lee High branded debit cards.  We have received another commission check from them for $540.  In the past, we have used these funds for our library “living room” furniture, and to help with the costs of the senior citizen luncheon.

  • Speaking of the senior citizen luncheon - which was very successful in the fall - we have scheduled a springtime version for Saturday, April 28.  We will be offering a free showing of a classic movie at 11:00, with the luncheon at 1:00.  Participants will be able to choose to attend both, or just one part of the event.  Information will be distributed by the Lee Council on Aging.

  • After February vacation, we held ALICE refresher training for all students and staff members at LMHS.  While our goal is to hold these refreshers once per year in any case, the recent events in Florida highlighted the importance of regular reminders of our safety protocols and plans.

  • On March 2, several of our students had their works displayed at the “Spotlight on the Arts” at the Berkshire Museum.  From the high school digital photography class: Angela Bartini, Daniel Dowd, Allison Drumm, Andrew Ruef, and Lily Zucco; and from the middle school graphic arts class:  Kyle Benzie, Emma Condron, Carter Geoghan, and Emma Puntin.

  • We are preparing to begin the pre-registration and scheduling process for the 2018-19 school year.  On Friday, March 23 students in grades 7-11 will have class meetings regarding their options and the process.  On Thursday, April 5 we will hold an Information Night for students and parents of current 6th graders from LES and Farmington River.

  • Upcoming dates and events
    • This weekend (as I write this) – LMHS Drama presents Shrek: The Musical, Friday, March 9 at 7pm; Saturday, March 10 at 7pm; and Sunday, March 11 at 2pm.
    • Spring sports begin soon … the seasonal parent evening will be held on Thursday, March 15 at 6pm, and practices begin on Monday, March 19.



Respectfully Submitted,


Gregg M. Brighenti