Monday, May 14, 2018

Principal's Report- May 8, 2018- Kate Retzel

“In the desert of life, you are my oasis.”
Kate Retzel, Principal
To:  School Committee
Date:  May 8, 2018  
  • We had 31 total 5th grade and 6th grade students made the “B’s or Better” Club for the third quarter.  As the name suggests, students must have B’s or A’s in all subjects (Specials included) to be named to the B’s and Better Club.  The students achieving this are below:
5th Grade - Annie Herman, Alyssa Hoctor; Karalynn Hopkins*; Ava Lopez*; ;  Kelly Molino*; Tess Olender; Mia Puleri*; Sophia Puntin*; Delaney Reed*; Lillian Reynolds*; Omari Smith*; Dominic Velasco*
6th Grade - Delaney Boomsma; Devon Brock; Tyler Carlson*; Korey Chen*; Dayrahlin Deane; Savannah DiSantis; Taejen Drozd; Ruby Hauck; Jillian Heath*; Kira Johnson*; Shaelynn Kelly*; Isabella Kotek*; Cooper Maloney*; Allen Ni*; Arianne Resca*; Angelina Williams*
*Those students with a star have achieved “B’s and Better” status for all quarters one through three.  19 students achieved this standing.

  • Our current Kindergarten Registration is at 43 solid registrations with three additional possible enrollments to date.  The current prediction is that we will move one Kindergarten teacher to 1st Grade and have four sections of first grade and three Kindergarten sections.  We will continue to keep you updated. 

  • Our 6th Grade Students went to MCLA on April 10th this year for the annual Berkshire County Goes to College visits that Berkshire Compact for Education and Berkshire United Way sponsors.   Students visited  three different sessions with MCLA faculty staff and students.  Maybe we will have some Trailblazers from this class six years from now!

  • We had a day long visit with Karen Brown, Senior Reporter/Producer at New England Public Radio on April 5th.  She is working on a story that highlights Berkshire County’s work around “trauma sensitive environments”.  We prefer the term “Heart-Centered Learning” at LES.  I noticed it is extremely hard to have “show and tell” about your work but only be able to “tell” about it.  There is not a set day and time for the broadcast, but when I know details, I will let folks know.  She may be returning for our LES Expo event on the 14th as well.

  • I would like to thank Lori Curtin, Mia Darone, and Donna Kresiak for coordination of many, many events during Screen Free Week last week.  We had the following events and send out a huge thank you to the volunteers who ran and assisted at the events:

  • Positive Poster Making with Mr. Boule - Please notice the posters hanging in the school hallways in September.
  • Cookie Decorating with Mrs. Andrea Wadsworth - We are still getting sprinkles out of the cracks in the cafeteria tables.
  • Knitting with Mrs. Harding - a small but mighty group learned to knit and pearl and knitted in the sun with yours truly one day.
  • Family Pizza and Painting Party with Berkshire Paint and Sip. Pictures of bobcats were created. Mine will be famous right on my own mantle!
  • KidsArt Sculpting with Ms. Pollard.
  • Tennis with Lee Community Tennis Association.
  • Family Picnic on the playground with popsicles of course.
  • Kids Zumba with Soules Sports and Fitness.
  • Intro to Running with Dr. Eberwein.
  • Berkshire Bike and Blade Event
  • Nature Hike with Mrs. Retzel, Mrs. Wadsworth, Ms. Sarah Flynn, Ms. Renee Spizz, Mrs. Lea Bartini, Mrs. Burtt, and one parent volunteer, Mrs. Kristi Bilodeau.
    I am sure it was obvious to the many, many families how we value time “off
screen” at LES for healthier bodies and brains!!! Also, it was wonderful to have so many employees and community members and businesses help us show many possible alternatives to spending too much time on our screens.

  • Many kudos to Courtney Sparks and Cindy Fuller for a wonderful LES Talent Show last Friday.  We were treated to some super dancing, comedy, singing, and even some rollerblading. A shout out to our sole staff member (and mom) who performed for us, Sarah Flynn.    

  • In addition to the dates Dr. Eberwein shared with you (Family Expo - May 14 from 5-7 pm; Spring Concerts - May 22 & May 24 - 7pm; and Grade 6 Step Up - June 13th - 1 pm), I would like to share the following events happening “up the hill” at LES:
Mother Son Dance - May 11 - Open to all regardless of school! - 6-8 pm; Cost $10 per person - $25 family max.  Contact LES Office for tickets.
Field Trips: Various Days - Berkshire Humane Society; Berkshire Eagle; Berkshire Museum; 5 Wits; Great East (AND 6 Flags!)
Kindergarten Orientation
Staff Student Volleyball Game - May 18 (Always a loud but fun affair!)
SRSD Teacher Training - May 22 and 23rd.  

  • Dr. Eberwein asked us to update you on MCAS testing in progress.  As with the last two times we gave computer testing, the adults were much more worried and inept with the technology than the students were.  We had very few issues even on a day both buildings were testing simultaneously.  Students have been working right along with Math a bit quicker than ELA I imagine due to the amount of typing that is required for essay questions on the ELA test.  We will continue testing for two days a week right on up to May  25th to minimize overload and allow teachers to still teach during the MCAS month. 

  • Again, Dr. Eberwein suggested an update to the Preschool Expansion Grant and I am happy to do so.  The planning team includes all these agencies: St. Mary’s; Lee Public
    Schools; Busy Bee; Head Start; Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE); Pediatric Development Center; and Berkshire United Way.  My two fellow grant writers are Ms. Mary Nash and a name of a former Lee employee, Sue Doucette.  We have been collecting data from preschool families and day care centers as well as Home Child Care Providers.  Some key data points that we gathered thus far are:
    • 59% of preschool age children are attending 30 hours or less of preschool.
    • 63% of guardians said having full and part time slots were deciding factors. 17% said reason for not attending was preschools were full or had a waitlist.
    • 67% of families whose students are not attending preschool note that the cost being too high is a barrier.
Very preliminarily, the team is looking to fund a community resource center of sorts for coordination of all things preschool in the town. We will also plan for more access for preK by ensuring development of additional preschool classrooms in town.  Having a community resource center will provide collaboration of transportation amongst programs; use of common assessments; increasing of activities for transitions to Kindergartens; common professional development for all staffs; and increase of summer activities for the age level.  This would likely involve Memorandums of Understanding between entities.  As noted when we first applied for this grant, having this plan would enable us to apply for further funding yet to be allocated for early preschool endeavors.  We could “hit the ground running” as they say. 


Principal's Report- May 2018- Gregg Brighenti

Principal’s Report

May 2018


Since my last report in March, LMHS has been a very busy place!  I would like to report to you on the following:


  • Our annual Career Fair was held on April 13, in conjunction with the Lee Youth Association and the Berkshire Regional Employment Board.  All students had the opportunity to visit and speak with representatives from over 40 different area employers.  Members of the junior class also participated in mock interviews with employers in an area of interest.  Many thanks to the LYA, Dan Korte, and Jane McEvoy for making this worthwhile event possible.

  • On April 13, the Student Council held its annual Talent Show.  With over 20 acts, it was a great evening for our students to showcase their abilities!

  • Several field trips have been held, enhancing our students’ learning of their subject areas:
    • April 5 – Mass MoCA (art department)
    • April 12 – 411 in 413 Youth Conference for high school students
    • April 12 – STRIVE Youth Leadership Conference for middle schoolers
    • April 12 – Othello (junior and senior classes)
    • April 25 – Lola Jaffee Trip to NYC (selected seniors)
    • May 1 – Clark Art Museum (art department)

  • On March 28, the Helping Hands club sponsored our annual spring Red Cross blood drive.  We were once again able to meet our target number of pints!

  • On March 29, the middle school held its annual Spaghetti Dinner fundraiser to raise funds for end-of-year field trip experiences.  It was once again a packed house – a very successful evening.


  • The faculty continues to use faculty meeting and department meeting time to move forward on competency-based grading.  For next year, we plan to have all courses transitioned to a grading system where student grades are based upon academic “competencies” or categories, instead of the more traditional categories based on types of assessments (i.e., tests, quizzes, homework, etc.).  What this means is that in an English class, for example, grades will be based upon categories such as Writing, Reading, Listening/Speaking, and Mechanics.  Our goal is for teachers to leave school in June knowing what their categories will be for the fall.  This will be the next step in our move toward competency-based grading, which is a multi-year process.

  • At this point, we have concluded all MCAS ELA testing and are moving on to math testing, which will be followed by science.  All grade 7 and 8 testing is online this year; this is the last year for paper-based testing in high school.

  • I hope everyone was able to see the Berkshire Edge story on our carpentry program.  If you haven’t, please go to:  

  • The music department held its annual Spring Concert on May 3.  The middle school band, middle school chorus, high school band, and high school chorus gave very impressive performances.  Special thanks to teachers Joanne Nelson and Pat Feldman.

  • On May 2, 7 athletes and about 20 volunteer allies participated in the Special Olympics at Monument Mountain Regional High School.  Congratulations to all of our Special Olympians on their achievements!

  • On May 4, the district Wellness Committee brought Chris and Kathi Sullivan to LMHS for two assemblies with students.  Their message of love, compassion, and taking care of our friends and families was well received and very relevant at this time of year.  Thanks to the Wellness Committee members and the sponsors that they lined up for the event.

  • The Town has received a $10,000 donation from Pam Wickham to the Marjorie Wickham Scholarship Fund; this was matched by another $10,000 from Raytheon.  Additionally, the Town received another $1,300 in matching donations to the fund in memory of Thomas Wickham. We are very thankful to Pam and the Wickham family for their support of our students.

  • We have seven members of the senior class who are aiming to obtain a Seal of Biliteracy on their diplomas this year.  This is the pilot year for this statewide program, which recognizes students who are fluent in both English and another language.  Those who successfully demonstrate mastery of both languages will be recognized at Class Night and will have special honor cords at graduation.



Upcoming dates and events:

·         Friday, May 11 – Middle school band trip to the Great East festival

·         Friday, May 11 & Saturday, May 12 (7pm both nights) – The Watersdown Affair – written and directed by senior Hunter Cannon, in the auditorium

·         Saturday, May 12 (5pm) – Senior citizen dinner

·         Friday, May 18 (6pm) – Prom walk-in

·         Tuesday, May 22 (1:30pm) – Prom fashion show @ Senior Center

·         Thursday, May 24 & Friday, May 25 – Senior class trip

·         Thursday, May 24 (5pm – 7pm) – Underclassman art show reception @ Lee Library

·         Thursday, May 31 (6:30pm) – Class Night

·         Saturday, June 2 (1:30pm) – Graduation @ Tanglewood

·         Wednesday, June 6 – Middle school chorus performance at nursing home

·         Friday, June 8 (9am) – Underclassman awards ceremony

·         Tuesday, June 12 – 8th grade trip to Boston

·         Wednesday, June 13 (9:30am) – 8th grade Bridging Ceremony

·         Thursday, June 14 – Last day of school


Respectfully Submitted,
Gregg M. Brighenti

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.”