Principal's Newsletter: July 19th, 2018

 
 
                                                                                                               
OUT AND ABOUT:
Summer is here and it is the perfect time to recharge your battery and enjoy this time with your family!
 
As you enjoy your time with your family, we are here at school every day getting ready for the new school year.
 
Personalized Learning: 
As you know we are planning an exciting and new education direction for our school next year. While continuing to do what we have always done so well as a Catholic School, next year we will move from the traditional education delivery model to a more Personalized Blended Education model.
 
Some of the underlying beliefs in this educational shift include the following: today we understand much more about how the brain works and how students learn; student engagement is the key to learning; we want engaged learners, not compliant learners; educational data about each student will drive instruction; we are all different in our abilities, interests, and pace of understanding; traditional education teaches to the middle of each class; and the factory model of education does not meet the needs of our 21st Century challenges.
Blending learning is defined as the blending of traditional instruction with online resources.
 
Next year, as part of this new direction, we plan to have all K-8th-grade students spend time each day in their class using the Station Rotation Model. This will take place during an 80 minute extended second period. Station Rotation is when students rotate through different learning stations set-up by the teacher with at least one of the stations being a teacher-led station and one of the stations dedicated to online learning.
 
The advantages of the Station Rotation Model are that it creates smaller learning groups within the larger class; it employs a variety of tasks and activities to increase student engagement, it allows teachers to differentiate instruction based on individual needs, it allows students to engage with information in different ways, and it makes it possible for teachers to spend even more time working directly with individual students to improve their learning outcomes.
 
If you have any questions about this exciting instructional initiative, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am at school each day between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
 
Modules: 
One of the big summer projects is adding a bathroom to the middle module in the back of the school. We are planning this project so the middle module can become the new Pre-K 3 room when we split into Pre-K3 and Pre-K4 classes. I plan to continue the Pre-K model we ended the school year with Ms. Gammardella as the lead teacher supported by two teacher assistants. Many thanks to Declan Carbin for spearheading this project with his carpentry expertise.
 
Classroom Moves: 
There are several other important moves planned. Ms. Berrios is moving across the hall into the second grade classroom, Ms. Rooney is moving her religion room into the old first grade room, Ms. Highland is converting the old religion classroom and computer lab into a science classroom and the new Maker Space Lab, and Ms. Fontana is moving her art classroom to the first outdoors module.
 
The Maker Space concept is new to our school and is a natural extension of the STEM program that we began two years ago. This new space will give our students extended opportunities with Lego robotics, audio-video production, and Mindstorm kits.
 
Small Classes: 
I have always believed in small class sizes to maximize instruction, but after speaking to students, teachers, and parents, and observing some of our small classes over the course of this last year, I have come to the conclusion that very small classes can't meet the social and developmental needs of our students. To address this issue, we are planning two new class groupings for next year.
 
Next year in the morning, first and second graders will be together with Ms. Berrios for English and math instruction. In the afternoon, the second graders will join Mrs. O'Shea's class for religion, science, and social studies. The first graders will remain with Ms. Berrios in the afternoon. I think this plan provides our primary students with time spent in small classes, gives them access to a greater range of social interactions, and allows them to experience the expert teaching of Ms. Berrios and Mrs. O'Shea. Our teachers will be able to focus on the depth of the subject and the interests of each student.
 
In addition, after consulting with the middle school staff, to address the social needs of our small incoming 6th-grade class next year, we plan to combine them the 6th-grade students with the 7th-grade students in homeroom, foreign language, English, and science.
 
Sixth and seventh grade will remain split for religion, social studies, and math. Before making this change, we looked closely at the curriculum requirements and course of study for each subject content area. We believe this new plan best meets our goal of educating the whole child while giving each child a range of academic and social experiences. No other grade levels are affected.
 
If you have any questions about these changes to benefit students, please again, do not hesitate to contact me.
 
Music Teachers: 
One staffing change: Ms. Lisa Strmecki, our music teacher, gave her notice at the end of the school year. Ms. Strmecki did a tremendous job teaching music at our school for the past six years. She poured her heart into her work and was passionate about teaching music. We are very grateful for all Ms. Strmecki gave to our school.
 
While these are big shoes to fill, I am excited to tell you that we have hired Mr. John Swingler to be our new music teacher. Mr. Swingler has taught music previously at Holy Trinity Catholic Academy in Shelton, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic School in Meriden and St. Gabriel's Catholic School in Milford. His references said the following quotes about Mr. Swingler: "He is phenomenal," "Kids love him," "Gifted musician," and "Great with kids." I am sure your child will love music class this year with Mr. Swingler!
 
Referrals: 
Good news for all the parents speaking positively about our school. The school board has voted to give a $500 tuition discount to any family that referred a new family that enrolls in our school. If you qualify, please make sure I am aware of the family you referred so we can make sure you are credited with the discount.
 
Summer Math Skills: 
Whoops! How did this get by us? Attention students who want to keep up with their math practice over the summer. Every year we provide parents with the opportunity to purchase online summer math workbooks to maintain their child's math skills. You choose the book from the grade your child just completed. The books are shipped directly to their homes and paid for by you, the parents. The books are available from Tri-C Publications, Inc. in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their web address is www.summerskills.com
 
Supply Lists: 
Double Whoops! We emailed the classroom supplies list home yesterday. Sorry for the delay.
 
Basketball Camp:
Our summer basketball camp has been running for the past two weeks. It is a great camp that focuses on skills and fun and will run for two more weeks. It is run by Coach Joe Vazzari from Trinity Catholic and staffed by OLF alumni. The camp runs from 9:00 to 3:00 each day and the cost is $250 per week. Please contact Linda Sweeny at 203-434-3441 at lindasweeny@icloud.com with questions or to register.
 
 
Time Together:
Besides spending time with your family, take time this summer to read with your child and encourage their reading. The shared experience of a read-aloud book is an experience your child will never forget. My adult children still remember me reading over different summers, classics such as "Treasure Island," "Where the Red Fern Grows," and "Anne of Green Gables." Find a book that will interest your child and enjoy the adventure together!
 
"SHOUT OUT I"
 
Geri Galasso, Becky Gammardella, Rose Highland, Solange Manco, Kathleen Rooney, Liz Fontana, Angelo Tsingerliotis and Pam Zmek. Last Tuesday, on a hot July day, these teachers came in to school and worked all day on developing the new master schedule. We had to do this as we added the extended second period for all kindergarten through 8th-grade students to have the new Station Rotation Period and added the new Maker Space lab to everyone's schedule. At the beginning of the day the task appeared impossible, at the end of the day - Mission Accomplished! Many thanks to the teachers involved.
 
COMING EVENTS:
 
June 29th - August 29th - Summer Vacation
August 28 and 29th - Staff Retreat and PD
August 29th - Meet Your Teacher Event for new and returning students and parents at 2:00 p.m.
August 30th - First day of school for Kindergarten through 8th-grade students
September 3rd - Labor Day - No School
September 4th - First day of school for Pre-K students
September 20th - Open School Night Dinner and Social beginning at 6:00 p.m.
October 8th - Columbus Day - No School
November 2nd - end of the first quarter
November 6th - No school for teacher PD
November 8th and 9th - 11:30 dismissal for Parent/Teacher Conferences
November 12th - Veteran's Day - No School
November 21st - 11:30 Dismissal
November 22nd and 23rd - Thanksgiving - No School
December 21st - 11:30 Dismissal for Christmas Break
December 24th - January 1st - Christmas Break
 
And Finally:
Last June, we had Ms. Vittora Sondo working with our middle math and science students as part of a course requirement for her Master's in Education degree from Sacred Heart University. At the end of the school year, this is the email that she sent me thanking us for the opportunity and reflecting on working with your children.
 
"Good morning, Stan! 
 
I just wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you again for allowing me to conduct my field experience at Our Lady of Fatima over the past few weeks. Your entire staff was so welcoming, generous, and kind, especially Mrs. Galasso and Mrs. Highland. The OLF students are lucky to have such passionate and motivating teachers and administrators! 
 
I had the privilege to spend much of my time with many of the middle school students - they are all so well-grounded, respectful, and polite. This is a testament to the support they receive at home and within the Our Lady of Fatima community - thank you for all that you do to prepare this wonderful group of students for success in the future.
 
Wishing you all a wonderful end of the school year!"
 
What wonderful tribute to our students, their families, and teachers from an outside and neutral observer. Bravo, Fatima Community!