Letter sent to Recorder today -
We were disappointed to see the Recorder was unable to cover Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School students’ participation in the National Walkout Day protest on March 14. I and all of the staff and community observers were quite impressed with how our students conducted themselves at this event. About two thirds of the student body joined in, by quietly assembling in front of the school, listening to heartfelt and thoughtfully prepared remarks by classmates, engaging in a moment of silent remembrance, and concluding with a silent march around the school. Although the context was sad and serious, our students’ sincerity and sense of purpose made it a proud day for the school.
Secondary Principal Annie Leonard worked with a group of students to coordinate middle and high school student participation in the National Walkout today. An email to parents was sent home explaining the details. I am impressed by the initiative shown by our students and by the thoughtful planning of this event by faculty and staff with the students. Students who choose to participate in a 17 minute protest will do so at 10:00 am and those who choose not to will be superv...ised separately. There will be no disciplinary consequence for students choosing to participate in this protest as planned. There will be no protest events at our elementary schools. Personally, I am heartened to see our students, and students across the country, expressing their dissatisfaction with the status quo. We would do well to follow their lead and draw upon their energy and perspective.
Due to the Snow Kindergarten Open House has been postponed to Thursday, March 15th. We look forward to meeting new kindergarten students and their families next week!
This is a message for middle and high school families, posted by Principal Annie Leonard -
Dear TFHS and GFMS Parents/Guardians,
We would like to let you know we are aware of rumors that have been circulating over the weekend about threats being made against our school. Montague Police have investigated the situation and have found the rumors not to be credible. The origin of the rumors stem from the arrest of a young person last week which is being addressed by the judicial ...system and the school district.
We have strong "reporting norms" from both staff and students in our school. We recognize the importance of picking up on and investigating signs of concern, and appreciate it when staff, students and families bring concerns to our attention. We also have strong threat assessment and other emergency protocols in our building. We conduct frequent trainings and drills with the assistance of state and local authorities, and we enlist their support whenever it is needed to insure student safety.
Please don't hesitate to contact the school at 863-7200 (HS) or 863-7300 (MS) if you have any questions.
Sincerely, Annie Leonard
Principal of Secondary Education
It was a great pleasure this morning to recognize Sherry Wood as the district's recipient of our Excellence in Teaching Award. This is the first year GM has participated in this regional teaching award sponsored by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and Mrs. Wood was selected by her colleagues from across the district. Sherry truly exemplifies all the attributes we wish for in our children's teachers and this award is well deserved hundreds of times over. Way to go Mrs. Wood!
February 15, 2018
Dear Gill-Montague Families,
In response to yesterday’s awful news from Florida, I would like to reassure you that the safety of your children is always our highest priority. Earlier today our principals reviewed a communication from our local state police liaison, reaffirming how we should respond to any incident similar to the one that just occurred. Our school staffs work closely with state and local police and fire personnel to train for and coor...dinate our responses to a range of emergency situations and we are fortunate to work with teams of first responders who take this work very seriously.
Here are some general points I would like to make sure you know. All of our schools are locked and visitors can only enter through the main office at each building. Teachers and administrators are aware of protocols to follow in case there is ever an intruder in one of our schools. Additionally, our students and staff participate in lock-down drills on an ongoing basis.
Especially for younger children, it would be helpful if parents and guardians would let their children know that they are safe at school and that all staff, from bus drivers, to custodians, to para-professionals and teachers are here to support them and keep them safe.
If you have questions or need support in talking to your children, I encourage you to contact your school principal and/or counselor. I have inserted information below which you may find helpful in navigating this tragedy with your child.
Michael Sullivan, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
• Turn off or monitor the television. Endless news programs are likely to heighten anxiety, and young children cannot distinguish between images on television and their personal reality.
• Maintain a normal routine.
• Stick to facts. Answer questions factually. “Yes, there was a very sad incident in Florida yesterday, but your teacher and principal are working very hard to keep you safe.”
• Remain calm and reassuring. Children take their cues from their parents, teachers and adults.
• Be optimistic.
• Be a good listener and observer. Pay attention to changes in behavior.
• Take care of yourself. You are better able to help your students if you are coping well. If you are anxious or upset, your students are more likely to be so as well.
Secondary Soap. Recently there has been repeated vandalism of soap dispensers in some bathrooms in the middle/high school. Staff have been replacing dispensers and otherwise providing soap throughout this period. School administration has recognized the importance of providing soap from the outset of this problem, especially in this heavy flu season, despite some rumors to the contrary. If you have specific questions about this topic please feel free to contact the school office.
Food Service at Gill. Last Friday, Western Mass News aired a “story” calling into question practices in the kitchen at Gill Elementary School. The piece included an interview with a woman claiming to be a parent of a Gill student and a substitute food service employee at the school. This person complained about the poor quality of the school’s food. Unfortunately, the station neglected to investigate these allegations any further. So, we would like to provide the followin...g clarifications:
1. The woman interviewed does not have children who are students at Gill Elementary School.
2. While the woman interviewed did work as a substitute in our cafeteria, it was back in 2014.
3. Our stove, which according to the interview only has one working burner, is a griddle and does not have any burners.
4. After airing the Gill allegation, the news report mentions a parent complaint about the quality of milk at her child’s school, without attributing the claim to any specific school, leaving the implication that this allegation also pertained to Gill Elementary.
Our district is fortunate to have a talented and hard-working food service staff and it does not deserve this kind of misleading coverage.
I have been asked recently about how snow day decisions get made by school districts. Here is some information on that topic. Superintendents first collect weather forecast information. I gather info from the National Weather Service, Weather Underground, Dave Hayes the Weather Nut, and, at times, other sources. As decision making time approaches superintendents contact their local DPW or road crew managers, bus companies, and sometimes police departments, to learn ...about current and anticipated road conditions. During this phase the superintendents in our area text each other with what we are learning and what our decisions will be. As you would expect, our decisions are driven by concerns for student, staff, and family safety. It is interesting to note the recent trend towards making these decisions the evening before a cancellation or delay. Personally, I value being able to let everyone know as early as possible about these decisions but I think we have to be careful and not expect this to become the norm as weather forecasts are not always able to accurately predict road conditions 18 or 24 hours in advance.
In terms of notifying folks with our decisions, we communicate this news through the following channels: emails to all staff, district Facebook page posting, calls to radio station WHAI, TV 22 and TV 40, and phone calls to all current family and staff phone numbers. We do not post to our district website as we are not able to do so directly and immediately. (This may change soon as we are exploring the development of a new district website platform).
We have received feedback that phone messages are often cut short when they are received by voicemail. Unfortunately, that is not something we have control over. I record full messages and am now in the practice of making the messages a bit longer and repeating the information so that should your voicemail cut off the first part of the message you will still hear it. We have contacted our robo call service to see if there is anything they can do fix this so that our messages will not start playing until one's voicemail starts recording.
Anyway, that is some information folks have been asking about. We are always looking to improve so your feedback via email or phone is appreciated.
School is canceled for Wednesday, Feb. 7. Looks like significant snow accumulation by the time the middle and high school would have been dismissed for our half day.
Supt. Sullivan's statement to the press about his contract extension through 2020-21: I truly value the school committee’s support and look forward to our continued partnership in advancing the district’s mission, values, and plans. This agreement will allow me to stay focused well into the future on work I am passionate about, with educators I admire. I am excited to continue building upon our gains in the areas of student enrollment, principal continuity, resource and sys...tems management, adult learning, school culture, and community engagement. Right now the district is also embarking on multi-year projects to improve how we structure student learning experiences and to partner with neighboring districts to improve our programs and fiscal sustainability. It is an honor and a privilege to serve the students and citizens of Gill and Montague at such an important and exciting time.
We are pleased to announce that GM along with Franklin County Tech and Pioneer Valley Regional have just been awarded a $110,000 grant from Governor Baker's office to explore ways to provide shared programs for students and shared administrator positions or other shared services. This was a highly competitive grant and we were just one of three school district projects in the state to get funded. Details about the grant will soon be posted on the district website, gmrsd.org. This grant coupled with the recent $200,000 high school redesign grant award are paving the way for exciting new opportunities for our students!