The new state mandate comes in light of a number of suicides resulting from severe bullying. The law, which passed 38-0 in April, requires that schools provide written action plans for bullying, that districts provide anti-bullying training to all faculty members, that staff members report all instances of bullying, and that all high school students engage in anti-bullying education starting next fall.
The goal of the workshop, according to Newton Partnership Asst. Project Director Jenny Gamson, was “to learn about bullying and understand how it plays out in the school environment. It began with a 90-minute lecture from speaker Dr. Elizabeth Englander, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, who discussed the scope of the bullying problem and stressed the importance of acting upon any instances of bullying.
The lecture was followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer session, in which staff members watching the broadcast were able to e-mail in their questions.
“Having everyone hear the same information at the same time was very positive, Gamson said. “Dr. Englander is a compelling speaker and I think most people were very engaged.
Bullying prevention is an issue that NPS has been working on for a long time. In 2009, Deputy Superintendent Paul Stein created an Anti-Bullying Task Force, and before the mandate was passed, the Newton Partnership had already been planning a training workshop on the importance of students’ social and emotional well-being.
“It was easy to make the connection to bullying prevention and intervention, since, at its most basic level, bullying prevention is about respect and tolerance for others, Gamson said.
“Bullying is something that we are very serious about, and it didn’t take a law for us to focus on this, as housemasters and teachers have been focused on this prior to this year, Principal Joel Stembridge said.
NPS and the Newton Partnership will continue to be active in bullying prevention. According to Stembridge, NPS is currently developing a curriculum for student anti-bullying workshops, which will likely consist of 10 to 12 45-minute workshops per year. The Newton Partnership will continue holding training workshops for staff members to inform them of NPS bullying policies and reporting procedures. It also plans to create a website in early 2011 containing this information for the benefit of students, parents, and faculty.
“I believe that, over time, we will see changes in the school culture, Gamson said. “The concept and understanding of the important ‘Ëœbystander’ role is still relatively new in our school culture, but this is beginning to change, and as it does, we will start to see a reduction in bullying behaviors.
“South does a very good job of working with community members around respect and tolerance for differences, Stembridge said.]]>
In January of 2007, when the plan to rebuild the school on a different site was still in its early stages, Newton residents voted to use taxpayer money from South to help pay for the cost of reconstruction at $197.5 million, an amount which made the new building the most expensive school ever to be built in Massachusetts.
Now, more than three years later, the project is in its final stages andÂÂÂ the new building is close to completion.
On June 1, Turner Construction turned over ownership of the building to the city of Newton, making any non-design-related damages the city’s responsibility.
The old building is scheduled to be demolished next March at an estimated cost of around $10 million, which will be funded for the most part by taxpayers’ money, as well as by savings.
According to Chief Operating Officer Bob Rooney, the building will be fully demolished and the site will be cleaned out by the end of July.
At the moment, however, North administrators are working on selling and auctioning off old, unusable materials that will not be transferred to the new school. A yard sale on June 5 sold items such as records and old sports equipment to raise money for the city’s general fund.
Called the “Great North Yard Sale, it was part of North’s Bringing Down the House, a three-day event meant to celebrate “student and community life at Newton North High School before the building closes its doors for the last time, according to the North PTSO website.
The celebration, which took place June 4-6, involved a commemoration of the theatre program, Theatre Ink, as well as an Open House exhibition and the closing of a time capsule.
Current students, alumni, faculty, and parents of current and former students all attended the celebration, reflecting on their experiences with North and how their lives would change as a result of the new school.
Alumnus David A. Ford, who attended North from 1983-1986, is among those who are sad to see the old building be torn down.
“I have a lot of memories of being in the building, he said. “I also have memories of running around the track field. I always loved to drive by here and I’m really going to miss seeing the old building.
Senior Louis Loftus, who will not be attending the new school this fall, is also sad to see the building go.
Younger students, on the other hand, seem to be more excited about the switch.
“I’m definitely going to miss all the theatre, and Main Street, freshman Caroline Loftus said. “But I’m still very excited about a new school, to start new memories.
Sophomore Emily Schacter agrees.
“I’m sad, but really excited, she said.
Despite differing opinions on the change to the new building, however, all current and former students, faculty, and parents have one thing in common: an appreciation for the strong academics, extracurricular offerings, and sense of community at North.
Parent Didier Putzeys, who has seen his four children graduate from North over the course of 10 years, most appreciates the diversity at North.
“[My favorite part] is the broad set of offerings, academic and social and cultural, he said. “[Students] are exposed to a variety of people, of cultures, of knowledge.
Interim superintendent Jim Marini, who attended North as a student from 1960-1963 and returned as a principal from 1990-1999, firmly believes that North is, and has always been, a place where students are nurtured and challenged and the community brings out the best in people.
“It’s a place where students can find their center, identify who they are as individuals¦ and are ready and prepared to move on to the bigger challenges beyond the school, Marini said. “It is a fabulous place where people are respected for who they are, included, and made to feel important.
Even with the change of location, Marini believes that the strong sense of community within the school will remain the same.
“What has not changed at North is the culture of the school¦ it is a place where the culture transcends time, individual people, and societal changes, he said. “This culture is permanent.]]>
Teachers will have direct access to the software and will be able to directly enter any new information students whenever they are tardy or skips class.
Instead of leaving students in charge of their own grades and patterns of attendance, parents will receive notification e-mails alongside each update on their child, essentially tightening parental control over students.
Among other objectives, the program aims to minimize the number of errors caused by miscommunications.In the current system, teachers report any student who skips class to his or her house secretary or housemaster, who is then responsible for informing the student’s parents. Teachers will now have direct control over student attendance and grades with ParentConnect, however, there will likely be fewer mistakes in communication.
Since this program will have a great impact on how South functions, the software will only be instituted as a pilot program: if administrators view it as a failure by the end of the next school year, it will be dropped. In addition, parents will not be obligated to sign up for and use the program if they have no interest in doing so.
Despite these efforts for a smooth transition, however, there is a generally negative response to the program from students.Students mainly believe that the increased control that parents will have over their children will be detrimental, rather than beneficial, as the program will heighten stress levels and hinder the development of responsibility.
“I think as high school students, we should at this point be responsible for all our actions, lateness and homework included, junior Julia Miller said. “Even though it’s probably a good idea for parents to know, there usually isn’t much they can force their kids to do.
Junior Alissa Sage agreed. “I think that this policy should be taken into effect based on various individuals, not the school as a whole, she said. “With high school comes a sense of freedom, and if a kid is skipping every history class, then his or her parent needs to know about it. But I don’t think that a parent needs to be notified if [students] have a missing homework or are late just once.
After a lengthy process and much consideration, the Newton school committee decided that ParentConnect would be an asset to Newton schools.
While the committee will have another meeting about the program Monday, June 14, it is almost certain that South will implement the program next year. Despite the negative response from students, school committee members hope that the program will turn out to be successful.
Some students, although doubtful, are willing to give it a try.
“I think that it might be a good idea, if it might provide an incentive for people not to skip since their parents might be notified, junior Adrian Montagut said. “But at the same time, it erodes student-faculty trust.]]>
“I don’t know if I’ve learned enough or if I will ever stop learning, he said. “[But] I really did try hard this year to be cautious about making adjustments without knowing the underlying issues and the history of how those issues were presented here.
Among the policies that Stembridge has instituted in his first year at South are a ban on eating in the hallways and lobby, a ban on unsupervised student activity in the building after school, and a stricter attendance and lateness policy.
These stricter policies were met with some resistance among students when they were first put into place. As the school year progressed, however, students have become more accustomed to thes changes and have generally respected them.
“I understand the reasons behind the policies and think that some of them are necessary, junior Grace Kim said.
Despite a mixed response to his new policies, Stembridge is excited to continue learning about and exploring South.
This past year, he sought out people such as Marshall Cohen, Mary Scott, and Charlie Myette, whom he knew had many years of experience at South and would be able to guide him through his first year.
“I knew coming in that South is a complex school, with layers of clubs and layers of opportunities, Stembridge said. “As different issues have presented themselves, I learn details about how particular programs came to be, how they are evolving, and ideas people have about where they need to be in the future.
With the experience he has gained from his first year at South, Stembridge would like to improve upon the levels of school spirit and stress at this school.
There are, however, many things he admires, among which is the complexity of the school.
“Complexity means different ways to help students, Stembridge said. “Students here are not complacent; there is a drive to see how programs change.]]>
The evaluations for each department will be reviewed by its respective department chair, who would keep an eye out for certain trends or teachers receiving particularly bad ratings.
“[The bill] is essentially trying to give students more of a [chance] to voice their concerns or comments about a class and help to improve the classroom experience, Senate president Ben Chelmow said. “Teachers can take down what students are feeling and improve their classes.
Junior and Student Teacher Evaluation Committee member Rachel Leshin believes that one of the purposes of having teacher evaluations is to provide an anonymous way for students to contact their teachers.
“Some teachers say that if there’s a problem come see them, but that’s overly idealistic, she said.
The evaluations, which would most likely be put into effect at the end of this school year, will be mandatory for all teachers. The forms will include rating questions, such as for how well the teacher presented the material, as well as some short answer questions.
Due to the general nature of the evaluation forms, which will be standardized for all classes, there has been some concern as to their effectiveness in evaluating teachers across the board with the same form.
The committee, however, does not believe that this will be a problem.
“What I’ve seen of the evaluation is [that] it’s general enough that it can encompass all the different fields, Chelmow said. In addition, some teachers already have their own evaluation forms, which they may continue to use as long as the forms are approved by the Faculty Council.
So far, teacher response to this bill has been mixed. According to Leshin, some teachers from the Faculty Council were “very against anyone else reviewing [their evaluations], while others were enthusiastic about the idea.
“I think [teacher evaluations] would be fine as long as they are not used by the administration to punish or promote a teacher, history teacher Debbie Linder said. “They should be used by the teachers to re-evaluate how they teach.
“It’s going to take some talking because we have to get the evaluations right and more faculty perspective on it, Chelmow said.]]>
Doctors took an X-ray of his leg and gave him crutches and painkillers for the time being, but noticed that one spot on the X-ray image looked odd. They sent Sridhar to the orthopedists, or bone doctors, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for further testing.
At his first meeting with an orthopedist at the hospital, Sridhar received the news that the spot in his leg and the cause of his pain was most likely cancer.
“I have to admit I wasn’t shocked, he said. “I had already gone through all the possibilities of what it could be in my head a bunch of times.
As doctors were still uncertain, however, they took an MRI scan and a biopsy, and later confirmed that Sridhar had osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer, under his left knee.
As part of a chemotherapy treatment, doctors prescribed the chemicals Cisplatin, Doxorubicin, and Methotrexate, a combination which they told him was one of the most difficult to undergo.
“[It] kind of destroyed me that first round, Sridhar said.
Despite the fact that his symptoms seem to worsen with each round of the treatment, the pain in his leg caused by the tumor has almost subsided. In about a month, he will undergo surgery to remove the part of the bone containing the tumor, and receive another eight months of chemotherapy.
Throughout the process, Sridhar has maintained a positive outlook on his condition.
“I didn’t really think of it in the same vein as I had thought of cancer before, he said. “Before, ‘Ëœcancer’ was a big word, something to fight… now I feel like I’ve gone back to ambivalence over the whole thing.
In addition, doctors informed him that if the surgery and treatment went according to plan, there was a 70-80 percent chance that the cancer would die out.
As the date for the surgery approaches, however, and the details for the process are becoming increasingly clear, Sridhar finds himself becoming more and more apprehensive.
According to his doctor, the surgeons may have to remove a large nerve in his leg, which will lead him to lose sensation in his leg and perhaps never be able to pick it up unaided again.
“I didn’t know what bone cancer would entail, he said. “I’m hearing a lot of scary things and the seriousness of the cancer is really starting to sink in…when the doctor first told me I probably had cancer, I greeted it as¦ some bump in the road, not the biggest deal in the world. I was kind of wrong.
While some have decided to keep their cancer hidden from the people around them, Sridhar has, nevertheless, wanted to remain open about his condition and his experiences dealing with it.
“I don’t want to set a precedent where sick people bottle up their situations and sequester a part of their lives from everyone else, he said.
At first, he began telling one person at a time, but his parents later asked teachers to make small announcements to help ease his transition back to school after a two-and-a-half week absence.
Senior Tori Wilson, one of Sridhar’s closest friends and the first people that he informed about his cancer, was at first shocked by the news.
“I was very, very sad, she said. “I’ve known Naveen for a long time, and he is an amazing guy¦ it’s really hard to hear about one of your friends going through something like that.
As the news of Sridhar’s cancer spread among his classmates, senior class president Chen Cao got a posterboard and markers and organized a secret meeting in which anyone could come and sign the poster with messages of support. Cao later surprised Sridhar with the poster in his F-block class.
“The people who made a card for me and all the people who signed¦ that was great, Sridhar said. “It means a lot when people are really, genuinely interested.
Sridhar also mentioned his parents as a major source of his strength. “My parents have done a lot, he said. “They’ve been great and probably done more [for me] than I can remember.
Despite his wide support system and positive outlook, however, having cancer meant losing some things that once brought him pleasure.
His chemotherapy treatment, for example, not only brought him nausea and headaches, but also lent a metallic taste to all his favorite foods.
“Amid all my other awful symptoms, the inability to actually enjoy things¦ [meant] essentially losing a really big part of what made me happy throughout the days, he said.
Another traumatic time, according to Sridhar, was when his hair began to fall out in the shower due to the chemotherapy.
Later on, he began finding hairs everywhere and realized that he had to cut it all off.
In the face of all his treatments and symptoms, however, he has maintained a high morale. One thing he is pleased with, for example, is that he has become more adventurous in trying out “incredibly spicy, tasty foods as a result of his metallic taste.
In addition, he does not find his short hair much of a problem anymore.
“I know I will actually look like all the other patients at Dana Farber and the Children’s Hospital, he said. “I’ll have joined the club.
Senior Julia Sklar, one of Sridhar’s friends, is impressed with his optimism.
“He never really complains or asks why this has to happen to him, she said. “Here all we seniors are, disappointed about not getting into our dream colleges, as Naveen maintains a great sense of humor while simultaneously battling cancer. It really, really puts things into perspective and I seriously admire him.
“I’m not going to become a darker person to accommodate an illness, Sridhar said. “I’d rather continue to find the humor in things and smile, which are things you can’t really do if you let cancer win over your spirit.]]>