Welcome Back to School!

Dear Mount Laurel Families:

Welcome to a new school year! The 2016-2017 school year promises to bring new and exciting challenges to our classrooms while promoting student growth both academically and socially. Our goal as a district over the past twelve weeks has been to prepare programmatically and physically for the return of students.

In July, a team of elementary teachers and administrators developed the elementary science curriculum to align with the Next Generation Science Standards. This curriculum will be implemented next year. During the 2016-17 school year, teachers will pilot a number of the units, and final revisions will be made. These cyclical revisions bring our content in line with current standards, but more importantly, the process allows our skilled practitioners to scrutinize and improve our programs.

A new program for writing in Grades 6-8, Lucy Calkins Units of Study, brought teachers in those grade levels together in August for training. They will introduce their peers to this program during our initial staff in-service days prior to the opening of school. While our program will continue to implement the writers’ workshop model with a focus on whole group mini-lessons, small group instruction, and independent writing, Lucy Calkins Units of Study will support those measures.

I am proud to announce that we open the school year with two new administrators. At the Hillside School, Dr. Briean Madden will take the helm as Principal, while James Marchesano will assume the role of Interim Assistant Principal at the Mount Laurel Hartford School. I hope you will join me in welcoming them warmly to their new positions.

This summer, as in years past, our district administrators took part in an intense three-day retreat. The emphasis for this year’s administrative retreat was the neuroscience of learning – understanding how the brain works to improve strategies for teaching and learning. Part of this fascinating professional development took place at the Franklin Institute. Meanwhile, all of our new teachers participated in a new-staff orientation lasting five days prior to the star of the school year. They were introduced to a number of Mount Laurel’s teaching strategies and best practices.

In our buildings, maintenance staff members have been performing routine tasks along with major summer projects including replacement of the shingled sections of Hartford’s roof and repair to the front sidewalk and sewer pipe sections at Springville due to erosion damage. Parkway staff will be glad to find new closet doors when they return, with new cabinets in fabrication and soon to follow. Worn carpeting was either removed or replaced in several areas, and Hartford’s library circulation desk was also replaced. We painted classrooms at Hartford, Springville, Countryside, Parkway, Harrington, Hillside and our Child Study Team offices, and replaced lunch tables at Springville, and at Hartford and Harrington, where needed.

We are well-prepared to welcome you back for a new year of collective insight and individual success. We look forward to our valued partnership as we guide a new group of students through another grade level on their educational journey.

As your Superintendent, I look forward to beginning our first new school year together!

 

If It’s Summer, in Mount Laurel It’s Time For…

…Continuous Learning!

Summer can be a time of rest and rejuvenation, however, for the Mount Laurel community’s staff, students and families it remains a time filled with continuous learning, fun and activity.

…Summer Camp Fun!

Students throughout Mount Laurel participate in fun and enriching summer camp programs offered in our schools. Whether it is  Camp Laurel , offered through the Board of Education’s Community Education Program, a theatrical summer camp offered by Curtain Call, or the YMCA Camp, these activities are held right here in our schools.

…Sports Camps!

The Spartan’s Basketball and Sports Camps are held at the Hartford School by Physical Education Teacher, Derek Reiter.  

…Summer STEM Courses!

Many students rush to fill to capacity the summer STEM courses in Coding, Robotics 1, and Robotics 2 developed and taught by Mr. Handley in the Hartford STEM Lab!

…Jump-Start June Pilot Projects for Fleetwood and Springville Elementary School Third Graders entering into Fourth Grade!

A key purpose for the Jump-Start June Pilot Project is to allow students to engage in reading literature over the summer that is directly connected with their learning goals for September.  Students who participate in this fun enrichment activity will give their fourth grade teachers insight into their reading, writing, and literary analysis skills. It is also an important opportunity for students to present their learning to their new teachers.  See the links below and begin your journey now!

Fleetwood Elementary School Materials

Springville Elementary School Materials

…Summer Reading Lists!

Mount Laurel’s Summer Reading Program includes suggested books for students in Grade 1-7. Students are encouraged to create a log of books read for discussion in class in the Fall. Your child may select a book not on the suggested list that fits their individual interests and reading level. Parents with questions about the Summer Reading Program should contact their school office, open throughout the summer. The following letters to parents detail the program by grade level. The suggested list is also linked below.

Summer Reading Guidelines

Parent Letter – Next Year’s Grades K-3 Students

Parent Letter – Next Year’s Grades 4-7 Students

Summer Reading Suggestions

...Extended School Year Programs for students with special needs!

Students who need specialized instruction to continue to demonstrate growth attend the district’s multitude of programs throughout the summer, which includes special education and related services. Students also receive reading instruction when required to help close any demonstrated learning gaps between them and their grade level  peers.

…Summer fun!

Families, students, and staff realize that learning is fun and growing to fulfill one’s potential is the best summer vacation one can achieve!

Happy Summer!!

Longevity: What It Brings To The Table

Next week, the Mount Laurel Board of Education will recognize our retirees for the year, as well as those staff members who have reached their 25th-anniversary. Looking at the list of our recipients, it is clear to me that many of our employees have dedicated the majority of their career to the families of Mount Laurel.

That’s a fine tribute to the community and its support of public education. We should all be very proud. Long-time staff members bring our history to the forefront of our operations – both good and bad. They can caution us not to repeat mistakes of the past and present solutions that may have worked before, even though they are not necessarily the latest trend.

It is fitting that just last week, I attended a Burlington County School Boards Association workshop where Board Member Margaret Haynes received a Milestone Award. Mrs. Haynes was recognized for 35 years of consistent service on the Mount Laurel Board of Education.peggi35

(From left) BCSBA President Brandon Pugh, Senator Dawn Addiego, Margaret Haynes, BCSBA Vice President Michael McClure, and Immediate Past President John Bulina.

Her longevity has no doubt benefitted the district many times over during those years. She has helped to build schools, establish policy, select school leadership and staff, and approve countless program initiatives. She has accomplished all of that as a volunteer.

Mount Laurel is indeed fortunate to have such dedicated staff members and leaders. That only happens in a community where education is a priority and parents are invested in the future of their children.  Your longevity in that regard is dearly appreciated.

Classroom Visits Are Important!

Recently I visited with Mrs. Christy Vincent’s third grade class at the Larchmont Elementary School to read an inspirational book called, “YOU!” by Sandra Magsamen. The message to our children was to communicate how special they are to us, encourage them to believe in themselves, always try their best, and work hard to achieve their dreams! Another important message for them was to be the best “YOU!” you can be!

ClassroomAlthough I will be out and about in our schools, I have encouraged our staff and principals to invite me into their classrooms and schools whenever they like. I plan to be an integral part of the educational program and ensure our students, staff, and parents are familiar with their Superintendent of Schools!

I believe it is important to spend time in our classrooms to connect with our students. The best compliment I can receive is when a student sees me and says, “Hello, Mr. Rafferty!”. To me that means I have been present for that child in some way and that made a difference to them! One of the hallmarks of the Mount Laurel Public Schools is that our students always come first.

One of the ways our students can really understand how important they are and how much we care is to spend some time with them!

On Teacher Appreciation Week

Traveler holding a compass

Female traveler holding a compass on nature. Point of view shot

“A teacher is a compass that activates the magnets of curiosity, knowledge, and wisdom in the pupils.” Ever Garrison

Anyone who has spent any time in the Mount Laurel Schools knows this to be true.

The moments that matter most are not always those that make the front page of the paper or get shared hundreds of times on social media. They are quiet, spontaneous and sometimes hard-fought. They happen in classrooms, in hallways, on our stages, in our labs, sometimes on the playground and often are hailed by a quickly raised hand.

For our teachers, that’s where appreciation lies.

Which is not to say that the tremendous luncheons, filled refrigerators, gift bags of supplies and notes provided by our parents this week are not gratifying. They are a meaningful celebration of our work together on behalf of each and every student in the Mount Laurel Schools. Thank you for being our constant partners. So as this week comes to a close, take some time to reflect upon how you make such a meaningful difference in the lives of children!

Thank You, Larchmont PTO!

Thank you to members of the Larchmont PTO for the warm welcome to their monthly meeting this week. I enjoyed not only attending your meeting, but also watching and learning how integral you all are to the mission of the Mount Laurel Schools! Listening to your discussions about the school’s needs with Principal Jackson, support of both classroom and school-wide initiatives, and especially the untiring enthusiasm displayed for generating new ideas made it very clear to me that your motivation is about what is best for students. I’m very grateful for all you do and look forward to playing a part in supporting all your efforts!

 

 

Happy Cinco de Mayo Day!

While Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in Mexico, it has evolved into a far less somber day here in America. At the Springville School, the Fifth of May was celebrated with cultural festivities such as hat dances, cakewalks and great food by second-graders, staff members, family and friends.

It was wonderful to see the integration of lessons that went along with the Cinco de Mayo Festival organized by second-grade teachers and originated by Teacher Ceil Lynn. Funded by a PRIDE Grant from the New Jersey Education Association, student artwork decorating the cafetorium was all based on Mexican culture, as were the activities in which students participated, and some of the directions given were in Spanish as well as English. A great example of learning by living!