Sunday, October 14, 2018

October 14 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this message finds you well.  I would like to let you know that the McCall School Council will be holding its first meeting this Monday afternoon.  Aside from me, this year’s council members include parent representatives Ms. Karen Bolognese, Ms. Karen Caputo, Ms. Amy Kraft, and Ms Dana Diamond.  I would also like to welcome Ms. Shirin Haddadin, 6th grade Science Teacher, and Ms. Karen Fagan, French Teacher, who will serve as the council’s faculty representatives.  Last but not least, Sarah Adelson, 8th grade student, will be our student representative.  I appreciate everyone for giving up their time to serve and provide me with valuable feedback on important school and community matters.  During our first meeting, we will be discussion the impact of the new school start time as well as morning and lunch supervision.

As the school year progresses, you may find the need to contact the school to ask questions or to express your concerns.  McCall is a big middle school with a variety of staff members who perform different tasks and possess a variety of titles.  Therefore, it is not unusual for you as a parent or guardian to be confused about whom to contact when you have questions or concerns. 

If or when you are in that situation, the general rule of thumb is to contact the staff member who is closest to the situation – typically that person is your student’s teacher.  For example, it would be helpful if you would contact the teacher first if you have questions regarding the curriculum, student progress, homework, or concerns pertaining to classroom behavior since he or she will likely has the most direct and in-depth understanding of the matter.

If you have questions or concerns pertaining to your student’s schedule, social emotional well-being, or his or her 504 accommodation plan (if your student has one), it would be best to contact your child’s counselor first.  If your questions or concerns pertain to your child’s special education plan, it would be helpful if you would contact your child’s special education liaison first.

If the issues remain unresolved after communicating with the teachers and counselors, please do not hesitate to direct your questions or concerns to the assistant principals or me.  Ms. Lavoie works with the 7th grade teams as well as the 8th grade Silver and Gold teams.  Mr. Sheehan works with the 6th grade teams as well as the 8th grade Platinum and Diamond teams.  Lastly, if you need additional support with special education matters after you have communicated with your student’s special education liaisons, please direct your concerns to Ms. Mary Ellen Madden, the Middle School Special Education Supervisor.

As always, you are welcome to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.  I would be happy to direct you to the right person if I am not the one who is in the best position to help you.

As a parent myself, I understand how difficult it can be to watch your child struggle to learn or to cope with an aspect of school. We might be reluctant to bring up the issue with teachers and staff because it can feel emotional, or we fear it might lead to a disagreement. Attached here is some information provided by to help parents navigate through these potentially difficult conversations. is a website created by fifteen nonprofit organizations formed to support parents and families with children who struggle with learning and attention issues.  I have found that strategies that work for students with special needs and their families are often strategies that work for all students and their families.

In my opinion, one of the most helpful tip offered by the website is the idea of focusing on “I” and using “I” statements during meetings with teachers and school staff.  Even if you know that other families and students are having difficulty with the same issue, it is best to focus your communications with teachers and staff on your family and your student’s own experiences. If you know that other parents share similar concerns, it would be helpful for you to encourage those parents to contact the school.

Lastly, please do not forget that the 6th grade Halloween Dance sponsored by the MPA is scheduled for this Friday from 7:30-9:30 pm.  If your child is planning to invite guests who do not currently attend McCall to the event, we ask those guests to also be 6th graders and are Winchester residents.  We also ask those guests to please provide us with emergency contacts information so we know with whom to communicate if emergencies arise.  Please understand that we cannot accommodate guests who are not McCall 6th grade students and are not Winchester residents.

Thank you and I wish you a wonderful week.

James Lin
McCall Middle School

Sunday, October 7, 2018

October 7 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope everyone is enjoying this long weekend.  I would like to begin by thanking everyone who gave up their time last Thursday evening to join us for this year’s Open House.  I enjoyed meeting every one of you who stopped by to introduce yourselves to me.  Some of you told me how well you liked learning about the co-teaching model of delivering instruction.  McCall and the Winchester Public School district are committed to increasing the support and opportunities for practicing co-teaching.  The reason is the co-teaching benefits to both students and teachers are numerous, and those advantages are well supported by research.

For those of you unfamiliar with co-teaching, it is a method of delivering instruction where two or more certified education professionals share instructional responsibility for a single group of students.  At McCall, the co-teaching partners are comprised of one general education teacher and one special education teacher.  However, co-teaching partners can be made up of a general education teacher and one specialist like a Reading Specialist, a Speech and Language Pathologist, or a teacher for English Language Learners.  I have also seen co-teaching teams that are made up of a core academic teacher (e.g., a math teacher or an ELA teacher) and an Exploratory Teacher (e.g., Fine Arts or Music Teacher).

The main benefit of creating co-teaching classrooms is to lower the teacher to student ratio thereby increasing opportunities for individual instruction, small group learning, and stronger teacher modeling to occur. McCall, like many schools across the state, uses co-teaching as a method to deliver special education services.  By delivering individualized instruction within their core academic general education classrooms, the school will be able to minimize or even eliminate the need to pull students with disabilities from Exploratory or elective classes such as Performance Arts and Fine Arts courses.  In addition to allowing students to learn in the least restrictive setting, the school can also eliminate the stigma students may feel when they are asked to leave their general education classes in order to receive services.

The advantages to co-teaching go beyond benefiting students with special needs.  Research shows that co-teaching, when done well, will increase the gains that high performing students will make as well.  The ability for teachers to collaborate and draw from each other’s expertise will result in instruction that more creative and targeted toward all students’ needs.  In addition, the inclusive learning environment that co-taught classrooms creates the opportunity for all students to learn from each other and enriches the learning experiences of all students regardless of their abilities and needs.

The challenge of creating an effective co-teaching structure is that the co-teachers’ work goes beyond what happens in the classrooms.  An effective co-teaching model provides the co-teachers the necessary time outside of the classes they teach to co-plan and co-assess.  Co-planning is critical because co-teachers need time to develop the necessary rapport with each other and think carefully about how to deliver instruction in order to meet the needs for the students in their classes.  Co-assessing is crucial because teachers need to analyze the data they collect in order to determine whether the instructions they delivered actually bring about the outcomes they wanted to achieve.

While the benefits of co-teaching are clear, it is more expensive to implement it than the traditional one-teacher-one-class approach.  The main reason is we are utilizing two more licensed teachers to teach one class of students.  Therefore, I urge everyone to keep in mind not just the positive outcomes produced by co-teaching but also the resources our school needs in other to implement this model effectively.  During this past week’s Open House, many of you saw snippets of what McCall has done to promote co-teaching and the positive results it is creating.  I hope you will continue to support this very worthwhile effort.


James Lin
McCall Middle School

Sunday, September 30, 2018

September 30 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope everyone has the chance to enjoy this beautiful fall weekend.  We have a busy week coming up, so I would like to use this opportunity to remind you about two events that are scheduled for the next few days.  The first is the Principal’s Coffee to be held on Wednesday morning from 9:00-10:00 am in the McCall Library.  The purpose of this event is to give us an opportunity to dialog about things that are going well and areas of McCall that need improvement.  There are countless topics we can be discussing, so I would like to focus this month’s conversation on the Morning Arrival Process and Supervision.  The very generous McCall Parents Association (MPA) will be sponsoring this event and providing us with the coffee.  I invite everyone who is available on Wednesday morning to come and join us.

The second event is the McCall Open House which is scheduled for this Thursday evening from 7:00-8:30 pm.  As you all know, finding parking around McCall can be challenging.  Since we plan to begin the evening promptly at 7:00 pm, I recommend everyone to plan your commute accordingly.  Attached here is the information you will need to prepare for the evening.

Lastly, I would like to share with you a message from our Central Office regarding bussing:

Based upon ridership needs, an additional bus route will be added to WHS/McCall on Monday, October 1st.  This new route is comprised of bus stops from buses 6, 7 & 8.  Updated bus routes, including the new bus 9, is posted to the district's website.  You can locate the website by clicking here.

Please note that there is no additional bus for the elementary routes.  

Should you have any questions or concerns, please contact Ellen Whittemore at

Thank you and I wish everyone a wonderful week!

James Lin
McCall Middle School

Sunday, September 23, 2018

September 23 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this message finds you well.  I would like to begin by letting you know that I will be holding monthly parent coffees starting Wednesday, October 3 from 9:00 – 10:00 am in the McCall Library.  All parents and caregivers are welcome to attend.  This is an opportunity for us to meet and chat about issues that are on your mind.  I have posted all the Parent Coffee dates on the McCall Events Calendar and all are welcome.  You can locate the Events Calendar by visiting our website or by clicking here.   I would like to offer my appreciation to the McCall Parent Association who is sponsoring these events.

I also want to use this opportunity to ask for your help with the issue of helping students retrieve items they have left at home.  Since the school year started, each day our main office encounters between fifteen to twenty incidences of parents and guardians dropping off items (e.g., lunches, homework, and school materials) for their students.  In most of those cases, parents have asked the administrative assistants to notify their students that their items have arrived.  During a day recently, I saw first hand a 6th grade teacher being interrupted three times during a fifty minute lesson by phone calls from the main office asking her to remind students that their forgotten items have arrived.  We would like you to help us in limiting PA announcements and phone calls into the classrooms so instruction can proceed with few interruptions.  You can assist in this effort by reminding your students that if they forget an item, they are welcome to stop by the main office during passing times or during class time with teacher permission to check to see if their items have arrived.  I also encourage you to remind your students that if they forget their lunches, they can inform the Food Services staff and they will provide them with a lunch.

Here are some additional reminders for the upcoming week:

Picture Day is Wednesday - Wednesday, September 26, 2018 (Day 4), is the McCall Middle School Picture Day.  All students will report by homeroom to the gymnasium at the specified time listed on the attached schedule (please click here).  In order to keep disruptions to a minimum, we will not be making announcements to call students to have their photo taken.  So please be sure to check the attached schedule for what time your student's homeroom will be photographed.   We encourage you to remind your students to write their scheduled time in their agenda planners.

Picture Order Forms will be sent home with students on Monday. 

Friday Early Dismissal – Please remember that Friday is a student half day.  Dismissal time will be 12:00 pm.

Clubs and Extracurricular Activities  - Clubs and extracurricular activities start this week.  No prior registrations are required for most clubs and activities.  Students can just show up at the time that the clubs are scheduled.  You can locate all club information through the McCall website. 

Lastly, please do not forget that this year’s Open House is scheduled on Thursday, October 4 from 7:00-9:00 pm.

Thank you and enjoy the upcoming week!

James Lin
McCall Middle School

Sunday, September 16, 2018

September 16 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this message finds you well.  Here are some reminders for the upcoming week:

Drop off and Arrival Process – I would like to begin by discussing a few issues pertaining to the drop off process.  The district is aware that buses – particularly two routes - have not been running as smoothly as we had hoped.  We will continue to work with the bus company to resolve the issues that we had faced during the first two weeks of school.  We thank you for your patience with this matter.

I would like to remind everyone who drives their students to school that the drop off areas are in front of the building and along the Mystic Valley Parkway.  We ask parents and guardians not to enter the parking lot and especially the circle in the back of the building to drop off their students in the morning.  Between 8:00 and 8:30 am, buses, staff vehicles, as well as walkers and students who ride their bikes to school are coming into that area.  Therefore, we ask all parents not to drive into that space in order to ensure safety and to prevent unnecessary congestion.

I am happy to see that majority of the students are wearing their helmets when biking to and from school.  However, not all students are taking this important safety precaution.  I would like to ask all parents and guardians to remind their students to please wear their helmets if they decide to ride their bicycles.

Clubs and Extracurricular Activities – I am happy to announce that once again McCall Middle School with the support of the MPA will once again offer a myriad of after school activities to enrich the learning experiences for our students.  All club activities – with exception of the Jazz Band and the Greenhouse Club - will begin during the week of September 24.  Attached here is a catalogue of the activities we will be offering this fall.  The document includes each club’s meeting day and time, the name of the club advisor, as well as a link to his or her email address in case you have any questions.  This 18-19 Club Catalogue is also posted on our school website. 

Please note that the Greenhouse Club will begin meeting this Thursday, Sept. 20 from 3:30-4:15 pm in Room DG04.  As for the Jazz Band, Ms. Snodgrass will be sending out a separate notice on the audition process.

EF Trip – Ms. Grace Tripp, one of our World Language teachers, will once again lead an EF Education First trip to Europe at the end of this school year.  Included below is brief description of this year’s trip.  An information meeting will be held September 25 from 7:00 - 8:00 pm in the McCall Library for any students and families who are interested in this opportunity.

“Austria, Germany & Switzerland” June 2019

Does your child ever dream about traveling abroad? Are you looking for an opportunity to accompany your son and/or daughter? Then come to the informational meeting Tuesday, September  25th at 7pm in the McCall Library.

“Austria, Germany & Switzerland” is a 10 day trip that will take place at the end of the 2018-2019 academic school year. This trip is open to all 6th, 7th and 8th grade McCall Middle School students and their families. McCall students may travel with or without their parent but if a non-McCall sibling would like to travel, the parent MUST also be on the trip for the non-McCall student. Please note that this is a NOT a school sponsored trip.

This trip will be led by Spanish teacher Grace Tripp. This will be Ms Tripp’s fifth international trip with EF. If you have any further questions, please contact her at or you can get more information here:

Thank you and enjoy the upcoming week.

James Lin
McCall Middle School