Sunday, March 24, 2019

March 24 Update


Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this message finds you well.  Like many of you, the recent graffiti incidents have occupied my mind during these past few weeks.  Yes, it is discouraging to know that there is a student (or students) who continues to engage in hateful behaviors even after the school intervened during the past two weeks.  However, there some positive things that are happening as the result of the actions the school has taken.  Recently, I saw a student who on his own accord was putting up random notes of kindness on our walls.  He was not looking for extra credit or any recognition.  He simply wanted to spread kindness throughout McCall.  I also have Muslim students wanting to meet with me because they want to educate their peers about their religion for no other reason than to promote diversity and inclusion.  I have encountered students stopping me in the hallway to ask me whether I thought something they had just said to another student would be considered microaggression.  I am glad to see students are reflecting on their own actions and working hard to think beyond their own feelings.  Lastly, we have a group of staff members volunteering their own time to start up the Acceptance and Inclusion Committee.  I am hoping all these things indicate we are making progress toward creating a more inclusive school community. 

With that being said, this most recent graffiti incident also reminded me that our work does not stop after one assembly or one lesson.  The conversation about kindness and acceptance needs to be part of our everyday discourse.  I hope I can count on all parents and guardians to continue to help us integrate the idea of acceptance and respect for diversity into our daily interactions with our students and with each other.  The graffiti incidents we have experienced recently are not unique to McCall.  When they do happen, please know that we will always respond to ensure everyone in community know that these behaviors will not be tolerated.  The graffiti incidents also underscore the need for all of us to continue to address these matters with our students.

Thank you for your continued support,

James Lin
Principal
McCall Middle School

Sunday, March 17, 2019

March 17 Update


Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope you are well.  I, like many of you, am saddened by the news of the New Zealand mosque shooting that broke yesterday morning. I was reminded of the personal impact these events have on our children, in particular those of Muslim faith, when several Muslim students came to the main office to share their concerns. We talked for a short time and I hope I was able to reassure them, first of all, that we are safe at McCall. We have first responders nearby, and law enforcement officials were in the process of heightening security around mosques. More importantly, I hope that I communicated that we care about our students. They did the right thing by seeking out a trusted adult; and we have staff, like our counseling staff, ready and willing to listen to students who may have questions or strong feelings about this event.

I would also like to inform everyone that Monday, March 18 is an early release day.  Students will be dismissed at 12:00 pm.  We are adjusting our morning schedule in order to accomplish two important tasks.  The first is an assembly we have planned to review with all students the building’s safety procedures.  Even though we discussed this information with students at the start of the school year, the building’s Incident Management Team (IMT), town’s safety officials such as Officer Perenick from the police department and Captain Tustin from the Fire Department believe it is important for all students and staff to be reminded of what to do when the fire alarms go off or when instructions are given to “Stay Put” or to “Shelter in Place”.  During tomorrow’s assembly, we will also discuss the process we will be using to practice how to respond to an intruder event.   Our discussion will focus on two specific responses: how to evacuate if there is an intruder in the building, and what to do if you have to remain in the building with an intruder.  The information we will be sharing is the same information your students have received while they were in elementary schools and will likely receive when they move onto WHS.  I am including the slides we will be using during the assembly here for your reference.

Please note that we will be conducting a training exercise to practice the school’s responses to an intruder event on the morning of April 3.  I will be providing you with more information about that exercise in the coming weeks.  Please remember that Monday’s assembly is NOT the training exercise itself.  Students will only be reminded of what to do if emergency events occur.

Please also note that the building IMT and the town safety officials have been planning this assembly and April’s training exercise since late fall.  Therefore, the timing of Monday’s assembly is not directly related to the New Zealand shooting.  We are not planning to mention the tragedy during the assembly, but I also understand some students may be particularly sensitive to the information we will be sharing due to the mosque shootings.  Please know that our mental health staff will be available to support your students if they need help.

The second task we plan to accomplish on Monday is to have your students take a school climate survey.  The school, with the help of the School Council, has been implementing a school climate survey for the last few years.  The survey is designed to gather information about instances of bullying, harassment, and social meanness, and the prevalence of stress they encounter in their daily lives.  This year, with the help of the School Council, I have adjusted the survey to include questions that assess students’ perception of their relationships with adults in the building and their sense of belonging at McCall.  I am also fortunate to have the help of Ms. Carly Robinson, a doctoral student at Harvard Graduate School of Education and WHS graduate, to help us craft the survey questions and analyze the results.  Ms. Robinson’s research focus is on student-teacher relationship so having her expertise for this endeavor is particularly helpful.  I strongly believe one of the most essential contributors to a successful school is having strong relationships between school staff and the students.  Therefore, I am genuinely interested in how our students view their relationships with teachers and staff.  I hope you will take the time to let your students how helpful it would be for them to take the survey seriously.  

Please know that this is an anonymous survey and thus your students’ names and identities will not be collected.

Thank you and enjoy the upcoming week!


James Lin
Principal
McCall Middle School

Sunday, March 10, 2019

March 10 Update


Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope everyone is enjoying your weekend.  I would like to use this opportunity to remind everybody of a few upcoming events.

8th Grade DC Trip Parent Meeting – All 8th grade parents and guardians please remember to attend the Parent Meeting scheduled for this coming Monday from 7:00 – 8:00 pm in the McCall auditorium.

WHS Course Selection Process for Incoming Freshman – All 8th grade parents and guardians please remember that the window to enter course selections and to review course recommendations will open this Tuesday.  Please review the instructions included here if you have not done so already.

Family Fitness Day – The PE department is organizing a Family Fitness day scheduled for this Thursday from 6:00-7:30 pm in the McCall gymnasium.  Students, family members, and friends are welcome to join the PE faculty for a night of exercise and excitement.  Parents and guardians will also get to know what our students are learning in PE, meet the teachers, and have some fun with your kids.  Activities such as volleyball, basketball, pickleball, and other fitness activities will be offered. 

McCall Science Program Information Session – Ms. MaryBeth DiMare, the Middle School Science Curriculum Leader, and I will be hosting an information session on the McCall science program scheduled for March 21 from 6:00-7:00 pm in the McCall Library.  We will be talking about the steps that the school has been taking during the last two years to align our curricula to the current State Frameworks.  In addition, we will talk about the pedagogy we are using to teach those standards as well as how we are structuring the middle school courses and curricula to align with the Frameworks.  Parents of all grade levels are welcome to join us.

Thank you and enjoy the upcoming week!


James Lin
Principal
McCall Middle School

Sunday, March 3, 2019

March 3 Update


Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this finds you well.  I would like to use this opportunity to follow up on Mr. Jason Levene’s message on the Momo Challenge that was sent out at the end of last week.  Mr. Levene is the district’s Administrator for Wellness and Counseling, and here is his message if you did not receive it.  Some of you responded by sharing information from internet articles or other news sources that concluded the Momo Challenge is a hoax.  I would like to remind everyone that even if the Momo Challenge is a hoax, I know there are some middle school students who are talking about it.  Although I have no concerns about this being a widespread issue at this moment, gossips as well as other lunchroom or hallway chatters among students can quickly turn a hoax into a reality.  Therefore, I strongly encourage everyone follow the advice of Mr. Levene and check in with your students about the Momo Challenge.  This is especially important if your students are sensitive to information about depression, self-harm, or suicide.  
  
Attached here is an article from Common Sense Media.  It describes many of the popular online challenges, including the Momo Challenge, that many of your students are likely already aware of.  As the author stated, not all online challenges are harmful.  Some may even be great activities for families to do together.  Therefore, I encourage everyone to take a read and educate yourselves about the online information that many of your students may already be getting.

On a separate note, please know that I am postponing this month’s Principal’s Coffee originally scheduled for this Wednesday morning.  I am planning to hold an information session to be held in the evening of this month to discuss the course selection process for next year.  Given that the impending override vote will impact what courses McCall will be able to offer next year, it will be more helpful to hold this meeting later in March when we have a better idea what the outcome of the override will be.

Thank you and enjoy the upcoming week.

James Lin
Principal
McCall Middle School

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Feb. 10 Update


Dear Parents and Guardians,

Happy Year of the Pig to those who celebrate the Lunar New Year!  I hope all of you who celebrate this event had the opportunity to be together with your friends and loved ones and I wish you a prosperous year.  I would like to thank the Winchester School of Chinese Culture (WSCC) and the Chinese American Network of Winchester for inviting me to this morning's New Year celebration at Winchester High.  While growing up in Taiwan, I remember the Lunar New Year being a time of great fun and excitement.  It was wonderful to be with folks who also celebrate this event and be connected to my roots and my culture.

This past Wednesday morning, Ms. Judy Crocker, Coordinator of the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School Program of the Department of Transportation, came to speak to parents during the monthly parent coffee.  I am including the PowerPoint slides she used during the presentation here.  Ms. Crocker proposed a series of action steps at the end of her presentation, and I would like to discuss some of them now.  The first is conducting Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety training.  Currently, Ms. Crocker is working with our Student Council students to create and deliver a Pedestrian Safety presentation to their elementary classmates at Lincoln Elementary School.  This opportunity allows our students to practice their leadership skills and to reinforce safe pedestrian practices for themselves as well.  Ms. Crocker will be working with our PE department during the spring to reinforce safe bicycle practices (e.g., how to wear helmets appropriately) to all of our middle school students .

Secondly, Ms. Crocker recommends that we reduce the amount of traffic during arrival and dismissal times by encouraging more students to walk or bike to school.  I will be working with the MPA to purchase more bike racks in preparation for the spring when we anticipate more students will be biking.  Ms. Crocker and I will be working to figure out how to increase more parents to choose the “park and walk” method.  That is, asking more parents to park their cars and drop off their students at remote locations and then asking the students to walk to school.  This approach is complex since it will impact the traffic in the school’s neighboring areas, so we will be involving our School Resource Officer in this discussion as well.

Lastly, I would like to continue to ask all parents to please obey the traffic and parking signage posted around the Lincoln and McCall areas and exercise safe driving practices so all pedestrians and drivers coming to or leaving McCall can do so safely.

Ms. Crocker will provide me with a written report of the observations she made of our arrival and dismissal processes as well as her recommendations.  I will share that information as soon as it is available.

I would like to conclude this message by reminding all 8th grade families that the 8th grade moving-on ceremony is scheduled in the evening of the last day of school.  Currently, that day is June 17, 2019.  If we have snow days or other school closing events that will cause the last day of school to be pushed later into that week, the moving-on ceremony will be held in the evening of the new last day of school.  I understand many students will be leaving for summer camp or other summer activities on June 22.  Therefore, if the last day of school is pushed out to June 24 or beyond, we will still keep the moving-on ceremony on June 21 in order to ensure as many 8th graders are able to attend the event as possible.  The moving-on ceremony date  and time are posted in our school website calendar.

Thank you and enjoy the upcoming week, 

James Lin
Principal
McCall Middle School

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Feb. 3 Update


Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope you are enjoying the weekend.  I would like to take this opportunity to remind everyone of a couple of things.

Parent Coffee – This month’s Parent Coffee will be held this Wednesday from 9:00-10:00 am.  I have invited Ms. Judith Crocker, the Outreach Coordinator from the Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School Program, to present to you.  Ms. Crocker has conducted a few observations of our school’s arrival and dismissal processes in December and will be presenting her findings as well as her proposed next steps.  I understand many of you may not be available to attend the Parent Coffee, so I will make sure notes from the meeting is made available to all of you.

Early Release Day Tomorrow – Please do not forget that tomorrow, Monday, Feb. 3 is an early release day.  Dismissal time is at 12:00 pm.

6th and 7th Grade Dance – The MPA will be sponsoring a 6th and 7th grade Dance for this Friday from 7:45-9:30 pm.  The entrance fee is $10 and snacks and drinks will be available for sale.  All 6th and 7th graders are invited to attend the event however, but please do not forget that we will not be able to accommodate 6th and 7th grade students who are not Winchester residents.


Thank you and enjoy the Super Bowl!  I hope it sparks joy for everyone!


James Lin
Principal
McCall Middle School

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Jan. 27 Update


Dear Parents and Guardians,

I hope this message finds you well.  Thank you to everyone who came out this past week to conference with our teachers.  I hope you find the experience to be helpful.  Regardless of how well your students are performing at this point of the school year, it is important for all of us to continue to help them to develop perseverance.  I am including the following article for your reference.   This piece from Parent ToolKit made the compelling point of students who has acquired the ability to persevere is directly linked to their ability to graduate from high school, stay married, and keep a job.  It is such an important skill for students to acquire that one can argue it may be more important than learning the various contents a school teaches.

I think the key point that the author made is the importance of rewarding the students’ efforts and the strategies they utilized in order to achieve success instead of praising the students’ intelligence or innate abilities.  Consider two different ways a parent may respond to her child receiving an A on a big math test.  The first is to praise her by saying, “I am really proud of how well you organized your time this week so that you could put in the effort you needed to study for the test.”  Compare that to the second response where a parent says, “I am so proud of the A on the test because you have a good math brain.”  The first response draws the student’s attention to the strategies and effort she used and would increase the likelihood for her to return to them the next time she encounters similar challenges.  The second response linked a student’s success to her innate ability – something she has no control over.  By focusing the praise on intelligence and innate abilities, it may cause the student to think the struggle she faces in her next challenge is beyond her control, and thus there is not much she can do except to give up.  I hope you find the article to be helpful.

On a separate note, I would like to remind everyone that tomorrow, Monday, January 28 is the start of Semester 2.  Since some of your students' Exploratory Classes are semester long courses, your students’ schedules will change on Monday.  The school is not planning to print out paper schedules in order to conserve valuable resources.  Therefore, we ask all parents and guardians to access your students’ schedules through Aspen’s Parent Portal and remind your students where to go for their Exploratory classes on Monday.  The students themselves can also log onto the Aspen Student Portal in order to check what their Semester 2 Exploratory classes are and where their Semester 2 Exploratory classes are located.  You can do so by taking the following steps after you log in to the Portal:
· Click on the “Family” top tab.
· Click on the student’s name if you have multiple students in the district.
· Click on the “Schedule” side tab.
· Select “S2” on the drop down menu located right above the student’s schedule.

Please see this attachment if you need clarifications on the above instructions. 
Please note that most of your student’s schedule will not change for Semester 2.  Only the semester-long Exploratory Classes will change.


Lastly, please note that we have made a few adjustments to our MCAS Administration schedule.  Please click here for the updated MCAS schedule.  The MCAS dates are also posted on the calendar on our school website.  I urge everyone to plan ahead to make sure your students are in school during the testing dates.  We will make every effort to help your students make up the tests if they are absent for any reason.  However, taking make-up tests will cause your students lose additional instruction time.


Thank you and I wish you a great upcoming week!


James Lin
Principal
McCall Middle School