Sunday, June 21, 2020

June 21 Update

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We did it! The strangest school year on record wrapped up with the 8th grade Moving On Ceremony this Friday night. I would like to thank all the MPA volunteers, teachers, and staff who braved the heat to come out to support the event and cheer on our 8th graders. They all are now freshmen! Secondly, I would like to thank Ms. Lainie Higgins as well as students Natasha Dalvi, Heneni Dong, Karine and Leilani Takaki, Sophia Tsiantos, and Caterina Miotto who worked hard before the event to clean up and decorate our greenhouse to make it a wonderful backdrop for the ceremony. Lastly, I would like to give thanks to our two MPA co-presidents, Ms. Beth Lepore and Ms. Adrienne Spignesi, who spent months putting all of this together. Thank you all for your hard work!

I would like to take this opportunity to give a special thanks to Adrienne, who along with her 8th grade son, will be moving onto WHS. Adrienne has been the MPA co-president during the two years I have been here at McCall, and she has done a marvelous job serving in that capacity. I value the counsel she has given me regarding important school decisions from the parent perspective, as well as all the support the MPA has given to the school under her leadership. Most importantly, I value the sense of humor and the cheerful nature of Adrienne. Regardless of how tough a circumstance is or how complex a task is, I can always count on her to bring her positive outlook which will inevitably make the situation more manageable. Thank you and best wishes to Adrienne!

I would also be remiss if I do not take this time to wish our beloved librarian Ms. Jane Henchey a happy retirement. Jane announced her retirement in the Spring after our yearbooks went into print, so we did not have the chance to honor her with a yearbook dedication. Jane officially retired this week after over 15 years of service to McCall as our librarian. She proudly referred to her career as her “checkered past” during which she traveled all over the country, worked as a waitress, an elementary school teacher, a computer programmer, and lastly as a middle school librarian. Fun fact about Jane: She rode the commuter rail to her job in Boston while working as a programmer, and during one of those commuter rail rides she met a dashing fellow passenger, fell in love, and married him.

Jane is proud of her work promoting students’ literacy skills by matching them to the books they would enjoy reading. She fondly remembers watching an English Language Learner develop fluency with the English language as the student repeated came by the library asking Jane for more book recommendations. Among all of Jane’s accomplishments, I will mostly remember her work promoting inter-generational learning with the Literary Lunches she has held throughout her tenure at McCall. I have always enjoyed watching our young students bonding with senior citizens of our community over their shared love of reading and books. I wish Jane a happy retirement and a wonderful journey to the next chapter of her life. McCall will miss Jane dearly!

Ironically, the singular event I will always remember about this school year has nothing to do with school closure. This event occurred at the very start of the school year when I ran opening day assemblies for all three grade levels during the first week of school. Those events were memorable because they bombed spectacularly. I used an application called Pear Deck to solicit students’ input and project what they had written in real time. Clearly, it was a bad idea to give an auditorium full of students a platform to post their opinions anonymously and not expect inappropriate and silly responses from those adolescents. In retrospect, giving the students the ability to vote on different categories would be much more effective than asking them to submit responses through freeform text.

We will be heading into a summer and fall that are full of uncertainties. We are all anxiously awaiting what the State will be asking us to do for the next school year. Despite all the hard work that will go into the planning and executing for the 20-21 school year, I expect some of what we do will bomb spectacularly because we have never done those things before. When I feel the anxiety that comes with an uncertain future and think about all the potential struggles we may encounter as the result of those unknowns, I go back to my roots as a first-generation immigrant. Like many of you who experienced being the first of your family to come to a new country, this is not the first time I have started from the bottom, learned from other’s and my own past experiences, and built things from the ground up. I may be wary of uncertainties, but I am also excited, hopeful, and optimistic that I, with all of your support, will have the opportunity to reimagine what a more inclusive and better McCall may look like, and work toward those goals. I am looking forward to going on this new adventure with all of you!

I wish you a happy and restful summer, and I am sure I will be in touch again very soon.

James Lin


McCall Middle School

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