Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pat Schettini

A week after the passing of Reading's superintendent, Pat Schettini, I am just beginning to be able to write about this tragic loss. It's hard to put thoughts into words when someone so young, with so much enthusiasm passes away tragically. Therefore, I write this entry the best way I know how to articulate the many emotions which I have today.

Although my time in Reading is short, make no mistake I witnessed Pat Schettini as an exquisite leader . Reading Public Schools is Pat Schettini. Pat's style was to bring everyone on the bus and then he was going to drive us to greatness. You didn't have a choice with Pat. We had to be great because he wouldn't settle for less. In addition, he wasn't going alone. The district and everyone in it was going with him. Everyone had to work together. His unique style of being highly motivated brings everyone together for success. He was masterful. He set Reading Public Schools on the path to greatness and we are here to continue the collaborative journey he created for us.

Many of you may not know that this is the 2nd time I have experienced the tragic loss of a superintendent at such a young age. Just over 2 years ago, the superintendent where I worked in Burlington, Katie Spinos, passed away suddenly. No one knew Katie was sick when we received a call from her family that she had passed away unexpectedly from a life long blood disorder. She was a single mother of two teenagers, ages 13 and 17. She was 49.

I feel similarly about Katie to the way I feel about Pat. Katie and Pat were more than just superintendents. They were inspirations! The type of leaders who carry a district on their shoulders and you are fortunate to be along for the ride. I left meetings, conversations, and interactions with Pat and Katie energized to work harder, lead others, and allow their visions to carry me. Each in their own way made me a better principal, leader and person.

Katie always started our conversations with the words, "we need to do what's best for kids" - A saying I always follow as I make decisions about the direction of Birch Meadow. This simple idea was the premise for everything which Katie was involved with and she never wavered.

Pat was always personal in his interactions with me. School administration is a challenge and so much time is spent leading initiatives, creating a vision, problem solving, etc. After Pat and I spent time talking about school business, he always thought about me personally. He always ended our conversations with, "Are you happy?" He really meant this. It always came back to him wanting me to be happy in Reading. That was special for me. Even the last time Pat and I spoke, just after Thanksgiving, he said those same words. "Are you happy?" Those were the last words he said to me. That's a rare quality in a person and leader.

It is no surprise that Pat and Katie were friends. The selfish side of me is angry because I didn't get more of an opportunity to spend time with these two special individuals.

It is a rare opportunity to work with people with unrelenting drive, vision, and commitment. Pat Schettini and Katie Spinos were two of those people. They never allowed any challenge to get in their way of doing what they knew was best for the children. They touched my life in many ways, teaching me the importance of leadership, remaining focused on a vision, and not accepting anything less than my best.

I don't expect the pain or hurt from their loss will go away any time soon. I can only hope to honor Katie and Pat by being the type of leader as they inspired me to be.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Are you overwhelmed with the number of web sites which may or may not benefit your child? Do you have a hard time deciding what is appropriate to support your child's education or interest? Do you run out of time navigating the web? Hopefully the information below will help.

I have compiled four documents listing some of my favorite education web sites with a short description of each one. The documents are organized by grade level. Cut and paste these links into your web browser or visit EdLine to see the documents under Birchie Notices.

This link will provide a list of web sites for parents.
\\BirchDC-1\ESprung$\DT DO NOT DELETE\Reading Monthly\tech directions\web sites for parents.htm

This link will provide a list web sites for students in all grades.
\\BirchDC-1\ESprung$\DT DO NOT DELETE\Reading Monthly\tech directions\web sites for all grades.htm

This link will provide a list of web sites for students in
grades K-2.

\\BirchDC-1\ESprung$\DT DO NOT DELETE\Reading Monthly\tech directions\grade K-2 web sites.htm

This link will provide a list of web sites for students in
grades 3-5.

\\BirchDC-1\ESprung$\DT DO NOT DELETE\Reading Monthly\tech directions\grade 3-5 web sites.htm

Friday, December 18, 2009

Shelter In Place

Dear Birch Meadow families,

I would like to bring to your attention to a safety drill that we conducted at school today. This is part of the district-wide safety plan and recommendations for all schools in our district. It is called a “shelter-in-place” drill.

Please read below for the specifics of Shelter in Place.

1. No one from the outside is allowed entry during the drill. This applies to all parents, delivery men, and all other visitors.

2. All teachers and students remain in their classrooms. The teachers conduct the usual activities and maintain normal classroom routines. Students and teachers are not required to sit on the floor with the lights out as in a lockdown.

3. We explain to students that this drill is the opposite of a fire drill. Rather than leaving the building, we stay where we are until the Shelter in Place is completed.

This would be used in the event of police activity in the neighborhood, serious weather conditions, or other situations when we would want to limit access to our school without interfering with learning activities.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.


Eric Sprung,

Friday, December 11, 2009

BEFORE SCHOOL - Are we in or out?

We monitor the weather daily to determine whether students will be inside or outside in the morning. Decisions are based on temperature, safety, precipitation and wind chill factor. We use resources such as the news, internet, and sound judgement to determine if students are outside or inside each morning.

Mrs. Flatley will inform parents about being inside or outside in the "NEWS" section of EDLINE around 7:30 AM. You will see the following words:

OUTSIDE BEFORE SCHOOL along with the date.

In addition, on inside days a sign will be visible between the grade K-1 wing and the grade 2-3 wing indicating it is an "in" day. In addition, a sign will be in the office window indicating we are inside.

Decisions to determine whether students go out or stay in for recess will be determined as lunch time approaches. Due to temperature and weather changes during the day students may be inside in the morning and still have the opportunity to go outside for recess after their lunch. Please plan accordingly as students dress or bring warm clothing to school.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to call.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

PTO Board

I would like to introduce you to the PTO board. A great group of volunteers who support Birch Meadow with their time and positive influence. From left to right: Kerri-Lee DeRusha, Samantha Weld, Jenn LeConti, Bryce LeConti, Julie Callahan, Liz Rogers, and Geoffrey Coram.

Birch Meadow 2009-2010 PTO Board

Kerri-Lee DeRusha, President. Kerri-Lee has been a member of the PTO Board since the ’05-’06 school year. She was secretary for 2 years before serving as president for the past 3 years. Her daughter Kathryn is a 4th grader, and her son, Andrew, is in 6th grade at Coolidge. When not at Birch Meadow or focusing on PTO, Kerri-Lee works as Management Program Analyst for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Kerri-Lee enjoys all events held by Birch Meadow, but most appreciates the incredible volunteerism provided by the Birch Meadow community.

Liz Rogers, Co-Vice President. Liz is in her 2nd year on the PTO board, having served as Secretary during the '08-'09 school year. She has two sons, Christopher (4th grade) and Michael (1st grade). Now that Liz's kids are both in school full day, she has lots of time and energy to devote to Birch Meadow! Her favorite school event is the Ice Cream Social/Kids Raffle, and favorite place in the school is the Library.

Jenn LeConti, Co-Vice President. Jenn is in her 3rd year as Vice President. She has three children in three different schools; Brianna in 7th, Devin in 5th, and Bryce in 3rd. Working on the PTO board has been a very enjoyable experience; her favorite event is the ice cream social/kids raffle.

Geoffrey Coram, Treasurer. Geoffrey is in his second year on the PTO board, and also serves as unofficial webmaster for the PTO section on EdLine. His daughters Megan and Anna are in 3rd and 1st grade, respectively. His real job is at Analog Devices in Wilmington, but he'd rather be at the Birch Meadow playground.

Samantha Weld, Secretary. Samantha is in her first year on the PTO board. She has three children Tommy (1st grade), Lucy (pre-school) and Charlie (at home!). Her favorite school event is Read Across America.

Julie Callahan, Enrichment/Field Trip Chair. Julie is in her third year as Birch Meadow’s enrichment/field trip coordinator. She has two children - Casey (4th grade) and Joe (2nd grade). Her favorite school event is ‘Author Day’.

Tony Vacca Assembly

Friday, November 13, 2009


The song below was presented by Mrs. Tewksbury's class during our all school assembly where we introduced our character trait of the month - "Responsibility". The 4th grade led us in the pledge, school song, and then introduced us to the theme of Responsibility.

As a follow-up to the assembly, classes will be reading and discussing the book Brave Irene by William Steig for the Culture and Climate Committee's "One School, One Book" idea.

Birch Meadow has a Climate & Culture Committee. The members of the committee decided to implement this "One School, One Book" idea for each of our monthly character themes. So, just as Fourth Grade has chosen 'Brave Irene', each grade level will choose a children's book that relates to the theme they are responsible for presenting at the assembly and the whole school will share it. The follow-up activity then is based around the book.

Each of the classes will go online to the following website: http://www.storylineonline.net/ where students can hear the story read-aloud or teachers will read the book to their class. Classes discuss how Irene was not only brave, but also responsible in her choice of actions. The website also includes a downloadable activity guide.

Students will earn Birch Meadow Bears if they are observed showing responsibility at Birch Meadow. Parents are encouraged to look for their children showing responsibility at home and reward them with a bear. More bears will be sent home next week – be sure to write your child’s name and room number and the reason for the reward on the bear and return it to the office. We will display them in the lobby during Responsibility month.

Please see below for the video of the song written by Room 20 sung to the tune of “Turkey in the Straw” or as some of you might know it, “Do Your Ears Hang Low?”

“Be Responsible” Written by Room #20

SONG TITLE: Are you responsible?

Responsibility is the key
It's what's right for you and me
Do you pick up all your toys or
Do you drop them with some noise?
Is your homework in on time
If you don't then it's a crime!
Are you re-spon-si-ble?

Are you loyal and kind or
Are you stubborn do you whine?
Do you care for your friends,
Will you be there 'til the end?
Are you careful of the flu or
Do you sneeze and say "ACHOO!"
Are you re-spon-si-ble?

Do you eat a healthy snack,
Or is it junk food that you pack?
Do you run around and play
Or sit down and rest all day?
Make the bed, mow the lawn,
Are you lazy, do you yawn?
Are you re-spon-si-ible?

Do you give a neighbor a hand
Or forget to take a stand?
Account for your actions
So you don't get bad reactions.
It’s on YOU we must depend,
Follow the rules,
Don't let them bend.
Are you re-spon-si-ble?

Be responsible!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Harry Potter and the Museum of Science

I had the opportunity to attend a preview of the Harry Potter exhibit at the Museum of Science. It was a great event and the exhibit should not be missed by Harry Potter fans. While I was only allowed to take photos outside the exhibit, inside you can see scenes from the movies, various wands, Harry’s acceptance letter into school, a detention desk, Quidditch uniforms, Hagrid’s clothing and home, the great hall, school uniforms, and much more. Here are a few photos I took Friday night.

Spooky Fun Fair and Monster Mash

See the photo stories below of spooky fun fair and monster mash. Visit EdLine "principal photo stories" to see the video in a full screen format.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Respect at Birch Meadow

The fifth grade students introduced us to the our character trait of the month. This month we will focus on Respect. Students will earn Birch Meadow Bears if they are observed showing respect at Birch Meadow. Parents are encouraged to look for their children at home showing respect as well. Bears were sent home with your children a few weeks ago. Write your child's name, room number and what they did at home to show respect. Bring the completed bear to the office and we will display it in the school lobby.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Food Free Birthday Celebration Policy

Birch Meadow staff and members of the Birch Meadow Community have requested a consistent policy regarding the celebration of student birthdays. Please read below or visit EdLine "Birchie Notices" to see this new policy for all birthdays. Mr. Sprung will continue to award students a birthday pencil on their special day.

Birch Meadow Elementary School
Food-Free Birthday Celebration Policy

Birch Meadow Elementary School is committed to providing all students with a healthy and safe learning environment. Accordingly, we ask that staff and students adhere to the food-free birthday celebration policy described below.

In consideration of students’ health and safety, we request all school birthday celebrations to be food-free. We respectfully ask parents to refrain from sending in edible treats for their child’s birthday. We encourage the celebration and acknowledgement of birthdays with food-free alternatives. Parents, teachers, and students are invited to take advantage of birthdays to provide a safe, child-centered celebration that might include food-free gifts such as pencils, erasers, stickers, or a book donated to the classroom library in honor of a child. Please note that these alternatives are options and teachers or grade levels may have specific food-free requests. You are not required to purchase or send in anything on your child’s birthday.

We appreciate your help and understanding about this important health and safety matter. Please do not hesitate to speak with your child’s teacher, the nurse, or the principal if you have any questions.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Johnny the K

Johnny the K came to Birch Meadow on Friday to perform an inspirational program for all students. His message of showing respect for the world, for each other, and having positive character were highlighted in his music and hats. As you can see in the following photographs the students enjoyed the program and took from it a positive message. You can visit Johnny the K’s web site at http://www.johnnythek.com.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Before and After School safety

I need your help. Students are asked to refrain from throwing rocks, mulch, acorns, sticks or other items on the school property. In the past week students have been observed throwing these items before and after school. In some cases students, adults, and cars have been hit by objects thrown by students. Students should monitor each other, parents should monitor their children, and I will remind students about appropriate behavior. Thank you for taking these steps to keep students and our school safe.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

EDLINE TIPS for parents

Every Thursday the Birch Meadow EdLine page is updated with new information for parents. Parents who have registered their e-mail on EdLine will receive an e-mail reminder from Birch Meadow every Thursday. The e-mail provides a sneak peak of what is new on the Birch Meadow web page. Here is a guide indicating where on our web page you may find this new information.

Below the picture on our EdLine page is a "NEWS" section and "CALENDAR" section which are updated with the most current PTO, School, and Reading town information.

Secondly, you will see a heading titled "Contents" on the right side of the EdLine page. In addition to the NEWS and CALENDAR these folders are usually updated weekly.
Birchie Notices = News and fliers related to the school and the PTO are posted here.
Community Fliers = News and fliers related to the town or entire school district
Previously posted notices = Approximately 1 time a month we will archive fliers from the Birchie Notices folder and place them here. This will allow parents to see older school notices.

The remaining folders under CONTENTS on the right side are updated periodically throughout the year.

I encourage you to visit EdLine every Friday and view the NEWS, CALENDAR, Birchie Notices, and Community Fliers. In addition, review other folders periodically for information from the school system, principal, teachers, and community.

Teachers have been asked to send home paper only when necessary. Information about classrooms will be posted under the classes section of EdLine. You will see each classroom teacher's EdLine page located on EdLine in the folder titled "classes".

Thank you for your cooperation as Birch Meadow models environmentally conscious behavior whenever possible.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Birch Meadow Fire Drill

Wednesday morning Birch Meadow conducted a school fire drill. Fire drills provide an opportunity to practice our emergency procedures and accountability system. Thank you to the fire department for their support during the drill. Students, teachers, and staff were comfortable with the procedures acted appropriately.

Playground repair

On Wednesday, Sept. 16 a piece of one of our playground structures broke. We immediately roped off the damaged equipment and notified John Feudo, the town Recreation Administrator who is in charge of playground equipment. John came and assessed the damage, called GAMETIME COMPANY and a representative from that company came out on Thursday to inspect and remove the damaged equipment. Replacement parts have been ordered and will be installed upon their arrival.

Periodic inspections of playground equipment are conducted by John Feudo. The latest inspection was done on August 24th.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Birch Meadow School Motto

A school motto, by definition, should be simple and concise. It should also serve as a powerful representation of what goes on inside the walls of the school. Research indicates many positive reasons to create school mottos...
"They help set a positive tone, establish big-picture goals, focus teachers and students, and improve discipline and student achievement."

"Our motto is easy to remember, it is child-focused, and it highlights our philosophy about how children learn best when learning takes place in a fun and caring way," Rennie's River Elementary School Principal Finn-Pike told Education World. Pike says the motto has been very significant in developing "the big picture" for the school. It acts as a guiding principle as teachers design and develop classroom activities and as they interact with children.

The Birch Meadow staff helped come up with some ideas for a new Birch Meadow School Motto and we want you to be a part of selecting the best choice. Please visit the link below to vote for our school motto. Directions for voting are located at the top of the web page. You will use the 5 digit code next to each response as you vote via the web at http://poll4.com or on your cell phone. Just enter the 5 digit number next to the motto you would like to vote for. Voting will end on 9/18.

Cut and paste this link into your browser to see directions for voting and instant voting results.

If you have difficulty reading the choices on-line, the options with their 5-digit code are listed here.

67365 -- For the children - For the world - For their future
67364 -- Do you believe - Respect - Engage - Achieve - Motivate
77541 -- Together we will lead and succeed
77542 -- Learn achieve believe TOGETHER
80840 -- At Birch Meadow we...Achieve, Believe, Create, Discover, Excellence Everywhere
80841 -- Building, Independent learners, Reading children, High Achievement, Innovation, Excellence
80842 -- Discovering through partnership and laughter
80843 -- Respect, Believe, Achieve and you will succeed

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Grade 2 teacher on TV

Congratulations to Heidi Murray who was shown on TV Tuesday night and will be on TV again on Wednesday. To see the transcript and the video please visit the link below. Congratulations to Heidi. She provides great advice to parents sending students back to school.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Presidential Address On Tuesday

Tuesday, Sept. 8 President Obama will deliver a speech about the importance of persisting and succeeding in school. The Department of Education is encouraging educators, students and parents to use this opportunity to help students get focused and begin the school year in a strong way.

I am encouraging teachers to provide opportunities for students to participate in this event and be engaged with the President in welcoming our students back to school. I strongly believe that it is our obligation and part of our mission to teach students to participate effectively in civic life and the president's address is part of our regular instructional programming.

The speech provides an opportunity to see and hear a president give a message to students about the value of education, setting goals for themselves and working hard to succeed. I encourage you to have similar conversations with your child about setting goals to start a new school year.

The speech can be seen at www.whitehouse.gov

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to call me.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Birch Meadow School Improvements

The following school improvements took place this summer and will continue into the beginning of the school year. Thank you to parents, teachers, the town of Reading, and PTO for making many of these improvements possible.

• New draw string Blinds in every room in the building
• New carpet in the office and teacher’s room
• Paint in the library (PTO funded)
• 275 new desks and chairs
• 20 new teacher chairs
• 3 new laptops
• 5 new netbooks for the Computer on Wheels
• Paint in the gym, 11 classrooms, and the Birch Meadow entrance
• Smart boards in the art/music room and in the new Language Based classroom
• Parent Resource center in the lobby (funded by 5th grade class of 08/09 school year)
• Storage bin for recess balls and equipment (PTO funded)
• Walkie Talkie’s for emergencies, PE, and recess (PTO funded)
• 2 new flip cameras (PTO funded)
• 2 new digital cameras (PTO funded)
• New screen in the library (PTO funded)
• New screen in the cafeteria (PTO funded)
• 4 new color printers (PTO funded)
• New computers in the special education classrooms (Special Ed dept. funded)
• New energy efficient lighting and switches in all rooms (NORESCO
energy service contract)

Welcome to the following new teachers at Birch Meadow

Our newest hire - Jennifer Emmett - GRADE 5 TEACHER
Jan Rhein and Kristie Lambert - GRADE 2
Erin Soo Curley and Krista Erikson -- LEARNING CENTER
Kathy Garey will be moving from a special education para educator to a tutor position
Cassandra Bryant will be coming to Birch Meadow as a Special Education para educator from Wood End
Adele Keohan -- Mrs. Tucker’s maternity leave
Birch Meadow has been allocated two 17.5 hour per week tutors due to large class size in grade 1. Welcome to Alissa Landau who will serve as a Birch Meadow tutor and we are in the process of hiring an additional 17.5 per week tutor.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Furniture sale on Friday

Attached is a list of school furniture for sale in Reading. The sale will take place on Friday, August 21st from 9 AM - 1 PM at Birch Meadow and Killam School. Parents interested in volunteering to assist with the sale please contact Birch Meadow School at 781-944-2335. Volunteers will be provided with a free student desk and chair.

Photo Story

Here are additional improvements which took place at Birch Meadow this summer. I hope everyone is enjoying the summer and gearing up for the first day of school on September 2nd.
Stay cool!

Brian Bemiss

It is with mixed emotions that we wish Brian Bemiss success as the new Principal of Huckleberry Hill School in Lynnfield, MA. Mr. Bemiss was announced to the Huckleberry Hill community on August 17th.

Mr. Bemiss will certainly be missed at Birch Meadow. I will be interviewing Grade 5 teaching candidates this week. Parents in Mr. Bemiss's class will receive a letter introducing the new teacher once someone has been selected.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer Photo Story

Here is a sample of pictures from the summer at Birch Meadow. You can see some of the improvements and upgrades which are currently taking place.

My First Week

I have begun to use this blog as a way to post information about Birch Meadow School and our community. I hope you enjoy the information and welcome your comments and feedback. This does not replace the information you can find on Birch Meadow's EdLine page, but I will do my best to keep you informed of events as they happen.