Welcome Message from Katie Charner-Laird: August 2018

Dear Cambridgeport Families,

School starts September 4th (for 1st-5th graders… September 6th for Special Start, JK, and Kindergarten) and I can’t wait to see you all again! Of course summer has its joys and precious moments of family time, building new friendships, and a different kind of exploration, but boy have I missed you all at 89 Elm Street these past few months.

Last year Cambridge Public Schools launched a new district plan, and one of the cornerstones of this plan is to Expand Joyful, Rigorous, Culturally Responsive Learning Experiences. Perhaps not surprisingly, we spent most of the year figuring out how to define what these mean. We want all children to experience joy at school and in their learning. I don’t mean joy like being happy all the time or being carefree and having no worries. I mean that we are committed to all children finding meaning and a general sense of well-being at school. We want all children to experience school as rigorous. I don’t mean this as “too hard” or “working hard just for the sake of working” or “working hard for a good grade.” I mean, we are committed to children experiencing opportunities to seek out challenge for themselves, and be meaningfully engaged in work that matters to them. We want each and every child at Cambridgeport to experience a culturally sustaining environment at school. We are committed to creating a learning environment where children they find themselves and their experiences reflected in the curriculum, in class discussions, in All School Share, and throughout the school.

As educators at the school, we have been doing significant work to expand our teaching repertoire in these domains. Over the past year and summer, teachers have attended professional development and worked in teams to design curriculum and experiences for children that will provide new and broader opportunities for them to experience joyful, rigorous, culturally responsive learning. But this doesn’t mean that the work is done. We will continue to embrace this goal this year, and look forward to sharing this with you, both in person and through the stories your children bring home each day. One thing that has become very clear as we’ve engaged in this learning as a staff is that we must do this work in partnership with families. We look forward to working in partnership with you as we all embrace this coming school year.

For returning families, you will find some changes when you return on September 4th. First… they physical plant updates! We have a new gym floor this year. We also have a change in location of the art room. The art room will now be on the top floor with the library and the Kindergarten classrooms. Finally, though this may sound like a small adjustment, your children will be thrilled to know that we have a new water fountain in the cafeteria that includes a water bottle filling station. Be sure to send a water bottle!

There have also been some staffing changes to share. Please welcome the following new staff members:

Larry Wynn-- will be our new art teacher, in the new art room on the top floor. Larry joins us from the Community Day Charter School, where he was the art teacher and program director for the past 3 years. Larry has degrees from Wheelock College and the Tufts/ School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Steve Lore-- will be our new PE teacher. Steve joins us from the Brookline Public Schools where he has been teaching Physical Education, Health, and Wellness for the past 3 years. Steve brings a great deal of expertise in making PE accessible to all children.

Emily Litman-- will be our librarian for this year. Liz will be attending the Harvard University Graduate School of Education during this year, and will be working a reduced schedule, with a focus on teacher collaboration and collection development. Emily will be teaching all of the library classes for K-2 and supporting some of the technology classes in 3-5. Emily comes to us from the Tobin Montessori school, where she has been working in the library for the past few years. Heather French will be returning from maternity leave and will be teaching the technology class to 3rd-5th grades.

Witney Christie-- will be teaching 4th grade this year in Room 202. We are thrilled to have Witney back at Cambridgeport. She did her student teaching here at Cambridgeport with Maisha Sport while she was a graduate student at Brandeis University. She spent this past year as a teacher at the Graham & Parks School, and is excited to have the opportunity to return to the place she considers her teacher home.

Jennifer Kelly-- will be a literacy coach, working with K-2nd grade teachers. Jennifer worked as a literacy coach previously at the King Open School, as well as at a Project Based Learning school in Portland, Maine. Most recently she was a curriculum director at an international school in Egypt. Jen will be part time, and sharing the literacy coach position with Annie Shah, who will continue working with 3rd-5th grades.

We will have new interns (full-time student teachers) in 1st grade with Maisha and Suzie. Rebecca Campbell joins us from Lesley University, and Sarah Heywood joins us from Boston College and the Donovan Scholars program. We will also have two assistant teachers who will split their time across Sarah, Jackie, and Alexandria’s classrooms. Theresa Gomes joins us from the Benjamin Banneker Charter School where she has been working as a classroom assistant for over ten years. The other position was filled by someone who was recently offered a lead teaching position, so we are interviewing again, and should have that position filled by the first day of school!

There have also been some staffing shifts for the coming year.

  • In the Kindergarten team, the assistants have moved around. Michayla will be working with Justin, Val will be working with Diane, and Maya will be working with Liz.
  • Amel Younis will be moving up to fifth grade to work as a special education aide
  • Morgan Staples will now be working in Kedar’s Special Start classroom. 
  • Sarah Watson will now be teaching 1st grade, and will be in Room 201 (the former art room).
  • Owen Lewis-- I mention because we often have turn over with our building substitute, but Owen will be returning to Cambridgeport as the building substitute, and hopefully expanding Spanish offerings in the Elm Street Community Schools after-school program.

If you’ve made it this far in my welcome back letter, you are to be commended! For good measure, and those who like to skip to the end for the punchline, I’ll offer some friendly reminders:

  • School starts on Tuesday, September 4th for 1st-5th Grades, and Thursday, September 6th for Special Start, JK, and Kindergarten.
  • School starts each day at 8:10AM (please see enclosed sheet titled Mornings at Cambridgeport).
  • Please bring your booklet of required forms on the first day of school and turn in to your classroom teacher.
  • If you would like to walk your child to their classroom (and we do encourage this!), you will need to find a place to park that is not in the bus loading zone in front of the school. If you are sending your child in on their own, you may pull over briefly in the loading zone to unload your child. Please do not leave your car unattended in the bus loading zone.

Finally, I hope to see you all at the Potluck on the Playground on Tuesday, September 11th at 6PM. Bring a dish to share, meet new families, and connect with old friends.

Enjoy these last drops of summer!

Katie Charner-Laird, Principal

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