I hope that you and your children had a very good February break last week. I would like to offer a few updates.
We have so many student achievements and successes all the time, it would be impossible to capture them all. However, I do want to highlight and congratulate our BHS seniors who have advanced to the finalist stage for the National Merit Scholarship Competition. This is an impressive accomplishment and we have a large number of national finalists. Congratulations to: Zachary Altshuler, Jacob Arnstein, Elizabeth Filine, Samuel Klein, Enrico Micali, Jaime Marks, Sofia Tong, and Hal Treidman.
I would like to introduce a new resource that reflects our work on anti-racism, anti-bias, and equity. The BHS Diversity Matters webpage is on the BHS website (link). Students and staff recently suggested this page to collect information, actions, resources, and updates on this important work. Students can offer feedback, ideas, suggestions, and also report concerns on the "Feedback/Suggestions" link. This webpage is a work-in-progress. So is our work to counter institutional racism. We know that we are doing some things right, and we know that we are getting some things wrong. Our goal is to continue to build community and build open discourse around all of our challenges. BHS has always been at its best when it creates healthy and open collaboration with students and faculty about the best methods to solve problems. Our students are pushing faculty and BHS leadership to think, act, feel, listen and learn with them. In turn, faculty and leadership are pushing students to think, act, learn, and take action such as engaging in our hiring committees and working with us to make all departments and programs more inclusive and equitable. See our “Lunch and Learn Series” on the Diversity Matters webpage. I support student activism and note that it is squarely in line with BHS' history and tradition of being an early national model of a democratic high school, where students drive school change.
Date: December 1, 2015
To: BHS Parents/Guardians
From: Deborah Holman, Headmaster
Re: School Improvement Vision and Plan
Dear BHS Parents and Guardians:
I hope you and your families had an enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. Last week Brookline High was abuzz with Warrior pride in preparation for the annual athletics pep rally on Wednesday and the historic annual football game on Thursday against rival Newton North. At this time of year, many seniors are focusing on studies as well as on post-high school planning, and our freshman have settled quite well into ninth grade at BHS.
I would like to share an important document that I have recently been speaking about with faculty, student, and parent groups. The BHS School Improvement Plan is an annual document published on the district website, and it can be found here: BHS SIP. The process of building the plan began with the BHS School Council last spring, continued over the summer with faculty and administrative groups, and circled back to the BHS School Council this fall. It reflects the work of many hands and minds. This includes the ideas of faculty and students, the thoughtfulness and feedback of our School Council, a few BHS parents' recommendations for partner organizations, and the generous financial support of some key initiatives from our amazing PTO.
While the plan in no way covers all of the many exciting and challenging improvement efforts occurring, it addresses one of our primary goals: “Ensure that every student meets or exceeds Brookline's high standards and eliminate persistent gaps in student achievement by establishing educational equity across all classrooms, schools, and programs.” This involves examining and improving our structures, instruction, and school culture with a focus on developing our increasingly diverse student body. As you will see, the school improvement plan is a big enterprise, but it has a clear headline - it's about acting on our values around excellence, fairness, and equity, and about our belief that BHS can and must do better to serve all students.
The strength of the Brookline High community has always been in its ability to develop community around its challenges. I look forward to the important and challenging work we have to do together. Please feel free to offer any questions and ideas.
BROOKLINE HIGH SCHOOL
Office of the Headmaster
August 20, 2015
Dear Students, Parents, Guardians:
Welcome to the 2015 – 2016 school year. I hope you have had a restful and fun summer and you are getting ready for another Brookline High school year. In addition to enjoying summer sun, spending time with your family and friends, and summer jobs or camp, you have probably seen something of the 2016 presidential campaign. Bernie Sanders? Marco Rubio? Ben Carson? Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump? As a former U.S. History teacher and an Iowa native, I love an election year. Having grown up with the Iowa caucuses in my hometown, having done government class ‘campaign hours’ for local and national candidates as a twelfth grader in Des Moines, having debated Democratic and Republican policies with parents and friends in the 1980s, my high school classmates and I became political animals by the time we had diploma in hand. Our neighborhood community was equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, hence some hefty differences in belief. This made the debate compelling and interesting. In the 1984 election, my classmates and I were twelfth graders, therefore often our debate was fierce and competitive, intense and impassioned, gendered, emotional, and fun. It was instructive – we learned a lot from listening to and debating each other and our teachers.
One of Brookline High’s legacies is that it is a place where true listening, debating, and thinking are highly valued. These are at the core of any democratic community. This year, as a school community, we will continue our important work and conversations about how our diverse school can become even more truly integrated in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, class, religion, sexual orientation, and disability. My predecessor, Dr. Bob Weintraub, often articulated that Brookline High should aspire to be a microcosm of an ideal America – in terms of values like equality, opportunity, discourse, and debate. With that aspiration as a guide, ideally this year our conversations and thinking will go deep, will be honest and edgy, will represent multiple points of view and styles, and will be cognizant that students and faculty feel deeply about important issues. Ideally, Brookline High will be a safe space for students and adults to share ideas, try on new thinking, make mistakes, learn and grow – whether our focus is the 2016 presidential candidates, BHS cell phone use, student dress, the homework policy, or more weighty and profound topics such as issues of racism and privilege or our reactions to national events that move us. And with that all in mind, let’s start another great school year.
The faculty and I anxiously await your arrival on September 3th and 4th. Please see the Opening Days schedules for arrival times and block schedules. Student course schedules are now available on the Aspen portal. Also, if you find an error or omission in the student schedule, it can be fixed at our Arena Scheduling Day on Wednesday, August 26. This is a student-only event. We welcome grade 12 from 8:30 to 11:30 am, and grades 9, 10, and 11 may attend from 9:30 to 11:30 am. Please welcome a new member of the BHS administrative team: Ms. Darby Neff-Verre, our new Coordinator of Guidance and Counseling, is getting into BHS-mode. She’s been around this summer getting oriented and meeting students and staff. Finally, remember that our school-wide summer reading will be discussed in the first weeks of your English classes. Grades 11 and 12 read Caucasia by Danzy Senna (Brookline High alum class of ‘88!), and Grades 9 and 10 read American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Enjoy the remainder of your summer, and I look forward to another great year together.
Ms. Deborah Holman
Very proud of all BHS students who spoke, read, performed. Diyana T., you blew us away. "I don't have the vocabulary for Ferguson."
Cultivating an exciting and challenging learning environment that develops “healthy and happy kids.”
Back in September, during our series of parent nights, I focused on one of my most important goals for Brookline High, which is to cultivate an exciting and challenging learning environment that develops “healthy and happy kids.” We are working on that goal in many ways, and I want to share a few updates. Our 2014-2015 School Improvement Plan includes this goal:
“To focus on mental health, wellness, and managing stress. Our goal is to identify and publicize a more comprehensive mental health support system. And also to achieve a better coordination among current mental health services at BHS or in Brookline.”
To that end, we have many corners of the school reflecting on stress, homework load, creating balanced and manageable course schedules, mental health and wellness, and coordinating our continuum of socio-emotional supports. These groups are involved: Student/Faculty Legislature, School Site Council, Faculty Council, Department Heads, Guidance Department, a new BHS 2020 “Wellness” Working Group, and the Health and Fitness Department.
In terms of changes in staffing over the last few years, we have increased our psychologists at BHS from 2.5 to 3.1 FTEs. And we are intentionally dedicating more psychologist time to directly supporting students. The school department has hired Christina Palmer, LMFT, who serves as the Director of Guidance and Clinical Services for grades pre-K through twelve. She works to support the BHS guidance and clinical services staff.
BHS also welcomed school social worker Jorge Membreno this year. Jorge joins social worker Mary Minott, and together they are our substance abuse prevention team. They work closely with our three BHS social workers to support students and the work of guidance counselors and deans.
We strive to provide our students a top-notch learning experience within a positive atmosphere and school culture. We also believe strongly in the family-school partnership that supports your children while they are at BHS. Remember that, in addition to family and community supports, BHS has a rich array of services to help students navigate the ups and downs of high school. I've listed those programs, services, and contacts on the attached page.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to us, even if you are simply worried about your child but unsure of the problem, and just want some feedback or another perspective.
BHS Counseling Resources
Click here for an update on the work faculty have initiated http://tinyurl.com/l4v8q3l
Click here for an update on the work faculty have initiated http://tinyurl.com/q4fxsle
Faculty learning series guest speaker, David Weinberger, who is an author, tech thinker, former BHS father. The next day, David's blog featured reflections on our discussions. Take a look:
Blog: BHS and D. Weinberger
Dear Brookline Parents/Guardians:
Brookline High has always been about giving students core competencies, and the new 21st century core competencies include digital and technology literacy. The ways that we learn are changing every day in terms of our new definitions of knowledge, our new modes of accessing that knowledge, and the new global audience to which we all now have access. BHS faculty have been actively exploring and experimenting with how to enhance student learning by using the new tools available to us. To support faculty learning this year, I have committed resources to support professional development focused on instructional technology and digital tools in the classroom.
BHS teachers are using the digital world to support and enhance learning in ways simple and complex. Here are a few examples:
There are many more examples that I’ll share in a future blog. Of course our use of digital tools and learning is a complement to our face-to-face instruction that still includes old-fashioned, treasured books! In fact, the senior seminar I co-facilitate on Friday mornings recently read David Gergen’s Eyewitness to Power to launch our discussion about presidential politics. We occasionally Google for an answer to a fact we don’t know, but the course is a wonderfully traditional seminar discussion. Our goal at BHS as teachers is to blend the traditional and the new digital in ways that work for us and our students.