Tag Archives: back to school


Future music major! pic:R.T.

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

As summer vacation comes to a close, I hope that our students have engaged in learning activities throughout the summer, especially reading on a daily basis. As school begins, many parents have huge smiles on their face – others become very apprehensive.

As a former school principal (Belmont Community), let me remind everyone that not all teachers are parents, but all parents are teachers. Parents are children’s first and most influential teachers, and all school systems must do more to involve parents in the learning process. Research has clearly shown that there is a critical link between parent involvement and student achievement.

Schools need to give more than “lip service” to involve parents in the learning process. Parents need to approach their child’s school and let staff know that they are interested in being involved! Parents, STAY INVOLVED!!

Let’s see what I can do to take away some of the stress of going back to school! First, it’s important that parents right now set up a bedtime schedule, for sleep is at the center of a healthy child and enables them to do well in school. According to research, it’s essential that parents keep a bedtime routine, especially during school time. Research suggests an hour before bedtime – put away all electronic devises to help kids wind down. Use that time for reading to them, or give them the opportunity to read for 30 minutes in bed.

Parents need to develop good management practices at home for their children such as homework time and packing their backpacks before turning in and placing them at the outside door. Speaking of backpacks, parents need to retrieve them as soon as their children come home and get those papers out … sign permission slips and add school appointments to the family calendar. Routines can be a potent force in keeping everyone on the same track. Consider a checklist for the simple tasks of who gets to use the bathroom first and what’s for breakfast. What you need to do is be organized – doing so takes the stress out of the day.

Let your child know that school is a number one priority for him. Do it by word of mouth and be setting up realistic schedules, such as for homework. Make sure your child has a quiet, well-lit place to do homework. Avoid having your child do homework with the television on or in places with other distractions.

Make sure the materials your child needs, such as paper, pencils and a dictionary, are available.

Ask your child if special materials will be needed for some projects and get them in advance.

Help your child with time management.
Establish a set time each day for doing homework. Most important – don’t let your child leave homework until just before bedtime. Think about using a weekend morning or afternoon for working on big projects, especially if the project involves getting together with classmates.

Reading time at home…make reading for 20 minutes a day – a part of your child’s routine.

Show your child that the skills they are learning are related to things you do as an adult. If your child is reading, you read, too. Parents, your child was born to be a reader and a writer. Someone has to show them the way and that person is YOU! It is your job to help your child enjoy reading or to be motivated to read.

Every day is a learning moment. Here are some fun activities to do with your child:

Many children’s movies and television shows are based upon stories and books. Encourage your child to read books based on the story or television show. This is a good way to get adolescents and reluctant readers involved in reading books.

There are many wonderful children’s magazines available. Get a magazine subscription as gift, and this could stimulate your child’s interest in reading.

Encourage your child to write letters to friends, relatives – or even to Worcester School Committee members! (We love hearing from students!) Your child could also send a letter via e-mail to a friend or relative.

In addition, parents also need to make every effort to meet their child’s teacher early in the school year.

Teachers are always very excited about meeting their new students and new parents. It is always best to make an appointment to meet with your child’s teacher to introduce yourself and let them know you are there to support your child’s learning. Taking time to meet and introduce yourself and your child to the school principal is also a way to let your child know other adults at the school are there to help him/her. These are especially good ideas to use if your child has special needs or if the family is going through difficult times, such as divorce, an illness, death of a family member, or a recent or pending move.

Other ideas for parents/guardians:

· Learn everything you can about your child’s school

· Review the school’s handbook and the school district’s web site

· Contact the teacher immediately if your child doesn’t understand an assignment or if you notice a change in your child’s behavior or school performance.

Worth mentioning: participate in parent meetings and conferences and special events at the school. Do join the school’s Parent Organization.

Best wishes for a great school year!

Should you need any advice, please feel free to contact me at monfredoj@gmail.com.

This school year let’s make sure our students eat less from a box and more from the earth!


From Massachusetts Farm to School!

With a new school year beginning we are here to provide you with information and assistance to develop strong farm to school programs that bridge the cafeteria, classroom, and community environments.

Fall is a great time to kick off the school year with delicious, healthy, local foods and there are great programs including Farm to School Month and Food Day to help you promote your work.

We have some fantastic resources and opportunities below. We hope you have a great beginning of the school year and that you enjoy the bounty of the harvest!

Sign up for Harvest of the Month 2015-2016

There is still time to register for Harvest of the Month!

Mass. Farm to School’s Harvest of the Month program promotes a different Massachusetts-grown food each month in school, college, university, and hospital cafeterias and dining areas across the state.

Our goal is to encourage healthy food choices by increasing students’ exposure to seasonal foods while also supporting local farmers and building excitement about school meals.

Schools and institutions pledge to locally source and serve the featured Harvest of the Month food twice each month, to display our beautiful promotional materials, to connect to others in the school community who care about healthy, locally-grown foods, and to share their experience with Mass. Farm to School.

Mass. Farm to School will provide individualized procurement assistance, all the posters, trading cards, and “I tried it!” stickers that you need, as well as downloadable resources, including a family newsletter, for celebrating and educating about the featured foods in the cafeteria, classroom, school garden, and at home.


New School Food Guide Released

Food Corps member Alex Freedman has written the guide Serving Up Tradition in partnership with Mass. Farm to School.

This guide will help you serve up culturally appropriate school meals and includes step-by-step instructions, tried and true recipes, and case studies from districts across the country. You can read his blog entry about the guide on our website.


Celebrate Farm to School Month in October!

October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate connections happening all over the country between schools and local food!

Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and preschools.

Farm to school is reaching millions of students in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. In addition to improving child health, when schools buy local, they create new markets for local and regional farmers and contribute to vibrant communities, a win-win-win scenario!

Whether you are a food service professional, a farmer, a teacher or a food-loving family, there are plenty of ways to celebrate National Farm to School Month! We will have more information about Farm to School Month soon, and you can learn more by visiting the National Farm to School Network’s website, farmtoschool.org.

CLICK HERE to sign up for the Harvest of the Month and to learn more!

Go out and enjoy the coming of autumn with a child!


The simplest toys are the best!

By Edith Morgan

They’re back to school, our five to seventeen year olds, and the battles over what they will be taught in school and how we will know they actually “got” it will rage on. And we will probably continue to ignore real research, real data and real observations of real children, in favor of manufactured, profit-driven multiple choice (to accommodate the machines) paper-and-pencil questions – even though there is no situation in real life that is multiple choice. (Does 2+2 equal: a. 6, b.1, c. 4, d. none of the above?) (Shall I drive on the right, on the left, on the sidewalk, or on the grass?)

With those thoughts in the background of my mind, I spent a day last week with a three year old – and yes, it was exhausting, but also very invigorating. At my age expanding that much energy for so many hours without stop, which is what is required when responsible for a child that age, is tiring, but SO challenging!

Naturally, I had purchased the required number and variety of small cars and trucks, a clever device for making huge soap bubbles, a “train” puzzle, which I added to the items he had used in the past, and which we keep stored away in what he calls his “treasure chest.” After some play indoors on the living room rug, we went outside to the front  yard, where I have pebbles and stones instead of grass (it faces north and gets little direct sun). Surrounded by so many toys, he chose to collect stones, one by one, of all sizes, some nearly too large to carry, but he improvised a two-handed carry, and for the largest pressed his forehead into service. At first he merely constructed a short wall – reminiscent of the stone walls found all over New England. Finding more stones, he said he was making a tree house; he created a space inside his stone pile, built it up to accommodate the large hosta leaves he had picked, and closed it up .

I merely watched as the little boy arranged and re-arranged the stones: they were of different sizes, shapes, and weight, but he studied them, moved them around so they would stay put, and  was occupied for well over an hour constructing, changing, reorganizing his structure, and was still at it, when his father came to pick him up – all that time he had not wanted to eat anything, noir diverted his attention from this self-generated task. We did take a little break to make some huge bubbles, as a nice breeze was blowing in the yard.

After he and his father had put the stones back in place in the yard, I thought over what had gone on: we had not once turned on the TV; and the simplest, most self-selected “toys” were the ones that occupied his time the longest.

They were not plastic, made no sound (he spoke to himself all the while) and served multiple purposes as he assigned them.

We buy so many gadgets, provide toys that blink, beep, propel themselves, and are artificially brightly colored, that we mostly forget that children will mostly choose those things which they can imbue with their own ideas – and which offer the most opportunities for the imagination.(Remember how, after opening their gifts on holidays, children so often play with the wrappings and the boxes?)

There is a lesson there somewhere …

So, go out and enjoy the coming of autumn with a child!

Worcester Public Schools offering FREE lunches and breakfasts to all students! … and Chef Joey: healthy bagged school lunches in a snap!


Your Child Can Eat Breakfast and Lunch for FREE at the Worcester Public Schools!!

Q. & A.

As part of the 2010 Healthy and Hunger-Free Kids Act, Worcester, along with other districts, will begin offering free meals to all students this school year. For parents, that means no more forms to fill out, no online meal account to remember, no last minute scramble for change before the bus, and no more lunchboxes to pack. All students can eat for free!

What do we need to do to get a breakfast or lunch at school?

For those schools that are providing breakfast directly in the classroom, your child can simply take the breakfast items that are offered. For other schools, the child can simply go to the cafeteria in the morning and eat breakfast. For lunch at the elementary level, classroom teachers will ask students if they wish to have a school lunch that day, and they’ll send the counts to the cafeteria so enough meals can be prepared. At secondary schools, the student can simply enter the lunch line and take a meal. All students will still need to have their meals recorded at the register.

What is served at breakfast and lunch? What are my child’s choices?

During breakfast we offer two grains (or one grain and one protein), two fruits, and a milk. All your child needs to do is take at least 3 menu items (with one being a fruit) to be considered a free meal. During lunch we serve a grain, protein, vegetable, fruit, and milk. All your child needs to do is take at least 3 different items offered (one being a fruit or a vegetable) to be considered a free meal. Check the newspaper or our website for daily meal choices.

What if my child only wants a milk or a single item?

We are only reimbursed by the USDA for complete meals. If you child only wants a milk or a single menu items then those items are available for cash purchase on an individual basis; for example, milk costs 50 cents. In order to be free, your child must take a complete meal consisting of three different items (one being a fruit or vegetable).

What does a school meal look like today?

We provide fresh fruits and vegetables every day at every meal; we serve only whole-grain breads, low fat and fat free milk, minimally processed foods; and we use locally sourced food whenever available. We never serve fried foods. We provide salad and vegetarian offerings at the middle and high schools. We have been state and nationally recognized for our farm-to-school program and menu offerings. We recently hired a professional chef to continuously improve and expand the menu options for students.

What if I still have money on account?

All students with money remaining in their account will be sent a form for a full refund; you may however keep the funds on account for the purchase of individual items.


Your building principal or your school’s Nutrition Manager are a great start. You can also contact the Worcester Public Schools Child Nutrition Office at 508-799-3132 or email us at WPSNutrition@worc.k12.ma.us. Your feedback is always welcome!

For more information please visit http://worcesterschools.org/school-nutrition.


ICT_Yum Yums-edited
Chef Joey is in France where they serve INCREDIBLE SCHOOL LUNCHES to ALL their students!

Always include a yummy fruit in your kid’s lunch sack!  (pic – R.T.)


By Chef Joey

Well, it’s that time of year again, sort of like January 2, when students are off their winter break and parents are jumping for joy.  Yes, the anticipated “Back to School” and all those pencil and clothes ads.  The mumbles of “we used to go back in September” and “why August?” are heard among the crowds.  It does not really matter the start date because the length of the school term is the same.

So we know that Education has been around for years. During the early beginnings the settlers would designate someone to teach but it was all focused more on the survival techniques. It wasn’t until after the American Revolution, between 1750 and 1870, that parochial schools appeared; thanks to the efforts by parishes. Generally, these “parochial” schools were just for the elementary grades.  Open to all children in the parish, being of course mainly Catholics, but also Lutherans, Calvinists and Orthodox Jews. “Nonsectarian Common schools”  started opening  thanks to the former Massachusetts Sate Rep Horace Mann.  His basis for school  was: “universal public education was the best way to turn the nation’s unruly children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens.” The principle was to teach the 3 “R’s”:  Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic, but with a side serving of geography and history.

The first American Normal school began in 1823. Reverend Samuel Read Hall founded the first one named the “Columbian School” in New England, of course,  located in Concord, Vermont.  Its purpose was to to improve the quality of common schools by creating qualified teachers.

Massachusetts was the first state to pass a law making education mandatory in 1852.

It wasn’t until 1917, in Mississippi, that  a second state passed a similar law!

In the 1890’s, high schools were starting to emerge, and, by 1910, more than three quarters of American children were in schools.  During this time is when was the proving ground was established, thanks to the teacher accreditation and creating standards for exams and course requirements that are still prevalent today.

Moving closer to 1930, there was 100% enrollment in schools, except for disabled or medically challenged children.  Then there was a plunge due to World War II.

Post-WW II is where the food aspect of schools came in to play.  The National School Lunch Act was created in 1946 to provided low-cost or free school lunches to students via subsidies for the “full stomach” idea.

The tragic part about all this was in some states, this was not offered to African Americans, and they were literally banned from the lunch programs!

It wasn’t until the late 1950’s that things started to change – great strides.  We are fortunate enough to have coalitions for just about everyone/everything, but we still as educated adults tend to fight the road to the future … but that’s another article.

School lunches have come full circle to nutritious well-balanced and ethnic pleasing menus.  But there are still those who like to bring their own lunches, and in today’s world of ready-to-go food, lunches are a breeze to put together.

Here are a few ideas to spruce up your child’s lunch:

Cold Pizza – wrapped in foil it warms up by lunch time and who doesn’t like cold pizza?

No pizza? Pizza wraps!

Fast and easy and you can add all kinds of toppings!

Take 2 tortilla wraps and spray with vegetable spray on both sides and place on a cookie sheet.

Place in preheated 400 degree oven, toast for 5 minutes; remove and top with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and whatever else you want: olives, peppers, pepperoni etc. Put back in the oven and bake 5-8 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly.

Remove from oven and, using a spatula, flip over each side making an envelope of sorts. Let cool, wrap in foil and refrigerate.

Place in fridge and place in the lunch bag the next day. Easy to make, inexpensive and fun to eat.

Hummus Lunch! Lots of protein!

Veggie sticks and some fresh fruit – buy a small container of hummus , carrots and celery, and a small bag with fruit for dessert, cherries, plums apples  – Yummy and Fun!

Yoghurts are a great protein and don’t necessarily need to be refrigerated,.as it is already cultured. Two containers is plenty of protein and with the fruit, it’s like a dessert!

Try and stay away from pre-processed meats and lunches – the sodium alone is brutal!

Get back to basics with salads with berries, nuts, citrus slices and cheeses, chick peas, or beans for protein once a week  to break it up!

You know your child better than anyone – take their favorite foods and make them portable!

School is just around the corner! A great school year for all!

Goddard Branch-1

Worcester’s Goddard School houses a Worcester Public Library branch! Open to ALL, after school hours!

By Edith Morgan

September is just around the corner: that means primary elections, shorter days in the sun, leaves starting to turn, tomatoes ripening, and all the preparations for fall that nature and man engage in around here.

… And many parents welcome September with a sigh of relief as their offspring head BACK TO SCHOOL.

So this is a good time to examine some of our favorite assumptions about education!

1.      For many years we have been assuming that you need “self-esteem” to achieve or succeed. But in my time we had to achieve first, then we would acquire “self esteem,” as a result of having done something or achieved something worthy of recognition. It has been my experience that those who strive the hardest often feel they are NOT doing well enough, and feel they are not meeting their own high goals.

It has also been my experience that when asked how they had done on a test, the lower achievers were smugly confident, while those who achieved near-perfect scores felt they should have done better. Too often, gang leaders exhibit enormous self-satisfaction, while real achievers (inventors, artists, writers, and other successful and hardworking persons) are beset with doubts, continually work to reach higher goals. So, there is an inverse relationship between self- esteem and real achievement.

2.      Paper and pencil tests created by commercial concerns are believed to give us legitimate information about the level of skill or the amount of knowledge our children have.  But by their very nature, they are extremely limited in what they can test, and in HOW they test it. The ubiquitous SAT, originally designed to predict success in the first year of college,  never did it as well as each student’s high school transcript. Which source of information do YOU think would be most reliable in finding out what a given student will do: a one-shot, multiple choice set of questions of esoteric vocabulary, or the cumulative record of a student’s life day to day, as recorded by attendance (being there to learn), classes taken and passed, teacher comments and recommendations, extra-curricular activities, etc.

Why are we so taken with a spurious number, and why do we ignore the testimony  of professionals and the exact numbers represented by school records?

3.      I went to elementary school for six years in France: even at the height of the Nazi invasion, there was no real interruption in my education. From Paris to medieval LePuy, in south-central France, there was continuity in my basic learning because, as in all modern Western nations ( except the U.S.), there is a set of national curriculum standards and from the poorest to the richest child are exposed to those basic learnings. Each teacher and each section  of the country adds whatever is needed (for example, in LePuy we also learned lace-making in school, as that was a major skill handed down there). Here we have to reinvent the wheel not only in 50 states, but often also in hundreds of cities and towns – leading to a very uneven and hard to share result.

4.      The overwhelming majority of our students live in urban environments. So why are we still following the old farming calendar, making sure our kids are home to help bring in the crops? We waste great amounts of time reviewing what they have forgotten in the long summer, giving us  so much less time to learn this year’s stuff. Surely there is a better, more efficient, less boring way to  do this?

5.      The power structure is upside down: those who must assume the most responsibility for the education of our children, the teachers, are nearly powerless. Does that make any sense?

Clearly, we have much  to think about, as we elect another Worcester School Committee and send our children off to the Worcester Public Schools again.

ALA helps students with asthma return to school

Lung Association Recognizes Asthma-Friendly Schools and Offers Back-to-School Checklist for Students with Asthma

Waltham – Families across the nation are beginning to prepare for the new school year. A new school environment can sometimes be difficult for children with asthma. This back-to-school season, the American Lung Association highlights tips for families of children with asthma and stresses the importance of crafting a plan to properly manage asthma in a school environment.

“Asthma is a serious chronic disease that affects millions of children,” said Jeff Seyler, President & CEO of the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Asthma symptoms can often be exacerbated at this time of year and it is important for parents to work with their healthcare provider and school personnel prior to the first day of school on controlling their child’s asthma. We must do all that we can to prevent asthma attacks and missed school days.”

Asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood disorders in the nation. It affects an estimated 136,267 Massachusetts children under the age of 18. It is also one of the primary illness-related reasons that students miss school, accounting for more than 10 million lost school days each year. Asthma is the third-leading cause of hospitalization for children under 15. In 2011, more than half of people with current asthma experienced at least one episode, or attack—with children 39 percent more likely than adults to have an asthma episode.

As part of its Asthma Friendly Schools Initiative (AFSI) the American Lung Association launched the Asthma-Friendly Schools Champions Awards earlier this year with support from the Environmental Protection Agency and Genentech Pharmaceuticals. The AFSI Champion Awards recognize schools that have taken positive strides to create a healthier learning environment using the strategies outlined in the Asthma-Friendly Schools Initiative.

In preparation for the school year ahead, the American Lung Association urges parents who have children with asthma to complete the following checklist:

  • Step 1 – Learn about asthma

The American Lung Association has many free resources to help you and your child learn how to keep asthma in control.

  • Visit www.lung.org/asthma to learn about asthma and asthma management. Be sure to watch the short animation What is Asthma? to learn what happens in the airways during an asthma episode.
  • Asthma Basics is a 50-minute online educational tool for people with asthma or anyone who provides care for someone living with asthma. It teaches how to recognize and manage asthma symptoms, how to identify and reduce triggers, how to create an asthma management plan and how to respond to a breathing emergency.
  • Visit Lungtropolis along with your 5-10 year old child. You’ll find action-packed games designed to help kids control their asthma—plus advice for parents.
  • Step 2 – Talk to the school nurse

Together, you and the school nurse, along with your child’s healthcare provider, can work to reduce asthma triggers and manage symptoms while in school.

  • Ask the school nurse to explain and provide all of the required forms you and your child’s healthcare provider need to sign and complete, including an asthma action plan.
  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow children to self-carry and use their asthma inhalers while at school. Each law is different; visit www.breatheatschool.org and click on your state to learn more.
  • Discuss your child’s asthma triggers and steps to reduce them in the classroom.
  • Ask about the school’s asthma emergency plan, and if coaches, teachers and staff are trained in how to recognize asthma symptoms and respond to a breathing emergency.
  • Step 3 – Schedule an asthma check-up

Each school year should begin with a visit to your child’s healthcare provider for an asthma check-up. This check-up is the best time to make sure your child is on the right amount of medicine for their asthma, to fill-out any forms required by the school and to create an asthma management plan as described in Step 4. Kids with asthma should visit their healthcare provider every three to six months, depending on how often your child is having symptoms.

An asthma action plan is a written worksheet created by your healthcare provider and tailored to your child’s needs. The plan includes a list of their asthma triggers and symptoms, the names of their medicines and how much medicine to take when needed. The plan also explains the steps to take to manage an asthma episode and a breathing emergency. An asthma action plan should always be on file in the school nurse’s office and easily accessible to anyone who may need to help your child use their inhaler.

  • Step 5 – Get a flu shot

On average, 1 out of 5 Americans suffers from influenza (flu) every year. Respiratory infections such as the flu are one of the most common asthma triggers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone over the age of six months get a flu vaccination. The best way to protect your family from the flu is for everyone to get vaccinated.

For additional information on asthma and children, including a downloadable version of this checklist with even more details, visitwww.lung.org/asthma or call the Lung HelpLine at1-800-LUNG-USA.