District-wide communications from the Superintendent's Office are posted on this webpage. An archive from the 2017-2018 academic year is available online.
May 8, 2019
Dear Westwood Parents:
We are saddened to hear the news of a another school shooting, this time in Colorado. It goes without saying that students and teachers should be able to come to school without fearing for their safety, and when we learn about incidents such as this one where a school community has experienced gun violence, it can undermine that feeling of safety.
A little over a year ago, after the school shooting in Parkland, FL, I wrote a letter to you that outlines some of the security measures that are in place in the Westwood Public Schools and some of my thinking about this issue. That letter from February 2018 remains online for parents to review.
Since that time, the School District, in collaboration with town public safety officials, hired a consulting firm to conduct a comprehensive security audit of our schools with the goal of strengthening our security practices. In March, we received their findings. While the report recognized many good practices and security features that are already in place, it also presented recommendations around security equipment, additional training, and suggested changes in protocol. Please note that the report is not a public document as it would clearly be counter to the goal of increased safety and security to publicly release its findings. However, the School Department and the School Committee have reviewed the consultant’s findings and plan to begin implementing the priority report recommendations this spring. Earlier this week at the annual Town Meeting, residents approved a supplemental appropriation in the FY’19 budget of $100K to fund these implementations. We have also applied for additional funding through a competitive grant process with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security’s Office of Grants and Research. We are waiting to hear the results of that effort.
Though we don’t know the details of the incident in Colorado, it appears from media reports that the perpetrators were students at the school. It is a heartbreaking reality that this is often the case in incidents of school violence. In the Westwood Public Schools we are keenly aware that the most important thing schools can do to prevent violence is make sure that the climate and culture of the school supports all kids, that students are connected to each other and to adults in the community, that we know our students as individuals, and that sufficient and appropriate mental health supports are in place. Notably, the security consultant’s report commended our mental health staffing and stated that they consider our student threat assessment protocol to be a best practice. We continue to focus on this very important aspect of our work.
If your child seems to be struggling with the news of this terrible event, we have resources that can help. You can contact our guidance counselors or school psychologists with questions or concerns. All members of our mental health team are available to meet with students in need. In addition, Westwood Youth and Family Services (WYFS) is also a wonderful resource available to all students and their families. WYFS provide free, confidential counseling services to Westwood residents. If you or your child would like to speak with someone at WYFS, please call their Islington Community Center office at 781-320-1006.
As always, the safety of our students and staff is a top priority.
Emily J. Parks
March 17, 2019
Dear Westwood Families,
I write to you once again saddened by a horrific act of violence and hate, this time perpetrated against Muslims gathered at their place of worship in New Zealand. Though this act of violence took place far from Westwood, it provides another important reminder to reaffirm the ties that bind our community and stand together as an inclusive school environment where all people are valued and welcomed.
I hope that over the coming days, we will all be especially mindful of the importance of treating each other kindly and with respect. In particular, I hope that we will reach out to our Muslim neighbors and classmates. As adults, let’s model what it means to live in a strong, supportive community.
The Superintendent of Schools in my own children’s community urged people in the face of this terrible act to come together as a community around the arts - to be inspired and healed by our children’s creativity. I pass along that advice to you, and encourage you to attend the 25th annual Encounters with the Arts this Thursday, March 21st from 7 pm to 9 pm at Westwood High School. Having attended nearly all 24 of the past Encounters, I know that you will leave feeling buoyed by what you see and experience.
In addition, we have a parent program this Tuesday, March 19th at 7pm entitled Preventing Biased-Based Bullying. We invite you to be part of this conversation.
As always, if we can be supportive of you and your family, please reach out to your child’s principal, guidance counselor, or school psychologist.
Emily J. Parks
March 12, 2019
Dear Westwood Families:
True to its reputation, the month of March came in like a lion, but now that we’ve “sprung ahead,” we are entering the final stretch of the school year. As a district, we are committed to engaging parents in their children’s education as well as their social and emotional wellness. We have two programs coming up this spring that will be of interest to parents.
The first centers on preventing and understanding bullying—a crucial topic for Westwood and every other school district. On Tuesday, March 19, we will welcome Boston Public Schools Safe and Welcoming Schools Specialist Danielle Murray, who is also a Westwood parent, for a program on preventing biased-based bullying.
The second program looks at how to emotionally equip children for school and life. On Thursday, April 4, Lyn Lyons, a world-renowned clinical social worker, will talk about preventative measures parents can take to help their children deal with anxiety at home and at school. Specific information about each of these important programs can be found HERE.
The Westwood Public Schools website remains an excellent way to stay updated on news and events coming from our classrooms and offices. We have added a "news" page, featuring several articles about different Westwood school programs and people, many of which have been published in The Westwood Press, Hometown Weekly and The Patch. There are also external articles you may find interesting.
Spring is chock full of end-of-year school events, so stay updated with our online calendar and, with spring almost here, mark your calendars for the last day of school on June 18 (as long as there is no more snow)!
October 28, 2018
Dear Westwood Families:
Over the last few days, we have been shocked and saddened by acts of hate and violence at a supermarket in Kentucky and at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. As adults, we know it is often difficult to reassure our children during frightening times and help them make sense of events when we are simultaneously working through our own upset.
Students of different ages may have different understandings of recent events and may respond or express their concerns differently. We are sharing with you a resource distributed by the ADL to assist parents in discussing hate and violence with their children. You may also find the Pyramid of Hate a useful framework for discussion. In addition, we want to remind you that we have scheduled several parent programs for the 2018-2019 school year that support important conversations between children and their parents, including a presentation this Tuesday morning by Elizabeth Englander from the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center.
If your child seems to be struggling, we have resources that can help. You can contact our guidance counselors or school psychologists with questions or concerns. All members of our mental health team are available to meet with students in need. In addition, Westwood Youth and Family Services (WYFS) provides free, confidential counseling services to Westwood residents. If you or your child would like to speak with someone at WYFS, please call their Islington Community Center office at 781-320-1006.
Finally, let us take this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment in the Westwood Public Schools to being a community that welcomes, supports, and appreciates all people. As a public school, we are committed to ensuring that our students grapple with the important lessons of history, develop the critical skills necessary to participate meaningfully as citizens, and become people who treat others with respect and empathy. We know how important this work is.
Our best wishes for a good week.
Emily J. Parks
Allison F. Borchers
October 19, 2018
Dear Westwood Families,
Last month, I shared with you our strategy for district improvement. The strategy identifies several priorities for this year as we work to provide our students with meaningful learning experiences in a healthy, supported school community.
We know that it is critical for schools and families to be partners in these efforts. To that end, we have created a series of programs for the 2018-2019 school year that we believe families will find valuable.
The first two programs reflect our efforts to help students navigate the technology-infused environment in a way that is safe, effective, healthy, and well-balanced. The first forum, Teaching Our Children to Be Good Digital Citizens, will be held on Tuesday, October 30th at 10:00 a.m. in the High School Professional Development Room. A presenter from the Norfolk County District Attorney’s office will discuss strategies for preventing cyberbullying and sexting.
The second program, Limit Setting in the Age of Technology, will provide strategies for addressing challenges related to kids’ technology use and screen time. This forum, for parents of students in grades K-8, will be held on November 8th at 7:00 p.m. in the High School Little Theater.
We will be holding several more forums between December and next April related to other priorities, such as our STEM, cultural proficiency, and social emotional learning initiatives. A complete list of forums and dates can be found online. We will provide additional details about program content as the dates get closer. In the meantime, we hope you will save the dates in your calendar.
I look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming forums.
Emily J Parks
Superintendent of Schools
October 4, 2018
We recently received the district results from last spring’s MCAS testing, and we are pleased to share some good news: the Westwood Public Schools are among the 17% of school districts in the state who earned the top designation, “Meeting Expectations,” in the new accountability system. In addition, two of our elementary schools--Downey and Martha Jones-- were commended by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Martha Jones was recognized for students’ exceeding targets, and Downey was recognized for high achievement, high growth, and exceeding targets. We are proud of these commendations and want to acknowledge the wonderful work of our educators and students.
Over the next month, we will be analyzing student, grade level and building MCAS results as one strategy for examining the impact of our programs and thinking about how best to support students’ learning. Just as a reminder, students in grades 3-8 took the new “Next Generation” MCAS tests in 2017 and 2018. This new test is quite different from prior versions of the MCAS, and the scores are not comparable to scores from earlier years. For some helpful context, we are including a link to a September 27, 2018 Press Release from the Education Commissioner’s Office. The release includes important information about the new test and the new accountability system.
Finally, while assessments such as MCAS provide one important piece of information about a student’s progress, they are only one part of a student’s profile and do not represent the totality of who he or she is as a student. Similarly, MCAS results tell only one part of the story of our district -- a district where we celebrate academics, the arts, athletics, service, and social/emotional growth.
You will receive your child’s MCAS results within the next few days. Please contact your child’s principal if you have any questions or concerns after reviewing the parent report.
Emily J. Parks
Allison F. Borchers
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Press Release (September 27, 2018)
September 18, 2018
Dear Westwood Families:
I hope that you and your children have had a great start to the school year!
A couple of weeks ago, my son started Kindergarten and my daughter started preschool. As I’m sure you can relate, dropping my children off at school for the first time provoked some feelings - both for them and for me. I was taken a bit by surprise at the intensity of the hopes and fears that I have for my children as it pertains to school. Luckily, while I have been prompted to ponder some of life’s existential questions, my kids just seem excited about the arrival of the monarch butterfly caterpillars and the upcoming apple picking field trip. Perhaps I should take a page out of their playbook!
Last year, as I conducted my superintendent’s entry process, many of you told me about the experiences your children had in the Westwood Public Schools and the expectations you have for their education. I learned about the many strengths of our district (around which there was a good deal of consensus), as well as those areas that need more attention. Over the summer, the district leadership team, including all of our principals, reflected on these entry findings and our vision of teaching and learning for all students. From that, we created a new strategy for district improvement. While this strategy does not capture everything that we are working on in our schools, it provides an important snapshot of our big-picture objectives, our priorities, and our action steps for this year.
It’s important for us to partner with you as we work on these goals. We are in the process of planning parent workshops and community events to foster this work and address the needs and interests that you have communicated to us. We are still finalizing a couple of dates with presenters, but hope to roll out the calendar for the year in early October. If you missed our recent parent workshop with Charlie Applestein about starting the year off right with homework and other routines, we invite you to watch a video of the event on the Westwood Media Center website.
Finally, I invite you to join me and other district administrators for coffee and conversation on Monday, September 24th from 9:00 - 10:00 am in the Downey Library. This will be an informal gathering, so you can come and stay for the hour, or just drop by for a few minutes. I look forward to seeing you there.
August 31, 2018
Dear Westwood Families:
We look forward to welcoming students to school on Tuesday morning!
Following a 2-day orientation for the 42 new faculty and staff members who are joining us this year, all faculty and staff returned on Wednesday to gear up for students’ arrival. We took the opportunity to reflect on and reaffirm our commitment to providing a great educational experience and a caring community for all of our students and families. We’re all very excited to get started!
It appears that the first week of school is going to be quite hot, and many of our classrooms are not air conditioned. Please make sure that students are dressed in cool clothing and that they have a water bottle with them to stay hydrated. Our faculty and staff will monitor students for any heat-related health issues. Each of our buildings has at least one air conditioned space that can be accessed for cooling off as needed. Hopefully, the excitement of the first few days of school will help keep everyone’s spirits up, even if we’re hot and sticky!
As an additional challenge, Tuesday, September 4th is the statewide primary election, and three of our schools (Hanlon, Downey, and Sheehan) are polling places. The district has worked with town officials and the Westwood Police Department to ensure student safety during morning drop off and afternoon dismissal and to minimize any disruption to the first day of school. However, you may want to build a few extra minutes into your schedule on Tuesday morning, as there may be a little more traffic and tighter parking than usual as residents come and go from the polls.
As always, we thank you for entrusting us with your children and look forward to great year. Best wishes for a wonderful Labor Day Weekend!
Emily J. Parks
August 24, 2018
Welcome to the 2018-2019 school year! This email contains important information about back-to-school and instructions for some tasks that families will need to complete in order to start the school year smoothly. This year, we have attempted to consolidate information from various departments into one streamlined letter. Though this letter is a bit lengthy, we hope you find this process more efficient and user-friendly.
We are excited to welcome back students, Kindergarten through Grade 12, on Tuesday, September 4th. (Preschool parents should have already received information about the schedule for your child.)
A one-page printout of the 2018-2019 school calendar, including school hours, is available on the district website.
In addition, we have recently upgraded the interactive calendar on the district website, which includes events like PTO fairs, picture day, and other events at each school. Users may view events only at one location by selecting a particular school or view an aggregate of events happening at all schools by selecting the “All locations” filter. Families also may subscribe to a school’s web calendar by clicking the subscribe link on the right-hand side. This will sync the school calendar to your cell phone.
The online calendar can be accessed from either the district homepage or a school’s homepage.
Verifying Student Information
Families are asked to login to their account on our family portal (“Aspen”) and verify student contact information for each child, as well as confirm parent contact information. This process ensures that all contact information is correct and up-to-date. We ask that you complete this task even if no information has changed from last year, as the process also includes the student handbook acknowledgment, media permissions, permission to be included in the school directory, and other annual questions. This process can be completed online.
If you can not remember your Aspen login information or password, please review these instructions.
If you are a new family, you should have received an email with your login information and instructions for setting up your Aspen account. If you did not receive this email, please email the Aspen Support Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are interested in learning more about other features of the Aspen parent portal or help regarding browser settings, please review this help page.
If you have questions about your Aspen parent portal account, please email the Aspen Support Desk at email@example.com.
School Messenger Notifications
School Messenger is our automated telephone calling and email system used to contact families. School Messenger uses the contact information that is contained in the Aspen parent portal. Families may update their telephone numbers and email addresses using their Aspen account as noted above.
Based upon feedback from families, we have set up some internal guidelines for use of the system:
Email subject lines will be standardized for quick identification in the recipient’s inbox: School name - Email subject. If the email contains urgent information and should be opened immediately, the subject line will read: URGENT: School name - email subject.
Automated phone calls regarding non-urgent matters will be sent only after school hours.
Setting Up or Adding Funds to Your Food Service Account
The Food Service Department provides parents with a convenient, easy, and secure online service to monitor school lunch accounts. You may register online at www.myschoolbucks.com. To register, you will need to know your child’s student ID number which can be found by looking at your child’s Aspen account, your child’s report card, or your High School student’s ID card.
You may deposit funds either online through MySchoolBucks.com or by writing a check payable to Westwood Public Schools, noting “Food Service” in the memo line. Checks may be mailed to Westwood Public Schools Food Service Department, 220 Nahatan Street, Westwood, MA 02090 or by using the green drop box in front of the District Administration office at the same address.
Information about the Food Service Department, including lunch menus, is available on the district website.
Free and reduced lunch applications for the 2018-2019 school year are available online or by calling 781-326-7500, x1301. All calls are confidential.
If you have questions about the Food Service Department, MySchoolBucks, or Free and Reduced Lunch, please contact Sandy Mack at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have not yet registered for bus transportation, you may do so online.