June 10, 2013

Rachel’s Challenge – Friends of Rachel

All of us remember (or have been taught about) the events of April 20, 1999; a day that changed the environment and sense of security in schools around the country. Most of us have never heard of Rachel Joy Scott. But, in order to understand the impact of the Columbine High School tragedy on schools around the nation, you have to get to know Rachel Joy Scott. Moran Middle School students will be lucky to have the chance to get to know Rachel on September 24, 2013. And getting to know Rachel will impact the way they look at their peers, their teachers, and themselves. We hope that September 24, 2013 will be a day that stands out in Moran history; this will be the day that we teach students to start a “chain reaction of kindness” at school and in their community.

Rachel’s Challenge is an organization that aims to bring about a positive climate change in schools around the country. In hearing the messages that Rachel Joy Scott left behind before her death on April 20, 1999, students are challenged to reach out to those around them. There will be presentations for all Moran Middle School students and parents on September 24, 2013, to help our community learn more about the messages of Rachel’s Challenge. We hope that all parents are able to attend the evening event so that they can bring the message of Rachel’s Challenge into their homes. We will be carrying the message of the organization through the 2013-2014 school year and beyond.

The key way we will maintain Rachel’s message at Moran is through The Friends of Rachel Club, which all students are encouraged to participate in and which will not cost anything for student participants. A group of student-leaders will be invited to a training conducted by the Rachel’s Challenge staff, which will follow the Rachel’s Challenge assembly on September 24th. These students will serve as the foundation for the Friends of Rachel Club. We will look to these students to generate ideas and engage their fellow group members in starting a “chain reaction of kindness.” The Friends of Rachel Club will allow students to work together to reach out to their peers and community members. Through community service events, school climate activities, and recognition events students will be given the opportunity to create unity and positivity in their school and through the town of Wallingford.

This student-driven organization will be open to any Moran student interested in keeping the chain reaction of kindness going after the Rachel’s Challenge Assembly. We are excited to work with students and use their ideas to build a strong school community. Please contact Stefanie Sonstrom (8th grade Spanish teacher) or Eliza Baker (current 8th grade and incoming 6th grade School Counselor) with any questions or ideas about Rachel’s Challenge and/or the Friends of Rachel Club. You can find more information about the organization at www.rachelschallenge.org.

The Friends of Rachel Club at Moran is in the very early stages of forming and we need all of the support we can get from our parents and students. If you are looking to help, please consider the following:

–          Attend the Rachel’s Challenge Assembly on the night of September 24th.

–          Start a dialogue with your students about what it means to start a “chain reaction of kindness.”

–          Encourage your students to join the Friends of Rachel Club. Recruitment will begin on the first day of the 2013-2014 school year.

–          Contact Ms. Sonstrom or Mrs. Baker with ideas of how students can fundraise for the club.

–          Contact Ms. Sonstrom or Mrs. Baker if you are aware of any organizations that may need the support of the Friends of Rachel Club.

April 24, 2013

We are nearing the end……

We have officially entered the 4th marking period.  For those of you that are keeping track, after today we have 45 student days of school left.  That would have been 38 days had it not been for our super fun winter weather.  I hope you all had a chance to enjoy your April “break”.  Although short, those two days were incredibly useful for me.

This time of year brings a lot of activities to the school.  Currently our entire student body is taking a pilot test for the State of Connecticut Department of Education.  If you read the letter that Mrs. Cohn sent home, it was explained that this was an opportunity for our students to get an introduction to the computer-based testing that will become our new CMT’s.  We were able to schedule it so it is only a one day disruption of their regular classes.  I think the students are finding it valuable.  Please take a minute to ask your child about the test.

Our Spring sports are in full swing.  Games and meets will be starting soon.  I had a chance to meet with the athletes from all four Spring sports (baseball, softball, boy’s and girl’s track).  I spoke to them about sportsmanship and respect.  Prior to becoming an administrator I coached at the middle and high school level.  I coached soccer, softball, basketball, and tennis.  Win or lose, the one thing my athletes always knew was they would do so with dignity and respect.  This is what I was trying to convey with our Moran athletes.  I would also ask that the adults do the same.  We need to model appropriate behavior as fans, parents, coaches, and role models.  Thank you for helping us with this.

Here are a couple of other events to think about.  Please keep in mind that these dates and times are subject to change based on unforeseen factors:

  • May 14th  @ 6:30 pm – parent orientation night for incoming 6th graders
  • June 6th from 9:15 am – 10:30 am = 5th grade orientation day
  • June 18th @ 6:30 pm – Student of the Month celebration
  • June 25th @ 6:30 pm – Awards Night (for 8th grade recipients only, 6th and 7th grade students will do awards during the day- time/date to be arranged by grade level)

To be scheduled:

  • Merit Ice Cream Social- @ 1:45 pm – PTO provides ice cream truck visit for all students making honor roll 2/3 quarters this year
  • 6th grade ice cream social- attendance winners from CMT- teams to propose date/time

As always, your support is always welcome.  Please contact me if you have any questions.  Have a great week!!!


March 29, 2013

April Showers…

Parents / Students:

CMT’s are done. This signals many things in the world of education. It signals a return to normalcy, the end of March, a return to full periods, less stress, and the beginning of Spring. A lot is made of the value of standardized testing. Many will say that it is bad for kids, bad for schools, unfair to public schools, an unnecessary interruption of learning, as well as many other negative connotations. Most of that may or may not be true, but all I know is that we are required to have our students take them. What value does it have if we complain about them? What value does it show our students if we put them down within earshot of our children? What lesson will we have taught them?

It is our job to prepare our students to do well in life. It is our job to get them ready for their future. Should we teach them to devalue something that they are asked to do? (Okay, enough questions!!!)

The real lesson we should be teaching them is to take pride in everything they do. Take pride in anything that they put their names too. Give their 100% best effort with everything they do. The value in that goes well beyond CMT’s. There is no denying that standardized testing is an interruption of the standard learning process, but that is out of our hands. Let’s teach or children the value of pride.

Three months of learning are left. Don’t let up now. As I mentioned in a previous post, our new curriculum is in full swing in both Mathematics and English. In English you are probably hearing some new concepts from your children. Gone are the days of book reports and simple regurgitation. Now we are asking kids to not only read and recite. Instead we want them to understand the deeper meaning. We want them to be able to understand the author’s purpose. They can this apply this skill to all of their reading. Make sure you ask your children about book clubs/talks/chats/discussions!!!

The 6th grade has a fun trip to the Wallingford Symphony Orchestra on April 26th. Our 7 grade has an assembly upcoming where they will hear from former NFL football player Tim Lester (Steelers). The 6th and 7th grade have their field days coming soon. Our 8 graders have this outing as well as their dance. Between the academics and the extracurricular, we have a lot of school year left. We’re looking forward to it!

If you have any questions, let me know.


March 6, 2013

March Madness & Moran

It is March. That crazy time of year in public schools where everything appears to be at a crossroads. The weather is frustrating, standardized testing is beginning, there aren’t any days off, and the students/adults are getting stir crazy. Student absences tend to increase and academics tend to suffer. What can we do to keep us out of this funk???

Well, how about hold a CMT kick-off assembly???

That is exactly what we did here at Moran last week. On Thursday morning we had all grades cycle through three different activities; a school climate activity focussing on the YouTube clip titled RedRed (click title), a breakfast sponsored by the Moran PTO, and an assembly which ended with a performance by Phil ‘N the Bubbles (Band). All of the activities were very well received by our students. It was great to see parents here cutting bagels and serving breakfast to students. We had a couple of great videos for kids to see in the auditorium. Then it was time for our grand finale. The students loved it.

What impressed me most about the morning was how far above and beyond a lot of people were willing to go. What a fantastic event for everyone to take part in. In that 90 minute time frame we included parents, students, staff, central office administration, and community businesses. In my mind that is a perfect day at a middle school. CMT’s are not the most exciting event in the world, for on Thursday they were. The kids were pumped and as one of our teachers said, “It was a wonderful community event.”

Overall our students are still working hard. Our English and Mathematics classes are in full Common Core State Standards curriculum mode. I have seen some great book discussions going on in the building.

As the year ends we have a lot of upcoming events. 6th and 7th grade students have upcoming trips to local amusement parks. 7th grade students have a former professional football player coming in to speak to them. 8th grade has their outing and red carpet dance to look forward to. March is a tough school month. We ask parents to continue to encourage your children and support the school. We are partners in this.

One last note – the Men of Moran have righted the ship and started a new victory streak for the Faculty / Student Basketball game!!

February 15, 2013

Mid-February Update…

As I walked throughout our nearly empty school these last few days, I realized how much I miss the students and the staff.  It is amazing how institutional a building can feel without its occupants.  Your children are the lifeblood of this school.  Without getting too Jerry Maguire-ish, they complete us.  I, for one, am eagerly awaiting everyone’s return on Tuesday.

One thing that these past 5 snow days has given me is some perspective.  What a great, unexpected opportunity it was for me to spend some uninterrupted time with my 3 children (Taylor, Bella, and Aidan).  There wasn’t any school, dance, soccer, Lego leagues, play dates, parties, track meets, etc. to go to.  All of the distractions were eliminated.  For the first time in a long time, our family of five had no where to go.  I cannot say that I enjoyed shoveling the 3 feet of snow.  My back and shoulders continue to remind me of how badly I need to get in shape.  What I did enjoy was seeing my children and other neighborhood children playing outside.  We built a snow fort, we modified a small backyard hill into a black diamond ski ramp, we shoveled a path for our Golden Retriever, and we threw snowballs.  It was fun to see kids being kids.  Not to sound too old, but it was also nice to see them having fun without technology.

Another positive that we could get out of this storm was the sense of community.  A common theme that I saw throughout this last week was neighbors helping neighbors.  Whether you were loaning out gas, gallons of milk/water, shoveling a walkway, or searching in the 7 foot snow plow piles for your neighbor’s Sunday paper, no one was alone in this.  Hopefully this will be a valuable lesson that our children will take away from this.  When they are our age and talking about the Blizzard of ’13, I hope they tell the stories of kindness that we all witnessed and heard about in the news.

Now back to the education of your children.  We are just past the halfway point of our school year.  There is still a ton of learning to do.  We have new Common Core based units being implemented in our English classrooms.  Our Math teachers are in their second year of implementing their Common Core based curriculum.  On Friday, our 7th grade students will be taking their OLSAT tests.  Wallingford is having the students take these assessments entirely on-line for the first time.  This will be good practice for the upcoming Smarter Balanced assessments that our students will be taking.  In addition, an e-mail went home recently for our upcoming Connecticut Mastery Tests.  These will take place during the month of March.  Primary testing will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week.  Mondays and Fridays are being reserved for make-ups.  A good night’s rest, a good breakfast and great attendance are the keys to success for our students.  Please do the best that you can in supporting your children with this.

I hope everyone was able to enjoy this unexpected break.  Please remind your children that Moran misses them and we are looking forward to their return.  See you all on Tuesday.

January 26, 2013

January 25th Update

It is amazing to think that we are almost at the halfway point of this school year. This school year is flying by. This time of year brings many important events:

–> 2nd marking period closes on January 30th. Please make sure you keep checking your student’s Parent Portal. It is a great tool for everyone.
–> Our 7th grade students will soon be taking the OLSAT test. This is an achievement test that provides us with some valuable data on your children.
–> Our 8th grade students/parents had an orientation at Mark T. Sheehan High School.
–> Our 8th grade students will soon be visiting Sheehan during the day to see the school in action and to work with their counselors to create a schedule for their 9th grade year.
–> Connecticut Mastery Testing (CMT) will begin in March. This is a great opportunity for our students and staff to gage how well our students are doing compared to the rest of the state.

As you may or may not know, Moran has several building-level committees that work to help improve the education at Moran. Students, teachers, parents, and administrators work together in the following committees: Safe School Climate, Anti-Bullying Club (ABC), Professional Development, Technology, Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), Parent Teacher Advisory Counsel (PTAC), etc. As you can see, there are a lot of opportunities for all of the stakeholders at Moran to collaborate on what is best for your child’s education at Moran. Please get in touch with us if you are interested in learning more about any of these groups (203) 741-2900.

A this point in the year you typically see a slight decline in student enthusiasm. I would encourage every parent to continue to stay involved in their child’s education. Ask your child what they are working on, contact your child’s teacher, visit the school to stay connected to the facilities, etc. We are your partners in your child’s education. We look forward to our continued success.

Thank you and stay warm!!!

January 11, 2013

January 11th – Weekly Update…

Good afternoon.  We are about halfway through January.  The second marking period will be ending in 12 school days.  That is an amazing thought.  This year has flown by for me.  It is amazing that we have already begun planning for CMT’s, we are having meetings about high school scheduling for our 8th grade students, and we are beginning to focus on work for the 2013 / 2014 school year.  What I don’t want to do is lose sight of all of the great things that have gone on and are going on this year.

  • I want to thank Keri Carbone for putting together the ’26 Acts of Kindness’ display in our main hallway.  It is a great daily reminder of all of the fantastic things that our staff and students are doing for others.  I especially liked Ms. Pucciarello’s idea to donate 20 children’s books and 6 adult books to her local library.  Thank you, Mrs. Carbone.
  • Our custodial staff did a fantastic job over the winter break getting the building back in September form.  The gymnasium floor was shining as was the main hallway.  Please take a minute to thank Mr. Irish and the guys for their work.
  • Thanks to Jim Andreson, Moran Middle School will have the privilege of hosting the Mock Trial Quarterfinals for our region on February 5th.  Also, the JV Mock Trial competition between Dag and Moran will be on Monday (14th) starting at 3:00 p.m.  Please stop by and support our students if you have the opportunity.  Thank you, Mr. Andreson.
  • Thank you to Mrs. Martin, Mrs. Santiago, and Ms. Somers for livening up the main office.  It was great to see all of your family portraits over the years.  What a great atmosphere it was to walk into.

As you know, this time of year tends to get tremendously busy.  Below are just a few of the events that we have coming up:

  • OLSAT testing in January – 7th grade
  • CMT’s – March 1st and beyond
  • 8th grade high school scheduling
  • ELA will begin with their Common Core units in early February
  • Mindset Madness in March

Some business items that I want to address:

  • Please take the time to look at our school web-site.  It has been updated with some useful information and pictures. (www.wallingford.k12.ct.us/moran)
  • Please remember the Mindset challenge from the Wallingford 100.  A lot of work will be done with that in the month of March.  It is important that we act as educational role models for our children.  There is a lot of Mindset information on our web-site listed above.
  • As the marking period closes, please get in touch with teachers regarding your child’s progress for the year.  Please access Parent Portal as often as possible.
  • Please communicate all student absences as soon as you can to our main office.  If you know that your child is going to be absent, call it in immediately so we can log it in.

I encourage all of you to help your children keep that focus and drive that they began this year with.  Your students need you.  The Moran staff needs you.  Moran is headed in a great direction and that is a credit to all of your hard work at home.  I want to once again thank you for everything that you are doing this year.  You all have made our transition go so smoothly.  The welcoming atmosphere and the feeling of community has been exemplary.  You are all a credit to Wallingford and I am proud to be working with you.  Keep up the fantastic work!

December 31, 2012

As we move into 2013…

Good afternoon!  I want to wish all of you an early Happy New Year!  I hope everyone will get an opportunity to spend tonight with loved ones.

We are all looking forward to getting back in the building and on with our learning.  There is a lot planned for the new year.  We cannot wait to get started again.

Parents, I want to encourage you to get your student back into “school” mode.  Start enforcing that earlier bed-time again.  Encourage them to check their Power School Student Portal to get back on track with their academic progress thus far.  Have them do some reading (20 – 30 minutes daily) to get their brains moving again.  Make sure that they did not have any assignments to complete over break.  See if there is anything that they can “get ahead” on.  Anything that you can do to get them back in school mode would help them.

I want to encourage and challenge parents to stay involved in their children’s education.  Ask your child daily what they did in school.  Do not just limit it to that either:

  • What did you learn in Science today?
  • What time period / continent are you learning about in Social Studies?
  • What did you do in Audio / Video Communications?
  • How was PE today?

Be specific with your questions.  Engage them so that they cannot just answer with a “okay”, “it was fun”, “nothing much”, etc.  Your interest is so important to their development.  Keep in touch with our teachers.  Let them know that you are there to support your child and that you want to know what is happening in school.  Keep in touch with Moran’s administration to let us know what is going on.  Mrs. Foss and I want to hear your thoughts on what is great about Moran.  We need your feedback in order to continue to grow and to be able to provide your children with the best education that we can offer.

In the end know that Moran’s staff is here to support your child in their educational journey. We wish you a happy new year and are looking forward to having everyone walking the halls again!

December 20, 2012

Hello James H. Moran Middle School Parents, Students, & Staff!!!

Parents, Students, & Staff:

Welcome to the brand new blog from Principal Piacentini.  This is just one of many ways that we are trying to keep an open line of communication between the schools and families at home.  I hope you find the contents useful and informative.

The past five seven days have been very difficult for all of us.  The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School was emotional for everyone.  How could something so devastating happen so close to us?  If you were like me, you went home and gave your loved ones an extra long hug.  The first question on everyone’s mind is safety.  Are my children safe at school?  I want to assure you that we take safety very seriously here at Moran Middle School.  Administration has reiterated that from the start of our tenure here.  We do everything in our power to make sure that we maintain a safe and supportive learning environment.

As we say goodbye to 2012 at Moran Middle School, I am reminded of all of the great things that have gone on in my last four months here.  Below is a list of just a few:

  • Boy’s & Girl’s Cross Country runners disappearing onto the trail and emerging with a smile!
  • 6th, 7th, & 8th grade chorus, band and orchestra students in their black & white outfits forming a long line to our stage.  Their smiling faces beaming as they sang and played to a sold out auditorium!
  • The boy’s and girl’s basketball teams starting out their seasons with convincing victories.
  • Our physical education students taking their physical fitness tests to the rhythmic counting of the robotic voice.
  • Mr. Bogush’s Social Studies students created RSA style videos using a whiteboard, a video camera, and the hallway floor.
  • Team 7 Super Novas telling scary stories by the fire on Moran’s outdoor basketball courts.
  • Crowds of students talking to our visitors from China.  Seeing Moran students and Linyi students working on a project together in music and English class.
  • Watching Mr. Schweighoffer’s ‘Fireside Chats’ on YouTube!

These are just a small sampling of the many exciting things that are happening here at Moran Middle School.  I want to thank parents, staff, and students for making my first four months here absolutely warm and welcoming.  I am looking forward to spending many great years here at Moran.  Have a great eight school days off.  See you all next year (or Jan. 3, 2013).