AE/MS Begins New Chapter with Start of ’21 – ’22 School Year

Grant funding results in new programs

By Dennis Dobe

On Monday morning, August 30, the staff members of AE/MS welcomed 214 Kindergarten through Grade 8 students back from their long summer break. The energy and enthusiasm of the students was matched with that of their teachers who had worked so hard all summer to prepare for the 2021-2022 school year.  A new chapter for the Andover Elementary/Middle School has begun.
Summer Time is School Preparation Time
Suffice it to say, many of our teachers did not have a very restful summer – though goodness knows they deserved one!  Due to their extraordinary commitment to our community and its children, almost all of our teachers engaged in either our expanded summer program over the month of July, or one or two intensive professional development activities in August related to our math (all teachers of mathematics, both case managers), Professional Learning Communities (five representatives), or RTI (five representatives) initiatives. Others committed significant time preparing for their new roles: 

Ms. Page, Student Services Director

Miss Peter, Case Manager

Mrs. Brake, Case Manager

Mrs. Peters, LLC Coordinator

Mr. Jensen, STEM Coordinator

Mrs. Kidane, Math CALI

Mrs. Hattan, ELA CALI

Mr. Bramley, Technology

Mr. Orlando, PE/Health. 

Mr. Murphy offered a significant amount of time and expertise collaborating with Mr. Jensen to develop our school STEM program, STEM Lab, and refining our Intermediate Grades (three through five) Science Program. 

Like last summer, when we had to redesign our school in response to the challenges of COVID-19, I can’t say enough about how generous our teachers are with themselves, their time, their energy, and their expertise.  As with everything in schools, teachers and assistants are the “game changers.” You have a truly exceptional team here in Andover, and I hope you know how hard we are working to get even better.
New Staff Members
A fact of life that is often difficult to swallow: people come and people go. In schools, we consider ourselves a family, and our connection with our students and families is similar to those we enjoy with our actual family members. Because of the work that we do together, the way that we depend on and support one another, and the very deep friendships and loving relationships we develop with one another, when a teacher leaves a school, simply put: it is heartbreaking.

Having said that, when people leave our school, those left behind need to pick up the pieces and do the best they can to move on, striving to be even better and even stronger than they had formerly been. This is the state of affairs at AE/MS. It is not uncommon for there to be a steady flow of personnel transition in schools, but in a small school like ours, when a handful of people depart: big impact. Ouch! 

Although we will miss our friends, always remember the innumerable contributions that they made to our school and our lives, and acknowledge that there is no “replacing” these individuals, we need to do our best to bring new talent to our school that will contribute to the ongoing evolution of our school and community. That is what we have invested a good deal of time and energy doing over the past two years. 

Schooling is a people business, and there is no more valuable resource in schools than its people. Attracting, training, and retaining quality educators is one of the very most important things we do in schools. You will get to know our “new talent” very well in the time ahead. I hope that you will be as impressed with these new AE/MS teammates as I have been over the past couple of months.
New Teaching Assignments and Grant Funding Result In New Programs

Resulting from a decrease in school enrollment, and with the infusion of considerable grant resources from the federal government, we have a very unique opportunity for transformational change and modernization at AE/MS. For all the greatness that the Andover Elementary/Middle School has experienced in the past, the opportunity now exists to take our game to the next level.

The contributions of our Specialist Team in the dynamic learning environment we envision for AE/MS in the coming year cannot be overstated. Our Specialists (Art, Music, Physical Education / Health, Library/Media, Technology, STEM, and Guidance) will be working with our students intensively for two weeks every trimester to implement their formal Specialist program (approximately 10 consecutive days to allow for in-depth immersion in the Specialist areas).  They will also oversee our school’s lunch and recess programs – we will have dedicated professional educators teaching and supervising students during one of the most dynamic and influential times of their school day, rich with Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) opportunities and “teachable moments.” 

Further, as the members on our staff that know all students, work with all staff members, and serve in all areas of our school building, the AE/MS Specialist team will be tasked with overseeing and coordinating SEL programming in our building, our school-wide citizenship development program (i.e., our student behavior and conduct program), and our school-wide enrichment program (special programs, arts integration, thematic co-teaching with grade level teachers). 

New to our Specialist Team this year will be the creation of two new positions: Library Learning Commons Director (Mrs. Peters) and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Director (Mr. Jensen). Each of these individuals will have a new course of study for our students and a new place in which to do it: Our AE/MS Library is transitioning to a Library Learning Commons, and our Computer Lab is transforming to a STEM Lab – both areas are being remodeled and retooled for these new and exciting applications. Our kids will be “over the moon” with these new enhancements to their everyday learning experiences in our school.
Raising the Bar of Achievement
We are working to increase student achievement in academics this coming school year utilizing three key strategies.
The first is through increased academic intervention and learning supports. In addition to a critically important new position in our school (Director of Student Support Services), we will have two full-time Special Education Case Managers, two certified teachers serving as Academic Interventionists (part-time), two qualified individuals who will serve as Curriculum Area Leaders / Interventionists (CALIs) – one for Reading/Writing, one for Math – and a full complement of Instructional Assistants. 

Also, we will be refining, expanding, and formalizing our current Response to Instruction (RTI) program this year, which we anticipate will maximize learning opportunities and the likelihood of academic success for all of our students at AE/MS. Perhaps like no time before, when our students need help, they will get it.
The second approach to increased student learning this year is through Specialized Curriculum Leadership and Improved Program Implementation. With the creation of our new CALI positions, we now have dedicated curriculum leadership in our school – individuals who specialize in curriculum development, quality academic programming, and instructional “Best Practice” who will work closely with our teachers to improve student learning outcomes. We anticipate that this new capacity within our organization will have an immediate and powerful impact on student learning.
The third of our school improvement “x-factors” is greater teacher collaboration. Another game changer for our school this coming year will be our opportunity to unleash “team dynamite.” 

For years, AE/MS teachers have demonstrated an abundance of talent and commitment, always looking to make the most of what they have in our school to help our students become the smartest and best they can be. The greatest asset to improving their collective practice this year is the opportunity for teachers to collaborate regularly and frequently, in the context of their school day. 

This year, our grade level teachers have formed Grade Span Instructional Teams (also known as Professional Learning Communities or PLCs). These teams (one for primary grade teachers, one for intermediate grade teachers, and one for middle school grade teachers) will meet every day to discuss student learning, programs, projects, activities, resources, assessments, instructional techniques, and so much more. These regular meetings will also be attended by our CALIs, school administration, and members of our student services team. 

At AE/MS, we are “better together,” and when we have opportunities to work together, team dynamite occurs – unlocking the magic of learning, maximizing the potential growth of every student.
Making AE/MS Sparkle
Mr. Audet, Mr. Merchant, and Mr. Crucitti have been working incredibly hard, under difficult conditions, to get our school ready for opening. In addition to our Expanded Summer Program to both support and work around, there were many classroom assignments that needed to change and new program spaces to develop in order to support our school’s new model and approach to our work in ‘21-’22. 

In addition, there was typical, periodic maintenance to our facility and systems that needed to be performed, and our custodial team continues the massive undertaking of rejuvenating our school building and grounds. 

As with our teachers and assistants who have gone above and beyond the call of duty at AE/MS this summer, our facility maintenance team has met and exceeded expectations for performance over recent weeks (and for so much longer). If you have an opportunity to visit our school this fall, I know that you will be dazzled!
COVID-19 Safety Measures
It has been a very long road we have travelled with regard to COVID-19, and its impact on our lives and schooling over the past year. It is incredibly important for ourselves, our neighbors, and our schools that we all do everything we can to mitigate the harmful effects of this deadly virus.  

At this point in time, as in the past, we plan to do everything we can to make schooling as normal as possible for our students this fall. Although our circumstances could certainly change (our situation with COVID-19 is certainly fluid), for the time being, we must require that all students, staff, and visitors wear masks while in our building. Although there are some exceptions to this practice, for the sake of consistency and eliminating confusion, our default for the time being must be wearing masks indoors for the benefit of our collective health, and keeping kids and teachers healthy and in school (our primary goals this coming school year). 

I want to assure you that our School Board members are concerned about the surge of COVID-19 cases in our state and nation, and will continue to monitor NH-DHHS guidance related to the safe and proper operation of our school. The Andover School Board will continue to uphold its responsibility to protect public health, and will continue to monitor key data related to the spread of COVID-19 in our local area. 

Based on the data, the Board will call emergency meetings, as needed, to consider making necessary adjustments to our Stay Open Plan as local conditions and public safety concerns dictate. 

As has been the case since the measures existed to stop the coronavirus in its tracks, for the benefit of everyone in Andover, please consider doing all that you can to protect yourself and the ones you love from COVID-19 infection (if you have not already done so). 

After so much anticipation and hard work, we are finally here: Opening Day. There are many exciting developments at AE/MS this year that we know our students will enjoy and benefit from.  We are extremely proud of everyone here at AE/MS for all of their hard work and positive attitude. Thank you, Community of Andover, for your constant support of our school. We are eager to begin this new chapter for AE/MS, and we look forward to keeping you informed over the coming months about how our plans for ongoing school improvement are unfolding.

Former Position / Staff Member                                                 New Position / Staff Member
Assistant Principal – Judy Turk                                      Director of Student Support Services – Beth Page
Administrative Assistant – Gail Parenteau                                        Administrative Assistant – Kim Drouin
Special Education Case Manager – Alita Phelps          Special Education Case Manager – Sondra Brake
Special Education Case Manager – Beth Page              Special Education Case Manager – Haley Peters
Part-Time Reading Specialist – Anna Kate Hattan                                     CALI (ELA) – Anna Kate Hattan
Classroom Teacher – Molly Kidane                                                       CALI (Mathematics) – Molly Kidane
Classroom Teacher – Hayley Clark                                                             Academic Interventionist – TBA
Title I Reading Tutor – Amanda Lauster                                                               N/A – Position Eliminated
Classroom Teacher – Michael Jensen                                                STEM Coordinator – Michael Jensen
Classroom Teacher – Stephanie Peters                 Library learning Commons Director – Stephanie Peters
Physical Education Teacher – Mike Silverstein     Physical Education / Health Teacher – Matthew Orlando
Technology Integration Teacher – Mike Wiley                     Technology Integration Teacher – Alex Bramley
Instructional Assistant – Brenda Jurta                                      Instructional Assistant – Samantha Akerman
Instructional Assistant – Alex Bramley                                             Instructional Assistant – Kenneth Grant