Masconomet Regional School District Receives Genocide Education Grant

Superintendent Michael Harvey and Social Studies Department Head Eva Urban Hughes are pleased to announce that Masconomet Regional School District was awarded a Genocide Education Grant.

The school district received $20,000 in grant funds, which will allow for interdisciplinary opportunities within the humanities to enhance genocide studies across the middle school and high school curriculum.

Masconomet plans to partner with Salem State University’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies (CHGS) is committed to advancing research, education and public programming in the fields of Holocaust education, comparative genocide, conflict studies and human rights.

“We are thankful to the state for this grant, which will support our mission of celebrating diversity and the unique cultural heritage of our community and combating negative stereotypes and prejudice in school.” Harvey said.

In 2021, then-Governor Charlie Baker signed a law requiring that all middle and high school students be educated about genocide. For more information on that law, click here.

The goal of the new curriculum is to:

  • To promote a broader understanding of human rights issues in general
  • To examine the patterns of genocide that show how prejudice and hatred impact societie
  • To reject group-specific targeting and prejudice that can lead to violence and genocide

CHGS will offer targeted professional development sessions designed to help participants both understand and teach content covered by the Genocide Education Act. 

Potential training topics will include:

  • Connecting genocide education with existing units on human rights and civic responsibility
  • Identifying high quality, accurate, and affirming resources to use with students
  • Historical instances of genocide with an emphasis on centering on the lives, cultures, and identities of targeted communities

These trainings will not only provide much needed content knowledge and pedagogical support, but will also enrich community understandings of civic responsibility, activism, tolerance, and diversity.

“The Social Studies Department is excited to continue our collaboration with Dr. Christopher Mauriello and his team at the Salem State University Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies,” Hughes said.  “Many Social Studies teachers have studied and traveled with Dr. Mauriello in past years and this grant strengthens the connection between Masconomet’s Social Studies teachers and Salem State University.  We are looking forward to building capacity in teachers in collaboration with CHGS to broach these difficult and important topics with our students thoughtfully and compassionately.”  The district also plans to build a Holocaust studies library to support the current curriculum in place for 11th graders and allow equitable access to all students.”

The upcoming changes will directly affect 25 educators and 1,800 students in the district.

Masconomet Middle School Students Recognized for Service Leadership

Masconomet Regional Middle School 8th Grade students Davis DeLuties of Middleton, Lydia Deal of Boxford, and Jonathan Pinelli of Topsfield were recently selected as 2023 Project 351 Ambassadors for their inspiring ethic of service and values of kindness, compassion, humility, and gratitude. Project 351 is a non-profit organization that empowers a youth-led movement for change powered by an eighth grade student representing every city and town in Massachusetts. 

“These students are fantastic representatives of the Masconomet Middle School Community’s dedication to creating a culture of kindness that celebrates respect for self, respect for our classmates and respect for our communities,” Middle School Principal Dr. Phil McManus said.  “I’m very proud of the work that these students have accomplished and know that they will well represent Masconomet Middle School at Project 351.”    

On January 14th, DeLuties, Deal and Pinelli will unite with more than 425 Ambassadors and Alumni mentors for Project 351’s 13th annual Launch and Service Day in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. & Coretta Scott King. Launch Day kicks-off 12 months of leadership development through unifying service, Alumni mentorship, and enrichment through Project 351’s Service Leadership Academy. 

Over their year’s term, Ambassadors develop the skills and confidence to mobilize schools and communities in four statewide service campaigns: Spring Service, benefitting Cradles and Crayons, Hope & Gratitude Walk benefiting nonprofits selected by Ambassadors;  9.11 Tribute Service with the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund; and Fall Service, which seeks to eradicate hunger through support of hundreds of hometown Food Pantries. At the close of their service year, Ambassadors are invited to continue to hone skills and lead communities as a member of the Alumni Organization.

Launch Day will celebrate the Class of 2023 and honor the legacy of the Kings, with a special tribute of the “The Embrace”, the Commonwealth’s first memorial to Dr. and Mrs. King. Highlights include a kick-off program at Faneuil Hall and an end-of-day celebration.

Ambassadors will dedicate the afternoon to high impact service with 10 nonprofit organizations including La Colaborativa, Cradles to Crayons, Hope & Comfort, and the Wonderfund. United across 351 cities and towns, Ambassadors will address critical issues including hunger, educational opportunity, childhood poverty, mental health and wellness, and care for military and veterans – impacting thousands of neighbors across Boston and the Commonwealth.

“The 351 generation is compassion-in-action. We’re honored to welcome our 13th Class of leaders, dreamers, and doers,” said Carolyn Casey, Project 351’s Founder and Executive Director.  “We are proud of their commitment to unite as the Class of 2023 to build the knowledge, skills, and confidence to lead the change they wish to see in the world.”

Since 2011, 4,492 Ambassadors have positively impacted more than 1.2 million neighbors through unifying statewide service. 

About Project 351

Founded in 2011, Project 351 is a youth-led movement for change powered by an eighth grade unsung hero selected to represent every city and town in Massachusetts. Ambassadors are selected for an exemplary ethic of service and the values of kindness, compassion, humility, and gratitude.  

Project 351 is a nonprofit organization powered by Ambassador leadership and the investment of civic-minded corporations, foundations, individuals, and Project 351 Alumni. We are honored by the faith of our partners including the Martin Richard Foundation, Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation, Crimson Lion Foundation, John Hancock, Michael Carmen and Pamela Lederer, Foundation to be Named Later, HYM Investment, Mabel Louise Riley Foundation, Governor Deval and Diane Patrick, two generous funders who chose anonymity,  and our media partner WBZ-TV.

Masconomet Regional School District Receives Grant in Support of Language Proficiency Testing

BOXFORD – Superintendent Michael Harvey and World Language Department Head Jeanne O’Hearn are pleased to announce that the Masconomet Regional School District has been awarded grant funding to support the purchase of language proficiency testing materials.

The $8,473 Proficiency-based Outcomes in Languages Other than English Grant from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will assist the district in setting goals for students studying world languages, including Spanish, French, and Chinese in Grades eight and 12, or who are proficient in another language at home.

The testing assessment produces separate scores for each student’s proficiency levels in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. The goals are to use the data to help eighth-grade students work toward their targeted proficiency level, and for 12th-grade students in advanced courses to have an opportunity to earn the Seal of Biliteracy, which is awarded to students who demonstrate a high level of proficiency in English and one other language.

This funding aids in reinforcing and clarifying teachers’ understanding of each student’s strengths and challenges as language learners.

Teachers will be able to look for commonalities among their students regarding the attainment of certain skills while also utilizing data to consider adapting instruction going forward.

“This will be a great resource for our district that will directly benefit world language students,” Superintendent Harvey said. “We’re grateful to DESE for its support of this important program.”

For more information on Masconomet Regional School District, click here.

Masconomet Regional High School Organizes ‘Five Days of Giving’ Drive & Spirit Event

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From left: Maguire Sturgis, Avery Allen, Brooklyn Odoardi, Emmy Clark and Jessie Chadwick stand in their festive holiday sweaters to celebrate the last day of spirit week and the Five Days of Giving. (Courtesy Photo Masconomet Regional School District)

BOXFORD – Superintendent Michael Harvey and Principal Mary Jo Carabatsos are pleased to share that Masconomet Regional High School students recently organized a successful gift drive as part of the annual Masconomet Five Days of Giving event. 

The drive, Which ran from Dec.16-22, resulted in 170 gifts and gift cards being collected for children ages 10 and up. 

“It was truly wonderful to see the Masconomet community come together in the holiday spirit through the act of giving and community engagement,” said Principal Carabatsos. 

Each morning of the event, donations were collected by peer leaders and members of the Student Council. Joan Murphy, a long-time educator in the district, assisted the project by collecting donations each day and delivering them to various community programs and tri-town residents.

Peer leaders also dedicated their time during the week to spread holiday cheer by visiting freshmen in their classrooms to discuss the importance of giving and community building, and also share holiday-themed trivia. 

“Many of us will be receiving gifts from family members and loved ones. However, it is important to recognize that this is not the case for everyone and some of these people are within our tri-town community,” said Peer Leader Captian Avery Allen. “Community is crucial during this time, as it is our chance to help people around us who might need extra support.” 

The Five Days of Giving coincided with Masconomet’s Spirit Week, which consisted of these holiday-themed apparel days:

  • Friday – Pajama Party Day 
  • Monday- Whoville Day 
  • Tuesday- Candy Cane Day 
  • Wednesday- Snow Day 
  • Thursday- Festive Holiday Sweater Day 
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Evelyn Hubbard and Maddie Payne collect donations in the hallway as part of the five days of giving drive.

Masconomet Psychology Club Visits MIT to Explore Research Work

Members of the Masconomet Psychology Club during their visit to the Broad Institute at MIT. (Courtesy Photo Masconomet Regional School District)

The Masconomet High School Psychology Club had an opportunity to visit the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last month to learn about the innovative work being done in the field. 

On Friday, Dec. 16, 28 seniors in the club traveled to the Broad Institute and the Koch Galleries at MIT to learn more about those organizations’ work on Alzheimer’s Disease and Schizophrenia, and chemo-resistant cancer, respectively.

Both the Broad Institute and MIT are doing cutting-edge work in the field of psychology, and students had the opportunity to see research psychology being put into practice as they toured the labs, spoke to researchers and attended graduate student lectures. 

“It was very inspiring for students to see what they learn in our classroom in action. Some of this stuff is years away from being applied, but it’s exciting to be part of the process,” psychology teacher Brian Mintz said. 

Students observed the work researchers are doing to study schizophrenia in mice by mimicking neurological issues, which allows them to work toward developing effective medications. 

During the visit, students also learned about experiments exploring how organisms as small as a pencil eraser are able to learn. 

“What I liked about this field trip was that there was a huge variety of experiences all day,” senior Taylor Carmody said. “My favorite experience was going into the labs where the scientists were working. One of the scientists was really focused on talking about career experiences and taking questions. I was really inspired by her to go into the field! It was great to get that exposure.” 

According to Mintz, a number of psychology students are pursuing it from a medical perspective and the visit afforded them the opportunity to see the variety of ways psychology can be put to use and to determine what interests them most. 

Future trips will include visits to the Gross Anatomy Lab at Boston University Medical School and to Harvard’s Adolescent Neuroscience Center. 

Psychology Club members Piper Morris (left) and Grace Spinetti took part in a simulation of chemotherapy-resistant cancers using beads during their visit to MIT in December. (Courtesy Photo Masconomet Regional School District)
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Members of the Masconomet Psychology Club during their visit to the Broad Institute at MIT. (Courtesy Photo Masconomet Regional School District)

Masconomet Middle School Students Organize Toy Drive to Benefit Pathways for Children in Beverly

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Members of the Masconomet Middle School Student Council who helped organize the toy drive. (Courtesy Photo Masconomet Regional School District)

On Tuesday, Dec. 20, the Middle School Student Council completed its annual toy drive in support of Pathways for Children — a head start program based in Beverly. Through the generosity of students and families, the council donated more than $2,000 worth of toys and books to the organization. 

The toy drive ran through most of December, with students being encouraged to donate toys for children ages 3-5. Additionally, as part of their effort, Masconomet students had the opportunity to visit with children from the organization to play games and sing songs together.

The gifts donated ranged from dolls to LEGOs and board games, among other items. 

The Student Council’s faculty advisors, Nicko Tzortzis and Dan Bisceglia facilitated the toy drive and accompanied students on their visit to Pathways for Children. The council is comprised of more than 50 seventh- and eighth-grade students who take part in a variety of activities during the school year that center on community service and outreach, as well as spirit days, the end-of-year celebration and other activities throughout the year.

“This is an important tradition for our school community which helps to connect our students to those in need in our area,” Tzortzis said.

“We’re proud to work with our Student Council to organize this effort every year, and it’s such a great experience to see them connect with the students from Pathways for Children in such a meaningful way,” Bisceglia added.

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Masconomet Middle School students and families collectively donated more than $2,000 worth of toys and books to students at Beverly’s Pathways for Children program. (Courtesy Photo Masconomet Regional School District)

Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, 12/14/22

Welcome to Topsfield School Resource Officer Brendan Gahagan and Comfort Dog Officer Aster.  Officer Gahagan and Aster share our School Resource Officer duties with the Boxford Police Department and are on campus two or three days per week.  Aster joined the Topsfield Police Department this summer and has been in our schools since September. She’s been very popular with both students and faculty.

Officer Brendan Gahagan and Aster

Addressing Hate in School Sports Conference on 12/8

Last Thursday, December 8, 2022, Dr. Carabatsos, Mr. Daileanes and I attended the “Addressing Hate in School Sports Conference” at TD Garden.  The conference was sponsored by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Massachusetts School Administrators Association (MSAA), and the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS).  During the conference we heard from Attorney General and Governor-Elect Maura Healey, DESE Commissioner Jeff Riley, MASS President Diane Kelly, MIAA Executive Director Bob Baldwin and representatives from the seven Massachusetts Professional Sports Organizations; the Boston Bruins, the Boston Celtics, the New England Patriots and Revolution, the Boston Red Sox, the Boston Renegades and the Boston Pride.  During the conference, we also attended breakout sessions given by experts from the Attorney General’s Office, Anti-Defamation League of New England, and the MIAA as well as school administrators, athletic directors and coaches on best practices for addressing hate in school sports.  The purpose of the conference was also to serve as a kickoff of an initiative to provide 13 regional trainings for coaches and school administrators that will be held later in 2023.  These sessions will be facilitated by trainers from Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society.

Attorney General and Governor-Elect Maura Healey welcomes attendees at the Addressing Hate in School Sports Conference

Meeting with High School Student Council Executive Board on 12/9

On Friday, December 9, I met with the Executive Board from the High School’s Student Government Association during M-Block.  The students were very busy with several events that are ongoing in the high school as we approach the holiday break, including the Five Days of Giving and Spirit Week from 12/16-12/22, Senior Citizens Concert on 12/19, Senior Class Snowball, Grades 9 and 10 Winter Semi-Formal Dance.  We also explored some ideas about how the M-Block could be used for other activities than receiving extra help.  Given that students are very heavily scheduled after school, they wondered if it was possible to use M-Block for student club meetings.  I told them that Dr. Carabatsos and I would look into this to see if it was possible.  

Members of the Class of 2026 learn about the Five Days of Giving

MCSA Education Law Conference on 12/9

On Friday, December 9, I was able to attend the Annual Meeting of the Massachusetts Council of School Attorneys.  During this meeting, attendees heard presentations regarding the legal aspects of the recent teacher strikes in Haverhill and Malden from the lead counsel for the Haverhill School Committee and the Director of the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations.  We also heard a presentation from the Attorney from the Ludlow School District regarding a lawsuit involving student privacy and parental rights, and an update from the General Counsel from DESE regarding several current legal issues.

Strategic Planning Meeting on 12/13

On Tuesday, December 12, our Strategic Planning Working Group held its second meeting.  The sessions focused on developing the members of the Working Group into a functioning team through discussion of each member’s working styles.  Our next meeting will be on January 10th.

Pilot Schedule Task Force

The Pilot Schedule Task Force met on December 2nd.  The group continued to review the results from the faculty and student surveys and identified some potential areas for changes to the pilot schedule to explore based on these results.  The Task Force will be meeting again on January 6th

Senior Citizen Concert on 12/19

On December 19th, our high school band and choral groups will be performing for senior citizens from Boxford, Middleton and Topsfield.  Thanks to our Student Council who will also be helping to serve lunch to the senior citizens.  We’re looking forward to a great show on Monday.

COVID Test Kit Distribution

As we did prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday, all students and staff in the district will be offered a COVID-19 test to take home next week for use prior to returning to school in January.  Each test kit contains two COVID-19 tests.  Test kits were provided free of charge by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to all school districts in the Commonwealth.  Building principals will be coordinating test distribution in their respective schools and will be providing more information on the distribution process.

Upcoming School Events:

High SchoolMiddle School
December 15, Senior Snowball, 6 PM

December 20, Post-Secondary Athletic Celebration, 2:30 PM

December 20, HS Choral Concert, 7 PM

December 22, Vacation begins, Regular dismissal time

January 3, School Reopens
December 15, MS Winter Band Concert, 7 PM

December 22, Vacation begins, Regular dismissal time

January 3, School Reopens

For a full listing of School Events, please see the Masconomet Website.

Masconomet Seniors Volunteer at Tri-Town Polls to Support Elections

Senior Anna Halilaj, left, registered to vote during Middleton Town Clerk Ilene Twiss’s class visit. Another, Luke Maczynski, volunteered for a total of 10 hours at polling places in all three of Masconomet’s sending communities. (Photo CourtesyMasconomet Regional School District)

BOXFORD – Masconomet High School students got a firsthand look at the election process when they volunteered at the polls in Middleton, Topsfield, and Boxford during November’s state election. 

Prior to volunteering, seniors in teacher Eva Urban Hughes’ class had the opportunity to meet with Middleton Town Clerk Ilene Twiss and learn about the voting process and election integrity. Students also learned about how poll workers support Town Clerks’ work on election day and during early voting. 

Twiss fielded numerous questions from students about voting and elections, speaking passionately about the work that goes into protecting the integrity of the process. She also extended the invitation to volunteer and facilitated the opportunity to do so in Topsfield and Boxford as well.

One senior, Anna Halilaj, registered to vote during Twiss’ visit so she could vote in the upcoming election, which took place one day after her 18th birthday. Another, Luke Maczynski, volunteered for a total of 10 hours at polling places in all three towns. 

Nearly all of the students volunteered to support early voting or election day operations across the three Masconomet communities and one volunteered in Salem. Student volunteers helped to check-in voters as they arrived during early voting and on election day, while others worked after the polls closed to support ballot counting.

Another group of students worked to conduct a mock gubernatorial election during lunch periods on Nov. 7 and 8. 

“Providing this kind of experiential learning for students is critical to understanding good citizenship,” Urban Hughes said. “Students witness firsthand the integrity of the voting process, which has recently been under attack. Nurturing thoughtful, conscientious citizens is the number one goal of public education and I applaud my students and the Town Clerks in the tri-town area for joining us at Masco in this effort.”

Superintendent’s Report to the School Committee, 11/30/22

Strategic Plan Working Group Update

Our Strategic Plan Working Group had its initial meeting on November 15th.  During this session, the group heard from John D’Auria, Ed.D., who is a former teacher, school counselor and superintendent and is now a professor at William James University.  Dr. D’Auria spoke to our Working Group about the importance of developing a culture of mutual learning in schools.  In schools that have a culture of mutual learning, adult learning goes hand-in-hand with student learning.  Dr. D’Auria’s remarks gave us some key principles on how to develop this culture of mutual learning at Masconomet and set the tone for the Working Group’s meetings for the rest of the school year.

Schedule Task Force Update

The Pilot Schedule Task Force met on November 14th to begin to review the data from our staff and student survey.  The Task Force divided into middle and high school focus groups to analyze the responses from their respective schools.  The Schedule Task Force will be meeting again on Friday, December 2nd to continue this work.

Operational Services Division Recommending 14% Increase for Out of District Tuitions for FY24

We’ve received notice from the Massachusetts Operational Services Division, which is the state office that sets tuition rates for approved out-of-district special education programs to expect a 14% rate increase for these programs for FY24.  This is compared to increases in the past few fiscal years that were around 2%.  Programs that provide special education services are not immune to the same cost increases that we’re seeing in our district operations.  These programs are also facing a shortage of qualified workers.  Unfortunately, this increase will have a direct impact on our FY24 budget as any reimbursement from the state’s special education circuit-breaker for these tuition increases will not be realized until FY25.  The Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) is currently working with the state legislature to see if it is possible to provide districts with more immediate relief in the state’s FY24 budget.

National Honor Society Induction

Congratulations to the 84 Masconomet Regional High School Students who were inducted into the New Meadows Chapter of the National Honor Society on November 29th.  Students are nominated for induction into NHS and reviewed by a faculty committee on their qualities of “scholarship,” “leadership,” “character,” and “service.”

Upcoming School Events:

High SchoolMiddle School
December 13, HS Band Concert, 7 PM

December 15, Senior Snowball, 6 PM

December 20, HS Choral Concert, 7 PM
December 1, Trimester 2 Begins

December 15, MS Winter Band Concert, 7 PM

For a full listing of School Events, please see the Masconomet Website.

Masconomet Eighth Graders Travel to Philadelphia and Washington to Deepen Their Citizenship and See History Firsthand

The Masconomet Middle School eighth-grade class traveled to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., including landmarks like the U.S. Capitol. (Courtesy Photo Masconomet Regional School District)

BOXFORD – Masconomet Middle School eighth graders had the opportunity to explore the nation’s capital — and the nation’s colonial capital — during a multi-day field trip down the east coast earlier this month. 

From Nov. 2-5, the entire eighth-grade class traveled to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., where they visited significant historical landmarks and had an opportunity to explore the very places they’ve come to know more about through their social studies coursework.

Social studies teacher Rebecca Calzini organized the trip with the support of numerous chaperones in order to provide students with a deeper, firsthand understanding of American history, including the leaders and sacrifices that set America on a path to where it is today. 

In Philadelphia, students visited Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, as well as the Interactive Constitution Center. In Washington, students visited the Capitol, several memorials, the Supreme Court, and the Smithsonian’s Air and Space, Natural History, American History and American Indian Museums. They also visited Arlington National Cemetery, which is the final resting place for thousands of people who’ve served the nation.

“It’s important for students to see the nation’s capital and see our national monuments so they appreciate the sacrifices that Americans have made in creating and maintaining our democracy,” Calzini said. “It makes them better citizens and it’s a joy to bring them there and share this experience with them.” 

The trip exposed students to some of the most significant places in both American history and modern American society and served as an opportunity to make their learning more experiential. It also afforded them an opportunity to develop their independence as they explored cities with less hands-on guidance from chaperones.

“It’s important for kids to have these experiences because travel is a fundamental part of a young person’s growth, especially when it involves the nation’s capital,” teacher and chaperone Nicko Tzortzis said. “It was great to see them engaging in the sights of the capital, but they also had a chance to meet people outside of the tri-town area and engage with them as well. The kids had a great time!” 

Social Studies department head Eva Urban Hughes added that she’s hopeful the school community will continue to support this trip and others like it. This year marked the first time since 2019 that Masconomet eighth graders have made the trip, following a multi-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

“Citizenship is the core of the eighth-grade curriculum and this trip underscores the values of the mission of the district,” Hughes said. “Students that attended the trip will have lasting memories of their Masco Middle School experience for a lifetime.”

The group of 246 students was accompanied by 13 chaperones, including Calzini and Tzortzis, as well as Tom Cobb, Lois Afrow, Pat Hogan, Tim Brown, Rob Beardsell, Heather Cote, Erica Donovan, Eric Bonnano, Viana Mendes and Jeanne O’Hearn.

Eighth graders Angelina Vecchio, Mara Siewko, Taylor Vuylsteke, Julianna Vaz, Brooke Hagerty, Kaia Reardon, Ada Paglierani and Grace Blaney at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington. (Courtesy Photo Masconomet Regional School District)
Members of the Masconomet Middle School eighth-grade class at the White House. (Courtesy Photo Masconomet Regional School District)