Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Update- Annual Transitions, Student Leadership, & Social Media

As we "spring forward" from our most recent April break, I am reminded of how quickly the last marking period passes...before we know it, all of our students will be passing on from grade to grade.

Annual transitions
For parents of our present 5th graders, I will be hosting an informal parent orientation on Tuesday evening, May 2, at 7:00pm in the Saxe Cafeteria.  The "information" can be found in the link here, so feel free to review the presentation in advance of the meeting:

For parents of our present 6th and 7th graders, the Saxe counselors and administrators presented an overview of these "internal transitions" at the April Saxe PTC mtg. last week.  You can view that presentation at the link here and feel free to contact your child's counselor if you have any specific questions.

For parents of our promoting 8th graders, please continue to refer to the webpage link here for end of year information as it will be continuously updated over the coming weeks...  By the way, our last day of school is Wednesday June 21 and our 8th grade promotion ceremony will be held in the NCHS Gym at 9:45am.

If you have an incoming 5th grader, Dr. Clapp is in the process of distributing transition information for each sending elementary school cohort.  As you will recall, Saxe presents a parent orientation at each elementary school, during the day to the 4th graders and in the evening to the parents oh 4th graders.

Student Leadership
Please see the summary below from our School Climate consultant, Dr. Bill Preble:

Saxe Middle School, New Canaan, CT
We recently spent a full day working with New Canaan’s School Climate Coordinator, Susan Bliss and 5th-8th grade-level principals, teachers and student leaders from Saxe Middle School. The objectives for the day were to develop student leaders from all grades to affect school change; to build stronger partnerships between teachers and students for school climate improvement, and to take the three specific areas identified as needing improvement by Saxe students and teachers based-on their school climate surveys (improve relationships, increase student choices, and improve school discipline) and initiate a dozen different student and teacher leadership projects that would address these goals.

Here are a few examples of the projects that students and teachers worked on:

The entire 5th grade team participated in their first Student Leaders Orientation and developed a presentation for the 6, 7, and 8th grade teachers and student leaders about everybody’s roles as effective school climate leaders.

6th grade teams worked on building more personal relationships with cafeteria staff and bus drivers by designing an interview and story telling project called, Humans of Saxe.  Another group worked to highlight the CHOICES that teachers already offer students and discussed choices that students appreciate, as well as other kinds of choices that teachers could make available to students to develop more student ownership and engagement in learning.

7th grade students and teachers met in small groups to discuss ways to Amplify Student Voices at Saxe by gaining permission to make announcements about ongoing student leadership efforts and locating and using cool quotes about student empowerment to inspire students and teachers to work to provide more opportunities for student voice at Saxe. Another group working on improving school discipline planned a Clipboard Observation Hallway Research project where students will pair up with teachers to do quick observations of student interaction and behavior in hallways between classes, both when teachers are and are not standing in their doorways. The team will collect data and make recommendations to teachers based on their findings.

8th graders made a plan for communicating to their teachers about the kinds of Teaching Practices They Loved and two groups develop plans for helping make their classes more effective when substitute teachers were in their classrooms. They developed “Helping Roles for Students” to greet subs, help them navigate and use classroom technology, and made suggestions about strategies to make subs’ teaching and interaction with students more mutually respectful and effective.

Nick Cannon, one of our new staff members who helped lead these sessions with student leaders and teachers on the Adult Design Team, said in an email the next day, “Yesterday was a true highlight for me getting to work with those students. Leaving Saxe I had that amazing feeling of being thoroughly exhausted and energized ... . We just have to keep that momentum going!”

The student leaders from each grade level spent time launching their projects. They then prepared a 2-3-minute presentation of their projects to show their teachers the work they had begun and the next steps that would need to be taken to fully implement their projects.  They presented all this to their adult mentors after school at what they called a School Climate Summit. All four student leadership teams and their adult mentors will continue working on their projects for the next three weeks when they meet every 6 school days on their rotating FLEX schedule. They will make final presentations of their School Climate Improvement goals, the action projects they have initiated to address these goals, and highlight the impact that their projects have had on students, teachers, classrooms and their school at a full faculty meeting next month.

Great work everybody! What an amazing group of school climate leaders! Thanks to the principals, teachers and students from Saxe! ONWARD AND UPWARD!

Social Media and Student Emotional&Physical Safety

Please contact a school counselor or administrator if/when you have knowledge that our students are sharing or conducting potentially risky discussion over social media.  It is tempting to dismiss or minimize this type of discourse, as we can all remember how many mood swings occurred throughout our middle school years.  At the same time, we are living in different times and our students are in need of our continued monitoring and support as they navigate additional social and peer pressures over the internet.

Recently, the national media has brought attention to a new streaming "television series" titled 13 Reasons Why.  I have provided some additional links here for more information.  As always, if you have a concern about your child or another child, please contact us.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day at Saxe

Veterans Day at Saxe Middle School
Saxe Middle School is holding its Ninth Annual Veterans Appreciation Day today,  Friday, November 11, 2016.  The day will be framed by the Essential Questions:
·    How does the past affect the present?
·    How does an individual impact a global community? 

Saxe Middle School students will participate the Saxe Middle School Ninth Annual Veterans Appreciation Day. 

Music teachers, Chris Coulter, Janet Rosen and Katie Dorfman, will be conducting Saxe band and orchestra students in performing a welcoming medley of patriotic songs in the front lobby. 

John Calitri, Sergeant, U.S. Army (1965-67), will be conducting a special flag folding ceremony as part of the day’s educational activities. 

Saxe students will be able to make thank you cards that will be delivered to the West Haven Veterans Hospital and the New Canaan Veteran Homebound Human Services Division. 

Students will serve as escorts for the visiting veterans. 

This Veterans Day at Saxe Middle will be a day to remember because all of the students will have an opportunity to hear history first hand from thirty visiting veterans. 

This is a day for the Saxe Learning Community to take the time to honor those heroes who have sacrificed so much for the United States. This program is planned in conjunction with the Saxe Library Media Center.

Saxe Library Media Specialists, Monica Sheeha and Mona Biondi have once again, gone "above and beyond" to coordinate this event!
Please visit the Saxe website to play the video from this morning's reception of our veterans in the main lobby...

Friday, October 14, 2016

Saxe Update - Week of October 17

Reminder:  Celebrate Saxe!
You can find more details about Celebrate Saxe 2016 by visiting the Saxe PTC website:

Open House Evenings
Links below to the specific times and class period rotations for each evening Gr. 6-8.  (Separate email coming on Gr. 5).
Please join us for Open House at Saxe Middle School as per the schedule below, at 6:45pm (6:30pm arrival)!  Your child will bring home a personalized schedule for you to follow as the date nears, (if that schedule does not come home with your child, you can obtain a copy in the lobby when you arrive). 
Grade 5     Monday                 October 17
Grade 6     Tuesday                October 18
Grade 7     Wednesday           October 19
Grade 8     Thursday               October 20

Author Visit
The Saxe PTC, in partnership with the New Canaan Library, is thrilled to host Nadia Hashimi, author of  One Half from the East.  This is her first book for young people, but it continues the exploration of her family's Afghan-American culture and heritage.
This coming Wednesday October 19, author Nadia Hashimi will be visiting Saxe and she will present in two assemblies:  one for grades 5/6, and one for grades 7/8.  Additionally, she will have lunch with students of the 7/8 book club.  Her talk will focus on her journey to become a writer, some of the themes within her books, and the writing/reading process to connect to our learners.  Afghan-American Nadia Hashimi was born and raised in New York and New Jersey. She graduated from Brandeis University with degrees in Middle Eastern Studies and Biology. She enrolled in medical school in Brooklyn and completed her pediatric training at NYU/Bellevue hospitals in New York City. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was her debut novel. Nadia is also the author of When the Moon is Low, A House Without Windows and One Half from the East (...her first novel for young readers is a coming-of-age journey set in modern-day Afghanistan that explores life as a bacha posh—a preteen girl dressed as a boy).
This event is part of our Celebrate Saxe focus on literacy development for grade 5 and 6 students and will culminate with their grade level Big Read on October 28 as well as our schoolwide Saxe PTC Book Fair October 25-27.
Saxe Parenting & Technology Workshop
Saxe PTC will be hosting Developing a Technology Plan for Your Family!  also on Wednesday, October 19th
9:15am in South School Cafeteria.  Jake Kircher, local youth minister, and Social Media Consultant for New Canaan CARES, will take the guesswork out of parental controls and start the school year with a technology plan that works for your family.  Jake has been helpful in the past in guiding Saxe parents through the on-going challenge of tweens/teens and social media usage.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Saxe Update - Week of Oct. 10

Saxe Update - Week of October 10
Dear Saxe Parent/Guardian:
Celebrate Saxe 2016
This “direct donation drive” of the Saxe PTC has been able to keep every dollar donated and return it directly to the benefit of our students.  
Friday October 7 was Red & Black Spirit Day coupled with the schoolwide launch of the Saxe PTC annual fundraiser, Celebrate Saxe.  Saxe PTC Celebrate Saxe co-chairs, Sara Schubert and Emily Hanlon have worked tirelessly to “re-frame” the fundraiser to include the involvement of the school climate student leadership teams at each grade level 6-8.  Saxe student leaders produced a student-made video which was shown to our students to launch Celebrate Saxe.  Over the next two weeks, Saxe student leaders will continue to promote Celebrate Saxe, as well as, begin to plan proposals for the allocation of some of the money raised this year.
This year, our students have crafted a fundraising campaign to be separated into two, developmentally appropriate, approaches. 
Our Lower Division students in grades 5 and 6 will be Reading Big! In the coming days/weeks in order to participate in a culminating activity, the Big Read!  5th and 6th graders will participate in an all-Lower Division Big Read event (weather permitting, outdoors).  This curricular-embedded literacy focus will allow our Lower Division students to recruit donors to their school fundraising campaign in honor of our student commitment to lifelong reading!  If you weren't aware, in the past, the Saxe PTC  contributed approx. $25,000.00 to the purchasing of classroom libraries for all Language Arts classrooms in the school!

In Workshop classes today, 7th and 8th graders kicked off their two-week campaign to “Unplug to charge your potential!”  That’s right, the Student Leadership Team is challenging their peers to make a commitment to put down their devices and free up a bit of time each day to charge another part of themselves! Be sure and ask your child what they will focus on… the arts, physical fitness, community service… one thing for sure is they will achieve self-growth & fulfillment this fall.  
You can find more details about Celebrate Saxe 2016 by visiting the Saxe PTC website:

After School Activities

“…teens become so preoccupied with their own thinking that they fail to distinguish between their thoughts and the thoughts of others…Dwelling on themselves-constantly focusing on their deepest desires and their most glaring deficiencies-may make them overly self-conscious and reluctant to act…The best way to counter adolescent egocentrism and the lack of confidence it may breed is to help your teen…move away from the intense focus on self.”
The Good Teen by Richard M. Lerner, Ph.D.  
At Saxe, our students are consistently asked to use their assets to create a positive result, for both themselves and for others.  Guiding our young people to develop awareness and empathy for others is an excellent way to move a middle school aged child from self-doubt to self-expression and finally toward contribution, to both one’s self and to others.  So many of our students are already engaged in service learning activities sponsored by local civic groups or spiritual institutions.  When students are engaged in learning about the experiences of others, as well as, co-curricular activities beyond the classroom, we increase the probability that their own development will be asset-driven.   Last month, Saxe recruited 5th and 6th grade students to join the school musical.  Students in all grades were invited to join Odyssey of the Mind teams.  In the past two weeks, Saxe recruited students, in all grades, to join any of the variety of after school clubs/activities being offered.  In the early winter, our 7th and 8th graders will be asked to join their school musical.  Whatever the grade, and whoever the child, there are opportunities both at school and within our community for our middle schoolers to further develop their strengths, for their own good and the good of others.

Saxe Evening Open House Week - October 17-20
Please join us for Open House at Saxe Middle School as per the schedule below, at 6:45pm (6:30pm arrival)!  Your child will bring home a personalized schedule for you to follow as the date nears, (if that schedule does not come home with your child, you can obtain a copy in the lobby when you arrive). 
Grade 5     Monday                October 17
Grade 6     Tuesday                October 18
Grade 7     Wednesday           October 19
Grade 8     Thursday               October 20
A few important reminders:
1.     Please park in a lined parking space.  When the campus spaces are full, NCPD will direct cars to New Canaan High School for additional parking.  You will need a flashlight on your way back at the end of the evening!
2.     Our presentations begin in the cafeteria at 6:45pm sharp.  Please plan to arrive at 6:30pm so that “classes” can begin on time.
3.     Please check the Saxe website to review the Saxe Student Learning Expectations in preparation for our evening(s)!
Open House is a wonderful opportunity to meet your child’s teachers.  If you have concerns about particular policies or about your child specifically, please leave a note or call your child’s teacher to discuss these privately.   Of course, you can always contact your child's counselor or grade level administrator when the need arises.  We would rather know about your concern then to find out in the future that we missed an opportunity to respond!
We encourage all parents to be active members of the school community.  As a member of the Saxe Parent Teacher Council (PTC), you can participate in a variety of efforts all designed to have a positive impact on your child's education.  We look forward to seeing you!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Week 2 Update

There are two basic methods of digging foundation footings – pick & shovel, or power equipment. (From
Saxe students and teachers have been busy this week "laying down the foundation" for the year's worth of learning still ahead.  Whether our approach has been "manual or automatic" is less the concern than whether we have built a strong foundation.  Students are busy getting to know one another and teachers have been involved in learning their new clients as quickly as possible.  All of this contributes to a strong foundation of relational trust that must be in place for real learning to occur.  It is critical that every one of our students develops a "sense of belonging" as we begin this new school year.

School Vision
Celebrating Our Learning Community
Caring, Communication and Commitment

All Saxe students strive to:
Care  for one's self, for others and for all property
Communicate with peers/adults at school and at home
Commit to doing one's very best at school, at home, and with peers
Chapter One-Caring
(For one’s self, for others and for all property) 
When Saxe students care, they create a sense of belonging for themselves and others in our school.  How do you show respect for another student’s thoughts?  How do you show other students that you care about their feelings?  How do you provide opportunities for others to be part of a group?
What would our school become if its students felt like they didn’t belong here?  If you know someone who feels that way, how can you help?

For more...

This past week also gives me to opportunity to recognize the invaluable efforts of our non-certified staff at Saxe.  Our secretaries, assistants and custodians are the "real foundation" of our school and they deserve our highest appreciation for ensuring that our students have had a most successful opening of school!  In that vein, it is also with mixed feelings that I announce that Saxe Head Custodian Stan Sarafin has accepted the position of Head Custodian at New Canaan High School and as such, I am pleased to announce that James O'Hara, has been promoted from the custodial crew at Saxe to the position of Head Custodian.  We will miss Stan immensley but we are glad he helped to mentor his successor!

Speaking of foundations...our construction project team held a parent briefing this week.  Please visit the link here to review their presentation.
The next parent briefing will be on Tuesday October 11 at 2pm in the Saxe Band Room.
As always, if you have any questions about the project, please feel free to contact my office.

Finally, on our first two successive Fridays, we will have completed our opening of school safety drills (building evacuation and lockdown).  Please commend your child for taking our drills seriously and understanding that their individual compliance increases the safety of us all.
Enjoy the weekend and ...Please visit ...

September 11 Anniversary - Morning Announcement

Patriot Day falls on Sunday, September 11, 2016 and is remembered globally as the anniversary of the catastrophic terrorist attacks on the USA in 2001.

Each year on this day, American flags are flown at half-staff to honor and commemorate those lives lost.

The US President asks fellow Americans to observe a moment of silence at 8.46am, the time of the first plane collision into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

To show the world that the country will not be intimidated by cowardly acts of terror and honor those that perished on that fateful day, the site of the former World Trade Center is now home to both the One World Trade Center or “Freedom Tower” and a beautiful memorial.

Alongside, lies the elegant 9/11 Memorial and Museum that features twin reflecting pools with the names of every person that died in the terrorist attacks etched on to its bronze-paneled edges.

A memorial which ​opened in Shanksville, PA last year, pays tribute to the 40 brave men and women that gave up their lives to save others.

​In 2008, a memorial was established at the Pentagon to honor the 184 victims from the attack on that site on September 11, 2001.

Let’s us pause now for a moment of silence:

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Opening of School Report Notes for BOE Mtg.

At Saxe Middle School...

Perseverance and Productivity seem to be the common themes from this past week as the transition to a new school year has successfully begun...

During the opening of school, we know that the simple tasks can typically feel stressful as all of our students are encountering a new hallways to navigate, new lockers to open, new teachers to meet, new schedules to keep, and a new mix of familiar and new peers in classrooms.  

Our students are gaining esteem as they are learning to transfer their previously mastered skills to their new environments and as they are shifting to become productive in both process and product as they move from summer activities to school activities...

a few factoids from last week at Saxe...

as for new staff:  we have:

2 additional teaching positions budgeted for increased enrollment in 6th grade
3 Teachers replacing retirees (Kimmerling, Chargar, Owen)
4 new teachers replacing those who have relocated to another school or state
5 Long Term certified teachers substituting for teachers on leave

as for our student enrollment: 

Gr. 5  331   (13 new, 26 left=  -13)
Gr. 6  352   (9 new, 6 left = +3)

Gr. 7  306  (8 new, 20 left = -4)
Gr. 8  377  (14 new, 14 left = 0)

for a total of 1366 (inc. 44 new students , 66 left)  (1347 was projected)

(versus the actual cohort enrollments from this past June of 1343)
last year our total school enrollment on Oct. 1 was 1329

Our school wide focus areas continue to be Student Achievement via higher level thinking and Student Empowerment via student leadership teams and restorative practices.  Our first two professional learning days last week were dedicated to each focus area.

And in the end, it is the voices of our students that will always remind us of what really matters...

This morning as I was receiving car drop offs in the back of the building...a new 7th grader was being encouraged by his mother to go ahead and ask "the Principal" ...the young boy was a bit reluctant to approach, ...

he then spotted a returning 7th grader exiting her family car and approached her to ask "where do we go this morning...I forgot my schedule"  

She asked him if he knew his first period class and he simply responded,  "if you can show me how to get to my locker, my schedule is in there"...she smiled and said with a classic middle schooler's confidence..."Come on... I'll show you..."

Of course, all of this occurred in just a few seconds...a satisfying reminder of middle school perseverance, at its best!