Welcome back to LPS! I hope everyone had a safe and restful vacation. 2019 is here! It is always so funny to send the students off before December break with the “See you next year” phrase and watch them all do a double-take. It is kind of funny to think that a new year has begun especially when people who live in the academic world think about “a new year” starting in September. However, a common tradition for the start of the actual new year is to make a new year’s resolution.
“A New Year's resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person resolves to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a personal goal or otherwise improve their life.” (Wikipedia)
I was watching Jeopardy on New Year’s Eve and Alex Trebek mentioned that one of the contestants made it her New Year’s Resolution last year to be on Jeopardy and…VOILA here she was. I was struck thinking, "Wow, how does one just make something like that a resolution and then make it happen?" The contestant mentioned that she made it her mission and trained every way she could to gain the knowledge and skills (there is skill in that finger clicker) to make her dream come true. It made me stop and think, "Wouldn’t it be nice if everything were that simple?" I see our students work so hard every day (likely harder than that Jeopardy contestant) to gain the knowledge and the skills necessary to answer that history question, do that science experiment, write that paragraph, take a social risk, answer those math questions, make a friend, pass the MCAS, pass that driver test, get a job, and on and on. Additionally, I see LPS staff work so hard every day to ensure that we are educating your students for all aspects of life. There are not many easy VOILA moments in our students lives, but rather hard fought battles that make it all worth while.
We have many exciting things ahead for the next 6 months and are looking forward to continuing to help students grow and learn with the same commitment and intensity as that Jeopardy contestant, with the hopes that all of our students, can achieve their own "VOILA" moment.
The following explains who maaps is and the benefits that maaps can provide to faculty of 766 schools and parents of special education students:
“The Massachusetts Association of 766 Approved Private Schools (maaps) was founded in 1978 as a statewide association of approved private special education schools dedicated to providing educational programs and services to students with special needs.”
There are 81 member schools serving approximately 7000 students. “Membership in maaps signifies a commitment to excellence and ethical integrity. maaps is concerned that all children with special needs have access to appropriate, high quality educational experiences and treatment options which are necessary for their individual growth and development.”
Through their Professional Development Groups (including Education Directors and Principals, Chief Financial Officers and Business Managers, and Emerging Leaders), maaps provides timely and relevant workshops. Topics covered in their workshops have included Program Reconstruction, IT Disaster Recovery, Importance of IRS Form 990, Supporting Families through Separation and Divorce, MCAS and Accommodations, Occupational Therapy in the Classroom, Coaching for Excellence, Influencing Organizational Culture (Chaired by Ted Sharp), Special Education Law, and Employment Law. The speakers at the workshops are experts currently working in the field. The workshops help to keep leaders and employees at 766 schools engaged in important topics that affect all special education students. Learning Prep School has benefited significantly from these workshops.
In addition to providing training workshops, the maaps Action Network provides an easy to use online portal for Massachusetts residents to contact their legislators regarding budget or policy issues that affect 766 schools. Signing up is easy to do and can be done online at the maaps website. Once you sign up, you will receive emails from maaps inviting you to respond to your legislators. The communication will be directed at the appropriate legislators based on your legal residence. The Action Network has been instrumental in assuring that 766 schools receive the appropriate funding to provide service to special education students.
There is also a helpful section for parents. The “For Parents” section covers such topics as College Resources for Students with Disabilities, Tips on Finding a Good School, Common Abbreviations used in special education, and Evidence Based Practices.
I encourage you to visit the maaps website to better understand all that is offered by visiting their website at www.maaps.org.
Trying to get the best deal Black Friday shopping, I was in a store, contemplating which gift to buy, when I overheard 2 teenage employees talking to each other. They were swearing and talking about inappropriate things while clearly not doing their work. I couldn’t help but think about “kids these days” and how so many of them lack the more social/work behavior skills needed to keep a job. On average, we will spend over 40 years of our lives working. It’s hard enough to find a job that we like, but it’s more important to be able to keep it. According to LinkedIn, the key to success in the workplace is having the ability to communicate, problem-solve, collaborate and organize, otherwise known as soft skills.
Learning Prep School helps students develop these skills through a continuum of positive work behavior skills as follows:
Exploratories/Electives (moderate & minimal supported work/learning environment within the school setting) such as PE, Performing Arts, Food Service, Child Care, Horticulture, Visual Arts, Computers. Skills include:
Leadership, team building, cooperation, flexible thinking, self-confidence, active listening, verbal/non-verbal communication, emotional regulation, problem solving, time management, task completion, role modeling, appropriate attire, initiation, self-advocacy, sequencing, perspective taking, observations, fine motor skills, independence, self-control, visual perception, fine motor skills, making choices, task focus, spatial reasoning, responsibility, organization, planning, respect, working cooperatively, critical thinking,
Senior Year Program (moderate, minimal & independent work environment outside of the school setting). Skills include:
As you can see, the focus of all exploratories, electives, and job sites is more on the development of these highly sought after soft skills needed in any environment or employment opportunity and less on mastering the specific job at hand. Because of this focus, our students are better positioned to gain and maintain employment.
This Thanksgiving we will gather with family and friends to celebrate the gift of good health and the opportunity to spend quality time with one another. On behalf of all of us at LPS, enjoy this special time of year with your family and friends.
During the past year here at school we have accomplished much and, like all successful organizations, we have much left to do. Indeed, high performing institutions will have much to accomplish each year as they are always in pursuit of excellence. As we have stated before, at LPS we welcome challenges for the opportunities that they present, each one enabling us to rededicate our collective energy, talent, knowledge, and passion to advance our mission and educational program.
It has been six months since May 2018 when I shared my annual State of the School message with extended LPS community. Underlying all of our work is to institutionalize best practice in all facets of our educational program. In a more succinct fashion than that narrative, here is an updated listing of our major accomplishments and the work in which we are continually engaged.
Teaching and learning remain at the center of our work. The dedication of our faculty, staff, and administration is in evidence each day. The well-being of each student is paramount! And finally, as always, thanks to all parents for the privilege of working with your sons and daughters.
Enjoy the holiday!
The clocks have been changed, the leaves are falling from the trees, and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. At Learning Prep School, we have so much to be grateful for! We are thankful to have had a great turn out for our Grand Friends' Days last week. Grand Friends heard all about LPS and its new initiatives while enjoying breakfast with their LPS grand-friends. It was wonderful to hear so many amazing success stories! Several attendees asked how they could become more active members of the Learning Prep School Community.
Here are some ways to get involved with LPS!
For many of us, our weekends are filled with household chores, errands, meal preparation, and hopefully some fun. If you were lucky enough to be able spare three hours this Sunday to watch the Pats game, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Through four quarters the Pats battled the Bears to an ending that was clutch (if you are a Pats fan). The Bears quarterback threw a 54 yard “hail mary” in an effort to tie the game. He threw it right to the receiver. It should have been game over, but the Pats showed up in force to keep Kevin White out of the end zone. The game was ugly overall but in the end, the Pats came up as victorious.
I often look for examples in everyday life that teach us lessons. Sunday’s Pats game was one of them. There were a lot of turnovers on each side which, for a coach, is considered a failure. We experience these types of struggles in life as well. One minute everything is going well and the next, something unexpected happens. We may find that we learn differently than others. In these moments, our perseverance keeps us going, knowing that the next turnover may be in our favor. When we see these as challenges to overcome, not challenges that defeat us, we grow. We develop coping strategies that serve us for years to come. Failure gives us opportunities to changes and be better. Without it, we are stagnant.
Trubisky (Bears' QB) threw that “hail mary” because he wanted to win but, he also believed that he could win. He had hope. Overcoming challenges requires hope and belief that the actions we take will make a difference in how things turn out. When facing a challenge in life, whether it is with learning or not, those with hope for the future fair far better than those who do not have hope. It keeps us looking forward to where we can be the best “us” we can be.
We are all born with different talents in life. Only 2% of NCAA football players get drafted into the NFL. Some of those drafted have raw talent and some have talent but have to work extra hard to succeed. Talent isn’t equal to effort. You may have incredible talent but not care enough to make something of it. On the other hand, you may have some talent but need to work extra hard to really make it. Effort is the key to making progress. Students may have a hard time with an essay but, the effort they put into it can make a difference. It's what can separate them from those who have strength in an area they struggle with, but no drive. That concerted effort helps them experience success.
LPS staff work to build perseverance, effort, and hope in each student every day. We seek to identify strengths and recognize that students hold the keys to their own success. Encouragement from school and home to develop the necessary characteristics to be successful help each student reach their fullest potential. We may not have the feeling that the Pats have when they win a tough game, but we all have the opportunity to feel successful it we persevere, give 100% effort each day, and have hope.
I have heard from the students that you all had a great summer (although most said it went by too fast)!! We are about 6 weeks into school and it feels like it has flown by fast. Students are settling in and getting used to the new routines.
So far this year, things we have done include: transition/orientation activities where students were able to do some “getting to know you” activities, familiarize themselves with the expectations of Learning Prep, learn about our Citizenship initiative, as well as tour the buildings and attend a beginning of the year welcome assembly; learn about the various components of Learning Prep, such as reviewing Thinking Maps® and Social Thinking® concepts, what it means to be a good citizen at LPS, review the basic components of the Reading, Math, Social Studies, and Science curriculum, and learn about the A.C.T. Program (Activate, Calm, and Think) from the Occupational Therapy department.
Students had an opportunity to meet most, if not all, of the staff members in the building. Additionally, each student's notebook was set up with the help of a staff member. All students are now going through their set schedules and teaching staff are in various stages of assessing proper class placement. If your child comes home and says “I got a schedule change” feel free to reach out to the counselor or me for further information, if you have questions. We work very hard to assess each student's areas of strengths and weaknesses and, at times, new information causes us to make changes to ensure our groups are homogenous and students are being appropriately challenged.
We encourage you all to take the opportunity every night to go through your child's binder. There is a lot of helpful information about your child's day there, on both their daily goal sheets and in their “Take Home/Homework” folder. Middle school students have weekly R.A.P.P. grades (Responsibility, Attitude, Participation and Progress) that are completed by each teacher. Please reach out to the counselor or teacher if you have any questions about anything in your child's binder.
You may hear your child talking our whole school Citizenship program where we are all reading the book Wonder in our 3rd period enrichment groups. We are reading this as a "common read" to support our focus on responsibility and respect this year. It's a benefit that many students are familiar with the book or the movie, as this has allowed us to look more critically at the lessons we can learn from the characters in this book (the group discussions have been very insightful). It is a great read! Another exciting initiative we are working on is a new online Thinking Maps program. This has made it MUCH easier to create Thinking Maps on a device (iPad/Chromebook), as these support much of what we do all day.
I hope you have received your Enrichment survey and your child is excited about the choices ahead. Please rank activities (sometimes easiest to do “top 4 choices” and “last 4 choices” first and then fill in the medium/middle requests). This is an exciting chance for students to have supported socialization while doing something “fun” at school.
The staff is looking forward to a wonderful school year and have prepared their classrooms and lesson plans with great care. Please do not hesitate to call or email me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-965-0764 x 407.
What is the purpose of a financial audit?
The primary purpose of a financial audit is to provide an independent opinion of the organization’s financial statements, and to express an opinion on whether or not “the financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the organization.” It is important to note that the preparation of the financial statements “in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles” is the responsibility of the organization’s management and not the auditors. Their responsibility is only to express an opinion.
The auditors will review the underlying financial data by taking test samples to ensure that transactions have been recorded properly. This will include ensuring that internal documentation and third party documentation exists. For example for purchases of supplies, the auditors will ensure that approved purchase orders, packing slips, and invoices from the vendor exist.
An important part of the audit is to review internal controls to verify that there are no material weaknesses that could lead to misrepresentation of the financial statements or to fraud. An effective internal control system provides reasonable assurance that policies, tasks, behaviors and other aspects of an organization, enable its effective and efficient operation, and help to provide for better internal and external financial re-posting. Good internal controls will detect, prevent and correct errors or possible fraud. This will include reviewing the business related policies and procedures and testing to ensure that they are being followed. The auditors will also look to ensure that there are adequate separation of duties as well as cross-training in crucial areas. Another key responsibility of the auditors is to conduct fraud interviews with various members of the organization. The purpose of the interviews is to ensure that there is reasonable assurance that fraud does not exist within an organization.
I am proud to say that for the past five years there has been no disclosure of any material financial statement misrepresentations nor any material weaknesses in our internal controls during our audits.
As you may or may not know, the state is transitioning to a new statewide assessment called the next-generation MCAS which is a computer-based format for students in grades 3 – 8 as well as the 10th grade ELA and Math. The high school science and high school retests will continue to be paper based at this time. Therefore, this coming spring, all students in grades 3 – 8 and those taking the 10th grade ELA and Math will be participating in the computer-based test unless paper-based testing is specified in their IEP as an accommodation. We will have training and trial runs with the students beforehand, so they are well prepared. Below is an explanation from Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, regarding MCAS and graduation requirements:
Massachusetts high school students are required to pass MCAS tests in English language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science and technology/engineering in order to graduate from high school. For ELA and mathematics, the current state requirements for earning a high school diploma are:
a score of at least 240 on the existing grade 10 ELA and mathematics MCAS tests, or
a score of between 220 and 238 on those tests and fulfilling the requirements of an Educational
Proficiency Plan, which outlines how the student will become proficient in that particular subject.
Members of the class of 2021 will fulfill the MCAS part of their graduation requirements in ELA and mathematics by taking the next-generation, computer-based version of the MCAS tests in those subjects in spring 2019. The tests will be similar in design to the tests that they took as eighth graders in spring 2017 if they were in a Massachusetts public school.
The next-generation grade 10 MCAS tests will have different achievement levels and scores than the previous versions of the grade 10 tests, but for the class of 2021, I am recommending to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that we require students to reach the score corresponding to 240 (or 220 plus the fulfillment of an Educational Proficiency Plan) on the ELA and mathematics tests in order to qualify for a high school diploma. In other words, I am recommending that the passing standard remain the same for your class as the state introduces the new assessments in those subjects. The standard could rise for future classes, but that is something the Board will discuss at a later date.
The transition to a next-generation science MCAS is happening on a different timetable, and the existing science MCAS and requirement will not change for the class of 2021. Students will still have to earn a score of at least 220 on one of the existing high school MCAS science and technology/engineering tests: biology, chemistry, introductory physics, or technology/engineering.
Students will continue to have retest opportunities on high school MCAS tests and will have the opportunity to qualify for scholarship programs through the high school MCAS tests.
As you may imagine, this has been a busy and an exciting summer at LPS! We recently concluded a successful summer school program with seventy-six students in attendance. New staff orientation was held August 20th and 21st, followed by full staff orientation August 22nd-24th and yesterday, August 27th was the first day of classes for students. We have restored the position in the high school of Dean/Assistant Principal and we are pleased to welcome Jen Kramer, formerly of the Newton Public Schools, who has assumed the responsibilities of that office. It is always great fun to exchange greetings with our returning students and staff and to welcome new students and new staff to our school community.
We continue to improve the school facilities, both buildings and grounds, the intention being to provide an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning. The woodwork and doors in the EMS building have been refinished and many of the classrooms have been painted. In the High School there have been a few classrooms that did not have direct access from the hallway. This summer we constructed doorways to those classrooms that enable direct access from the corridors. Work continues on lowering ceilings and replacing older carpeting. The cafeteria has new tables and chairs that will enable family style meals, as well as providing a more welcoming space for a variety of meetings. The renovation of the greenhouse is nearly complete and provides a wonderful facility for the horticulture program. We continue to improve the grounds with extensive landscaping of the lawns and gardens, including new plantings of shrubs and trees. Sadly, the three pear trees behind the church had to be taken down as they had rotted from within.
This year the staff will be engaged in the initial year of our Curriculum Review & Development program, designed to codify our educational program across the grade levels, thus refining the articulation and the alignment of each content area (core content & essential skills), grades two-twelve. The focus of that work for the next two years will be on ELA (English Language Arts) and math. We are also focusing on our Student Citizenship initiative designed to advance the core principles articulated in our LPS Code of Conduct (Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, Courage, & Compassion). This year our theme is Respect & Responsibility and to that end, the students and staff will engage in common readings and discussions nuanced to their grade/age level about the importance of being a person of integrity and contributing to the common good.
We are expanding our opportunities for students to engage in athletics and other extracurricular activities. Alyson Humphreys, Director of Athletics & Activities will keep you informed about these opportunities during the course of the year. We are also pleased that the Special Olympics Program will continue to provide opportunities for LPS students to participate in athletic competitions.
The Partners In Education (PIE) Executive Committee will hold its first meeting of the 2018-2019 school year on Thursday, September 20th from 8:00-9:00 am in the Community Room in the high school building. Gretchen Petersen, Chief Operation Officer and Genie Peterson, a parent, are serving as Co-Chairs of PIE for this year. The first of four Parent Advisory meetings for 2018-19 is scheduled for Wednesday, October 10th from 8:00-9:00 am in the Community Room located in the high school. The focus for that meeting is an update on the school’s programs and initiatives as we begin the current school year.
As I draft this letter we are still awaiting approval of our LPS Reconstruction Plan, a plan required of Chapter 766 Special Education Schools for submission every six years. The approval process has been delayed given the fact that the Massachusetts legislature did not pass the state budget until late July and the governor then had ten days to review it before signing it. Subsequently, The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) submits each school’s plan to the Commissioner of Education and to Operational Services Division (OSD) for program and financial approval, respectively. Once those protocols have been completed, schools like LPS are informed as to the status of their Reconstruction Plan. We have been informed that the target for completing this process is no later than October 1st.
We are most appreciative that you have entrusted the education and well-being of your son/daughter to us. We are confident that the educational program and the highly competent and dedicated staff at LPS will enable each student to flourish!
Learning Prep School provides an individualized language-based program to students with complex learning profiles, including dyslexia, expressive/receptive language issues, autism spectrum disorder, and social communication disorder.
1507 Washington Street | West Newton, MA 02465 | (617) 965-0764 | contact | © 2017 Learning Prep School