Bullying Prevention Month: a time to reflect on our practices and current research

Although it's not something that gets a lot of national attention, October was National Bullying Prevention Month. Like all educators, I think a lot about our students' physical and emotional safety, and this past month's designation provides a good opportunity to share those thoughts. Here are some of the things we do to keep students safe from bullying and how parents and school personnel can work together to respond when bullying happens.

Efforts at prevention
As you might imagine, preventing bullying is difficult and require multiple strategies. At WHS, these include:
  • Teacher training:
    • teachers participate in brief mandated trainings annually ensuring that all staff members understand that they play a role in preventing and responding to bullying
    • additionally, teachers participate in an annual professional development session on meeting the needs of a different diverse learner profile (i.e. LGBTQ students, students of color, etc.). Students who are different from their peers sometimes are targeted for these differences, and these trainings are designed to support them educationally and emotionally
  • Schoolwide culture-building: for the third consecutive year, we are developing a 'spirit week' of activities leading up to the Thanksgiving break that are designed to break down the barriers between students in different grades, a dynamic that is always challenging
  • Visibility and approachability of staff: I am firm believer in the value of being visible and approachable, and I ask the same of my staff. I was very pleased this past year when the results of a parent survey showed that 91% of respondents reported that they felt comfortable approaching teachers and other staff with questions or concerns.
Responding to reports of bullying
Of course, our efforts at prevention are not 100% effective. When we learn about a worrisome or hostile incident between students, we take several steps to understand the facts and to take appropriate actions to ensure that the student feeling targeted is supported. Sometimes, we administer a consequence; sometimes, we even change students' schedules to minimize their interactions with one another. With every instance of unkind behavior, we work to educate students about the dangers and consequences of bullying behavior.

The parent-school partnership
One of the challenges we face is a level of uncertainty and cynicism from parents who call with concerns. We have had parents share generalized concerns about their child, but they don't share actionable details - like the names of the students involved - to equip administrators with the necessary information for responding appropriately. As you might imagine, this can be a frustrating experience for all involved: administrators cannot act on incomplete information, parents worry that their student is unhappy or unsafe, and, worst of all, students spend their time here at school in classes with peers who they feel are antagonists. I am hopeful that, should you suspect that your child is being bullied, you will work with WHS staff to respond appropriately. This takes courage and trust, but it's the only way we can provide the response your son or daughter deserves.

For info about how we investigate and process bullying, see
our web site

Learning more about bullying
Finally, I highly encourage you to read Emily Bazelon's 
Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, which provides a masterful and nuanced peek into the sometimes unclear world of bullying, dispelling myths and caricatures of hulking brutes stuffing nerds into lockers. Bazelon deftly captures how lopsided social dynamics can combine with unhealthy school cultures to result in dangerous environments wherein bullying flourishes.

I am hopeful that your son or daughter doesn't encounter bullying here at WHS, and I am always available to hear from you and/or your child if you think that they might have been a target. Making sure our school is a physically and emotionally safe space is my top priority.

Rick Cresta is an LICSW.  He has over 20 years of experience working with adolescents in a variety of settings. He is in private practice in the Boston area specializing work with court-involved youth. Rick received both his MSW and MPH from Boston University. He is currently a part-time faculty at the BU School of Social Work. In addition, he provides training and consultation on substance abuse and adolescent issues to numerous agencies in the New England area.

MCAS Re-Takes

English Language Arts: November 2 - 4
Math: November 9 & 10
Science: February 6 & 7

Parent Teacher Conferences: December 8, 6:30 - 8:30pm

Online sign-ups for parent-teacher conferences will begin at 8:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 22. Since senior students take two single-semester courses, it is important that you choose your son or daughter's English teacher conference slot with this in mind. To know which English teacher is your son or daughter's current teacher, log on to Aspen or simply ask your child. Also, keep in mind that you do not need to sign up for a conference with a Wellness teacher since the course is self-directed.

For more information on how to register for online sign-ups, click here.

The Westwood portal to the Pick-a-Time web site is here.

Site Council Update

The WHS Site Council is an advisory group to the principal. The group is comprised of teachers, staff, students, parents, and community members. Specifically, the group provides input on the principal's School Improvement Plan (SIP), meeting each month to receive updates on initiatives related to the SIP. 

Summary of the 11/1/16 Meeting: 

  • Sean summarized and the group ratified changes to the Academic Integrity Policy in the handbook.
  • The group discussed developing a guidebook for international travel. A sample guidebook from an area high school was disseminated. The group will review the document and discuss in more detail at the December meeting. 
  • Sean updated the group on the status of School Improvement Plan goals.
  • Additionally, Sean presented the summary on MCAS scores, which reflected the national trend of an achievement gap between boys and girls.
  • The group is interested in taking a closer look at the data from the Jump Start Program, a program first offered in August 2015 for students identified as struggling with the transition to high school. If the data shows this program was successful they would like to seek grant monies to support its continued offering. 
  • Sean reported our New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) status. WHS is in a state of postponement while NEASC updates the accreditation procedures and standards. We are looking at a possible 2020 site visit. 

Reporting Absences

Please report all absences to if you know your child will not be in school. We are able to record absences well in advance of the date, so if you know that you are going on vacation please let us know as soon as possible. This allows us to plan accordingly. 

Information from Guidance

Guidance Website
Parents are encouraged to visit the Guidance Website for information on a variety of topics including: the college search process, community service opportunities and counseling resources.

Parent Talks
Guidance-Parent Talks offer parents the opportunity to meet with guidance counselors and discuss topics including the college application process, standardized testing and course selection. Guidance-Parent Talks are held in the Faculty Club from 8:00-9:00 a.m.  Future dates:

November 3rd – for parents of ninth grade students

January 12th – for all parents

March 9th – for all parents

Financial Aid Night, November 9th, 6:30 p.m., Auditorium
A representative from MEFA (Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority) will present on the financial aid process at our annual Financial Aid Night. Parents and students interested in learning more about financial aid should attend this informative presentation.

Information for Seniors:
Seniors who applied early action and/or early decision (November 1st or November 15th) will have their updated transcripts sent to colleges after first term grades are issued. Students with regular decision deadlines of January 1st or later should submit transcript release forms by December 15th, so the Guidance Office has ample time to send materials to colleges.

Information for Juniors:
Results of the October 15th PSATs are expected in mid-December. Counselors will review score reports with juniors at that time. Juniors will delve fully into the college search process in late January/early February during the Junior Workshop program. Please see the College Planning Timeline which forecasts important events and deadlines. Now is a great time to plan February and April vacation college visits with your child.

Information for Sophomores:
Tenth Grade Workshops - During the first week of December guidance counselors will lead a two-day Career Workshop in the tenth grade Wellness classes. Students will be given an overview of options for college majors and careers, and complete a personality and career interest inventory on Naviance.

Information for Freshmen:
Ninth Grade Seminars - The second round of ninth grade seminars will run during the third week of November.  Students will receive a copy of their transcripts and be taught how to calculate their grade point average based on first term grades.  


News From the Nurse's Office

Grade 9:  Important!!  All grade 9 students are required to provide written documentation of a current physical exam done by their health care provider.  The physical must be turned in by February 1, 2017.  Please turn in the physical as soon as possible.

Grade 9: All grade 9 students will have a postural screening done during the month of December.  The purpose of this is to find early signs of possible spinal problems in your child.  It is not a diagnostic service but a program to help identify children who may need further evaluation.  If your child needs further evaluation you will be notified and asked to take your child to a health care provider as a precaution.  The majority of students do not need further evaluation.  If you don’t want your child screened at school, you must submit a written request to Mrs. Poreda in the nurse’s office by November 22, 2016.
Grade 10: All grade 10 students are having their hearing and vision screened in the months of November and December.  The school screening program is not a diagnostic service but does provide screening for hearing and vision problems, some of which may need professional attention from a specialist.  You will be contacted by the nurse if your child needs an evaluation from a specialist.  Talk to your child about wearing their contacts or glasses to school.  Often students have trouble seeing and it turns out they have glasses or contacts but don’t wear them.  Let Mrs. Poreda know in writing if you do not want your child screened.  Please call the nurse with any questions at ext. 3353 or 3350.

Grade 10: Height, weight, and BMI screenings for all grade 10 students have been completed.  Please call the nurse’s office if you have any questions. 

Your Medicine Cabinet: Many of us have medications in our medicine cabinets that are years past the expiration date or we save medications we no longer need.  Remember that teenagers often start abusing medications that are found in a medicine cabinet at home or at a friend’s home.  You can bring medications to the Westwood Police Department and dispose of them in the container in the lobby.  You put them in the container yourself and no questions are asked!  This is a great way to keep prescription drugs out of the hands of teenagers.  It also keeps them out of our water supply as many people just pour medicine down the drain or flush them.  Plus you will have a clean medicine cabinet!

Fever Guidelines: If your child has a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, please call the school nurse at ext. 3353 after calling the absence line at ext. 1512.  We ask that students with a fever stay home for 24 hours after the fever is gone without taking a fever reducing medication such as Tylenol or Advil.  Often a parent will ask if an illness is going around.  We only know what is reported so please let us know!  You can either call or email us with the information. 

Emergency contact Information: It is very important that you take time to update your emergency contact numbers in the parent portal of Aspen.  If there is an emergency it is important that we have a number to reach you.  Updating your email address is important to make sure you receive emails from school.  If you don’t remember how to update the parent portal,
click here

If your child has any health concerns or you have any questions, please call Mrs. Poreda at ext. 3353 or Mrs. Galvin at ext. 3350.

Invitation from Student Student Services

You are invited to attend the Westwood Special Education Parent Advisory Council’s  (SEPAC) November meeting.  The topic of the meeting will be an interactive workshop covering the important topic of Basic Rights in Special Education. This workshop will be provided by Joanne Flatley, a trained parent educator and member of the Westwood community.  The meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 7:00 pm in the Professional Development Room located in the District Administrative Offices section of the WHS campus.  Parking is available at the front and back of the building.  Attached, please find the notes from the September SEPAC meeting. More information about special education programming in the District can be found at the Student Services Department webpage on the WPS main site.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you on November 15th,

Abby Hanscom
Director of Student Services

Meeting Notes from September 27 SEPAC Meeting 

Congratulations to our Performing Arts Students Who Were in MacBeth This Past Weekend! A Job Well Done!

Westwood Homecoming

Monday, November 14th - Wednesday, November 23rd

         Catie’s Closet Charity Drive. See below for more details. 

Sunday, November 20th

       Westwood Turkey Trot (organized by the SIPP program
       10:00am Westwood High School
       Visit this link and see below for more details and registration!

Monday, November 21st

       WHS Dodgeball Tournament (organized by the SIPP program)
       2:15 WHS Gymnasium

       Powderpuff Football Game - Seniors vs. Juniors
       6:00 Flahive Field

Tuesday, November 22nd

       Semi-Formal Homecoming Dance
       7:00 WHS Gymnasium

Wednesday, November 23rd

        WHS Spirit Day
                  Team BYOBreakfast
                  Team Activities
                  Westwood’s Got Talent
                  Homecoming Pep Rally
                  10:45 Dismissal

Westwood Turkey Trot 5K 

to support the Miracle Families of  Image result for boston children's hospital

Westwood High School, Flahive Field

Sunday, November 20, 10:00 AM Race Start

Image result for turkeyJoin members of the Westwood Community for a Thanksgiving themed 5k walk/run on our XC course, sponsored by the WHS Senior Independent Project Program (SIPP). All race proceeds will benefit the Miracle Families of Boston Children’s Hospital — a place that treated 1,853 Westwood Residents in 2015! Looking forward to seeing you there!

To Register or Donate:

(Your $20 early registration fee guarantees a bib & t-shirt OR simply hit the donate tab if you do not plan to run)

  • You can also sign up or donate on race day

Homecoming Week Charity Drive

This year’s Homecoming charity drive (Monday 11/14 through Tuesday 11/22) will benefit an organization called Catie’s Closet.

Mission Statement: “Catie’s Closet improves school attendance and removes social stigma by providing an in-school resource of clothing and basic necessities to students living below the poverty line.

More information about the organization can be found here.  All WHS students are asked to donate gently used clothing (all sizes!), and the full-sized toiletry item assigned to their grade.  

9th Grade: Toothpaste

10th Grade: Toothbrushes

11th Grade: Deodorant, Body Wash

12th Grade: Shampoo, Conditioner

Chateau Sponsored Fundraiser for Boston Children's Hospital

On Wednesday November 16, 2016, bring the fundraiser ticket below and enjoy lunch, dinner or order take-out from The Chateau Restaurant of Norwood. When paying your check, give the waitperson your ticket. The ticket will be attached to your check.  The Chateau Restaurant will contribute 20% of the total bill to:

We are providing a community outlet to local non-profit groups for fund raising.  This is a great way to raise money for important community organizations that are often not financially supported to the extent of what is needed to succeed. 

Bring in this FLYER to apply 20% of Food and Beverage Proceeds to benefit Children's Hospital. Good on Dine-In and Take Out only. 

Foreign Language Department Looking for Community Contacts

We would like to increase the connection between our classroom instruction and applications outside of the classroom.  We looking for native speakers of Spanish, French or Mandarin or individuals who regularly deal with these populations and cultures to come to classes to share experiences with our students.   Additionally we are looking for opportunities for our students to engage more directly with Spanish, French or Mandarin speakers in Massachusetts. If you have any connections that would help facilitate this goal, we would appreciate hearing from you.  

If you have interest but your work schedule prohibits you to come to the school during the day, we can always video tape your contribution!

Please email Kathy Lee 
or call at 781-326-7500 X3313 if you are interested.

Key Club's Thanksgiving Drive to Benefit the Westwood Food Pantry

Key Club’s Thanksgiving Drive is back again! Key Club will be collecting food, and other household items, in order to donate to the Westwood Food Pantry. The collection will go from Monday, November 7th to Tuesday, November 15th and there will be a paper bag in each homeroom for your items. The homeroom with the most items will win a breakfast of donuts or bagels!

The pantry would love donations of coffee, tea, health and beauty products, and other traditional Thanksgiving foods.

We hope to see our school making a difference!

-Julie Abi-Elias, Fall Project Coordinator
& the Key Club leadership team"

Seniors Quinn Albert and Anusha Manglik Attend the Harvard Book Award Breakfast

As last year's recipients of the Harvard Book Award, seniors Quinn Albert and Anusha Manglik were invited to attend the annual Harvard Book Award Breakfast in Boston on October 5th. They were able to meet other student recipients and had a front row seat for the guest speaker, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. 
Pictured Left: Quinn, Anusha, and Harvard Book Award sponsor Lidija Ortloff
Academics in Action
This new section of the newsletter will highlight the activities happening in the classroom

Spotlight's Maureen Keiller Visits WHS

On Wednesday, October 26th, actress Maureen Keiller came into into Ms. Flanagan's Literature & Film classes to talk about her experience of working on the 2015 film Spotlight.

Ms. Keiller, aunt of senior Katie Robrish, was able to talk to students about life on set, interactions with the "famous" actors [Liev Shreiber, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, John Keaton, John Slattery -- she sat at table readings with all of them!],  feelings of working with such controversial material, and her own growth as a local Boston actress. Overall it was a wonderful experience, the kids were able to ask some really great questions, and they seemed to come away with a deeper understanding of the film making process as a whole. Thank you Katie for helping make this event happen! 

Highlights from French 5/AP Field Trip to the French Library & Cultural Center in Boston

Students learned about the French region of Brittany (La Bretagne) through a lesson and hands-on cooking workshop where they made savory crêpes (des galettes) and a traditional Breton far, a flan-like dessert specific to the region. In addition to learning how to make these dishes, Ms Aykanian’s students also learned new vocabulary for everyday kitchen items, like the word for “wisk” (un fouet)—and how to use one! A shout out to master crêpe makers Lauren Klaff and Owen Doherty!
The October field trip was in the context of our Term I project on the New French Regions, which came into being in 2016 as part of a government-mandated geographic restructuring of the country where the 22 existing regions where combined into 13 new ones. Click
here for a list and maps of the new regions and their capitals.
Clockwise from top: Bon appétit!, Le repas ~ The Meal, Les chefs au travail ~ The cooks at work
Students in Ms. Egan's Youth in Contemporary Literature senior English elective recently completed a unit surrounding the Essential Question, "When does childhood end?"  In exploring this question, students read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, held a series of Socratic Seminars about the role technology plays in the lives and development of today's youth, and attempted to answer the question from the perspective of a teenager, an adult, and a child psychologist.  At the end of the unit, students wrote final pieces in a genre of their choice wherein they communicated what they have learned about the end of childhood.  Final products ranged from poetry collections to short stories to fictional interviews to screenplays, and in almost every case, students were writing in their genre for the first time. Kudos to the seniors for taking a risk!
 "Feminae strenuae"
Freshmen Roisin O'Keeffe, Caroline Beattie, and Leah Ghazali dressed up as Roman women as part of Ms. Aykaniani's Latin I Halloween Challenge. 

Tri-M Update

By Jamie Vaccaro, Historian
Members of the Tri-M music honor society worked to inspire the next generation of musicians by helping the 4th graders choose instruments at the annual instrument petting zoo. This is the event where 4th graders get to try and choose the instruments they would like to study, and the Tri-M members help them learn how to hold it and how to make a sound.  In fact, many of the Tri-M volunteers chose their instruments themselves at the petting zoo when they were in 4th grade. We have many upcoming invents, including a performance at the senior center, singing at the Westwood Tree Lighting and leading carols at Winterfest. The Tri-M charity concert will be in January with the exact date to be announced shortly. Soon after this event, we will release our annual CD featuring WHS musicians, and the proceeds from CD sales and the concert will go to a charity to be announced later. 

News From Spanish Club - Dia De Los Muertos

November 1 and 2 mark the celebration of Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that celebrates life, death, and the remembrance of loved ones that have passed away.  On Sunday October 30th, members of Spanish Club attended an interactive Day of the Dead celebration and exhibit at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University! Students participated in a variety of hands on activities including making masks, decorating sugar skulls, listening to live music in Spanish, sampling pan de muertos (bread of the dead) and Mexican hot chocolate, watching woodworkers from Oaxaca, México carving traditional wooden figurines, and exploring the exhibit full of traditional ofrendas (offerings) to honor loved ones no longer living.

News from Athletics

The Westwood Wolverines have achieved astounding success during the fall season by earning four TriValley League Titles:  Girls Cross Country, Boys Cross Country, Golf and Football.

The recent cold weather is a reminder that the winter sports season is right around the corner!  Many athletes have already registered for winter sports.  Make sure your athlete is ready to tryout for their favorite sport by completing the following requirements before November 15. 

1.  Register

2.  Maintain a valid physical with the school nurse, Karen Poreda.  All athletes must maintain a physical dated with in the last thirteen months at all times.

Once tryouts are over, athletes must pay their athletic fee before the first game.

Please go to the 
Westwood High School Athletics site for valuable information and links to registration and payment.

Download the FREE MIAA App to access all Westwood rosters and schedules.


News from the Friendship Club

At the October meeting of Friendship Club the students decorated thank you cards for veterans. The TEC students will deliver the cards to the V.A. Hospital in W. Roxbury in time for Veterans Day.

Peer Tutoring is Now Available

National Honor Society students are now available for tutoring in Guidance. Please see this SCHEDULE for details. 

WHS Photos for Scholarships

Please feel free to download the images on this website for free. I donate my time to take the photos because I enjoy photography and watching sports. If you enjoy these photos, please consider making a donation to the Westwood Community Scholarship Fund (or another scholarship at WHS).

Thank you.

M. Mao.

P.S. To  those who donated to a scholarship fund this year, THANK YOU!  In the past year over $1500 has been contributed to various scholarships!

Important Dates to Keep in Mind

  • November 8: All Day In-Service (School closed)
  • November 16: Early Release
  • November 23: Dismissal at 10:45 am
  • November 24 & 25: Thanksgiving (School closed)
  • December 7: Early Release
  • December 8: Parent-Teacher Conferences Night, 6:30 p.m.
  • December 21: Early Release
  • December 23: 1/2 Day
  • December 26 - 30: Winter Vacation (School closed)
  • January 2: Observance of New Year's Day (School closed)
  • January 11: Early Release
  • January 16: Martin Luther King Day (School closed)
  • February 1: Early Release
  • February 15: Early Release
  • February 20 - 24: February Vacation
  • March 1: Early Release
  • March 15: Early Release
  • March 29: Early Release
  • April 12: Early Release
  • April 14: Good Friday (School closed)
  • April 17 - 21: Spring Vacation 
  • April 26: Early Release

Reports to Parents

Updated: 9/30/16
TERM 1 (44 days)
Last day of term: November 4
  • Progress Reports available to students: October 5
  • Report Cards available to students: November 14
TERM 2 (44 days)
Last day of term: January 13
*Midyear Exams: 1/17, 1/18, 1/19. 1/20
  • Progress Reports available to students: December 11
  • Report Cards available to students: January 27
TERM 3 (45 days)
Last day of term: March 31
  • Progress Reports available to students: February 28
  • Report Cards available to students: April 7
TERM 4 (47 days)
Last day of term: June 9
* Final Exams: 6/12, 6/13, 6/14, 6/15
  • Progress Reports available to students: May 14
  • Report Cards available to students: June 19

Important Dates for Seniors

Last day of senior classes: May 23
Senior Exams: May 24 - 26
Final Report Cards available to students: May 30
Senior Week: May 30-June 2

Class Day:  June 2, 4:00 pm
Graduation:  June 4, 2:00 pm

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Westwood High School · 200 Nahatan Street · Westwood, MA 02090 · USA

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