About Us
Message from the Head of School

Thoughts from Paul

April 1, 2022

This is the season when the grass gets greener and rain jackets replace snowsuits.  We use our outdoor spaces for many things; they are important to our curriculum.  PE and recreation are obvious uses, but the hen house, the green house and raised beds, the outdoor spaces adjacent to Infant/Toddler and Children’s House classrooms, and the wooded areas on the edge of the campus all offer opportunities for teaching.  
 
As we have learned during the pandemic, there is even more we can be doing out-of-doors.
 
We have been upgrading indoor classroom spaces – new flooring in Children’s House and the I/T building, new furnishings in Middle School, and there is more to come.  But we are also thinking about our outdoor spaces.  The hen house and raised beds are recent additions, but there are other spaces that are underutilized, and in need of attention.  
 
We are looking at how create better outdoor places for teaching and gathering.  This includes exploring ways to improve drainage, which would let us repurpose the area between the main building and the playgrounds (where the bus is now parked) and allow us to invest in upgrading the playgrounds.  We are also thinking about relocating the maintenance barn so we can open up the middle of the campus and enlarge the greenhouse lawn.  Lots of options.
 
As we approach our 50th birthday, it is important that we engage in thinking about how we continue to grow and improve.  It is particularly exciting to envision what we can do to make better use of all of the great outdoor space we have.
 
Creative ideas welcomed!
 
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March 25, 2022

Watching our students in their performances of Katie Oberlander’s play Dragon’s Lair, I could not help but think of the old advertising slogan, “You’ve come a long way baby.”  I have known some of these young people since preschool and it was quite something to see how they have grown.  
 
With some of them, you could see the seeds of confidence way back when, but for some others it comes as wonderful surprise to see how they have blossomed.  But it should not be a surprise.  After all, we invest a lot of care and effort to give them the opportunities to discover their talents and to grow in competence and confidence.  Guiding and nurturing is the essence of what we do.
 
The arts play an important and unique role in this development.  Both the visual and performing arts are vehicles for creative self-expression.  And theater, in particular, has the added benefit of being a team sport.  You can create a painting or a poem by yourself but being on stage as part of a cast also requires that you learn to be a teammate.  The ensemble is a single unit, and all of its members have to work in harmony to execute a really good production.  Yes, there are leads and supporting actors, but the team works at its best when everyone is supporting. 
 
We have an environment that places high value on collaboration and on supporting one’s classmates.  It shows in the way our students performed together last weekend.
 


March 18, 2022

Today the Lower Elementary students welcomed parents to their Experience Weeks Presentations.  For two weeks they have been taking a deep dive into ancient civilizations – China, Egypt, and Greece, and were excited to share what they have learned.
 
Meanwhile, our Upper Elementary and Middle School students have been in residence at Gloucester Stage Company rehearsing Dragon’s Lair, an original play written by Katie Oberlander.  I caught a bit of a rehearsal earlier this week; it will be a great show.  Performances are this evening and tomorrow afternoon, and tickets are selling fast.
 
The ancient civilization unit and the production of Dragon’s Lair had just begun two years ago when we had to go remote.  So, it is really special that we are again able to share these student works with parents. 
 
Looking at the spring calendar, there will be more opportunities to come together.  There will be April Experience Week presentations. The Children’s House Spring Tea and the Lower Elementary Valentine Breakfast will be in May.  (It is okay to have Valentine’s Day in May!)  June brings year-end performances and Moving Up, and on June 3rd we will host a Family Picnic and Movie Night on the Greenhouse Lawn. 
 
These are moments that help build our community.  It is wonderful that we can look forward to sharing them together!
 


 
March 11, 2022
 
The daily flow of grim news from Ukraine and the united response of countries around the world makes one realize, once again, just how interconnected we all are.  Parents in Kyiv, Paris, Nairobi, Cairo, Sao Paolo, Havana, Kyoto, Mumbai, Boston, and Moscow all want the same things for their children.  Yet look at how easily the world can slip from peace to war.  
 
Tribalism, extreme nationalism, xenophobia, and authoritarianism are all the enemies of the peaceful coexistence that makes the world a safer place.  It takes constant commitment and hard work to combat them. We cannot take our freedom, or the freedom of others, for granted, and we must be willing to defend it.   
 
We also owe it to our children to instill those values in them if they are to be responsible citizens of the world.  We begin by helping them to value and practice peace, by respecting others and learning to resolve differences in a positive way. It is how we contribute to the future.
 
As an antidote to what is filling your newsfeed, I offer this from Yousef/Cat Stevens.  His new version of a 50-year-old classic.
 

PEACE TRAIN

 
Watch it with your children. 
 



March 4, 2022

Years ago, I heard a professor at the MIT Sloan School use the metaphor of a pool table to describe an organization. Briefly, every time you move one ball on the table, the relationship of all the balls changes.  The difference between a casual pool player and a pro, is that the pro knows this and sees beyond the immediate shot.  This is holistic thinking, and it often involves connecting seemingly unconnected dots.  Very useful in just about any business or organization, and, frankly, it is not a bad way to think about life.
 
I was reminded of this the other day when I walked into the science room and found the walls covered with a bunch of hexagon maps.  Hexagonal thinking was developed by a pair of British organizational consultants as a management tool for helping groups move from ideas to action steps in a systemic way. The hexagonal shape facilitates clustering.
 
This week our Middle School students have been creating hexagon maps using words and terms they have encountered in science class this year. The exercise is helping them to look for connections, and to think in a more nuanced way. It is connecting the dots. 
 
This is a great way of thinking about science, but the technique works equally well in other disciplines: consider using a hexagonal web that draws on post-WWII history to help inform a discussion about what is happening in Ukraine today.
 
It is pretty cool to be using a systems thinking tool as a way to enrich learning for Middle School students.  A big tip of the hat to our awesome science teacher, Laura Davidson!
 






February 25, 2022

Yesterday afternoon I joined a group of parents (and grandparents) in the carriage barn at Appleton Farm as a group of Upper School students shared their Experience Week observations.  They described churning butter, baking bread, hiking with goats, the milking parlor and the hen house.  We saw their journals, pictures, posters and a video.  This had clearly been a good week of hands-on immersion; they learned new things in a way that would not have been possible in the classroom.  Impressive!
 
Our Lower Elementary students had their own Experience Week, out every day in the field (and woods) observing the wonders of nature in the wintertime.  They learned to look as they walked and brought what they saw back to the classroom to inspire their own creativity, and they became more attuned to the natural world.
 
This is what we envisioned when we launched the Grades 1-8 Experience Weeks program five years ago.  We wanted to engage with community partners to use their resources to take our students beyond the classroom to give them immersive interdisciplinary experiences that would challenge and stretch them.  We have partnered with The Trustees,  Maritime Gloucester, The Appalachian Mountain Club, Salem Sound Coastwatch, the Addison Gallery at Andover, Gloucester Stage Company,  Outdoor Classrooms, and the list grows.  
 
Experience Weeks are the perfect combination of “hands-on” and “going out,” two cornerstones of Montessori philosophy practice, and the process of creating them challenges and stretches us to take Montessori to the next level.  
 
What also impressed me about yesterday’s gathering in the barn was just that we were there, gathered together doing something that was so usual for us, but that we had been unable to do for the last two years.  It was simply wonderful to be in a room with parents who were engaged in learning from their children’s experiences.
 
Enjoy the snow!
 
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February 18, 2022

As we contemplate changes to our masking policy, I thought it would be interesting to engage with the Middle School students to see what they might think.  I met with them yesterday morning and came away from the conversation impressed by their thoughtfulness and sense of leadership.
 
Their perspective was never about “me,” but all about “we.”
 
These students have clearly been following the data and infection rates.  They recognize that masks are but one part of our arsenal against COVID.  Many would like to be unmasked but want to be cautious about how they do it.  One used the word “situational” to suggest that there were times – in their own classroom – where they could be unmasked, and other times – a large school event - where masks should be worn.  They talked about being outdoors more as the weather permits but realize that many of the tools of their learning are indoors.
 
They expressed responsibility for protecting fellow students and their own family members, particularly grandparents or those with medical issues, and they were concerned for the specialist teachers who come into contact with many classes.  
 
They want to be responsible models for younger students.
 
Wow! 
 


February 11, 2022

 
Every once in a while, we need a break from the news.  From polarization and hyper-partisanship and from people yelling at each other and truckers blocking the border. And from mask me/mask me not.  
 
In that spirit I am sharing this image from my favorite Maine photographer, Peter Ralston. 
 
The signpost is in Friendship, ME, a very pretty fishing community on the mid-coast, and home to the Friendship sloop, the sail-powered precursor to the modern lobster boat.   
 
All of the towns listed are real.  One has to admire the sense of optimism with which their 17th and 18thCentury founders named the places they chose to settle and stake their futures.  We could use a bit of that right now.
 
(You can see more of Peter’s exceptional work at: www.ralstongallery.com)
 
Enjoy!
 
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February 4, 2022

Every once in a while, a “teachable moment” just hits you in the face.
 
Years ago, I joined a group of college students on a scientific research voyage on a schooner belonging to the Sea Education Association (SEA) in Woods Hole.  Somewhere well east of the Gulf Stream on a route between Key West and Bermuda, one of the students had such a moment.  She was a science superstar from Cornell, deploying some very fancy sampling gear over the rail.  For this to work, the gap-year kid on the helm and those handing the sails had to keep the vessel hove to on a dark night in a rough sea.  As the watch team debriefed, the superstar admitted that she had never really given much thought to the importance of such teamwork as she had always assumed that she earned her success on her own. She stood up and gave the gap-year kid a huge hug.  A “teachable moment.”
 
I thought about that moment this week after reading Tom Brady’s retirement post.  Sure, he is a football superstar, but like the girl on the SEA cruise, he could not have achieved what he did in his twenty years in a Patriots jersey without the hard work of an entire team, each doing their job well and all doing their jobs together.  Sorry, but whatever Brady’s feelings about the management, his teammates of two decades deserved something in the way of acknowledgement.  Maybe hugging is not his style, but a thank you would have been nice.  Another “teachable moment.”
 
We think it important for students to learn the value of interdependency.  We do not sit them in a circle and say: “now today we are going to learn to collaborate.”  We create opportunities and they absorb the lesson.  They also learn to say thank you.
 
 
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January 28, 2022

I mostly learned math the old-fashioned way; taught to the tune of a hickory stick.  Lots of rote and memorization.  I hated it, until Middle School and Mrs. Savides, who was part of a group of educators who, under the leadership of a visionary educator named Max Beberman, were developing something they called “New Math.”  I was lucky to be in one of a handful of middle schools where they were testing and refining their methodology.
 
I can still picture her, a prim woman who wore her grey hair in a neat bun, on her knees rolling dice against the baseboard, while we recorded and parsed the results.  We were exploring probability.   Alas, I then went off to a very traditional boarding school, but in that brief time in Middle School, I realized that math could be exciting.
 
I think of Mrs. Savides when I watch our students literally learning math with their hands.  Our youngest students feel the shape of sandpaper numbers. The Pink Tower and Brown Stairs help to refine a child's visual sense by discriminating differences in dimension.  Students manipulate number rods, binomial and trinomial cubes, Golden Beads, and all sorts of aesthetically pleasing materials to explore math. 
 
On any given day there will be Lower Elementary students working in the hallway with bead chains.  And they are more than happy to explain what they are doing and what they are learning. They end up knowing the multiples of 1 through 10, up to the square and the cube.
 
As they progress from concrete to abstract, from simple to complex, specific functions, our students grow in their understanding and confidence with the language of mathematics.  This continues right through Middle School, where math includes content from an array of materials, including textbooks, and support for independent study in pre-algebra, algebra and geometry. We can follow the individual child wherever their interest and ability lead them.
 
Mrs. Savides would love Montessori math!
    
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January 21, 2022

I have been reading Amanda Gorman’s collection of poems, Call Us What We Carry. I am struck that reading her words is as moving an experience as was listening to her perform at President Biden’s Inauguration.  Gorman plays with the language and paints word pictures, conjuring images out of strings of vowels, consonants and spaces.  What a gift!
 
I cannot remember when I first discovered that one could do such amazing things with letters and words, but the images created by phrases like  “The fog comes on little cat feet…”  and “Rosy-fingered dawn…” have been in my memory bank for a long, long time.
 
The ability to paint vivid word pictures is something good writers have in common, whether they produce prose or poems.  Some of this is probably a natural gift, but honing  it entails lots of hard work and practice.  And for those who are fortunate enough, this starts with parents who read aloud or tell stories to their children, as my father did, nightly.
 
These skills are nurtured by teachers who demonstrate and encourage good writing in many forms, who introduce literary devices like similes and metaphors and imagery, who have their students read, write, recite, and critique.  That is what happens here.  I love listening to our Upper Elementary students sharing their works with classmates and getting their feedback. 
 
Our students are engaged in developing the “voice” and the “ear,”  both essential in the transaction of creating and understanding word pictures.  This is not a passive activity.
 
And it is so great when you know that a student has found their own “voice.”
 
 
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January 14, 2022

Our 6th, 7th and 8th Graders are skiing today at Mt. Wachusett, the start of a six-week PE activity.  One more step toward “normal.”  
 
Part of our approach to PE is to provide an opportunity for students to engage in sports activities that they can carry through life.  For this reason, swimming and ice skating are also part of our PE program.  We are not quite ready to jump into pool yet, but LE and UE will be using the Ray Bourque Rink at Endicott College beginning the week of January 24th.
 
Aside from being outdoors and learning a sport there is another purpose to the Mt Wauchusett trips.  The inclusion of the  6th Graders is part of their passage from Upper Elementary to Middle School, and an opportunity to reconnect with their former, and future, classmates.  It is an important part of building an ongoing Middle School community.
 
Looking forward, the 6th Graders will also join the Middle School on an exciting year-end trip aboard the windjammer schooner Mary Day out of Camden, Maine. We will have the schooner for our exclusive use. The trip is 3 nights/4 days of hands-on learning: exploring the islands of Penobscot Bay, learning history, navigation and sail handling, working in the galley, learning to tie a bowline knot, and maybe enjoying a clambake by a driftwood fire on the granite shore of an island in Merchant’s Row.  A nice “Montessori” finale.
 
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January 7, 2022

A snow day!   When Mother Nature gives you snow, play in it.
 
 
 


December 17, 2021

‘Tis the season…to gather around the table with family and friends.  Every family has their favorite holiday meals, and I am guessing that within our school community there are many traditions represented and lots of treasured family recipes, each with its own story.
 
As families grow, new members add their own favorites to the holiday recipe box.  That certainly has been the case in my family, and since we all love to cook, our holiday gatherings involve lots of creative collaboration in the kitchen.  (I am usually put in charge of the wine.)  And as there are always tasks for even the youngest, the holiday kitchen is a wonderful Practical Life laboratory.
 
In addition to tenderloin roasts (with popovers), over the years rösti, æbelskivers, cheese fondue, tarte Tatin, and an occasional lobster, among other delicious things, have made their way to our holiday tables. The common denominator is that these recipes make for festive meals; they are meant to serve a group, and to be lingered over. 
 
Since it is the season of sharing, here is a recipe we discovered some years ago. It is a really special breakfast and is fun for children to help prepare. Be generous with the topping. For carnivores, serve with breakfast sausage or bacon from your local farmer. 
 
David Eyre’s Pancake, from Craig Claiborne, former New York Times food critic (each pancake serves 2-4):
 
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May all of your holiday meals be special, both for the good food and the great company.
 
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December 10, 2021

Going out and welcoming in are two things that we value, and I have watched examples of both this week, as we tiptoe back toward normalcy.
 
Going out: Yesterday our Middle School students went on a history-based scavenger hunt in Boston.  The took the train and made their way to the State House, from which they commenced a two-hour hunt, solving puzzles, completing challenges, and exploring historic landmarks.  This is hands-on learning.  Next week’s off-campus activity will include 6th Graders, who will also join the Middle School for skiing at Mt. Wachusett after Winter Break.  
 
Welcoming in: We have begun conducting admission tours; one or two families, fully vaccinated and masked, a day.  There is simply no substitute for seeing the school in action. What I have observed is what struck me when I made my first visit to a Montessori school years ago.  Our students, even the young ones, take the time to welcome and engage their visitors, and to talk about what they are working on.  They are completely comfortable engaging.  Nice to see that these values have not eroded during our months of isolation.
 
I cannot end without giving a shout-out to an alum.  On Wednesday evening Althea McHugh received Gloucester High School’s Sawyer Medal, which is awarded to the students who have achieved the highest GPAs in their grade in the previous year.  Samuel Sawyer, for whom the medal is named, founded Gloucester’s library and donated the land that is now Ravenswood Park.  He believed in love of learning, curiosity, and hard work.  Those are things we encourage in our students, and that certainly describes Althea.  Well done!
 
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December 3, 2021

For a variety of reasons, I have been thinking a good deal about the role we as parents and teachers play in helping our children become confident masters of their own futures. That led me to something I wrote some years ago. I found it useful to reread, and I thought I would share it with you.
 
Self-trust:
 
Of all the qualities that we attempt to develop in our students, perhaps the most important is "self-trust.”  For years, I have treasured a profound piece of prose from the poet, e.e.cummings, that reads: “We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch.  Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”  
 
One of our most important responsibilities is to help our children believe in themselves.  To believe in oneself a child must acquire both self-confidence and the level of self-knowledge that makes self-deception difficult.  This is different than “self-esteem” a phrase that in popular usage seems to have become synonymous with “feeling good”.  Frankly, I hope there are times when our children do not feel good about themselves – times when they know that they have not lived up to their potential or acted at their best.  (True self-esteem comes from fighting your own battles and winning them.)
  
Teachers (and parents) provide the mirror through which our children can see the value that lies within each of them.  As the mirror, we are required to do more than give a “well done” or a pat on the head.  We must actively seize the “teaching moments” to help our children gain insight and grow in their self-awareness.
 
This work is ongoing, and an essential part of what we do at every level of our school, and what we, as parents, do all the time.
 
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November 19, 2021

One of my fondest early childhood memories centered on books.  For many years an older couple, whom my father had helped to escape from Nazi Germany, would arrive for Thanksgiving bearing a brown paper package tied up with string, in which was a book. For me! Not just any book, but one that they had chosen together with me in mind at their favorite Cambridge bookstore.  I assumed that bookstore to be a very special place as it was the source of treasures that fueled my imagination and opened the world to me. 
 
I became a voracious reader, and a habitué of bookstores.  Browsing through Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, History, and all the other sections, often with no preconception of what I will end up taking home is a delightful way to pass the time.  And the people who run bookstores are great guides.  Linda Cox, who ran The Book Store on Beacon Hill, got me into the habit of reading every book on the annual New York Times Best Books of the Year list (fiction and non-fiction), regardless of the subject because the common denominator was good writing.  
 
I have a list of favorite booksellers:  The Book Store (alas, gone), The Hickory Stick in Washington Depot, CT, The Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, The Toadstool in Peterborough, NH, Toad Hall in Rockport, Harvard Book Store (not the Coop!) in Cambridge, Owl & Turtle in Camden, ME, The Old Corner in Boston, Hathaway House in Wellesley, and the Lake Forest Book Store (I married their best clerk).  My local go-to is The Bookstore of Gloucester; long may Arwen Severance thrive!  All magical places, and so many wonderful names.
 
Sorry, Jeff Bezos, but Amazon and Kindle just cannot match the experience of  browsing, buying and holding a book.  
 
Start a holiday tradition by putting a brown paper package tied up with string and containing the world next to your child’s Thanksgiving plate.
 
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November 12, 2021

Last week I mentioned that I am an optimist.  But there is one big thing I am having trouble being optimistic about, and that is the quality of our civic life.  
 
A healthy democracy depends upon informed and engaged people who understand the responsibilities of citizenship.  It requires civil discourse, even when there are strongly held opposing views.  And being able to disagree agreeably (think of Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan sharing a drink at the end of a long week of fighting fiercely over a piece of legislation).  
 
I served as Town Meeting Moderator in Dover for a number of years.  We had lots of issues that engendered spirited debate, and some awfully close votes, but the next day you met your neighbor over coffee at the Village Drug Store and moved on.  We also had a good local newspaper that offered real news and opinions about things that mattered.  The newspaper is long gone, and I am not sure that being Moderator now would be as much fun. 
 
What does one do about this?  One thing that every school in the country should be doing is a better job of teaching Civics. (For the record: we do, beginning in Lower Elementary).  All schools used to teach civics and government courses, but these, along with other “non-core” subjects have gradually disappeared from the curriculum of most schools. Too bad.  If we produce brilliant scientists or creative entrepreneurs who are lousy citizens, where do we end up as a society?
 
As an independent school, we are free of “teaching to the test,” so we can, and must, make sure that our students learn how to become engaged citizens.  We owe it to them, and to ourselves.
 
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November 5, 2021

It has been quite a week, and I am struck by the irony that we have had to close classrooms on the very week that a COVID vaccine has been made available for the 5-11 age group.
 
Two observations:  First, I know that last spring we were all hoping that this year would be much different. We are making progress, but not as fast as we would like, and it is not always linear.  On my weekly Heads’ call yesterday we are all wondering what it would take to get to the point where masks could come off.  We worry especially about the impact on our younger students who learn in part by reading cues and watching lips.  
 
Second, vaccines do make a difference.  They are not a magic bullet; the teacher who tested positive this week is fully vaccinated, as are all our teachers.  But the overwhelming evidence shows a direct correlation between vaccination rates and a decline in hospitalization and mortality rates.  As the percentage of vaccinated people in our community increases, the likelihood of serious cases decreases.  Each of us can help make everyone safer.
 
I am optimistic.  I watch students engaged in the business of learning and growing – in classrooms, under the band tent, in the art studio, on the playing field.  At the Fall Festival, I saw parents reconnecting after months of waving to each other at drop off.  Our Middle School kids had a great time performing community service at Long Hill, and we are working on a neat Experience Week session with our friends at Appleton Farm.  There will be bumps in the road, and the journey may be longer than we’d like, but we are headed in the right direction.
 
During the years of Boston’s Big Dig project there was a sign at the South Station tunnel that read: "Rome wasn't built in a day. If it was, we would have used their contractor."  Patience, my friends…
 


October 29, 2021

An obituary in this morning’s paper brought me back to my undergraduate years in a small liberal arts college.  You may have guessed by now that I am endlessly curious about lots of things, so the luxury of having four years to explore many disciplines and to look for the connections between them was a gift.  There were gifted teachers all over the place.  One of them was a young psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Mike), who passed away last week.
 
Mike’s primary area of research was creativity, and he later went on to write Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience.  If you did not read it or are not one of the seven million who watched his TED Talk, do.
 
Essentially, Mike was trying to understand what brings people to a state of focus where being absorbed in doing produces contentment.  This state is generated from within, as opposed to being the result of external stimuli.  As Mike explained, it is something that artists and athletes experience, but it can apply to any of us in whatever we do.  It based in doing meaningful work.
 
I often think about Flow as I walk through our school, watching students happily absorbed in their work.  They are not passive consumers; they are actively engaged.  Their stimulation does not come from the teacher, though the teacher is there to guide, but from within themselves.  They get into the flow.
 
As the product of very traditional schools (sit in rows and listen to the teacher), it was not until I got to college that I found flow.  I wish I could start over in one of our classrooms.
 
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October 22, 2021

Years ago, as a brand-new parent at the Charles River School, I got volunteered to work the grill at the school’s Fall Festival.  We had chosen the school because it felt like the right place for our children to thrive.  I doubt that we thought much about the fact that our whole family was about to join a community.  Flipping burgers at the Fall Festival changed that.  It was, to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart, the beginning of several beautiful friendships.  
 
Over time there were many other opportunities to participate in the life of the school and to work together with other parents and teachers in ways that supported the school and had a direct benefit on the quality of our children’s educational experience.  Speaking for myself, these opportunities certainly enriched my life as a parent.
 
Tomorrow is Harborlight’s Fall Festival, and once again, I will be working the grill.  Some things are constant; or maybe it is just my true skill set.
 
I particularly look forward to seeing you tomorrow, after a year+ when our contacts have been limited.  What I most recall about that first grilling gig was how many new people I met.  Because we have had to keep our distance, many of us have not met. So, here is a great opportunity.  
 
Let me cook your lunch tomorrow!
 
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October 15, 2021

It was great fun having our Pumpkin Patch yesterday.  One of the benefits of doing this “field trip” on campus is that our Infants and Toddlers get to participate, so this is something we should continue.  That said, we are happy to be able to utilize the resources of our surrounding communities once again by going out, as this is an essential part of our Montessori curriculum.  
 
Thanks to the generous support of many of you, our new bus is coming, though like everything that depends upon supply chains it is taking longer than expected.  In the meantime we are not sitting still, particularly our older students. 
 
Our Middle School students are going off campus once a week for curriculum-related activities, including science and art.  On tap is a service-learning project at Long Hill.  And they are beginning to plan their spring class trip; whatever the destination, the trip will have a strong curricular focus.  This winter, Grades 6-8 will resume Friday skiing at Mount Wachusett, and in March, our Upper Elementary and Middle School students will return to Gloucester Stage Company for a two-week immersion into the world of live theater.
 
Looking farther out, we intend to resume offering international learning experiences.  Our initial discussions have focused on Spain and Costa Rica, where we have traveled in the past.  Each country offers a rich variety of  curricular opportunities.  We are targeting the 2022-2023 school year. 
 
There are lots of learning opportunities out there, and it is great to be able to pursue them again.
 
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October 8, 2021

Two moments from this week to share with you.
 
The first was on Tuesday, when the Middle School students held their first formal debate of the year.  Debate is a great teaching tool.  Students have to research and synthesize information and organize their thoughts.  They have to work together as a team.  They have to communicate effectively and, probably hardest of all for a novice, they have to listen and think on their feet in order to effectively rebut opposing arguments.  
 
This first debate, and there will be several throughout the year, was Hunters & Gatherers vs. Farmers. The question was: which group had the better lifestyle in the ancient world, and the students had to define “better.”  I have listened to our Middle School debates for several years, and this group was impressive.  As one said later, “In Upper Elementary you get to pick your topic; this was chosen for us, the teams were drawn by lot, and we had to work together to figure it out.”  And they did!
 
The second moment took place yesterday on the lawn by the hen house.  Thursday was Trapper Day.  Trapper is a 7-year-old Flat Coated Retriever who is a trained therapy dog, and whose best friend is our science teacher, Laura Davidson.  With the assistance of a team of Middle School students, Trapper taught students about dog safety.  They learned how to read a dog’s body language, and how to greet and approach a dog (if they were comfortable doing so).  A wonderful Practical Life lesson, and another chance for Middle School to model for our younger students.
 
Good things happening!  I hope your Parent-Teacher conferences are going well today, and we all appreciate the luncheon that the Parent Association provided for our teachers.
 


October 1, 2021

As educators, we try to lead by example.  Last week the Greater Beverly Chamber of Commerce honored one of our music teachers, Jay Daly, for his inspiring community service during the last several months.
 
We have all heard Jay’s wonderful music, and some of you have probably heard him as the lead trumpet at North Shore Music Theater or with his bands, New England Brass and Barbeque Brass.  He has performed at Tanglewood and Symphony Hall. 
 
But during the pandemic, Jay played for a different audience, from the sidewalk in front of venues like retirement homes and individual houses.  He began these “gigs” by playing church and jazz tunes on an empty lawn at Lynch Park on Easter Sunday, 2020.  By the time he finished playing there were 300 people listening. Since then, he has just kept on playing all over town and beyond.
 
Jay’s answer to the challenges of the last months was to find a way to share his considerable talent with others and to bring joy and smiles through music in the face of hard times. 
 
Nice example!
 
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September 24, 2021

I have often mentioned my “morning coffee” Zooms with the heads of peer schools.  These weekly meetings have been invaluable over the past months.  
 
Lately, our conversations have focused on navigating through a changing landscape.  Most of us are comfortable with students having off-campus experiences but would not send them to New York City.  We are all maintaining our indoor mask policies. Most are welcoming outdoor gatherings on campus but limiting the number of non-staff adults who can come into our buildings.  We are being cautious but hoping that health data and trends will allow us to open up more as the year unfolds.
 
All of us look forward to vaccines being available for our students aged 5-11 and will encourage our families to take advantage of the opportunity to add another layer of protection. 
 
What this means at Harborlight is that we will have our on-campus pumpkin patch as we did last year, but our Kindergarteners will not be going across the street to swim at the Y this fall (hopefully in the spring).  For fall parent/teacher conferences we will offer both Zoom and in-person and masked options.  Our older students will take advantage of off-campus learning opportunities (but no NYC trip!), and, so far, skiing is on for this winter. We plan to be back at Gloucester Stage in March for a two-week theater experience. One step at a time; better to be careful than regretful.
 
In that vein, I have to give a big shout out the those of you who have made the decision to keep your child home at the sign of any symptoms, even if you think they are just seasonal allergies.  I know this is difficult for many of you, but it does make a big difference.  In yesterday’s call, one of my colleagues shared what happened when a parent did not keep their child home: the school is now doing Test and Stay for forty students. 
 
We’ll get through this together….
 
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September 17, 2021
 
On Monday evening parents and teachers gathered on the lawn for Back-to-School Night.  We got to meet new members of the school community, greet old friends, share information and wine, and visit classrooms. 
 
A number of people spoke, but I want to call attention to two in particular, Tachou Brown and Nichole Schrafft.
 
Tachou is the president of the Parent Association.  After a year of connecting virtually there is definitely a pent-up desire for real connection, and Tachou has begun reaching out to re-engage with Class Parents to find ways to accomplish that.  We are planning our traditional Fall Field Day here on campus, and we would love to see class picnics or BBQs on the lawn as well. Tachou will be working closely with Nichole who has a new title, Director of Community Engagement, which speaks to the importance of that work. 
 
Facilitating communication, supporting events and gatherings, and connecting parents with each other and with the school are essential building blocks of community building.  This is important work, and it can be fun.
 
You do not have to wait for Tachou or Nichole to reach out.  You can raise your hand now.
 
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September 10, 2021

It was great seeing the children’s excitement on Opening Day, but what was even greater was seeing how excited our teachers were to welcome their students to the classrooms they had so carefully prepared.
 
Our teachers take great pride in their learning environments.  Every space, from the Infant Room through the Middle School, is intentionally designed and equipped with Montessori materials to reflect our philosophy and support our unique pedagogy. 
 
Montessori teachers have chosen to go beyond their undergraduate and graduate education programs to take specific training to become Montessori certified.  Some have graduated from  our own training program; this year we have three MI-NE interns on staff. 
 
All of our teachers are committed to professional growth, and we support a robust program of professional development.  But beyond the formal vehicles of conferences, workshops, webinars, and specialized studies, informal professional development is happening all the time as colleagues share and learn from one another.  You can see this at every level of the school. 
 
Harborlight Montessori is a learning community, and in this our faculty lead by example.  
 
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August 27, 2021
 
Today we begin the transition from summer programs. Next week we will be readying classrooms, having lots of meetings as a whole faculty and in level teams, and refreshing our CPR and first aid skills. 
 
We are busy with campus improvements, including new fencing, repaving the driveways and parking lot, rebuilding a sidewalk, and installing new flooring in all of the Children’s House classes and the Infant/Toddler hallway (nicer to look at and much easier on the knees). Our hens have moved into their new house, and the order for the new bus is in process. Turns out there are lots of ways to configure a bus (seat belts - yes!). The generous support of many families made this major purchase possible.   Thank you!
 
Thank you, too, for your ongoing cooperation in helping us keep our campus safe. Your partnership in this effort has made a huge difference. 
 
Last week I shared what we will continue to do in response to COVID-19. But what you continue to do is equally important. This pandemic will be with us for a while, and the choices you make have the potential to impact our whole community. Among other things, please continue to err on the side of caution when your child exhibits any symptoms; it may not be just a seasonal allergy. If we all do our part, we can minimize disruptions to on-campus learning.  No one wants to go remote.
 
I hope you enjoy time with your children on this last week of summer, and we look forward to greeting you on Classroom Visit Day!
 
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August 20, 2021

As we prepare for the fall semester, I want to share with you the measures we are taking to continue maintaining a safe environment for our students and teachers, so they can focus on the business of learning.  
  • Masks: will be required indoors for all students aged 3 and older and all adults, regardless of vaccination status.  They will be optional outdoors.
  • Access to school buildings will continue to be limited to students and faculty/staff during school hours, unless specifically authorized by the head of school.
  • Morning check-in: Infant/Toddler students will be met at their classroom porch doors,  Children’s House students will check in at the main door, and Grades 1-8 at the side entrance.  
  • We will maintain grade level cohorts for all programs, including art, music, and physical education.
  • Afterschool clubs and classes will be offered outdoors in the fall.
  • Field trips will be limited to small groups and to venues deemed safe. 
  • Back-to-school activities (details to follow):
    • Classroom Visit Day (September 7th):  there will be outdoor activities and time slots for individual families to visit classrooms.  Sign up will be available shortly.
    • Back-to School Night: will be held outdoors and is adults-only.  Note this has been moved to Thursday, September 9th, as we will be paving the driveway and parking lot the previous week.
 
We are investigating utilizing a Test & Stay program being offered by the state; this would allow Grade 1-8 students who are close contacts to remain in school with daily testing.  But, for now, we will continue to follow our established protocols for testing and quarantine. We will continue to employ increased ventilation and air circulation measures and HEPA filters are in all classrooms.
 
We are in the process of updating our COVID-19 page on the school website, and you should continue to check there for detailed information.  
 
As always, the safety of our school community is paramount.  We will continue to be conservative.  As the school year unfolds, we will review our protocols in light of emerging science and public health guidance.  In the meantime, we appreciate all that you are doing to help; keep erring on the side of caution if you think you child has any questionable symptoms.
 
I look forward to seeing you on Classroom Visit Day!
 
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August 13, 2021

Monday marks the start of our twenty-sixth year of teaching teachers.  
 
Some of you may not know, but the Harborlight campus is also home to Montessori Institute – New England, which provides Montessori training and professional development. We serve as the laboratory school for MI-NE, and many of our early childhood teachers have graduated from the program.  
 
Other MI-NE graduates teach all over the world. Many have opened their own Montessori schools, including in places as far flung as Sri Lanka and Israel. Others are published authors on topics related to Montessori education. In response to the challenges of the pandemic, some of our graduates have developed private behavioral consulting practices serving schools and parents.
 
The cohort that starts on Monday includes educators from both Harborlight and schools in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  
 
It is hard to overstate the value of having MI-NE as part of our learning community.  In addition to growing our own teachers and the direct benefit that has for our students, MI-NE’s presence helps to foster a climate for professional growth that benefits all our faculty.  
 
To all of my MI-NE colleagues, thank you for twenty-five years of growing this wonderful and essential program.  Onward….
 
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August 6, 2021

On Tuesday evening, we hosted alumni for a BBQ  (check out the pix on our Facebook page).  The group included our oldest alumnus and some of our most recent graduates. Their post-Harborlight journeys have taken them along diverse paths. 
 
For some alumni, the journey has led right back here, where they are teachers, staff, and parents.  Their Harborlight experience is now multi-faceted and  multi-generational.  We are not just where they started school, but the place they have chosen to make their family school.
 
Whatever the individual path, it is wonderful to watch our students and alumni grow into the individuals they were meant to be, and to know that we played an important part in helping to guide them at the beginning of that process.  
 
I am reminded of our school logo, with its image of the seedling evolving into a leaf.  Each seed is unique, and with the right soil, care, and nurturing, grows into a mature leaf.  Together, the leaves make a strong, beautiful tree.  
 


July 30, 2021

We are at the halfway point of our summer sessions.  Looking to the fall, public health authorities and state agencies like DESE and EEC are considering what guidelines will be in place.  I continue to participate in conversations with the heads of other independent schools, and our collective goal is to do whatever is necessary to safely keep our schools in session.  There is no really good substitute for in person learning, particularly in early childhood.
 
The COVID landscape is shifting, so there are things we do not know.  But we do know what has worked for us.  We also know that as an Infant through Grade 8 school, most of our student population cannot yet be vaccinated, so we need to continue to be conservative. 
 
Thus far, the protocols we adopted for summer have worked well, and we will continue to employ them.  Students and staff will wear masks indoors, although we look forward to the time where this is no longer mandatory. We will continue checking in students at the door and asking you to do home health checks.  At this time, we do not plan to reintroduce temperature checks, but encourage them at home.  We appreciate how diligent families have been about letting us know if a child has any symptoms.  
 
COVID will be with us for a while.  We need to deal with it effectively, but we cannot let it define us.  If we maintain a safe school, our students and teachers can focus on the exciting business of learning. 
 
I will continue to update you as we get closer to September.
 
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July 23, 2021

This is the time of year when students are moving up and new students are joining us.  Summer provides a nice “on-ramp” for these transitions, and it is always affirming to watch how new members are welcomed and become part of the classroom community.  
 
We work hard at ensuring that these communities are safe places, where each child feels valued.  Kindness and respect are values that are modeled and encouraged in our students from the earliest years.  As they move up through the school, our students learn to support each other and collaborate.  Sure, there are bumps in the road, but they learn to work things out, and move on.  I have watched this year after year.  
 
Children who grow up with this shared experience often develop deep and lasting friendships.  My sons did.  They went to an elementary school very much like Harborlight, and though their lives have taken diverse paths to different corners of the country, they have remained closely connected with their friends from way back when.  Not just following-on-Facebook friendships, but caring, making time, picking up the phone, and sometimes traveling long distances to stay connected friendships.  
 
We are hosting an alumni BBQ on August 3rd.  As we have reached out to them, and read their responses, it has been nice to see how many of them have stayed connected over time.  That is a gift in an often disconnected world.
 


July 16, 2021

Our Upper School team – the teachers in Upper Elementary and Middle School – came together this week to plan for the coming school year.  
 
After a year of restrictions that impacted our program and the student experience, it is great to be thinking about what shape “normal” could take. This is a moment of opportunity. We do not have to simply turn back the clock; instead we are thinking about how and where we can up our game.  
 
The Upper School team has plans for building strong communities, within each classroom and across levels.  They are reviewing academic expectations and outcomes and our all-important social-emotional curriculum. “Going out” and place-based science education are essential elements of our program, and we will again be able to use the rich resources of the North Shore to extend our classrooms.  Student-run businesses, which teach many skills, will be back (MS pizza lunch!).  And the team is looking at ways for their students to interact with, and be models for, our younger children.  
 
The words engagement, community, and Montessori were used a lot, which is great, as those are the words that define us, and set us apart.  This is as true at 8th Grade as it is in Infant/Toddler and Children’s House.  
 
The Upper School team comprises Kate Dickman and Karen Goodno-McGuire in MS, Diana Norma Shafer and Sue Sullivan in UE, with Laura Davidson (Science), Katie Oberlander, Elaine Rombola-Aveni, and Jay Daly (Performing Arts), Holy Alto (Visual Arts), Paola Shaker and Amanda Valenzuela (World Languages), and Chris Wilson (PE).
 
It is exciting to have this strong team of teachers guiding our older students toward the completion of their Harborlight journey.  
 
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July 9, 2021

 
A big thank you to all who have contributed to The Wheels on the Bus.  You have raised $30,000 so far, a substantial dent in the purchase price of our new bus.
 
Gifts have come in many sizes, and all are greatly appreciated, but I have to share the story of one particular gift.
 
Last week, two elementary students came into Jed’s office with $70.00 that they had raised by doing household chores.  Their chores included: doing dishes, cleaning cars, watering plants, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom and the attic, and doing laundry. “Yeah, lots of laundry.”  When Jed asked if they had also cleaned their rooms, they said that was a normal chore, so it did not count towards  the bus.
 
I love this story . It is a wonderful take off on our annual Turkey Chores, which raise money to buy Thanksgiving meals for neighbors in need.  But it also says something about the way these two have learned about responsibility; it usually does start with picking up after yourself.  And that is just the start. Being part of a group – whether a household or a classroom – means sharing in the care of the community. 
 
Healthy communities are sustained by people who have learned this lesson.  People who raise their hands to volunteer, who pitch in when there is a need.  People who are engaged.  
 
How do you engage with your communities, and how are you teaching this lesson to your children?
 
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June 18, 2021

The word “community” is often used when describing our school.  Faculty and staff comprise a community of educators. Students join from diverse backgrounds to form the communities of their classrooms.  We encourage our parents to be partners in their children’s education and participate in the life of the school.  We are an engaged community.
 
One of the ways we celebrate the engagement of parents is our Community Service Award.  This is given in recognition of outstanding service to and support of the school.  These are the people who make good things happen in all sorts of ways.
 
This year has been different; we have missed seeing parents on campus, helping and contributing their talents and skills.  But we have seen something very special and incredibly valuable.  There is simply no way we could have made it through this past year without the active support of all our families.  You helped keep the school community safe and our doors open, and we know it was not always easy for you. 
 
And so, for your engagement and support in a most challenging time, we present the 2021 Community Service Award to “The Parents of 2020-2021.”  Thank you all!
 
I also want to thank Tachou Brown and Purvi Harley, who chair the Parents’ Association, for their creativity in finding ways to connect parents and support teachers in a mostly virtual world.  I am especially thankful for their enthusiastic endorsement of our Wheels on the Bus initiative.  In just one week we closing in on $25,000. We are off to a great start, but there is still time for you to join those who have already given and jump on the bus with us.

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June 11, 2021

I want to say, “thank you.”
 
First, thank you to those who have responded so quickly and generously to our “The Wheels on the Bus” appeal.  It was fun getting real time pings last evening as the first online donations were being made.  This initiative is off to a good start.  It takes a lot of parts to make a bus, so please consider buying a seat, a couple of wheels, or even the engine!  How nice it will be to know we did this together.
 
Second, the president of the school’s board of trustees, Jim Kaloutas, is stepping down from that role.  Since joining Harborlight, I have had the pleasure of working with two wonderful board chairs, Deb Thomas and Jim. Jim is a thoughtful, unflappable man who cares deeply about the school and its future.  He has supported both the school and the head of school in so many ways, and since he is also modest, he would be embarrassed were I to recount them.  Suffice to say, it has been great having Jim as a partner.  I am glad he has agreed to stay on the board a bit longer. Thank you, Jim!
 
Jim has handed the gavel to John Cusolito.  Some of you know John as the father of Matt, who graduated in 2018, having started in Children’s House.  John has a strong professional background in communications and has worn many hats in his years as a Harborlight parent and trustee, including chairing the Harborlight Fund.  He is one of the two parents who spoke so eloquently on our video about their Harborlight experience.  HARBORLIGHT VIDEO  I look forward to working with John in his new role.
 
I hope to see you at the Year End Picnic on Monday evening. 

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June 4, 2021

Middle Schoolers have been on their “class trip” this week, enjoying a variety of daily outings to some special places on land and sea.  This small step toward semi-normalcy reminds me of our school motto: “Engage Your World.”
 
Engagement is an essential part of our Montessori philosophy and practice.  That applies within the school, whether it be big kid-little kid reading buddies and the Middle School pizza lunch business, or the Science Fair, all-school assemblies and after school clubs.
 
We have a long tradition of engaging with the community through service, whether performing Turkey Chores, visiting our neighbors at Essex Park Rehabilitation Center, working with Beverly Bootstraps, or taking treats to local police and fire departments.
 
“Going out” is another way we engage, from the first Children’s House ride on the big bus to using historic sites, local beaches and tidepools, woodlands and museums as extensions of our classrooms.  Our Experience Weeks and summer programs use venues all over the region, and the older students go to Mt. Wachusett to ski.  Our bus and van get a lot of use.
 
You also engage as a member of the school community when you chaperone trips or share your special skills in our classrooms.  We come together for parent education, in-person parent-teacher conferences, and for events like Fall Cleanup, the Year End Picnic and class potlucks.  These all help create and sustain our community.
 
We will seize opportunities to re-engage beyond pods and cohorts – safely, but deliberately.  In that spirit, I hope to see you at the Year End Picnic on June 14th.
 
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May 28, 2021

One of the joys of living in New England is experiencing the cycle of the seasons. I have lived in Southern California and the Caribbean, where seasonal changes are much more subtle. Of particular delight is watching spring unfold. Bare branches fill with buds, which then flower as leaves sprout and unfurl. Brown gives way to green. The air fills with the scents of flowering bushes (our neighborhood lilacs have been intense this year). Beds are prepared and gardens planted in anticipation of summer and fall harvests. Another winter is past, the earth is reawakening, and summer is fast upon us.
 
And so, too, it is here at school. Our Lower Elementary chicks are hatching, and a hen house is being built. Soon our hens will be laying. Sometime in the summer we will have too many tomatoes in the raised beds by the greenhouse. This week we have hosted Children’s House teas and Lower Elementary breakfasts on the lawn in typical spring weather – hot one day, cooler the next. Eighth Grade graduation is right around the corner.
 
Watching a lawn full of children and parents enjoying kid-made blueberry muffins and sipping from our wonderfully eclectic set of teacups, it felt like a reawakening. It has been a 14- months-long COVID winter, but we are emerging. Like spring, this will take time to unfold, but the end of this school year is a time to celebrate.
 
So, I’ll raise a mismatched teacup to us all for having helped each other through the long winter, and to the promise of brighter days ahead. Thanks, friends...

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May 21, 2021
 
I watched my eldest grandchild, Max, graduate from UVM yesterday.  It would have been nice to have been there in person, but the day was special, nonetheless.
 
Max is an engaging, thoughtful young man, with a keen sense of curiosity. He is willing to take risks and is blessed with a strong work ethic.  He is also lots of fun to be around.  He has always had a job, starting as a dishwasher and working his way up to cook, progressing from deckhand to First Mate on a Maine schooner, and even working on a commercial oyster farm. 
 
His self-funded gap year after high school began with finishing up the schooner season in Maine, took him to Switzerland for an intensive French language program followed by a stint as a cook at a ski resort (with lots of time for skiing), and finally fitting out a van for a trip across the United States with his girlfriend, at the end of which they sold the van for a profit.
 
This summer he will return to Bristol Bay, Alaska for the six-week salmon season. Hard work, but nice pay.  And after that who knows what, but I am not at all worried about Max’s future.
 
Of the qualities that I most admire in Max, at the top of the list is his self-awareness.  He knows himself, and that enables both self-confidence and self-trust.  And for that, I must give great credit to his parents, who loved him unconditionally, who guided him but trusted him, who allowed him to fall down and pick himself up, who were always there for support if needed, but let him figure things out for himself, and who encouraged him to pursue his passions.
 
What I really missed by not being in Vermont yesterday was the chance to hug his parents and thank them for getting it so right.
 
 
Be safe, friends,

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May 14, 2021

Last week I wrote about our intention to continue following the safety practices we have in place for the rest of the school year.  We are not out of the woods, as we learned when we had to close the CH5 and Willow classrooms this week. 
 
Now the CDC has said that those who have been vaccinated do not have to wear masks except in certain defined situations.  So far, there has been no similar guidance from state and local authorities, but that is probably just a matter of time.
 
What does this mean in a small community like ours? Many adults have been or are getting vaccinated, but not all.  A very small handful of our older students are getting shots, but most of our students are not yet eligible.  I think what it means is that the decision to stay the course and maintain our established protocols, including requiring masks, is the right one for now.
 
Navigating our way to whatever next year will look like is not as simple as throwing a switch.  Actually, instituting our safety plans last year was easier; there were certain things we needed to do, and most everyone agreed that they needed doing.  I suspect there will be less consensus about how and when to relax protocols, but we will continue to make these decisions carefully, erring on the side of safety. 
 
 
Be safe, friends,

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May 7, 2021

As we come to the end of Teacher Appreciation Week a big THANK YOU to all the parents who helped to make this happen.
 
I am reminded of the role that traditions, rituals, and special events like this play in the life of our school community. This year, we have missed many things, like the March Experience Week theater production, class potlucks, the Valentine’s Day Breakfast, or buying a slice of pizza from the Middle School.
 
That brings me to what lies ahead. As the CDC and Commonwealth relax restrictions, we are thinking about how and when we can resume normal activities. This is the hot topic in my weekly Heads’ calls, with year-end events and graduations fast upon us.
 
A year ago, we decided that public health guidelines would be the starting point, but that we would take whatever other measures we deemed necessary to keep our school community safe. Now, as those guidelines evolve, we will continue to be cautious. There are less than thirty school days left this year, and what we have in place is working, We have come so far, so let’s not blow it now.
 
We are taking a few baby steps. We will have Children’s House Spring Teas and Lower Elementary Spring Breakfasts outside, class by class, as we did last fall with the pumpkin patch. Graduation will be an intimate event. June Experience Weeks and summer programs will provide some opportunities for “going out” to safe venues. These events will incorporate current group size limits, mask wearing, and distancing guidelines.
 
We expect next year to feel more “normal,” though we will continue to be masked and maintain some distancing as long as necessary. Of course, all of this is subject to what happens in the world around us.
 
In the meantime, I am grateful for all each of you has done to make this school year work so well despite the unusual circumstances. Thank you for accepting responsibility for the welfare of our school.
 
Be safe, friends,

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April 30, 2021

Last week, for Earth Day, I bought an old-fashioned reel lawn mower.
 
I got a really good one, but the purchase price was still less than one month’s bill from the landscaper, whose crew would pull up every week in a big truck towing a trailer, unload a humongous riding mower for the front yard, and a weed whacker for the back slope, and be back in the truck in less than fifteen very noisy minutes, having irritated every dog in the neighborhood.
 
My new mower uses no gasoline, batteries, or long extension cords. It is people-powered, and the only sound it makes is a rhythmically quiet “snip-snip-snip” as the blades cut the grass. A reel blade also makes a cleaner cut than a rotary blade, which is why groundskeepers at baseball parks and golf courses use tractor-pulled reel mowers.
 
According to the workout app on my Apple watch, pushing a mower actually qualifies as exercise. Hand mowing combines purposeful work and exercise and being outside on a sunny day, which sure beats being lined up in a row of treadmills in front of TV monitors.
 
So, my mower and I are doing our little bit for the environment, for fitness, and for the local dogs; and these little things add up. As we guide our children toward self-sufficiency and becoming good stewards of the environment, it is the cumulative application of small lessons that help shape their lifelong habits. We do a lot of this in Practical Life and through other parts of our curriculum, and it works.
 
When is the last time you and your child worked together in the garden or yard? It is a nice way to bond over work that needs doing and to teach an appreciation of the quiet beauty of nature. Spring is a good time to start.
 
Be safe, friends,

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April 16, 2021

On my weekly AISNE heads’ call the conversation turned to time and space.  Colleague after colleague talked about the ride we have been over this past year and the lack of personal time and space for reflection and renewal.
 
As school leaders we feel a strong sense of responsibility for our communities, but most of us are also good at finding ways to balance our lives.  Since last March this has been much harder to do with all that we have had on our plates.   
 
As we talked, it was clear to us that a major culprit was – no surprise – our constant connectivity. Technology has blurred the boundary between work time and personal time and given a sense of urgency and immediacy to everything.  There is no getting away from it.  
 
Actually, we can.  Years ago, I would go off sailing Down East or hiking mountains for stretches of time when no one could reach me.  I discovered that whatever arose in my absence either: 1. resolved itself, 2. was dealt with nicely by someone else, or 3. could await my return.  This is the way the world was in the B.C.E. (Before Cellphone Era).  The lack of instant communication was the key, and we can control that, even in this strange year.
 
I am not such a Luddite that I would eschew the benefits of modern communication technology.  I love my iPhone.  But having all this at our fingertips means we have to work harder at creating balance.  If this is hard for someone like me who lived in the B.C.E., I can only imagine how much harder it must be for our children, who were born connected. 
 
This weekend, put the phone on “do not disturb,” and take a nice long walk someplace where you can enjoy the quiet and beauty of nature.  It is a start, and it might help you better deal with whatever is on your plate.
 
Be safe, friends,


April 9, 2021

We recently had our annual visit from our EEC Licensor, and I am happy to report that, after her virtual tour, she gave us a good report. 
 
In addition to looking at our classrooms and outdoor spaces, the EEC Licensor looks at lots of records, including COVID policies, student medications, attendance, health and safety, background record checks, etc.  An EEC visit means a lot of work for many people, but particularly for our Main Office team, Lisa Robbins and Stephanie Duncan.
 
To say that Lisa and Stephanie have full plates is an understatement; their plates are always overflowing.  I get to school quite early most mornings, but never earlier than Stephanie.  And, unless Rachel is doing an evening admission tour (part of life in the year of COVID), no one leaves later than Lisa. 
 
To list all that this amazing duo does would take a lot of ink, but here are the first things that come to mind. Stephanie is the voice on the phone when you call the school, she takes the daily absence calls, and scrambles to find substitutes and cover the schedule.  She manages students’ medications, and, this year, she runs the main door screening desk.  Lisa handles record keeping, manages HR, assists Jed, and chairs both our Safety and Professional Development committees.  Both also provide lunchtime coverage for teachers, and Lisa is the “candy lady.” They also somehow find time to deal with skinned knees, fire drills, UPS deliveries, the forgotten lunchbox or library bag, and changes to pick up times.
 
Simply put, the school could not function without them.  Whenever I think I have had a hard day, I just look at what they do so cheerfully every day and I am put in my proper place.  So, thank you, Lisa and Stephanie!
 
Be safe, friends,

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April 2, 2021

Apple turned 45 yesterday.  My eldest son has worked there for 20 of those years.  His route to Apple included spending a high school year in Barcelona and a year of college in Munich, a master’s degree in International Policy, working with telecoms in Latin America, and a lot of quality time with guitars and mandolins.  David did not walk a straight path to Apple’s door; it was the combination of his skills and experiences, and how he used them, that landed him in Cupertino. Within the company, he has continued to find new opportunities to grow.
 
I thought of David as I listened to our Upper School teachers describing their program to a group of parents last evening.  Like him, our students are likely to work with technologies and in companies that do not yet exist (he is a bit older than Apple).  Some will work in familiar-sounding jobs but perform them in very unfamiliar ways.  They will work in a world that places high value on creativity, collaboration, communication, analytical skills, and adaptability.  They will have to be lifelong learners, and, as one teacher said last evening, they will have to know how to connect the dots, even when the dots do not seem connectable. 
 
This is not learned from textbooks, but from hands-on experience.  We prepare our students academically, and we know that they go on to thrive at a variety of secondary schools and beyond.  But nurturing these qualities and skills is central to Montessori philosophy and pedagogy.  And it works; just ask the founders of Amazon, Google, and Wikipedia, or the father of modern management, Peter Drucker - all Montessori kids.
 
Be safe, friends

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March 26, 2021


One thing I have really missed this past year is the sight of a group of students getting off the bus, still excited about the experience they just had somewhere off campus. 
 
“Going out” is an essential element of Montessori education.  Our children are naturally curious, and by taking them out we show them that learning is something that can occur anywhere.  Often the learning opportunity is much greater when we go out. 
 
Exploring a tidal pool or a vernal pond beats reading a biology book.  Tapping a maple tree and boiling the sap into syrup is a “lesson.”  As are exploring the relationship between geometry and art with museum curators, or spending two weeks developing and presenting a play in a real theater.  Our collaborations with educators from Maritime Gloucester, Salem Sound Coastwatch , The Trustees, and other community partners, add richness to our students’ curriculum.   Going out also allows our students to engage in community service and learn about the larger community in which they live.  (And Friday skiing is an awesome PE experience.)
 
As we move forward, we are thinking about how to get back to doing these things, and to make sure we are doing them safely.  One baby step: as the weather improves in the next couple of weeks, Jay Daly will be moving the band from the internet to the playing field.  They will soon be marching!
 
I cannot wait to see the wheels on the bus going round and round!
 
Be safe, friends

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March 19, 2021

Today is my mother’s birthday. She has been gone for many years, but I have thought of her often over the past year, as we have navigated through this difficult time.
 
Evelyn McCarthy (affectionately called Red by her sons and grandchildren and Aunt Mick by her nieces and nephews), the eldest of six, grew up in small company town in western Pennsylvania. There was never much money. During the depression my grandfather and his friends worked an abandoned coal mine to heat their houses. Every member of the family worked at something to contribute. She went to a one-room schoolhouse, and for high school walked the railroad tracks to next town.
 
She graduated high school at 16, was accepted to college, but could not afford the tuition. So she hired out as a mother’s helper to earn money to supplement a scholarship for nursing school. At 17, she left for New York City and Mount Sinai Hospital, and began the journey that led to Boston.
 
She raised her two sons with high expectations and lots of tough love. And, because she could, she continued to quietly support nieces and nephews as she had helped her younger siblings.
 
I know she would have looked at the past year as just one more of the challenges life throws at us. Whining was definitely not an option. She would have just done what was needed. Not a bad model to follow.
 
So, here’s to you, Red!
 
Be safe, friends
 
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March 14, 2021
 
Last week I wrote about our intention to continue following the safety practices we have in place for the rest of the school year.  We are not out of the woods, as we learned when we had to close the CH5 and Willow classrooms this week. 
 
Now the CDC has said that those who have been vaccinated do not have to wear masks except in certain defined situations.  So far, there has been no similar guidance from state and local authorities, but that is probably just a matter of time.
 
What does this mean in a small community like ours? Many adults have been or are getting vaccinated, but not all.  A very small handful of our older students are getting shots, but most of our students are not yet eligible.  I think what it means is that the decision to stay the course and maintain our established protocols, including requiring masks, is the right one for now.
 
Navigating our way to whatever next year will look like is not as simple as throwing a switch.  Actually, instituting our safety plans last year was easier; there were certain things we needed to do, and most everyone agreed that they needed doing.  I suspect there will be less consensus about how and when to relax protocols, but we will continue to make these decisions carefully, erring on the side of safety. 
 
 
Be safe, friends,
 
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March 5, 2021

Harborlight is a learning community, and this applies to the adults as well as our students.
 
Today, our faculty and staff are engaged in a variety of professional development activities. Early this morning, teachers were engaged in remote learning in small socially-distanced groups.  Today also marks the start of the two-day American Montessori Society Conference, and many of our teachers and staff are attending those virtual sessions.  
 
This is just one example of the adult learning that goes on year round, as we engage, as a whole faculty, in small groups and individually, in growing our knowledge and professional skills.  This important work is supported by our professional development budget and by an active Professional Development Committee, made up of teachers and staff.
 
Harborlight is also home to Montessori Institute-New England (MI-NE), which, since 1996, has provided high quality professional training to individuals aspiring to become Montessori teachers.  MI-NE graduates teach in Montessori schools throughout New England and beyond, and in our own classrooms. 
 
Just two recent examples of individual professional development (out of many):  Hiromi Sudachi, our Infant/Toddler Director, was the recipient of a two-year Emerging Leaders Fellowship from AMS, and Adrienne Frautten is currently enrolled in the AMS Instructor Academy, a rigorous two-year course which prepares Montessori teachers to teach future generations of Montessori educators. 
 
Our learning community extends to parents.  We provide a variety of parent education opportunities; and this is something Zoom has actually made easier to do.  Finally, in a remarkable moment this past week, Harborlight parents, trustees, faculty and staff joined 9,000 peers from 127 AISNE schools for the webinar with Ibram X. Kendi, the largest event AISNE has ever produced.
 
One of our goals is to encourage habits of lifelong learning in our students.  We are modelling this in many ways.
 
Be safe, friends, 

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February 26, 2021
Kindness, respect, and a commitment to justice and equity are core values of our Harborlight community.  But how do we bring that commitment beyond our school?  How do we look at ideas and institutions we've known all our lives through a different lens and objectively evaluate them against our ideals?
 
Earlier this week you received an invitation to a March 3rd webinar talk by Ibram X. Kendi, the best-selling author of Stamped, and a professor and historian, who, since July 2020, has directed the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University.  The event is sponsored by the Association of Independent Schools in New England (AISNE), and will be attended by parents, faculty and staff, and trustees from 120 member schools.  Registration is free and available on a first-come basis. 
 
Kendi’s talk is titled: Go Beyond an Awareness of Racism: Contribute to the Formation 
of a Truly Just and Equitable Society.  
 
I know that these conversations, which many of us are having in our workplaces, our schools, our faith communities, in organizations we volunteer for, and in our own families, can be difficult and often uncomfortable.  They require us to get past preconceptions, and be open to introspection.
 
One of the most important traits we hope to nurture in our students is self-awareness.   The better we are at that the more they will be able to engage openly in life’s tough conversations, and to contribute to a more truly just and equitable society.
 
I hope you will join us on March 3rd.
 
Be safe, friends,
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January 29, 2021
 
What is school going to look like next year?   As one of my colleagues on our weekly heads’ calls said: “Anyone know where I can get a crystal ball?”
 
I will know we have made it through when the Middle School is back in the pizza business and Grades 6-8 are off on the yellow bus to ski Mt. Wachusett on Fridays.  When Upper Elementary and Middle School are back at Gloucester Stage Company for two weeks of set building, lighting design, rehearsing, and  staging a play.  When we are working in the field (or the watershed) with Salem Sound Coast Watch.   When we go to the pumpkin patch.
 
In the meantime, we brought the pumpkin patch to campus.  Holly has students doing lots of creative work in the art room, and Jay Daly is doing an amazing job of teaching band on line, while Elaine’s socially-distanced ukulele group is thriving.  Elisa’s library is open for business. Students at all levels are engaged in their work and happy to be together in school.  Upper Elementary has been studying Greek gods, and one class is about to do presentations of their work.  In the other UE class, students just wrote their own “I Have a Dream” speeches. Some really good stuff happening.  
 
We are planning our summer programs, at all levels, with the assumption that we will be on campus, in small groups, and masked.  
 
As for the Fall, our goal is to get back to the traditional three-year cycle in Children’s House and Lower Elementary as quickly as possible, and to do so in a way that provides continuity for teachers and children.  We know that is doable.  In the upper grades, we see this year as an opportunity to take a good look at how we really “do Montessori,” whatever the circumstances. 
 
So, at Harborlight we do have a crystal ball.
 
Be safe, friends,

Paul

January 22, 2021
 
Watching President Biden’s Inauguration, I was struck by how the complexion of the group on the dais has changed in my lifetime.  When Dwight Eisenhower took the oath in 1953, Margaret Chase Smith of Maine was the only woman in the Senate.  The cabinet members were all White males, as were the justices of the Supreme Court.  
 
Four years later, in a first, Marion Anderson, the Black opera singer barred by the DAR from singing at Constitution Hall because of her race, sang the National Anthem at Ike’s second inauguration. 
 
The next “firsts” took longer to come.  In 1966, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts became the first Black senator since Reconstruction, and in 1967, Thurgood Marshall joined the Supreme Court. It was not until until 1981 that Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman on the Court, and 2009 that Sonia Sotomayor become the first Hispanic Justice.
 
So, looking at the faces on the dais and the photos of the President’s cabinet nominees this week, I was encouraged, but also keenly aware of how many “firsts” we are still checking off. “Firsts” are important milestones, but only if they are followed by seconds and thirds and so on, until we get to the point where the wonderful and powerful diversity of our country is reflected in our leadership, both public and private.
 
As the remarkable young poet Amanda Gorman challenged us, there is much work to be done, for “…being American is more than a pride we inherit; it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”
 
Be safe, friends,

Paul


January 15, 2021
 
I have thought a lot about the power of words recently.  Words can paint pictures, and bring smiles, laughter, or tears.  Words can heal or hurt, they can inspire or incite. Whether used intentionally or carelessly, they have impact.
 
A really good author or orator can elevate prose to poetry and make the words even more powerful.  This is true of both the written and spoken word, but I think the spoken word has more immediate impact. 
 
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was only 271 words and took just two minutes to deliver (it was an afterthought to the main speech of the day), but to read it is to read powerful poetry.
 
John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech, with passages like, “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans,” and “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,”  inspired my generation.
 
Both were powerful, inspirational speeches.  But the most powerful speech I have ever heard was delivered by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963.  King spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to over 250,000 peacefully assembled civil rights supporters and to millions more by live television. 
 
Delivered with the cadence and rhythm he had polished in the pulpit,  King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was among the most important in our nation’s history.  It concluded with these words:
 
“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’”
 
I listened to that speech live, and Dr. King’s words inspire me still.  You can watch it on YouTube, and you should on this particular weekend.
 
Be safe, friends,

Paul


January 8, 2021
 
January 6th is a day that will be remembered along with September 11th and December 7th, as days when we, as a nation, were attacked.  The horrible difference is that we were attacked this Wednesday by ourselves; it was a homegrown mob, some wrapped in our American flag, that ransacked our Capitol.
 
As a lifelong student of history, and of American history in particular, I am appalled, but not surprised. Our social and political fabric has been slowly, and then not so slowly, fraying over the past several decades. What happened this week was a long time in building. 
 
What sort of country will our children inherit if Americans continue on this path? If we continue to demonize the “other” and to shout rather than listening to our fellow citizens?  If we define ourselves by our differences instead of looking for common ground? 
 
We must find a way to reweave the fabric.  That work has to happen in every community and in every school.  The task is long term, and never ending.  Building respect and community is an absolute necessity if we are to be the great nation we aspire to be: one where every American is valued for what they contribute to our story.
 
This work has a mission statement.  It is on the Great Seal of the United States: E pluribus unum.  Out of many, one. 
 
Be safe, friends,

Paul

January 3, 2021
 
At a pre-arranged hour on New Year’s Eve, my village erupted in a cacophony of whistles, air horns, pots and pans, drums, and sleigh bells, topped off by the bell of the Village Church at the head of the cove.  A neighbor had suggested this as a socially distanced way to ring out the old year together.  It was great fun. 
 
The next day, a friend commented, “We certainly sent 2020 and all its woes packing.”  Alas, would that it were that easy. 
 
As a school community we can look back at 2020 and come up with a lot of words to describe how we coped.  The word that comes to my mind is perseverance.  Whatever else we did to survive and keep moving forward, it took a lot of individual and collective perseverance to get us this far, and we will need more of the same in the days to come.
 
We need to keep at the rituals of health screening, wearing masks, and social distancing.  We need to maintain small groups and keep the air circulating.  We need to be mindful that what we do outside of school has the potential to disrupt what we can do inside school.  You all know this, but we are coming back together after a two-week break and we need to remind ourselves. 
 
If we persevere in taking care of ourselves and each other, we will be okay.
 
As I hung up the sleigh bells on New Year’s Eve, I did have a simple wish: that we can all be making the same wonderful racket next December 31st, in celebration of a year that ended better than it began.
 
Be safe, friends,

Paul

December 11, 2020
 
Today is the first day of Hanukkah.  In a normal year that would mean a visit from one of our wonderful parents, who would tell students the story of the holiday while serving delicious latkes (potato pancakes).  Alas, no latke fix today. 
 
My parents, one Catholic and one Jewish, came from large families who loved to gather, so all holidays in my childhood boiled down to one very important thing – food.  My Irish mother, not to be outdone by my father’s sisters, made awesome latkes. She knew nothing about the Montessori Practical Life curriculum, but she assumed from her own childhood that every kid had a job, so mine was hand-grating the potatoes.
 
Years later, I discovered that this was the first step in producing the yummy rösti my Swiss daughter-in-law makes for our hearty Christmas breakfast.
 
(If you are looking for a simple kitchen project with a delicious ending, here is a recipe: Pure Potato Latkes)
 
Back to Hanukkah: it celebrates the rededication of the Temple after the Maccabees, against long odds, retook Jerusalem from the Syrian-Greek empire.  Only a single cruse of oil remained in the Temple, but the Menorah was relit, and the light lasted eight days.  Hence, Hanukkah is a festival of lights, and of faith that cannot be extinguished.  It is a celebration of hope, and that seems especially important this year.
 
I am looking forward to next year and sharing latkes and rösti.
 
Be safe, friends,

Paul

December 4, 2020
 
We have passed 100 school days since returning to campus on June 29th.  A huge thank you to all of you for helping us to this milestone.
 
I spent last evening on a call with some high-powered public health folk. The takeaways: the good news is that there is light on the horizon, with the availability of vaccines getting closer.  But even after wide scale vaccinating, we will still need to use masks and practice social distancing until we reach herd immunity. There are still lots of questions, but the road forward is beginning to look clearer. 
 
The bad news is that the road is likely to get steeper between now and spring.  Public health officials are predicting a post-Thanksgiving surge, followed by another connected with the upcoming holidays. 
 
We will all make our own choices about how to spend the holidays.  Please remember that some choices are riskier than others and every choice has consequences, for you and your community.
 
It does take a village.  Thank you for being part of ours.
 
Be safe friends,

Paul

November 20, 2020

Thank you!  The response to our Thanksgiving Travel/Hosting Survey was great.
 
As of this morning, we have heard from almost everyone (and are tracking down the stragglers).  The overwhelming responses were “not traveling” and “not hosting,” with “low risk hosting/visiting” a distant third. The very few who are traveling have been proactive about sharing their plans for complying with testing and quarantining protocols.
 
None of this is fun, but it is absolutely necessary, and I am grateful for your commitment to the safety of our community.
 
While some of our Thanksgiving traditions were beyond reach this year, one very important one is happening.  Thank you to all who have helped fill our food boxes for Beverly Bootstraps. If you have not, you still can through Tuesday.  I hope you have talked with your children about the importance of sharing, particularly at this holiday.
 
While Thanksgiving will be different this year, I will be no less thankful.   I am an optimist and fully believe, to borrow from Carousel, that at the end of this storm there will be a golden sky, and that we are not walking alone.  We are walking together toward a future that will be in the hands of your children and my grandchildren, and we are doing all we can to equip them for that responsibility.  I am really thankful for that.
 
Be safe and give thanks, friends,

Paul


November 13, 2020

When I think about friendships in my life, I am struck by how many were forged through the shared experience of parenting, of connecting though my children’s early school days. We met watching our very young in their soccer scrums, we flipped burgers together at the school fair, and we chaperoned field trips.

Some of us went on to hike, ski or sail together, and we have all enjoyed watching and sharing the unfolding life journeys of our collective children and grandchildren. It is no surprise that many of our children remain close friends; it is fun to watch them connecting on social media.

Two takeaways: First, we met by engaging in the life of our children’s school, which benefited the school in so many ways. Second, the benefit to us has been worth more than we were ever able to give the school. A classic win-win.

It is challenging to create this sort of engagement right now, but we should not let that stop us. We can make moments with what we can do.

The Parent Association is hosting two virtual chats: the first is today at noon, and the second on Wednesday, Dec. 9th at 8:00pm. Particularly if you are new to Harborlight, this is an opportunity to meet other parents. Bring your coffee mug to the first and your beverage of choice to the second. We have also scheduled three Parent Education zooms, based on your survey feedback: CH–Nov.17 ,I/T–Nov.21 ,and K-8–Dec.3 .

I hope you will take advantage of these opportunities to engage, to keep connections going and begin making new ones. One can never have enough good friends.

Be safe, friends,

Paul

November 6, 2020

Each Thursday morning at 7:00, I have coffee with a group of colleagues – heads of independent elementary and preschools. We have been doing this since March and have all benefited from the support and sharing.
The group has moved from the early weeks of asking “what do we do” to “what did you do when….” Yesterday, a colleague noted that, originally, we all geared up to run a sprint, but now we find ourselves running a marathon. You simply cannot run at a sprinter’s pace for too long.

For me, at this school, thanks to really good teammates, the race has felt more like a relay; we are always running but supporting each other along the way. From the beginning, we have looked to many sources for guidance, but then tried to apply that information in a manner that
works for our specific community. We have worked to keep a hard challenge from becoming even more difficult, and, at times, that has simply required solving a problem by applying
common sense.

We will be running this race for a while, and who knows what is around the next bend, but I am grateful to have my teammates – faculty and staff – to run it with. And, the whole team is extremely grateful for your support; it makes the running easier.

Be safe, friends,

Paul

October 30, 2020

It’s snowing! It is also cold and flu season, so on Monday, as an extra layer of precaution, we will add a temperature check to our morning health screening. We use a digital infrared thermometer. Parents of younger children might want to talk about this with them, so they are not surprised on Monday morning.

We are also approaching the holiday season. As I have written before, Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday, because it is simply about family and friends. Alas, there will be fewer seats at the table this year. We are all thinking about the risks of traveling and hosting and about how many at the table is too many.

We need everyone in our school community to think hard about these things, too. What we each do outside of school has the real potential to adversely impact what we can do in school.

Chris Wilson has compiled the latest information on travel and holiday celebrations from the state and the CDC , and these are included in this week’s LEAF and posted on the COVID-19 page our website. Please read them. If you are traveling or hosting visitors, particularly from states with high rates of infection, we need you to follow the rules about testing and quarantining before returning to school.

In the meantime, enjoy Halloween and the full “blue moon” tomorrow night, and do not forget
to set your clocks back.

Be safe, friends,

Paul

October 23, 2020

Four of my grandchildren are voting this year, three for the first time. One went to the Town Clerk’s office to register on his 18th birthday. The two in college have wondered whether their votes would matter more where they go to school or at home. This past week we have all been sharing pictures of ourselves holding our mail-in ballot envelopes. They are excited to be participating in this most essential ritual and are taking their responsibility as citizens seriously. I am very proud of them.

As a former Town Meeting Moderator, I have seen firsthand how much our democracy depends upon an educated and engaged citizenry.
With that in mind, I have enjoyed watching our Middle School students using this election year for a civics lesson to learn about voting, how the election process works, and about political parties. They are becoming educated citizens, which is very good as a couple of them will be
eligible to vote four years from now.

Whether you bought one of the Middle School “Vote” T-shirts or not, please do not ignore the message. Our right to vote is not a gift to be squandered; too many have given so much to secure it for us.

Be safe, friends,

Paul

October 16, 2020
 
We had a field trip yesterday!  Okay, it did not involve the big yellow bus, but we all wore our jeans and flannel shirts and went to our very own pumpkin patch on the greenhouse lawn.  Classroom by classroom, everyone got to pick a pumpkin and have cider and apples.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures as much as we enjoyed the event.  We really appreciated your feedback.
 
Many thanks to Elisa for organizing, to Harvey Alto (Holly’s husband) for helping us get the pumpkins, cider and apples; to Jed, Caleb, and Ava Dickman (alumna) for picking them up; and to the Middle School for creating the pumpkin patch and helping with the field trip.  
 
Why was this a big deal?  Because visiting the pumpkin patch is a longstanding Harborlight tradition, and because shared experiences are essential in building and sustaining community.
How wonderful that the entire school got to share the fun and carry on the tradition!
 
Some of us are already thinking about what could be next.   If Mother Nature cooperates, I would vote for snowman-building and hot cocoa. 
 
Be safe, friends,

Paul


October 9, 2020

Today is Parent/Teacher Conference Day, and I want to give a big Thank You to the parents who chipped in to make the traditional faculty lunch happen. We miss your homemade dishes, but greatly appreciate the feast you provided. Thank you, especially, to Tachou Brown and Purvi Harley, for organizing this. Our teachers give a lot of themselves every day, and gestures like this mean a lot.
I also want to give a shout out to alumna Ella Walgreen, who just was just elected to the First- Year Student Leadership Council at The Academy at Penguin Hall. We are not surprised. When I was head of Antilles School on St. Thomas one of our feeder schools was V.I. Montessori. I could usually tell which high school students had come from there. They were self-aware, confident, and engaged. Ella is not alone; as I think of the Middle School students who I have known at Harborlight, a long list of names comes to mind. Each one unique, but all self-aware, confident, and engaged. It is wonderfully rewarding for us to watch them blossom!
Finally, I want to thank you again for helping us to maintain a safe place for our children to learn in person. As I listen to stories from other schools, I am reminded of what a gift it is to be part of a community that cares.

Be safe, friends,

Paul 


October 2, 2020

I woke up feeling crummy on Tuesday. Normally, I would shrug it off, but this is not a normal time, so I called my doctor. She agreed it was likely something that would quickly pass, but she also knows that I go to school each day. As we talked about the measures and protocols we follow at Harborlight, the next step was obvious; off to the drive-through line for a PCR test, and back home to await the results. I settled back into my home office, and yesterday afternoon she called to say I had tested negative. Choosing caution over toughing it out is just part of what we need to do now because that is what we owe to the members of our community.

On Tuesday I also participated, along with 85 fellow school heads, in the first session of an Anti-Racism Workshop under the aegis of AISNE, our regional independent school association. The workshop will run through January, and after the first two-hour session, I look forward to the
rest of them.

Reflecting on the session, I keep thinking about a concept put forth by one of the facilitators. We are all used to talking about equality, but have we thought much about equity, and about the difference between the two. He illustrated the difference very simply: equality is when everyone is given a tee shirt; equity is when everyone is given a tee shirt that fits.

As a Montessori school, it is in our DNA to respect each person and follow each child. Following the child starts with meeting them where they are, which we define in social, developmental, and intellectual terms. Does equity require us to expand our thinking about what respecting each person and following each child mean? If so, in what ways? Each of us comes at this conversation with the perspective of our own background and experience. I would like to hear yours.

Be safe, friends,
Paul


September 25, 2020
 
A few words about record keeping, and why it is so important for us right now.
 
But first, a big shout out to our Middle School students.  One of the perks of Middle School, in addition to Friday skiing and running a pizza business, is getting to read to Children’s House friends.  Since they cannot do this in person, the students decided to record themselves reading some of their favorite books. The recordings will be posted on Children’s House class websites so students can watch them at home with their families. This is their way of connecting to the community.
 
Now to record keeping.  Your daily health screening form is the basic building block that allows us to track the health of our school community. The daily screening tells us who is healthy and who is not.  It also helps us log absences.  If someone is out for a medical reason, we follow up with a phone call to discuss symptoms and next steps. We follow up until the student or staff member returns to school.
 
We log this information in the secure Nurse’s Office tab in our Student Management System.   It is our tracking tool.  We know how many in our community have been tested for COVID, and the outcomes, and how many have quarantined.  We know when a doctor has recommended against testing.  This data helps us make sure we are on top of health issues, to see patterns and trends, and to make responsible decisions.
 
We plan to share a high-level summary of this data with you in the form of a monthly Community Health Dashboard.  I think it is important that we all know how we are doing, and how much the daily steps that we each take contribute to the health of our community.
 
Be safe friends,

Paul


September 18, 2020
 
There are two important things that I want to share with you this week.
 
The first is that on Thursday our EEC Licensor made her annual inspection visit.  This included a detailed review of all of our logs and records (attendance, health forms, emergency procedures, personnel files, etc.) and an on-site visit and safety inspection.  She did the full campus visit via FaceTime.  The result is that we are in full compliance with EEC regulations, which means that, even with all of the extra attention and effort COVID-19  is requiring, we are not neglecting the details.  In fact, we are doing them better.  A huge thank you to all faculty and staff for this.
 
The second is that Tachou Brown and Purvi Harley have agreed to co-chair the Parent Association this year.  The PA is an important partner in helping us to build community.  This year will present challenges as we cannot hold our traditional in-person events, but I am certain that we will figure out creative ways to connect and network.  A virtual Curriculum Spotlight presentation means you do not have to hire a sitter in order to attend.  You can expect to hear from Tachou and Purvi soon.
 
Finally, I am thinking about a brief conversation I had this week, in which the other person said, “Well, now that school is open you can relax.”  That would be nice, but the answer is no we cannot.  We all need to continue to wear our masks, wash our hands, and respect social distance.  These things are just part of what we do and model, like saying thank you, holding doors, and respecting each other.  Our children get it, and it is not stopping them from being happy to be in school, engaging.
 
Be safe friends,
Paul



September 11, 2020
 
This weekend marks six months since we were forced to suspend on-campus learning.  It has been quite a journey.
 
We had to move quickly from onsite to online, delivering virtual curricula and resources daily.   We Zoomed. We navigated the ever-changing public health and regulatory landscape, and we acquired a new vocabulary: pods, cohorts, etc.  We kept on Zooming. We ran a successful summer program, and practiced social distancing, hand washing, and wearing masks.  We Zoomed some more. We made classes smaller and rearranged spaces.  And here we are, at the end of week one.
 
For me, through all of this, there have been two constants.  The first is knowing that there will always be something new around the next corner, and the second is that whatever that may be, we, working together, will figure out how to deal with it.  We share a common purpose, and as we work together, we are building a stronger school community. 
 
We are also part of the larger educational community.   As such we are participating in the National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard, a collaboration between organizations representing public and independent schools, under the leadership of Brown University Professor of Economics Emily Oster.  This effort will track the impact of COVID-19 on enrollment and staffing trends over time and help us all make better decisions supported by good data.

https://explaincovid.org/kids/nationwide-covid-19-school-dashboard.
 
Who knows what lies ahead.  Whatever it may be, our school community is up to the challenge.  For that, I am grateful to all of you.

Be safe friends,
Paul
 
Note: As we begin the new school year, our weekly communication is migrating from LEAF to our redesigned web site.  I will still appear in your In Box each Friday, but please visit the web site News & Events page for lots of useful information and news.  More details to follow soon.

Archives

List of 7 items.

  • March 2020

    March 20, 2020

    Sitting at an old curly maple table, looking across the Annisquam River at Wingaersheek Beach and thinking how much has changed, and just how important it is that we work hard to remain connected.  
     
    Our wonderful teachers and staff are certainly working hard at maintaining connections and providing resources and experiences for our children.  Every level is posting a variety of things every day.  I even got to read Shel Silverstein’s poem Spaghetti to the Children’s House!  Some of the resources are off-the-shelf, but a lot are homemade.  While there are some group activities, most are asynchronous, as we know each family has its own schedule and needs. 
     
    It has been great fun getting videos and photos from some of you, and for us to watch your children learning in the most creative ways.  That is very rewarding for their teachers, who greatly miss their daily interaction their students.  
     
    As we all feel our way through this, please let us know what is working, and what is not.  We are also aware that too much of a good thing is not good; everyone is juggling a lot of things.  We need your feedback to find the Goldilocks spot - not too much, not too little, but just right.
     
    We are working to keep your children engaged and connected and to be ready to welcome them back to school as soon as it is safe to do so.  In the meantime, we are here as a resource for you, whether it be for books from the library, ideas for Montessori activities, or just an ear.  Please reach out to us.
     
    At times like this, I recall this from Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy: “Even after the heaviest storm the birds come out singing.”  I just watched a video of one of our LE students searching for signs of spring, and all around her the birds were, indeed, singing.
     
    Be safe, friends…

    March 6, 2020

    It has been fun watching children stop to explore the Penguin world next to my office.  This was created by students in a February Experience week course on coastal creatures.  In addition to studying penguin habitats, they used a variety of tools to create a great penguin-world display, including a flock of large-scale origami penguins.  For the next two weeks, Lower Elementary students will be immersed in ancient Greece and Egypt. Our older students will be based at Gloucester Stage Company, where they will experience all aspects of a working theater while rehearsing and staging an original production.   These are wonderful opportunities for students to dive deep, and to share what they have learned at the end.  I hope to see you at the Ancient Civilization fairs and at the production of Dragon’s Lair.
  • February 2020

    February 28, 2020

    I love talking about Harborlight and the educational experience we offer at every level, Infant through Middle School.  But, of course, that is my job.  So, we thought it would be more powerful to turn the camera on and ask Middle School students and a couple of parents to talk, unscripted, about their Harborlight experiences.  The result is the short video below.  I think it nicely captures the essence of what we are.  I hope you will like it and share it.  (And we have lots more footage to play with, so stay tuned.)

    February 14, 2020

    For many years our Lower Elementary students have studied ancient civilizations and created presentations to show what they have learned.  Our Upper Elementary has taken this a step further: students worked together in small groups to create their own civilizations, which had to be situated in a real time and geographical region. They had to research climate, geography and natural resources and figure out how they would help shape the civilization. They had to think about basic needs, daily life and interactions with other peoples, friendly or not.  I was particularly struck by the creation myths they developed for their civilizations.  Lots of research, creativity, imagination, and teamwork going on!

    February 7, 2020

    There is a wonderful exhibit currently at the Cape Ann Museum - A Father & Son’s Journey in Paint - featuring the work of local treasures Tom and T.M. Nicholas.  While T.M. grew up watching his father paint, his style is very much his own.  In his words, “We always talked about art: about what was important; the reason why you made pictures.  He never taught technique, believing that everyone should come to find their own way.”  Tom provided inspiration and opportunity, but for T.M. to find his own way, as his father had, was essential to his development as an artist.  There is a lesson for all of us – parents and teachers – in that.  
  • January 2020

    January 31, 2020

    Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor who coined the phrase “disruptive innovation” died this week.  He wrote several thought-provoking books on the power of innovation, and also a more personal one entitled How Will You Measure Your Life, which contains this profound thought:  “In order to really find happiness, you need to continue looking for opportunities that you believe are meaningful, in which you will be able to learn new things to succeed….”  Amen!  I believe the seeds of this mindset are planted when we are young; we generally do not suddenly acquire curiosity, courage, optimism, and perseverance as adults.  Nurturing those seedlings is an essential part of what we do as parents and teachers. 

    January 24, 2020

    Check out these pictures of Upper Elementary students exploring the concept of volume.  It can be a little messy, but sure beats filling in dotted shapes in a workbook.  If you can hold it in your hands and make it happen, it becomes instinctive and you will not forget it.  This is how children learn naturally, and the way our Montessori students learn, from Infant/Toddler through Grade 8.  Montessori learning is not passive; it requires that the learner be engaged.

    January 17, 2020

    I get envious watching our younger students working with bead chains.  What a wonderful introduction to math, moving over time from simple counting to squares and cubes; from concrete to abstract.  Bead chains are hands-on, and it takes persistence to master them. Students love working with them. What a contrast to my rote-based math experience, the low point being trying to master a slide rule with no real understanding of why. Our children will work in a world where content knowledge is at their fingertips, and artificial intelligence will perform tasks faster than they can.  In their world, understanding the “why” in order to evaluate information and apply critical thinking will be a very valuable asset.  Rote is for machines.

    January 10, 2020

    Poet e.e.cummings offers this insight, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”  It does, and courage is not something we are born with.  Gaining courage requires acting in the face of fear. By overcoming self-doubt, we build a sense of self-trust.  This is not something we can do for our children. We can provide some help by creating an environment where they feel safe to risk and by supporting them when they fail.  But finding the courage to be oneself is their work, and we need to have the courage to let them do it.
  • December 2019

    December 20, 2019

    The perfect gift enriches both the recipient and the giver.  This week our Upper Elementary students organized The Great Cookie Giveaway.  They collected, baked, decorated, packaged and delivered holiday cookies to people who make a difference in our community.  The Harborlight cookie bus made seventeen stops in Beverly, Hamilton, Wenham, Manchester and Gloucester. This gifting required the givers to actively participate in the whole process and gave them an opportunity to say “thank you” to the special folk they met at each stop. A perfect gift! 

    December 13, 2019

    Charlie Davidson, who presided over the Andover Shop in Harvard Square for seven decades, passed away last week.  Charlie was a haberdasher, raconteur, connoisseur of jazz, and a great friend.  He was also very wise, as quoted in his obit.  When Charlie made a suit, he really thought about the lining, as I know from personal experience.  As he told one customer who protested that nobody would see the lining, “That’s the point; No one has to see the lining.  But you’ll know it’s there.  Style, not fashion.”  Fashion changes on a whim; style is constant. I think that applies to a lot more than suitcoats.  

    December 6, 2019

    A bit of wisdom from the ancient Chinese scholar Xunzi: “The learning of the petty man enters his ear and comes out of his mouth,” so that the words have affected only “the four inches between ear and mouth.” With the wise man learning “enters his ear, clings to his mind, spreads through his four limbs and manifests itself in his actions.”  I wonder what Xunzi would say about our world, where the “learning of the petty” regularly goes viral, adding to the constant cacophony of broadcast and social media.  How do we teach our children to sort and digest rather than simply accepting and pushing “share,” or that owning a big microphone does not make one an expert, or even right. There’s a challenge for us, and an opportunity to teach by modeling.  
  • November 2019

    November 22, 2019

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I think the reason has to do with my father, whose birthday was tomorrow.  He found something of interest in almost everyone, and his circle of friends cut across every social division.  So, our Thanksgiving table was host to an ever-evolving olio of family, friends, and strays adopted for the day. There were some interesting pairings: a Kenyan independence advocate swapping stories with a white South African law professor, a Pakistani Muslim debating English common law with an Indian Hindu, or two young conservatory students – he a Korean tenor and she a Japanese pianist – who ended up getting married in our living room.  Over the years, my very blue-collar Irish grandparents became fast friends with an elegant Jewish refugee couple from Germany. To a child this was fascinating, and because it happened at our table, absolutely normal.  I grew up thinking this is the way the world was meant to be.  For that, and for a father who made it happen, I am forever thankful.  

    November 15, 2019

    I spent time at two secondary schools this week – one a local day school and the other a New Hampshire boarding school.  The conversations inevitably turned to the school’s role in preparing their students for the future.  Both schools have high academic standards, but also put great emphasis on the attributes and skills their graduates possess.  I repeatedly heard words like curiosity, collaboration, risk tolerance, respect, and especially, kindness.  Both schools work hard at maintaining a culture that fosters these. One of the school heads said that they prize students who came from places that have similar cultural values, “like a Montessori school” (their words).   Nice affirmation.

    November 8, 2019

    This article is definitely worth a read, and something every one of us should think about.  The co-author is an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of Business at Penn.  
     

    November 1, 2019

    I really like our Middle School students.  They are a diverse group of personalities, but they share some very important qualities.  Over the past two weeks I have watched them interact first with a videographer and then with a pair of prospective parents.  In both cases, they were welcoming, open, and articulate.  They engaged in meaningful conversation and answered questions frankly.  In short, they were confident and connected. This is not necessarily what one expects from this age group.   I ran into the videographer last evening, and he could not say enough about our “older kids.”  I know the school environment they have grown up in has played an important part in helping to shape those shared qualities; it is an essential part of our mission.

  • October 2019

    October 25, 2019

    Next Saturday, November 2nd is Fall Festival day at Harborlight.  This is shaping up to be a really fun event with something for everyone, from toddlers to grandparents, to enjoy.   I will definitely be decorating a pumpkin and trying to catch a donut-on-a-string.  (Not so sure about being the target in the pie throwing contest, but I might be persuaded if someone bids high enough.)  What a great way to spend a fall day with friends!  I hope to see you there!  

    October 18, 2019

    When Mother Nature interrupts our daily routine, as happened yesterday, I invariably think of the Blizzard of ’78.  For several days after the storm life was anything but normal.  So, after digging out, we skied to the center of town where the Legion Post had a large BBQ grill going, spent time with neighbors, built a snow fort, sledded, and caught up on reading.  Our lives are so programed, calendars so full, that “found time” is a gift.  When given the unexpected opportunity, enjoy!

    October 11, 2019

    I have been doing mock interviews, helping some 8th Grade students prepare for secondary school admission interviews.  Typically, the student confesses to being nervous about the process, and we talk about that.  I offer two pieces of advice.  The first is something I heard years ago: It is perfectly normal to have butterflies in your stomach; the trick is to teach them to fly in formation.  The second is: just be yourself.  Helping our students to know themselves and trust their instincts is an important part of what we do.  There will always be “butterfly” moments in ife; self-knowledge and self-trust are the keys to managing them.

    October 4, 2019

    My mother went to a one-room schoolhouse through 8th Grade. She talked about how, as a very young child, she looked up to and learned from the older students.  As she became an older student, she helped the younger ones.  I think about her as I watch our older students interact in various ways with our youngest, and I see how the young children look up to the “big kids.”  I see it, also, within each level with its Montessori three-year cycle.  Spend some time in any of our classrooms and you will see this happening in myriad ways every day.  My mother said that she grew to feel responsible for the other children, and that was a lesson that stuck with her for life.
  • September 2019

    September 27, 2019

    We often use the word community to describe the students, teachers, and parents (and grandparents) who comprise our school.  But a real community is more than a simple aggregation of people; building community takes collective involvement.  We offer many ways for you, even the busiest of you, to help build our school community.  Among them are a list that Parent Association co-chairs, Keira Capobianco and Jenny Silva have posted in this LEAF. Please take this opportunity.  You will be helping the school, modeling for your children, and most likely getting to know some really nice fellow parents. 

    September 20, 2019

    Over forty years ago, Betsey and I wrote our first Annual Fund check to the wonderful elementary school our three sons attended. We continue to do so, as time has only confirmed what a strong foundation the school provided for all that has followed.  Our check is a tangible way of acknowledging that, and of thanking the teachers who gave our family so much.
     
    Deb Thomas and John Cusolito, co-chairs of the Harborlight Fund, have sent you a message through our Student Management System, inviting you to participate, and making it really easy for you to do so.  Making a donation is a twofer: it is a meaningful way of supporting what happens here at Harborlight Montessori, and it is an investment in your child’s future.

    September 13, 2019

    I have great fun greeting in the morning.  We shake hands and say good morning, but, with younger children, success can be getting them to come out from behind a parent.  We exchange high fives and fist bumps, and I greet a variety of stuffed animals.  But, what is most rewarding is seeing each child’s growth in confidence and independence.  The child who barely responded last year now looks me in the eye and says good morning.  The child who clung to a parent all the way to the Children’s House cubbies now waves goodbye and walks off to Lower Elementary.  Last year’s LE student now walks in with UE friends. Nurturing confidence and independence is an important part of what we do, and I see the results every morning.  

    September 6, 2019

    This observation from Pablo Picasso came my way this morning: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”  As we begin a new term, it is worth reminding ourselves that it is our mission that we guide each child to be who they are.  Essential to that is allowing them to grow to be themselves and not what we might wish they would be.  We can help and encourage them to grow, but we cannot grow for them.  As a parent and grandparent, I know that can be frustrating at times, but the result is worth the tongue-biting.

About Harborlight

Harborlight Montessori is an independent, co-educational, day school for children from infant-toddler through grade 8 that is committed to innovative teaching and learning.