Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mendell school preview - Dec. 1

I don't know where to begin with this school.  I think it's fair to say that I've never met a principal quite like Ms. Cahill.  She's like this whirlwind of energy.  She's all about improving the school, and I really got the feeling like she's the kind of person who could get a lot accomplished.  She brought in several new teachers recently.

The Mendell is currently an undersubscribed school, but some West Zone parents got together last year and decided to give it a chance. Parents on the tour said there were about 10 families who were really active.  I wish this were my neighborhood school.  I loved it.  For us, it's a tad on the far side. It's near the Stony Brook T stop on School Street in Roxbury. Ultimately, if we were assigned there, we'd make the commute work.

They have a K0-K1 integrated regular ed/special ed classroom and two K1 classes.  There is capacity for two strands of all grades (K-5), but right now, some grades have only one class. The school currently has about 200 students.

I really liked the K1 classroom I visited. The teacher said the kids try to get outside every day. If there's ice on the playground, they might take a walk through the neighborhood instead. There was a poster on the wall with photographs of "A's" they spotted on a recent neighborhood walk.

The K1 teacher said her students have theater and art each twice a week and music once a week. Science is added at a later grade. I have in my notes that PE is also a specialty class, but I'm not sure where that fits in. The specialty teachers come to the classrooms, rather than pulling students out into a separate art room, music room, etc.

They have on-site before- and after-school for all ages at $5/hour. An assistant teacher runs the after-school program for 4-year-olds, and Bird Street runs the after-school program for the rest of the school. They just added twice-weekly martial arts to after school (that's extra).

The PE teacher uses the outdoor space because they don't have a gym. Their playground is fairly new. They're in the process of designing an outdoor classroom. It should be in place by next fall. I think they also got a grant for Playworks for next year.

I peeked in briefly at the basement library.  I think they have or are trying to get library students from Simmons College to help.

They seem to take food allergies seriously. One kindergarten classroom was peanut free. The principal said they were going to have to be more proactive with allergies. (She's an allergy parent too.) The K1 teacher was consulting with someone else on a recipe that the kids could make and suggested they substitute sun butter for almond butter. (As the parent of a child with a nut allergy, thank you!)

Now, this is sort of awkward to bring up.  One of the teachers that was heralded as one of the school's best actually seemed kind of stern with the younger kids. She definitely wasn't the warm and fuzzy type, at least when we were in the classroom. I wasn't the only parent who thought this.  Just thought I'd mention it, in case warm and fuzzy teachers are a priority for you.


Anonymous said...

The Mendell is a lovely school which has been overlooked for years. The new principal has brought life into the school and cares deeply for each and every member of her school community. She is committed to moving the school ahead. Get into this school early because soon it will be the hot school in JP.

Anonymous said...

Parent of 4th grader..
We have seen such a vast improvement in the Mendell School's atmoshere under the leadership of Ms. Cahill. She is a dedicated principal overseeing a hard working faculty. Their goal is
to make sure that the highest academic standards are reached for every student. What a turnaround the Mendell is making.

Anonymous said...

Sad to say that the Mendell is facing a huge change in staff. The superintendent has appointed the principal, Karen Cahill, to a new position as the principal of the Murphy School in Dorchester.
She has been a wonderful leader and the school community will have a difficult time adjusting to this change. The Mendell's loss is the Murphy's gain.

Geeky Mama said...

I'm sorry to hear that Principal Cahill will be leaving. She seemed like a dynamic force. I hope with a strong group of involved parents, you'll all be able to continue the work.