A First Grader’s Murder Spurs a Mother’s Crusade to Teach Love

By Andree EntezariDecember 17th, 2018in SHIELD Updates
Scarlett Lewis (COM’90): teaching social skills could have prevented Sandy Hook tragedy

The last photo taken of Jesse Lewis shows the six-year-old squinting into the mid-December sun as he’s dropped off at school. On the nearby family car, he had finger-scrawled “I LOVE YOU” in the frosty coating. Less than an hour later, the first grader was dead.

Jesse, along with 19 other children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was shot to death on December 14, 2012, by 20-year-old Adam Lanza, a former student at the school. As Lanza paused, either to reload or unjam his rifle, Jesse shouted at schoolmates to run while he stood by his teacher. Six made it out.

Then Lanza shot Jesse in the forehead.

Jesse Lewis jumps into a pool

Scarlett and Jesse Lewis a few months before the Sandy Hook shootings. Photo courtesy of Scarlett Lewis

It’s six years later, and on a wet and blustery fall day just over an hour north of New York City, 250 teachers and administrators in Central Valley, N.Y., are staring at this last photo of Jesse on an auditorium screen. To them, the Sandy Hook massacre remains a but-for-God’s-grace abstraction, the deadliest shooting at a K-through-12 school in US history. But their speaker on this morning is Scarlett Lewis, Jesse’s mother, and to her, displaying her son’s photo is part of her crusade to prevent another Sandy Hook.

“If people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. There is no mass murder gene,” Lewis (COM’90) tells the silent crowd in Monroe-Woodbury High School’s cavernous auditorium. She’s at ease during two hours on stage, giving the equivalent of a polished TED talk about what she calls the proven solution to mass shootings: social and emotional learning (SEL).

Gratitude, courage, forgiveness, compassion

Proposals to armor schools, literally (bulletproof glass) and figuratively (surveillance systems), have been only sporadically successful at containing active shooters. Ideas for more gun control splinter Americans and got nowhere in Congress after Sandy Hook. Amid this polarized politics, Lewis quit her job as executive assistant to a CEO to start the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Movementa foundation that developed and promulgates a free online prekindergarten-through-12th-grade SEL curriculum. SEL seeks to teach violence-prone people like Lanza how to manage their emotions, maintain empathetic relationships, and make responsible, nonviolent choices.

In rimless glasses, turtleneck, muted checked jacket, and floral skirt, Lewis, who has another son, 18-year-old J.T., talks about Jesse without choking up, but doesn’t hide her pain. Parents “come up to me in the grocery store and say, ‘Oh my God, I have to bring multiple kids to multiple events,’” she tells the teachers. “Do you know how I hear that? Wow. You get to run multiple kids to multiple places?

Part of a Choose Love lesson on gratitude

The Benefits of Gratitude
Practicing gratitude helps me focus when I feel overwhelmed.

Student Objectives
Define gratitude.
Practice gratitude breaths (diaphragmatic breathing) and focused awareness.
Practice rest and relax activities.
Identify the benefits of practicing gratitude.
Identify somatic response to feeling overwhelmed.
Define the term “overwhelmed.”

Educator Preparation
Prepare students’ Choose Love Journals.
Write the word “gratitude” on a word wall or vocabulary list.
Think of an example of a time when you felt overwhelmed and used gratitude to feel better.
Prepare to share it with students as an example.
Create a physical cue for gratitude. Physical cues help students remember and embody the lessons about courage, gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion. Options include using American Sign Language (ASL), clapping chants, brief rhymes, or a full-body pose.
If you have students who speak languages other than English, learn how to say “gratitude” in their native languages.

Gratitude for blessings is one of four key traits taught in Choose Life’s online lessons, which amount to 2,000 pages and span pre-K through 12th grade. The other three are courage, forgiveness, and compassion. The curriculum was designed so that it does not require special teacher training. Teachers can get no-cost help with the curriculum from the foundation’s online webinars and training modules. Schools can either teach the lessons in a separate SEL class or weave them into regular academic subjects.

Lewis particularly wanted her program to be free and user-friendly. There are other SEL programs; Sandy Hook had one, she says in an interview, but she learned after Jesse’s death that the program “never got out of the box,” because of its expense and cumbersome training.

These days, Lewis crisscrosses the country to evangelize at forums like Monroe-Woodbury’s for Choose Love’s curriculum. Before Jesse’s murder, she’d been a single working mom with a long commute, two boys to raise, and no knowledge of SEL. Then, as she was preparing Jesse’s clothes for his funeral, she noticed he had scrawled three words, with a beginning reader’s phonetic misspelling, on the kitchen chalkboard shortly before his death: “Norurting heling love.” Nurturing, healing, love.

In the ensuing months, amid the swirl of condolences, grief counseling, and debates about gun violence, certain words lingered with Lewis. President Obama’s tearful speech two days after the tragedy, acknowledging that the nation was failing to protect its children (planting in her the idea of starting a foundation). The remark by an acquaintance reflecting on the killings that more people needed to “choose love.” Most of all, Jesse’s three words, and his mother’s realization that Lanza’s life had been devoid of those attributes.

She sought out educators who researched and developed programs for teaching compassion in schools, including a well-connected one: Lewis buttonholed Obama when she met him before a gun-control speech he gave in Connecticut four months after the shootings. He put her in touch with his sister, who taught compassion curricula at the University of Hawaii. In 2013, Choose Love was up and running on private donations.

The Monroe-Woodbury School District will roll out the curriculum in its elementary schools this year, with plans to expand it to upper grades in the future. The teachers gave Lewis a standing ovation, gratifying social worker Denise Guerriero, who recruited Lewis to speak after hearing her at a conference.

“While I was watching Scarlett in Boston, I’m texting my director, saying, ‘We need to bring Scarlett to Monroe-Woodbury,’” Guerriero says. “She’s a beautiful human who is taking the pain and her loss and changing the world.”

But is she? The day after Lewis’ talk, a gunman slaughtered a dozen in a bar in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Juxtaposed with her presentation, this 307th American mass shooting of 2018, almost one shooting a day for the year, begged a desperate question: can Scarlett Lewis and SEL really change the world?

Another pillar: forgiving—even Jesse’s shooter

Choose Love doesn’t track how many schools have embraced its curriculum as a better or complementary solution. But it has been downloaded in all 50 states and in 67 countries, Lewis says. Most schools offering the curriculum don’t do so in a stand-alone class, but merge the lessons into regular academic subjects. This year, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu made his state the first to officially enact it statewide, pledging to “provide a backbone of support through Scarlett’s program” and a gubernatorial appointee to help interested schools adopt it.

Lewis’ certitude that New Hampshire’s step is right is born of research into SEL and walking her own valley of tears. In her book Nurturing Healing Love (Hay House, 2013), she recalls her initial instinct to cocoon herself in her sorrow after the shooting, even contemplating suicide. A state-appointed counselor persisted in reaching out, even washing Lewis’ feet at their first session in a ritual intended to sacramentalize her grief. The counselor told her that she must map out her own response to Jesse’s death (positive responses to problems being a key Choose Love lesson).

Attending her first meeting of a support group of parents whose children had died, she burst into tears. But when several of them hugged her, she realized that sharing her grief, and being surrounded by people who understood why she slept with Jesse’s shirts on her pillow, made her feel ever better. With more therapy, guilty memories of her inevitable parental conflicts with Jesse gave way to self-forgiveness (forgiveness: another pillar of Choose Love’s curriculum).

Lewis spoke last month at a New York school district

With her son’s image on screen, Lewis spoke last month at a New York school district that has adopted her foundation’s social and emotional learning curriculum. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

She even forgave Lanza, whose shooting spree ended when he killed himself.

“I absolutely forgave him,” she tells BU Today. “I have said since day one that there were 28 victims…because I knew that somebody that could do something so heinous must have been in a tremendous amount of pain.” As a fifth grader, Lanza, diagnosed with Asperger’s and a sensory disorder that made him recoil from touch, wrote a pamphlet, The Big Book of Granny, whose titular character threatens or commits violence before being shot in the head by her son. (Documents recently released by the Connecticut state police flesh out the depiction of a “homebound recluse” fixated on mass shootings and with a self-described “scorn for humanity.”)

“He cried out for help, and at every turn that I can see, he wasn’t given the help that he needed,” says Lewis, who is struck by the similarities between herself and Lanza’s mother. “We pretty much parented alone and were denied services.” (Lewis says that her older son was refused special needs services as a kindergartner.) Nancy Lanza, who was her son’s first victim, had brought him to her firing range.

“Guns were her connection with him,” Lewis tells the Monroe-Woodbury teachers. “That was a mistake.”

Had SEL taught Lanza the “tools and attitudes for healthy relationships, meaningful connections, being resilient to the issues that he faced, the tragedy would never have happened,” she says. Indeed, from Lanza to Nikolas Cruz, who murdered 17 at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year, she says, “they all have something in common, and it’s lack of social and emotional intelligence…These kids are angry, and anger caused mental illness.”

Kathleen Corriveau, a BU Wheelock College of Education & Human Development associate professor of applied human development, hasn’t studied Choose Love specifically, but she says research shows SEL programs can make a difference, producing “measurable gains in many outcomes in many studies.”

Corriveau cites two meta-analyses, from 2011 and last year. In both, she says, “gains were found in positive social behavior, academic performance, conduct problems, emotional distress, and substance use.…This included a reduction in bullying, violence, and aggression—which could be related to future reductions in violence.”

Calling SEL one of its five “strategic priorities,” the commonwealth of Massachusetts makes resources available to schools that want to teach it, says Jennifer Green, a Wheelock associate professor of special education.

Despite the research, Green says, some schools resist SEL, finding that squeezing additional instruction time out of the day can be hard. They are already burdened with responsibilities—to not only teach children, but also counsel them and provide things traditionally provided at home, like breakfast.

Lewis hears the same arguments from some schools hesitant to choose Choose Love. And before December 14, 2012, she was content to leave such decisions to principals and teachers, figuring that “it’s my job as a parent to clothe, bathe, feed, love, play with them, and it’s the school’s responsibility for educating them. And when I drop them off, they’re responsible for them.

“What I learned through my tragedy is that that’s not the case at all. Even when I dropped Jesse off, I was responsible for his safety.”

She knows that no parent can hover over her child all the school day, every school day. But by advocating for Choose Love or SEL, she says, parents can fulfill that parental duty of protecting their children. As for Lewis, creating and spreading her program, and especially embracing its teaching of forgiveness, means something additional:

“I refuse to be another victim of Adam Lanza.”

Rich Barlow
Rich Barlow can be reached at

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December 14th, 2018

By Andree EntezariDecember 14th, 2018in DESE Updates
1. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to Meet:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18 in Malden. The agenda includes a discussion highlighting the roles of teacher leaders in supporting learning standards and instruction, updates from the receivers of three chronically underperforming schools, a panel discussion on adult education, and a discussion of feedback about the new accountability system. The meeting will stream online at

Picture of the Week:

On December 10, Commissioner Riley visited Northampton High School, where he visited classrooms (including an art room, pictured) and met with students and faculty. The commissioner has visited more than 50 schools since April. (Photo courtesy of Northampton Public Schools)

3. Dyslexia Web Page:

The Department’s Office of Special Education Planning and Policy has launched a new webpage entitled Specific Learning Disability: Dyslexia. The webpage includes definitions of dyslexia as a specific learning disability as found in federal and state law, information on recent dyslexia legislation, states’ guidelines on dyslexia, and upcoming DESE professional development on dyslexia. The page also includes resources for professionals working with students who have dyslexia or another learning disability or have demonstrated potential indicators of dyslexia. The resources cover topics such as screening, intervention, accommodations, assistive technology, specially designed instruction, and social and emotional needs.

4. Registration for January MCAS Training Sessions Now Available:

Registration is now open for January MCAS training sessions for administrators. While these training sessions are differentiated by participants’ familiarity with computer-based testing, all are welcome at each session. All principals are encouraged to participate in one of the sessions on test security and administration protocols, and new high school principals are expected to participate. Principals who cannot participate in one of those sessions (held January 29 and 31) will be able to view a recording.

Most MCAS tests in grades 3-8 were given on a computer in spring 2018, and the expectation is for all MCAS tests to be given on a computer in spring 2019. It will be the first year for computer-based testing for the grade 10 MCAS and the first year that computer-based testing is required in grades 3 and 6. Paper tests remain an option for students who require that format as an accommodation.

As always, districts can email for policy questions and email for logistical support, including technical support for PearsonAccess Next and TestNav.

5. Views of Instruction, State Standards, Teaching, and Assessment (VISTA) Survey:

The VISTA survey is a DESE-sponsored annual survey of superintendents and principals. The 2019 administration is coming soon, with surveys available on January 16. In 2019, educators will be asked to share their views on educator effectiveness (hiring, developing and retaining educators), curriculum frameworks, social and emotional learning, health, safety, and DESE’s data tools and overall support. Educator views help DESE focus and target its resources to benefit our schools and districts.

Superintendents and principals can visit the VISTA webpage to view last year’s superintendent and principal executive summaries and to view 20 issues of The VOICE. The VOICE provides one-page data, policy, and resource snapshots on, for example, supporting students with disabilities and English learners, district and school access to social and emotional learning experts, and a summary of feedback for the new commissioner.

6. Prevention of Substance Use/Misuse and Promotion of Social and Emotional Learning:

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) is offering professional development in evidence-based prevention of substance misuse and promotion of social and emotional learning through the Life Skills Training Program and the Good Behavior Game. All third- through ninth-grade curriculum administrators, teachers, counselors, and nurses are invited to participate in a one-day certification training. Trainings will occur in February and March in multiple venues across the Commonwealth, and registration is available online. The training, curriculum, and student supplies are available free of charge.

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Death and Dying: A Population Health Perspective

By Andree EntezariDecember 12th, 2018in SHIELD Updates

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

8:30 a.m.–2:05 p.m.


Hiebert Lounge
72 East Concord Street

Please Register

Services for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People Provided


Livestreaming Available During Event

Death is a universal experience. Yet we seldom discuss it, and even more infrequently do we discuss death at the population level. This symposium aims to change the conversation around death by examining different perspectives on death at the population level, focusing on dying, where and how people die, and how we react to death. Our hope is that by shifting the national conversation on dying, we can elevate our aspirations for living.

Featuring experts from around the world on how we talk about death—and how we can elevate our aspirations for living.

George Annas, Amy Appleford, Michael Balboni, Tracy Balboni, Christopher de Bellaigue, Barbara Ehrenreich, Sandro Galea, Chris Gill, Michael Hebb, Katherine Keyes, Jamila Michener, Susan Mizruchi, The Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi Rinpoche, Jon Sawyer, Dan Sulmasy, Sallie Tisdale

Cohosted with Boston University Program for Global Health Storytelling, Boston University Center for the Humanities, Boston University College of Communication, and the Pulitzer Center.


8:30 a.m. – 8:45 a.m.

Sandro Galea, Dean and Robert A. Knox Professor, Boston University School of Public Health

Jon Sawyer, Executive Director, Pulitzer Center

8:45 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.

Barbara Ehrenreich, Author

Michael Hebb, Food Provocateur and Author

Daniel Sulmasy, Andre Hellegers Professor of Biomedical Ethics, Georgetown University and Acting Director, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University

Sallie Tisdale, Author and RN, Providence Elderplace

Jamila Michener, Assistant Professor, Government, College of Arts and Sciences, Cornell University

Moderator: TBD

10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.

10:30 a.m. – noon

Tracy A. Balboni, Associate Professor, Radiation Oncology, Harvard Medical School; Senior Physician, Radiation Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; and Clinical Director, Supportive and Palliative Radiation Oncology Service, Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center

George Annas, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of Health Law, Ethics & Human Rights and Director, Center of Health Law, Policy & Management, Boston University School of Public Health

Amy Appleford, Associate Professor and Associate Chair Director, Medieval Studies Program, Boston University

Christopher de Bellaigue, Journalist

Moderator: TBD

noon – 12:30 p.m.

12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Christopher J. Gill, Associate Professor, Global Health, Boston University School of Public Health

Katherine M. Keyes, Associate Professor, Epidemiology and Co-Director, Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Michael J. Balboni, Co-Director of the Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality, Harvard University and Brigham & Women’s Hospital

Susan L. Mizruchi, Center Director, Center for the Humanities, Boston University

Moderator: TBD

December 4th, 2018

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) Bureau of Community Health and Prevention’s School Health Services (SHS) Unit is seeking applications from local public school districts, regional school districts, local boards of health that provide school health services, charter schools, vocational-technical schools, educational collaboratives and non-public (non-profit) schools, including approved special education schools for the Comprehensive School Health Service (CSHS) Affiliated  Program. The proposed Comprehensive School Health Services (CSHS) Programs (formerly Essential School Health Services) are intended to provide additional support to the existing required baseline of quality, comprehensive health services in all public and non-public (non-profit) schools..

The goal of the CSHS Program is to build on existing infrastructure to provide all school-age children access to a school health service program that is managed by a qualified school nurse manager. This program will strengthen the capacity of schools to provide ongoing support for mandated school health services, continuing professional development of school health staff and technical assistance in order to improve school health services.

DPH intends to award up to 200  CSHS Affiliated Program contracts at approximately $3K – $5K annually, dependent on student enrollment and rates of economically disadvantaged students. The deadline for submission of applications is January 14, 2019 at 10AM.     Applicants who have applied for the CSHS Model program may also apply for the Affiliated Program but will be awarded only one contract.

Click on the link below to view RFR 191929 Comprehensive School Health Services (CSHS) on Commbuys:

Grant Procurement Calendar

RFR Release Date December 4, 2018
Bidders’ Conference


December 19, 2018 from 3:00pm-5:00pm


Mass Department of Public Health

250 Washington Street

Public Health Council Room – 2nd Floor

Boston, MA 02108

Webinar Information for Bidder’s Conferences TBD
Deadline for Letter of Intent December 21, 2018 at 4:00PM

Send letters via email to Alison Brill at Alison.Brill@State.MA.US with the subject line “CSHS – Affiliated Program Letter of Intent”

Deadline for Questions and Answers

All Questions must be received in writing.  Questions can be sent by email no later than the date and time indicated in the Procurement Calendar.  The issuing department reserves the right not to respond to questions submitted after this date.  All Questions with answers will be posted on the COMMBUYS Attachment section for this procurement.

January 3, 2019 at 4:00PM

Send questions via email to Alison Brill at Alison.Brill@State.MA.US with the subject line “CSHS – Affiliated Program Procurement”

The BID opening date

(Deadline for Submission of Response)

January 14, 2019 at 10:00AM
Deadline for Forms that require Ink Signatures.

(See below for Submission of Responses instructions.) MUST upload copies with Application For Response for attachment 1, if applicable.

January 21, 2019 by 5:00PM

Mail Originals to :

Alison Brill

Department of Public Health

250 Washington Street

5th Floor

Boston MA 02108

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Sharing (Anxiety and Depression) is Caring with Adolescents

By Andree EntezariDecember 6th, 2018in SHIELD Updates
Two young people sitting side by side looking out at the ocean

When an adolescent struggles with anxiety and depression symptoms, but their friend does not, it may be bad news for that friendship. The emotions and behaviors associated with anxiety and depression are referred to as internalizing symptoms. Unlike externalizing symptoms, which include aggression, internalizing symptoms have to do with fearful, worried, nervous, and self-conscious feelings.

A recent study in the Journal of Research on Adolescence assessed the relationship between these internalizing symptoms, or emotions, that a young individual experiences, and the strength of their friendships. Previous research found associations between these emotions and unstable friendships. Expanding on this, Guimond and colleagues considered two distinct ideas about how negative emotions might predict the end of adolescent friendships in this study of seventh graders followed over time.

One idea explores the level of stress on a friendship when one adolescent in the relationship has anxiety or depression. When one friend is struggling with their mental health and self-worth, the friendship may dissolve; a tense friendship can also feed into the negative emotions, exacerbating them. But the results of this study did not provide much support for this concept, indicating that something else may be at play in predicting friendship dissolution.

Two friends who experience and anxiety- and depression-related symptoms to similar degrees may have more solid friendships than those who do not match emotionally.

The second concept the researchers assessed involves compatibility. Two friends who experience and anxiety- and depression-related symptoms to similar degrees may have more solid friendships than those who do not match emotionally. This concept was more strongly supported by the study findings; the seventh-grade friends who had differing levels of internalizing symptoms were more likely to break up as time passed. Further, boys were more likely to end their friendships if one of them found it more difficult to be assertive than the other over time.

In a report last year, researchers explored how having close friendships compared to having large friend groups, and how each influenced young adults’ wellness. They found that youth who preferred having a few close-knit friends were more likely to have a healthy sense of self-worth, with lower anxiety and depression. But as Guimond and colleagues make clear, it’s not always easy to keep up good friendships. Still, these close relationships play a key role in social networks both in adolescence and adulthood, and reflect well on one’s emotional wellbeing.

Feature image: Luke Ellis-Craven on Unsplash, used for illustrative purposes only. 

Sampada Nandyala

Sampada is pursuing an MPH at Boston University School of Public Health, working towards certificates in Epidemiology & Biostatistics and Infectious Disease. She is focused on applying research results to bridge communication gaps between health care professionals and the public, especially regarding women’s health in global communities.

What’s Stopping LGBTQ Progress in Schools?

By Andree EntezariDecember 6th, 2018in SHIELD Updates

Neon sign saying "As Long As You Are You"


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend six school policies and practices to support LGBTQ students. These include: student-led organizations focused on welcoming all students regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, safe spaces where LGBTQ students can receive support from staff, prohibiting harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, professional development for staff, assistance in connecting LGBTQ students with health care providers, and assistance with connecting LGBTQ students with social and psychological services. A recent study found that few schools were implementing the full panel of recommended policies.

Researchers interviewed school administrators and school health professionals in New Mexico to understand why these policies were not being implemented. They found eleven “outer context” and “inner context” factors related to the implementation of these policies. Outer-context factors are influences originating outside of the school, and inner-context factors are those that evolve from within a school.
As one principal said, “The political climate of the nation…[is]…trickling down.”
One of the outer-context factors was political climate. For instance, the Trump administration has shown anti-LGBTQ bias with policies such as the transgender military ban.

As one principal said, “The political climate of the nation…[is]…trickling down.” The researchers point out that the media can play a role in shaping these fears at a local level.
Another outer-context factor was the influence of community beliefs. According to a 2015 survey from the Pew Research Center, over 40% of Americans feel that people choose to be gay. A school nurse is quoted saying, “There’s a lot of our community that still feels like you can just learn how to be a different way because they just don’t understand.” Another nurse indicated that parents held “old school” beliefs causing many students to feel comfortable being “out” at school but not at home.

An important inner-context factor was a belief among teachers and administrators that policies supporting LGBTQ students are “special treatment.”

An important inner-context factor was a belief among teachers and administrators that policies supporting LGBTQ students are “special treatment.” Some indicated that schools should “treat all students the same,” meaning that these policies are not fair to other students.

The existence of de facto safe spaces turned up in the interviews as a reason for not having specified safe spaces. De facto safe spaces, identified by word-of-mouth but not formally recognized, included the offices of school nurses and counselors. Some principals said that their offices were also safe spaces but admitted that students were not coming to them to discuss LGBTQ-specific topics.

The researchers also found that schools in metropolitan areas were more likely to have resources for LGBTQ students. And according to the interviews conducted, students are thought to have more positive views of the LGBTQ community than school staff members. Based on this latter finding, the researchers note that students may have a role to play in implementing LGBTQ-supportive policies in their schools. Students as advocates can hasten change toward more supportive and safer schools and the provision of referral to appropriate health and behavioral health resources beyond school walls.

Chrissy Packtor

Chrissy is an MPH candidate at the Boston University School of Public Health completing certificates in Health Communication and Promotion and Sex, Sexuality, and Gender. She is interested in effective science and health policy communication, especially in the realm of reproductive and sexual health.

November 9th, 2018

By Andree EntezariDecember 4th, 2018in DESE Updates
1. Webinars on LOOK Act Opportunities:

The Language Opportunity for Our Kids (LOOK) Act creates a new opportunity for districts to consider the programmatic needs of English learners. The Department is excited to support districts in developing and implementing new English learner education programs.

The Office of Language Acquisition will host webinars on Monday, November 19 and Tuesday, December 11 to provide guidance and instruction regarding the submission of proposed English learner education programs. The webinars will also provide information about competitive grants that can help fund the design of new programs, including bilingual programs. Any district that is planning to propose a new English learner education program is encouraged to participate in one of the webinars. Registration is open at, and a quick reference guide clarifying the process and forms for any submission is available online.

Picture of the Week:

On October 19, 2018, Secretary Peyser and Deputy Commissioner Wulfson presented students from Phoenix Charter School Lawrence with a ceremonial charter for their new school. Michael Caban, the school’s community engagement and recruitment specialist, accompanied them. The presentation was part of a ceremony at Devens in which 17 other charter schools received renewed charters.

3. Rethinking Discipline Convening:

The Department’s Rethinking Discipline Initiative has continued its partnership with Engaging Schools to host in-person convenings about restorative and equitable approaches to discipline. Although the convenings are designed for schools and districts that are part of the Rethinking Discipline Initiative, there are a limited number of additional slots available for the second convening of the school year, “Building a Restorative Culture and Implementing a Restorative Conferencing Continuum,” which will run from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Friday, November 30 at Devens. The deadline to register is Monday, November 26. Email Stacy Cabral at for a detailed description of the event, information about availability, and registration details.

4. Winter Early Learning Network Meetings:

The Department’s Early Learning Team and teams from the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) will host three regional networking opportunities in December. Teams that include a Coordinated Family and Community Engagement coordinator, Head Start representative, community-based early education and care representative, and public school early childhood coordinator and/or special education coordinator are invited to attend. The meetings will run from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on: Wednesday, December 5 in the Northeast region (EEC Office, Lawrence), Friday, December 7 in the Southeast region (Kuss Middle School, Fall River), and Thursday, December 13 in the Central region (new EEC Office, 324-R Clark St., Worcester). More information and registration are available online. Anyone with questions can contact a member of the Early Learning Team at 781-338-3010 or

5. Nominations Open for Teacher Recognition Programs:

Two teacher recognition programs are currently accepting nominations: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is accepting nominations for state history teacher of the year through March 31, 2019, and the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) is accepting nominations through March 1, 2019. This year, PAEMST will honor science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science teachers serving students in grades 7-12. For more information about these and other recognition programs in which DESE participates, email Claire Smithney.

6. Upcoming Deadline: FY18 Charter School End of Year Financial Report

Charter schools must file their FY18 end of year financial report by November 21. More information is available online.

7. For your info:

Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools: Unified Champion Schools promotes social inclusion by bringing together young people with and without intellectual disabilities on Special Olympics Unified Sports teams and in inclusive youth leadership opportunities. At its core, the program is about unifying all students— with and without disabilities—using sports as a catalyst for social inclusion and attitude and behavioral change. The Unified strategy works to reduce bullying and exclusion, promote healthy activities and interactions, overturn stereotypes and negative attitudes, eliminate hurtful language in schools and communities, and engage young people as leaders of a new, positive social movement. Schools or districts that are interested in the program can email for more information.

November 16th, 2018

By Andree EntezariDecember 4th, 2018in DESE Updates
1. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to Meet:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, November 20 in Malden. Agenda items include a vote on the Board’s FY20 budget proposal and a vote to solicit public comment on proposed amendments to Competency Determination regulations on high school science. The meeting will stream live at

Picture of the Week:

On November 9, Commissioner Riley visited two schools in New Bedford: the James B. Congdon School (pictured above), which is part of New Bedford Public Schools and serves students in kindergarten through grade 5, and Alma del Mar Charter School, which serves students in kindergarten through grade 8. At both, he visited classrooms and spoke to groups of students and faculty. (Photo courtesy of New Bedford Public Schools)

3. Reminder on Creating New English Learner Education Programs and Available Grants:

The Department encourages districts to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Language Opportunity for Our Kids (LOOK) Act to offer new programs to meet English learners’ linguistic and academic needs. The Department’s Office of Language Acquisition has extended the deadline to submit preliminary proposals to December 21 in order to give districts more time to plan. The office will review preliminary proposals in two business days and will help districts finalize their complete proposals by January 1. More information, including a quick reference guide on “Starting a New English Learner Education Program”, is available at the same link.

Two competitive grants to plan for implementation of new English learner education programs are available for districts that have more than 1,500 English learners and for districts serving Gateway cities.

The Department will hold webinars on at 3:00 p.m. Monday, November 19 and at 11 a.m. Tuesday, December 11 to share information about the proposal process and grants. Any district that is planning to propose a new English learner education program or would like to learn more about the opportunity is encouraged to participate if they did not participate in the earlier webinar. Registration is open online.

4. Edwin is Getting a New Look!

Edwin Analytics, a tool available to district and school leaders on the DESE’s security portal, is an IBM Cognos application and must be upgraded to Cognos version 11. This new version will look different but offers new features that DESE hopes will be useful to districts. Reports will run the same, but it will be easier to find reports that may be of interest, access recently viewed reports, and search reports by keyword.

The change will happen in phases. The new version of Edwin in Cognos 11 will be available on November 19.  Visitors to the portal who click on the Application List in the upper left menu will see “Edwin Analytics Beta” in the Edwin section. During the week of December 10, the Edwin Analytics link will switch over to the new Cognos 11 interface. The older version of Edwin will still be available throughout December under the “Edwin Analytics Legacy” link. The Edwin Analytics Legacy version will be retired in January 2019.

For more information about the Edwin upgrade, please download this guide to Using Edwin.

5. Attendance and Suspension Monitoring Report:

There’s a new report in Edwin! The new Attendance and Suspension Monitoring Report includes students’ Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) risk level, their current attendance, and how many suspensions they have had, all as reported to DESE via the School Interoperability Framework (SIF). The report is available to users who have access to student-level information within a school or district and are in a SIF-enabled district. For access to Edwin or the Monitoring Report, contact the directory administrator for your district.

The Department will hold a webinar about the Attendance and Suspension Monitoring Report at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 29. Additional training materials, videos and other resources are available on the EWIS website, and other webinars are listed online. Contact for more information.

6. Reminder on Alternative Structured Learning Day Programs:

As was communicated last month, DESE is reviewing the implementation of alternative structured learning day programs in collaboration with the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS) and other stakeholders this year. Districts, schools, and organizations that do not yet have locally-approved alternative structured learning day programs but intend to implement such programs during the 2018-2019 school year are asked to submit a copy of the locally-approved program plan within one week after the date of local approval. All program plans must include the date of approval by the appropriate governing body.

Please email questions and approved program plans to Shay Edmond at


November 14th, 2018

By Andree EntezariNovember 26th, 2018in SHIELD Updates

Dear Colleagues,

It’s been a very busy week…and with the upcoming holidays, I’m sure it’s been busy in your offices as well!  We know that holidays are not always the happy times we wish they were for all children.  Thanks for keeping your door – and hearts – open to all children in need.

It has been a pleasure to see so many of you at our Regional Meetings!  Thank you for your attendance and participation at these essential networking and consultation programs!  And it was wonderful to have so many attend the CSHS Bidders Conferences as well as those who “listened in” online!  Thank you for your interest in this funding for School Health Services!

And a final reminder of the December 5th Statewide ESHS Nurse Leader Meeting in collaboration with School Mental Health Providers!  Please be sure to register online at:

We have so much to be thankful for…as I am sure you do as well!  Enjoy the upcoming holiday and I hope you are able to spend it in whatever way you choose!
The School Health Team,

Mary Ann, Caitlin, Alison, Janet and Bob


Our CONGRATULATIONS Karen Rufo  MS, RN, PPCNP-BC, Nurse Leader for the  Natick Public Schools who was recently awarded the  Massachusetts School Nurse Administrator of the Year 2018  by the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization (MSNO) Awards and Scholarship Committee. Congratulations to Karen on this prestigious award for all of her amazing, exhaustive work for the students and families of the Natick Public Schools and for her demonstration of school nursing leadership across the Commonwealth!  Pictured below is Karen and the school nursing staff from Natick Public Schools.

Below please find the article related to the discussion at a recent Mashpee Board of Health meeting concerning the banning of vaping and the flavored tobacco products in which Stacey Schakel, MSN, M.Ed, CAGS, RN, NCSN, provides support for this ban:  As an update, the Mashpee BOH voted to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products effective 12/28/2018.  Stacy has also developed a Vaping 101 presentation for students with a pre and posttest as well as a parent/ staff training.  She is willing to share with anyone who is interested.  Stacey can be contacted directly at: or by phone at 508-539-1520  x5104.

Check out the Wilmington Community TV program featuring Jane Ferrara, MA, BSN, RN,


We are excited to release the Call for Workshop Proposals for the 18th Annual Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Conference on May 1st & 2nd, 2019 at the Sheraton Hotel and Conference Center in Framingham, MA. The theme of the 2019 conference is: Innovations in Suicide Prevention.

Below is the link for the Call for Workshop Proposals. The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2018 at 11:59 pm EST. No late submissions will be accepted. Please feel free to contact the Massachusetts Suicide Prevention Program with any questions regarding this call for workshop proposals. We look forward to receiving your submissions and seeing you in Framingham, Massachusetts.


The Board of Registration in Nursing (Board) continues to receive many calls regarding the issue of complying with the law that requires training for health care providers on the issue of domestic and sexual violence as a condition of licensure (M.G.L. c. 112, § 264). DPH’s Division of Sexual and Domestic Violence Prevention and Services has developed a training that meets the requirements for licensure. This e-Learning tool can be accessed from DPH’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Integration Initiatives website: .

The Board will not hold a nurse responsible for the required training until it is available. Nurses who renew after November 7, 2018 will have an additional six months from the date of license renewal to complete the training. Nurses who have renewed prior to the release of the training must complete the training prior to their next license renewal. A nurse participating in a currently approved in-person training program will be considered to have met the requirement and does not need to take the online course by DPH. Refer DPH’s Domestic and Sexual Violence Integration Initiatives website.


Please see the link below to the press release regarding a new program DPH announced  that will provide substance misuse and prevention support services for Native American youth in the Commonwealth.


​Athol Hospital has been awarded a $1.05 million grant to bring tele-behavioral health services to students at Athol High School and Ralph C. Mahar Regional High School in Orange, hospital officials announced Friday.  The Evidence-based Tele-behavioral Health Network Program grant, supported by the Health Resources and Service Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is part of an award financed with nongovernmental sources.

The program will use interactive videoconferencing to increase access to behavioral health services for school-age children and their families in a convenient and nonthreatening setting, according to a hospital news release. Program staff hope to deliver high-quality and effective behavioral health services that demonstrate improvements in clinical outcomes and functional performance of students with social-emotional problems and behavioral health conditions, while reducing costs and minimizing use of more expensive health services.

The demand for mental and behavioral health services among children and adolescents is growing, according to clinicians and educators. But families, particularly in rural communities and small towns, have a hard time getting services.

The project is a partnership among Athol Hospital, Athol Regional School District, Ralph C. Mahar High Regional School District, Pioneer Valley Regional School District, Heywood Healthcare’s Quabbin Retreat and the Northeast Telehealth Resource Center.  Tele-behavioral health services provided at Athol and Mahar Regional high schools will be evaluated and compared to behavioral health treatment provided as usual to students at the Pioneer Valley Regional High School.​


EOHHS Region Name Office Phone Cell Phone Email
State Epidemiologist 617-983-6800    
Central Lee Waingortin 978-875-2009
Metrowest Jill Connolly 781-848-4000, ext. 7841  781-603-7697
Northeast Shanyn Toulouse 978-420-1919 978-761-2307
Southeast Ann Linehan 508-580-7363
West Diane Colucci 413-750-2511
Therese Blain 413-750-2007


Mary Ann Gapinski, MSN, RN, NCSN
Director of School Health Services/ School SBIRT Coordinator
MA Department of Public Health
250 Washington Street – 5th Floor
Boston, MA  02108
SBIRT information:

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November 2nd, 2018

By Andree EntezariNovember 2nd, 2018in DESE Updates
1. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Meeting Recap:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met October 30, 2018 in Malden, and a recording is available online at Agenda items included a discussion with a panel of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educators and students, a review of the 2018 MCAS and accountability results released last month, first-quarter reports on chronically underperforming schools (download), an initial discussion about the Board’s FY2020 budget proposal, an update on implementation of the Language Opportunities for Our Kids (LOOK) Act, and a discussion about protections for transgender students.

Picture of the Week:
At the October 30, 2018 Board meeting, students from Randolph and educators from Randolph, Everett, and Boston were part of a panel on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Pictured: Randolph Community Middle School teacher Chakara Cardillo, Randolph students, and Commissioner Riley.
2. Upcoming Technology Webinar:

Don’t miss the last webinar of EducationSuperHighway’s E-rate Category 2 Masterclass series on November 5. EducationSuperHighway will provide district technology leaders information on how to evaluate E-rate bids and avoid potential pitfalls, how to get buy-in from district leadership, and best practices for filing E-rate forms. Registration is open online for “E-rate Category 2 Masterclass #3: Bid Evaluation Best Practices.”

3. Plan Now for Annual Student Government Day in April:

The Department is honored to sponsor and coordinate the 72nd annual Student Government Day Program from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Friday, April 5, 2019 at the State House in Boston. This program encourages students from Massachusetts public and private high schools to learn about the structure of state government, become engaged citizens, and develop an understanding of the rights and responsibilities of living in a democracy. Students will assemble at the State House, where most will replicate activities of the General Court (Massachusetts State Legislature), while others will meet as constitutional officers or as members of the Supreme Judicial Court. Registration is now open, and more information is available online. Schools are encouraged to elect one student designee and one student alternate for Student Government Day.

4. Updated RADAR Reports, Webinars, and Online Tutorial:

The Department recently updated its Resource Allocation and District Action Reports (RADAR) — a suite of innovative Excel-based reports for a new approach to resource decisions. On October 1, DESE launched an updated website and RADAR Benchmarking reports. Two upcoming webinars will give districts a chance to learn more about the reports and ask questions. Please register for either 12:00-1:00 p.m. Thursday, November 15  or 12:00-1:00 p.m. Thursday, December 6; both will cover the same material.

In addition, districts can reference an online tutorial for help getting started with RADAR and additional training on how to use the benchmarking reports, and DESE has produced a short video about the benefits of using RADAR in district’s planning and budgeting. Please email with any questions or comments.

5. Save the Date for Convening on Homeless and Hungry Students:

The Department of Higher Education and DESE are beginning to strengthen the channels between those in K12 and those in higher education who provide outreach and support services to students who are homeless or hungry. Every district has a designated liaison as mandated by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, and most Massachusetts public campuses have a single point of contact (SPOC) for students who identify themselves as experiencing housing and/or food insecurity.

The Departments invite all district liaisons and college single points of contact to attend a statewide convening from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, November 30 at the UMass Lowell Inn and Conference Center. Participants will have an opportunity to meet, help inform the development of a statewide protocol for the educational progression of homeless students, and participate in a training session led by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY).

More details about the convening, including registration information and a detailed agenda, will be available soon. Please contact Sarah Slautterback at (DESE) or Katy Abel at (DHE) with any questions.

6. Public Hearings Scheduled on Proposed Charter Schools:

The Department has scheduled two public hearings in the coming weeks to invite community members to comment on final applications for proposed charter schools in Haverhill and Lawrence. If approved, the schools would open in fall 2019. The proposed schools are Equity Lab Charter School, which would serve up to 640 students in grades 5-12 in Lawrence, and Massachusetts Wildflower Montessori Public Charter School: Haverhill, which would serve up to 240 students in grades 1-8 in Haverhill.

Public hearings will be held from 4:00-6:00 p.m. on Monday, December 3 at UMass Lowell’s Haverhill Campus, Innovation Hub Haverhill, 2 Merrimack St., Third Floor, in Haverhill and Wednesday, December 5 in Lawrence Public Library’s Sargent Auditorium, 51 Lawrence St., Lawrence.

In addition to the hearings, members of the public can submit written comments about the proposed schools through December 21, 2018 to: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, c/o Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign, 75 Pleasant St., Malden, MA 02148 or by email to

7. Elementary Principals Professional Development Series:

The Department’s Early Learning Team and the Massachusetts School Administrators Association (MSAA) will host a series of networking and professional development opportunities for elementary principals (preschool to third grade) during the current school year. The series will commence on December 14 with a statewide kick-off event that will include a keynote presentation, networking opportunities, and workshops on early learning topics.

The kick-off will be followed by regional networking sessions in January and March that will include professional development, site visits, and additional networking opportunities. Registration for the kickoff is open online. Elementary principals will receive separate emails this winter when registration for the January and March networking opportunities opens. Anyone with questions can contact the Early Learning Team at 781-338-3010 or

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