Work Hard, Be Kind, Help Others

Lower Devotion Principal's Blog

  • Reflections on the Race, Equity and Leadership Institute

    Posted by Jennifer Buller at 3/27/2017 7:00:00 AM

    Hello Lower Devo Families and Friends,

    We have missed you all SO much this past week!  

    Tuesday through Friday we joined our principal colleagues, Superintendent Bott, and other members of the leadership team in the Public Schools of Brookline for the Race, Equity, and Leadership (REaL) institute at Harvard University.  It was only possible to engage in the rigorous academic conversations  and nurture our love of learning because we work within a district that is committed to supporting schools in anti-bias education and practices.  We are so grateful to the whole staff at Lower Devo for supporting the building in our absence and allowing us to open ourselves up to four full days of learning in service of each of our students and families.  Each day delivered a full schedule of dynamic and powerful presenters that engaged us deeply in our pursuit of educational equity and excellence for every individual that makes up the beautiful tapestry that is our learning community.  

    The incomparable Dr. Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot opened our learning with a call to commit ourselves to "pivot towards the light" as we engage in our work to ensure that each individual is feeling seen and acknowledged as worthy in our connected school community. Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot set the stage for the next 3 days of intense engagement with varied perspectives and work on actively anti-racist education and leadership.  Dr. Danielle Allen and Dr. Karen Mapp each challenged our definitions and practices of engagement and involvement of both our students and families.  Dr. Allen prompted us to think critically about what we know and how we know about each of our students' aspirations.  She called on us to develop deep and meaningful relationships each individual student and foster a connected society that confronts stereotypes and works together against bias and prejudice. Dr. Mapp, former advisor to President Obama, shared with us the critical importance of family engagement in the health and success of our community.  She encouraged us to operate from a strengths based perspective when working with each family and assess our current models and systems of family engagement.  

    Each of the other individual speakers and panels brought their own powerful perspective on working towards educational equity and excellence and left us with many ideas and further resources to read and evaluate.  Our hands are cramped from furious note taking, our minds are full of ideas and questions, and our hearts are overflowing with inspiration and hope.  We look forward to sharing it all with you!  We also thank you each for your support in our collaborative work on confronting inequity and fulfilling the educational promise for each of our students.  

    Jen and Dave

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  • Strengthening our Bond as a Community

    Posted by Jennifer Buller at 3/20/2017 7:00:00 AM

    Hello Lower Devo Families and Friends,

    We hope this message finds you happy, healthy, and enjoying some moments of rest and relaxation this weekend.  As we work in collaboration with each of you we are always striving to meet the needs of every individual student and their families in support of strengthening the health and bonds of our community at Devo.  We count on your feedback to help us improve our work with you.  If you haven't had a chance to provide your feedback through the district distributed School Climate survey, we encourage you to find the time to do so.  

    You should have received an email reminder (or two) from Panorama Education, our partner that is administering the survey for us. Please think of this survey as a way for you to provide valuable and helpful feedback about the climate, culture, and leadership here at Lower Devo and in the district. The survey is one important way we identify Lower Devo’s strengths and areas we can work to improve. The deadline has been extended to March 24 to allow more families to respond. If you have not received an email with a link to the survey please email  As of this past week only 15% of our families responded and we are hoping for a much higher turnout to ensure that everyone's voice is heard.  

    As we strengthen our community and grow together, we are continuing and deepening our commitment to our work on race and equity at Lower Devo.  This week (from Tuesday-Friday) we will be attending the Race, Equity, and Leadership institute at Harvard University where we will examine structures and systems that perpetuate inequities while gaining tools to continue our work on strengthening our inclusive community and sustaining educational excellence for all.  We will engage in this work with our principal colleagues from across the district and are excited to bring back our learning to our faculty and families at Lower Devo.  While we are away Lesley Ryan-Miller (Director of Elementary Teaching and Learning) and Janet Palmer Owens (our principal mentor) will be in the building to support the staff and students.  We are still available by email throughout the week but please understand that it may take a bit longer to respond as we will be fully engaged in learning during the day.  If you need immediate attention please contact the office at 617-879-4400.  

    We have several events coming up that will help us continue to connect, learn from one another, and build positive relationships.  First, tomorrow morning (Monday March 20th from 8:00-9:00a) there will be a PTO sponsored Coffee and Conversation.  Jen will be presenting information on the upcoming MCAS, ways you can support your students during the testing window, similarities and differences from prior assessments, and answer any questions you might have.  At the end of this month we will be hosting another community wide information event (March Community Information Meeting). We will be focusing on supporting families with navigating the parent portal (Aspen) and completing paperwork for summer programming (camps, Projects Explore/Discovery/Achieve) while our students have a chance to grab a slice of pizza and engage in crafts/games with one another.  Lastly, on April 5th we hope you will join us from 6:00 - 7:00pm to learn about the exciting work that we have been engaging with around literacy instruction and learning for all students.  

    We will miss seeing everyone throughout the week, the high fives and good mornings at the drop off doors, and the many games of rocks/paper/scissors at dismissals.  :) 

    Dave and Jen 

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  • Health, BAS, and Steel Beams- A Busy Time at Lower Devo!

    Posted by Jennifer Buller at 3/13/2017 7:00:00 AM

    Good evening Lower Devo Families and Friends,


    We hope this finds you safe, warm, and healthy.  This past week we experienced an increase in cases of influenza and stomach bug illnesses.  Our hard working custodians spent time this weekend deep cleaning the building, focusing on hot-spots such as identified classrooms and common spaces.  In order to help keep everyone healthy and reduce the spread of illness we will be reminding students of good hand washing practices before eating as well as using the "elbow cough".  You can help support our efforts by reinforcing these messages in addition to keeping your child home if they are sick.  As a reminder please read the guidelines about when you should keep your child home due to illness.  


    What is the BAS and Why is it important?

    By now, your child might have come home talking about a "special reading time" they spent one on one with their classroom teacher or literacy specialist.  We just finished up our Winter Assessment Cycle for the Benchmark Assessment System or BAS.  The BAS is a comprehensive resource that we use at Lower Devo (and across the district) to accurately identify a student's current reading level and plan for individualized instruction that meets each student's diverse reading needs.  

    Currently, we engage in these rich one on one reading experiences twice a year to not only identify and plan for instructional decisions, but also to monitor the progress of students.  During these reading conferences teachers are listening carefully to your child read while they monitor for accuracy and fluency and note reading behaviors including self corrections.  After your child finishes reading the short leveled text, they engage in a comprehension discussion that goes beyond retelling and explores more higher level inferential comprehension skills.  

    The information gleaned from this individualized assessment is vital to how we design instruction, provide interventions and extensions, and accurately create a comprehensive picture of each student as a reader.  This week our teachers will spend time during our bi-weekly faculty meeting to collaborate with one another as they use the information from the BAS to thoughtfully and skillfully plan for whole group, small group, and individual instruction in their classrooms.  

    If you have any questions about the BAS please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  


    Steel Beam Signing

    As you might recall from previous messages, a steel beam at the construction had been designated for student and staff signing.  This beam will be placed in the garage of the new building and will be partially exposed so that some signatures will be visible.  

    Students from Lower Devo visited the site on either Thursday or Friday of this past week with their classes and spent approximately 15 minutes on site signing the beam.  On Thursday, Superintendent Bott joined one of our first grade classes to share in the beam signing.  Students loved visiting the site, getting a glimpse into the project, and came back excited for our new school.  Several teachers also shared how friendly the Shawmut staff had been to them when they were over and how the team even helped keep the beam dry in Friday’s snowy weather.  We are SO grateful to Shawmut Construction and HFMH architects for creating this opportunity so that our students could participate in a momentous occasion in the timeline of our incredible construction journey.


    This week we welcome back Kyra Reardon to the office.  Kyra has been at Driscoll School since before December break helping support their office while their secretary, Kim Longmore, was at home recovering from an accident.  Kyra embodied our Devo motto- Work Hard, Be Kind, and Help Others- by reaching out and supporting another school here in Brookline during their time of need.  We know Driscoll School will miss Kyra and we are thrilled to have her return home!


    In the spirit of reaching out and helping others we challenge each family here at Lower Devo to reach out to another family in our school that you may not know that well.  It could be something as simple as sharing a good morning and a smile with a family you don’t know at drop off.   Or maybe you might choose to send an email/ make a phone call to another family you don’t know so well in your child’s class to invite them to attend an upcoming event at the school with you.  Whatever you choose we challenge you to connect and be good to each other as we continue to strengthen our bond as a community.


    With kindness,
    Dave and Jen

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