Save the Dates

Mark Your Calendar 

Tuesday,  June 2nd,   The Great Balloon Chase:  Part II  (Details to follow)

  • Let’s do this again!  Smith STEM School along with Conard High School will launch a weather balloon into the Earth’s stratosphere!  Event will take place at Smith (More details to follow).

Wednesday, June 3rd,  Smith Day @ Harvest Country Store between 2-6pm

  • Stop into Harvest Country Store Wednesday and mention Smith STEM School!  15% of sales goes right back to Smith’s PTO.  Best Ice Cream & Coffee in town!  Pick up a gift card for your favorite Smith Teacher!!
  • Suzuki Violin Concert 9:30am and 7pm Family Show


Thursday, June 11th,  End of Year Family Picnic!  5-8pm

  • Come on out.  Bring your dinner, dessert, and family to a picnic meal in Smith’s field.  DJ will be rockin some tunes…So bring your best dance moves too!  This will also be a chance to send our Juan Melian off with our best wishes.  Don’t miss this one

Community Meeting Minutes – June, 2015

One of the most beautiful and simple ideas that came out of this meeting was from our 3rd grade teacher, Cassandra Lane, who described Smith as a place that is always smiling. I believe she is right. I believe Smith spreads a smile across the faces of our children and the teachers who dedicate their time to fostering a love of learning in all of our hearts.

Please take a moment to review the minutes from our meeting with Rick Ledwith on Thursday, May 14, 2015. As Mr. Melian gets ready to say goodbye, we must get ready to welcome a new leader. There were many helpful questions and answers provided during this meeting. See below.

As a reminder, the Leadership Profile Survey is available online until May 22nd. Please take a few minutes to fill it out. FOLLOW THIS LINK!


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Community Meeting Agenda


Susan Kamin:

Community gardening day is this Saturday from 9-12.  Bring gloves, shovel, etc.

Looking to get more people from our school involved in Growing Great Schools.  GGS has helped with the garden, tastings at salad bar, and farmer’s market at Smith.  Please contact Susan if you are interested in getting involved.

Discussion with Rick Ledwith regarding hiring process and characteristics the teachers and families find important.

Process of search for new principal has started.  Position posted & will close May 22; developing leadership profile with community and teachers to incorporate what is important to teachers and families.  Sent Survey Monkey survey to gather further information.  Survey is available for another week.  Please complete survey and encourage others to do the same.  Administration will try to set up computers at Smith for families who do not have access at home.

Interview committee will be given above information so they know what to look for in new principal.  So far, it appears that the Smith families who have shared information are on the same page.

40 applicants at this point – expect around 50.  Will use profile and family/teacher input to match candidates and narrow the pool.  Had 12 finalists for position at Aiken.

Committee will consist of 10 members: 3 parents, 6 teachers and a principal from another school.  This is a completely open process.  There is no “secret candidate.”  Admin also recruiting candidates they feel will fit profile, but committee will determine final candidates.  Expect a small pool of strong candidates based on the needs of the Smith community.  Looking for someone who can connect with every person who walks through the doors of our school.  Performance tasks, background checks will be done prior to interviews.  Site visit at candidates’ current schools may occur as pool narrows.  This could present a challenge due to the approach of the end of the school year.  If not possible, could opt for dialogue between community and candidate (~12 families).  Must be sure the community approves of the candidate, and that the candidate WANTS to take on this challenge.

Hope to have candidate back to meet with community at large prior to June 16.  If the right match isn’t found right away, committee will back off and continue to seek the right person for the job.  Smith has seen a lot of principals, and it is important to find someone who will stay 5-6 years and continue to move our school forward, building on what Juan started.  Could have interim principal if necessary while the right person is found.


Community feedback:

– What happens if the right principal is not identified right away?  Response: Interim principal – someone known to administration.

– Daughter’s 3rd principal in 3 years.  Former school did not hire a good match.  Encouraged by tonight’s information, but what did administration learn from that process?  Response: Familiar with situation.  If they don’t get it right, they fix it.  That’s why they’re getting the teachers and community more involved for Smith.  This is a more challenging school than some others in town, and the bar has been set very high.  One consistency at Smith has always been great teachers, and that won’t change.

– Will Juan be a part of the hiring committee? Response: No.  He is available to provide input, but will not be a committee member.  # of teachers on committee increased to six.

– Does the committee make the final decision?  Does any one member have more “power” than others?  Response: Hoping for consensus. A lot of discussion will occur among committee members.  Confident that since committee members will likely be looking for similar characteristics, it won’t be hard for them to agree.  Rick will not completely override committee.

– Great teachers at Smith; concerned that our teachers will be recruited to Charter Oak.  Response: Ground breaking at Charter Oak was today.  280 kids there now; goal is 500 over next couple of years.  Teachers will be brought from other schools in district, but not from Smith.  Wait list for Smith much larger than CO, and Smith is very successful – don’t want to damage that.

– How do you interview someone when you’re looking for intangible qualities?  Response: Reference checks – 3 levels: Candidate will provide names, and administration will talk with them and then ask those people for more names, and ask those people for even more names.  Community forum also will help identify those traits.

– Thank you for having this opportunity for parents.  Encouraged by what is being said.  Has process changed over the years?  Don’t remember so many surveys and chances for community involvement.  Response: Yes – and Smith is unique, so this is even more significant.

– How does this timeline compare to typical searches?  Response: Trying to have kids meet new principal before end of school year.  This will be challenging for candidate, too, to meet so much while trying to run current district/school.

– How did teachers respond?  Response: Ruth Luipold – Staff is extremely resilient.  First and foremost, kids are most important, and teachers come in every day and take care of them.  We’ve been through this before, and we’ll do it again.

– What is general sentiment of staff?  Type of leader you’re looking for (teachers)?  Response: Ms. Lane – Juan gave her first classroom, so she has a sense of loyalty.  She has always had sense that the whole school is smiling.  Juan truly has growth mindset.  He is constantly in classroom, both evaluating teachers and just being there.  Gender doesn’t matter, but fact that he speaks Spanish is helpful as well.      Sharon Zajack: Relationships over procedure.  Education is really about relationships.  Re: STEM, would be good to have someone who has STEM knowledge because it is incorporated into everything at Smith.  Don’t need to be expert, but knowledge is important.  Candidate should be open to learning.  Teachers are trying new things all the time, taking risks (with right intentions), and candidate should be open for that.  Ruth Luipold: Our population is so diverse – important to have that background.  Also, having elementary experience is a plus.  Juan helps families who have many different experience levels regarding education setting.

– We don’t want our teachers/staff to leave.  Whether a staff member leaves, for whatever reason, if more than one person leaves, our community could be rocked.  What can we do to retain them?  Response: We can’t stop anyone who wants to move on.  But one of the great things about Smith is the consistency of teachers.  Stories from teachers were moving.  They care about the kids, and Rick is hopeful they’ll all stay.  Ruth: Cannot remember any staff member who left because they were unhappy – they were all for other reasons.  Parent: It would be important to communicate reasons to community if another teacher/staff member leaves this year.

– Are kids having input?  Response: Not at this point, but that could be considered.  Perhaps student council?  Will try to set up meeting with Rick and some student leaders.

Juan has ability to make every student, family and (hopefully) teacher feel important.  We don’t want a principal who will hide in the office.

– Approach with discipline.  Impressed with how a specific incident was handled. Juan explained why he took steps he needed to take.  Then called back next day because he felt something was missing.  Investigated further and admitted they got it wrong the first time, apologized.  Gave children a voice and handled situation fairly, followed through to end.  Had instinct & motivation to look further.

– Since we don’t have an assistant principal, the principal will have to be prepared to take on that role as well.  Response: That is a WH standard – there are no AP’s in our elementary schools.  It is expected that person will be relations-oriented and handle that with no problem.

– Social media – Juan has embraced social media (Twitter), but not every principal feels that way.  Our community loves it.  It is a way for parents to see first-hand what our children are doing and ask specific questions about their day.

– Should we be cautious with next principal because they will likely move up/on in 4-5 years?  Response: No.  Should embrace the person and develop strong relationship.  It can be mentioned to candidate that the community really wants a leader to stay longer.  Obviously, can’t make them stay.

– Is it typical for principal to attend extra-curricular activities, etc.?  Response: It is wanted everywhere, but not always the case.

Interview questions designed based on feedback from teachers and families.

Working on Survey Monkey survey for 3rd, 4th & 5th graders to provide feedback.

The district is committed to Smith and ensuring the right person is hired.  Smith is a unique and special place, and the district truly realizes it.  Will do a lot of upfront education with candidates before they even get to the committee.  We don’t want someone who can’t embrace the Smith community and build on it.  Need someone who can quickly adapt to where Smith is and begin moving our school forward.

Ms. Lane: Smith has a unique identity, and we will help that person assimilate.

Rick: Happy to meet again with other parents who couldn’t attend, etc.  Feel free to email or call with further input.


*****$1600.00 raised for Nickels for Nepal!!!!!!*****

All Things Spring Fair

SPRING FAIR is FRIDAY, MAY 29th | 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Our Spring Fair forms are available online. You can download them here:

Spring Fair Forms

If you are unable to download and print new copies, do not worry as we will be sending more out on Monday, May 18th. You can also stop by the office for copies beginning Friday, May 15th.

As a reminder, there are many ways you can contribute to the Fair and there is no need to limit yourself. :)

  • Bake a cake!
  • Volunteer an hour at a booth!
  • Donate a Raffle Basket Item!

Our esteemed principal will be a sitting duck in the dunk tank at some point during the night. And the PTO may have some other things up its sleeve… pie, anyone?

Room Parents will be reaching out to all classes looking for volunteers for the grade-sponsored booths. We need 6 volunteers per grade. Here is the lineup:

  • Pre-K/Kindergarten : Beading
  • First Grade : Spin Art
  • Second Grade : Hula Hoop Contest
  • Third Grade : Can Toss
  • Fourth Grade : Basketball Shooting Contest
  • Fifth Grade : Dunk Tank

We understand that all of these SPRING FAIR forms and flyers can be confusing and overwhelming. We are trying to make it as easy as possible for our parents. Our Spring Fair is a total blast but it takes a HUGE amount of work to make it happen. We value you and hope you’ll be a part of making this happen for all of our students at Smith!


Sarah Fite | PTO President

Nickels for Nepal, a Community Effort

Our 3rd grade teacher, Cassie Lane and ESOL teacher, Marilyn Tracy collaborated in writing this article for the West Hartford News.  Take a look

The devastation from the earthquake in Nepal on Saturday, April 25 hit especially close to home for students and staff at Smith STEM School in West Hartford because many of the families in our community have immigrated to Connecticut from the Kathmandu region. The day after the earthquake, Shannon Jacovino, a third grade parent emailed her child’s classroom teacher, asking how we can help those affected. “I am heartbroken, as I’m sure you are, reading about the devastation in Nepal. [My daughter] has 5 children from Nepal in her class.” Parents and faculty put their heads together and came up with a fundraising idea that would allow students to feel that they were playing an important role in helping out their classmates’ families. By creating Nickels for Nepal, we started a community effort that accepts loose change or clean recyclables so that everyone is able to help.

According to a third grade student at Smith, people affected by disasters “need money to rebuild their homes and to buy food and medicine.” Soon, students were creating posters at home encouraging others to “Bring change to make a change!” The following day, a third grader who had become visibly upset while discussing the earthquake, donated the entire contents of her piggy bank. “I feel like I’m helping,” she said.

Not only is this fundraiser helping the thousands of people affected in Nepal, it is helping us come together as a community and heal after a devastating event that is hard for elementary students to comprehend.

Juan Melian, principal of Smith STEM School, feels that this fundraiser is especially helpful to those students who have family living in Nepal, who now “have a way to express their feelings. This came from them, and is allowing them to support their homeland.

Donations started pouring in in the days following the earthquake. As of May 7, multiple bags full of recyclables have been redeemed, and our five-gallon jug is half full of bills and coins. A pair of upper-grade students held a bake sale in their neighborhood last weekend and earned $160, which they donated on Monday morning. The generosity and kindness of the students at Smith STEM is remarkable, and Nepalese parents in the community have shared their appreciation.

The Smith student council voted to send the contributions to GlobalGiving (, an organization that has a history of coordinating funds between international donors and local charities in areas affected by disasters. In a March 2012 article on, contributor Tom Watson said the following about GlobalGiving: “Sometimes the effects of a disaster unfold more slowly than the headlines…For social ventures like GlobalGiving…that realization spurs strategic thinking about the long-term.” This aspect of the charity is what spoke most clearly to the fifth grade members of the student council. “I like that it has a plan to help out now and in the future,” said the student council president.

The fundraiser will conclude on Wednesday, May 13. Any questions about this fundraiser can be directed towards Mr. Melian, Smith STEM School principal.


Nickels for Nepal

This fundraiser provides a way for our community to come together to show support for the Nepalese children and families at Smith and to contribute to critical relief efforts in Nepal.

There are several ways to help:

Loose Change – There is a 5-gallon jug inside the office to collect loose change. This is a great way for all kids to feel like they are making their own contribution.

Checks/Cash/Money Order –People who wish to make a larger donation may submit checks to their child’s teacher or directly to the school office.


Recyclables – Families can donate clean recyclables that can be redeemed for cash (aluminum cans, glass bottles, or plastic beverage bottles).

Please contribute any way you can. Thank you for your support!

Special Guest – Juan Melian in FRC Monday Morning / Nickels for Nepal Collection Continues

Stop into the  Family Resource Center (FRC) for a cup coffee and a chat with the special guest , Juan Melian.   Monday morning, May 4th 8:35am.  See you there.


Nickels for Nepal

 Saturday, April 25, a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal. Although the full extent of the damage is still unknown, there has been tremendous loss of life, and thousands of people have been injured and left homeless.
This tragedy hits especially close to home for us Smith STEM School, because we have several families in our community from the Kathmandu region of Nepal.  Our hearts go out to them and their loved ones and friends who are being affected by this tragedy.
Nickels for Nepal provides a way for our community to come together to show support for the Nepalese children and families at Smith and to contribute to critical relief efforts in Nepal.
There are several ways to help.:

  • Loose Change – There will be a 5 gallon jug outside of the office to collect loose change. This is a great way for all kids to feel like they are making their own contribution.


  • Checks/Cash. Money Order –Parents who wish to make a larger donation can either deposit their donations in the 5 gallon jug or send them in their children’s folders. Please make checks payable to the Smith STEM PTO.


  • Recyclables – Families can donate recyclables that can be redeemed for cash (aluminum cans, glass bottles, plastic beverage bottles).

Please contribute any way you can. Thank you for your support!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Cassandra Lane at or Shannon Jacovino at or 860 561-3321.

Spring Fair Meeting – Thursday Evening 6pm


Smith STEM School Spring Fair is one month away.  Smith PTO needs YOUR help to make this years Spring Fair AWESOME.  Please plan on coming out Thursday,  April 30th  6pm in school library for a Smith Spring Fair Planning Meeting.   Food and childcare will be available.  See you there!

Smith Night at SweetFrog Tonight

Smith Night at SweetFrog Premium Frozen Yogurt Tonight!

Wednesday, February 25th   5-9pm

Don’t let the cold weather keep you from enjoying your frozen yogurt!

Proceeds of sales tonight go to Smith’s PTO.  No flyer Needed.  Just Mention Smith STEM School.

SweetFrog Premium Frozen Yogurt  13 South Main Street West Hartford, CT