Community Meeting Minutes – November, 2014

We understand it’s not always top-of-the-list to attend our Community Meetings on a busy Thursday evening. This is why we have a Recording Secretary to take notes for you! Thanks to Jeanette Connole for her diligence in getting our Meeting Minutes out to the community. Please browse the highlights from our meeting last week and get in touch with any one of our board members if you have questions or concerns. 


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Community Meeting Agenda

- PTO Welcome 

- First & Second Grade Conversation

First grade (Mrs. Callahan and Mrs. Deegan) and second grade (Ms. Courneen, Mrs. Bolt and Mrs. Haggerty):

* STEM and inquiry style have changed the dynamic of learning and teaching here.  1st grade just finished unit on plants.  2nd grade just finished unit on gourds.  The students begin with observations and develop questions, then do the research.  There is so much hands on learning happening, which allows the students to guide their learning. Teachers see that students are more engaged and inquisitive now than when they taught more traditionally.  The students are learning to problem solve more effectively as well.  More students have begun to shine who may not have had that experience prior to inquiry-based learning.

Khan Academy = website families can access to help reinforce common core.  It provides a deeper understanding of math and other subjects.  Teachers are giving students the tools and strategies to learn in different ways that are most appropriate and efficient for each child.

- Hour of Code Presentation

Mr. Melian presented the “Hour of Code.”  Smith is one of only a few schools in West Hartford participating in this international program.  This is “an opportunity for children to explore the basic elements of computer programming.”  Each student will be able to do some level of computer programming.  Learn more at or

December 8-14: each student will have an hour of coding experience during their Media Center Classes.

- Camp Jewell

December 14: Barnes & Noble gift wrapping from 3-8pm.

- Fundraising round-up 

* Meadow Farms complete

* Shoe fundraiser – Starting December 1, please donate any and all old shoes that are no longer worn.  The shoes will be cleaned and donated to people in need.  Smith will receive proceeds based on weight of shoes donated.



- Upcoming events:

*Movie night: Tomorrow night (11/21/14) – Despicable Me 2.  Movie will begin at 7:00pm.

*Winter Concert: 12/11/14.  There may be a bake and/or beverage sale.

*Cocoa & Caroling: 12/15/14 – winter songs will be sung around the Smith neighborhood.  Please note that this date is different from the date in last week’s Connection. Monday, 12/15 is the correct date.

*Community meeting with Board of Ed Members: 12/18/14 at 6:30pm

- Katie Mace: BOE update

Board of Education elections were held recently.  Smith’s own Mark Overmeyer-Vasquez was elected chairperson!

Whiting Lane won Best Float award in the Park Road Parade.  We would like to have a float next year.

- Open Forum 

Smith will be represented 12/27/14 on WTNH, talking about the Great Balloon Chase, the salmon program, and all of the great things we do at Smith.

Family resource center: Wednesdays from 9:30-10:30am: early learning playgroup.  Also, see website for guest speakers at the family resource center. – room parent information, monthly restaurant nights, PTO meeting minutes, etc. can be found there.

- Close

Amy Yarbrough: thank you for all of the coat and book donations.  Many families benefitted.

Mr. Melian: Smith was the 2nd most energy efficient school in the district this week.

WHPS Notifications

School Closings and Delays

snow-day-cartoonThe West Hartford School District now has the technology to notify each student’s household when there is a cancellation or delay due to inclement weather. Our recent survey to determine community interest in this program is complete. With 3,500 surveys completed, 90% of parents are in favor of this program beginning immediately.  The phone notification will be in addition to existing online, television, and radio notifications, and the phone call would be issued no later than 6:30am.  Thank you for your time and assistance in helping us improve our schools and community.

Community Meeting – Thursday November 20th

Smith’s Monthly Community Meeting is Thursday November 20th  6:30-7:30pm in Smith’s Library. 

This meeting will feature the First and Second Grade Team.  Come out to hear about all the upcoming events at Smith and get a chance to talk with our First and Second Grade Teachers.

Childcare and refreshments are available.  See you soon

The Princess and the Pea

This year’s school production of The Princess and the Pea will be this Friday November 14th!!

Our 3rd, 4th & 5th graders have been rehearsing all week for Friday’s 12:15pm & 7pm performances.

Please plan to come out Friday Night November 14th for the friends and family showing at 7pm.  The student and staff show will be Friday at 12:15pm.

BRRRR! It’s Getting Cold Outside! – Winter Coat Drive!

Winter Clothing / Book Share

Coordinated by

PTO & The Family Center

During conference week (11/11/14 – 11/14/14) families are welcome to take winter clothing items and books for their children.

In preparation of the event we are asking families to bring in old gloves, snow pants, coats, and snow/rain boots. NO HATS PLEASE!!!

Students may drop off items to their classroom teacher or parents can bring them into the office.

Collection dates: 10/27/14 – 11/7/14

Smith Night at Rita’s with Celebrity Scoopers! – Thursday October 23rd 5-8pm

October Restaurant Night


Date: Thursday, October 23rd
Time: 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Restaurant: Rita’s Italian Ice
Address: 1134 New Britain Avenue in Elmwood

Mmm…Italian Ice and Custard! Yummy!

NO FLYER NEEDED! Come on by and visit with our Celebrity Scoopers:                                     Principal Melián (5 – 6 p.m.), Mrs. Miller (6 – 7 p.m.), Mr. Hall & Mrs. Makarewicz (7 – 8 p.m.)

Smith STEM School Will Be Launching A Weather Balloon!

The Great Balloon Chase

Tuesday Oct 21, 2014
Lift Off Approx 0845 hours
Expected altitude 25,000 meters
Expected Flight Time 2.5 hours

This Just In……Smith STEM School will be sending a weather balloon up into the Earth’s stratosphere!

We have received clearance from FAA Traffic Control for a lift off at 0845 hours!

 Although there is a chance of showers in the morning, we are going to launch unless the rain is steady or heavy. After the students arrive at their classrooms and get unpacked, they will proceed to the field in Fire Drill formation by 8:40 am. (This will ensure that everyone will get a view of the balloon launch).  Families are welcome to come to view the launch and  help with the countdown.  Our students will be helping with the countdown for the launch.  The launch will occur as close to 8:45 am as we can.
The balloon is expected to fly for 2 1/2 – 3 hours covering up to 200 miles. The balloon is equipped with GPS tracking that will update the balloon’s position every 10 minutes.  The balloons progress may be viewed at the following link:

You will have to refresh this site every so often to get up to date information. You can also switch it to satellite mode for a different view. This will also be posted on the front of the school website.
The Balloon Recovery Team (Kathy Hardesty and Courtney Jacklin)  will also send Tweets during the “Great Balloon Chase” mission updating us on the progress.   Follow @HardestyQuest and @adaywithmissj to receive this information.Some Questions for the Kids to answer:
- Where do you think the balloon will land?
- What do think the pictures will look like?
- What will the clouds look like from above?
- Will it take longer to climb or fall?
- What causes the balloon to burst and fall  to earth?

This is truly a special opportunity for our children to Notice, Wonder and Explore!  Thank you again to the Foundation for West Hartford Schools for funding this grant and to all the families that support the PTO which provided the funds for the helium.


Meeting Minutes October 2014

On Thursday, October 9th we held our first Community Meeting. Catch up on our meeting minutes below. Be sure to join us at the next Community Meeting which will feature our First and Second Grade teachers!

Remember, Community Meetings are informal! Fun! Informative! This is a way for you to find out what’s happening in your child’s classroom and the community at-large. All are welcome!

Our conversation with the Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers resulted in a thorough discussion of fire and lockdown drills, ways you can help your child at home, ways you can help your child’s teacher (whether at home or in the building), among other things.

We hope to see you at the next meeting.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Community Meeting Agenda

- PTO Welcome Message & Introductions

- Kathy Hardesty: Weather balloon information and update

Last year, the 3-D printer was introduced.  This year, there will be a weather balloon project.  The balloon will launch from the Smith roof (hopefully with all students watching from the blacktop) and will carry a carbon square rod, a camera, a GPS unit, and a parachute.  It will go up about 100,000 feet to the stratosphere, where the balloon will pop, causing the rest of the apparatus to drop back down to Earth.  Students in every classroom can log in and follow the pings from the GPS unit – it sends a signal every 10 minutes.  One camera will carry video, and the other will carry still photos.  This is live science, which will be great for the students.  Grant came from West Hartford Foundation.  Target date for launch will be 10/21.  If not successful, the following Tuesdays and/or Fridays will be attempted.  Ms. Jacklin, Mrs. Smith (hopefully) and Peter Towey will be in the car that follows the GPS.

- Pre-Kindergarten & Kindergarten Conversation

Mrs. Russell and Ms. Cravedi discussed how parents can get involved and be a part of their child’s education.  The teachers are introducing their Habits of Mind.  Teachers want parents to feel involved on every level.  Research shows that kids do better in school when they know their parents are involved in their school.  That can mean cutting things out at home for a classroom project, providing supplies, attending a field trip.

Pre-k lottery is limited to 16 slots, and factors in how many males/females, how many neighborhood/magnet families apply.

Per Mr. Melian: There will be one drill per month.  Two months in a row will be exit (fire) drills; the third month will be a lockdown drill.  This pattern will repeat throughout the year.

Snacks – Teachers often purchase snacks for children who forget their snacks.  It is helpful if families are able to contribute extra healthy snacks.

- Jenny Steadman: Mini-golf tournament update

Camp Jewell funding committee is working hard.  Mini-golf tournament is this Sunday from 12-5, but if you’ve bought tickets, they are good all weekend.  They have raised $1500 so far, with the help of local sponsors and families.  The committee has pledged to raise $5000 to help reduce the cost to families for the Camp Jewell experience.  So far, this year’s families’ cost is down to $125!   Tickets are still available, and families can show up that day and purchase tickets.  Made $140 in first month of change box, so remember to drop your change as you pass by!


- Rebecca O’Neill: Fundraising round-up (KidStuff, Meadow Farms) 

KidStuff books should have been purchased or returned by now.  $1300 has been raised through this fundraiser!   Meadow Farms fundraiser came home last week and will end 10/22/14.  All money raised goes back to the school.

- Michelle Russell: Health Council

Health Advisory Committee’s first meeting is next Thursday.  Focus is on physical and emotional wellbeing of students, and is a way for all schools in district to share what’s happening in each school and learn from one another.  There are three meetings per year.  Michelle will share reports on our website.

- Open Forum 

Blood drive this Saturday, October 11 from 6:30am-11:30am at the Red Cross center in Farmington, next to UConn Health Center.  This drive is being held in honor of Amarey Brookshire, Kindergarten student at Smith.  Please donate if you are able.

Family resource center: Wednesdays 9:30-10:30am early learning playgroup.  Also, see website for guest speakers at the family resource center. – room parent information, monthly restaurant nights, PTO meeting minutes, etc. can be found there.

- Close

Mr. Melian: There was a presentation at CT Science Center about STEM-Family connection on Monday, 10/6/14.  There were five presentations from Smith.  Mr. Melian would like to organize, with help of PTO, discussion with PTO’s from other STEM schools for future presentations.  Jenny Steadman and Amy Yarbrough presented, along with Mrs. Zajack.