Post image for Red Apple Awards: The holiday gift that honors teachers and helps students

Above: Southborough students gift their teacher with a Red Apple. (photo cropped from past flyer)

Are you looking for a creative teacher gift? Instead of yet another mug or Christmas ornament, why not give Southborough teachers the resources they need to be creative and innovative. Give your child’s teacher a “Red Apple”.

Red Apples are donations made to the Southborough Education Foundation in the name of a teacher or staff member. The program is a major fundraiser for SEF which provides grants to Southborough educators. With your contribution, you’ll help support innovative educational programs for your child. A complete list of grants funded can be found on the SEF website (

One example of a recent grant made by SEF was the Story Walk at Woodward School. (That was featured in a Community Advocate article this fall.) Other investments include Snowshoes for Finn, Qball microphone to make public speaking fun for Neary students, infrared thermal imaging cameras for Trottier, and Podcast equipment for Algonquin.

SEF pitches:

Recognize a teacher or staff member and support your child’s education by purchasing a Red Apple Award. Your donation funds grants that provide our children innovative learning initiatives outside of the standard curriculum. Contributions are tax-deductible and meet the teacher gift-giving provisions of the State Ethics Commission.

Here’s how the program works. Make your donation online or by mail. Designate which teacher or staff member you want the award to go to, and they’ll receive a certificate with your child’s name on it. You decide the amount of the donation – it won’t be printed on the certificate. Your contribution can honor more than one teacher or staff member.

The last day to order a Red Apple Award for the holidays is Tuesday, December 18. Click here to donate online or open the pdf form here.

If you are an SEF supporter, you’ll also want to save the date for another fundraiser this month. On December 20th, bring in a flyer when you buy lunch or dinner from Bertucci’s in Westborough and the restaurant will kick back 25% to SEF.


Post image for BOS issue emergency agenda change to appoint interim Building Commissioner and Inspector

In my “The Week in Government” posts, I always note that there can be last minute changes. But normally readers would expect changes to occur with at least two days notice, under Open Meeting Laws. This week, there’s a last minute revision.

Yesterday, I didn’t list tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting at 6:30 pm. The agenda originally only covered a closed Executive Session. This afternoon, a revised posting added an “emergency agenda item”. The addition is to appoint Tim Htway and Neil Hall as Building Commissioner and Inspector until January 3rd.

(photo by Susan Fitzgerald)


Post image for Southborough and Algonquin students outperform state on standardized tests (MCAS and college prep)

Above: This fall, district school committees heard presentations on students’ standardized test performances. (images cropped from presentation materials)

Over the past month, Southborough and Regional School Committees heard presentations on elementary through high school standardized test results. District students averaged well above state-wide comparisons. 

In November, the School Committee discussed the MCAS results for grades 3-8. Here are my takeaways.

  • Both historical and statewide data comparisons are limited and flawed.
    • This was just the second year for the new “MCAS 2.0”.
    • Transitioning from paper to digital testing has given schools flexibility on when to change. That means some schools were still on paper, and some were testing online for the first time, while Southborough had changed to online testing for grades 3-8 a couple of years ago. This spring will be the first year that all schools across the state will be tested online.
  • Data analysis tools help administrators examine subgroup results. The schools are evaluating data for economically disadvantaged students and results by gender, etc.
  • The schools are looking to improve Student Growth Potential – but the dip in figures from 2017 to 2018 is considered statistically insignificant.
  • Teachers are able to view individual students’ results to influence teaching. But that data is limited.
    • My understanding is that there is some detailed information about the scoring and examples of what scores mean. But they can’t view students’ actual answers. For instance, they can’t read students’ essays to understand why a score was low in certain areas and follow up with that child.
    • The statehouse has promised to provide more data over time.

Below are the broad views on grades 3-8 results. For more detailed stats, click here to open the full presentation slides. (You can also view the presentation via the SAM video here.)

2018 ELA MCAS 3-8 results 2018 Math MCAS 3-8 results

Two weeks ago, the Regional Committee learned how high schoolers fared not just on MCAS, but on AP, ACT, and SAT tests. Across the board, Algonquin students ranked well above state averages. 

The non-MCAS tests are all optional ones for college bound students. So, naturally the scoring skews higher. But the school had marks to boast about.

Most test takers hit the “college readiness” benchmarks. In Advanced Placement tests, ARHS ranked in the top 5% for the state (14 out of 286). 91.2% of students scored 3+ on the test vs 69% for the state and 61.3% internationally. They also performed above state averages for SATs and ACTs.

For the required test – 10th Grade MCAS – the school again performed well:

  • For 2018, Proficient or higher results were: 97% for ELA, 90% for Math, and 91% for Science.
  • Students who scored lower are put on a plan by the Guidance Department.
    • For math – Guidance ensures the students take a fourth year. (That’s not a general graduation requirement.)
    • Some are put in focus study
    • After school opportunities, like the Algonquin Writing Center.
    • If they don’t reach the Needs Improvement score of 220, they also need to successfully retake the test before graduating.

You can click here to view the graphs and charts for all four tests. Click here to hear the discussion via NCAT’s video.


Winter Break camps: Legos and Basketball

by beth on December 11, 2018

Post image for Winter Break camps: Legos and Basketball

Above: Kids can burn some energy and master skills playing hoops or unleash their imaginations with Legos over winter break. (images cropped from flickr by Regina/acrphoto and Play-Well Teknologies on Facebook)

With an early release a week from Friday, a long Winter Break is coming up soon. For those of you concerned about keeping kids occupied, Southborough Recreation has some offerings.

The programs are half day camps that begin after Christmas, running Wednesday, December 26 – Friday, December 28. Options cover ages 5 years old through 8th grade.

Holiday Hoops Clinic

Basketball Clinic from Game Time Training FacebookInstructor: Game Time Training
Location: Trottier Middle School Gym
Age & schedule: Grades 4 -8, 9:00 am – noon (Click here for online registration)

Keep your hoops game fresh during the holiday break with Game Time Training.

Their staff of USA Youth Development Certified Coaches will spend the week focusing on ball handling, shooting and improving player’s basketball IQ. There will be surprise guest speakers, lots of scrimmaging and contests to ensure all players have FUN during the break! Please bring a bottle of water.

Winter Wonderland Using Legos

Lego gondola Play-Well Teknologies (from Facebook)Instructor: Play-Well TEKnologies
Location: Trottier Middle School Gym
Age & schedule:

  • Ages 5-7, 9:00 am – noon  (Click here for online registration)
  • Ages 8-12, 12:30 – 3:30 pm (Click here for online registration)

In this workshop we will apply engineering, architecture, creativity and fun to create a Winter Wonderland! Build motorized contraptions like snowmobiles, gondolas, or a hilltop village, slopes for LEGO skiers and sledders.

Please bring a bottle of water and a peanut free snack.


Post image for This week in sports: Boys Basketball starts strong; Borough’s Cup opens Wednesday

Above: Gonk Boys Basketball scored two wins to start their season. (image cropped from photo tweeted by @ARHSAthletics)

Algonquin’s Boys Basketball is starting the season strong. Last week, the Boys won their opening home game v Doherty and followed up with another win at Milford. Covering the opener, the Telegram wrote:

The Algonquin Regional boys’ basketball team wasted little time in validating the opinions of many who feel the team has the potential to contend for championships this winter.

It was far from perfect and far from easy, but the Tomahawks passed their first test, holding on for a 66-60 win. . .

Freshman Alex Karaban led Algonquin with 26 points, while senior captain Nick Redden finished with 17. (read more)

One of Gonk’s stars from the fall is already making her mark again this winter. Tess Reyes broke the 2 mile record at Indoor Track’s first meet of the season. Unfortunately, both the Boys and Girls teams lost the meet to Wachusett Regional.

Wrestling kicked off the season with a Quad Meet on Saturday. The Boys lost to St. John’s but bested both Weymouth and Essex Technical.

This week’s schedule features more official season openers and special competitions, including the Borough’s Cup for Boys Hockey.

Here are the ARHS varsity games on tap for the week. 

(To find a complete schedule of Algonquin sports, including JV, freshmen, and unified match ups, click here. Follow these links for the Assabet sports schedule and the St. Mark’s sports schedule.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

  • 6:00 pm – ARHS Boys Swimming/Diving vs. Nashoba Regional High School @ Atkinson Pool
  • 7:00 pm – ARHS Girls Basketball vs. Holy Name Central Catholic @ Algonquin
  • 8:00 pm – ARHS Girls Ice Hockey vs. Oakmont Regional @ Cushing Academy

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

  • 4:00 pm – ARHS Girls Indoor Track vs. Shrewsbury High School @ Shrewsbury
  • 4:00 pm – ARHS Boys Indoor Track vs. Shrewsbury High School @ Shrewsbury
  • 6:30 pm – ARHS Wrestling vs. Marlborough High School @ Algonquin
  • 8:00 pm – ARHS Boys Ice Hockey Borough`s Cup vs. Marlborough High School @ North Star Ice Sports, Westborough

[click to keep reading…]


Post image for Library closed through weekend; Update on Children’s Room

Above: The Children’s Room is starting to shape up. But paint fumes mean temporary closure of the entire building this week as the downstairs paint job gets finished. (contributed image)

The Southborough Library is being forced to somewhat suddenly close its doors for several days again. But there’s a little more notice than the mid-morning closing in September and a silver lining.

Progress has been made on repairs to the flooded downstairs section. Workers began painting recently. The yellow walls look cheerful, but the smell hasn’t been great for Library goer spirits.

The fumes proved to be too much for visitors. (I’m sure it was pretty unpleasant for staff, as well.) Now the decision has been made to close the building for further painting to resume tomorrow.

The Library announced:

In order to ensure that the Southborough Library provides a safe and healthful environment for its staff and patrons, the Library will be closed from Tuesday, December 11th through Saturday, December 15th during the painting and flooring phase of the reconstruction of our lower level.

We regret any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you for your understanding and look forward to resuming services at our normal hours of operation on Monday, December 17th.

Unfortunately, it will still be some time before the Children’s Room can reopen. New shelving on order is expected to arrive in January. Once shelving is installed, the books will need to be pulled out of storage and reshelved.

Management expects the room to be ready to open this winter. But that may not be until late January or early February. I’ll let you know when the timing is more certain.

As for this week’s programming – weekly story-time programs are cancelled for this week. Special programs have been rescheduled:

  • The Tuesday night Poetry Workshop will move to December 18th
  • The Cook Book Club has one more week to cook – That will be on December 19th.
  • The Poetry Writing Seminar – “The Eye” – has been rescheduled for Saturday, January 19th.
  • The Library is adding a previously unscheduled Thursday morning Toddler Time to next week’s programs. 


The week in government: Advisory on budgets; Recreation; Personnel Board; and School Committee (Updated)

December 10, 2018 02:25:15 PM
Thumbnail image for The week in government: Advisory on budgets; Recreation; Personnel Board; and School Committee (Updated)

A list of board and committee meetings for the week with my selected highlights from the agendas.

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Events this week: Holiday Concerts, Student Concerts, Hiking, and more (Updated)

December 10, 2018 11:00:23 AM
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Here are some highlights of events in and around Southborough this week.

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Why flags are at half staff: December 9, 2018

December 10, 2018 09:49:51 AM
Thumbnail image for Why flags are at half staff: December 9, 2018

Yesterday, the Governor’s office announced that lowered flags across the state, already at half staff, would concurrently honor Worcester Firefighter Christopher Roy.

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Interboro Community Band Winter Concert – Sunday

December 10, 2018 07:24:18 AM
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The Interboro Community Band will hold its winter concert this week. The program includes works from the concert band repertoire as well as a number of holiday season favorites.

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Kindergarten registration packets to arrive in January

December 7, 2018 11:05:04 AM
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2019-20 kindergarten registration will take place at Finn School in January.

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Public Safety Building Update: Cruiser canopy approved for 19 spaces; November report

December 7, 2018 09:46:43 AM
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It’s time for another update on the Public Safety Building project.

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Obituary: George L. Burnet, Jr., 66

December 6, 2018 04:00:47 PM

George L. Burnet, Jr., 66, of North Hampton, died Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at Hyder Family Hospice House in Dover after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

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On the market this week in Southborough

December 6, 2018 02:05:33 PM
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What went on and off the market this week.

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