Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Continued focus on safety at Hazen Union through the end of the school year

Hazen Union students and staff focus on learning and finishing out the school year, even with increased security measures following an anonymous online threat Sunday, June 12th. The threat occurred through the "After School" social media app, which prompted extra safety precautions this week.

For the second time, students were met by staff at the front doors of Hazen Union for a bag search. Again, nothing was found. Students were respectful and helpful during this process. School administrators continue to collaborate with the Hardwick Police as part of an ongoing investigation.

Parents/guardians received a call on Monday morning to inform them of the threat and that the school would be taking precautions to ensure student and staff safety. A follow up call was sent to Hazen parents/guardians Monday afternoon with the plan for the remainder of the year. Information about the situation and the ongoing investigation was sent to local news channels Monday afternoon to help keep the broader community informed in addition to posting on the school’s website and social media and OSSU’s website.

General updates about the school will be sent out on the school’s social media accounts Tuesday and Wednesday. Links to these sites are below. At this time, all scheduled events, including field trips and activities, will continue as planned. As a general precaution, there will be increased supervision and increased police presence for the remainder of the school year.

Hazen Union on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HUSVT
Hazen Union on Twitter: https://twitter.com/hazenunion

Read the full update provided by Superitnendent LeBlanc and Hazen Union Administrators on June 13th: http://tinyurl.com/z22lv5k

Read a May blog post by Hazen Administrators on the potential dangers of social media apps like After School, as well as conversation starters for parents and students on the topic of safety while using social media: http://hazenleadership.blogspot.com/2016/05/open-letter-to-parents-regarding-mobile.html

Social Media and Security

A few weeks ago, the “Afterschool” app gained popularity at Hazen Union School in Hardwick, VT. The app, through Facebook,  allows users to post anonymously to a group without being traced back to the user’s identity. The app’s website states that the intention is “a place for teens who want to be themselves, make new connections, and participate in positive activities - both online and offline.” I could not disagree more with this statement. The group that has been created through this app labeled “Hazen Uhsd #26” is filled with such foul vocabulary that is meant to intimidate, humiliate, and ridicule. Through this app, not only have students been bullied and harassed, but faculty and staff have been targeted as well. A large majority of our students are extremely upset and feel like it is out of control. As a school leader, I have felt helpless since there is very little we can do to support our students other than trying to be proactive through our lines of communication with stakeholders due to the anonymity of the app. That doesn’t feel very helpful when you have students in offices crying about something that has been posted about them and we can not respond with anything other than the trivial “sorry” and “if you get any specific information, please let us know.” This includes the recent anonymous threat that was posted and led to our heightened security. I would like to thank students and staff for responding in a very positive manner over the last few days. I would also like to thank Hardwick Police for the collaboration in making school safe and the current investigation that is under way.

Over the last few days we have been asking students ideas about the "Afterschool" App in a survey. Here is what students are feeling:

I would like people on the Afterschool App group "Hazen Uhsd #26" to stop posting negative things(116 responses)
TrueFalse11.2%88.8%
True103
False13

The message is clear. It is very unsettling to think that an app like this would be created and supported by the social media industry. Schools already have the overwhelming task of responding to issues that are outside of the school walls. It takes a community effort to focus on society values and it is getting harder and harder to understand what those values are with the amount of negativity that takes place on social media.

Schools and school leaders need to consider ways in which they can teach students about how social media can foster their growth and development. This includes inside and out of the school walls and it must include a variety of stakeholders: parents, community members, and state social service agencies. Essentially, we need to teach civil discourse to promote values that reflect a positive and all embracing community.

Have a safe and happy summer.

Regards,

Dr. Michael D. Moriarty
Principal
Hazen Union School

Monday, June 13, 2016

Collaborative Investigation and Continued Focus on Safety at Hazen Union After Anonymous Threat


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union
Hardwick, VT  
June 13, 2016

Collaborative Investigation and Continued Focus on Safety at Hazen Union After Anonymous Threat

Hazen Union Administrators, Superintendent LeBlanc, and Hardwick Police focus on student and staff safety while investigating an anonymous online threat.

Coordination and planning began Sunday afternoon after Hazen Union Administrators learned of an anonymous threat made through the “After School” social media app. A few Hazen students reported the post to Principal Michael Moriarty, which led to a series of proactive steps to secure the building Monday morning.

“Thanks to the Hardwick Police and through the cooperation of students and staff, Monday morning went smoothly. In an effort to ensure safety, all student bags were searched at the door. Nothing was found. An officer and police dog were present on school grounds today. The Hardwick Police will continue to work collaboratively with us on this investigation,” reported Superintendent Joanne LeBlanc.

Principal Michael Moriarty sent a phone message to parents and guardians at approximately 3:30 PM Monday confirming classes will be in session through Wednesday, the last school day of the year. In addition, all planned activities, field trips, and events will continue as planned. His message stated, “Every precaution will be made to ensure safety. We take all threats seriously and care about the safety and well being of everyone. Please take time to speak with your children about the impact social media has on our community.”

The message also stated that the building will remain locked and bag searches of every student entering the building will continue Tuesday and Wednesday morning. There will be increased supervision and increased police presence for the remainder of the school year.

Hazen Union staff attempted to contact the company that created the app in search of any information that might help identify the source of the threat, which can be difficult given the app is designed to allow anonymous posting. Detective Kevin Lehoe from the Hardwick Police Department spent several hours at Hazen on Monday as part of a collaborative, ongoing investigation. During a phone interview, Detective Lehoe stated, “The Hardwick Police Department will continue to maintain a presence at Hazen Union to assure students and faculty of their safety. This is an ongoing investigation, and we are unable to divulge detailed information at this time. We are in contact with the internet providers associated with this threat.”

Any information that may help the investigation should be sent to the Hardwick Police Department and Hazen Union. Questions related to Hazen Union’s schedule or activities through Wednesday, June 15th, should be directed to the Hazen Union main office at (802) 472-6511.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Blended Learning

Learn about the online and blended learning happening at Hazen in this week's Guest Post from our tech integrationist Jen Burton:

Blended and online learning are becoming more and more commonplace in K-12 education. Blended learning differs from online learning in that blended learning has an in-person, face-to-face component, while online learning does not. This does not mean students don’t interact with their teachers in strictly online learning environments; students may be required to participate in live, online interactive sessions with their teacher and other students. The variety of ways students and teachers interact online is continually evolving, allowing for increased access to high-quality teachers, customization to fit student needs, and flexibility. Many students take advantage of online classes to recover credits, take advanced and honors classes, or simply to get ahead.

Online learning allows for the elimination of artificial schedules, assignments that don’t fit the students’ needs, and segregation by age, race, class, culture, and disability. In addition, it can help overcome geographic and demographic limitations. When learning is public and shared, peers learn from each other and support reciprocal growth. Students are allowed to become teachers and learners at the same time, with the quality of work benefitting from the extra time, collaboration, and expertise. 

This year, Hazen began offering all seventh graders the opportunity to take an Introduction to Online Learning class. This class introduces students to the concept of online learning and teaches them the skills required to be successful in an online class. We want our students to be prepared for the variety of learning experiences they will encounter as they pursue their education at high school, college, technical centers, continuing education, and beyond. This class gives students the opportunity to experience what it’s like to take an online class and helps them determine if it suits their learning style and is or isn’t a suitable option for them

Below are two students reflections on the class, offering two different perspectives. 

     What I know now, that I did not know before this class is;I know how to use multiple different online learning systems, and I know how to access them. I also now have a greater knowledge about online learning, and I have learned how important online learning is, and how it is a good option for me.
    The most important thing that I have learned in this class is online etiquette. I have learned how to be kind, polite, and helpful online. I have learned not to be rude to other students, and how to stay calm, and what to do in certain situations. I now have a kind mindset when I go online.
     I think that online learning is a good option for me, because it is convenient, and it is flexible. Online learning allows me to log on and “go to class” when I can. It allows me to have available time slots in my day, because I don’t have to be at a class, or at school at a certain time.
     The activity log’s importance/role is to show the teacher/student when the student had logged on, and what they had gotten done that day. It shows what the students progress was. The activity can tell the teacher, if the student has been logging on regularly, and if they are getting their work done.
     After looking at the course catalog, I think that I will consider taking an online English class. I also believe that I will take a pre-algebra class. I enjoy math and english and I believe that if I take an online class, than it can expand my knowledge about my favorite subjects.


__________________________________________________________________________

     I think that Online learning is not really for me however that does not mean I am unable to take online courses. From questionnaires to assignments, I have proved to be very capable in taking online courses but It does not seem like my thing. I would much rather prefer to go to classrooms to learn thing I need to.
   This class has given me a better understanding of how online courses work even though it may have not been for me. I have learnt the basics and what the concept of these courses are. From LMS' to the seven C's of communication, This class has helped me understand online courses much better.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Open Letter to Parents Regarding Mobile Device Applications & Cyberbullying

We’ve learned of a recent increase in Hazen students using the “After School” app, a social networking program targeting middle and high school students. While no specific incidents have been reported, Hazen Administrators, along with schools around the country, have found that this network has the potential to easily become a platform for bullying and harassment since students can post anonymously.

The After School app is just one of many apps gaining popularity with youth.  Other apps that allow anonymous or limited view posting include Whisper, Yik Yak, and Snapchat, just to name a few.

All social networking sites have the potential for unsafe behavior, harassment and cyberbullying. We ask that students and parents learn about the potential dangers of these apps by visiting the following links and engaging in meaningful conversations about staying safe on the internet since it is becoming part of our everyday lives:


We have taken steps to limit the potential of cyberbullying at Hazen by blocking After School and other apps on the network, but it is not possible to monitor usage on mobile devices not using the network. Restrictions and monitoring are not enough. We all play a critical role in promoting safe and responsible internet use. Here are other things happening within our school that we encourage parents to discuss with their children: 
  • Students complete modules on Digital Citizenship before given devices to use and take home
  • Inappropriate sites and apps are blocked on our network & school devices being used off site
Here are some more helpful conversation starters for students and parents:
  • Its best not to share personal information even with "friends" online. This includes real name, address, phone number, financial information, school name, passwords, or other private information.
  • Post only what you would feel comfortable with the whole world seeing, including parents or college admissions personnel, even it the app promises to keep things private.
  • Never use the Internet to spread gossip, bully or hurt someone’s reputation.
  • While school staff and parents can set expectations, provide guidance and support, students are ultimately responsible for their online experience and should manage it the way they would in the real world.
  • If something or someone online makes a student feel uncomfortable, he or she has the right to not respond, delete a post, and most importantly tell a trusted adult.

Monday, May 16, 2016

I-Search!

Learn about what our 11th grade English Language Arts students are doing to finish the year.  Special thanks to Kyle Behrsing for composing this guest post:

As Hazen moves toward implementing Proficiency Based Learning and personalized learning plans for all students, teachers are finding ways to engage students in materials and projects that stir their interest. Kelly Robinson, Matt Dickstein, and I designed our end-of-the-year project for our Junior English Language Arts classes with those goals in mind.

We took an older project called “I-Search” and adapted it to reflect modern technology use and themes from our classes. We also aligned the expectations of the project to the proficiencies for our classes, while creating scales for the students to assess their learning. With the technical work out of the way, we were able to present our students an extensive research project that they could gear around their personal interests.

Students formulated questions about a topic of their interest that related to a book’s theme or content we had analyzed over the course of the year. They started a research process for which they generated questions as a starting point to their discovery. Students designed blogs where they are documenting their learning and process in a narrative style while exploring a variety of types of sources to find as much information about their topic as they can. In the upcoming weeks, they will construct a final paper with their blog narratives and will present their findings to a panel of adults. Some of these adults, including other teachers, administrators, and Hazen Board members, have already spent time visiting the students’ blogs, asking questions and providing feedback on their process, their findings, and their writing. It is an ambitious project, and the involvement of a public audience beyond the classroom reinforces our commitment to quality as recognized in the wider world beyond school, while the openness to student choice ensures relevance.

Our students have found this task to be daunting but rewarding, difficult yet engaging and it is helping them to develop, among other things, the pride that comes from perseverance. It is challenging to be held accountable to for meeting proficiencies and to sink into and maintain focus on a sustained research project. We think our students’ discovery of a new subject area and their reflections on their research process will give them confidence and help to make them college and career ready.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Mindset in the Classroom

Here at Hazen, we have been discussing the concept of growth vs. fixed mindsets. Recently, Kelly Robinson’s 12th grade English class has been engaged in a unit that addresses this concept through examining the themes  of perception and reality; breaking negative thought, feeling, and behavior patterns; and living intentional, awakened lives.

Seniors in Kelly’s class are reading the novel, Blind Your Ponies, whose main character is Sam Pickett, an English teacher who also coaches the boy's basketball team that has suffered 93 consecutive losses over several years. The novel opens with Sam sitting in his classroom putting finishing touches on a lesson plan on the play Man of La Mancha: “Introduce theme: the problem of appearance and reality.” This is the same major theme addressed in Blind Your Ponies.

After watching the movie version of the play over February break and jotting down some ideas for how to bring it to life and make it relevant to seniors and to Blind Your Ponies, she saw a post on Facebook from her friend, Steve Taubman, that said, "A little Man of La Mancha anyone?" with a quote from the play. She immediately contacted him, told him what she wanted to do, and they set to planning.

Below is a link to Steve Taubman, whose mission is to inspire others to live awakened lives.


Steve had students engage in physical activities that helped them grasp why visualization is important to reaching goals that students sometimes believe they can’t reach. To underscore the theme of perception and reality, he performed magic tricks throughout the lesson.

Here are words from the exit tickets of some of Kelly’s seniors:

"The lines from the play make sense now. 'To bear with unbearable sorrow.' Suffering might be part of my process but I don't have to live a life of suffering."

"It was really powerful to understand that the good qualities I see in the characters in the book are qualities that I either already have but maybe don't realize it or are qualities I aspire to have."

"I thought that overall the biggest thing that stuck out in my mind is that once you truly know what you want to do, life starts giving you opportunities."

"Today's lesson will help me look at my life in an honest way and evaluate if I am where I want to be; if not, how can I change what I'm doing or how I'm thinking?"

"You are only limited to what you believe you are limited to."

"What will be useful going forward in my life is to remember that a lot of things can be controlled or changed by my mindset."

"Be more positive and set no limit to yourself and you can accomplish things beyond what you've dreamed."