The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of December 12 to December 19, 2019

Strong Community Collaboration Sets a New Course for the Winchendon Public Schools

Strategic Planning facilitator
Facilitator, Dr. Lindsey Gunn, in action
On December 4, 5 and 6, 2019, something new and different happened here in Winchendon. Twenty five diverse members of our community--students, teachers, the Town Manager and Superintendent of Schools, parents, school administrators, a member of the Board of Selectmen, a trustee from the Murdock and Robinson-Broadhurst Trusts, a retiree--extracted themselves from two-plus feet of fresh snow to gather at Town Hall. They were there to launch a strategic planning process for the Winchendon Public Schools. Long-time Winchendon residents and WPS staff remarked that in their memory, there has never been a cross-community conversation of this kind about the future of the schools and town.

While the term “strategic planning” may sound pretty mundane, this process is not. Guided by Dr. Lindsey Gunn, an experienced and skilled facilitator from The Cambrian Group, the people who came together last week found themselves deeply engaged.

Tina Santos, a middle school parent, wrote that “I have enjoyed working with all the staff and community members in these sessions and am very excited to see the end results being implemented.” Shirley Houdin, a retiree, appreciated the “incredible variety of new knowledge” and the “refreshing agenda.” One effusive WPS teacher said that “collaborating with the larger community of Winchendon has been invigorating and has infused me with new hope for the future of our district!”

A teacher new to the high school had similar feelings: “I’m so hopeful for the future of this district. This is one of the most dedicated groups of people I have ever worked with.” One of our paraprofessionals expressed thankfulness for having been invited. “I enjoyed myself...I felt pride to be able to work with administrators, teachers and community members.”

On the first day, the group wrestled with fundamental beliefs and values, and grounded in that discussion, began a discussion about the mission of our public school system which continued right through the third day. On the second day, participants talked--often passionately---about the strengths and weaknesses of the Winchendon community and schools, and then considered those ideas in the broader context of social, economic and technological forces impacting the town and the schools. As one parent remarked, “by getting to the root of our challenges, we were able to find a way forwards--and that was very powerful.”

We talked about critical threats to the schools and, conversely, about inspiring possibilities for the future. Riley Kimball, a junior at Murdock High reflected that “being able to experience this strategic planning has really shown me a lot about what we as a town need to do to change the path we have--and will continue to go on--unless we change something together!” By the end of Day Two, the group began articulating strategic objectives, which Gunn describes as “bold resolutions dedicating the organization’s resources and energies...” to achieving “results that exceed our present capabilities.” Day Three began what will be ongoing discussion and debate about how the schools and community can realize the visionary objectives--naming strategies, and ‘parameters’ for the work ahead.

Setting a strategic direction for the schools is a community-wide undertaking, with vital implications for the future of our town’s young people, families, economy, civic and cultural spirit. Participants in last week’s process hope you will take a few minutes to read through the elements of the Strategic Plan draft that were completed by the close of Day 3--see that here: (PDF).

Strategic Planning
District and community leaders, as well as students, collaborating on our strategic plan...
Strategic Planning
The leaders of our teachers’ and paraprofessionals’ unions are among those listening closely to the reflections of high school student Hannah Demanche

Jessica Vezina, Middle School Principal, reflects that “I feel encouraged by this process and confident in the direction we are moving.” We hope you agree, and also hope what you read will inspire you to get involved in the next phase of the planning process! “I want to thank the Winchendon community members who participated so reflectively as we launched our strategic planning work,” exclaims Superintendent Landers. “Broader community participation will be essential in the coming months, as the district convenes working groups to create plans to carry out our bold strategies and reach for our ambitious objectives.”

DESE Tiered Focused Monitoring Review at Monty Tech

During the week of January 20th, 2020, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Office of Public School Monitoring (PSM) will conduct a Tiered Focused Monitoring Review of Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School. The Office of Public School Monitoring visits each district and charter school every three years to monitor compliance with federal and state special education and civil rights regulations. Areas of review related to special education include student assessments, determination of eligibility, the Individualized Education Program (IEP) Team process, and IEP development and implementation. Areas of review related to civil rights include bullying, student discipline, physical restraint, and equal access to school programs for all students.

In addition to the onsite visit, parent outreach is an important part of the review process. The review chairperson from the Office of Public School Monitoring will send all parents of students with disabilities an online survey that focuses on key areas of their child’s special education program. Survey results will contribute to the development of a report. During the onsite review, the Office of Public School Monitoring will interview the chairperson(s) of the district’s Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC). Other onsite activities may include interviews of district staff and administrators, reviews of student records, and onsite observations.

Parents and other individuals may call Michelle Hennessy-Kowalchek Public School Monitoring Chairperson, at (781) 338- 3704 to request a telephone interview. If an individual requires an accommodation, such as translation, to participate in an interview, the Department will make the necessary arrangements.

Within approximately 60 business days after the onsite visit, the review chairperson will provide the (district or charter school) with a report with information about areas in which the (district or charter school) meets or exceeds regulatory requirements and areas in which the (district or charter school) requires assistance to correct or improve practices. The public will be able to access the report at

Sizer/NCCES Alumni Day wants YOU!

Sizer School, or as some alumni may remember it, North Central Charter Essential School (NCCES) is about to hold their annual Alumni Day celebration and Sizer is looking for YOU!

Whether you attending Sizer for one year, or attended as a eager 7th grader until you were a successful senior, Sizer wants to hear from you! Sizer School will be holding their Alumni Day on Friday, Dec. 20, from 8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. at Sizer School, 500 Rindge Rd. in Fitchburg, MA.

Alumni are to arrive at the school between 8:05 and 8:30 a.m. with coffee and socializing from 8:15 - 8:45 a.m. Alumni panels will meet with grade levels and advisories from 9 - 10:30 a.m. and from 12 - 1 p.m.

“That’s where you come in: We want you to come back to Sizer not just because we miss you and want to find out what has been going on in your life since graduation – although we really, really do – but also because we want you to share your experiences with current Sizer scholars,” said Ann Calcaterra, Librarian, Advisor and Alumni Day Coordinator.

Sizer would like interested alumni to RSVP by December 16. With each RSVP, please complete the following questions: Are you willing to participate in a panel on Alumni Day? What year did you graduate/leave Sizer? What did you do after your graduation? If college, which school did you attend (did you graduate)? If you went into the workforce after high school graduation, what kind of work have you doing? Did you join AmeriCorps or the military? What experience or information would you most like to share with current students? What experiences are you able to address?

“Our seniors in particular have some topics they are very interested in asking about (college choice, student debt, gap years, workforce experience, military, being an RA, going far from home, specific majors, etc.),” said Calcaterra.

As an Alumni Day guest, you will also be invited to record a 3-minute Memory Video with Communication & Recruitment Coordinator Lindsay Sauvageau.

“We want your stories about adventures with the Outing Club, Bertoni Crack-up Points, Police the Room or Potter’s Puppet Pals, Camp School, Hotel School, Drama festival, senior pranks, Senior Project, convincing Dudley you were on the way to his physics conference in get the idea!” said Calcaterra.

Lunch will also be served and all alumni guests are invited to attend Sizer’s Community Meeting from 1:45 - 2:45 p.m.

To RSVP for Alumni Day, or if you have questions/comments, contact Ann Calcaterra ( by December 16th.

Sizer School, a North Central Charter Essential School, is a free public charter school located at 500 Rindge Road in Fitchburg To find out more, visit Applications are still being accepted, until December 31st for students in 7th and 9th grade for the 2019-2020 school year. Applications are also being accepted for the 2020-2021 school year. Visit to apply today.

Sizer Alumni
On Alumni Day, past Sizer students share their experiences and give hope, guidance and encouragement to current students!

Sizer Elves to help local families this holiday season
Community supporters boost Sizer services

Sometimes a holiday wish is more than a new bike or a cell phone upgrade. Sometimes a holiday wish can be food on the table, or a jacket that fits.

At Sizer School, a North Central Charter Essential School, the Sizer Elves is a longstanding tradition that has evolved over the years in response to both the needs within the Sizer community and the generosity of Sizer’s many outside supporters.

“Last year, we were able to sponsor gifts for over 50 students and siblings,” said Jenna Lavery Quigley, Sizer School Food Pantry representative and Sizer Elves Coordinator. “We try to help as many families as we can.”

Sizer School serves as many as 400 students a year from 25 local communities including Ashburnham, Westminster, Clinton, Fitchburg, Gardner, Leominster, Lunenburg, Bolton, Stow, Lancaster, Pepperell, Ashby, Townsend, Holden, Paxton, Princeton, Rutland and Sterling. Based on its mission to know each student personally, Sizer also works hard to fill the needs of each student not only in the classroom, but also at home.

“A student isn’t going to come up to you and say, ‘I don’t have a winter coat because my family can’t afford it’ or ‘I can’t wait for lunch because we didn’t have enough food for dinner last night.’ What you see instead is a brave face who ‘isn’t bothered by the cold’ or ‘doesn’t like coats’ or you see a student pocketing his or her daily snack for later,” said Communication & Recruitment Coordinator Lindsay Sauvageau. “This is why we have a food pantry and programs like the Sizer Elves. Because a student that is focused on trying to meet basic personal needs is not always capable of focusing on academic needs. So as a school, we want to support both.”

A list of families in need is created throughout the year by referral and through sign ups. Their needs are then transferred to gift tags hung in the Main Office of the school. Anyone wishing to participate as an Elf, takes a tag and purchases what they can for these students and/or families. All family and student information is kept strictly confidential and not given out to the community.

“If community members would like to participate as donors, they can pick a tag from the window in the main office, or email me or Lyndsie Currallo [High School Counselor] directly,” said Quigley. “If Sizer families want to sign up to receive a gift, they should email/call us directly also.”

All tags need to be signed out in the main office, and all gifts should be returned to the school (wrapped or unwrapped) no later than December 18th.

Recently the Sizer Elves and Sizer Food pantry have received the support of local organizations, individuals and businesses. SJ Markham and Sons Insurance Company in Fitchburg most recently donated $500 to Sizer for these programs and have also earmarked Sizer as a recipient of their annual food drive running now through December 18th.

“Markham and Sons has been in business in Fitchburg for 100 years and are active community supporters all year long,” said Sauvageau. “Their donations will go a long way in supporting our students.”

A second business,, has offered to donate and deliver free Christmas trees to Sizer families. is an app-driven moving company that offers a variety of moving services including heavy lifting and delivery.

In addition, Rachel Saball, a member of the extended Sizer family is a North Middlesex High School student who learned about the Sizer Food Pantry when her brother attended Sizer.

“She ran a [food] drive for us – completely on her own – for the past three years! Her current drive is running now through December13th at Ashby Elementary, Children's Garden, and Varnum Brook School,” said Quigley. “It's just really amazing that she does this!”

To participate in the Sizer Elves program or to make a donation to the program and Food Pantry, contact Lyndsie Currallo,; (978) 345- 2701, ext. 421 or Jenna Lavery Quigley,; (978) 345-2701 x425.

Sizer School, a North Central Charter Essential School, is a free public charter school located at 500 Rindge Road in Fitchburg To find out more, visit Applications are still being accepted, until December 31st for students in 7th and 9th grade for the 2019-2020 school year. Applications are also being accepted for the 2020-2021 school year. Visit to apply today.

Sizer Elves
(L-R), two of Sizer’s own happy elves Jenna Lavery Quigley, Sizer School Adjustment Counselor, and Lyndsie Currallo, High School Counselor, begin decorating the main office for the Sizer Elves project.