Way to go Fit Girls Run Club!

Over 400 runners gathered on Sunday, November 16 for the Fit Girls Full Hearts 5K, an event partially funded by Friends of the Marblehead Public Schools (FMPS). The Fit Girls was founded four years ago at Village School as a running and positive self-esteem group, and a key part of the program is training for and running a 5K, explained one of the Fit Girls coaches, Village School guidance counselor Mandy Murphy. The club participated in community races in years past, but “we thought organizing our own race would be a great opportunity for us to accomplish a few goals:  to have an in-town event for the program, to raise much-needed funds to continue to enhance and build the Fit Girls program without raising fees, and to increase the community awareness about the program,” said Murphy. Last spring, the Fit Girls Run Club applied for and were awarded a grant to hold their own 5K.


​“The race far exceeded our expectations,” said Murphy. “The feedback we got from the girls was incredibly rewarding for us to hear.  While many were excited about finishing the race for the first time or completing the 5k in their fastest time, most of the feedback was focused on how they valued the amazing support of their families, friends, volunteers, and community members who were out cheering along the course. They were also proud that the race gave us the opportunity to give back to the community through the donations for the Marblehead Food Pantry.”


The positive energy of the Fit Girls Run Club made the event more than a race: it was a community-bonding event as well. “The atmosphere was so positive and supportive,” said Murphy. “We expected to see family members join in, but not to the extent that we did. The turnout of teachers and school staff was exceptional, and the race was well supported from the local running community at large whose feedback was upbeat and thoughtful.  Many people who just came to run the race ended up running along side some of the Fit Girls to encourage them as they ran. The overall feeling of the event was definitely more about achieving goals and collaborative effort than winning.”

Murphy and the other Fit Girls coaches are grateful to FMPS for the grant. “The funds we received from the FMPS grant helped defray the upfront costs of organizing a race. They allowed us to provide scholarships and also pay for necessary expenses like insurance, supplies and registration costs without increasing the fees for participants. We are beyond excited to be able to hold this race annually and be self-sustaining because of the support FMPS gave to us.”


article by Michelle Abrams

Native American Storyteller James Bruchac Inspires Glover School Students

As Glover students listened raptly to Native American storyteller James Bruchac, he explained how hearing stories can lead them to do their own creating and exploring. “Many of the stories I’ll tell you today are stories that really inspired me and made me want to write and share,” said Bruchac. “They also inspired me to want to go into the woods and learn about those same animals that are in the stories. And whether the story is true or not, if it has true lessons, that’s what matters.”


He went on to enthrall the students with animal lesson stories and pourquoi, or “why” stories like How Chipmunk Got His Stripes. Bruchac also wove science into the presentation by sharing plaster casts of animal tracks and the “real stories” of animals in the forest. The last time Bruchac visited Glover, his visit consisted of only an hour-long assembly. But thanks to a Friends of the Marblehead Public Schools (FMPS) grant, this year the creativity continued to flow: following the assembly, Bruchac led two days of writing workshops in the second and third grade classrooms, and students created their own legends.

Kira Kay, Glover Enrichment Committee Chair, explained, “We’ve enjoyed having James Bruchac here before, but the Enrichment Committee wanted to expand the program to carry the lessons learned into the classroom. We approached the principal and teachers to be sure that the story-writing workshop supported the curriculum, and we applied for and received a grant from FMPS. We’re so grateful to FMPS and the community donors for the grant. We’ve heard so many stories from these presenters about how an artist or storyteller inspired them when they were young: you just light a fire, and it’s going to spark creativity.”


Bruchac, the author of dozens of books including How Chipmunk Got His Stripes, The Girl Who Helped Thunder and a collection of guides to identify animal tracks and signs, has shared his storytelling magic across the country.  He agrees that the progression from a storytelling presentation to a two-day writing workshop is the perfect opportunity for capturing the students’ enthusiasm and using it to fuel their own creativity. “The stories are powerful: the kids take inspiration from Native American culture, the language of legends, and the natural world. Now they’ll use this inspiration to create their own legends combing writing, visual arts, and better cultural understanding.”


“James Bruchac has been a staple of Glover School enrichment for the last several years.  He is an expert storyteller and has a good rapport with students.  He engages students as audience members and encourages them to think like authors,” explained Glover second grade teacher Maggie Doben.  “This year, the two-day residency was a bonus because children were able to understand more about the story-making process and  participate in group writing activities. The second graders felt proud of their work and enjoyed taking home copies of their pourquoi stories.  Later in the year, second grade will study pourquoi and this will have set the stage for that component of our curriculum.”

Read the wonderful story written by the 2nd graders!

FMPS article written by Michelle Abrams

Friends of the Marblehead Public Schools Announces Fall Drive, New Board

The Friends of the Marblehead Public Schools will be reaching out to all Marblehead residents this fall for its annual fundraising “Friends Drive.” Each year, donations to the FMPS’ annual Friends Drive in the fall and to the organization’s Summer Soiree in the late spring establish the core budget for grant funding annually.

Over its 23-year history, FMPS has contributed more than $1.3 million to all of the Marblehead public schools to all core subject areas: math, sciences, technology, arts, community-building activities and professional development for teachers.

2013drive“Please look out for the FMPS Friends Drive pamphlet coming out in October in your mailbox and in the backpacks of kindergarten-to-third-grade students,” FMPS President Lillie Lombardi said. “We have redesigned the drive again this year to bring continued awareness of the FMPS organization, and any donation of any size is greatly appreciated. It’s a terrific opportunity as a resident to help FMPS with the continued efforts to fund innovative grants that will impact the education of our students and professional development for our teachers in Marblehead.”

Lombardi will serve again as president and Molly Bushman as vice president. Linda Maude will return as treasurer, and Tracy Orloff will return as clerk on the organization’s board officers. New to the FMPS board are Ann Mizner-McKay and Mandy Murphy. The full board includes Michelle Abrams, Peter Brennan, Tish Burke, Anson Clough, Connie Cooney, Stephanie Curran, Maura Dartley-Rocco, Patrice Fox, Linda Guy, Stephen Kauffman, Brett McCarty, Annemarie Rockwell, Lindsay Ryan, Peter Schalck, Meryl Thompson, Nancy Thorne and Laura Tyrrell.

FMPS funds groundbreaking initiatives outside of the school budget. Often, these projects become ongoing parts of the curriculum that students point to as their most memorable, the organization noted. FMPS is a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) organization and does not fund building repairs and maintenance, staff salaries or operating costs.


FMPS Celebrates Arts Grants

The Friends of the Marblehead Public Schools is kicking off the 2014-15 school year boosted by last year’s success: Thanks to the community’s generosity, FMPS funded over $150,000 worth of grants, including a $50,000 grant to create a wireless network at Marblehead High School. Last spring, FMPS announced an exciting mix of new grants that will benefit every school and child in the Marblehead public school system. They include grants for education enrichment in areas including world languages, fine arts, special education and physical education as well as teacher training.

Arts grants enrich student learning in the creative arts and performing arts, as well as in core subjects such as English. Ongoing programs funded by FMPS include the MHS Visiting Artists Program, the Marblehead Charter School’s Mighty Ukulele Club and Graphic Novel Day at MVMS. This year’s arts grants include new keyboards for Village School music classes and new chairs for Village band and orchestra students. The Visiting Speaker Series, organized by MHS art teacher Karen Lehman, brings in local professionals in the arts who can inspire like-minded students and open their eyes to career opportunities.


“There’s so much talent here in town, and for these successful people to come in and say, ‘This is the path I took; this is what I did,’ is very inspiring to the students,” Lehman explained. Renowned photographer Rick Ashley, who was also the creator of the first AIDS public-service announcement in 1988, and award-winning advertising professional and college professor Jim Fitts were the special guests for one of the sessions.


The Mighty Ukulele Club, funded in 2013, was started by former MCCPS student Matt Pert and is now run by band director T.J. Gansenberg.

“The ukulele is perceived by the kids as a cool instrument, and it’s also the right size,” explained Pert. “And a lot of kids end up graduating from the ukulele to the guitar.” Claire, a club member, added, “I like it because it’s a happy instrument.” MCCPS Principal Nina Cullen-Hamzeh explained, “Music is an important part of MCCPS. We have a school band, honors band, concert band and a jazz band, and the ukulele program is a beautiful extension of what we do. The Friends have been so generous in helping fund innovative programs. Our teachers come up with a seed of an idea, and the FMPS are the sun and rain that help it grow.”

Graphic Novel Day, another arts grant funded by FMPS, was organized by MVMS English teachers Jim Schaffnit and Laura Nash, and librarian Elizabeth Lutwak. Graphic novels give reluctant readers access to literature they might normally avoid, but the genre’s wide range of subject matter and visual styles appeal to every student, explained Shaffnit and Lutwak. The fund covered a presentation by author-artists Andy Fish, Veronica Fish, Britt Snyder and Allison Cowell, new display boards for student-created graphic-novel panels and nearly 100 new graphic novels for the MVMS library. The event featured a presentation from the artists, who encouraged students to open their eyes to what is going on around them. “Great ideas can come from people watching,” Cowell explained. Students had illustrated a scene from a novel they had read, and the creations were displayed in a gallery setting. They also worked with the artists on drawing a panel of a graphic novel.

The Village School music teachers are also excited about how FMPS grants will positively impact their programs. A new grant funded the purchase of Wenger student chairs for the band and orchestra. These chairs — just the right size for fourth- through sixth-graders — enable good posture, which is critical to successful instrument playing, explained Band Director Kate Ferris and Orchestra Director Julie Parsons. “Learning to play a musical instrument is a rewarding challenge, and through the generosity of FMPS, our students are set up for success,” Ferris said. “We have already observed the chairs’ positive impact as our beginning musicians have taken a seat in their first lessons and rehearsals this September!” And music teacher Joe Stoddard is thrilled with the grant for the purchase of new touch-sensitive keyboards (which respond like pianos) to replace the school’s 15-year old keyboards. The new keyboards interface with iPads — funded by an earlier FMPS grant — which allows “access to apps that will help students learn musical notation and learn the keys of the keyboards, plus recording apps like Garage Band,” Stoddard explained. He said that FMPS grants have been “incredibly valuable” to the music program. “My students are still playing the Orff instruments and African drums that FMPS gave us when I first came to Village School 10 years ago,” he said. “We would not have been able to get the number and quality of instruments that FMPS gave us solely through the school budget.”

For more information, visit friendsofmarblehead.org or facebook.com/FriendsMPS.