Category Archives: From the Principal


Oak Hill instituted an advisory program called Community a few years ago.  The purpose of Community is to provide a structured, consistent time on a weekly basis for students to meet in small groups with a staff member to foster relationships and build a feeling of belonging to the Oak Hill community.  Community is scheduled to begin on Friday, October 4th.  These groups will meet every Friday from 8-8:30.
We recently discovered that the Community rosters appeared on the parent portal.  These rosters are not accurate at this time.  We are in the process of revising the rosters, assigning staff to each group, and identifying the school spaces groups will meet in.  This process will be complete this week and students will be notified of their Community teachers and rooms next week.  The staff has been working thoughtfully to create these groupings, factoring in many considerations as we do so.  When we notify students about their groups, we will not take requests for switches.  Thank you for your understanding and support.

Update about Latin classes for 7th and 8th Grade Students

We would like to inform you that your child’s Latin teacher, Mr. Coughlin, is taking a short leave.  William P. Hills will be teaching the class during Mr. Coughlin’s absence.  Mr. Hill is an experienced Latin teacher who has taught at the middle school and high school level for many years most recently in Weston Schools, Dexter-SouthfieldSchool, and at BostonLatinSchool.  We are fortunate to have him join us until Mr. Coughlin’s return.

If you have any questions about Community or Latin, please contact me at 617-559-9200 or

Fostering a Supportive and Inclusive Community

September 24, 2013

Dear Oak Hill families,

Oak Hill’s School Council communicated to families in December 2011 about a trend that resulted in some students sharing that they sometimes felt excluded on Monday mornings. Some students entered the building wearing the same colorful article of clothing – a t-shirt, sweatshirt, sweatpants or leggings. Upon closer inspection, one could see the name of a student clearly labeled on the clothing honoring a celebration that took place over the previous weekend. While the students wearing the labeled clothing were all chatting excitedly about their weekend experiences, the students who weren’t wearing the clothing tended to walk by, trying not to take notice while being reminded that they were not included in the festivities.

Oak Hill was concerned about the unintentional messages that were conveyed when groups of students wore the same celebratory clothing from weekend events and in response to this and in the effort to reinforce practices that promote inclusion and community, the school respectfully asked families that (this is described in the Handbook (p.7 #13):

  • “Your children refrain from wearing clothing to school that identifies a weekend celebration marked with a student name.
  • We encourage you to have a conversation with your child about this trend and how it may make others feel who may have been excluded from participating in the event. Explore the idea of being inclusive and how one can resist the urge to wear the clothing right after the celebration as it make students who aren’t included feel left out.

Some families have asked for clarification about the handbook language and we are re-establishing that students avoid wearing the item(s) following the celebration on the Monday and for a few days following the celebration so it doesn’t result in everyone wearing the item all on the same day, and create the uncomfortable situation that was described above.

We would like to request that students and families discuss this issue again in hopes that we may work together to continue to make our school an inclusion community for all.  We appreciate your understanding and sensitivity to this issue.  If you have questions or comments, please share your thoughts and we would be happy to respond.  Thank you.


Oak Hill Curriculum Night: Thursday, September 19th from 7 – 9pm

An evening for parents to learn more about middle school curriculum!
(Including a special Nature’s Classroom presentation for Grade 8 only beginning at 6pm.)

Dear Oak Hill Families,

Our entire faculty is looking forward to meeting our students’ parents and guardians at this week’s  “Curriculum Night” on Thursday, September 19 from 7:00-9:00PM. Eighth grade parents are invited to an introduction to the Nature’s Classroom experience from 6:00-6:50PM, in the auditorium.

During your visits to classrooms, teachers will share their subject area content, academic Continue reading

Important Update from the Principal

September 2, 2013

Dear Oak Hill Families,

These past few days have been difficult for the Newton Public Schools and the Newton community regarding the news about the arrest of Stephen Chan, a Day Middle School teacher. The administrative staff at the Education Center, especially Superintendent David Fleishman, is keeping all building principals informed and providing resources to help our school effectively support our students, staff and families.

Our Oak Hill Emergency Response Team has conferred over the weekend and we will be meeting with the staff before school tomorrow to ensure that everyone is adequately informed and prepared to assist and respond to children’s questions or concerns (see detailed information below). During the day, we will not proactively bring up this news.  Instead, we will conduct our first day of school as we originally planned, orienting all students to their upcoming year.  Guidance Counselors and our School Psychologist, Dr. Jannon McKenna will be available to respond to students’ questions and concerns.

It may be helpful to visit these websites for information about how to appropriately respond and effectively communicate with children after traumatic events and news.  This information is suitable for educators and parents alike. In addition, as David Fleishman indicated in his community letter, there will be a community meeting on the evening of Tuesday, September 3 in the Day Auditorium.  The meeting will allow community members to hear from law enforcement officials and mental health experts.

  1. The National Association of School Psychologists provides tips for parents and teachers at this website:
  2. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also provides guidance on how adults can help children after a traumatic event at this website:
  3. Dr. Robert Evans, Psychologist and School Consultant, offers five guidelines that can make a positive difference for children after tragic events.  Visit this link for more information:

I want to assure you that our staff is prepared and excited to welcome you and your children.  Please contact me if you have any questions or believe your child would benefit from speaking with our Guidance Counselors or School Psychologist.  We look forward to seeing everyone for our first day of school tomorrow.



Presentation and Building Tours for new Students and Parents: Monday, August 26 from 1pm to 3pm

Please register here so we know how many tour guides we will need

Dear Oak Hill Community –

I hope you all are enjoying these remaining beautiful days of summer.  Our staff is busy preparing for the coming school year, and we want to make sure that all entering sixth grade children and new students to Oak Hill/Newton are confident and prepared for the first day of school!

To assist the transition for our new students,  we invite you and your child to our annual “Before School” visitation. There will be older Oak Hill students leading student building tours and answering questions to help your child identify their homeroom and other classrooms. In addition, we will be leading a 45-minute presentation for parents that will help “bring to life” the student handbook and many of the frequently asked questions that parents have for new middle school students entering Oak Hill. I will also introduce myself as the new principal and share some of our goals for the year.

Please note that teachers may be setting up their classrooms and preparing themselves for the school year, so this will not be the time to drop into classrooms or say hello and introduce yourselves to teachers. There will be chances to meet your child’s teachers later during a series of parent coffees in September and during Curriculum Night on Thursday, September 19 at 7pm; more information will be forthcoming.

Hope to see you on August 26 at 1pm, and if you can’t make it, I look forward to meeting you sometime soon after the school year begins!



Dear Oak Hill Community Members

Dear Oak Hill Community Members,

We hope you are all enjoying this gorgeous summer weather. Some exciting summer late-breaking news to share involving several Oak Hill students. The Newton SouthEast Little League team made up several Oak Hill and Brown Middle school students won the Massachusetts State Championship (the first Newton team to win it since 1998!) and the boys are playing for the New England Title starting this weekend in Bristol CT. There will be a community-wide send off for this team from the Newton Green in Newton Center tomorrow, Thursday August 1st at 9 am. If you are in town and looking for some excitement, the team invites you to cheer them on and send the players off in style! Congratulations and good luck to the team in the New England championship.


An Introduction from Principal John Harutunian: Take 2

Many of you are receiving this for a 2nd time.  We had failed to update the principal information on the email template and some emails were left off of the distribution list so we are resending.  We apologize for the error.                                                                                                                       —————————————————————

John Harutunian Photo - 7.3 (1)Dear Oak Hill Community,

I am honored and excited to be the new principal of Oak Hill. It was a great pleasure to meet many parents, teachers, students and administrative leaders across Newton Public Schools during the search process and I look forward to meeting all of you in the coming months and years ahead.

Middle school is a special time for students to learn and grow from each other and from the adults who take great pride in developing powerful, engaging and authentic learning experiences. I am committed to build upon the tremendous progress skillfully led by Eva Thompson and her team.

In the time ahead, we will stay focused on enhancing carefully designed curriculum and instruction to continue to put students at the center of the learning by engaging them in Continue reading

Farewell for the Summer, and Updates

Dear Oak Hill Families,

In spite of the sweltering weather, we have had a smooth and celebratory ending to this extended school year. During these last days there were many opportunities for students to share their learning through culminating experiences in classes or at parent breakfasts, at concerts, during the Talent Show, at the eighth grade “Celebration of Success” and more! We are proud of all our students’ accomplishments, large and small!

Our Talented Faculty and Staff

As the year comes to a close, I would like to acknowledge our talented faculty and staff for their diligent efforts to make learning meaningful, accessible, and enjoyable. Middle school is a time to understand oneself as a learner, to take risks, learn from missteps and then move forward, all while reflecting on one’s thoughts, actions and learning. Our teachers strive to facilitate this learning so that students experience success academically, socially and emotionally. It has been a pleasure and honor to work with this caring, talented group of educators!

Supportive Families

On behalf of the faculty and staff, we thank you, our families, for all your contributions to Oak Hill, from your time volunteering, serving on the PTO and School Council to your financial support through the PTO, and especially for guiding your children towards success. Oak Hill would not be the welcoming and vibrant community that it is without  the parents, teachers, and staff who work together to make this school the very special place that it is. We are fortunate indeed!

PTO Presidents

In particular, we thank our PTO Presidents, Jessica Freier, Amy Less and Matt Wilson for their leadership, resourcefulness and support throughout the year. Jessica will be stepping down after serving admirably as a Co-President for two years. If you are interested in this opportunity to be closely involved with the school, please contact the PTO at  You would be joining a very collaborative team!

Staffing Updates

As the year comes to a close, we bid a fond farewell to our retirees:

  • Ms. Caren Bobroff, Special Educator, currently in Gr. 8, has worked at Oak Hill for thirteen years. Dedicated, relentlessly supportive of students, Ms. Bobroff is looking forward to exploring her interests in new ways and to having more flexible time for family and friends.
  • Ms. Trudi Sacks, Gr. 7 English, has been at Oak Hill since it reopened, previously at Bigelow. Passionate about reading, writing and poetry instruction,  Ms. Sacks challenged students to strengthen and deepen their ability to communicate orally and in writing in more sophisticated ways. Ms. Sacks was on a leave this year and has now decided that her family’s needs require her full attention.

I am sure you join me in wishing both these fine educators the best as they leave a legacy of touching young lives in very memorable ways.

  • Ms. Mary Swedberg, Gr. 8 Math, has taught at Oak Hill for three years. A well respected teacher leader, Ms. Swedberg and her husband very recently decided this was the best time for them to step aside from their work lives to travel throughout South America! Student-focused, caring and supportive, Ms. Swedberg encouraged students to really understand mathematical processes in addition to finding solutions. We wish her well as she embarks on tantalizing adventures! A hiring process for her replacement will start soon.
  • Ms. Polly Struthers, Speech and Language Pathologist, has resigned in order to find a position closer to her home. Warm and caring, Ms. Struthers zeros in on each student’s needs and offers strategies and support in order to make communicative gains. We have also appreciated Ms. Struthers’ ‘green thumb’! Her plants grace the halls and library and she guides students to care for them.
  • Ms. Katie Clarke, Spanish teacher, Gr. 6 & 8. Ms. Clarke joined us this year. During her time with us, she has been an integral member of our World Languages department and we will all miss her! Her focus on assisting students in developing communicative competence has been superb. Her use of technology with students has fostered engagement and interest. Ms. Clarke is moving back to New York to be closer to her family.

To each of these talented educators, we wish you well and thank you!

Joining us in the fall:

We have a new half team, 7-3, that will allow us to reduce class/team sizes in 7th grade. Both teachers are certified and thus “highly qualified” in both subject areas:

  • Caitlin McCormick – Math/Science
  • Jacob Sugerman – English/History, Social Sciences

Replacing departing teachers:

  • MaryFrances Horan – Gr. 8 Special Education
  • Cari Lyn Carnahan – Speech and Language

Also departing, two valuable teachers’ assistants: Caitlin Jacobs who has also been a founding leader of our Gay Straight Alliance and Katie Stack. Both of these assistants have served as essential members of their teams, assisting all students while serving particular students in need. We wish them the best as they explore new opportunities.

Thank you, Oak Hill!

Finally, I thank all of you, students, teachers, staff and parents for being part of my journey in Newton. I began as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant, taught at the elementary and middle school levels, served as a World Languages Specialist and Coordinator before becoming an elementary principal at Peirce and now, here at Oak Hill.

My 36 years as an educator in Newton have been tremendously rewarding. Newton is a fantastic place to work, and live. My “work” was always a passion, fun, invigorating, and stimulating. I have had the opportunity to learn from so many along the way. And now, I look forward to continuing my work training new educational leaders and principals, pursuing some consulting in education and learning how to relax a bit more, if possible! My first grandchild, Ella, was born a month ago and so I look forward to learning that new role!

Thank you for all your support. I am sure you are in good hands with John Harutunian, Oak Hill’s new principal, and I look forward to helping him transition well to our school!!!

My sincerest best wishes,





Year End Updates

Dear Oak Hill Families,

Mid-Term Feedback Forms: We are at the mid-point of the final trimester. Mid-term feedback forms will be sent home with your child this week; some went home last week. Please be sure to ask your child for these forms from most classes and return a signed copy to teachers.

Teacher Appreciation Week, May 6-10: Thank you to the PTO and parents who honored our talented and dedicated teachers with a scrumptious luncheon last Tuesday  during Teacher Appreciation Week.

I continue to be so grateful to be working with each of our teachers, assistant teachers and specialists.  I would like to extend my thanks to each one for their consistent efforts to support, instruct, and guide our students, making learning accessible and enjoyable. If you would like to recognize or thank your teachers a card, note, or email is suggested as an appropriate and much appreciated gesture. You may also want to make a contribution the Oak Middle School PTO to support our school community.

National School Nurse Day was May 8: This day of recognition has been set aside since 1972 to foster a better understanding of the role of school nurses in the educational setting. This specialized practice advances the wellbeing, academic success and life-long achievements of students. National School Nurse Day fell took place during National Nurses Week, May 7-11, ending on the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of nursing.  We are fortunate to have Sue Riley as our nurse! Proactive, supportive and so knowledgeable, Sue takes care of us in so many ways – thank you, Sue!

Warm Weather Clothing Expectations: As the warm weather approaches, we ask that you please support our expectations for appropriate dress at school. Spaghetti straps/tank tops, bare midriffs, low cut pants, short shorts and bare feet are not appropriate dress for school. If  your child is not dressed appropriately, s/he will be asked to visit the nurse’s office where available sports attire will be offered or Nurse Riley will contact you to bring in a change of clothing. We appreciate your support in reminding your child of these expectations.

***Important Dates:  Please make note of these dates!

Incoming Gr. 6 Parents:

Gr. 8:  NSHS Sports Night: There will be an “Eighth Grade Sports Night” held on Wednesday May 15 at 6:30p.m. in the Field House at Newton South High School. This will be the time for students to meet coaches and sign-up for sports. This is an important meeting, because many of the fall sports begin at the end of the August. Eighth grade students and their families are encouraged to attend this event.

Gr. 6-8:  No School: on Monday, May 27 in observance of Memorial Day.

Gr. 5-8:  Step-up Day: Friday, June 7, 5th graders will be visiting Oak Hill, 11:30-2:20.

  • Our current 6th grade students will “Step Up” to 7th grade to learn about the 7th grade experience with the usual 2:30 dismissal.
  • 7th grade students will be dismissed at 11:30 a.m.; school buses will be available.
  • 8th grade students will visit Newton North or Newton South with the usual 2:30 dismissal.

If you have any questions about next year’s program, please contact your child’s school guidance counselor at 617-559-9210.

Gr. 6-8:  Field Day: Friday, June 14, rain date, Monday, June 17. Parent assistance will be needed. If you can assist with set up, clean up or manning water stations for an hour or two, please contact Kevin Drinan:           

Gr. 8:

  • ‘Decorate-Your-8th Grade-Tile’ Day: Friday, June 14, Periods 5 & 6, immediately following Field Day and lunch. Parent assistance will be needed. Please contact Amy Less, PTO Co-Chair:
  • Our “Celebrating Success” Ceremony for 8th grade students (and their families) will be held on Friday, June 21 at 8:30 a.m. in the gym followed by refreshments in the cafeteria. Eighth graders will remain in school for the duration of the day participating in end-of-the-year activities with their teachers and peers.
  • Gr. 8 Canobie Lake trip: Monday, June 24, all day; cost and permission slips are coming.

 Last Day of School:  The Newton School Committee voted to establish the last day of school for students as Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Dismissal will be at 11:30 a.m. There will not be lunch in school on the last day.

As we approach these last weeks, know that teachers use every minute of this time to maximize the teaching and learning for your children; teachers want to ensure that students are well-prepared for next year. To that end, we ask that you continue to maintain school routines including age-appropriate bedtimes, a good breakfast, timely arrival to school, and time set aside for homework completion. Working in partnership with you, we can continue to help students reach their academic goals by the end of the year.

With warm regards,

Eva Thompson