Superintendent Fleishman’s Commencement Speech Controversy

Superintendent’s Letter to Parents

Dear Families,

I hope the school year is off to a good start for your child(ren). In my daily visits to the schools, it has been a joy to see our students well rested and eager to learn. September is a wonderful time for those of us in education because it allows us to develop new goals, embark upon new challenges and build new relationships.

Losing three students to suicide last year was both tragic and heartbreaking for our community. With this new school year, it is encouraging to see that our schools are strong and vibrant. And yet, we cannot be complacent.

Newton’s system-wide goals for the year highlight excellent academic opportunities for students, while providing the social and emotional supports necessary for school success. Over the past year we have been reminded that the schools and community need to work together to address the safety and emotional wellbeing of our students and staff. Our administrators and faculty are working with experts in the mental health and suicide prevention field to develop age-appropriate strategies and programs to identify and support students in need and de-stigmatize mental health issues.

I thought I would share a few of the mental health and social-emotional initiatives taking place in our schools this year. At the two high schools, students will participate in SOS Signs of Suicide, an international, evidence-based suicide prevention program and screening protocol that trains students to identify depression and suicidality in themselves or their friends. SOS was piloted with last year’s senior classes. It will be offered to all high school students this year; going forward, the program will be offered in one middle school grade,and two high school grades. The high school principals will be in contact shortly with more specifics about SOS. Over the course of the year, faculty and staff will receive additional training on depression and anxiety.

At our four middle schools, SOS Signs of Suicide with be offered to one grade. The middle school principals will be in touch with families to explain the program and to outline additional supports now in place. In addition, middle school staff have received Benson-Henry Mindfulness, training to help students reduce stress and build resilience. At Brown Middle School, we are piloting small group advisories to give students a consistent peer group and adult connection.

At our elementary schools, we continue to provide our students with nationally recognized, research-based programs for social and emotional development. At all levels of the system, we will continue to refine our strategies to support students with depression and other mental health challenges. I fully recognize that schools cannot address these issues in isolation. We are pleased to be working in close partnership with the City of Newton andRiverside Community Care on Newton Cares: A Coalition for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health). The mission of Newton Cares is “to raise awareness and identify strategies to assist in creating a healthy, empowered community that promotes emotional wellbeing across the lifespan.” Newton Cares welcomes all interested community members to attend its kick-off meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 4-6pm at the Senior Center, 345 Walnut Street. For more information, please visit Newton Cares and feel free to send an email with any questions or ideas you might have.

We look forward to ongoing communication with you on this important topic. If you have any questions or concerns about your child, please do not hesitate to contact an administrator or member of our mental health staff.



Superintendent Fleishman’s Commencement Speech Controversy

David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools


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