The Hoot

Creative Arts & Sciences Concert – 3/26 @ 9am

You are cordially invited to the 2020 Underwood School PTO’s Creative Arts & Sciences Concert. The concert will take place on Thursday, March 26th at 9am at the Underwood School. The concert will feature the Women In World Jazz (see image below). Younger siblings are welcome. We hope to see you there! Please email with questions.

Women In World Jazz is an award winning, international ensemble, bringing together some of the finest world and jazz musicians, each with an extensive performing and teaching background in New England. Showcasing the music of women composers, poets, and lyricists from around the world, Women in World Jazz embraces diversity and the power of creation. Thank you to our PTO’s Creative Arts and Sciences Committee for bringing this program to our school.

Creative Arts & Sciences: Kindergarten Recap

The kindergartners had a ball listening to Big Joe's stories on February 13th.  His energy and animation kept the kids' attention, and his stories about friendship and love (just in time for Valentine's Day!) were engaging and interactive.  Big Joe's puppets also were a huge hit.  Here are a few pictures of the kindergartners enthralled in one of his amazing tales!

Creative Arts & Sciences: 3rd Grade Native American Recap

Creative Arts & Sciences brought Gale Black Snake and James to visit 3rd Graders on February 5th. Gale Black Snake Woman and James are descendants of Native Americans. Gale and James present information that breaks down stereotypes of Native Americans, and provide information about native cultures and traditions. Students were thrilled to add another layer to the Native American unit they've studied. Through games, pictographs, stories and storytelling, Gale and James help students bring to life a part of their heritage.  

2020 – Proposed Bylaw Changes

At our next PTO meeting, 03/11/20 6:15pm, we will be voting on a small change to our bylaws. As they are written now, the PTO is required to have 5 regular members  meetings per school year. Due to the low attendance to those meetings in the past, we propose to change it to 3 meetings. We are hoping that having less and more substantial meetings will raise the attendance numbers.


Section 1. Meetings. There shall be no less than five regular   meetings of the members of Organization during the school year at times determined by the co-presidents. Any special meetings of the Organization may be called by the co-presidents. The annual meeting of the Organization shall be the last regular meeting of the Organization of a school year.


Section 1. Meetings. There shall be no less than three regular   meetings of the members of Organization during the school year at times determined by the co-presidents. Any special meetings of the Organization may be called by the co-presidents. The annual meeting of the Organization shall be the last regular meeting of the Organization of a school year.

Underwood-Ward Task Force

February 14, 2020 - Underwood Parent Representatives

The Underwood Parent Representatives on the Task Force are: Laura Vaughn, Daniel Scales, and Ethan Solomon.

February 14, 2020 - Update

Dear Underwood and Ward families,

We write to you to provide an update on the Underwood-Ward Taskforce following the recent meetings at both schools. Excellent questions were asked at both meetings and we appreciated the discussion.

The taskforce will begin meeting in early March. Over the next few months, the group will meet several times to identify options for the future of the two schools. The work of the taskforce will conclude with a presentation to the School Committee in early June in which those options will be presented.

To stay informed of the work of the taskforce and to provide feedback and/or ask questions, we offer the following:

Underwood-Ward Taskforce webpage:
Email the taskforce at:
Following the meetings of the taskforce, information will be sent to all Underwood and Ward families. If you know of families outside of Underwood and Ward who may be interested in the work of the taskforce, please let them know they can sign up for updates through our MailChimp listerv at:

Finally, at the beginning of May, we will hold another community forum in which the taskforce will share their work and Underwood and Ward families can provide feedback and ask questions.

We look forward to sharing information with you as the taskforce begins its work.


David Fleishman

Eva Thompson
Chair, Underwood-Ward Taskforce

February 13, 2020 - Underwood-Ward Task Force Community Input Process and Tools

  • Emails sent regularly to Underwood and Ward families
  • Website: (to house pertinent information)
  • Subscribe for updates (MailChimp):
  • Submit comments/questions to:
  • Public meeting in May prior to presentation of options to School Committee (tentatively May 12, soon to be confirmed)

February 6, 2020 - Underwood-Ward Task Force: Call for Parent Representatives

It was wonderful seeing so many parents at the meeting on Feb. 5th with Superintendent Fleishman, the School Committee, and City Council members. Updates will be posted by the Underwood-Ward Task Force here. Underwood has two parent representative positions on this Task Force. If you would like to be considered, please review the below information and instructions. Applications are being accepted online through Feb. 11th.

Presentations, links, and reports referenced at the Feb 5th meeting:

Underwood-Ward Task Force, Spring 2020

As shared in the January 2020 letter to the Underwood and Ward communities, the district is forming a task force to jointly address the future of both Underwood and Ward. 

Facilitated by Eva Thompson, The Underwood-Ward Task Force will be comprised of the following members:

  • (3) Underwood staff
  • (3) Ward staff
  • (2) Underwood parents/guardians
  • (2) Ward parents/guardians
  • (2) School Committee members
  • (2) City Councilors
  • (2) Assistant Superintendents
  • Director of Planning NPS
  • City of Newton Building Commissioner

Purpose of the Task Force: The Task Force is charged with presenting options to the School Committee and Superintendent Fleishman on the future of both school buildings by the end of the 2019-20 school year. 

Letters of Interest: We are currently accepting letters of interest for the two Underwood parent/guardian representatives on the Underwood-Ward Task Force. If you are interested, please complete the letter of interest form below by Tuesday, February 11th.  If there is more interest than openings, the PTO Executive Committee (Jen Tsuda, Erika Holmberg, and Kate Luethy) will meet by February 13th to review the applications. Applicants will be notified of their selection by February 18th. 

Meeting Dates and Location: Wednesdays, 5:00-6:30: March 11 & 18, April 1 & 15, May 6 & 13 (June 8 –School Committee presentation) in Room 111, Education Center, 100 Walnut St., Newton.
Member Requirements:

  • Be present at each of the six meetings.
  • Be willing to work on a sub-committee during and between meetings to research, review and collate pertinent information. 

PTO Contacts:

  • Anne-Marie Gravel:
  • Jennifer Tsuda:

We welcome your interest and look forward to working with you.


Eva M. Thompson
Anne-Marie Gravel
Jennifer Tsuda

***The Underwood-Ward Task Force Letter of Interest Submission period ended February 11th.***

January 16, 2020 - Letter from the Superintendent

Dear Underwood and Ward Communities,

As you are aware, Newton is in the process of updating our educational facilities. Over the past several years, we have rebuilt three schools and are in the process of renovating two more. Underwood and Ward are now our two oldest buildings—built in 1924 and 1929 respectively.

Just prior to the holiday break, the most recent enrollment projections were presented to the School Committee. The projections indicate declining enrollments at Underwood and Ward. Within two years, enrollment at Underwood is projected to be 241 and enrollment at Ward is forecast at 218. In other words, our two oldest elementary schools are now our two smallest elementary schools.

Given our commitment to offering a rich menu of program options for students, as well as modern school facilities, we believe it is an opportune time to develop a plan for the future of Underwood and Ward. We are eager to explore the facilities and educational needs of both schools, as well as determine their optimal school community size. It is critical that we have educator and parent/guardian involvement at this important juncture for both schools. 

With this goal in mind, we are putting together a task force to jointly address the future of both Underwood and Ward. The task force will be charged with presenting options to the School Committee and me on the future of both school buildings by the end of this school year. The group will be chaired by Eva Thompson, who previously served as interim elementary assistant superintendent in Newton following a long and distinguished career as a principal and teacher. Eva has worked in both buildings and is very familiar with their educational and physical plant needs. Other members of the task force will include:       

  • (3) Underwood staff
  • (3) Ward staff
  • (2) Underwood parents/guardians
  • (2) Ward parents/guardians
  • (2) School Committee members
  • (2) City Councilors
  • (2) Assistant Superintendents
  • Director of Planning NPS
  • City of Newton Building Commissioner

I have met with staff members at both schools and look forward to now meeting with parents and guardians. The meeting with the Underwood community will be held on February 5 at 7:00 p.m. and the meeting with the Ward community will be held on February 12 at 7:30 p.m. I will share more with you on how you can be involved in the task force.

A summary of the meeting as well as regular written updates regarding the task force will be shared via email. Our website will also have a page devoted to this work.

Thank you in advance for working with us and to lending your voice to determine the best path forward for both the Underwood and Ward school communities.


David Fleishman


Creative Arts & Sciences: Rock Detectives Recap

On Tuesday January 7th, Underwood 4th graders became Rock Detectives. The Museum of Science brought their Geology curriculum to life by transforming our students into geologists and utilizing six different tests to find out the differences between different types of rocks. See some photos from the presentation below. 

Ms. Hull's Class

Ms. Bardin's Class

5th Grade Graduation – Donation Request

Dear Fifth Grade Families, 

As you know, our 5th Graders are graduating this year from Underwood and plans are well underway to prepare for this huge milestone.

5th Grade families are responsible for raising funds for these important right-of-passage events:

  • The Moving On Ceremony
  • The 5th Grade class gift to the school
  • The final class gifts to the 5th Grade teachers
  • The 5th Grade year-end party for our kids to celebrate together 

Everyone is busy, so instead of having several fundraisers,  we now request direct donations from families to cover the expenses associated with making this such a fun and memorable part of your child’s last year of elementary school.

We hope to receive donations from at least half of our 5th Grade families. We know families have other financial obligations, but we hope you will consider the 5th Grade Moving On Activities Fund this year as part of your charitable donations. In order to move on with our planning it is necessary that all contributions come in no later than Monday, March 16th.

All donations are tax-deductible under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Our tax-exempt organization number is 22-2562184. The form for contributing is below.

Contributions can be made online with a credit card or PayPal account at mentioning 5th Grade Graduation in the notes section, or by check (place it in the PTO mailbox in the school office or by giving it to your child’s teacher). Remember that many companies have matching programs for donations made to nonprofit organizations. Checks can also be mailed to:  

Underwood PTO, 101 Vernon Street, Newton, MA 02458

Warmest regards, 

Underwood School 5th Grade Class of 2020 Graduation Committee

Payment Options:

  • Online with a PayPal Account: Visit to submit payment (please type "5th Grade Graduation" in the note field).
  • Online without a PayPal Account: Visit to submit payment (please type "5th Grade Graduation" in the comment field).
  • Payment via Check: Please submit payments via check to the PTO Mailbox in the School Office or mail to: Underwood PTO, 101 Vernon St., Newton, MA 02458.

Underwood Math Update

Dear Underwood Families,

I am Andy Guttell, the math coach here at Underwood School. This is my seventh year in this role. I am also the math coach at Ward School. Previously I was a classroom teacher in first and second grade at Bowen School for 19 years. I have also taught in international schools in Ecuador and Japan.

This is the first full year that our school will be using the Investigations math curriculum in all grades, K-5.  Two years ago, Investigations was successfully launched in Grades 3 and 4. Last year Grades 1, 2, and 5 all began using the curriculum. This year Kindergarten is fully implementing the curriculum. Investigations is a focused, coherent, and rigorous K-5 mathematics curriculum. It is fully aligned to the content and practice standards of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), deep and careful attention is paid to mathematics content and to student thinking and understanding. Making sense of mathematics is the heart of the work, for students and teachers (from

This year fact fluency has been a point of emphasis in our school, particularly in grades K-4. Kindergarteners have been learning about the relationship of counting to addition and subtraction. Counting forward is the same as adding one. First graders have been practicing counting on as a way to add (5+3 is solved by 5: 6,7,8). By the end of the year, the goal is knowing from memory all of the single digit facts up to 10. Second graders have been using foundational facts that they know such as the Doubles (4+4, 5+5, etc) and the Make Tens (2+8, 3+7, 4+6, etc) to figure out facts that they don’t know yet. For example, many students reason that 6+7 equals one more than 6+6. By the end of the year, second graders are expected to know all of the facts through 20.

In third and fourth grades, the fact fluency focus moves to multiplication and division. In September, third graders consolidated the learned basic multiplication facts by relating their knowledge of skip counting by 2’, 5’s and 10’s to multiplication. In the winter, they build on this foundation and use the foundational facts they know to figure out the facts they don’t know yet. For example, many third graders solve the difficult fact of 7*8, by breaking it apart into the known facts of 2*8 and 5*8. Many fourth graders work in the early part of the year to consolidate their multiplication and division fact fluency through 100.

Parents can help their children by reading the Family Letters that are sent home with each new unit. The Family Letters will show and explain how math is taught in the classroom. This can be a very helpful resource to deepen parent understanding and to position parents in the best way to help their child. Math instruction and learning has changed a lot since all of us adults were in elementary school. It is most beneficial to children if parent help mirrors what is happening currently in the classroom. Math Words and Ideas are brief videos from our curriculum that can explain math concepts and strategies to parents and children. They can be accessed by clicking on the link or going to the Underwood website and clicking on the student tab. The Investigations Game Center provides fun and engaging ways to practice. This site can also be found on the student page.

The adoption of the Investigations curriculum has resulted in a lot of excitement and deeper learning in classrooms throughout Newton. At Underwood, I see students that are eager, engaged, and working together to deepen their mathematical thinking on a daily basis.


Andrew Guttell

Math Coach

Underwood School




Principal Hiring Process

January 31, 2020 - Continuing the Search


Dear Underwood Community,

I’m writing to give you an update on the principal search. Over the past couple weeks, it has been a pleasure working with the Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) on the search. The SAC, consisting of teachers, parents, and administrators, worked thoroughly to interview candidates and select semi-finalists. The SAC interviewed five candidates and moved three of them to the semi-final round. On Monday, each of the semi-finalists visited classrooms at Bowen, where they were asked to share their observations and reflections on a range of educational and leadership issues and scenarios.

After a thorough review of the candidacies of the three semi-finalists, and consulting with the SAC, we have decided to continue the search for a permanent principal at Underwood. While this was not an easy decision, we are committed to finding the best match for Underwood and remain confident that we will find a principal for next year. Please know that just two years ago, we made the same decision at another elementary school in Newton and we were able to identify a terrific candidate.

We are already re-advertising for the position and will provide an updated calendar for the search after the February break. I look forward to continuing work with a thoughtful and reflective Selection Advisory Committee as we proceed. 

Thank you very much for your understanding, and I will certainly keep you informed as we proceed.


David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

January 6th - Selection Advisory Committee & Small Group Roundtable Members

The Underwood Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) has met and will be interviewing candidates for our next Underwood principal on January 21st & 23rd. Two parent volunteers are participating along with Underwood School and NPS staff. The parent volunteers on the SAC are Laura Goldworm, Margaret Battat Silva, and Julie Lane.

In case you missed Dr. Fleishman’s visits about the new principal search, click here to view the presentation outlining the process, including key dates and a description of the Selection Advisory Committee (SAC).

Parent input into the process is encouraged. All current Underwood parents/guardians can share their thoughts in the following ways:

  • Complete the 2019 Underwood parent survey. Parent input from this survey will be used in the selection process and will be shared with the new principal.
  • Attend the meetings with the finalists on Feb. 5 and 7 (time TBD)

A small group of parent volunteers will also participate, separately, in a roundtable discussion with the finalist candidates. These parent volunteers are Lucia Kamm, Laura Goldworm, Margaret Battat Silva, Erika Holmberg, Kerry Curran, Nefertiti Borders, Julie Lane, and Elisa Rodriguez.

December 17th - Application for Selection Advisory Committee & Small Group Meeting

We welcome your interest in serving as a parent/guardian representative on the 2019-2020 Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) and/or participating in potential small group roundtable meetings with finalists as part of the search for a new Underwood School Principal. All applications submitted by current Underwood School parents/guardians will be considered. In addition, all Underwood parents/guardians can provide input to the selection process by completing the 2019 Underwood Parent Survey.

The Selection Advisory Committee (SAC) is a panel of NPS administrators, teachers, and parents who will engage in candidate interviews and help to select semi-finalist for the principal position. Participation in the SAC (3 parent slots are available) requires your availability on the following days: 

  • Tuesday, January 14 for 1-2 hours in the afternoon - Develop interview questions and review resumes 
  • Tuesday, January 21 (afternoon) and Thursday, January 23 (all day) - Interview candidates and select finalists 
  • February 5th and 7th - Finalists will visit Underwood and will participate in small group roundtable discussions with both parents and staff.  We are seeking parent volunteers to commit to participate in the open meetings. These will likely occur at either 9:30am or 5pm on both Feb. 5 & 7. If you are volunteering for this role, please indicate which time works better for you below. 

Please submit your application, below, to the PTO by December 31st.  The PTO Executive Committee (Anne-Marie Gravel, Jen Tsuda, and Erika Holmberg) will be meeting January 2nd to review the applications. Applicants will be notified of their selection before January 6th.


December 17th - Parent Participation Request

Last week, Underwood parents met with David Fleishman, the Superintendent of Newton Public Schools, and Khita Pottinger-Johnson, the Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education, to learn about the search for a new Principal at Underwood.  If you missed it, a 5-minute video of that presentation can be found here: and the Superintendent's follow-up email is forwarded below as well. 

To move this process forward, there are 3 ways that you can help.

  1. Survey: Please take 5 minutes to complete the survey to help inform the selection process: We want to hear from as many parents as possible to ensure that the survey represents our entire school community.
  2. Selection Advisory Committee: Please consider volunteering for the Selection Advisory Committee (SAC). The PTO will select three people by January 6th to serve on the SAC who are representative of our diverse community. 
    • Please complete the form above and write a brief statement of why you would like to serve on the SAC and submit online by December 31st. 
    • NOTE: Applicants for the SAC must be available on both the January and February dates below.
  3. Small Group Roundtable: As an alternative to the SAC, we are soliciting volunteers to participate in small group roundtable discussions with the finalists on the days when they visit Underwood in February.  
    • Please complete the form above and write a brief statement about why you would like to participate in the round table discussions. 
    • NOTE: Applicants must be available for the February dates only.

Key Dates

  • December 31st - Submit parent participation application to PTO
  • January 6th - PTO notifies HR of Selection Advisory Committee volunteers
  • January 14th - meeting of SAC to generate interview questions and review resumes
  • January 21st (afternoon) and 23rd (full day) - SAC interviews semi-finalists
  • February 5th and 7th - Round table discussion with finalists at Underwood

December 13th - Underwood Parent Survey

Your help is needed in gathering input and feedback. Superintendent Fleishman is very interested in gathering as much input as possible from the Underwood community as we begin the principal search. Please complete the following online survey As mentioned at the parent meeting, the information gleaned from the surveys will not only be valuable during the search process, but will be an excellent resource for the new principal.

December 13th - Letter from Superintendent David Fleishman

Dear Underwood Families:

Earlier this week, we held two productive meetings regarding the principal search. I appreciated the thoughtful questions that were asked and greatly value the engagement of the Underwood community.

A videotaped version of the presentation can be viewed by selecting the following:

I am very interested in gathering as much input as possible from the Underwood community as we begin the principal search. Please complete the following online survey As I mentioned at the parent meeting, the information gleaned from the surveys will not only be valuable during the search process, but will be an excellent resource for the new principal.

Please note that parents can participate in the search process both through the Selection Advisory Committee (SAC), and during the finalist days, when the candidates will spend a good part of the day at Underwood. The finalist visits will take place on February 5 and 7, 2020.

We are deeply committed to hiring an excellent leader for Underwood and plan to devote significant time to this task in the coming weeks. I will be sure to keep you updated and look forward to working with the Underwood community as we begin this very important process.


David Fleishman

December 13th - Video Summary of Information Session


Dec. 10th & 11th - Principal Hiring Process - Information Session

Please come out to an information session to learn about the steps of the principal search & how you can be involved. We have a morning and an evening session (each will provide the same information), please join us at either session that fits your schedule.

Session 1: December 10th at 8:30am (multi purpose room, basement)
Session 2: December 11th at 7pm (gymnasium)

Contact us with any questions at