A Notable Week!

Happy Spring – really!  This past week I had the honor of witnessing an amazing performance of Terezin: Children of the Holocaust and hosted Principal for the Day, Harrison Dahn. I wanted to share with you how each event impacted me.

Terezin tells the story of children surviving in a German concentration camp during World War II.  In the play it is apparent that some of the children know their likely outcome, others are oblivious.  The one room theatrical set is a mirror of the culture one might find in some schools today and in the past.Terezin 2Terezin 1

There is a strong, mean character that makes life miserable for anyone who chooses to challenge her.  In the end, the other children turn on the difficult girl, physically assaulting her as they had been verbally assaulted. The realization comes that we all are capable of such despicable behavior given stressful, difficult situations. The villainized girl evokes sympathy in the end, her efforts to win the favor of the guards coming to no avail, she succumbs to the same fate as the others.

The play was written by Anna Smulowitz, a grandparent of an IC student and a descendent of two survivors from Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Anna was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany and as a child emigrated to the United States. She wrote Terezin: Children of the Holocaust in 1971.

Two IC students, Gabriella and Isabella Riethmuellar play their roles impeccably and with passion uncharacteristic of ones so young. The girls’ great grandmother, Erna Riethmeullar was taken by the Nazis and killed on April 12, 1944. She was killed because she spoke in a public place against Adolf Hitler.

The performance was both inspiring and chilling. I invite you to see it if you have the opportunity.

Harrison Dahn certainly was a busy Principal on Friday, May 1.  After leading the school at the Morning Meeting, he met the Pastor, Father Timothy Harrison, City Marshall, Mark Murray, read stories to the first grade and Pre-K, supervised recess, visited classrooms, lunched with Mrs. Reardon, and assisted the Administrative Assistant with various tasks.  I believe he slept well that night as did I.  He was a caring and compassionate principal, with energy and wisdom beyond his years.  We had a great day!

Principal for the Day Harrison Dahn 2 IMG_0148   Principal for the Day Harrison Dahn IMG_0150


Happy Easter!

As we approach the most joyous Holy Day of the year, I want to extend my wishes to each of you for a blessed Easter!

During this Lenten Season I have invited the students to challenge me – most mornings, one of them asked me “How is your Lent going?” I turned and asked them the same question.  This has proved to be inspiring for me!

After the throes of a very difficult winter, we face the certitude of spring. Jesus faced the victory of the Resurrection after his Passion. It is consoling that we are assured victory, the victory of the cross as we cling to our Savior and Lord. I have been reminded often this Lent that the passion must precede the crown.

Spring finds us welcoming many new families to tour and consider our school. I want to take this opportunity to remind you all that we have a generous amount of tuition assistance to offer your family. You need to apply through Facts Grant and Aid (the link is on the web site or call me personally). The deadline for applications is April 15. The process is confidential and awards are determined by a Facts calculated need. It is my goal to give something to each family who applies.

I am incredibly proud of our basketball program under the direction of Mike Doyle. The Varsity Girls and Boys and other teams achieved so much this season. I am most proud of the character I have seen demonstrated. We are a Mission driven school. I see that Mission fleshed-out in these young people.

Our Annual Auction was a grand financial and social success! As a school community, we offer our deepest gratitude to Chairs, Michelle Bolger and Danielle Powers and the following Chair persons who supported them:

For Sponsor-ships- Felicia Azzi and Laurie Kench

For Donations – Catherine Batchelder and Heather Affolter

For Sports – Mary Boddy

For the Home – Erin Brown and Alexandra Byron

For “Just for You” – Rebecca Nazzaro

For Kids – Maureen Sullivan

For Nights and Getaways – Amy Salvatti and Holly Ragusa

For Raffles – Courtney Belknap

For  Hospitality – Linnea Tangorra

For Decor – Jenna Signore and Amy Pearce

For Spreadsheet – Chris Schipani

For Graphics and Program – Diane Murphy, Tammy Orkwis, and Amy Pearce

For Check Out- George Azzi

as well as many others who assisted our chairs as listed in the Auction Program.

The sacrifice of time and talent by all who made this event such a success is sincerely appreciated. Thank you for your continued support of our school!

I wish you and your family a Happy Easter!

Ground Hog Day

Happy Winter!

As I begin to write, most of us are in the midst of digging out from the Blizzard of 2015. I pray that each of you weathered the storm in a safe and warm place.

Despite the fact that the storm fell at the beginning of National Catholic Schools Week, the celebratory week was indeed memorable. Our Sunday Liturgy and Open House were a great success. It was truly a celebration of all we are as community.

The Special Persons’ Luncheon, the  PTO Ice Cream Party, Spirit Day,  and Johnny the K’s presentation were “rocking!” I want to thank the many selfless volunteers who served and welcomed our guests, students and faculty.

I invite you to visit the website below to see the amazing things that are happening in Catholic Schools around our country, not the least is saving the nation $24 billion each year. The number of Catholic schools is growing as are the waiting lists for our schools. Staffing ratios are good and the graduation rate in Catholic schools is very high.


This winter I have been traveling a bit to the Catholic Schools Office in Braintree. I am serving as one of two representatives from the North Shore to an Elementary Principal’s Association where I meet monthly with the Superintendent Kathleen Mears, staff and other principals from around the Archdiocese. It is energizing to see what is going on in other schools. I am also serving on an assessment committee which is reviewing standardized tests to replace the SAT 10 which will no longer be available to us after this year. Many of the principal’s on the committee were impressed with tests that offered schools a better way to measure individual student growth and  to establish clear learning goals for each student.

The Immaculate Conception School cohort of the Van Loan School of Graduate Studies, from Endicott College, is proceeding very well.  The IC faculty enrolled will most likely receive their Master’s Degrees in the spring of 2016. Our school is benefiting in so many ways from this program. I hope you were able to see digital books in the Mrs. Pike’s first grade at our Open House.

As I close, we are snowed in yet another day, Ground Hog Day. I have always loved this day, feeling like it gave hope that the winter would indeed end and recalling fond memories off snuggling with my young children reading stories by Howard Garis, about the jolly ground hog boys, Woodie and Waddie Chuck. I wish those same wonderful memories for each of you.

I hope to see many of you at our Talent Show Wednesday evening and at the Father Daughter Dance on Saturday. Stay warm!








Happy Fall!!

I welcome you to a new school year and pray that this year will be enlightening, encouraging, and confirm your decision to send your child to Immaculate Conception School.

Each morning, the Faculty, staff, students and I gather to begin our day with prayer, the pledge of the Allegiance, and to remember why we are here by reciting our school mission.

By making a choice to send your child to IC, you have joined in a partnership with us; a partnership which seeks to develop Catholic Christian values in your child as well as to promote quality academics.  I am sure you are well aware of how crucial those values are today. Communicating these values is more urgent than ever in the context of recent global issues and the lack of compassion and empathy witnessed in the news. By modeling, as well as by instruction, we help our children learn to live at peace with their neighbor and how to respect themselves and others.

At IC we, you and I, are forming leaders for the future, leaders that will make Godly decisions and promote Godly laws – young men and woman who are poised, independent and strong in their convictions. The values that we profess to teach are not popular. They are counter-cultural. Competition and success at any cost, is valued far more than mercy, forgiveness, or understanding. We strive to be different here.

This year we welcome three new faculty members and a new administrative assistant, who is in charge of admissions and placement. Mrs. Bridget Lacefield joins us as a second grade teacher. Bridget was a former Director of Religious Education and has recently completed a Master’s Degree in Education. Ms. Erica Rivera, our new third grade teacher, is a recent Endicott College Graduate and comes very highly recommended. Mrs. Mary Beth Noe, also with a Master’s Degree, is a veteran of Methuen Public schools and has taught fourth grade for a number of years. Mrs. Kelley Pappalardo, our new administrative assistant, in charge of admissions and eighth grade placement, comes to us with twelve year experience in Catholic schools. All of our additions have made a smooth transition. We are delighted they are with us!

As I prepared to introduce the faculty at Open House, I planned to note a special quality for each faculty member as I introduced them – I realized that the qualities which I value, apply to most, if not all. Our faculty has a pioneer spirit, solves problems, cares for the good of all, nurtures the creative spirit of the student, is talented, has “with-it-ness,” is willing to help out, is collaborative, is encouraging, has heart, has a sense of humor, communicates effectively, is happy and is willing to face rain, wind and snow in the car line! Most importantly, this faculty loves our Lord and preaches the Gospel with words and with actions.

Besides hiring three wonderful new teachers and an administrative assistant over the summer you will notice we launched a new web site. Faculty members were engaged in professional development in writing and the Responsive Classroom Behavior Management Program. I read three great books The Hurried Child by David Elkind, The Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel and How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. Our consulting psychologist, Dr. Elizabeth Krafchuk, will offer a Parent Seminar on two of these books in October. Please keep an eye out for the announcement.

I am increasingly convinced that more than cognitive skills and knowledge the most important things we pass on to your children are perseverance, how to overcome obstacles, how to positively deal with failure, and how to develop grit. The authors I referred to speak to this.

The students and faculty at IC are a community of learners. It follows that in such a community there will be opportunity for learning, growth, making mistakes, asking forgiveness, and moving on. Conflict between students is a normal part of growing up and provides opportunities to learn. When those conflicts arise, your child will benefit from – having you step back-giving your advice, then – letting them handle it.

You ask –“When should a parent step in?”  According to, Dr. Krafchuk –

  1. First, when there has been or is danger of bodily harm and
  2. Second, if something about the interchange strikes the parent’s morals or values radar.

With the former, one needs to jump in right away. With the second, issues could be discussed later, in the privacy of family, without pressure or need to act in front of other peers.

I will be speaking with students at our regular Morning Meeting about ways we promote positive social interaction here at IC. I will also meet with parents later in October to share this information. Officer Greg Whitney, from the Newburyport Police Department, will be joining me to offer advice regarding internet safety

We continue to have fire drills, lock down drills and to maintain security within and outside the building. We want our Faculty and children to feel safe and empowered to handle emergencies in our school.

Each year, in February, all grades will begin an Archdiocesan mandated program titled, “Keeping Children Safe.” This program is developmentally appropriate at each grade and deals with issues of personal safety, proper and improper touching, assertiveness and seeking support. Over the years of the program, healthy and harmful relationships, setting limits, developing skills and finding resources to prevent dangerous relationships are all examined.

At the seventh grade level, the students will be introduced to the program, “See I Make All Things New.” This program focuses on life, love, relationships, and sexuality. Through this curriculum, students are encouraged to grow in virtue and find happiness through discovering God’s plan for their lives.

Parent conferences will take place on Thursday, November 13 and Friday, November 14. Elementary and Primary Conference sign-ups should be done with the respective teachers, if not done so already. Junior High conferences are done with all four teachers present. We are setting up scheduled times for Junior High conferences during the November conference days for parents of our new fifth grade students and for parents of new students only. Parents of returning students who would like to schedule a conference should contact teachers for an appointment.

Our Parent Team Organization, PTO, provides us with a variety of engaging enrichment activities. PTO sponsors student field trips as well as events such as the Halloween Party and Field Day. This organization has one fundraiser, which takes place in the fall. You can see the display of the great wrapping paper in our lobby. We ask you to support this fundraiser. All are welcome to participate in our PTO.

Two very important events, the North Pole Express and the Spring Auction raise funds critical to the operating budget of our school and allow us to keep our tuition affordable as well as to offer tuition assistance. We are dependent upon each parent and faculty member to volunteer for these major fundraisers. There are many different positions in each fundraising event – your support and participation are critical. Working at these events is a great way to meet people and to become a part of the wonderful community. There is no better way to feel a part of this school! There is lots of work to do behind the scenes on the day of each event and before. There is a niche for every talent. Please support those who have given so generously of their time to lead these events – offer your services – offer to help – you are needed!

As the year moves forward, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns?


Mary Reardon




God is Good!

Peace Prize Award Grace McDowell

Peace Prize Award
Grace McDowell

Peace Prize Award Jeremiah Mackin-Alonzi

Peace Prize Award
Jeremiah Mackin-Alonzi


We are please to announce the launch of our new website. I am grateful to Mr. Bob Foley and Mrs. Brin Stevens for their help with the updated, streamlined  tool!

Each Wednesday morning the whole school is joined at morning meeting by Mr. Steve Swochak to be led in song. Mr. Swochak greets the students with a resounding, “God is Good,” to which they reply “All the time.” This acclamation goes back and forth a few times, getting louder with each repetition.  God continues to be good to our school! He continues to provide dedicated personnel and ample resources to carry out our mission.

Recently, the Newburyport Commission on Diversity and Tolerance Awarded the Annual Peace to two of our students, Grace McDowell and Jeremiah Mackin-Alonzi. Both students exemplify inclusiveness and service. They both were commended for the respect and tolerance they demonstrate to all the IC community and beyond.

Though periodically, teasing and mean behavior will surface at our school, we have been blessed with many students who are mindful of their responsibility to treat all with respect. In frequently, when serious issues do arise, faculty, staff and I, with the aide of outside resources, if needed, are quick to educate, counsel, and determine logical consequences for the students to eliminate the behavior. Our mission as a Catholic school requires that we educate our young people toward positive interaction at all times. Newburyport Resource Officer, Gregory Whitney recently made a presentation to our Junior High students regarding bullying prevention. Both staff and students annually review our School Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan which is on our website. As a school, we are committed to promoting a safe and comfortable learning environment for each and every child.

This past week we were treated to a wonderful presentation of “Willy Wonka.” So many volunteers made this very professional production a huge success. Director, Deidre Budzyna and Choreographer Beth Anderson-Song put in countless hours of rehearsal. Many, many volunteers shared their time and expertise. Thank you!

I would like to thank the eighth grade class of 2014 for the beautiful keyboard which they have donated to the school as a class gift. This wonderful key board will delight audiences for future Advent Programs, Talent Shows and Fine Arts Nights for many years to come. Thank you for your kindness and generosity to our school!

As the year draws to a close there will be many events of commemoration and some good-byes to be said. Before this all begins there is a Field Day to play, new parents to greet and lots of learning to take place. I look forward to seeing you at the end of year events!

Yes – Spring is Around the Corner!


As I prepared a calendar for the faculty last week, I included a note, meant to be encouraging, “spring’s around the corner!” Before I finished the phrase, I was reminded of what lies ahead and added something like, “Hold on because the rest of this year is going to move at warp speed!” We have approximately seventy days to learn everything we are supposed to learn. There will be Science Fairs, Fine Arts Nights, “Willy Wonka,” standardized testing, another vacation, Graduation and many, many more events. All of them will be memorable, especially for our eighth graders, because this is their last run-through.

Since my last blog, I have several noteworthy things to report. We have devised a marketing plan for the school. This plan, which was highly recommended by the Archdiocese, was brought to fruition with the help of IC parents, Jim and Diane Murphy. Brin Stevens has been hired as our new Marketing Manager to carry out the plan. She comes to us from Harvard Divinity School and prior to that Columbia University. She will focus on promoting the school for optimum enrollment and regional recognition and will also give marketing support to our various fundraising endeavors.

Speaking of changes, Sr. Mary Braley has prayerfully discerned that it is time for her to transition to a role with fewer responsibilities. Beginning next fall, Sister will serve our school as a teaching assistant for the elementary grades. I am thrilled that we will continue to have the benefit of Sister’s talent and wisdom.

This year will mark a change in our Graduation format. The actual Graduation will take place in the Immaculate Conception Church at 11:00 am on Saturday, June 7. The preceding evening, Friday, June 6, we will hold the traditional Liturgy and Class Night. The graduates’ immediate family will be invited to attend the Liturgy and Class Night. The time-honored eighth grade dance will follow Class Night.

I am especially enamored of this eighth grade class because this is my eighth year at IC. This class has achieved excellence academically, earning entrance into the most prestigious high schools in the area. They are poised and independent learners. More importantly, they are truly nice people, people who can change our culture and our world, people who have the preparation and the ability to spread the joy of the Gospel. It is not without perseverance and self-discipline that they got to this point in their academic careers.

Recently I have been reading Carol Ann Tomlinson’s book How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability Classrooms, 2nd edition. According to Tomlinson, “In a differentiated classroom the teacher proactively plans and carries out varied approaches to content, process, and product in anticipation of and response to student differences in readiness, interest, and learning needs.”  I was struck particularly about what Tomlinson said about self-efficacy. She says that running into walls and then scaling them leads to success. That we can, by encouraging our children to set high goals and helping them discern diverse paths to reach those goals, help them reach excellence. As both a parent and an educator, I am at times tempted to “soften the blow” of failure rather than helping my child and students devise a way to persist and overcome the obstacle. At IC we expect our students will scale many walls, here and beyond, but our goal is to teach them that with persistence and courage, nothing is impossible!

Happy Catholic Schools Week!


The theme for this year’s Catholic Schools Week is: “Catholic Schools, communities of faith, knowledge and service.” Immaculate Conception School, as one of the 6,000 plus, Catholic Schools in the nation, certainly is such a community.

Founded in 1882, this school has been served by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth continuously since that time. Sr. Mary Braley, our current second grade teacher, carries on this tradition. Our faculty and staff are professional, certified, educators who themselves are life-long learners. They carry out their mission in a faith-based environment, committed to academic excellence, and service.

Students in Catholic Schools are faith-driven. We begin each day with a school wide meeting which includes a Scriptural devotion and prayer. We end this morning gathering by reciting our Mission Statement and the Pledge Allegiance to the American Flag. Classrooms pray together for their needs and those of others. Students learn about their Catholic faith in Religion classes.

Students in Catholic Schools are productive. There is a ninety-nine percent graduation rate in Catholic High Schools. Eighty-eight percent of Catholic School students graduate from college. In our own school, over ninety percent of our eighth graders, who recently took the Catholic High School Placement Test, scored above the median grade for the Archdiocese of Boston. Our graduates go on to public as well as private schools such as Governor’s St. John’s Prep, Central Catholic, Bishop Fenwick, Malden Catholic, and St. Thomas Aquinas. Many take honors and AP classes. Our graduates are poised, confident, and independent learners.

Students in Catholic Schools are future leaders. Mariah Newman, a sixteen year old Newburyport High School student, just developed and wrote a successful grant for the Newburyport Youth Services. She is a recent graduate of IC. O’Neil Danis, also an IC graduate, now attending Harvard, was last year’s Valedictorian at St. John’s Prep. Mr. Richie Eaton, Chairman and former CEO and President of the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank and Mr. Curt Gerrish, CEO of Rochester Electronics are alumni of our school.

This week we celebrate Catholic Schools Week with a special Liturgy, an Open House, a “Special Person’s” Luncheon, an Ice Cream Social, a Pep Rally, an enrichment program, and a Talent Show. This week we celebrate that Catholic Schools, especially IC, provide a faith-based education, offer an excellent traditional academic program, and impress upon each student the call to serve one’s community and world.  This week we celebrate that Immaculate Conception School is Catholic education at its best!

Mary Reardon



Back-to-School Post

August Greetings!

We are eagerly awaiting the return of our students! The building is buzzing with anticipation and the last minute polishing and preparations are in progress. We have an increase in enrollment this year, welcoming several new families! We look forward to working as partners with you, in educating you children.

This summer has brought many exciting changes. Please join me in welcoming our new faculty and staff. Ms. Judy Hollick is our new Jr. High Social Studies and seventh grade homeroom teacher. Mrs. Karen Mission has just been hired to replace Mrs. Michelle Edmunds as our fourth grade teacher. Mrs. Edmunds very recently took a position in Nashua, NH. Both Mrs. Pearson and Mrs. Edmunds will be sorely missed, but we are grateful that God has blessed us with two very qualified, experienced, and dedicated Catholic Christian women. In addition, Mrs. Jenn Troisi has taken over operations of our school library due to the retirement of Mrs. Blake, the first of August. We are indeed blessed to find such worthy replacements for our faculty and staff. I look forward to sharing in and witnessing the many gifts these women will bring to our school.

When you visit the school during our Back-to-School Cookout on Wednesday, August 28, (5:00-6:30) you will notice that we have been busy this summer. All of our regular classrooms are now equipped with Smart Boards, grades 1-4 have beautiful new desks, and we have refurbished the Washington St. stair case. While not readily visible, our planned security improvements have been completed.

Several of our teachers attended iPad professional development recently. During our In-Service days next week, the faculty and staff will be sharing their knowledge in Core Standards implementation, technology, differentiation, and our John Collins Writing model. Mr. Sean Murphy, from the Catholic School Office, will join us in examining testing data with eye to promoting more growth for our already high achieving students. This increased student growth, as well as the development a comprehensive marketing plan, will inform our school goals for this year.

Personally, I have been busy this summer interviewing candidates and new students, and making plans for exciting projects involving faculty support and the promotion IC.  At the end of July, I welcomed a new grandchild and took some family time.

Please be sure to examine the maps showing the new traffic patterns for Morning Drop-off and Afternoon Dismissal. These are in the Back-to-School Documents and on the Communicator. These maps were provided by the Newburyport Police Department. This summer, in order to address some concerns of our neighbors regarding congestion and speed, I attended a meeting of the Newburyport Public Safety Committee. I then consulted with the City Marshall in preparation for these traffic pattern changes. We will continue to work with this issue and change as needed.

I look forward to greeting each of you on August 28! Enjoy these beautiful August days!


Mary Reardon




Happy Summer!

June 19, 2013

As the year draws quickly to a close I wanted to take the opportunity to wish you all a restful, happy summer and to thank you for your support and encouragement throughout the year. From our iPad initiative, to our NEASC Accreditation visit, to Sr. Mary’s Celebration, to your support of a grieving family, and your volunteerism, you have truly shown the greatest attributes of a Catholic Christian community. I am privileged and honored not only to help oversee the education of your children but to benefit from the care of such a beautiful community. Thank you!

We are so proud of our graduating eighth graders. Awards were presented this year to:

Hugh Buxbaum for Christian Spirit,

Kayla Pearson received the Pastor’s Award,

Maggie Farrell the Principal’s Award,

Margaret Schlich and Alex Berzansky, the Daughter of Isabella Award,

Isabel Indresano the Jason Sawyer Award,

Sally Hayes the Amando Garville Award,

Maeve Pattie the first place Academic Excellence Award, and

Sally Hayes the second place Academic Award.

The class presented the school with a beautiful statue of our Blessed Mother which graces our front entrance. Thank you, Class of 2013.

Some of our students were recognized at the Annual Class Day for our seventh and eighth graders:

  • Congressman John F. Tierney wrote letters of congratulations to Maggie Farrell and Alexander Berzansky for receiving the Annual Peace Prize Award presented by the Newburyport Commission on Diversity and Tolerance.
  • The Leadership Team officers, President Isabel Indesano, Vice-President Sally Hayes, and Secretary Haley Lynch were recognized for their service to the school.
  • St. Thomas Aquinas High School Awarded the Sr. Georgeanne Book Award to Eleanor Fremont-Smith, and Eli Anderson-Song.
  • Caroline Shaw and Jeremiah Mackin were awarded the Principal’s Scholarship to the St. John’s Prep, Aspire Summer Program.

As we say our very sad good-byes to Mrs. Pearson, our Jr. High teacher, Mr. Miller, Business Manager, and Mr. Goodrich, our school facilities person, we take courage and rest on the surety that God will provide competent and talented people to continue the mission of our school.

Have a wonderful summer!

Mrs. Mary Reardon

Principal for the Day


On Friday, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the day with Margot Anderson-Song. As “Principal for the Day,” Margot accompanied me throughout my daily activities. She helped with morning playground duty (we held our breath as the Underwood family arrived in a fire truck with lights flashing*), presided at our school-wide morning meeting, visited all the classrooms, attended a Field Day meeting, covered lunch duty, delivered messages for Mrs. LaBrecque – whew! I am tired just listing our activities. Margot was a delightful companion with her hot pink brief case and very serious attitude toward her position for the day.

As part of her duties, Principal Anderson-Song proclaimed “no homework Monday evening, May 6 and a Boston themed Dress-down Day for Friday,May 10.Thank you to Dong-Soo and Beth Anderson-song for making this magical day happen!

*Principal for the Day” and “A fire truck ride to school” were  live items at our recent Auction.