The Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School was named for a local community activist and serves over 500 students in a modern building on Columbia Road in Dorchester. Each homeroom is assigned a university and the class is referred to by that name, rather than by room number or grade and letter designation as is common in most schools.

Alice Laramore‘s 7th graders were writing “gist” statements after reading a passage in A Long Walk to Water, a novel written in two voices that takes place in Sudan. In Melissa Graham‘s 8th grade Humanities class, the core text is Inside Out and Back Again, the story of a South Vietnamese refugee told in a series of poems. Being a pilot school gives the Frederick some curriculum autonomy, and I wonder how these books were selected for study. Both seem to offer powerful stories to help students gain empathy as well as learn about another part of the world.

The Frederick has both Spanish and Multilingual SLIFE programs for students new to the country and to formal education. Ariana Sicarios-McCarthy, who teaches math and science to this population, had recently completed a study of the human body – her students’ large cut-out human shapes were displayed in the hallway, labeled with the names of different muscles in English and Spanish.

Ruthie Lynn teaches a Social Justice class to all Frederick students and the wall of her classroom is full of “Bio Poems” in which students wrote about who they are, what they love, their hopes and fears. Outside the gym, a large display of student writing put together by 3D art teacher Ivy Davis shares personal statements with the pattern: “Just because I’m… doesn’t mean…”

It’s refreshing to see so much attention given to Social Emotional Learning at the Frederick. Yoga teacher Karen Shanti Caiazzo says, “It’s wonderful to get the kids moving and to see them actually experience moments of quiet and stillness. Stopping and remembering to take a deep breath before we start an activity also helps us to remember to center ourselves before we act.” She welcomes conversations with other BPS educators interested in doing yoga in their classrooms; contact her at

Despite continued cold weather, the days are noticeably longer now and winter is loosening its grip – enjoy February vacation and the coming spring!

Warm regards,

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Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.