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Principal Messages


January 23, 2024

Dear Grade 7 Students, Parents and Guardians, 

All Massachusetts public schools must include a verbal substance use preventive screening as part of their yearly mandated universal health-screening programs. Our district will use the Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) protocol with students in grade 7. Students will be asked 4 questions in private. Then there will be a one-on-one conversation between each student and a school nurse or health teacher. The purpose of this effort is to prevent, or at least delay, alcohol, marijuana or other drug use. The SBIRT program reinforces healthy decisions and addresses concerns about substance use to improve health, safety and success in school.

We will use the CRAFFT II screening tool, the most commonly used substance use screening tool for adolescents. All screenings will be held in private one-on-one sessions with either the specially trained nurse or health teacher.  Students who are not using substances will have their healthy choices reinforced. When any student reports using alcohol or other drugs, or seems at risk for future substance use, the screener will ask 5 more questions, provide brief feedback and have a brief conversation with that student.  

  • What your child tells the screener is confidential and will not be shared with any other person without prior written consent of the student, parent, or guardian, except in cases of immediate medical emergency or when disclosure is otherwise required by state law. 
  • No written record of the results of this verbal screening are kept with information that identifies any individual student. 
  • Screening results will not be put with any other information that identifies any child.  
  • Screening results will not be included in your child’s school record. 

Together, schools and parents CAN make a difference for the youth in our community. One way to prevent youth alcohol and other drug use is to talk with your child about your thoughts and expectations about alcohol and drug use.  You can view the CRAFFT II tool and other SBIRT resources on website.

We will begin screening in the week of January 29, 2024.  If you want to opt your child out of the screening you can write to us any time before or during the screening. Your child may also opt out at the time of the screening.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions, or if you would like your child to opt-out of the screening.  I will conduct the screening along with district nurses. Please contact me at 413-323-0433 opt. 4 or


Diane McKelvey, BSN, RN, NCSN

JBMS Update 1.18.24

Dear JBMS Students, Parents & Guardians:

Friday, January 19th marks the end of the second term and our mid-point in the school year. With the second half of the school year, we are notifying families of our return to “pre-covid” procedures to address excessive absences and tardiness from school, as well as safety concerns during morning drop-off and afternoon dismissal. Here is an overview:


As you may have seen in the local news, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education defines chronic absences as “as missing at least 10 percent of days enrolled (18 days absent for a school year of 180 days), regardless of the reason for the absence.  Last year, 22.9% of JBMS students were defined as chronically absent, more than twice the rate of absences pre-covid.  We are returning to pre-covid procedures to address this problem.

While our school district supports and understands the need for student absences for medical reasons, attendance letters will be sent out to families in compliance with the state guidelines.  Parents/guardians will be notified when a student has five or more unexcused absences per term. More than eight cumulative absences at the mid-year will be subject to administrative review. 

When students are at risk to be chronically absent, referrals to support services, including our attendance nurse, our school truancy officer, as well as local and state agencies will occur. Students and families are asked to work cooperatively with the school to address excessive absences, including ways to support student attendance with medical concerns. We do not want kids coming to school sick, but being out for not feeling well has its limits. 

Please find resources and guidelines from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and their attendance improvement initiative here. 

Late arrivals:

Tardiness to school does count toward a student’s overall attendance record. Students who arrive after 7:35 am will be recorded as tardy and must report to the office upon arrival.  Students who are tardy five times in a term will be issued an after-school detention. School bus delays will be excused by the front office per policy. 

Morning access to the building, particularly during the winter months is challenging at best. While we work to be reasonable during weather events, traffic congestion and a mad rush in the morning will not be excused. Driveway access is limited, and congestion to Springfield Road needs to be avoided as much as possible. Drop off at 7:20 runs smoothly, and kids have time to eat a free breakfast – arriving at 7:30 is becoming a nightmare. Please do your best to plan accordingly.

Dismissal Procedures:

JBMS conducts staggered dismissal procedures, as is done in the district K-8, and students are dismissed to buses and pick-up in a structured format. We have announced a change in the procedures to address some safety concerns, but the overall change is minimal. Here is what will happen starting next week:

All students will report to an end of the day homeroom at 2:05 pm. Dismissal procedures will be as follows:

Wave 1: 2:10 pm : Buses 2, 9,13,11, 1 

Wave 2: 2:12 pm : Buses 3, 10, 12, 6, 16 

Walkers and Pick-Ups:  2:12 pm

Wave 3: 2:17 pm : Buses 17, 14, 7, 15, 8

Wave 4: 2:19 pm :  Buses 20, 5, 19, 21, 18, 4

Dismissal procedures are staggered for supervision and safety reasons, and are completed in about 15 minutes. A switch of two minutes we believe will correct an ongoing issue with students dismissing in the wrong groups, while having minimal impact to the overall procedure. The number of cars present for dismissal and the number of students who are walking through the side parking lot, however, remains a significant safety concern. While I hope small steps can address some of these concerns, further steps may become necessary.  

Let’s please continue to work together to support the structures created to get our students in and out of school safely. We need to work together to address the frustrations and concerns with a common premise, that students are expected to be present daily and on time for all classes.  If you have further suggestions or ideas on how to make improvements, please feel free to contact me at any time. 


Thomas K. Ruscio, Principal

JBMS 5/5/23

Dear Parents/Guardians and Students of Jabish Brook Middle School:

Spring MCAS testing is nearly complete, with our Grade 8 Science Test remaining to be conducted on May 16th & 17th. All make-up testing for math and science tests will be completed by May 24th. I want to thank students and families for their participation in testing this year. We were able to meet our attendance requirements for testing in all subgroups, and I believe we have avoided a level 3 designation due to test participation requirements. 

Henia Lewin will be visiting Jabish Brook Middle School on May 11th to speak with our eighth grade students.  Henia Lewin will convey her personal story as a holocaust survivor. This visit has been scheduled in direct response to the recent incidents of anti-semitism in our school. Additional lessons, activities and presentations will be conducted with other local resources and individuals to combat hate in our school. 

Advisory class periods will reinforce respect and appreciation for these differences, whether that be gender, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, sexual identity, national origin, or any other distinguishing characteristic or trait. We will also be implementing and requesting student representation to be a part of the US Department of Justice School Spirit Program, which will bring students representatives from all such affiliations together to establish common expectations and methods of resolution within our school. These programs will be implemented immediately, and will be expanded within the school and the school district in the fall.

My apologies for the last minute cancellation of our school dance. We are making amends and will be holding the next dance for all current JBMS seventh and eighth grade students on Friday, May 12th from 7-9:00 pm.

The Grade 8 field trip to Washington DC is Sunday, May 21st – Wednesday, May 24th will include approximately 100 students, and activities have also been planned for our eighth grade students who will be here at the school during that time. 

Our June events will include a seventh and eighth grade Carnival from 12:30 – 2:00 pm on Friday June 16th, and our final dance exclusively for eighth grade students the evening of June 16th as a farewell event.  A student recognition breakfast on our last day of school, a half-day on June 20th, is also scheduled for our seventh and eighth grade students. 

Next week, May 8-12th will be our annual Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week. Please visit the JBMS PTO Facebook page and consider making a donation. With your help we are hoping to provide our staff with a luncheon this week.


Thomas K. Ruscio, Principal 

JBMS Update 4.28.23

Dear JBMS Faculty & Staff, Students, Parents & Guardians:

Our building-wide morning advisory session today addressed the impact of recent events of bias and hate against students here at Jabish Brook. An impact letter was written and submitted to our school, which was shared and discussed with all students by the faculty and administration in small groups.

Following the advisory session, our Life Skills students were given a send-off to compete in the local Special Olympics session held in Monson. Our send-off included staff and students and a portion of our band cheering them on in preparation for the competition. Please check out our school twitter account JBMS Orioles @jbmsprincipal or our Instagram account at jbms_belchertown for the send-off video.

We have been able to confirm that Henia Lewin, the holocaust survivor and speaker at the Town Vigil last week, will be visiting Jabish Brook to speak with our students directly. We are working out the exact details of the time and location for this presentation for our students and will send out further details once they are confirmed. We have this tentatively scheduled for the second week of May.

Our faculty and staff will be meeting with the Joy & Justice Team at the Collaborative for Education Services during our next two staff meeting sessions in May to continue to address these issues openly with our students in productive ways. All remaining advisory sessions will be based on the No Place for Hate ADL curriculum against bias and hate in our school to continue this dialogue as well.  We are continuing to coordinate with community resources a cooperative response to these concerns, and I am thankful for the support that has been offered to make these responses possible.  It will take a cooperative and continued response of our students and families, our town, and our community to continue to work with our school district to respond to these needs effectively.

Thomas K. Ruscio, Principal


Principal Message- April 24, 2023

Dear JBMS Faculty & Staff, Students, Parents & Guardians:

Throughout the investigation of incidents of hate in our school, our priority remains the safety and well-being of our students. JBMS faculty and staff met to review and discuss the recent incidents this week and are committed to working cooperatively with students and families to ensure that any type of hateful acts will not be tolerated in our school. 

Team meetings were held with all students this week that included Superintendent Cameron, Assistant Superintendent Fortin, School Resource Officer Jason Krol, our Guidance and Administration, and all faculty and staff to reinforce our position that such incidents have no place in our school. The following points were presented to all students: 

Students who are enduring any incidents of hate are to speak with an adult and report it. Students who witness such actions can not be bystanders and must report it.  

Investigation continues with student interviews and conferences with parents & guardians regarding reported incidents. Formal consequences have been imposed with these incidents. 

Morning Advisory will be restructured to include lessons and discussions regarding hate and bias.

Presentations will be scheduled within classrooms and within the building to stop hate in our school. 

Scheduled student activities are now tentative and are under review. Activities may be postponed or canceled with continued violations.

Allowed access and use of personal devices in school are being reviewed and may be further restricted.

We ask that parents and guardians speak with students regarding these expectations.  We must all work together to help our students understand the impact that harmful symbols, words, and actions have on our community. Exposure to such hateful language and acts is easily accessible on personal devices and through social media platforms, and we ask that parents and guardians are vigilant in recognizing and monitoring these influences impacting our students. 

As we move forward, our faculty and staff will be meeting with the Joy & Justice Team at the Collaborative for Educational Services to build opportunities within classrooms to address these issues openly with our students in productive ways. A number of staff members have already started to do so. We have increased faculty coverage of students in common areas of the school, such as the cafeteria, and will create additional methods of communication to ensure that any incidents of harm are reported and addressed. 

We will also be working with the Anti-Defamation Leagues to implement the “No Place for Hate” school-based initiative during our morning advisory sessions. Additional educational presentations are being scheduled to occur over the coming weeks. I appreciate the support of a number of community members in providing resources for these efforts.

Our commitment remains to maintain a positive school climate where everyone can learn in a safe school environment. We appreciate your support as we confront incidents of hate to reinforce our expectations of acceptance, inclusion, respect, and equity.

Here are some resources for talking with your children about bias and discrimination:

Thomas K. Ruscio, Principal


Dear JBMS Students, Parents, Guardians, Faculty & Staff:

As we close the month of March, I want to express both my gratitude for the hard work and endurance our school community has shown through the successes and challenges of the last few weeks, but also to express my concern and frustration with problemed behavior and recent incidents.

With warmer temperatures, it is somewhat normal to find students filled with energy needing to get outside.  A number of students, however, are getting much too disruptive and physical with each other while being outside.  We have had incidents of vandalism that is causing bathrooms to be temporarily closed, and we are investigating and imposing consequences for acts of hate against others in the school building. Incidents being reported include both language and actions that are anti-Semitic, homophobic, and racist.

It should go without saying that we will not tolerate such inappropriate actions and will take action as a school community to respond. I am taking further steps with the district administrative team to implement additional training and resources for our faculty and staff. For this to be effective, I need your assistance to address these concerns as well. While we coordinate educational responses to teach students why these actions will not be tolerated, and the impact such actions have on others, we need our students and families to talk about why such things are happening and what we can do together to put a stop to it.

It is my hope that by working together as a school community to address these problems, we can provide the safe learning environment necessary for all students.   As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me directly.

Thomas K. Ruscio, Principal

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