The function of freedom is to free someone else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else. – Toni Morrison

August 16, 2019

Dear Hampstead Hill Family,

Thank you for choosing to send your child to Hampstead Hill Academy (HHA)! We are proud to begin the 22nd year of partnership with our charter operator, the Baltimore Curriculum Project (BCP). The staff of HHA and BCP welcomes you and your family to our great school. We are excited to be a part of the BCP network of neighborhood schools, which includes City Springs Elementary/Middle, Frederick Elementary, Govans Elementary and Wolfe Street Academy.

At Hampstead Hill Academy, we are known for great teachers, friendly kids, high test scores, and lots of extracurricular activities. We are the only elementary or middle school in Baltimore City to earn 5 stars from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). Only 219 out of more than 1,500 schools in Maryland earned 5 stars. We have a long waiting list of families clamoring for admission. We have control over our curriculum, our budget, and selecting staff. We have a thriving music and theater arts program; the Leaders Go Places (LGP) middle school incentive program; championship chess, debate, baseball, and volleyball teams; a beautiful building and grounds; and a place at the table when it comes to policy issues like the undercounting of poverty and advocating for the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations to be fully funded. See the report at:

On paper, HHA has lost 49% of its poverty rate over the last three years. That is patently false. In reality, City Schools has not accurately counted our students correctly. Your focused help will be needed this September as we will collect new income statements from every HHA family as part of an important new study looking at how to count poverty. We will look for 100% participation from our families and you will be needed to make that happen. There will be a simple, secure form to complete. The official poverty rate determines how much money we receive and how we are compared to other schools. We’ve lost more than $1M over the last three years because our kids have not been counted. Kirwan resources will be distributed based on poverty rates. The importance of collecting these forms cannot be overstated.

HHA is a safe, nurturing, diverse, family-friendly neighborhood school with rigorous, effective academic programs and exciting, engaging, extracurricular activities. We believe all parents want the same thing for their children: more and better opportunities for college and career. We believe in the importance of the arts, and we want our students to be great communicators, listeners and writers. Our students will be leaders who are productive, persistent, responsible, caring, and healthy members of the greater community.

I want to congratulate HHA staff and students on the most recent PARCC state assessment results. I could not be more proud of our collective effort to improve student achievement. The official PARCC data remains embargoed. However, a preliminary look reveals outstanding results that will far outpace City Schools averages and compete with schools around the state. Remember, this assessment is based on rigorous Common Core standards. Our final results show strong gains in overall achievement. You should be as proud as I am of the performance of our students and teachers on this important accountability measure. Please remember that it takes a team. MSDE expects to release comparative data on August 27.

Let’s take a look at some highlights from the reading assessment. While it is important to consider cohort and trend performance, the following is a snapshot of improvement within specific grades.  56.5% of 3rd-8th graders passed the reading test – up 4.8% from last year. Elementary grades dipped  2.6 points in reading while middle grades gained 12.1 points in reading in 2019. There was outstanding growth in 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade in reading. 6th graders gained the most (16.1% over last year’s scores) and achieved the highest (an eye-popping 70% pass rate!). Special acknowledgement is given to 4th graders for improving reading scores 11.6 points and to 8th graders for improving reading scores by 16 points. Our 7th graders continued three years of extraordinarily high and improving PARCC  scores moving from a 61.6% pass rate last year to a 67.1% pass rate this year. And an incredible 27% of 7th graders earned the coveted five, which is earned by only 10% of students statewide!

In terms of math, 44% of HHA students passed PARCC, which represents a 2.3% overall jump in scores. Elementary grades gained 21.4 points in math while middle grades held at exactly the same pass rate as last year. This year was about incremental overall gains in math after the previous year when we increased math scores by 11%. 4th, 6th, and 7th grade math scores as well as our Algebra class showed terrific improvement in 2019. 7th graders showed the most grade level improvement – more than a 17 point gain! 7th graders were also the top achievers with a 59% pass rate. 8th grade Algebra students posted an amazing 71% pass rate on the rigorous Algebra I PARCC assessment.

This year promises to be great as we set high expectations for learning and have a lot of fun at the same time. Test scores are not, to quote William Shakespeare, “the end all and be all.” Learning at our school means much more than a single number on a state test. We want our academic programs to come alive for students. Our students will move beyond the acquisition of knowledge to produce work that is unique and exciting such as projects and papers that justify, persuade and convince. Ultimately, we want HHA students to become the thinkers, innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders that our city and nation require. This year’s entering kindergarten students are the future college class of 2016, and were glad to be an important part of their path.

Our school culture aims to be nurturing and consistent. As a Restorative Practices school, we build community in each classroom and promote good citizenship and respect. Our middle school Leaders Go Places (LGP) program is outstanding at building relationships. Most importantly, we are ready to motivate and engage your child in their learning. We know that helping students learn how to synthesize information, problem solve, think critically and organize their materials are essential lifelong skills. Teachers are busy planning project fairs, portfolios of student work and enrichment activities to expand our curriculum. There will be opportunities throughout the year to celebrate your child’s progress.

The metrics used to measure our performance include: (1) on-site effectiveness reviews conducted by outside experts; (2) in-house instructional coaching recommendations; (3) state and district standardized testing in reading, math and science; (4) PARCC scores; (5) NWEA’s Measures of Academic Performance; (6) promotion, cohort retention, attendance/lateness, suspension, detention, office referral data; (7) student, parent, and teacher climate surveys; (8) capital planning to accommodate our growing enrollment; (9) budgeting for the short and long term; and (10) the charter renewal process. We are in the middle of our five year charter contract. There is some chatter about extending the maximum contract to 10 years for the next cycle, which would be great.

The NWEA’s Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) offers pre- and post-test data in reading and math to help us measure student growth from the beginning to the end of the year. With MAP, we can see whether our programs add value to student learning. A celebration of the growth our students showed on MAP last year is in order. Our students showed statistically significant growth and that achievement is directly connected to the quality of our staff. You can learn more about this diagnostic assessment at: Fifty percent of students meeting their individual growth goal is the national average.

City Schools has a rigorous Instructional Framework (IF) that is focused on best practices in teaching and learning. You can see the framework at The framework complements good teaching and greatly helps in the implementation of the Common Core. You should make certain to review in detail the Common Core standards for your child’s grade. The standards can be found at

At HHA, students must show their work and explain how they developed their thinking. They write across content areas and have the opportunity to discuss and analyze their thinking and reasoning, especially in upper elementary and middle grades. The Maryland State PARCC assessment will be administered once in late May/early June in reading and math in grades 3-8. Science will be measured by the MISA assessment in grades 5 and 8. As HHA’s Student Outcomes Committee (SOC) states, our students should have the literacy and communication skills, analytical skills, practical life skills and social skills necessary to succeed in high school, college and their chosen career.

To meet this goal, teachers will develop individual portfolios that include at least nine exemplary products demonstrating an opportunity for higher order thinking, creative choice, and the editing and revision process. The definition of higher order thinking is informed by the Common Core but defined in the classroom by teachers. Feel free to ask your child’s teacher what will be included in portfolios and why. Also, students in grades 1-8 will participate in at least two project fairs this year, including science fairs and, for middle school students, the rigorous National History Day project.

I hope you are finding time to enjoy summer – reading, spending time with family and friends, traveling and doing the things you like to do. See you soon!


Matthew Hornbeck

Meet Your Teacher!
You and your child are invited to “MEET YOUR TEACHER DAY” Friday, August 30th from 9:00 until 11:00 a.m. Come join us for an informal, get-acquainted morning with your child’s new teacher(s). There will be two surprise special guests (local mascots!) ready to take pictures with your child. The Food for Life program will provide light refreshments. A parent or guardian should accompany children attending the event. There will be an opportunity to purchase HHA uniform shirts at a reasonable cost. Cash is the only form of payment accepted for uniforms.

Instrumental Music Recruitment
Our Director of Instrumental Music is Eugene Garner. Mr. Garner is excited to work with our talented and budding musicians. Returning band and orchestra members and any 4-8 grade student interested in playing an instrument will have the chance to play. Mr. Garner will offer small group lessons to each student at least twice a week. Most lessons will be scheduled during a regular resource time so that students will not need to be pulled out of core content classes for practice, although that is unavoidable just before performances.

PreK and K Begin Gradually the First Week
Incoming PreK and K families should plan for the first day of K and the first few days of PreK to be small group meetings with students and parents. Teachers will distribute exact first week schedules asap.

Information about Kindergarten Homeroom Assignments
Kindergarten homeroom assignments are made based on the brief assessments conducted over the summer. Thank you to everyone who scheduled an appointment and came in. If your kindergarten child has not taken the assessment, do not be concerned. He or she will have a placeholder homeroom assignment until assessed and assigned, which will happen in the first few days of school.

Homeroom Assignments
Homeroom teacher assignments for all grades will be posted at school beginning Thursday, August 29th. Homeroom assignments will be simultaneously posted on our website at Based on the assessment of skills in the first few weeks, a few students may change homerooms.

Transition to 5th Grade
Parents of incoming 5th graders should know that instead of 45 minutes of lunch/recess and 45 minutes of resource class (PE, art, drama, etc.) each day, the schedule for our older students includes 30 minutes for lunch/recess and 60 minutes for resource classes each day. We are among only a handful of schools in the City and the Country to offer recess to our upper elementary and middle school students. 30 minutes provides enough time to eat and play. If you have individual concerns about your child, please see an administrator.

Dismissal of 4th Graders
Fourth graders are dismissed directly outside from the stairwell door by the main office. They are no longer passed off directly to parents as is the case with PreK-3 grade students. Please plan to be on time and arrange for a place to meet your child.

Attendance is critical
Good attendance is missing four or fewer days of schools for the year. Students succeed when they attend school and are on time. All students who are absent receive a phone call home. Students who are signed out before 10:30 a.m. will be marked absent for the day. For those families who live outside of our zone, attendance is even more important because excessive absence, lateness, and signing your child out early will result in a transfer to your zoned school at the end of the school year. The district monitors the attendance of your child. If there are too many days missed, you will receive a letter from City Schools asking you to attend a hearing. Hearing Officers have the authority to levy fines of up to $50 per absence. Again, attendance is required by law. More importantly, we can only teach students who come to school.

Monthly News Magazine
Look for an important parent news magazine to be sent home with your child Thursday, September 5th. It will contain useful information for you and your family. Newsletters are printed monthly and will be sent home the first school day of each month. Archived newsletters are available online at

Update on Expansion Possibility
HHA wants to expand to two campuses (our present campus and 801 S. Highland Ave.) to provide high quality programming and a terrific education to more than 650 additional children, reduce overcrowding in southeast Baltimore City, and keep families in the wonderful neighborhoods surrounding our school. We have met with district officials and have the support of elected officials and community organizations. We continue to try to make the financing work. With rent forgiveness or if BCP purchased the building, we could take out a $5M loan. We have $500,000 in capital savings to add for a total of $5.5M. The feasibility study showed that a renovation will cost $15M. So we are $9.5M shy of what is needed. To put this amount in context, new and renovated schools that are part of the 21st Century Buildings initiative are coming in at $50-65M. We are trying to make the case that we can provide 650 additional high quality seats for a fraction of that cost. Stay tuned.

Join in the Fitness, Fun and Games!
Fitness Fun & Games at Hampstead Hill is enrolling for before and after school programming. Registration and payment are due two weeks prior to starting the program. First come, first served. Please email the site director, Desher James, at or call 410-732-8778.

Want a Job with Fitness Fun & Games
FFG has job openings at Hampstead Hill. Log onto and click on “Jobs.” Hours are 6:15-8 am and/or 2-6:30 pm. Staff may bring children, ages 4-14, to work.

Breakfast and Lunch Program
Thanks to a federal initiative called the Community Eligibility Program (CEP), breakfast AND lunch are free for all City Schools students regardless of income. Meals begin the first day of school for students, Tuesday, September 4th. For safety reasons, all students coming to breakfast must enter the cafeteria using the Streeper Street entrance between 7:40-7:55. Please do not send your child to school before 7:40 unless they are signed up to participate with FFG. Our tasty salad bar returns, stocked with fresh salad, fruits, and vegetables.

Arrival and dismissal procedures
The 2019-2020 school year begins Tuesday, September 3rd at 8:00 a.m. Once school begins, we expect students to get back into a routine for learning – plenty of sleep on school nights, a good breakfast each morning, and coming to school on time ready to learn. Being on time means entering the building promptly at 8:00 a.m. Students will line up by numbered homeroom on the blacktop. Depending on the grade, your child should enter school as follows:

PreK line up by the PreK classroom doors on the courtyard
K-4 line up on the blacktop and entering through the stairwell entrance by main office.
5-8 gather in front of the building, north of the ramp and enter through the
Eastern and Linwood stairwell doors.

School will dismiss each day at 2:40 p.m. For safety’s sake, teachers of our youngest children will walk their classes onto the blacktop for dismissal. PreK will dismiss from their rooms. Parents must wait until students line up and check in with the teacher before leaving with their child. Be sure your child follows dismissal procedures outlined by his/her teacher. Please make certain your child knows where and when he/she will be picked up after school. If your child walks, he/she should go directly home at dismissal.  Please note that unless there is an emergency, the office will not sign out students from 2:15 until 2:40.  Parents arriving early for pickup should let their children finish the school day.

Uniform Policy
HHA is a uniform school. ALL STUDENTS MUST WEAR A COLLARED NAVY TOP WITH KHAKI BOTTOM. No other color of blue is acceptable, only navy blue. Official HHA T-shirts are appropriate to wear as a uniform as well. We sell high quality polo shirts embroidered with our logo for $12 each, but you are welcome to purchase different brands. Uniforms may be purchased at Meet Your Teacher and cash is the only form of payment accepted. Students out of uniform will be asked to call home for a change of clothes. Please make sure your child is in uniform every day.

Supply list
Supply lists are available for all grades at the main office and online at Please clearly label all supplies, clothing, lunch boxes, etc. with the name of your child. Please note that all book bags must fit inside a locker.  Rolling-style backpacks do not fit. Depending on the class, teachers may add a few items to this supply list during the first days of school.

Playground Rules
Our wonderful playground is available to the community whenever school is not in session. Please note that the playground is closed in the morning before school starts. Students supervised by a parent or adult family member may play on our playground after school. Only supervised children up to age 10 are allowed on the playground. Littering or misuse of the playground will result in the loss of playground privileges. Please let the office know if you see anyone misusing the playground. Our security cameras keep a watchful eye on the playground as well. Absolutely no dogs or pets are permitted on school property, which includes the sidewalks around our building.

Leadership Team
Your 2019-2020 Leadership Team includes Matt Hornbeck (Principal), John Paz (Assistant Principal), Cassandra Bailey (Assistant Principal), Katie Johnson (Academic Coach, PreK-2), Megan Trainer (Academic Coach, 3-5), Mike Lucas (Academic Coach, 6-8 and LGP Chair), Carey Fetting-Smith (Academic Coach), Steven Plunk (Director of Restorative Practices), Laura Guitian (Director of Enrichment), Matt Cobb (Director of Student Outcomes and Wellness), Morgan Klenk (PreK/K Team Leader), Marybeth Smith (1/2 Team Leader), Kelsey Schultz (3/4 Team Leader), Kelli Poole (5/6 Team Leader), Kat Locke-Jones (7/8 Team Leader), Melissa Riorda (Resource Team Leader), Nancy Gonzalez (ESOL Team Leader), Jennifer Shaffer (Special Education Team Leader), Meagan V.W. (SFC Chair), Geri Swann (Director of Community Outreach) and Felicia German (Director of Latino Outreach).

New Staff
We have a stellar group of new staff joining our talented ranks. We welcome Kim Rice (Talent Development Specialist), Leonard Lee (Testing and Technology Specialist), Mandi McCalin (Assistant Teacher with new K Teacher Cassandra LaBella), Monikai Tinson (Urban Teacher Resident with Kirby Costello), Gabriella Pellegrini (Grade 5 Reading Teacher), Hayley Ruppenthal (Grade 5 Science/SS/Writing Teacher), Katja Kleine (Grade 6 Math Teacher), Kevin Ball (Urban Teacher Resident with Kat Locke-Jones and Amy Kosmer), Brooke Petruzzelli (Grade 7 Science Teacher), Stephen Lohrman (Grade 8 Science Teacher), Dr. Alyssa Schardt (Psychologist), Marissa Lowery (Occupational Therapist), John Polanco (Hopkins/Bayview Family Therapist) and James Edwards (P.E. Teacher).

Staff in New Roles
Congratulations to the following members of our talented staff as they transition into new and former roles: Matt Cobb (Director, Student Outcomes and Wellness), Jen Burt (Program Specialist, Enrichment and Equity), Cassandra LaBella (Kindergarten Teacher), Rachel Douglas (Grade 1 Teacher), Ashley Lefever (Assistant Grade 1 Teacher with Ms. Douglas), Marybeth Smith (Grade 2 Teacher) and Brandon Pratta (Grade 4 Math).

Thank you to our Super Summer Team!
We need to thank Ms. Chris, Ms. Melanie, Ms. Rasheed, Ms. Davis, Ms. Olivia, Ms. Flora, and Ms. Carmen for their commitment to getting the building ready and making everything shine.

Please note these important dates on your calendar

● Friday, August 30, 2019 – Meet Your Teacher Day, 9 -11am

● Monday, September 2, 2019 – Labor Day, School is Closed

● Tuesday, September 3, 2019 – First day of school, student day starts at 8 am

● Thursday, September 12, 2019 – Back-to-School Night, 5:30 – 7:30pm

● Thursday and Friday, October 17 and October 18, 2019 – Professional Development Days

● Monday, November 4, 2019 – Early Release Day/Parent Teacher Conferences

● Tuesday, November 19, 2019 – American Education Week Open House 8:20-10:30am

● Wednesday, November 20, 2019, Family Academic Night, 5:30-7:30 pm

● Tuesday, November 26, 2019 – Math Rumble (Grades 1-4)

● Wednesday, November 27, 2019 – Friday, November 29, 2019 – Thanksgiving Holiday, School is Closed (PLEASE NOTE THAT STUDENTS DO NOT HAVE SCHOOL THE WEDNESDAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING. THIS IS A CHANGE IN THE CALENDAR.)

● December 23, 2019 – January 1, 2020 – Winter Break, Schools Closed

● Monday, January 20, 2020 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Schools Closed

● Thursday, January 23, 2020 – Student Celebration Night 5:30-7:30pm

● Friday, January 24, 2020 – Professional Development Day

● Monday, Feb. 17, 2020 – Presidents’ Day, Closed (Inclement Weather Day #1, W/O Waiver)

● Wednesday, February 19, 2020 – Family Academic Night 5:30-7:30pm

● Friday, March 13, 2020 – Early Release Day/Parent Teacher Conferences

● March 16-27, 2020 – MISA SCIENCE for grades 5 and 8

● Monday, April 6, 2020 to Monday, April 13, 2020 – Spring Break, Schools Closed

● April 6th Inclement Weather Day #2 (Without a Waiver)

● April 7th Inclement Weather Day #3 (Without a Waiver)

● Thursday, April 16, 2020 – Student Celebration Night 5:30-7:30pm

● April 20 – June 2, 2020 – PARCC READING and MATH for grades 3-8

● Tuesday, April 28, 2020 – School Closed, Primary Election

● Monday, May 25, 2020 – Memorial Day, Schools Closed

● Monday, June 15, 2020 – Last Day of School – Depending on the number of days school is closed due to weather, the last day of school may be extended to Monday, June 22nd.