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As a new school year begins…

By Dr. Richard Canfield

September 2, 2014, Sandwich’s opening day for students, also marks the opening of the Sandwich STEM Academy.  This new STEM program is a source of pride for the entire community.  The program design reflects the best of 21st Century teaching and learning for students in grades 7 & 8.  We are able to make these program enhancements through the unification of students in one location.

Change does not come easily, and much has been asked of students, parents, faculty and administration alike, but the change will transform program offerings across all grade levels.  The STEM program reflects my “Superintendent’s 20/20 Vision” that was presented to the community in 2011.  It has been developed through collaboration involving the high school and academy administration, and teachers, with special support from the STEM Parent Advisory group, the STEM Advisory group, and the Arts and Humanities Advisory groups.  Many people have contributed their ideas, resources, and caring support for students.  The work is detailed in Newton’s News.

The STEM initiative is more than the academy; it is a PreK-12 initiative.  As the Sandwich Academy Squires prepare to become Sandwich Blue Knights, so the Knights are working to receive their Squires in training, with enhancements to high school offerings for students in grades 9-12.  The STEM guidance counselor will have the opportunity to offer college and career counseling by spring of grade 8.

This 2014-2015 school  year also reflects an ongoing commitment to STEM from PreK- through grade 6.  We will continue to develop and offer world class teaching and learning that is student-focused, and builds meaningful relationships with families.  Our district promotes high academic standards and civic responsibility for students and all members of the Sandwich schools.

As students prepare to live in a global multilingual society, they will need to develop multicultural literacy, proficiency in the use of technology, and be able and confident problem solvers.

Educators know that students learn best when schoolwork in meaningful and relevant and instruction is challenging and inspiring.  Students deserve to be taught by teachers who care about their success, and will do whatever it takes to help them achieve at high levels.  Our district is committed to provide staffing levels to address the needs of the whole child, and to embrace cultural and economic diversity.  We are proud of a staff that is committed to providing the best that is possible for students in our care.

The 21st Century Partnership of school, student, family and community are committed to preparing students to be college and career ready.  They advocate for students be critical thinkers, problem solvers, information and media literate, effective communicators and innovators. This powerful partnership shares the responsibility for developing each student’s moral character, self esteem and academic achievement.

Throughout their PreK-12 journey, students are encouraged to become self-directed learners, intellectually curious, and effective collaborators. They are taught to be socially and environmentally ethical, arts literate, globally aware and physically fit through a commitment to promote wellness at all levels.  The district promotes leadership through a variety of club and program offerings, community service, music and theatre, and through its interscholastic sports program.

Instructionally, our district is committed to literacy, numeracy, and inquiry as key academic components across all grade levels and disciplines. We monitor student success through School Data Teams.  Faculty and Staff have opportunities to contribute ideas through Collaborative Design Teams, and parents are encouraged to participate in Parent Teachers Student Associations.  The district has an ongoing commitment to map its curriculum.  Additionally, teachers are being trained in Project-based Learning (PBL) through the Buck Institute for Education.  The district will also continue the development of District Determined Measures (DDM) in conjunction with the educator evaluation plan.  Planning teams will consider multiple forms of assessment for students to demonstrate the acquisition of knowledge and skills.  And we are launching a Standards Based Report Card in Kindergarten to Grade 2 this year; with Grades 3-6 to follow next year.

Today’s generation of learners are digital kids.  It is the world they have been born into and the world they will work within.  Our district has 1-to-1 technology for grades 7-12.  Teacher training in the use of technology for both instruction and non-instructional use is ongoing.  As a district and community, we will need to give consideration to the cyclical updating of appropriate technology for all grade levels.  Ready instructional access to technology in instruction and non-instruction work will require the investment in a director of technology, and technicians to improve support and customer service

With the closing of the Wing School, the 2015-2016 school year will include two newly organized schools. We will be “Sandwich United” as one elementary school with two campuses.  The Forestdale Campus will house grades Pre-K , kindergarten, and grades 1 and 2.  The Oak Ridge Campus will house grades 3-6.  This configuration allows our district to commit academic and social-emotional developmental resources appropriate for the age of children at each school.  This change provides the best opportunity for us to offer full day kindergarten to all families.  Full day kindergarten district-wide will serve as a means of early intervention, acceleration and enrichment.   Activity Centers, and child-based play can increase language development and cooperation with peers.  Having a full day kindergarten also supports the early identification of social emotional and behavioral needs.

With the unified approach to the Sandwich schools, we will develop positive behavior interventions, clear expectations, common purpose, approaches and procedures to help students along their K-12 journey.  The unified approach also supports equitable resources and opportunities for all students.

We will continue to offer Chinese as a language option for students.  The development of sister schools in China and in Sandwich, England will also promote foreign exchange and travel opportunities, and global cultural literacy for staff as well as students.

Latin will continue to be offered at the high school level and discussions are taking place now for a Latin for STEM elective in 2015-2016.  We will also consider options through technology using the Rosetta Stone Language Program.

Our district will continue its commitment to ongoing, embedded professional development for all educators.  We also stay committed to the Lesley University Literacy Collaborative in PreK-8, which forms the backbone of our strong professional development practices.  Using School Spring, the online recruiting program, we will seek to fill openings with highly qualified teachers and support them through the district mentoring program.

Our district will continue to work with the town and schools joint safety committee, building on the strong systems that have developed over the past few years.  Going forward, the committee will review recommendations from the governor’s task force, and conduct drills and safety audits as appropriate.

Finally, we will develop a facilities long range maintenance plan with the goal of providing energy efficient, environmentally friendly and healthy schools.  We are very proud of the teaching and learning that happens within our school buildings and want those buildings to be safe and happy places for students and staff.