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SHS Freshman Orientation – Thoughts from Dr. Booras

By Dr. Ellin Booras, Principal – SHS

On August 28, 2014, an evening SHS Freshman Orientation program followed the Camp Burgess experience that welcomes incoming students to Sandwich High School. Following are the remarks by Dr. Booras. 

It is with sincere pride and much enthusiasm that we welcome our incoming freshman to Sandwich High School.  On behalf of the SHS faculty, staff and student leadership team, we anxiously await and greet the Class of 2018!

While the focus in social media and around the town may seem to be on the STEM Academy, I wish to assure you that you are my number one priority. Over the course of the last 16 years, we have worked diligently to design and to implement a Freshman Experience which maximizes your success and provides exceptional personalization. Sandwich High School operates on embracing what we know to be true; if a student gets off to a strong start in high school, it is an accurate predictor of future success!

We have so enjoyed meeting so many at camp this week and as this button says, “We’re Glad You’re Here!”  Our first impressions of you are terrific, and we are eager to benefit from the gifts and talents you bring as you begin right away to make our school a better place because you are here!

We are so excited about starting this new year as we extend a sincere welcome to our students, parents, and to Dr. Richard Canfield, our superintendent. The fabric of Sandwich High School is knit together through the application of BLUE KNIGHT PRIDE which is defined by our five core values of Performance, Respect, Integrity, Dedication and Excellence. These core values will drive all that we do at SHS in the area of academics, arts, athletics and school citizenship. You will see these core values translated into learning expectations and beliefs.  Our commitment to Blue Knight Pride and to the core values and learning expectations which define and measure Blue Knight Pride unify all that we do here.

While we are proud of long held traditions, our focus and energy has shifted increasingly towards visionary planning as we recognize not only the opportunity but also the responsibility we have to provide a 21st century education for your sons and daughters. As members of the Class of 2018, their post secondary education will be defined by varied and innovative application of technology. They will enter a world of work where employers expect them to be thoroughly tech savvy and highly skilled at problem solving. This year is our fourth year of our commitment to one to one technology as we steadily expand its application in all our classes.

Starting high school is such an important event. I have been an educator for twenty plus years. As I begin my 12th year as principal, preceded by four years as assistant principal, I can say this is my favorite event. Education is one of the few professions that gives the annual gift of new beginnings. As I told your wonderful sons and daughters at Canp Burgess on Monday, we are more interested in their potential than their demonstrated success, for a brand new journey begins this week. The excitement of freshman orientation in many ways exceeds that of graduation, for although I treasure all of our graduation events, the focus shifts back and forth from anticipation to reflection. The dialogue is centered on the preservation of friendships and the realization that four amazing years are about to close. Freshman Orientation, on the other hand, is all about charting a new course, forging new friendships and seeking out challenges which will define and shape the significant turning point, we call high school. It is all about hope, looking ahead, clean slates, new horizons and believing in your capacity to do something wonderful.

I truly believe that every child who walks through the door of every school in the country this week does so with the intention of making it a good year. At principal of Sandwich High School and STEM Academy, I am firmly committed to fostering that sense of positive expectancy and to support all your sons and daughters as they begin a fresh new chapter of their lives. Please know we seek your involvement as well. While the role of parent organizations certainly does change in secondary schools, we encourage you to join our School Council, Athletic Boosters, After Prom team, and contact me about other ways you can contribute and stay connected.

Tonight’s program is designed by a group of young people whose dedication to SHS is a stunning example of Blue Knight Pride. Over the last 10 years, the SHS Student Leadership Team has achieved national recognition for its commitment to the school community as well as the community at large. Over 130 students comprise this impressive group, and we hope that many of you out there will establish being up here with us next year as an important and attainable goal. The SHS Leadership Team is comprised of student council members, class officers, club officers, peer mediators, sports captains throughout the school. If you make a decision tonight to become a leader at Sandwich High School, you can and will achieve that goal.

Last year was the third year of our senior mentor program. SHS was selected to present this new initiative at the Showcase of Model Schools as an example of best practice. Last year’s freshmen achieved unparalleled success in their social, academic, athletic, and artistic transition to high school. I credit the work of our wonderful senior mentors and to its superbly talented coordinator, Chris Dumas.

SHS students like their teachers. Administrators are very involved in student life as we all enjoy a high level of visibility and participation at events, games, plays, concerts, hallways and classrooms. We set our goals each year to get to know every child.

Hopefully, your students will soon spend 12 hour days here with us. It is not uncommon for students to go to sports practice after school and return for music, international studies, student council and theater in the evenings.

We are exceedingly proud of our school. Our students are scoring among the top high school in MCAS.  We have been named one of the top 500 high schools in the country.  We have been invited to present at the Showcase of Model Schools throughout New England for our exciting work in personalization of the Freshman Experience, and we were selected to the AP honor roll further solidifying our reputation as a top high school on the Cape and throughout the state.

We think we have designed a program which is responsive to the unique needs of emerging adolescents. You will hear me say many times that the high school experience must be significantly different for 14 year olds than 18 yr. olds.

You have entrusted us with your most cherished possession- your children. We have spent our summer preparing for them and are eager to accept that responsibility and to respond to the challenge of helping them to transform into dynamic, self sufficient young adults capable of making informed and consistently good decisions.

The research is clear and consistent identifying freshman year as the most vulnerable time for students losing interest in high school and faith in their own potential. Tonight during the question and answer portion, we will talk about the challenges and fears that must be acknowledged. Let’s work together to do all we can to make those the best memories your children deserve.