By Dr. Richard Canfield, Superintendent of Schools
In the midst of celebrating the town’s 375 years, 2014 also heralded the opening of the Sandwich STEM Academy. I felt it was appropriate to document the story of The STEM Academy, as it becomes part of a proud tradition of excellent schooling in Sandwich.
Part Six: Teachers and Students contribute in a variety of ways…
As we considered staffing, we followed the established and appropriate process, based on teacher certification and contractual language. Once the faculty and staff were determined, and the teams for both grades were determined, professional development became the primary focus for the middle school teachers. The new STEM Staff spent early release days and curriculum hour/faculty meeting time with Mr. Newton, the STEM Director.
At the high school level, Math and History Department faculty contended with significant adjustments as they prepared to move from the A-Wing to accommodate the academy. The department chairs had a pivotal role as they considered program changes to enhance the high school experience for all students. They recognized the opportunity to build and strengthen the knowledge and skill base for all students as they planned for a six-year journey, grades 7-12. SHS department heads contributed to the creation very successful and exciting learning opportunities in STEM electives, and teachers in their departments were eager to teach during the elective block, providing Professional Learning Community (PLC) time for the STEM Academy faculty.
At the same time that planning for the launch of The STEM Academy was occurring, the SHS administration, faculty, students and parents were preparing for the Visiting Accreditation Team from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) to arrive for the decennial accreditation assessment. The visiting team specifically cited the high quality work that was occurring to welcome students as a planned six-year experience for grades 7-12.
Teachers and students also participated in the interview process for the new Assistant Principal of the STEM Academy. A multi-step process brought us Beth Hebb, a Massachusetts native returning from North Carolina. The Administrative Team for SHS is now Dr. Ellin Booras, principal; Ann Wagner, Assistant Principal and Chip Hill, Assistant Principal.
The SHS Senior Mentoring Program planned for the welcome and support of 7th & 8th grade students. A group dedicated to this work was created – the Sandwich High School STEM Ambassadors, a team of students who would be seniors upon the arrival of the inaugural classes of the Academy. The NEASC visiting team specifically cited the high quality work that was occurring to welcome students as a planned six-year experience for grades 7-12.
High school students also recognized that their support for the newest additions to the SHS facility would enhance their own program opportunities. The highly successful Blue Knight Theatre Company (KTC), under the leadership of Melinda and Kevin Lasit, had already included grade 7/8 students in the 7-12 production of West Side Story. Having the middle school students located in the same building would increase participation in KTC.
Athletics would provide another opportunity to enhance the experience for all students in grades 7-12. Neil Murphy, the Athletic Administrator, worked with an athletics advisory group and the Sports Booster clubs to plan program enhancements. All are excited about the increased possibilities with the new DeConto Veterans Memorial Stadium, and the newly renovated swimming facility.
STEM students, while still in their respective K-8 schools, participated in meetings with Mr. Newton. A “STEM-abration” was planned by the STEM Parents Advisory Group to bring all students together for a day of learning, and bonding at the Camp Bournedale facility, with funding and support provided by the PTAs from Forestdale, Oak Ridge and Wing. The parents also sponsored a special event, complete with magician to unveil the new STEM mascot, determined through a contest with several great submissions. Students voted and chose to be the Squires, acknowledging their connection to the SHS Blue Knights.