by Dr. Richard Canfield
The School Committee submitted the following topics for me to report on:
First Week of School – Successes and Challenges
Sandwich has completed one of the most complex and comprehensive reorganization plans, and has done so within a 4-year span. Clearly, a major success is to have opened our doors on-time with our buildings well prepared to receive all students.
At SHS/STEM, the successful opening of the pool and the stadium represents opportunities that will be well used and appreciated by our schools. The community should be very pleased with these facilities. The opening football game on 9/11 included many citizens who came to enjoy the home opener, and we hope they will continue to attend and enjoy our many events. I have met many parents who are graduates of SHS and are thrilled to see the pool in use for students for the first time, in anyone’s recollection; at least 20 years. During the opening week, I blocked out my calendar and spent the first two days in the schools observing and receiving feedback from students, faculty and many parents who I encountered along the way. Student feedback in both STEM and SHS is very positive.
A challenge was the growing number of students in grade 8 algebra, an Area 1 program, and growing this number of students is a good thing. For those not familiar with “Program Areas” you will learn about them when I present you with the Program and Staff Use Report for 2015-2016. We had one large algebra class and the administration worked with the students, parents, and faculty to find a solution. STEM Health is an Area 2 program, and is typically backed with Physical Education, and most districts this means larger class sizes, larger than we ideally want to see, and we are working to identify a solution that would at least help with 2nd semester.
In all schools, positions that needed to be filled due to retirements, have been filled with excellent candidates. Our district mentoring program now involves 2-days that are a condition of employment, and new staff were very pleased with the program changes and the opportunity to meet and work with their mentors on day 1. The mentoring program is a state mandated program, and a very important component of teacher development for all who are new to the Sandwich schools.
At Forestdale and Oak Ridge, the opening events and activities were very well received. I attended orientation activities at both schools and had the opportunity to speak directly with many parents and staff. The enthusiasm of parents, children and staff was uplifting. Everyone is settling in very nicely, and all staff are doing a great job in supporting the children. Teachers and parents report that the children are happy to be making new friends, and the blending of the schools has the vast majority starting on equal footing. The Wing teachers are particularly happy with the rooms and the natural light and ventilation at both schools, especially with the working windows and screens. Having all of their grade level colleagues together and having the time to share ideas and best practices is already generating some very exciting ideas.
The challenges at both schools involved the arrival and dismissals, as well as other routines, such as lunch and recess. With elementary children, many in new settings, it does take time for the routines to be learned and to settle in. In particular, at Forestdale with children under the age of 8, the first few weeks in any primary school involves “Learning School,” or how to arrive and depart, how to have lunch, go to recess, or deal with lavatory issues.
I mentioned that there would be some issues with routines, and that if we all worked together we could resolve all that come our way. Tonight, I want to thank all of our administration, faculty, staff, and particularly our students and parents for working with us. In particular, the issues around the dismissal at Oak Ridge and Forestdale, represent great patience and cooperation by parents and staff as we monitored and adjusted the process. We had great support from the Sandwich Police Department, and from our two security guards, as well as the management of First Student. The speed by which we solved the problem at Oak Ridge was remarkable and continues to work well, thanks to parents who have worked with us to mitigate traffic congestion. At Forestdale we went from a very late dismissal, but one predicated on student safety, to having children and staff working together to achieve an on time dismissal. Finally, Alan Hall and I would like to invite the Committee to join us on a tour of the buildings to see the modifications at Forestdale and Oak Ridge, as well a brief visit to the SHS/STEM campus. So, hopefully we can arrange a date that works for everyone. This would be a tour with no deliberation, just as opportunity to view.
The transportation system is generally working well considering the complete systemic change to cover all of Sandwich on all three busing tiers. A decision was made to begin the pickup earlier for SHS/STEM to address the morning traffic congestion on Quaker Meetinghouse Road and to help ensure that school could begin on time. Some stops were missed and those have been added and the routes have been reposted. Principals are able to notify parents through the Alert system, and can also notify parents specific to a bus route.
Lunches are working well at SHS/STEM. At Forestdale, Mr. Smith reports that he has been at lunches for each of the past 2-days. They do not have long lines in the cafeteria. Each day, from the first day of school, food services have improved as students are learning routines. Many of these young children have not been accustomed to eating on a schedule, dealing with a food service line and table routines, or cleaning up. Many of them are enjoying the time to talk with table friends, and are being taught to talk less and focus more on eating lunch. At Oak Ridge, the lines were longer than desirable and schedule adjustments were made to provide more time for both lunch and recess. In the past lunch at the schools was 20 minutes, but is now 25 minutes at Forestdale and 22 at Oak Ridge.
Online Student Information Forms
I am hearing from parents with children in more than one school, that they find having to fill out multiple sets of the same forms is a waste of time. We agree, and we are continuing our work with PowerSchool with a goal to move towards a paperless system where parents can complete much of the information once and have that information viewable at each child’s school.
Security Cameras at Forestdale and Oak Ridge
The proposals for the security cameras came in higher than expected as the consultant recommended placement that involves more extensive wiring for broader coverage. We have a plan to move forward with this, and will do some of the work with our own maintenance staff to maximize our camera coverage. Bryce Harper, our Director of Technology is also working with Alan Hall on the plan. We are planning to go from no cameras to 6 cameras or more at each school.