WILMINGTON — Following the initial delivery of Wilmington Middle School’s completed curriculum review, WMS Principal Dr. Jeanette Quirk returned to the school committee last Wednesday evening with status updates. Quirk shared priorities around three areas: communication, school climate, and curriculum/instruction.
In communication, his goal was to ensure that the college provided up-to-date, focused, consistent communication at both the school and classroom level. Together with the staff, they established a Google calendar as well as a staff dashboard.
To send information to the community, they have already provided newsletters covering things like after-school clubs and activities, the first week of school, and things to know before school starts. Quirk has also instituted a virtual kindness chart with staff, students and parents via youuplift.com. She explained that posts are submitted and approved by Quirk before being published.
Some welcome communications for students and families included guided tours, a scavenger hunt, a video, a newsletter, and a Step Up pilot program for about 15 new students with a few older students. She mentioned that the program had been a success and that she hoped to expand it in the future.
As for things to start, they would create a communications plan for different types of communications, bring back one-on-one meetings between Quirk and college staff members, and create more videos explaining important topics.
With school climate, the goal is to create a positive climate that promotes consistency with a sense of fairness. It involves academics as well as social, emotional and relational elements. Quirk reported that she started building traditions, including the Aloha dance and a celebratory video.
Another action they took was to hold core values classes led by administrators to set the school’s expectations for student behavior. Core values lessons are also reinforced in the new advisory bloc.
Quirk mentioned that there was a program team working hard to create this year’s schedule and content to help the advising teachers feel comfortable. What they have built so far will be refined to be considered Year 1 content, and then in the future they will create Year 2 and Year 3 content.
She then released a video with a voiceover from WMS social studies professor Kati DiSanto explaining the new advisory block. For a period or 30 minutes on the six-day cycle, students go to a smaller class of 8-10 students where they are introduced to the MARC program and can build relationships and seek advice from their mentor teacher.
“The counseling program helps students plan their college careers…feel more connected to school… [know] educators care…” she said.
It is also intended to help with independence and socio-emotional support. There is time set aside for team building, relationship building, and weekly checks on academic and emotional progress. A schedule for the advisory block has been posted.
Open elements for school climate that Quirk named included integration of the high school student’s vision, a calendar of events throughout the year, more opportunities for parents to visit the school and personal involvement with students and activities.
Finally, they would work to improve the curriculum and teaching with the creation of a planning team and a partnership with AMLE to try to optimize the school calendar. Other initiatives to be launched in this regard were a quarterly curriculum newsletter and a focus on interdisciplinary projects.
Melissa Plowman asked what other resources and learning opportunities were available for counseling for teachers and education staff. Quirk replied that they could use the data from Panorama and receive help from the social-emotional learning staff.
Stephen Turner expressed concern that all initiatives that are going well in the school are being changed, especially with potential schedule changes. Quirk assured the committee that any potential schedule updates would be more about class times and the possibility of talks.
The chair, Dr. Jenn Bryson, asked Quirk what the response to the advisory bloc had been. So far, Quirk has shared that students have told him they love having the opportunity to bond and be in a smaller class. However, she also said she plans to send out surveys to gather more data and feedback from students.