The school board at its Thursday night meeting unanimously approved student improvement plans for each of the five schools in the district.
The common thread running through all the presentations was to emphasize social and emotional learning (SEL) with diversity and equity education.
School improvement plans discussed
Marathon School principal Lauren Dubeau explained that SEL was a primary concern as children return to school after the challenges of the past year, especially for younger students.
“Where we are now, coming back from a pandemic, is even more critical than before because we’ve had children coming back from such vast experiences,” she said. “And even getting together is new to some of them. At our level in particular, some of them have not really left their families or frequented other people.
One of the goals is to make sure everyone feels welcome, including students and parents from all cultures and backgrounds. She pointed out that students become more confident in a supportive environment and are better able to learn.
Positive Behavior Incentives and Supports (PBIS) are promoted in elementary schools. She said the concept of Marathon is that students “should take care of themselves, take care of each other, and take care of their building.” This strategy is the cornerstone upon which the concepts of respect and responsibility will be layered as students progress through the grade level.
A silver lining from the pandemic, Dubeau said, was being able to incorporate technology into everyday learning and connecting with parents. Workshops will be held to educate parents on SEL concepts in recorded sessions.
Teaching students about different cultures and traditions is also a key facet of education at Marathon as well as at other schools. Books have been chosen that reflect a variety of backgrounds that can spark discussion and understanding.
“It’s deeper and it’s on a different level than it was a few years ago,” Dubeau explained, noting that the district now has an SEL program director.
Staff collaboration on the curriculum in elementary schools was another positive thing gained during the pandemic that will continue to be used, she added. This allowed consistency between classes.
“If anyone can find a silver lining in the pandemic, it’s you,” said school board member Meg Tyler. “We talk so much about the losses in the pandemic and the scars. But you showed us how much we gained. We have been able to look at education from a different angle now.
“There is a collective feeling that we have returned to a more normal school year, even though we were back together in the spring,” President Nancy Cavanaugh added.
Hopkins principal Vanessa Bilello described a similar strategy for 4th and 5th graders. It emphasized a safe and inclusive learning environment that promotes diversity and respect.
“Our goal this year is to bring these two areas together under one umbrella,” she said.
Another priority is to help students find a school structure, as well as to help students for whom the transition is difficult. In addition, there will be an emphasis on questioning students about their interests and different learning styles through activities such as interactive read-aloud groups.
“Every child needs an opportunity to broaden and deepen their learning,” Bilello said.
Hopkinton Middle School principal Alan Keller said getting students talking about diversity to their peers is one of the goals for this year. Another is to make it easier for students to report instances of bullying or bias.
Regarding the curriculum, the civic education program that started last year will be expanded. The concept of “windows and mirrors” was discussed so that the materials reflect the cultures of all students. A mental health literacy course was added this year.
One of the concerns raised by Keller was the lack of space in the classrooms. All halls are now in use and there are five lunch periods. He suggested setting up a building task force to analyze the impact of listings in the coming years on the need for space and staff.
Member Amanda Fargiano said it was a good goal, as the space shortage is happening faster than originally expected.
Hopkinton High School principal Evan Bishop emphasized the ‘three Cs’, which are the school’s culture, connections and community.
“We need to work on making those connections, building those relationships, and making sure everyone in our community feels valued,” he said. Another goal is to establish “the habits of success” that will lead to a successful high school graduation, including critical thinking, self-awareness, and communication skills.
In addition to approving all improvement plans, the school committee unanimously approved the high school textbook. The District’s Comprehensive Improvement Plan passed by a 5-0 vote.
Teachers union contract approved
The committee unanimously approved the contract for Units A and C of the Hopkinton Teachers Association. The contracts had been ratified by the union the day before.
Club money transfer requests are accepted
Keller asked that the $500 science fair stipend be transferred to the Mathworks program, as a science fair will not be held this year. He said there has been a decline in interest in the science fair, while the popularity of the math club has soared. The request was approved 5-0.
A similar request from Keller has had the $500 allocated for the peer tutoring program, which is not taking place this year, split between two teachers who have offered to lead the school’s Diversity Club. He called for the Diversity Club, which started last year, to become a permanent club. The motion was approved 5-0.
HHS construction project nearing completion
The HHS addition is expected to be completed in the third week of September, according to Superintendent Carol Cavanaugh. Scaffolding has begun to be removed and all exterior windows are installed. The masonry is also finished.
“I think we’re finally in the home stretch of this project, which is really wonderful,” she said.
Superintendent’s Objectives Approved
The Superintendent presented her goals for the coming year, and they were unanimously approved.
One of the objectives would be to analyze student learning data to make judicious educational choices. Another would be for her to meet with the school principal weekly for feedback.
Anti-racism and social justice are additional areas of focus, along with anti-bullying and anti-bias. Enrollment growth is another critical issue, as the school-age population continues to grow, which will lead to a need for more learning space.
Supporting the whole child through social and emotional learning and equity is another superintendent priority that has been reflected in all schools.
Students receive recognition
The committee recognized the high school students who won the VEX IQ World Champion Excellence Award for their outstanding achievements in an international robotics competition last spring. They are: Akshay Jana, Kaisar Rangwala, Kevin Zhu, Ragav Jeevanantham and Jacob Dold.
Additionally, high school students Lauren Strechay and Nicolette Buonora were congratulated for winning two prizes at the Invention Convention US Nationals, including winning a patent for their invention, a “Battery Swap” flashlight to help school staff. ’emergency. The flashlight has a second battery chamber that would be activated in the event that a flashlight’s main batteries die, eliminating the need to carry and install extra batteries.