A hopeful effort of parents, educators, students, and community at the West Tisbury School
Photo courtesy of MVPS
Although many officially mark the New Year as January 1st, when September rolls around, families with school age children celebrate a different kind of "New Year." The end of the summer and the beginning of the new school year bring a special set of traditions and resolutions. Parents creatively organize morning schemes that allow for a timely arrival to work and school, assemble strategies to accomplish homework along with the necessary household chores in the evening, and develop systems to manage activities, lessons, practices, and special events. Calendars and lists are crafted to post alongside the anticipated onslaught of notices on the refrigerator. Stores are abuzz with student shoppers picking out everything from backpacks and new school supplies to sports equipment and new school clothes. Refrigerators and pantries see the makings of school lunch arrive, and cameras are pulled out of their cases to be at the ready to document this most important day, the first day of school.
And when the school doors open on the first day of school every year, something special enters the school. Hope. Every student comes in filled with the desire to be successful. Parents enter alongside filled with anticipation of the knowledge and skills their children will be developing. Teachers enter filled with optimism, plans, and talent ready to inspire their students and help them achieve academic and social growth. Administrators enter filled with vision, strategy, creativity, and commitment "to create the conditions to ensure that all students learn at high levels, develop a passion for learning, and build strong interpersonal relationships within a caring environment." And community members rally in the wings, making every effort to support and safeguard the precious commodity they help provide, a quality education to our Island youth.
The first day of school is always such a special day filled with hope and promise of all the new school year has in store. As I think about the year ahead, a simple, yet important image stands out in my mind, a circle. It is a wondrous circle, the relationship of student, teacher, parent, administrator, and community member. Because I believe in the equally essential roles that all members of this circle play in determining the quality of a child's education, I would like to take a few moments here at the beginning of the school year to ask you to renew your energy in protecting and nourishing this circle. I know that if we work together and keep focused on our collective goal, providing our children with the very best education, this will truly be an excellent year.
The West Tisbury School teaching and learning community has been busy over the summer preparing for the arrival of the New Year which will usher in the 281 students from preschool through eighth grade, and from all vantage points, they are definitely ready. Several new staff members have joined our team and others have taken on new roles, including Sean Mulvey, interim assistant principal, Orlaith McCarthy-Estes, secretary, Lisa Bonneau, seventh grade language arts teacher, Vicki Pfulger, school nurse, Kristy Fletcher, third grade teacher, and Svetoslava Chakarova-Mulvey, long term custodial substitute.
There are many new happenings at the West Tisbury School, and the following is just a few highlights. The school lunch program is being revamped, and students can expect many healthy additions such as a salad bar featuring produce they have grown in their own school gardens. A new website is under development and should be launched this fall as well as several other technological changes, including online signup for parent/teacher conferences and voice/text/email notifications for day-to-day events, reminders, and notifications. Structured recess activity options are also something new of which students may take advantage. Academic programmatic changes include the expansion of Spanish to kindergarten and first grade and industrial arts to the fifth grade. Fourth through eighth graders will have additional writing and math support for both remediation and enrichment. Fifth graders will also participate in science labs in the upper level. Additionally, community meetings bringing students in various grades together as well as the whole school will occur weekly.
So as you enjoy the last few days of summer, I hope that whatever your role in the circle — student, parent, educator, or community member — you look forward to that hallmark of our New Year, the first day of school, and take the time to reflect on the role you will play in actualizing the hopes of our students to be successful.
Circles are truly wondrous...our eyes, the planet we live on, a ring, the okay sign we make with our fingers, homemade pies, a hug, a coin from a tooth fairy, the sunset, the moon...and students, parents, educators, and community members as we seek to live out the day to the fullest and ensure the most promising future for all of us. I join you in this journey to give our children the very best education and life possible, and I welcome your thoughts, observations, and collaboration over the next year as we work together to provide nothing less than our very best for our students.
Donna Lowell-Bettencourt is interim principal of West Tisbury School.