New clubs, auditorium repairs approved by School Committee

Dec 19, 2022

Wareham Elementary School will have two new clubs, and the High School auditorium can seek funding for $249,000 in upgrades, thanks to the School Committee’s yes votes at its meeting on Thursday, Dec. 15.

Elementary School Principal Bethany Chandler and Assistant Principal Sara Russo formally presented the idea of a student newspaper to the Committee. The paper would be published monthly, with articles written by students of all grade levels. Fourth graders would make up the editorial staff, and be responsible for formatting and distributing the newspaper each month. Wareham Week has expressed interest in helping the newspaper get off the ground. An adult advisor would be the “editor in chief,” and Chandler would have the final say on the paper’s contents.

“I don’t assume anything with respect to what a fourth grader or even younger... might put in the newspaper,” said School Committee Vice Chair Geoff Swett. “All of us believe in free speech, but there is a point where you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. We don’t want people yelling ‘fire’ in this fourth-grade newspaper.”

School Committee Member Apryl Rossi said that the newspaper was a “great idea” to let students learn about town government, engage with the community and in turn let the community see what they are learning in school.

Kindergarten teacher Natasha Pike presented the idea for an Elementary School Student Council. The Council would mostly consist of fourth graders, but have one second grader and one third grader. They would report to the principal and student body about proposed changes to the school, and help plan school activities with adult supervision. It would be an after-school activity, similar to band and chorus, with teachers paid to serve as advisors. 

The School Committee unanimously approved both clubs. The money budgeted for two now-defunct clubs, the Yearbook Club and Honor Society, will be used to fund them. 

“Hopefully one of our student representatives will address the board,” Pike said to laughter.

Rossi joked that since High School Student Representative Indiana Troupe will be graduating next year, “we need a new one.” 

High School Principal Scott Palladino spoke in support of making major changes to the school auditorium. The renovation of the auditorium is a pet project of music director Jason Roth, who was absent at Thursday’s meeting. 

“We feel that this will impact not just Wareham High School but the community in a very positive way,” Palladino said.

He said that the school needs to replace 16 of the auditorium’s light fixtures “so that we can actually read an agenda and read a report, and make sure it’s safe.”

He also mentioned the need to replace the auditorium’s 35-year-old stage lights, so old that the school can no longer find parts to repair them, along with its sound system, its curtains and their deteriorating rigging.

“I’m fearful that some of the lighting components that are tied to the rigging could at some point fall down,” Palladino said. 

The auditorium is not only used by the students during and after school, but by the community for events such as town meetings. 

“The tough part is that it’s a big area,” Palladino said, “it’s very expensive to do work in there... It’s very tough to have ladders move in there, and it’s getting old.”

School Committee Member Brendan McKiernan said that the equipment in the auditorium is likely the same as it was when he was a student. 

“If we had a good facility for [students] to use,” he said, “I think it would only encourage more kids to use it.” 

Swett said that the repairs’ $249,000 price tag was “a big number,” and asked if Palladino and Roth had a “plan B.”

Palladino replied that replacing the lighting was their top priority, due to safety reasons.

“Someone is going to fall due to the lighting we have now,” he said. 

Palladino wants funding for the repairs to be put to a vote at town meeting next spring, so that work can start next summer. He plans to fund some of the repairs with Community Preservation Committee money, but to use these funds, he must prove that replacing the auditorium lights serves a recreational or historical purpose. 

The School Committee unanimously voted to allow the High School to request such funds to renovate the auditorium.