Wareham school administrators set goals for new year: improve remote instruction, support students

Dec 17, 2020

One after the other on Thursday evening, Wareham Public Schools’ four principals highlighted their schools’ achievements in 2019 and 2020 and began outlining their goals for the upcoming year. 

Facing added challenges because of remote learning amid the pandemic, the principals largely shied away from introducing vastly new goals during the Dec. 17 School Committee meeting that stretched late into the night. Instead, they announced plans to continue improving on the various goals they’d set for 2019 to 2020, which had been interrupted when covid-19 appeared.

The schools hope to improve on the following goals, to name a few: listening to students and staff and encouraging them to use their voices; prioritizing the development of emotional intelligence and building relationships (even virtually); and focusing on meeting the specific needs of the students. 

John W. Decas Elementary School Principal Beth Chandler said her school had been “moving along quite nicely” through what she described as a “typical year” … until mid-March of 2020. At that point, she said, the pandemic forced everyone to shift gears. 

“We readjusted the way we taught immediately,” she said.

She noted that technology was passed out right away and students began remote learning. At the same time, she said, teachers were also learning how to teach remotely. 

“I thought it was creative teaching; I thought it was impactful teaching,” Chandler said. “Our staff learned more in those months of how to build webpages, … how to do zoom, how to share documents that we're looking at all in a matter of not months, not weeks — but days.”

Chandler said her goals for the upcoming year focused on improving virtual learning methods. 

“A lot of the [previous year’s] goals have not changed completely,” Chandler said. “The only goals that we’ve added … is of course our synchronous, asynchronous learning; building upon our playlist ... ; building our online site; continuing to grow in our technological area because this is a newfound experience for our staff and it may be long-lasting.”

Joan Seamans, principal of Minot Forest Elementary school, expressed similar sentiments to Chandler. She pointed out her staff also only had days to prepare for virtual instruction, and they stepped up. 

“Obviously, we never had a chance to fully complete the goals since we had to shut down school,” Seamans said. “We still did work on them. Some of them we had to change, some had to be kind of adapted and some we just couldn't do at all because of the pandemic social distancing and so forth.” 

Seamans said Minot Forest opted not to create many new goals because they hadn’t had the chance to complete all the existing goals due to the pandemic. When discussing the school’s goals moving forward, Seamans said it was more important than ever for the staff to prioritize emotional intelligence and to focus on students’ needs, whether they’re learning fully remotely or are part of a hybrid model. 

At Wareham Middle School, the past year’s goals “centered on staff and student support and culture building,” according to principal Tracie Cote.

Looking into the future, Cote said the Middle School would keep its goals the same. This means giving staff and students more choices and more control both in-person and virtually and creating an environment where everyone feels safe and valued.

Wareham High School Principal Scott Palladino identified a number of goals for the new year but also acknowledged the burden of the pandemic.

“Survive the covid crisis,” he said. “That’s really our biggest goal.”

High school administrators said the staff would push to examine and discuss more examples of student work in department meetings. Additionally, teachers will complete peer observations each term. Palladino mentioned plans to offer high-interest classes in the future as well.

Palladino also said one goal was to “create a plan for students who are struggling with remote or hybrid learning.” While some students excel in the new format, Palladino said others find it far more challenging.

“We want to make sure we provide that layer of support for them,” he said.