Superintendent Message Regarding Students’ Response to Parkland, Florida

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March 9, 2018

Dear Wayland Families:

I am proud to work in a community that not only cares deeply for its children but helps them find their voices. Over the past ten days, as staff has listened to students and heard their reactions to the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, we have felt your support.

As a teaching staff, our job is to facilitate and support your children’s understanding of the events and the free expression of their opinions but not to advocate for a particular stand on legislation. Wayland School Committee Policy articulates the teaching staff’s role when it states that the School District’s goal is “to provide an environment in which students can learn and practice personal and civic responsibility for their actions through meaningful experiences as school citizens.” (School Committee Policy Manual, JA) School Committee Policy also states that staff should express “concern for and attention to their own and the school system’s legal responsibility for the safety and welfare of students, including the need to ensure that students are under supervision at all times.” (School Committee Policy Manual, GBEB)

To create this safe and thoughtful climate, particularly in the context of national calls for student walkouts on March 14, the staff has listened closely to its students, tailoring its responses to their developmental needs. At the elementary level, teachers and administrators have addressed questions in an age-appropriate fashion on an individual basis. The elementary schools are not planning any school-wide memorial activities on March 14 at 10:00 a.m. At the middle school, during TAG time, staff have asked students if they had concerns or opinions about Parkland. In addition, if students have wished, WMS staff has provided additional time for further discussion in smaller groups. In response to the national focus on the Parkland tragedy on March 14, the Middle School staff will supervise students as they gather voluntarily at 10:00 a.m.. At the high school, teachers will supervise students who have structured a seventeen-minute optional gathering on March 14. At the gathering, students plan to remember the victims and may choose to respectfully express their opinions. Those who do not wish to participate in these school-sponsored events will be appropriately supervised in designated areas in their classrooms.

We will continue to work in close partnership with you and the entire Wayland community as we enable our students to express themselves powerfully and safely as citizens. Please feel free to contact me at any time if you wish to discuss this further. My phone number is 508-358-3774 and my email is arthur_unobskey@wayland.k12.ma.us.

 Sincerely,

Arthur Unobskey, Superintendent of Schools

Director Of Student Services Hire

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Dear Wayland Staff and Wayland Families:

I am excited to tell you that Richard Whitehead has accepted Wayland’s offer to become Director of Student Services beginning on July 1, 2018.

Mr. Whitehead is taking the place of Marlene Dodyk who is retiring on June 30 after thirty-nine years of service in the district as a teacher and leader. Thank you to the Director of Student Services Selection Committee, composed of both parents and staff. The Selection Committee did extremely diligent work in identifying a group of highly qualified finalist candidates, including Mr. Whitehead.
Ms. Dodyk has deeply impacted students at every level in the district. She was integral in the founding of the innovative Children’s Way and collaborated with staff to create a wide variety of successful special education programs in grades k-12. She has teamed with staff to deepen our co-teaching model throughout the district. She has led the development of our English Learner program which has seen a 46% increase in just the past year. She has been a mentor and inspiration for countless staff members and a rock-solid support for parents. Needless to say, Richard has big shoes to fill.
That said, we are lucky to have Richard join us. Most recently, he has served in Cambridge as a special education administrator and in Dracut as the Director of Student Services. His knowledge, insight and clear communication style were extremely impressive to the hiring committee and to me. He also received impassioned recommendations from colleagues who have worked with him throughout his career.
I asked Richard to express his feelings as he began his work in Wayland, and he wrote the following:

“I am very excited about being given the opportunity to serve as the Director of Student Services for the Wayland Public Schools. The district has a tremendous reputation for delivering high quality, inclusive special education programming and I hope to be an important part of continuing this work. I believe that my experiences have prepared me well for this new professional challenge and I look forward to learning more about the district in the coming months. 

My intention is always to work collaboratively with my new colleagues to further develop the special education capacity of the district by engaging everyone in a thoughtful evaluation of our current programming and how we can build towards a brighter future for the students and families we serve. Every Wayland student is unique in the way they learn and engage with the academic and social challenges of their school years. I am looking forward to meeting the students, getting to know their families and engaging with their teachers to achieve the best outcomes for all involved. Thank you for the warm welcome I have already received as I begin this exciting journey with all of you.”

We look forward to Richard’s arrival in the district in July. We will introduce him to the School Committee and the public at the School Committee meeting on March 12th.

Thank you.

AU1_Sign

Arthur Unobskey, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools

Wayland Public Schools
41 Cochituate Road
Wayland, Massachusetts 01778
(508)358-3774

Announcement of New Spanish Immersion Program

 

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Dear Wayland Public School Families:

I am excited to inform you that Wayland’s Spanish Immersion Program will begin in the fall of 2018 in a kindergarten section in one of the Wayland elementary schools. This cohort of twenty to twenty-three students will proceed through elementary school receiving academic instruction in Spanish according to best practices in immersion education.

The introduction of the immersion program is the expression of a town-wide passion for integrating world language study into the elementary schools. This strong interest was articulated at the 2015 School Committee Summit. After the Summit, the World Language Exploration Committee, which included community, staff and parents, studied different options for expanding world language instruction at the elementary level. The committee concluded that creating a one-section immersion program was an excellent first step for Wayland. (See the World Language Exploration Committee report at World Language Exploration K-6 Report.)

The Wayland Public Schools have hired Lilliana Smith, currently in her eighteenth year as a Spanish teacher in the Weston Public Schools, to serve as our curriculum designer, collaborating with our teachers and administrators to create our new Spanish early-elementary program. Ms. Smith has developed curriculum for a wide range of students, beginning with elementary students in her native Colombia more than twenty years ago. In addition, James Nocito has agreed to facilitate the community discussions about the new immersion program and supervise the process of selecting students through a random lottery process. Mr. Nocito has thirty-three years experience in public education, as a Spanish teacher, a K-12 World Language supervisor, and, currently, as a vice-principal at Wayland High School.

We are holding a parent information session on March 28, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. at Claypit Hill School where parents can find out more about our instructional approach to immersion and the kindergarten lottery process. Please keep in mind, that while we will announce the location of the program in the next few weeks, all Wayland kindergarten students, regardless of where they live, are eligible to participate in the Immersion Program.
Thank you very much for your support of this exciting new program.

Sincerely,

AU1_Sign

Arthur Unobskey, Superintendent of Schools

 

Preparing Our Children for the Future by Engaging Them in the Present

 

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January 5, 2018

At my first in-the-flesh Town Meeting experience this past November, I discovered that Wayland has a pathway for teaching our students to navigate our challenging political moment. We are extremely fortunate in our small town to have a deeply engaged citizenry that participates in a unique system of government. Not only is our participation in Town Meeting a model for our children, but it is a laboratory for them to discover how to impact their community.

In my first few months of learning about the Wayland Public Schools, and perhaps most concretely, through surveys I conducted with parents, students and teachers, I have discovered a community-wide, deeply felt confidence in our schools. For example, in my survey of middle school students, ninety-five percent of the respondents expressed that they “strongly agree” or “agree” with the statement “Wayland Middle School has a safe and positive climate.” Over ninety percent of parents felt that “My child is challenged, engaged and making progress” in reading, writing and math, while ninety-nine percent of Wayland teachers  “enjoy [their] jobs.” While some surveys express individual criticisms, the clear pattern is one that exudes a deep sense of loyalty and a fervent belief that our schools serve our children well.

The surveys, though, also reveal anxiety that teachers, students and parents feel about how we introduce our children to real world conflict and discomfort. The same efforts that make schools safe can raise concern that we over-engineer our children’s learning experiences. In the above surveys, for example, some parents and students expressed concern that Wayland High School altered certain popular activities out of concern that they were not completely safe nor fully inclusive. Furthermore, while some community members wanted students more deeply engaged in applying what they learn about social issues and “actually [doing} something,” others expressed concern that a “political bias had crept into the current curriculum.” We want our children to be engaged and assertive students, but we also worry that talking about politics in school can be so divisive that the very conversation threatens our students’ ability to develop their own beliefs.

One way that we address these anxieties about the best way to involve students in real world conflict is to provide them with the best academic problem-solving experiences possible, knowing that those skills will prepare them to be impactful citizens. While maintaining its energetic pursuit of best practices in more traditional areas of instruction, our staff has deepened its problem-solving curricula. For example, STEAM projects at the elementary schools, the Writing Center at WMS, and the Academic Center and Connect program at the High School all emphasize student initiative, and, at the same time, provide a thoughtful approach to the development of traditional skills.

At the same time, Wayland teachers have been particularly energized by the national political discourse and have approached me with the desire to help students learn to participate in it constructively. Town Meeting and the dozens of smaller meetings and committees that precede it struck me as a particularly unique example of adults creating what Phillips Academy Headmaster John Palfrey calls “safe spaces and brave spaces.” Our schools have already initiated programs for civic learning. Through programs like Loker’s Model United Nations program, the Service Projects at Happy Hollow, All-School Meeting at Claypit Hill, Building Global Citizens at WMS, and WSPN at Wayland High School, we are well on our way to creating experiences where students can develop real world skills, gain confidence and then have the opportunity to challenge each other.

Our own form of town government, though, provides quite a unique example of civic cooperation and one in which students could be very invested and take initiative. While teachers have integrated the study of Town Meeting for years into their social studies curriculum, I would like us to find new ways to involve our students in its unique workings. Students can play a more formal role, for example, in helping the town understand the significance of items in our school budget. They can also play a role in shaping articles that are voted upon at Town Meeting. Over the next several months, I will reach out to members of the community to elicit their thoughts on how we can get our students more involved in Town Meeting.

Please stay tuned.

 

Superintendent’s Revised School Start Time Recommendation, December 4, 2017

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December 4, 2017

Dear Wayland School Committee, Wayland Students, Parents and Staff:

After listening closely to parents and teachers in Wayland at nine open forums and reading student feedback on the recent Superintendent’s survey, I would like to put on hold my October 30 recommendation to move school start time 30 minutes later at the high school and middle school and 15 minutes later at the elementary schools. I am proposing that for the fall of 2018, we keep school start times the same.

It is clear that a large segment of the community is concerned about the impact of delayed arrival and dismissal times on our elementary students and on families. At the same time, it is clear that a large number of people have an appetite to explore a more significant change to start times for middle school and high school students because they have been inspired by the data that says that such a change will make our children healthier.

I propose that the School Start Time Task Force study this issue more closely. This winter we will study our bus routes carefully, searching for new ways to optimize their efficiency. We will also look in-depth at how a 3:00 or 3:15 dismissal time will impact our after-school sports and activities. We will visit elementary schools and secondary schools that start at different times and discuss with teachers and administrators from other schools the impact of different start times on student performance and well-being. Ultimately, we will look to see how we can move elementary school start times earlier without moving them too early.

After this study, the School Start Time Task Force will strive to develop a new proposal that will move high school and middle school start times to 8:15 or 8:30. It will present its work to the community for input and then to the School Committee for a vote either in the late spring of 2018 or the fall of 2018. If School Committee were to vote to change start times, that change would not take place until the fall of 2019.

Delaying start times more than a moderate amount of thirty minutes will require that we change our students’ school day more dramatically and possible allocate significant additional funding for transportation. Because this change will affect not only the student school day, but the lives of students, parents and staff outside the school day, it is appropriate that our elected representatives, the School Committee members, play a guiding role in this work.

If you have any questions or comments regarding school start time please feel free to contact School Committee members and me at the following emails:

ellen_grieco@wayland.k12.ma.us
jeanne_downs@wayland.k12.ma.us
nate_buffum@wayland.k12.ma.us
kim_reichelt@wayland.k12.ma.us
kathie_steinberg@wayland.k12.ma.us
arthur_unobskey@wayland.k12.ma.us

Thank you.

Sincerely,

AU1_Sign
Arthur Unobskey, Superintendent of schools

Superintendent’s Recommendation Regarding Start Times

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October 30, 2017

Dear Wayland Families, Staff and Students:

The Wayland Public Schools has examined the impact of its relatively early high school start time on student health periodically since 2002. While the Wayland community has largely agreed that delaying high school start times would improve the health of our adolescents, it has encountered a variety of challenges in making the change. At this time, as Superintendent, I am recommending to the Wayland School Committee that we adopt a phased approach in order to both address the challenges that those years of work have surfaced and achieve delayed start times for high school and middle school students.

During phase one, beginning at the start of the 2018-2019 school year, I recommend that we delay the start of school twenty minutes at high school and middle school and fifteen minutes at elementary school. During phase two, which will begin at the start of the 2019-2020 school year, I recommend that we delay high school and middle school start times an additional ten minutes without delaying further the elementary start times or end times. I am recommending that these changes take place over two years because we need to optimize our bus routes using real data from the first year’s implementation. I am confident that we will develop the efficiencies necessary in our bus routes in phase one to make phase two a reality.

Here are the recommended changes in table form:

Current Schedule: School Start Times in 2017-2018

Students School Starts School Ends
Elementary School 8:45 a.m. 3:15 p.m.
Middle School 7:35 a.m. 2:20 p.m.
High School 7:30 a.m. 2:15 p.m.

Phase 1: Recommended School Start Times in 2018-2019

Students School Starts School Ends
Elementary School 9:00 a.m. 3:30 p.m.
Middle School 7:55 a.m. 2:40 p.m.
High School 7:50 a.m. 2:35 p.m.

 

Phase 2: Recommended School Start Times in 2019-2020

Students School Starts School Ends
Elementary School 9:00 a.m. 3:30 p.m.
Middle School 8:05  a.m. 2:50 p.m.
High School 8:00 a.m. 2:45 p.m.

 

The Basis for the Recommendation

A tremendous amount of data overwhelmingly supports the need for schools to delay their start time in order to enable adolescents to get more sleep. While delaying start times a total of thirty minutes by 2019-2020 is not enough to enable the majority of our adolescents to get nine hours of sleep, the later start time will make a tangible difference. At the same time, while moving elementary start times fifteen minutes later is not ideal, a 9:00 a.m. start would align Wayland elementary schools with about one-third of the elementary schools in our region. In addition, the great majority of research does not suggest that delaying elementary school start and end times would impact our elementary students’ learning.

In order to make this phased delay work effectively, I am requesting the allocation of an additional $45,000 annually to address transportation inefficiencies that will impact elementary school students, particularly our Boston-resident students. This $45,000 will enable us to allocate an extra afternoon bus route and an afternoon bus monitor for our Boston elementary students, reducing their bus ride home by thirty to forty-five minutes each day.

Ultimately, I hope that in the next few years Dual County League schools will agree to begin interscholastic games later, so that Wayland could delay the start of its high school day closer to 8:30 a.m. and move elementary start times earlier in the day. Currently, many superintendents are apprehensive to change start times largely because of possible transportation delays. However, I am hopeful that their reticence will recede and interest will increase as more school districts successfully delay start times over the next few years.

I have asked that the School Committee discuss this recommendation publicly and make a decision about how to proceed by January of 2018. By voting in January, School Committee will give families sufficient time to prepare for the proposed change and will enable the District to ensure that our FY 19 budget reflects the School Committee’s decision.

I look forward to continuing this important conversation. If you have any comments regarding school start times, please email schoolstarttime@wayland.k12.ma.us. For research on adolescent sleep needs, survey data, a response to “Frequently Asked Questions” related to school start times, and the report that I presented to School Committee on Monday, October 30 please go to the Wayland Public Schools website here. In addition, I have posted the report on my blog.

Thank you very much.
Sincerely,

AU1_Sign

Arthur Unobskey, Wayland Public Schools Superintendent

 

Superintendent Unobskey’s Entry Plan

 

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Purpose of the Entry Plan

The purpose of this Entry Plan is to provide me with a structure for completing a careful study of the Wayland Public Schools. I will use these findings to gain the knowledge and trust I need to partner effectively with staff and the community as we build a shared vision for the Wayland Public Schools.

The Wayland Public Schools has the deep respect of its town. Its schools are viewed as both nurturing and high-performing. It has benefitted from skilled and steady leadership. That rock-solid platform supports a staff that is confident about its past and present and energized about the future. This research should help to galvanize the staff around a small number of priorities that will enable us to make an excellent district even better.

 
Deepening Our Core Values

The Wayland Public Schools Core Values are:

  1. teaching all students effectively
  2. creating strong collegial networks among staff
  3. respecting differences
  4. building a nurturing community

The research that I conduct will identify action steps the district should take to deepen its implementation of these four values. In order to identify those action steps, my research will focus on answering the following questions:

  1. How do we ensure that all students have a rigorous and nurturing academic experience?
  2. How should we refine our collaborative structures so that we position teachers most effectively to learn what works for students and to apply that learning to their daily teaching?
  3. How can we refine our communication with parents and the community so that we build consensus in the identification and implementation of our priorities?

The Time-Line for the Entry Plan
Part 1.Data Gathering: August 2017-January 2018

I will review documents, conduct interviews and administer surveys.

Document Review: I will review DESE documents (MCAS, EPIMS, Graduation Data, Attendance data, Social-Emotional Data, teacher evaluation data, etc), district and school improvement plans, enrollment projections, collective bargaining agreements, facility master plans, past budgets, budget forecasts, special education reports, School Committee agendas and supporting documents, and school handbooks.

Interviews: I will interview members of all stakeholder groups. These interviews will include meetings with students at all three school levels, School Committee members, the Town Administrator, town selectmen, members of the town Financial Committee, the police chief, fire chief, state representatives, Wayland Teachers’ Association leadership, school administrators, central office administrators, teachers, teaching assistants, facilities staff, parents, BASE staff, Council on Aging staff, and residents without children in the school system.

Focus Groups: I will also have focus group meetings that will include:

  • Students at the elementary school level, at the middle school, and at the high school
  • Elementary teachers
  • Middle school teachers
  • High school teachers
  • Teaching assistants
  • Parents at each school
  • Members of the Boston Parents Council
  • Members of the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee

 

Surveys

I will send surveys to the teachers, Wayland parents, and Wayland residents that do not have children in the school system.
Observations

I will observe classes, sporting and artistic events, teacher meetings, PTO meetings, and town-wide meetings.

 

Part 2: Report of Findings, February 2018

In February of 2018, I will produce a report of findings that I will present to the Wayland School Committee. This report will provide insights into the research questions listed above. After this report is published in February, I will spend until May meeting with stakeholders to discuss my findings and to get their input into creating action steps. Then, from June until August, I will work with the administrative team to pull these insights together into a three-year plan.

Part 3: Publishing Three-Year Plan for Wayland Public Schools, August 2018

This Action Plan will articulate a shared vision with goals and action steps to reach that shared vision. This Action Plan will tie directly to school and district improvement plans so that the district moves forward as a coherent whole.