August 21, 2017

Dear Members of the Wellesley Public Schools Community,

I hope everyone is enjoying our beautiful August weather and the remaining days of summer.  We are eager to welcome all of our students on Wednesday, August 30th, for the first day of the 2017-2018 school year.  (Please note that Wednesday is a half-day for our elementary students only.)

Summer is always a busy time for WPS with critical building improvements facilitated by the incredible team from the Town’s Facilities Maintenance Department (FMD). This year, our major project was adding security infrastructure to the buildings that had not yet received these updates.  This work will continue into the school year and will help provide a safe and healthy learning environment for our students and staff.  Of course, our custodians perform a deep cleaning of each of our schools to ensure that our buildings are looking their best when students walk in on the first day.  When you see our school custodians, please take a moment to thank them for their tremendous efforts.

During the 2017-2018 school year, we will maintain a focus on four priority areas in our work.  The first is social and emotional learning (SEL), which aims to develop resiliency, responsible decision-making, healthy relationships, and empathy.  Research continues to show that social and emotional learning not only creates a healthy context for learning to take place, but that these skills actually enhance academic rigor.  Along with SEL, we will continue our work to develop tiered supports for students that allow us to differentiate our practice to meet the diverse needs of our students.  Next, we will continue with efforts to calibrate our practice with the 21st Century Learning competencies that our students will need to be successful in college, careers, and life. Finally, we will sustain the momentum that was created last year around cultural competence.  Of particular importance, will be the formal assessment that we will conduct of the climate of race and diversity in WPS.  This will help us establish a baseline and inform a multi-year plan in response to these data.  We are especially grateful to the Wellesley Education Foundation (WEF) for providing critical resources to make this assessment possible.

As we prepare to open school next week, it’s impossible to ignore the national context and dialogue defined by the recent events in Charlottesville, VA. In college, I remember studying the impact that hate and division could have when coupled with political opportunism.  As a student, and later a teacher, of history, I always felt, perhaps naively, that the lessons of the past would prevent similar occurrences from happening in the present.  I was wrong.  Watching as Nazi flags, slogans, and the language of white supremacy and hate were being used proudly by Americans in this country, I was left feeling shocked and angry.  These feelings were only amplified by the tepid, ambiguous response by our national leaders.  In the past year, our core values as a community have been put to the test.  Recent events suggest that we find ourselves at a larger inflection point for our nation.  History teaches us that we cannot remain silent at such a time.  The Wellesley Public Schools remain steadfast in our belief that our core values of Academic Excellence, Commitment to Community, Respect for Human Differences, and Cooperative and Caring Relationships, must continue to form the compass that guides our work.  More than ever, our students need the skills to make meaning of our past and our current complex and rapidly-changing environment, where access to information and opinion are never more than one swipe away.  I have no doubt that these topics will be discussed and debated in our classrooms in the coming weeks and months.  I encourage our parents to be equally engaged at home.  We all need to work together to reinforce the bonds and beliefs of our community. With this in mind, I hope our WPS community will be well-represented at the World of Wellesley celebration of community on Sunday, August 27th, from 2-4PM at the Warren Park Playground at 90 Washington Street.

With the many announcements and scheduling information forthcoming from our district and schools, I encourage you to visit our website for frequent updates: www.wellesley.k12.ma.us.  I also invite you to follow me on Twitter@WellesleySupt for updates throughout the year.  Finally, if you have not done so already, please update your contact information through our PowerSchool Parent Portal.

On behalf of the incredible team of educators and support staff who serve the children of the Wellesley Public Schools, thank you for putting your faith in us to provide your children with a world-class education.  We look forward to working with you throughout the year to ensure the success of all of our students.

Best regards,
Dr. David Lussier