|School Starts – Wednesday, August 31
Dear Wellesley High School Families,
As much as we hate to admit it, the last hours of summer are upon us and it’s time to return to the fall and the schedule of school that comes with it. This September, Wellesley High School will be home to approximately 1520 students and about 170 full and part time teachers. Their return to our building brings a tremendous energy and excitement that I personally look forward to each year. As I tell people often, schools should have kids in them. It just feels right.
This summer came with one of the most challenging episodes I’ve experienced in my 23 plus years as a public school educator. The hate speech that came to our attention has challenged not just the high school, but also the entire community. David Lussier and I have written to you all about the efforts we’ve begun with some of our community partners to face this work on multiple fronts at the same time. Our first job as a school is to do everything we can to ensure the safety of all our students and the process of this complicated work has gone on since we learned about the incident. I have spoken to many parents worried about the wellbeing of their children in our school and in the town of Wellesley. We are appreciative to be a part of the larger community effort to make the town of Wellesley a more welcoming and inclusive place. To that end I want to call your attention to an event being sponsored by the World of Wellesley on August 28th at 4pm on the Town Green. There will be an event for families entitled Wellesley Stands United Against Hate. I hope many families will be able to attend in a powerful show of solidarity. This topic will certainly be a strong presence in my opening remarks to both faculty and students as they return. I am looking forward to working with students and staff to craft plans to both improve and establish new ways to perpetually promote equity in our school.
Importantly, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Wellesley’s participation in the Metropolitan Collaborative (METCO) program. Wellesley is extremely proud to be one of the founding communities in the METCO program and as such intends to celebrate this fact all year long with a series of events. Our first event is scheduled for October 25th and will include a keynote speech by Dr. Theodore C. Landsmark who is President Emeritus of the Boston Architectural College and likely most recognizable to many of you for his presence in the historical photo of the Boston busing protest. We also have plans for theatrical, musical, and celebratory experiences all underscoring the fact that our Boston Students have made the Wellesley Public Schools and the town of Wellesley a better place than we could ever have become without them. I like to remind us that all our students are METCO students because we are all a part of the program. Some of our METCO students live in Boston and some live in Wellesley. Please be on the lookout for advertisement of these events as the year progresses.
There are other opportunities for growth and learning that we are preparing to engage in this school year as well. Through the generosity of the Wellesley Education Foundation, the Wellesley PTSO and other donors, the high school is beginning a partnership with an organization out of Stanford called, Challenge Success (challengesuccess.org). You may have friends in the Dover/Sherborn District that has been involved with CS for the past two years. Challenge Success is an organization that grew out of the successful SOS (Stressed Out Students) program at Stanford in the early 2000’s. Since 2007 they have been working with communities very much like ours to examine what we really mean when define “success” with our children. The program engages all stakeholders in the community to examine this question and the many directions and implications involved with it. We will be sending a team of educators, students, and parents to Stanford for the annual Challenge Success conference at the end of September. We will then work with a consultant and our expanded home committee to determine what specifically we will be working on here in Wellesley. We do plan on using the program’s survey tool to assess our school’s student climate around these issues. We are looking forward to an event on December 19th where Travis Roy will be coming to speak to our student body about perspective and facing challenges (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ju5CcWWdG50). We hope that this event will help kick off the Challenge Success work with our student body. There’s more to come, but many of us are excited to start this work. We have funding to make this a multi-year initiative and the district plans to expand the work beyond the high school level.
Thank you to so many of you who took the time to participate in our Athletics Department Review survey and focus groups over the past 8 months. We are looking forward to presenting our recommendations during the fall. This is one of our most public departments and though it is extra curricular, we know the importance athletics has and can have in the development of many of our students’ future selves.
We also continue to prepare for the high school to launch a 1 to 1 laptop program in the fall of 2017. We are not requiring this yet and there will be much more information to come, but I wanted you to know at this early stage that many students already bring laptops to school and we encourage their doing so. Even though our plan is to be a “Bring your own device” school next year, meaning you can use any brand of laptop you prefer, we will be offering low cost options for the Macbook Air and this is the machine our staff currently uses here.
This is just a taste of the dynamic and meaningful work being done at Wellesley High School this coming year. I hope your students are finishing up their summer reading and getting themselves ready to wake up early again to start the year. I can’t wait to see them all after their summers and begin what I hope will be a productive and meaningful year on their journey to adulthood.
Jamie B. Chisum, Ed. D.