Welcome to the Office of the Superintendent
Dear WSSD Community,
I hope this letter finds you in good health and spirits, and that you’ve had time in these summer months to sit back, relax, and recharge. We’ve had a strong start to our athletics season, and at our first home football game last night, the Panthers brought home their second victory with cheers erupting through the crowd. When our marching band crossed the bridge earlier in the evening, a sense of excitement and anticipation filled the atmosphere. I couldn’t help but reflect on the momentous beginnings a new school year holds.
On Tuesday, our hallways and learning spaces will again be filled with the energy, laughter, and enthusiasm of our students. Returning from summer break is always filled with feelings of excitement and nervous anticipation. Whether you are experiencing it for the first time as a family, or you are returning, these memories will last a lifetime. As the new year begins, it is an opportunity to reconnect with our colleagues and peers, as well as form new relationships, start new lessons, and set new tones for the year.
During the summer months, our team worked hard to diligently support summer activities and prepare for the year ahead. I would like to highlight the success of our Extended School Year (ESY) program, summer athletics, and summer music programming, and express my thanks to the students, families and staff who participated. We also welcomed several new administrators and existing staff to new roles this summer. We have expanded and enhanced our organizational structure. This new structure will maximize our ability to support students, staff, and families.
This week, we had a successful opening day for teachers and staff. On our first day back, our very own Mr. Henry Pearlberg returned to give the keynote address. As I write this letter, I am reminded of his powerful words. Who better than Mr. Pearlberg to help staff reflect on their commitment to their craft? After 39 years of service, Mr. Pearlberg leaves an indelible legacy that embodies the core values that define our District. During his address, he eloquently stated:
“I can honestly tell you that I have loved my job, so much so that it has been more than a job, it has been a lifestyle that has had as much (maybe even more) impact on my development over the years as I hope that I have had on students, colleagues, and community members…[...]...I feel that I have been very fortunate, blessed, and just plain lucky to have had the opportunity and privilege to be an educator in the Wallingford-Swarthmore School District”.
During the first two days of our opening week, our partners from the University of Pennsylvania also engaged with teachers and staff to build a healthy ecosystem throughout our schools and communities that is grounded in cultural proficiency, equity, inclusion, and belonging. This work aligns with WSSD’s mission and is critical in informing and supporting a welcoming environment for our students. In Belonging through a Culture of Dignity, Dr. Floyd Cobb and John Krownapple state: “We define belonging as the extent to which people feel appreciated , validated, accepted and treated fairly within an environment (e.g. school, classroom, or work). When students feel that they belong, they aren't worried and distracted about being treated as a stereotype or a thin slice of their multidimensional identities”. During the first four days of school, teachers will focus on strengthening a sense of community for all students, helping them to foster positive and meaningful relationships within their classrooms and community.
Heading into the new year, we stay focused on our key priorities as a student-centered community. Our deep dives, including our Equity Audit, Curriculum Audit, and Communications Audit, were fundamental in producing the research, data, and metrics needed to quantify and understand how to better support our students. Over the next several months, we will invite our community to be involved in the development of the District's Strategic Plan. Our partner, Bloom Planning, will be supporting the District in this process. More information about this engagement will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.
As we prepare to welcome our students, I would like to remind families of the Board’s June 27, 2022 adoption of its electronic device policy. This policy provides guidance on the use of electronic devices. Its intent is to maintain an educational environment that reduces distraction and better supports the emotional well-being of our students. More about this policy can be found on the District’s BoardDocs page.
Finally, I want to thank each and every one of you for your continued commitment, collaboration, and investment in student success. I leave you with a message that I shared with our staff on opening day. In the Masai culture of Kenya and Sudan, a traditional greeting begins with “Kasserian Ingera”, which means “And how are the children?”, and if a tribe is prosperous, they respond “The children are well”. I share this message with you as a reminder that we must remain vigilant and steadfast in ensuring that our children are well, as our community's prosperity is dependent on their well-being.
Have a great Labor Day weekend.
Wagner Marseille, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools