September 3, 2021
I hope this letter finds you in good spirits and good health and that the extreme weather on Wednesday did not cause you and your family too much hardship. Unfortunately, we have witnessed a significant amount of damage in our region and across the East coast.
We are looking forward to welcoming students back to school on September 9th, and in preparation for the upcoming year, our teachers and many of our staff members returned to campus this past Monday for four days of training, meetings, and reconnecting. Part of the professional development experience during those days included conversations on mental health, positive behavioral development, and curriculum.
We kicked off the week with our annual Convocation at King Field. As I joined WSSD on July 1st, this is the first time that I got to meet all of my colleagues and teammates. I outlined some of my plans and aspirations for the upcoming year, and I am excited to work with them to bring those plans to fruition.
I was also happy to share the stage with our School Board president, Dr. David Grande, our HR Director, Ferg Abbott, and our esteemed guest speaker, alumnus and 2020 Olympian, Jake Hoyle. It's funny how although Jake and I didn’t speak beforehand, we both talked about the power of teacher belief. He shared how learning the sport of fencing in middle school from Ms. Pixie Roane and her ongoing support and belief led him on a path all the way to the Olympic Games. This is similar to my own story where my high school teacher and coach, Mrs. Mackie tapped me on the shoulder in the hallway and said, “You are my next state champion”, leading me on my own journey to athletic and personal success.
The belief we have in ourselves, coupled with the belief that others have in us, can lead people to accomplish extraordinary things. With this in mind, I challenged our staff this calendar year to find those students in their classrooms and school buildings, tap them on the shoulder, and say,
“You are my next ….”
None of our aspirations for our students nor our curricular, programmatic, and academic goals can be accomplished if we don’t recognize and address the significant amount of trauma that children and adolescents are struggling with as it relates to stress, anxiety, a need for belonging and acceptance, along with struggles related to identity factors, including race, gender, religion, poverty, and sexual orientation. Additionally, our students are battling new challenges as a result of technology and social media and are living through a global pandemic that has us returning to universal masking and physical distancing.
Trauma-informed practices, social-emotional learning programs, and positive behavioral interventions and supports are important components of our plans for the 2021-2022 school year because they provide a foundation and roadmap for navigating these challenges. Though we have many goals and objectives, we must prioritize the health and safety of our students and staff and rebuild our sense of community.
It is important to note that the District’s Health and Safety Plan has been revised to reflect the PA Department of Health’s universal mask order, which also allows us to continue the priority decision for five full days of in-person instruction for our students. In addition, the Health and Safety Plan for Competition and Voluntary Workouts and Music Health and Safety Plan are also updated. (All three plans can be viewed here.) You can also view our COVID newsletter which we will publish periodically to provide updates and information regarding the District’s mitigation strategies.
As we continue a layered approach to mitigation strategies, the District will begin assurance testing twice a week for staff members who are not fully vaccinated. We are encouraged that over 90% of our staff members have reported that they are fully vaccinated.
As a reminder, Mrs. Deborah Sweeney is our lead nurse for COVID-19, helping to conduct contact tracing, streamline COVID related communications, update the WSSD community on state and local mandates and COVID related information, provide support to all school nurses and staff, partner with community supports to provide vaccine clinics, and answer all District-related medical COVID questions. Her contact information is email@example.com or 610-892-3470 extension #2144.
I want to note that August 30th was my 60th day at WSSD, and I am well into my 100+ day journey as laid out in my Entry Plan. I am completely immersed in Phase 1 of my plan: Learning, Listening, and Reflecting, and I look forward to the opportunity to create space to engage and hear more from our staff, students, and parent-led organizations, which will include holding community meetings. I will communicate the schedule for these opportunities with you.
During the summer, I was able to see many of our teachers, staff, and students in action at the Summer Panthers, Extended Year, and Community of Explorers programs. I have had numerous meetings and conversations with staff, teachers, parents, students, alumni, board members, union leadership, township officials, and legislators. I thank everyone for reaching out to me as your voice and input matters. I also attended my first SHHS football game last Friday, and I look forward to attending my first SHHS girls soccer competition this afternoon as they host Avon Grove. Tonight’s football game against Marple Newtown will also be a good one, and I am excited to see our marching band perform at full strength.
We have also begun collecting data in many areas of our operations and are preparing for curriculum, equity, and communication audits which will help us improve and grow in many areas. I invite you to attend our first Educational Affairs Committee meeting on September 9th at 7 p.m. in room B226 at Strath Haven Middle School where we will be proposing the implementation of curriculum and equity audits.
I hope you are able to find the time to spend with your family and loved ones this weekend, and I look forward to welcoming your child(ren) on September 9th.
Wagner Marseille, Ed.D.