WAKEFIELD — A pot luck supper hosted by METCO parents was enjoyed by school board members before their formal meeting got underway last night at the 12th Baptist Church in Roxbury.

The change in venue gave METCO parents an opportunity to be present for a school board meeting and to exchange ideas, said member Thomas Markham III.

Along with Markham, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen K. Zrike, Business Administrator Michael Pfifferling and Clerk Susan Majeski, school board members attending were Chairman Kate Morgan, Christopher Callanan, Gregory Liakos and Anne Danehy.

Zrike commented that the meeting was “excellent,” in that many METCO families attended.

“They spoke positively and passionately about their children’s experience in Wakefield,” said Zrike. “They complimented our staff and families for making them and their children feel so welcome.”

Markham said that as elected officials and residents of Wakefield, school board members see parents around town but METCO parents don’t have the same opportunity.

“This was a great chance to bring Wakefield to them. It would be quite an exercise for them to come to us,” he said.

Between 40 and 50 people, including several METCO graduates, attended the meeting. Markham commented that some students who live in outlying areas such as Dorchester commute to Wakefield by school bus two hours each way.

“The dedication to education these Boston students have is inspiring,” said Markham. “It’s impressive and it’s extraordinary.”

Many METCO students are engaged in sports programs, plays, music programs and other extra-curricular activities, which lengthen their school days.

On the agenda were two votes, one for new math curriculum for grades kindergarten through grade 6 and grades 7 and 8 and one seeking a change in the job description for the school nurse at the Walton School.

Both measures passed unanimously.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith and Math Department Leader Wendy Phillips gave detailed presentations about three math programs under consideration. The programs were narrowed down through research by a task force that assembled last fall.

A math program called “Envision” was ultimately chosen for a six-year commitment. At a cost of $201,440, which includes textbooks, workbooks and online training for both teachers and students, the program focuses on Common Core math clusters, develops in-depth understanding and connects mathematical content and practice standards, among others.

Markham said there was a “good debate” before the vote was taken. His one concern was how the transition would look over a two year period for grades 7 and 8.

“These students have been using the current curriculum and would be difficult for them to transition to the new program,” said Markham.

The solution, he said, will be for grades kindergarten through grade 6 to transition to Envision this coming September and in the second year transition the program to grades 7 and 8. By then, Markham explained, the students in grades 7 and 8 now will be in high school.

The transition also impacts teachers because they will have to learn the curriculum.

“We can’t just throw something new at them and expect them to teach,” said Markham. To solve this problem, teachers will have the new curriculum in their hands by the end of the current academic year and professional development sessions will be scheduled for sometime in August.

“We are long overdue for new math curriculum,” said Markham. “When I was advocating for the budget increase this year, the curriculum was at the top of my list.”

In addition to Phillips, the math leadership team consists of Kathy Divasta, Estelle Burdick, Stacy McGrath, Melanie Ricupero, Suzanne Harte, Kristin LIberti, Jillian Balestrieri, Kerry Sullivan, Jeff MacInnis, Erin Roy, Bill Hoover, Kathy Uva and Amanda Sullivan.

“Our math leadership team collected data/information on two programs from staff, students and other districts. Envision 2.0 is not yet available for grades 7 and 8. Thus, we will implement a blend of current materials until we have an opportunity to vet the new materials for grades 7 and 8, which are coming out in September,” said Zrike. “The new program provides expansive digital learning opportunities, parent resources and user friendly supports for teachers. Our next steps are to detail our decision to parents in an upcoming letter and provide truing materials to teachers.”


School board members also voted to rewrite the Walton School nurse position to include a leadership role.

“We had no real leader for the school nurse department,” said Markham. “This did not lend well to managing the flow of information. We needed to develop a team approach and how to fairly implement it.”

It was the idea of the school nurses to create a senior nurse position and they agreed that the senior nurse should be the one with the lightest caseload. Since the Walton is the smallest school, the school nurse at the school will take on the role.

“The position will now include a stipend for the nurse,” said Markham, Generally, stipends are in the vicinity of $2,000.

“We’re bringing some organization to the nursing staff,” said Markham. “This is not an uncommon model. It’s a leadership role.”

Zrike added that the Walton school nurse will serve as the liaison to the Board of Health and his office and will coordinate district-wide parent communication.


The highlight of the meeting was placing the “student spotlight” on Helen Teklehaimanot, a member of the junior class at Wakefield Memorial High School who came to the U.S. only three years ago from Africa.

A Boston resident, Teklehaimanot communicates fluently in English, said Markham.

“Helen was enrolled in an English Language Learner program in Boston but she was struggling,” Markham continued. Since coming to Wakefield, there has been a remarkable transformation, he added.

“She came to us when she was already in high school,” Markham said. “Most METCO students start at the elementary level. It’s hard to make new friends in the ninth grade. But Helen’s talents seem insurmountable. She’s a bright girl.”

Teklehaimanot spoke about her “turnaround story” about being a student who was in the wrong place before coming to the right place.

Zrike also spoke about Teklehaimanot and said that since enrolling in the METCO program she has thrived. Markham said that students in Wakefield welcomed her with open arms and even included her in activities such as weekend sleepovers.

“It was inspiring to hear how she was received by educators and students at the high school and how they have contributed to her educational experience. It reminded all of us what a special place our schools are for our students.”