By NEIL ZOLOT
WAKEFIELD – The School Committee met some new elementary school teachers, including two alumni of the school system, at their meeting Tuesday, September 12.
“It’s always nice to hire alumni,” Superintendent Doug Lyons offered.
Both of the new teachers are at Woodville. New 3rd grade teacher Jessica Conley was a student there before graduating Wakefield Memorial High School in 2019. “It’s feels a little weird, but it’s good to come back to a building I’m familiar with,” she said.
It’s her first year teaching and the fulfillment of a long time ambition. “Ever since Kindergarten I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I know the community and am excited to come back.”
Evan Burns attended the Greenwood School and graduated from WMHS in 2017. He is a self described journeyman in the school system having worked as a long term substitute teacher at the high school teacher computer classes and television production. After more time as a rotating sub and a paraprofessional at Woodville, he left teaching for a digital advertising job over the summer but missed working in school. Now he’s the Library Media Specialist at Woodville. “I’m enjoying my role,” he said. “I missed the kids and wanted to come back.”
Member Stephen Ingalls called the new teachers “super bright eyed.”
Wakefield has 22 new teachers this year, which Dolbeare Elementary School principal Terence John “T.J.” Liberti feels is not very high. “We have one of the lowest turnover rates in the area,” he said. “Some have been the result of retirements.”
A new feature of welcoming teachers was having students address them as a group. “It was great to have them hear from students,” Lyons said. “They let us know what they need to be successful and talked about improving access for kids so they don’t feel isolated or alone. They said they could figure out a subject if their teacher was supportive. I love when they said the teachers get as much from them as they do from teachers. It’s hard to work in public education. . It’s hard to be a teacher administrator and that was a reminder of the importance of this work.”
Two of the students, twin sisters Hawa and Humu Sheriff, joined the meeting through video-conferencing. “I was glad to be able to express our feelings,” Hawa said of speaking to the teachers. “It made me understand the impact we’ve had on teachers and the impact they’ve had on us. We really appreciate it.”
“It was a great experience,” Humu added.
As part of a report from the Student Services Subcommittee, member Peter Davis reported they are just beginning to deal with the idea of changing school start times, an idea that came up at the June 27 meeting. At the time student Alexis Manzi cited information from the American Academy of Pediatrics, start times in nearby communities and results of a student survey she conducted, she told the School Committee a later start time will “align teen bodies with their sleep patterns,” rather than the current 7:30 start time.
“Our hope is to get a later start time,” Davis said September 12. “High school bodies need a later start time.”
The question looming is how that will affect parents, including Wakefield’s teachers, getting their children to school, bus and other school schedules, traffic and start and release times as they relate to extracurricular activities and student family obligations and jobs.
“No matter what happens, someone will be affected,” Davis warned.
He and Kevin Fontanella also said there is no one-size-fits-all approach or solution because every community has its own characteristics. Comparisons to other communities can be meaningless. Adjacent Melrose and Saugus both have their high and middle schools on the same campus.
In further discussion, Fontanella asked people to be cognizant of traffic around a school, while Ingalls reminded people schools are no idling zones. No idling signs are only posted at some schools, however.