October 19, 2009
Someone recently asked why I don’t write more positive Superintendent’s Corners, as many people get their information about Gateway from that column, despite the fact that we consistently put out positive news releases about various student, staff and district achievements. I always appreciate constructive feedback so I went and reviewed the past several articles I’d written. I’d have to agree that they don’t contain the most positive news but I’d hoped that I was able to express my belief that we are moving forward positively, discussing difficult changes in a civilized manner and dealing with challenges as a district. We certainly have our fair share of challenges in the district, and it’s no use hiding them. On a lighter note we can consider Katherine Hepburn’s view—“Life is hard. After all, it kills you.” Fortunately most of us continue to get up in the morning and face our challenges rather than voluntarily succumb any earlier than necessary to our eventual demise.
However, I also must keep in mind Mark Twain’s observation that, “There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist.” To that end, let me highlight some positive observations of the district, our students and our staff.
At last week’s school committee meeting I reviewed MCAS data (the presentation can be found at www.grsd.org). There are several positive aspects to the 2009 MCAS scores in the district—the high school scored extremely well and maintained a very positive record on MCAS scores, there were significant gains in yearly achievement throughout the district with some individual classes improving by nearly 20% over their 2008 scores, and 23 seniors qualified for the John and Abigail Adams scholarship (free tuition at any Massachusetts Public College) based upon outstanding scores on the MCAS test and ranking in the top 25% of their high school class.
Our students and staff are keeping the idea of educating the whole child alive and well despite financial woes, MCAS and NCLB. I only have to look at the students practicing movement to music at the elementary level, rehearsing music for the senior citizens annual holiday luncheon at the secondary level, planning trips to NYC to learn about Broadway plays, traveling to Connecticut to study Native American history, participating in, and doing well at, fall sports, the planning of class activities by class officers and even the hatching of eggs and other hands-on activities occurring throughout the district at every level. This is not the dry, lecture only, strict preparation for a standardized MCAS test—this is preparation for all that life holds in store for our students brought to them by a dedicated, imaginative and hard working staff.
I continue to see, and get compliments on, the excellent work that our custodians, groundskeeper and maintenance staff are doing to maintain the high standards that we’ve come to expect here in the Gateway District. As someone who gets to occasionally travel to other schools and districts I assure you that this level of performance is not the norm throughout the state or country. As more school districts look at hiring outside firms to run non-instructional aspects of schools, I see that our staff go above and beyond the minimum because they have pride in their schools, work well with all staff, and have an ownership attitude towards the district—something that can never be replicated with outside purchased services.
Our cafeteria staff continues to do a great job of preparing what are essentially home cooked meals and the smell of baked goods wafting through the halls surrounding the cafeteria is something that is lacking in many schools throughout the country.
Our staff continues to work diligently with our students, parents and community members to meet the needs of all and positive results are visible each and every day. As our seniors prepare for their graduation we will once again see students being admitted to the best colleges, qualifying for great scholarships, enrolling in advanced technical programs, and joining the military and the work force—all examples of a school district that does well by its students. So I’d say that despite the challenges we face, we are still doing well and making progress. I guess it all depends on your point of view, your outlook and how you compare challenges and successes. Or, as Albert Einstein wrote “When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity.” In that light, we’re doing extraordinarily well relative to the challenges we’ve overcome and will be facing in the future.