Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan welcomed back staff on Tuesday, Sept. 3 as the Westfield Public School District prepared for the return of more than 6,200 students on Thursday, Sept. 5.
During the opening day ceremony, Dolan welcomed 26 new staff members, acknowledged 3 new administrators – Westfield High School principal Mary Asfendis, Roosevelt Intermediate School principal Brian Gechtman, and Roosevelt assistant principal Keith Brunson – and applauded the more than 900 staff members gathered in the Westfield High School auditorium.
“As I sat down to draft my remarks for today, I couldn’t help but think about the past year. And, as I reflected on what was inarguably a challenging number of months, I was reminded of what gets our district through times that concern us or frighten us or even make us cry,” Dolan told the staff. “It is all of you. It is your steadfastness, your resilience, your professionalism, your heart, and your willingness to work together for what is best for our students.”
Dolan outlined new security procedures in place for the 2019-2020 school year and expressed appreciation for “our strong, cooperative relationship with the Westfield Police Department which will continue to provide a daily presence in our schools.” She also reiterated the district’s continuing commitment to Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and its five competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills.
“It’s not just a phase. It’s an ongoing commitment by our district to make sure that, along with the wonderful education our students receive, their social and emotional well-being is looked after as well,” said Dolan.
Westfield Education Association president Gail Alston, Board of Education president Peggy Oster and other board members were on hand to welcome the staff. Alston praised the hard work and dedication of the educators, while Oster recalled the first day of school as a student herself and later, a mother of five who attended Westfield schools.
“There is something about the month of September that makes us all excited for change,” said Oster. “Being in the district for 25 years, I have seen the education system in Westfield adapt to our students facing an ever-changing society. The majority of these changes come from our teachers and staff, who continue to grow and develop as educators to be the best that they can be for our students and community and I’d like to thank all of you for that.”
Teachers and paraprofessionals gathered again on Wed, Sept. 4 for a full day of professional learning organized by Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Programs Paul Pineiro and facilitated by district administrators and a few other professionals. There were sessions and workshops focusing on SEL, the new Standards-Based Report Card, digital citizenship, mental health and behavioral issues, financial literacy, technology, and other topics.
On August 27 and 28, the 26 new staff members attended a two-day, in-house orientation as part of the New Staff Institute (NSI). The NSI is a two-year program designed to support first-time educators and those who are new to the district. The comprehensive program is organized by Human Resources Specialist Barbara Ball and her staff, along with a leadership team comprised of seasoned Westfield educators.