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Your Tewksbury Today

Back To School 2015: O'Connor Welcomes Families Back

Aug 28, 2015 03:29AM ● By Bill Gilman

4th Grade Winner: Alex Cranston with Dr. O'Connor

(Editor's note: The following is a text of the "Welcome Letter" sent by Superintendent of Schools John O'Connor to parents and guardians of students in the Tewksbury Public Schools.)

Dear Parents and Guardians,
As summer vacation draws to a close, it’s time for families to start preparing for the new school year. The school staff have been preparing for the new year and the arrival of 3,600 children. The first day of school is Wednesday, September 2, 2015, one week from today!
The summer is also a very busy time for the administrators and support staff as we have engaged in hiring twenty-five (25) professional educators and undertaken a number of important facility projects. In addition to welcoming new principals, Ms. Terry Gerrish (Loella F. Dewing School) and Ms. Felicia Wettstone (Heath Brook School), Mr. Matt Castonguay had the “interim” tag removed and is now the permanent principal at the Louise Davy Trahan School. If you had asked me three weeks ago how our recruiting and hiring process was going, I would have responded that we had filled all of the open professional positions by the first of August. However, we’ve experienced several late resignations and one retirement that has us working overtime! I’m confident we will recruit high quality candidates and fill these positions in time for the opening bell.
We continue to upgrade curriculum instructional resources at all levels. At Tewksbury Memorial High School, new World History, Spanish, Biology, and Advanced Placement Statistics textbooks are being introduced. New History books at the Ryan School and Geography textbooks at the Wynn School are ready for distribution. Science Fusion textbooks and materials are being introduced at grades 3-5. All of these textbooks come with an online component that allows for home access to tutorials, practice tests, and relevant educational links.
We completed two important projects involving the Ryan and the Wynn Schools. All classrooms, hallways, gymnasiums, cafeterias and office space received a fresh coat of paint. At the Wynn School, the degraded concrete entry walkway has been removed and repaved and the heating system was upgraded. At the Ryan School, the gymnasium lighting was rewired and upgraded.
We continue to address the older roofs at the four elementary schools. Several roofing crews were involved in repairs to flashing and seam sealing this summer. Asbestos abatement in the Dewing School cafeteria was completed last week.
The Food Services Department plans to introduce breakfast service at the Dewing and Heath Brook Schools. This completes a three year plan to introduce morning meals in our schools. At Tewksbury Memorial High School look for the “Redmen on the Go” food station that will allow students to purchase take-out breakfast items.
The Instructional Technology Department completed a number of summer projects. The security system at the Tewksbury Memorial High School was upgraded with the latest release of software in conjunction with the installation of several new cameras in additional key areas. 
There are now over 150 operational cameras at Tewksbury Memorial High School. Additionally, the security systems at the Wynn and Ryan Schools were upgraded to now accept digital cameras as well as the existing analog cameras. HP Stream lightweight 11” laptops were piloted at the North Street School last spring. This pilot project was a resounding success! Through funds provided by the Tewksbury Education Foundation, Parent Advisory Committees and the Mobile Device Management project funded in the spring of 2014, we are in the process of deploying eight (8) JAR Systems’ carts with 25 units each at the four (4) elementary schools, the Ryan School, and the Wynn School. 
Additionally, an iPad cart has been purchased by the high school for the use in the Math department. The IT Services Team is working in sync with the Curriculum Office to migrate the district to Google Apps for Education over the next school year. Tewksbury Public Schools became a Google Apps for Education school district last fall and the e-mail accounts were migrated last year. This year, student Google accounts have been created for the entire student body to allow access to this platform. Additional information will be sent home by mid-September.
The new school year represents a time of transition at our high school. Starting in the Fall of 2016, TMHS will be moving to a “Waterfall Schedule” with seven rotating classes; some year-long and others are semester electives. In preparation, teachers will engage in professional development activities and plan to revise elective course curriculum in an effort to broaden student educational offerings. Graduation requirements will also come under revision. The principal will soon seek parent volunteers to participate in this important process. Last year we offered ten (10) sections of Advanced Placement classes with 217 students enrolled. This year, we have 312 students enrolled in thirteen (13) Advanced Placement classes. One of many measures of success that tell us great things are happening at TMHS!
The K-4 student day has been lengthened by twenty-five (25) minutes. This change will have an impact on student bussing across the district. During the first two weeks, bus schedules may be off by a few minutes as drivers adjust to the new times. Having lived through changes in transportation schedules, I apologize in advance knowing there will be delays and timing issues that may impact your morning routines.
Once again, the first day of school for students is Wednesday, September 2, 2015. Important information concerning the opening of school and the transportation schedule may be found on our district website
Enjoy the few remaining days of summer and I hope you join in our enthusiasm for another great year! Through the continued support of parents, staff and School Committee, I am looking forward to continuing to pursue our shared mission to meet each of our students’ unique needs and abilities.
John E. O’Connor, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
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