The August 27 convocation for school district personnel was a little bit fun and a little bit serious, just as superintendent Brian A. Hyde told the audience it would be. Throughout the event was an emphasis on Mashpee’s goal of becoming a high-performing school district, a goal that Mr. Hyde believes is reachable with a focus on student learning and continued progress among staff.
There are two voices that are most important for teachers, he said: their gut or instinct and failure. A teacher’s gut should be focused on student learning, while “listening” to failure can help them learn and improve. Mr. Hyde said that the latter voice has been especially helpful to him.
“When you experience failure, get the lesson,” he said. “Ask yourself, what is this failure here to teach me?”
Mr. Hyde said that he intentionally surrounds himself with professionals who are smarter and better than himself and urged his staff to do the same.
One of those professionals was Marjorie L. Thomas, a paraprofessional for the district, who died of cancer last week at age 56. Ms. Thomas provided 21 years of dedicated service to the schools, Mr. Hyde said, displaying photographs of her on a PowerPoint slide.
After a moment of silence, he outlined the importance of professional etiquette—being present and attentive, turning off cellphones, listening, being honest and breathing—as well as “looking for the good” in the classroom.
“If it’s not impacting student learning, let’s not deal with it,” he said.
Along with a few teachers and administrators, selectman John J. Cahalane and school committee chairman Scott P. McGee were invited to speak.
The school committee currently comprises a former educator and four parents, Mr. McGee said, and it is not the committee’s role to tell teachers how to do their jobs.
“We’re going to stay in our lane,” he said, adding that committee members have sometimes taken on more than they should.
Mr. Cahalane expressed his support of the school district, as a resident of Mashpee and a selectman in town for many years and whose late wife served as a school secretary in the district.
“But for some reason this year is a very special year,” he said.
This year is special, too, for Quashnet School principal Patricia M. DeBoer, who said that she has adopted a new perspective after experiencing a health issue early this month. The experience taught her to take nothing and no one for granted, to pay attention and notice details, adjust behaviors, listen to others, presume positive intentions and see the best in others. Ms. DeBoer recalled squatting down to see the school grounds from a young student’s perspective.
“Everything looks so different,” she said.
Wendy M. Lithwin, the new principal of the Kenneth C. Coombs School, said that she has the “new school jitters.” The school is familiar to Ms. Lithwin, who was previously the assistant principal. But suddenly the responsibilities she and her colleagues share, to help every student, have become real. Next week, in addition to returning students, they will welcome students who are new to the schools and even to the Town of
Mashpee, many who will be entering the newly expanded preschool program.
Both she and new grades 7-to-12 principal Sean M. Gilrein expressed excitement over leading the schools this year, Mr. Gilrein, as a new administrator in the district.
Speaking to his colleagues, he said, “The exact same excitement that you bring today is the excitement you need to bring every single day.”
On a slightly more serious note, Mr. Hyde discussed with personnel 2014 preliminary MCAS data for the district. The draft scores will be embargoed until they are finalized and released to the public mid-September.
When he predicted that his staff was tired of numbers, Mr. Hyde switched to a new presentation slide and played a music video for C&C Music Factory’s “Everybody Dance Now,” then proceeded to dance through the aisles of the auditorium. It was not long before his staff, appearing surprised by the superintendent’s moves, rose from their seats, and followed suit.