Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Szymaniak gave the Wednesday, Aug. 28 first day of school an A-minus, citing a minor sewage problem at WHRHS as the only noteworthy glitch in an otherwise smooth opening to the 2019-20 school year.
School Committee Chairman Bob Hayes noted a “few buses were late here and there” as parents photographed their children’s first day.
“Kids had smiles on their faces,” said Szymaniak, who visited every district school along with Assistant Superintendent George Ferro. “It was a great day. It was great to see kids.”
He said the high school’s sewage issue, which occurred at 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, was quickly repaired.
Szymaniak also said the open houses held at district schools were “all packed,” and noted Gary Pellitier is the interim principal at Indian Head School and will be introduced to the School Committee at a later meeting.
Faculty and staff attended a welcome back program Monday, Aug. 26 featuring speaker Mike Smith, a nonprofit entrepreneur and skateboarder, who brought a message of personal integrity and critical thinking.
“Mike’s not your typical presenter,” Szymaniak said, describing Smith’s long hair and penchant for wearing hats. “He just didn’t fit into the typical W-H teacher crowd. … But he had a captivated audience for about an hour — he’s phenominal and left a good message about how we should be teaching our kids.”
Szymaniak said Smith focused on character as the most important quality he looks for in potential employees. He also spoke of how the average college student is changing majors six or seven times before graduating just as they will likely change careers six or seven times during their working lives.
“It’s not the teach-to the textbook, it’s teach to the kid and he even said, ‘I don’t necessarily want the straight-A AP kid, who’s just textbook, cookie-cutter. I want the kid who’s a good person,’” Szymaniak said. “He really hit the social-emotional learning piece that we were trying to drive home. Of being a good person.”
Smith told educators that “I could teach a good person what I want them to learn, but I can’t teach them how to be not arrogant, how to be selfless and working with a team,” Szymaniak said. “I think he left a great message.”
SJ Services donated a catered lunch, cooked by facilities staff and an ice cream truck’s visit was donated by Collegiate Press.