As the new school year starts this week, Superintendent Sheldon Berman released this letter to parents and guardians of Andover public school students.
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Welcome to the 2019-20 school year. I hope you had an enjoyable summer, sharing some fun and interesting experiences with your children, creating memories for years to come.
We look forward to an exciting and productive year ahead. The district has moved forward in many areas over the past four years, with a particular emphasis on reading. Last year, we were especially pleased to find that our elementary students, particularly those with dyslexia and language-based disabilities, made notable gains on the state assessments, affirming the directions that we are taking with both our curriculum and our instructional practice.
At the elementary level, we are continuing to strengthen our literacy program and expand our classroom libraries, which create an opportunity for our students to immerse themselves in stories and authors from a wide variety of nations, cultures, and backgrounds. We are also proud to share that LearnLaunch has highlighted our progress in personalized learning; you can read more about that work here.
For the 2019-20 school year, our four major goals remain unchanged: to enhance the rigor of our curriculum, the inclusiveness of our instruction, the responsiveness of the culture and climate in our schools, and the close monitoring of student progress in order to adjust instruction to best meet the needs of each student.
In the coming year, we will focus our time and energy on deepening and extending the initiatives we committed to three years ago from expanding our integration of social and emotional learning to enhancing the accessibility of our curriculum to promoting innovation — all are vehicles for ensuring that every student has an opportunity to strive toward new heights. If you are interested in more information about our strategic plan for improving our schools and our students’ performance, you can find those details here.
Another area receiving significant attention this year is our facilities. Many improvements to our existing facilities were completed during the summer months; we thank our dedicated and talented team in the facilities, maintenance and custodial departments for their important and collaborative contributions.
We will soon select the architectural firm for the new West Elementary School. We have submitted a second Statement of Interest for a renovation/addition to the high school, and we look forward to conversations with the Massachusetts School Building Authority about that potential project.
The safety of your children remains our highest priority, and we will continue to be proactive in this regard. I want to reassure you that we have taken significant steps to strengthen the security of our buildings. Building on the new vestibule at Andover High School, we upgraded cameras throughout the district and constructed more secure entrances at both South and Bancroft elementary schools. We will be conducting ALICE safety drills at every school on a frequent basis, and we have enhanced our communications systems with local first responders.
Earlier this week, I met with the new teachers who are joining our district; I am impressed with their enthusiasm and with the high-quality skills they will bring to our classrooms. Meanwhile, our veteran teachers have participated in extensive professional development this summer — in the district, as well as at universities and other sites. They are returning with renewed energy, eager to apply their new knowledge and to help your children continue on their own path to lifelong learning.
If you are a parent new to the Andover district, you might be interested in the discussions underway to possibly change the school day start times. Last spring, we surveyed parents, staff, and students to gain their input on this important issue. We are currently compiling and analyzing the results and will soon make a report to the School Committee. As we formulate options for changing the start times, we will hold public forums throughout the fall; we invite all parents to be involved in these conversations and to share their perspective. For more information, we suggest that you check the district’s website here.
I know I speak for everyone on the Andover staff when I say that it is a privilege to serve your children and your family. We appreciate the confidence you place in us, and we look forward to the start of another exciting and productive school year.