ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Pictured is Saugus Public Schools Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
SAUGUS — A group of educators, coaches and youth group leaders are collaborating to strengthen Sachem pride and keep student-athletes in Saugus Public Schools.
Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi hopes improving pride in attending Saugus High School while children are younger will help keep them within the school system. Instilling the same message in students across all activities, including sports, the arts and other educational programs will help children share values and learn skills that will help them succeed, he said.
“Our focus is how do we keep our children in Saugus so they’re not leaving to play sports elsewhere,” said school committee member Elizabeth Marchese. “We’re being proactive. What can we do right now to build a better program here in town for our athletes?”
The school system lost about 100 middle and high school students this year to vocational, charter and private schools, about the same as the year before. DeRuosi said the reason the students chose to leave the district is unclear, but athletics played a role for many.
“Anytime a student opts out, for whatever reason, it impacts the district,” he said. “There is an impact, financially, of those students leaving. The goal is to build a program that keeps kids with you.”
The school district pays a fee to each charter or vocational school a student leaves the district to attend, negatively affecting the school budget.
A group of about 30 people has met three times to identify gaps and brainstorm solutions that will result in a stronger athletic program with better student-athletes and ensure all students are putting academics before any extracurricular activities.
The group, which includes high school coaches and coaches at younger levels, has discussed holding sports clinics. A high school coach and players would spend a weekend teaching their sport, strategies and language to the children, fostering a relationship and offering potential role models.
Familiarizing Pop Warner players with high school coaches could increase excitement about one day playing for Saugus High School, Marchese said.
“We’re all working together to send the same message to do the right thing, that academics are important,” said Marchese. “Hearing that in the minor leagues when you’re six or seven — that message is embedded in you. It’s all about getting better at what you do.”
But the focus is not limited to athletics. DeRuosi hopes to collaborate with the fine arts and drama programs, as well as any other afterschool activities.
“Our goal is to keep kids engaged with solid adults sending a positive message,” DeRuosi said. “We have the capacity to change Saugus through multiple vehicles. I think our motto will be ‘one town, one team — building a better community.’”
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.