Bell rings for new school year

MARBLEHEAD – On Monday, two days before the town?s 3,300 public school students flooded back into classrooms, superintendent Maryann Perry gathered her teachers together to deliver a simple message: “You are the experts, we need to listen to you.”Perry drove that message home on Wednesday with a visit to the Bell School, where she dropped in on classrooms to give teachers encouragement and praise their skills. Lindsay McGuinness? 19 students greeted Perry with a rousing “welcome to kindergarten,” prompting Perry to flatter them by asking, “Are you sixth-graders?”An educator for 30 years and superintendent for three, Perry said she is a stabilizing education leader who can prioritize school spending needs, help teachers meet federal and state education standards and maintain school buildings.A Central Massachusetts native and the daughter of a Worcester public schools welding instructor and department head, Perry said teaching has evolved leaps and bounds since she first taught an integrated preschool special needs class.Marblehead teachers like McGuinness and mathematics liaison Aimee Sheppard are “more hands-on” than teachers in Perry?s day. They help select and tailor curriculums and, in Sheppard?s case, coach other teachers on effective math lesson strategies.Perry knows her teachers personally, not from a distance or only as names on a payroll list. She praised McGuinness for “always being the first to volunteer” and said Sheppard is “climbing the ladder” into the Marblehead School Department?s upper ranks.?Teachers need to see me as a real person,” she said.During her three years as superintendent, Perry said she has brought “a sense of calmness” to town schools. She meets with School Committee members on Sept. 17 and the school budget will emerge over the course of the academic year as one of her top concerns.She said town schools have seen improvements over the summer, including ongoing work on the high school?s heating ventilation and air conditioning system and Phillip McManus? assignment as Veterans Middle School?s new vice principal helping Principal Matthew Fox.Elementary schools also saw summer improvements with a long-awaited new floor installed in Bell School.?It makes such a difference – it?s a huge thing,” said Bell Principal Donna Zaeske.Bell starts the school year with 300 students and Perry said school-wide enrollment reflects a 150-student increase.?Enrollment was forecast to drop, but it was the opposite,” she said.Perry plans to visit Bell later in the fall when students harvest the school garden and return at some point to hear McGuinness demonstrate a newly acquired musical skill.?I learned to play the ukulele this summer. I wanted to integrate it into my lessons,” McGuinness said.

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