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Superintendent Pamela Angelakis received high marks, marking her third final evaluation. She’ll be entering into the fourth year of her five-year contract as superintendent.
Superintendant Pamela Angelakis said Angelakis said the reduction of four elementary teachers is an enrollment-driven decision rather than a budget-driven decision. (File Photo)

Taking a psychological approach to education

SWAMPSCOTT -- As students prepare to head back to school on Tuesday, Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said one of the top priorities for the district continues to be psychological safety.

“Psychological safety is the No. 1 priority of our district strategy, or my initial strategic plan,” said Angelakis. “We have seen the benefits to our students with the implementation and success of our SWIFT and Harbor programs, and we look forward to similar successes as we roll these programs out at the middle school for the upcoming school year.”

Psychological safety has been a high focus area for Angelakis. Two mental health programs, Swampscott Integrated for Transition (SWIFT) and the Harbor Program, were introduced at Swampscott High School last year.

SWIFT is designed to address the needs of students re-entering school after absences because of serious mental health problems or medical illness. Harbor is a special education program for students with emotional disabilities.

Angelakis said the success of the programs is clear -- in the 2015-16 school year, the high school documented 21 student hospitalizations for mental health issues, and with SWIFT and Harbor during the 2016-17 school year, that number was cut to 11.

In addition, Angelakis said the number of the district’s special education referrals was cut down from 22 in 2015-16 to 11 in the 2016-17 school year.

“Data can’t be misconstrued,” Angelakis said. “The No. 1 benefit in these programs is that we keep our students where they belong -- in our schools and in our district. A side benefit to this is that keeping these students in our district also positively benefits the budget and controls our out-of-district costs. It is a win-win all around. I’m really looking forward to similar results with our middle school programs this year.”

Other top district priorities involve three curriculum areas -- science/STEM (K-12), mathematics (7-12) and technology/Google (K-12) -- and will build upon work that the school district began last year, according to Angelakis.

Angelakis said the district has expanded the middle school STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classroom with 25 new computers that will run engineering design software. A science teacher has been added at the high school.

She said school officials will be working to build a cohesive 5-12 STEM program that is aligned with the 2016 MA Curriculum Framework for Science Technology/Engineering, with a goal of offering coding at the high school by the 2018-19 school year.

For math, pre-calculus textbooks have been purchased at the high school level and “this year, we will be delving deeper into the conversations that began last year around Algebra I classes at both the middle and high school levels from the placement process to the number of levels at the high school,” Angelakis said.

Angelakis said there are about 400 new technology devices, including those for the leadership team, teachers and students, and work continues on rolling out the district’s new website. Professional development workshops in Google are planned. Another new addition is guest wifi access at the high school.

“All of these areas are equally important,” Angelakis said. “One does not trump the other. For the first three years of my tenure, it seems much of my energy and focus has been on operational issues. We are now fully focused on providing the best learning opportunities for our students, analyzing our programs, and preparing our students for college and career.”

Tuesday is first day of school for students in pre-K and grades 1-12. The first day of school for kindergarten students is on Tuesday, Sept. 5. There is no school on Friday and next Monday for Labor Day.

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