Teachers, administrators getting ready for new school year

Aug 22, 2019

From big construction projects to new staff, Dartmouth schools are in the busy final week of preparation to welcome students back for the new school year on August 28.

One major construction project has everyone talking: The first phase of the Memorial Stadium renovation project. The $1.7 million project added a new artificial turf field, lighting, scoreboards, and drainage and electrical system improvements.

“I think it will be the crown jewel that folks will be real proud of,” Superintendent Bonny Gifford said.

Construction should be complete in time for the first home football game on September 13. Dartmouth High Principal Ross Thibault is planning a back-to-school bash cookout and tailgate party for students to coincide with it. 

“It really captures a large group of our kids, and as a result a lot of our community members,” Thibault said. “It’s an exciting time.” 

At Dartmouth High, a new schedule system is launching this fall. It will carve out a dedicated period for students to use on their own. They could meet with teachers and dive deeper into a particular subject, receive academic support, meet with advisors, and more. 

“The big difference is that they will have more ownership of their time,” Thibault said. “Every single day students will have ownership of 40 minutes of the day that they can use to meet their needs.” 

A new, formalized advisory program is also launching this year. School officials are also continuing implementing and refining blended and personalized learning, and innovative class instruction.

“Everyone is focused on that personalized and blended learning, to create a more innovative, creative environment for learning,” Gifford said of the district as a whole. 

Five new staff members have been hired, including an instructional technology specialist and a new teacher, an assistant principal, and a bookkeeper. The school is currently interviewing candidates for a new athletic director, after Jeff Caron stepped down earlier in the month. 

Potter Elementary School Principal Heidi Brooks is also excited about a major construction project wrapping up soon: The North Dartmouth Library, which is located directly behind the school.

A path will be added from a back door of the school building, connecting the school with the children’s wing entrance to the library. Collaboration is already on Brooks’ mind.

“We’re very excited about it, even if it is later in the fall,” Brooks said. “We’re going to introduce the kids to a public library, and that is going to be so exciting.” 

Potter is also welcoming Erin Gill to its teaching staff as a fifth grade teacher. A new STEM room is also under construction. 

At DeMello, Principal Catherine Pavao and teachers have been busy welcoming students back with pre-back-to-school socials. 

“Kids are the heart and soul of this building,” Pavao said. “We can’t wait to have them back in the building.” 

DeMello adds Elizabeth Voci and Patrick O’Neil to its staff. Voci — previously a fifth grade teacher at Quinn — is now DeMello’s new instructional technology specialist. O’Neil is the new school psychologist.

Once school starts up, Pavao and staff will continue their focus to teach the whole child, with workshop model classrooms, positive behavior programs, and a focus on the school values.