BHS Principal Reviews 2020-2021 School Improvement Plan

Bedford High School Principal Heather Galante looked back on the challenges and successes of the 2020-21 academic year as she reviewed the school improvement plan with the School Committee last week.

“Everything we do at the high school is an extension of our school improvement plan. The success of what happened is thanks to the work of all stakeholders,” said Galante. “This year deepened my gratitude to be part of the BHS community.”

Committee Chair Dan Brosgol observed, “This may be the most important school improvement plan because of the impact of the pandemic on kids. For next year, tune your school improvement plan to the need that you find. I would really like to see a laundry list of what you need from this committee to support the work – social-emotional, academic achievement, whatever.”

He also stated that “we talk about young kids a lot; we have not given our older kids enough support.”

Galante applauded the BHS School Council “for pushing us forward with a relentless focus on the school improvement plan.” The council includes teachers, students, and parents from Bedford, Boston, and Hanscom Air Force Base.

At the beginning of the school year, she said, there was “a lot of trepidation, and our faculty and staff really came in and did what was best for students. I think as a team we were listening, we were supportive, and our faculty took care of one another,”

BHS leaders, she recounted, made visibility a priority, deciding “We are going to walk the building, engage with kids, and see how faculty and staff are doing.”

She added, “We started the year with trauma-sensitive training for faculty and staff so they had tools to deal with the thick of the pandemic.” They also heard a speaker on managing anxiety.

Galante said the advisory program, which matches groups of students for informal meetings with one or two adults one or two times a week through the year, was a major asset, even though it was launched a year earlier than scheduled. Senior Ryan Doucette, the student representative to the School Committee, commented, “I found advisory to be incredibly helpful this year and hope it continues.”

The principal reported on beginning the process of curriculum review, “which is an enormous amount of work.” The agenda ranges from evaluating text selection and assessment methods to “making sure our curriculum is engaging while meeting standards.” She added that a curriculum review template is being finalized for rollout in the fall; “for the last half of this year we are using the template in a workshop fashion.”

Regarding the goal of equity and inclusion, Galante said it is “intimately tied” to curriculum and instruction. She cited the work of the national education consultant and curriculum designer Zaretta Hammond, which “places the importance of the relationship equal to closing the achievement gap – and not to make it easy for students.”

Galante also highlighted the high school’s partnership with consultant Jamele Adams, former dean of students at Brandeis University. “We did a lot of diversity and equity work, and coming off the hurt of last year where there were a lot of wounds in the news, students were entering a year really wanting to work on this equity and diversity piece.” She said the ongoing theme was “agents of change in activism.”

She mentioned an “equity audit” that asks the question: “Do our students see themselves in the fabric of our building?” It’s a “really big undertaking that has started this year.”

“We have a faculty of lifelong learners; they crave to learn,” the principal said, leading to “a robust offering” of professional development. She also spoke about continuing efforts toward achieving literacy goals.

Galante also summarized plans for summer school, focusing on mathematics and English. Engendered by the reduced learning experience attributed to the pandemic, the program is a first for BHS, she said.

“We will really identify students who could benefit from some extra help or a boost of support this summer, with real live instruction,” she said. Assistant BHS Principal Thomas Casey will coordinate the program. In answer to a question from committee member Ann Guay, Galante said invitations to students have been sent.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763

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