By Neil Zolot
New teachers attended an orientation session at the Saugus Middle/High School Complex on Wednesday, August 23. “We have a great group; they’re super-energized,” Executive Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Susan Terban said. “It’s hard to retain good staff; districts have a lot of openings, so we’re making a strong commitment to our new staff to make them feel supported.”
A number of new teachers have lifelong ties to Saugus. New fifth grade teacher Isabel Gramolini went to the Lynnhurst School before going to private school, while Kyle Brosseau dropped out of Saugus High before he would have graduated in 2016, got an equivalency diploma at North Shore Community College, a degree at Salem State University and a new job in the Belmonte Upper Elementary School Therapeutic Learning Center, after also having taught at “the Voke” (officially the Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School). “I’ve had a big turnaround,” he said of his career path.
Saugus High School graduates and brothers Joe (Class of 2014) and Daniel Bertrand (Class of 2016) are also starting jobs here this year. Joe will be a Special Education teacher in the Middle School and boys High School basketball coach, while Daniel will teach physical education at Belmonte. “It feels great being back in Saugus,” Joseph said. “The school system did a lot for me and I wanted to give something back to the schools and the town.”
“I’m really excited,” Daniel added.
Although Joe is now a colleague of some of his old teachers, he confessed, “I still can’t call them by their first names.”
He is impressed with the new Middle/High School. “It’s amazing to have something this nice,” he said. “The town, students and teachers are lucky.”
His words are echoed by Acting Superintendent of Schools Michael Hashem, who graduated from Saugus High School in 1985, about the still new grade 6-12 complex school and consolidation of grades two through five at Belmonte and pre-K, Kindergarten and first grade at Veterans Memorial Elementary School. “It provides everyone with equity,” he said of the alignment. “All students will have the same advantages and opportunities.”
Middle/High School Principal Brendon Sullivan pointed out that ninth graders have a relatively easy transition from Middle to High School “because they went to Middle School here and, for the most part, know the building.” He also said that having the Middle School in the same building as the High School gives Middle School students access to the building’s state of the art equipment and makes sure what happens in Middle School aligns with what happens in High School, “although we work with grades 6-8 students so they feel like they’re in Middle School. We’re not trying to make it a mini-High School.”
“By consolidating schools, teachers can see all other teachers at their grade level,” Terban added. “It feels like a family.”
Hashem also said that because the pandemic slowed things down this year will be the first year all buildings will be operated as intended. Classes at the old high school stopped in the spring of 2020. Although students “returned” to school that fall, classes were remote or hybrid. Full in-person learning returned in September 2021, by which time the old high school was razed, but students wore masks and there was social distancing. All that was dropped for 2022-23, and now that the 2023-24 year has started, Hashem said, “We didn’t open the buildings in a normal environment. We’re just starting to use the buildings the way they were intended.”
He noted no one who attended the old high school is left in school, with the Class of 2023 having left there in ninth grade.
Long blocks will be dropped at the Middle/High School. “It wasn’t working the way we wanted, so we eliminated it,” Sullivan said. Morning classes will rotate, while afternoon classes will not, to avoid boredom, but also provide stability. “There’s a lot of desire from students and the staff to have rotating classes, but some things work better in a locked schedule,” Sullivan explained.
As principal of a Middle and High School complex, he said, he gets “to see students across that age range. Watching students grow into young adults is one of the rewarding things about being in education. I’m able to see them grow.”
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