Superintendent's Update - December 2, 2022

Dear Shrewsbury Families, Colleagues, & Community Members,

It is hard to believe that we are in the last month of 2022, and that we are a third of the way through the school year!  I continue to be impressed with what I see students and educators doing when I visit schools, and it is invigorating to be spending time on issues related to supporting teaching and learning instead of managing through pandemic issues and budget challenges as in past years.  As I work toward my goals of assessing our current status and developing a new strategic plan are a lot of great things happening for kids across our schools, and I remain ever grateful for the support our community has provided through the 2021 override to increase our school funding, which significantly improved our resources.  Additionally, I am thankful for the generosity of those who contributed to our Giving Tuesday campaign, which has raised over $20,000 to support career pathways programming for students at Shrewsbury High School, including career exploration and on-the-job training through internships, job shadowing, etc. (including a very generous anonymous donor who contributed $10,000 of that total as a matching gift).  If you are considering a year-end charitable donation, click here to make a difference for developing our students' career awareness.  

Please read on for important information regarding our school district, including the latest information on the sleep health and school start times initiative.

Sleep Health Advisory Committee update: This past Wednesday, several task groups from the Sleep Health Advisory Committee presented reports to the School Committee on feedback from stakeholders, practices in other districts, child care, and logistics.  Several people have commented to me about the high volume and high quality that these volunteers have been doing on this project; it has been one of the strongest teams that I have been a part of during my 25+ years in SPS.  I also want to thank the thousands of students, staff, and family members who participated in the recent ThoughtExchange survey on this topic -- please know that the Advisory Committee and School Committee have carefully reviewed your comments and questions.  As part of the commitment to transparency, all of the feedback and all of the reports are available on our website at the following links, and I encourage you watch and read so that you are familiar with the information that has been presented: 1) Link to the task groups' presentation slides; 2) Link to all feedback and reports from Nov 9, and Nov 30; 3) Link to the video of the Nov 30 presentations on feedback, practices in other districts, childcare, and logistics; and link to the video of the Nov 9 presentation on the research regarding student sleep health. 

The remaining timeline regarding this project, which could result in changing school start times for the 2023-2024 school year, is as follows:

December 12:  Public webinar with Dr. Judith Owens from Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, expert on child and adolescent sleep
December 14: Sleep Health Advisory Committee presents potential options for start time changes to the School Committee
December 15: Survey sent to stakeholders regarding start time options presented
January 4: Public hearing at the School Committee meeting to receive in-person feedback
January 18: Discussion of schedule change options and potential vote by the School Committee
January 25:  Potential additional School Committee discussion and vote (if necessary)
February 1: Last recommended date opportunity for School Committee discussion/vote (if necessary)

Survey from our partners at the Shrewsbury Public Library: My colleague Priya Rathnam, Director of the Shrewsbury Public Library, is hoping many SPS staff members and families will complete their community survey to help them develop their new strategic plan for our outstanding public library.  Please click on this link to include your voice: 

SPS Central Office personnel update: We are welcoming two new people to important roles in our Central Office.  First, due to the retirement of Pam Panarelli, we have appointed a new Registrar, Yoon Mee Zhang, to manage all aspects of student enrollment processes and records.  Please join me in welcoming Ms. Zhang, who previously worked in this role for Keefe Technical High School, and in thanking Ms. Panarelli, who has served our district with distinction over the years as a paraprofessional at Coolidge School, the secretary at Paton School, and most recently as Registrar.   Additionally, Katie Fox has become the new Principal's Secretary at Oak Middle School, and we have appointed Sherry Robbins to fill her role Human Resources Assistant.  Ms. Robbins is moving from an administrative support role in our town's Department of Public Works, and prior to that she worked in our Central Office in a substitute role as well as in other school and business organizations during her career.  Please join me in wishing Ms. Fox the best at Oak and in welcoming Ms. Robbins back to SPS.

Thank you for your continued support of our community's public schools!


Joe Sawyer
Superintendent of Schools

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