At the first School Committee meeting of the new school year, the focus was on rebuilding a sense of community among students and staff and on reintegrating students who have had varying learning experiences as the coronavirus pandemic grinds on.
Students returned to school this week under the full-time, in-person learning model, with a face mask requirement in place when inside school buildings.
Jacobs School Principal Christina Cappadona explained that this year’s theme is: “How do we have our best year ever?” The emphasis is on kindness at a time when “so many things are dividing us, such as social distancing and face masks,” she said.
Memorial Middle School Principal Anthony Hrivnak said teachers are working to integrate “the different groups of kids coming back together after being apart for so long. They have all had different learning experiences during the past year.” Along those lines, team-building activities, “with an educational bent,” are planned for students.
Hull High School Principal Nicole Nosek reported that the first day of school featured photo-taking, class meetings, and other activities. “We addressed the unique needs of the freshmen and talked with seniors about being role models,” she said, adding that the word “perseverance” and what it means will be a highlight of the new year.
“This will be a transition year, and hopefully we’ll be back to some kind of normalcy,” she said.
Committee member Ernest Minelli thanked the three principals for their positive energy during the first week of school; member Jennifer Fleming praised the Hull Public Schools’ “nurturing environment.”
School Superintendent Judith Kuehn reported on the opening day of school for staff, which was Monday, Aug. 30. “It was an exciting day, and we had the convocation on the turf field,” she said, noting that student speakers had shared accounts of how various teachers have made a difference in their lives.
“We ended the day with a victory lap around the field to the ‘Rocky’ theme song,” said Kuehn, who is looking forward to building on last year’s strong foundation. “I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish [in the midst of a pandemic],” she said.
In other business at the meeting:
* In her annual superintendent evaluation, the School Committee expressed support for Kuehn and her hard work, especially while in the throes of a pandemic.
“The comments made in the evaluation give a sense of appreciation for all that Judy Kuehn did for our schools over the past year,” Fleming said. “There are no areas of ‘needs improvement.’ That’s pretty amazing for someone who has been a superintendent for only 18 months. She has done an outstanding job in charting the course for HPS.”
Chair David Twombly also had praise for Kuehn. “Judy has done a fantastic job, transitioning into the role of superintendent at the very beginning of the pandemic,” he said. “She’s on 12 hours a day and on weekends and works really hard. She’s been stabilizing the ship and is always calm. I can’t say enough about how much I respect and enjoy working with her.”
Minelli said what is important to him is Kuehn’s focus on student learning “during every conversation we’ve had. She’s always seeking input, and there’s a seamless connection between the central office, the building principals, and student learning.”
In turn, Kuehn was effusive about the support she has received from the School Committee and the Hull Public Schools leadership team. “They’re always willing to listen and to help me problem-solve,” she said. “I’m excited that it’s all coming together.”