WILMINGTON — The Wilmington School Committee finally received recommendations from the high school program review committee during their meeting last Wednesday night.
Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand began the presentation, establishing that the goal of the committee was to make sure that their current program of studies and course offerings are aligned with the vision of a graduate.
He made a point to thank all of those who were involved in the program review. As for their recommendations, he said there would be some minor adjustments and some needing School Committee approval. He also set a date for the committee’s vote on these recommendations for Feb. 16.
English Curriculum Team Leader Mia Parviainen offered two ideas for new English offerings: seminars or a universal capstone project. Their preference would be the seminar option, but they’d pursue the capstone project if seminars won’t work.
Some of the topics they’d consider for seminars would be journalism, Shakespeare, war and literature, memoir and creative nonfiction, and horror, crime, and mystery. She said that they would have focus groups to ask students what topics they’d want to hear about and then be able to identify a format and viable course options.
She also mentioned that the English department staff have already expressed interest and investment in a lot of the topics they’re considering, so she didn’t anticipate needing extra staff.
Math CTL MaryBeth Valuk then discussed changes to the mathematics program. Their first priority would be to eliminate the integrated math program. She explained that this track keeps students who don’t go into the honors track from 7th grade in college prep courses. Their only way out is to double up on math courses if they want to get into honors later on.
The department also would like to offer more Computer Science and Computer Programming classes, along with a Financial Algebra class, as electives.
School Committee member Jay Samaha commented that he liked the idea of not pigeon-holing students into honors or college prep only. Valuk emphasized that they want students to be successful and challenged.
David Ragsdale asked if there are teachers currently employed at the high school qualified to teach Computer Programming.
“Whether we add somebody, I don’t know if that’s necessarily an option right now,” Valuk answered.
She suggested instead that it could be solved with training and help from the College Board.
Science CTL Julie Kim next proposed eliminating the choice for 9th graders between Physical Science and Biology. Instead, all 9th graders would take Biology, all 10th graders would take Chemistry, and 11th graders could choose between Physics, Physical Science, and other electives.
“Sometimes [students’] math skills aren’t up to par when they get to physical science,” she said.
This would also give students more chances to pass a science MCAS: Biology MCAS in 9th grade (and a retest later that year), Chemistry MCAS in 10th grade, and Physical Science MCAS in 11th grade.
They’d also introduce AP Physics 2 and Marine Science. She said that they had plenty of staff to cover all of the Biology classes and Marine Science, but someone would need to be trained to teach AP Physics 2. When the committee asked if she expected student interest in these new classes to continue, Kim said they might as well offer the courses and see what students choose.
In Social Studies, WHS Principal Linda Peters mentioned that they would introduce a third year of U. S. History from a global perspective for 11th graders who’ve just taken U. S. History 1 and then 2. Right now, they move to World History in junior year. New electives they would offer would focus on mental health.
Carlos-Luis Brown, Foreign Language CTL, shared plans to start offering Honors Italian 1 and Honors French 1 for students who may want to start a new language once they get to high school. Beyond that, they would look to realign the courses between middle and high school based on proficiency, but they’d need more time to create these pathways.
He said they believe this will keep more kids engaged and involved in their language of choice.
They’d also consider making foreign language a 2-year graduation requirement, following the lead of all but two other state districts. Brown reported that 70-80 percent of students take three years of foreign language at the high school. The committee asked how students in special education would meet this requirement, and Brown replied that they could seek a waiver.
After that, assistant principal Christopher Phillips talked about their proposed changes to Business and Family and Computer Science. These would mostly be in renaming classes, creating classes where students could earn Google or Microsoft certifications, and pursuing articulation with Middlesex Community College. They would also look to add more real-life skill courses like Life Management Skills and technology courses like Web Design and Computer Programming.
Part of their intention in renaming classes and creating technological offerings is possibly to entice more students to stay in district instead of going to the Shawsheen Tech.
Peters jumped back in for Visual Arts and introduced AP 2D and 3D Design along with foundational courses in Digital Media and 2D/3D Design.
“This would allow students to experience different mediums before deciding which higher-level arts course they’d like to pursue,” she continued.
For Visual and Performing Arts, Anita DiLullo listed ideas for non-performance-based classes like guitar and ukulele, piano and keyboard, music production, and songwriting. Considering the current schedule of their staff, she said they would take more time fleshing out those ideas and thinking about making a graduation requirement.
In Health and Physical Education, Laura Stinson explained that they would group students by age instead of 9th with 11th and 10th with 12th graders. They would also look at designing course units into things like fitness, yoga and dance, and lifetime sports.
Molly Dickerson spoke about potential changes to the GPA scale and class rank, where they would add points onto the 4.0 scale and transition to a decile rank for students below the top 10.
Chair Jenn Bryson asked if this particular proposal could come back again for more explanation.
Brand reminded the committee that the staff had asked for their approval for the seminars, the GPA and class rank changes, and creating graduation requirements for Visual and Performing Arts and World Language.