GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 7, 2012

Letter: O'Maley 'innovations' are a hit


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

When our son graduated in 2011 from Plum Cove, Gloucester’s smallest elementary school, my husband and I had concerns about his successful transition to O’Maley Middle School.

Would he be overwhelmed with its large size? Would he get the personalized attention that we had been accustomed at Plum Cove?

After he began his second year, Grade 7, at the recently approved O’Maley Innovation School, we know that we made the right choice. His learning experience, both socially and academically, has exceeded our expectations for these reasons:

O’Maley’s “House” system offers a small school within a school feeling of security and personalization. Each grade has three houses or teams offering four core curriculum teachers and specialized classes, health/physical education, performing arts, art, Spanish or remedial math. Class size remains in the low 20s.

We have engaged, experienced, and enthusiastic teachers. I cannot say enough about our middle school teachers. They are creative, committed and accessible to parents via email and website updates. Our son likes all of his teachers.

The SAILS program, Service, Acceptance, Integrity, Leadership, and Success, promotes values and a culture of respect. Last year, O’Maley students banked over 2,000 hours of community service. Last week, our entire student body helped the elderly residents of Gloucester with yard work and chores. Our school is developing empathic and compassionate future leaders.

Our new innovation school model emphasizes 21st century learning skills such as critical thinking by introducing project based curriculum to reinforce student learning. My son works on projects and themes to reinforce learning of the common core topics, with an emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.) Our common core and specialty teachers benefited from professional development workshops this summer to develop curriculum surrounding learning themes.

Remediation programs are offered for students below proficiency and enrichment for our strongest performers. Students who are not at proficiency in math are given supplementary attention as a normal part of the school day. Those who are advanced are given additional opportunities to build their skills in subjects including Spanish, Algebra and Geometry.

After-school support is offered for students. Students can stay after school for supervised homework assistance. An after school late bus makes it easy for working parents to know their kids can get home safely.

After school enrichment experiences are vast and appeal to all interests – In 6th grade, my son’s social transition to middle school was successful when he met new friends in over six months of twice-weekly after-school drama practice for the school production of Willy Wonka Jr. He also was able to attend a weekly after school robotics class. A huge catalog of offerings highlight these diverse after-school programs, including foreign languages, computer aided design, flight simulation, band, chorus, the Recycling Club, and athletics.

O’Maley Innovation School provides a safe learning environment –The SAILS program teaches respectful behavior. Guidance Counselors and school administration know our kids, their learning styles, and their social strongpoints and areas of concern. At recess, there is close supervision and our school maintains a strong anti -bullying policy that is taken seriously by students and staff.

I urge you to take the time to visit the O’Maley Innovation School website by logging onto www.gloucesterschools.com. Read the Innovation School plan and the goals for our teachers and students.

Finally, take 12 minutes to watch the video, titled, “O’Maley 6th Grade Promo” to see what the middle school looks like inside the walls. You will be impressed with the auditorium, library, cafeteria, STEM and computer labs.

Most importantly, you will witness happy and challenged students and highly motivated teachers who are mutually engaged in the learning process.

We are proud that our son attends the O’Maley Innovation Middle School.

VAL GILMAN

Revere Street, Gloucester

The writer is vice chairwoman of the Gloucester School Committee