Last August, the Gloucester School Committee requested that we investigate the possibility of O’Maley Middle School becoming an Innovation School. Dr. Safier and I approached our Site-based Council, comprised of teachers, parents and Assistant Principal Craig Hovey, to begin the process. This committee, along with our school committee representative, Val Gilman, met regularly throughout the year, and worked an endless amount of hours toward the goal of converting the O’Maley Middle School into an Innovation School. We investigated other Innovation Schools, surveyed our own strengths, and determined what goals would best serve to increase achievement for all students. We followed the state-mandated process of prospectus approval, the writing of the Innovation Plan, and the necessary vote of the O’Maley staff. Following that teacher vote, approval of the Innovation School was requested and granted by the School Committee. And now, I am proud to say, we are officially an Innovation School!
Many parents have asked what O’Maley will look like this year. At O’Maley, our focus is to teach the whole child, to meet their needs and pique their intellectual curiosities. To accomplish this O’Maley teachers began work this summer on an interdisciplinary project-based curriculum. Themes have been developed that will cross disciplines in order to reinforce what students are learning in each of the content area as well as enhance their knowledge of the Common Core Standards. With 21st-century learning skills in mind (e.g, critical thinking, media literacy), we are building an authentic, hands-on approach where projects are designed to simulate real-life challenges.
STEM education remains a major area of concentration at O’Maley. Our Birdseye Hammond STEM lab has expanded into a suite, with an engineering drafting room and a computer lab specifically designed for STEM applications. The STEM theme will be expanded throughout the school, and will be the stimulus for many of the interdisciplinary projects.
We have also committed ourselves to raising achievement levels in literacy and math as evidenced in MCAS scores. Students who are not proficient in math or struggle in literacy will receive year-long, supplemental instruction to bridge the gap. And, while we continue with our co-teaching model for challenged students, we have expanded our commitment to provide enrichment for our strongest students by offering an accelerated math group in grade six.
Student accountability is also one of our areas of concentration. SAILS, our program for building school culture, was tremendously successful last year. O’Maley students donated over 2,000 hours to community service. We will continue to support this program, and will expand to encompass goal setting for student achievement. A new code of conduct has also been introduced, raising expectations for student behavior, as along with new attendance and academic achievement criteria.
Over the summer months, we have hired 13 new staff members, each of whom is truly excited to join our school community. These individuals will bring new energy and perspectives while learning from seasoned peers who truly believe in the richness of the O’Maley culture.
I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am to be a part of this amazing journey. The dedication to excellence by the O’Maley staff is tremendous, and the students attending O’Maley Innovation Middle School will truly be fortunate as we move forward with constructive change.
Debra Lucey, Principal