Martin McEvoy, or maybe more known as 'Dr. Mac,' is embracing his new job as the principal of Herberg Middle School.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Elected officials, firefighters, police officers, and community members stood in rows outside of each elementary school on Wednesday morning with arms stretched out to give each student a high five.
School is back.
Close to 70 community members used their morning to send a clear message to all of the returning students that the city as a whole is rooting for them.
"To see the smiles on the kid's faces, the parents, and the teachers, there is nothing better to start the year," said the school system's cultural proficiency coach Shirley Edgerton, who organized the effort.
It first began three years ago when Edgerton teamed up with the NAACP and the Man Up Initiative. The percentage of the population of students of color was far larger than the teaching staff and the organizations wanted more role models and mentors present.
"The initial goal was to increase the diversity of individuals who interact with the school," she said.
More than two dozen, mostly men of color, volunteered to serve as role models for the students at Morningside and Conte community schools. And the reception was incredible. The community fully supported the efforts and it grew. Last year, it was expanded to include other types of role models. The group linked up with the Police Department's "high five Friday" effort. Now there are about a dozen community members outside of every school to support the students on their first day.
But it is not just a one-day photo opportunity. Those volunteers are asked and are planning to return to volunteer with school events all year.
"We know in terms of role modeling and kids feeling good about themselves, there has to be consistency," Edgerton said.
It is the kind of effort Superintendent Jason McCandless loves to see. For him, that welcoming is a symbol to the students that the community doesn't just pay to operate the schools, but that it cares about each and every one of the 5,560 students who will attend a city school this year.
Wednesday was a half day for the elementary students, sixth-graders, and ninth-graders. The full student body starts on Thursday morning -- and the community volunteers plan to be outside of the high schools and middle schools to welcome the older students, too.
It is another year at Pittsfield Public Schools and it is one filled with optimism.
"We have an amazing opportunity before us. Working with each other and being respectful, ready, and responsible, I know we can make Herberg Middle School the best school around," Herberg Middle School Principal Marty McEvoy told the incoming sixth-grade class.
Wednesday was McEvoy's first day with the pupils at Herberg. He was hired as principal after spending the last few years at Lanesborough Elementary School. Before that, he was at Hoosac Valley Middle and High School and before that a teacher at Lee Middle and High School.
"I'm really looking forward to serving the people in my community. I live in Pittsfield. I've lived in Pittsfield for 20 years," McEvoy said.
"I really like this age group. I've worked with this age group before as a teacher and I feel I have a good grasp of their social-emotional needs and academic needs and challenges."
It was an orientation day for Herberg sixth-graders. McEvoy kicked off the welcome and Vice Principal Brenda Burbank introduced each of the teachers. Then parents and children toured the building and got acquainted with the expectations and operations.
"I can't wait to get started. I've been doing all of this preparation over the summer and I can't wait until kids are actually in the building. That's what energizes me," McEvoy said.
Later adding, "I see a lot of potential with this staff. I think there are a lot of great veterans and an infusion of new talent we hired this year."
McEvoy is not the only new addition: McCandless said there have been 65 newly hired teachers throughout the district.
"We had a big group of retirees this year," the superintendent said, praising the hiring process by saying the district was able to hire a lot of very talented teachers this summer.
The brand new Taconic High School opened to students Wednesday.
As there is every year, leadership among the schools has shuffled, too. Matthew Bishop is taking over as principal of Taconic High School and Henry Duval has been promoted from vice principal to principal on a temporary basis at Pittsfield High School. Social Studies teacher Maggie Esko is taking on Duval's role as vice principal.
Nicole Shepardson is taking over as principal at Williams Elementary, being promoted from school adjustment counselor; Tammy Gage is the assistant superintendent for college and career readiness; Angela Johansen is taking over the dean of students position at Taconic High, and Ryan Sabourin is now the vice principal at Taconic.
Those in the Taconic community are walking into a brand-new school -- and a school with about 70 more students this year than last. The new $120.8 million school has been under construction for two years and the temporary certificate of occupancy was issued on Friday.
On Wednesday, the incoming ninth-graders and their parents walked in to see for themselves.
"It was pretty overwhelming today to watch families walk in the door and see the place," McCandless said. "The community did this for them."
At the city's other high school, Pittsfield High, McCandless described Wednesday as feeling more like a college orientation. He said the staff has launched a "LinkCrew" to connect with the incoming freshman class.
"They make sure every single ninth-grader knows they have a connection with an older student. It was really impressive," McCandless said.
Across the district this year there will be a particular focused on the crafting of new codes of conducts for students and staff. McCandless said that will be a communitywide effort.
"We really want to focus on how we can be the best neighbors we can be," McCandless said.
The new curriculums for math and English that are now in the second year will still need professional development and tinkering. The district is piloting a new science curriculum, which it had done last year as well but a consensus wasn't determined.
There is another new initiative at Crosby Elementary School. The city renovated space there to house the therapeutic program. Nicola McMahon was hired to direct the program and staffing for the program has been bolstered. The program is eyed for the students who need social, emotional, and academic help. Those classrooms will be clustered together and each of those classrooms will have a licensed elementary content teacher, licensed special education teacher, and an experienced paraprofessional.
All of those new initiatives are on top of the day-to-day responsibility teachers and staff has to educate the students.
While there is a lot going on, McCandless drove from school to school Wednesday morning particularly looking for one thing -- that the school year starts with a parents and students feeling welcomed and it kicks off on a positive note.
"Every good thing we are going to build for a child is based on a positive relationship between school and home," he said.
It hasn't taken McEvoy long to embraced the district's direction and culture. He looked out at the faces of students and parents and told them "there is always somebody here to help you when you need it" and that he will make an effort to know each family personally.
"Parents, thank you for trusting us with your most precious, precious part of your life, your child. We will work hard every day to earn that trust," the new principal said to conclude his welcoming remarks.
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Enjoy sixteen different art shows featuring work by more than two dozen accomplished regional artists in Pittsfield's bustling Upstreet Cultural District during the on First Friday Artswalkand all month long! In most venues, artists will be present from 5-8 p.m. A free guided tour begins at 5 p.m. at the Intermodal Center @ BRTA, 1 Columbus Ave.
The Office of Cultural Development will host its 5th annual Wreath Art Auction at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts during the First Friday festivities.Almost 50 hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind wreaths, kissing balls and table pieces will be available for purchase and auction following the lighting of the tree in Park Square. Enjoy music and refreshments at a preview reception starting at 5 p.m., followed by a live auction at 6:30 p.m. Grab-and-go options will be available. All funds raised at this event go to the South Congregational Church Food Pantry. Admission at the door is $10, or purchase tickets in advance at the Lichtenstein Center or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
These events coincide with Downtown Pittsfield's 2nd annual Festive Frolic, running on Friday from 5-8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Events include a North Pole Pub Crawl, snowman story time, ornament making, glow-in-the-dark Jingle Bell Rock, a craft fair, carolers, holiday lights, shopping opportunities and more!
Mr. Finn's Cabaret at Barrington Stage Company presentslocal singer-songwriters Billy Keane and Matt Cusson, who will join forces to kick off the season right, with holiday songs and lots of fun. 7 p.m. $20-$25.
Visit with Santaat the Beacon Cinema as part of the Downtown Pittsfield Festive Frolic!This is a family event where children can have their photo taken with Santa by a professional photographer! In exchange, please donate a brand-new, unwrapped item to the Berkshire Community Action Council's Warm Clothing Program. See website for list of needed items. If you are unable to bring an item, a donation of $5 will be accepted by BCAC volunteers. 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Join Amanda Marsh for aRestorative Yoga with CBD class at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness.You will be guided into a deeply relaxing restorative yoga flow, blending supported yoga postures, breathing techniques, and cannabis-infused salve to encourage letting go fully into each yoga posture. 5:30-7 p.m.$25 for the class and $65 for the class and salve.
Revel in the joy and redemptive power of A Christmas Carol, the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, an infamous miser who is shown the error of his ways and reformed by four spirits. Journey back to Victorian England and experience the classic story filled with holiday carols and the wonderment of the season. $29/$39. A sensory-friendly performance will be held held on Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m.
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Rumlow was appointed interim CEO and executive director in May after Randy Kinnas, the nonprofit's CEO for the last 19 years, moved on as director of Member Advancement for the Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs. click for more
The weekend will also feature the 2nd annual Downtown Festive Frolic presented by Downtown Pittsfield Inc. with activities and shopping for all ages and Santa will return on Saturday to the Beacon Cinema on Saturday from 10 to 1 for pictures.
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