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Richardson Middle School Advisory Class Earns High Marks

Dec 13, 2018 02:02PM ● By Lisa Redmond

Richardson Principal Maria McGuiness

DRACUT – As the Richardson School transforms into a middle school from a junior high school, the Advisory Class – a new program this school year – starts each school day with students focusing on social and emotional learning, a key to a successful middle school, Richardson Principal Maria McGuiness told the School Committee.

At the committee’s meeting on Monday, McGuiness provided an update on this fledgling program for grades six through eight. Instead of homeroom, 15 to 18 students meet with their adult advisor for 30 minutes each morning, she said.

The crux of the program is to have students connect in school with a caring adult, who will help the student in his/her adjustment to middle school, help with the organizational and academic skills, and help students their role in school and the community, she said.

“It is a place where students and staff can have a relationship outside of academics,’’ McGuiness said.

The age-appropriate lessons focus on bullying, a community of caring, team building, and a review of each child’s academic goals, progress and problems, she said.

“A lot of kids like starting their day off this way,’’ McGuiness said. As one student told her, “No matter what I say, I won’t be wrong.’’ Teachers enjoy the class because it allows them to interact with students on a more personal level.

School Committee First Vice-Chairperson Allison Volpe said this is her son’s favorite class, surpassing lunch.

“I think this is wonderful,’’ Volpe said. “Social, emotional learning has been on my radar since day one.’’

She added that school climate is critical component of the middle school experience. “Having that one person to talk to in person is key,’’ she said.

Volpe told the committee that a week ago she listened in on a Massachusetts Association of School Committees’ webinar on the topic of how school climate affects academics.

“The key is for a student to have at least one adult he/she can talk to in the building,’’ she said. “It’s nice that we have that model in place.’’

School Superintendent Steven Stone gave credit for the program to McGuiness and the staff. “Just think, four years ago there was no middle school, only a junior high school and intermediate school,’’ he told the School Committee.

“Four years later we have a full-fledged middle school,’’ he said.

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