Late November. The air has grown cold, and the last few stubborn leaves cling to the oaks. Students (and their grown-up counterparts) eagerly await today’s final bell, and tomorrow many families will gather to celebrate and give thanks.
Before our school children, educators, administrators, and staff head home this afternoon, I want to share my gratitude this Thanksgiving holiday.
I’m guessing that the news has reached everyone’s doorstep: Niche 2024 has rated the Hopkinton Public Schools number one in the State in three categories: Best Places to Teach in Massachusetts, District with the Best Teachers in Massachusetts, and Best School District in Massachusetts. Accordingly, I am thankful for the people in our school community as well as for those in the broader community. Hopkinton is a special place.
Best Places to Teach In Massachusetts
Despite the incredible enrollment growth and the ensuing construction projects on four out of five buildings; the more disparate needs of students–everywhere; the we’re-still-dusting off the anxieties of the pandemic; and the do-more-with-less budgets, Hopkinton came out as the best place to teach in Massachusetts.
I think that happened for a lot of reasons. First, I want to applaud the building principals. Having watched that team (in different iterations, of course) now for seven years, I’ve seen them–through good times and bad–put their faculties’ wellness (for example, morale, social-emotional and physical health) front and center. The principals’ doors are open, and they are good listeners. Every one of the five expects high quality teaching and learning, and when that happens, people feel intrinsic rewards and they also get a well-deserved pat on the back. Research shows that adult learning, validation, and support contribute to a positive school climate.
And the kids. Hopkinton kids are really nice humans–big and little. At Marathon, the children know how to care for themselves, care for each other, and care for their building and resources. When Middle School and High School, kids are around their buildings after the regular school day–often on fields and in gymnasiums, on the stage, or just hanging out. In fact, the numbers of students who hang out in the High School after the regular school day surprised me when I first came to Hopkinton. In short, the kids love their schools and begin growing their Hiller pride early on. Take a walk through any elementary school and you’ll see our youngest learners in Hiller wear!
In celebrating Hopkinton as a place where it’s great to work, I must also acknowledge the community. When I (and ESBC-2 members or the Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations) stand before Town Meeting and request capital projects–new classrooms on Marathon, Elmwood, Hopkins, the High School and the Elmwood replacement project–the town supports its children. School support groups are amazing, and there are so many of them willing to assist our teachers and children as well as offer resources for learning that augment and extend the regular curriculum. In short, this community strives to let teachers know that they are valued and appreciated.
District with the Best Teachers in Massachusetts
Hopkinton has the best teachers. Period. Once a week I meet for an hour with each of the building principals, and many times it affords me the opportunity to walk through our schools. I have the great fortune of watching teachers engage our youngest learners in Fundations lessons, which provide a solid foundation in phonics and phonemic awareness. To ensure that students who may have an undiagnosed reading disability get what they need, students also engage in Heggerty, a sensory-based program that serves the same learning goals. Over the past five years, our teachers have worked relentlessly at the K to 5 levels to grow our reading curricula, based on brain-based research. Our K to 5 Elementary Math Director analyzes data and our teachers deliver first-rate instruction, mindful of the areas in which children (both some and all!) need to grow. Sometimes I marvel at the solid foundation delivered at the elementary levels and the incredible independence and autonomy students have by the time they reach the secondary levels. Teachers at the Pre K to 5 levels are running stations, pulling small groups, and differentiating instruction at high levels. And, amidst the complexities of the teaching and learning is joy. Teachers create classrooms that–very simply–foster joy. It’s an amazing thing to witness.
While some might question the number of related arts offerings students experience in our middle school, our talented related arts teachers are engaging kids and piquing their curiosity, such that kids become thirsty for knowledge in increasingly more specified areas. And even while our kids are dabbling in the related arts, the RA teachers’ colleagues are delivering first-rate instruction in what we often refer to as “the core.” Recently I was able to visit ELA classrooms at Hopkinton Middle School. There I saw students analyzing text in small groups, writing persuasive essays, and making intertextual connections between a quatrain and the opening chapter of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. High rigor and high engagement. This happens all the time. Every classroom. Every student. Every day.
Finally, our High School offers incredible opportunities for students to engage in just about anything they wish–thanks again to our teachers who offer challenging core academics as well as unparalleled opportunities in art, robotics, business, music, law, communications, and so, so many other areas; if it’s not a formal course, with the agreement of a faculty advisor it can become a club, and our high school has zillions of them. The design of HHS courses is often wonderfully unique, based on a teacher’s area of expertise.
The strength of instruction in Hopkinton comes from our teachers, and their dedication to giving kids “the more” cannot be overlooked.
Best School District in Massachusetts
I believe this accolade derives from a variety of places, among which are those listed above–top-notch teachers, eager-to-learn students, and an incredible, supportive community. One other thing I feel in the district–and truly “feel” is the right word–is an unparalleled sense of camaraderie…mutual respect…positivity…hope…belief-in-all-that-is-possible. While it’s hard to define or quantify, it’s palpable and darned powerful. Every member of this community should take pride in these rankings, and recognize that our collective work defines our future.
This Thanksgiving, I will count our students, our faculty and staff, my fellow administrators, and this community among my blessings.
Have a happy Thanksgiving, if you celebrate the day, and enjoy the time to rest and rejuvenate!
Dr. Carol Cavanaugh is the Superintendent of Schools in Hopkinton