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Marano: New School Year Will Be ‘A Good Experience’ Municipal Spotlight

Peter Marano will begin his ninth year as Bellingham’s School Superintendent next month.

By Ken Hamwey

Bulletin Staff Writer

Peter Marano is beginning his ninth year as Bellingham’s School Superintendent and he’s optimistic that 2023-24 will be a “good experience’’ for students, teachers and administrators, especially with Covid-19 in their rear-view mirrors.

The 50-year-old educator points to continued upgrades in curriculum, educational programs and building improvements. He’s also confident that there’ll be a smooth transition to two new principals at the elementary level and he’s aiming for a full staff of teachers and administrators to start the year. He also is pleased that athletics and other extra-curricula activities are in a good place.  

Before his appointment as superintendent, Marano was a guidance counsellor, assistant principal, and principal during a 24-year career. He has his bachelors’ and masters’ degrees in counselling from Assumption College and an EDD in educational leadership from the University of New England.

“We made significant progress during the 2022-23 year moving past the Covid-19 restrictions,’’ Marano said. “The teachers, nurses and administrators met the needs of students educationally and on a social and emotional front. We also increased our curriculum with new programs.

Here’s a thumbnail look at some of the topics Marano addressed as he anticipates the 2023-24 school year that begins on Aug. 30.

ENROLLMENT — The 2022-23 enrollment in Bellingham’s five schools was 1,916 and Marano doesn’t anticipate a significant increase or decrease in the year ahead.

CURRICULUM — An English Language Arts program upgrade will continue in grades K-8. Marano calls the project “a robust program for all students.’’ Grades K-5 will be in the third year of a new math program called “Bridges.’’ The superintendent says the results of this new approach “have been excellent.’’ An added focus for 2023-24 will be on a new social studies/civics program.

TRANSPORTATION — Marano says that Vendetti Bus Company will continue to transport students. “We’re pleased with the level of service they’ve provided; it’s been a 40-year partnership,’’ he said.

NURSES — Each of the five schools will have one nurse on duty but a licensed practical nurse (LPN) will be available “to help support any additional needs at the five schools.’’

TEACHERS — Marano expects to fill any vacancies before the new school year begins. “I’m proud of the way our staff has adapted to meet the needs of all our students,’’ he said. “During the Covid years, our teachers, nurses, custodians, and administrators met the challenges and did what was right for students. The pandemic affected the students learning, health and social and emotional well-being.’’

BUILDINGS — The two elementary schools (Stall Brook and DiPietro) will now have entrapment entrances, which allows an individual to proceed past the first set of doors. Then, facing a secretary behind a glass shield, entry into the building will occur if cleared by a Raptor System. That device scans a driver’s license that instantly provides information on an individual’s past. “The Raptor System ensures safety for all teachers and students in a building,’’ Marano said. “All five schools will have the system.’’

ATHLETICS — Marano likes the competitive drive of student-athletes. “They compete at a high level in the Tri Valley League and we want to encourage more students to participate in interscholastic sports.’’

ADMINISTRATION — Two new principals will be on board —Shannon Barca at Stall Brook and Kerry Sankey at DiPietro. “Dr. Kerry Sankey comes to us from Mansfield,’’ Marano said. “She has a great deal of experience and will do a wonderful job. Mrs. Barca comes to us with a great deal of experience and is dedicated in creating a school environment that is inclusive, welcoming, supportive, and filled with joy.’’ Transportation Director Michael Roche is leaving and so, too, is Joanne Rebelo, who worked as the Director of Finance. “Erica Monteiro, who previously was Payroll Director in Franklin, has been hired as the new Director of Finance.  

GRANTS — The district applied for and was given an Innovation Pathway Grant of $150,000 last year. “It provides students with a dedicated pathway to post-secondary education for those interested in a manufacturing or health science career,’’ Marano said. “Some of that money enables us to hire an internship coordinator who works with local businesses to place students in internships.’’

2023-24 BUDGET — The school budget is approximately $33.5 million, up $1.2 million from last year. Approved at the May Town Meeting, the increase is 4.93 percent.

COLLEGE-BOUND — The 2023 graduating class included 116 seniors. Eighty percent (93) will be attending two or four-year colleges or universities. 

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