TIVERTON — Tiverton Middle School’s new principal, Laurie Dias-Mitchell, stepped outside into the sun last Thursday morning to water the potted flowers at the front entrance to the building. It was one of many tasks on her check-off list to get the school ready for the first day of classes Tuesday, Sept. 4.
A few minutes later she took a seat at the head-office conference table with her new Interim Assistant Principal, David Frerichs, to outline their plans for the coming year.
“It’s all about the kids. Our focus is on student safety, engagement, and achievement — we call it the ‘SEA’ objectives. Everybody loves it,” she said, referring to the approach.
Ms. Dias-Mitchell, was named last spring by the Tiverton School Committee to head Tiverton Middle School. She began her duties July 1. Her colleague, Mr. Frerichs (pronounced “freyerish”), is a seven -year science teacher at the school.
A search process is under way, with screening and interviews on the horizon, for a permanent assistant principal. Ms. Dias-Mitchell said the selection process would likely be completed by early October, with an appointment to follow.
Ms. Dias-Mitchell earned a CAGS (Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study) in educational leadership from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 2009, and is working on her doctorate in the same area at Bethel University in Minnesota. She was awarded her bachelor’s degree in English from North Adams State College in 1981, and has a Masters in English from Simmons College earned in 1983. She also has a MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) from the University of Rhode Island, awarded in 1993.
During that same year she performed her graduate practicum in the area of library sciences at Tiverton Middle School. Prior to taking the principalship at Tiverton Middle School this school year, Ms. Dias-Mitchell spent eight years as a library and medial specialist with Tiverton schools at both the middle and high school levels.
A resident of Westport, Ms. Dias-Mitchell has two grown children, Brigid, 28, a lawyer, and Patrick, 26, an environmentalist studying jazz musicianship. She and her husband, Joe Mitchell, a retired state police sergeant, have been married 30 years.
Enrollment this fall at the middle school (grades 5 through 8) Ms. Dias-Mitchell said, is “613 students and counting. That’s a little above last year. We’ve got a slew of new registrants coming in just this week.”
She and Mr. Frerichs listed a number of goals, changes, and innovations the middle school is going to be facing this coming school year:
- A new computerized system for teacher evaluations;
- Green initiatives as part of making schools more sustainable, to include: non-toxic cleaning solutions; more e-mail communications rather than paper-based snail mail to staff and faculty; green space in the courtyard; greater use of recycled materials; turning off lights and computers when not in use;
- Becoming a “Feinstein School,” emphasizing service to the community;
- Book clubs in all grades that utilize live video conferences by skyping with authors, in which authors talk about their books and themselves and answer student questions;
- To enhance student safety, seven video cameras have been installed throughout the middle school building;
- There will more hands-on science. We will show real life application of scientific principles,. such as car safety and force-in-motion, or operating a boat in waves, tides, and currents;
- Sixth-graders will get new science text books;
- Math teachers at every level will get 14 days of professional development this year as the curriculum orients towards new common core standards.
“We’re also trying to get a bike rack installed at the middle school,” said Mr. Frerichs. “We’re one of the only middle schools in the state that does not have a bike rack.”
Ms. Dias-Mitchell said, “the middle school is on the move. We’ve made extraordinary gains as far as testing (NECAP) is concerned. We’ve added sports programs in the past few years. The staff is extraordinarily talents. The students and their families are invested, and we will be the gem of the east bay. We’re a diamond in the rough right now.”
Superintendent of Schools William Rearick concurred, saying, “Our primary goal at the middle school will be to continue improving the level of academic achievement for all our students.”