Q&A: Bevan reflects on priorities, responds to concerns for 2022-2023 school year


Katy O'Connell

Principal Sean Bevan shares his goals for the year and addresses student concerns. Bevan participated in a Q&A on Sept. 23.

Sophia Murray and Jula Utzschneider

As the 2022-2023 school year is getting into full swing, Principal Sean Bevan reflects on his goals for the year, as well as addressing recent concerns from students and staff. 

1. What are some of the most important things you and your team want to work on this term? 

“Usually most years we set some long-term and short-term goals. Our short term goals this year are to primarily communicate to students the idea of being present, which is really important. Part of that is their daily classroom attendance. We still want to make sure kids aren’t coming in when they’re sick, we don’t want that. We want to make sure that parents and students understand the number one predictor of students’ high achievement is whether or not they’ve got good attendance.”

“A few other things that we’re focusing on this year is to continue to look at student performance on midyear and final exams, which should be common, meaning that students who are all in the same class even if they have different teachers should have a similar, or nearly identical, midyear experience and final exam experience. That gives us a uniform dataset to be able to identify teachers who are having different levels of success on those different exams. We started that work last year, and that’s another piece we’re going to be focusing on.”

“Finally, one of the things staff is excited for, and that I’m excited about, is that we’re really going to be talking more about instruction. In the last two years we’ve talked a lot about social distancing and hybrid instruction, and then distance learning, all these really artificial constraints on the learning environment. This year, we’re going to be talking about lesson planning, grading and things that are probably as applicable 20 years ago as they are today. We’re getting back to the basics of education after two and a half years of really having to be forced away from that.”

2. What are you most looking forward to for this term or school year in general?

“Since I’ve been here, this is the first year that is mostly a normal year in a lot of ways. I came in as principal in July of 2020, so that was a time where we were right in the heart of the pandemic, and even last year which seems so distant, we had a lot of disrupted elements of our school environment. So this was a year I was feeling like it would be a more normal experience and that’s what I’m looking forward to, normal. Just ordinary things and, as ordinary as they are, they are important things.”

3. There have been some concerns from students about the new technology and phone policies. Why do you feel as though they are important or aid in the learning process? 

“I want to make clear that I think there are very appropriate ways that technology can be used in class, and I think that if I were a teacher in 2022, I’d probably have opportunities in any given week, certainly, and in any given lesson where there would be an opportunity for a kid to use technology. I think what was happening was the boundaries for when that technology use was appropriate and when it was just impeding their learning was getting kind of blurred. We’re trying to create more clarity around those boundaries, with the goal simply being about teaching and learning.”

4. How were the tardy limits and punishments determined?

“We’re always looking at ways we can entice kids to come to school and to come to school on time, and one of the benefits I anticipate achieving this year with the new bell schedule is for students who have trouble getting to school on time. The classes that impact will be distributed entirely over the course of their schedule instead of previous years when we had a block 1 and 2 that just rotated independently. Kids would struggle more in those period 1 and 2 classes because that’s not when their brains are most awake and there are some kids who really do just have a hard time coming to school.”

5. There has been a lot of discussion about the WIFI and technology issues at our school currently. How do you feel about the frustrations going on with the technology at the moment? 

“I’m going to start off by saying that in the year 2022, technology is so critical for instruction and for learning. …It’s important that we have strong and reliable wireless [internet], and that all the other elements of our technology work. … As I understand it, we made some enhancements to our wireless network that strengthened and made our wireless network more secure, but there have been some hiccups in implementing that properly. Putting staff on one band of wireless was one element of it, and students and guests had other networks. There were some improvements, but I think right now we’re ironing out the wrinkles of how those improvements are actually being experienced by kids as friction points.”

6. How do you think the beginning of the school year has been going so far?

“I thought the energy has been quite good. Coming out of a weekend with some real challenges has really thrown us all for a loop. I think going into the end of last week I was feeling really good about the energy, and I think our seniors are setting a really good tone, that’s what my experience has been. The seniors really set the temperature of the building, almost, in their own way. They have such good leadership and such good energy, it’s a really great crowd of kids. So I think they’ve done a nice job so far and we’re hoping to keep that energy moving.”

7. What do you think students and teachers should be most excited about going into this first term?

“We are back. I haven’t been back at Algonquin in a regular year since when I was a teacher, so I think it’s an opportunity to reestablish those old norms and traditions and exciting events, things like the Winter Ball, for example, and maybe even invent new ones. So I think something like the outdoor lunch, which we invented to give kids more space to eat during the pandemic. That’s staying around because kids seem to enjoy it and it feels like it improves the crowding, or addresses the crowding in the lunchroom. It’s just the kind of thing that I feel will be around for a very long time. We’re building on the challenges of the pandemic, and the innovations we applied from there, and keeping those, and then reinstituting the things we know kids really enjoy.”

8. Is there anything else you would like to add? 

“Coming back from the summer, it’s always a tough return. Everybody likes the slow pace of the summer, but there’s nothing quite like being in the hallways and the energy kids bring to school here every day. It’s really a terrific vibe in the school this year, until this past weekend when that was challenged. I’m looking forward to that restoring itself.”