Reconnecting with WHS Principal Paul Peri: What’s New for 2022-23
One of the good things to come out of the so-called pandemic years was the arrival of Paul Peri as principal of Weston High School in July 2020. If you want to enjoy a reprise of his intro to Weston through the Wes-TEN and the amazing interview skills of Alton Jenkins ’21, you can see that clip here at the Weston Media Center starting at minute 5, after by-law violations. You can also enjoy his fashion throwdown with WMS Assistant Principal Phil Oates.
To say that Principal Peri had a complicated first couple of years on the job is to grossly understate how tough his role was…and still is. This will be the first so-called “normal” year of his tenure, and let’s not believe that anything is back to how it was before the pandemic–just less weird. So while the Owl would have called the theme of the school year 2022-23 “The Year of the Less Weird,” it turns out that Principal Peri has a better theme: “Reconnection.”
The Owl sat down with Peri at a picnic table outside the high school last week before school starts on Wednesday, August 31.
First, we’re going to get mathy, Owl-style, which means that nothing further than an elementary school degree is required. Enrollment is up at the high school, with 650ish students after a final enrollment number in the 635 zone at the completion of the 2021-22 school year. The Class of 2025 (sophomores) continues to rule the numbers game but I do not have final class-by-class numbers. I can make them up if you prefer. There are eight (8!) new classroom teachers due to shifts and retirements–one of the Owlets has one of the “newbies” for biology but you’ll have to wait for more information probably from the Owl but possibly from school administration. And of course, we welcome Jennifer Knight as the new Assistant Principal.*
The high school will not have the restrictions that marked the start of last year–masks are optional, and everyone will honor each other’s choices. As Peri said, “I’m looking forward to the feeling of how things used to be,” and this means events, dances, cruises and all are coming back, including foreign trips (Peru and France are both to take place during April break). Let’s see if June Academy can sport an option for a DC trip that was missed by three class years – 2024, 2025 and 2026.
Some of the getting back to normal means re-emphasis on rules and consequences–while we all know the pandemic’s impact on students, faculty, and staff, the move to normalcy means that the moving targets and some leniency have expired. One important part of this is reiterating that Weston has a closed campus except for seniors who are allowed to leave (individual schedules permitting) to get snacks at Weston Road. Why is it important for students to stay in school? Students are required to fulfill 990 school hours a year–which is why study hall on campus is critical to make those hours.
“We realize there is more work to be done on learning to ‘do’ school again –what are expectations, how to successfully study–it sounds simple but the past two and a half years have obscured some of the guiding tenets of ‘school.'”
Mental health for students and faculty and staff continues to be emphasized. “I want people to know what to do when they need some kind of help.” One way the school did this in the spring was by putting up signs with ways people could find help for what concerned them, complete with QR codes to simplify access.
Part of reconnection is to know that the term “go ‘cats” is not limited to athletics and teams–it’s about school community and cheering each other on, whatever someone’s happiness is. “I am all about increasing school spirit and listening to the students on how to do that,” said Peri. “Not only do we get great input through School Council, the Principal Advisory Group and the Advisory program that meets bi-weekly, but I am always hoping students, staff and faculty will stop me in a hallway and tell me what’s on their minds.”
Weston High School has 60-70 clubs, all with the idea in mind of helping students find their sense of belonging and connection. “We want people to find the joy–what I sum up as People Passion Peers.”
“Teacher care is really high on my priority list,” said Peri. ” I want teachers, all of us really, to remember that our jobs and roles are also in the pursuit of happiness. I want teachers to find their joy, or win it back. Part of that is what I call the “whys”–“why am I here? or why is this important to me?”
As this Owl has said before, Weston is very lucky to have Paul Peri as the principal of our small and excellent high school. We are much looking forward to our students reconnecting with each other, their teachers, and their administration this year.
*The Owl’s interview with new WHS Assistant Principal Jennifer Knight will be published on Monday, August 29.