When the 2021-22 school year brought back in-person learning, schools had a tall order getting students up to speed following the Covid lockdown and distance learning.

But Marla Sansom said that the challenge was met head on by the staff at Bryant Middle School in Dos Palos.

The 2021-22 year was Sansom’s first as the principal at Bryant, along with a new vice principal and a new learning director.  To say there were challenges would be an understatement. But Sansom said everything went quite well.

“We had an entirely new administrative team, so it was definitely a steep learning curve at the beginning,” said Sansom.  “But with the help from our amazing teaching staff, counselors, office and support staff, we were able to make some needed changes, put some positive systems in place and end the year on a high note.”

At the start of the school year, having students return to campus full time after the pandemic proved to be difficult for many students, according to Sansom.

“We observed and dealt with challenging situations that were directly related to the effects from having the students’ world turned upside down. We worked hard to make sure we met not only their academic needs, but also their social and emotional needs, as well, she added. 

The shortage of substitute teachers also impeded the school’s ability to be consistent in some areas, “but we are brainstorming some new ideas and additional steps we can take that will help rectify that situation,” said Sansom.

In another area to bring students up to speed, the school formed a multi-tiered systems and support team, which met monthly to address the needs and concerns of struggling students.

“The team looks at the level of support the students might need and comes up with initiatives, ideas and resources to meet those needs,” said Sansom.  “The Bryant teachers did a fantastic job of being tuned in to the needs of our students and would submit names of anyone in need to the team.  The Bryant teachers didn’t hesitate to ask for help if they felt they needed new strategies or techniques that could better meet the academic or behavioral needs of our students.”  

As the new school year begins this week, Sansom said that the school has embraced the motto, “No Excuses, Only Opportunities.”

“We want to make sure our students have multiple opportunities to succeed,” she said. “We want them to succeed academically, emotionally, socially and physically.  We want to focus on improving student outcome.  In order to make that happen, we plan to use our data to drive our initiatives and actions.  Closing the achievement gap and increasing student achievement is always a priority.  We want to continue to find new ways to fill in the gaps caused by the learning loss students experienced during the pandemic.  We want to continue to build trust and relationships with our students and do whatever it takes to ensure the safety of every student and staff member at Bryant. We are also excited to now offer additional new elective choices for our students. Our learning director spent countless hours getting creative and successfully tweaked our master schedule to allow students more elective opportunities.  We look forward to getting feedback on these changes when we welcome our Bryant students back this week.”

A native Fresnan, Sansom graduated from San Joaquin Memorial.  She went on to California State University, Fresno, where she received her bachelor of arts degree, her teaching credential and her Master’s .  She started her teaching career with Clovis Unified, then moved on to Lincoln Middle School in Selma, where she served as the vice principal.  She then spent seven years as the principal at Mills Elementary in Firebaugh before moving on to her present position.

She enjoys spending time with her husband and children at their beach home in Morro Bay.  Her hobbies include reading and going on runs.

David Borboa