Fall Edition: November 2020
A letter from Dr. Scott Rocco, HTSD Superintendent
Dear HTSD Community,
Since March I have communicated with you about our district’s efforts to address COVID-19. In recent correspondence, I have reported out cases in our schools and the impact those cases have on school operations. This letter is not about the pandemic or cases; rather, it’s about our district. Several times per year we produce a community newsletter with information about the school district and provide highlights of things happening in our schools and across the district. You will find that community update below.
Please take a few minutes to read the information provided. This newsletter includes updates on district-wide curriculum and instruction, professional development, information from the elementary and secondary levels, a technology update, and much more.
My focus in this letter is not on COVID-19, but rather to introduce you to our new strategic planning site.
Over the course of more than a year, stakeholders from our school community came together to brainstorm and develop a new five-year strategic plan. It was presented to the Board of Education in January of 2020 and approved in February of 2020. The intention was for work to start in July of 2020, but then the pandemic hit. However, that did not stop our efforts to move forward in some areas.
Our strategic plan has established a vision for our district that says:
“We believe preparation for life goes beyond what we learn in the classroom, and the power of a strong community with a united goal, will help prepare our students for an outstanding future.”
Our strategic plan has also established a mission for our district that says:
“The Hamilton Township School District is dedicated to providing an academic experience that helps to foster the success of all students in a supportive and encouraging environment. We will challenge our students to be confident, skilled communicators who set and exceed their own goals.”
This vision and mission lead us to our overall district theme for the next five years:
Hamilton Opens Pathways to Excellence (H.O.P.E)
Some may ask why we would discuss our strategic plan at this time when our school, state, and country are dealing with a pandemic. The simple answer is that our group of stakeholders, who built this plan, believe this is the direction our district should follow to move forward and be successful in the future. I agree with them; now is the time to prepare for a post-pandemic educational world and our strategic plan is ready to guide our efforts.
The strategic plan is separated into five categories: Culture and Climate, Student Academic Success and Social / Emotional Wellness, Faculty and Staff Success, Technology, and Stakeholder Communication and Collaboration. Each of these categories has associated goals. To track and monitor our progress, the district launched (November 25th) an interactive page on our website to see the categories, goals, and progress towards each goal. You can access the site by clicking HERE. All you need to do is click on the category to go to the goal or goals in that category. Then click on the progress bar to see the action steps and progress that has been completed or the work that is anticipated to be done in this area. As work is completed and put into place, the progress bar will move forward.
We want our community to be involved in the implementation of our strategic plan. When we are able to resume regular meetings and events, we encourage our community to be involved in the efforts outlined in the plan and help us bring H.O.P.E to every student in our school district.
Finally, I know this is a different Thanksgiving holiday for all of us. Even though we will not be around the table in-person with family and friends, we have much to be thankful and hopeful for this year. I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.
Superintendent of Schools
District Curriculum & Instruction Update from Mr. Anthony Scotto
High School Update
Knowing that students were not going to share science lab equipment or materials during COVID, the District wanted to make sure that our high school students would still have a meaningful lab experience to apply their learning. Labster is an online virtual laboratory platform that allows students to work through engaging stories, interact with lab equipment, perform experiments, and learn with theory and quiz questions. Labster’s virtual lab simulations are like flight simulators for science students; the simulations allow students to practice skills in a totally safe environment as both an alternative to, and preparation for, hands-on labs. The program's graphics and gamified elements immerse students into multi million dollar lab settings, using high tech equipment not found in high schools, or authentic field settings. Another instructional feature of the program is that students are allowed to repeat experiments, and learn from mistakes in a safe environment, as many times as they like, until they fully understand. All labs are aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, as well as the College Board AP standards, making it easier for teachers to select appropriate, standards aligned labs for the content they are teaching. To view a sample simulation, please click the link below:
Middle School Update
After reflecting on the last three months of the 19/20 SY, the District began to research web-based programs to enhance our existing music education program. As a result, HTSD chose to implement SmartMusic. This is a suite of web-based music education tools that supports instrumental teachers and students during an in-class, hybrid, or fully remote setting. SmartMusic offers our students and teachers a repertoire library of over 150 method books and thousands of ensemble titles and solos from top publishers.
When students play their instruments while connected to SmartMusic, they will see which notes and rhythms they played correctly and incorrectly. When a practicing student is shown that they're playing incorrect notes, they can make corrections, rather than continuing to embed mistakes until the next lesson or rehearsal. Students are also able to hear their recording and receive a performance score, which helps teachers and students track progress. Both teachers and students can see each others’ written comments on every assignment and student recording. For more information about this program*, please click the link below:
*This program is also used in our grades 3-5, 9-12 instrumental program and 9-12 vocal music program.
RAZ-Kids is a program that was strong in it's implementation prior to March of 19/20 SY. When preparing for the new school year, the District was able to research additional features within the program. Raz-Kids has an online reading assessment, known as the Benchmark, that provides teachers with vital information to guide their instruction. The Benchmark is taken independently by students and is optimized for the remote/hybrid environment. Teachers receive student-specific data from the assessment that highlights areas of strengths as well as additional instruction opportunities tailored to each student.
For more information about this program, please click the links below:
Professional Development Update
On Tuesday, November 3rd, all staff participated in our Virtual District In-Service. Staff were permitted to select from 48 choice sessions to enhance their instructional hybrid and remote teaching strategies. The sessions were facilitated by teachers, technology facilitators, administrators, and outside consultants. For more information about recent November In-Service (as well as other 20/21 SY offerings to date), please click the link below:
World Teachers' Day 2020: Congratulations Mr. Vincent Sclafani on being honored live on the TODAY Show
Congratulations Klockner Elementary School!
is now a 1:1 District: a device for every student;
is a Google Apps for Education District;
is a recipient of the Project 10Million TMobile for Education Grant, providing 500 "hotspots" for our students;
participates in County, Regional & State music & art competitions, exhibitions & performances;
continues to update our facilities & safety measures in each school, via community-approved $55M referendum;
has implemented a 5-Year District/Community Strategic Plan & Rebranding District to align with new Strategic Plan;
offers every student receives College Board assessments free of charge; PSAT 8/9, PSAT/NMSQT, & AP
offers Honors Classes & 20 AP Courses;
has a student increase of 79%, scoring a 3 or higher on AP exams;
is a NJ State Seal of Biliteracy participant with 278 participants in 17 different languages;
offers NEW: High School Esports Teams & Virtual Reality Labs;
offers a K-12 Summer Camp Program.
For more detailed information on HTSD, check out our HTSD 2020-2021 District Infographic.
One Step At A Time: Sayen Elementary School Art Teacher "Ms. Liz" created this work of art by hand!
Elementary Education Update
From Director of Elementary Education
Mr. Jay Morris
The Elementary Division of the HTSD has worked very hard this school year in preparation for the hybrid instructional model for its seventeen elementary schools. Schedules for our district's specials teachers (art, music, library & health/physical ed.) have also been modified to reflect the health and safety needs of our students and staff. I am personally grateful to the cohort of elementary principals, HTEA Leadership, and volunteer teacher leaders who helped in this important process.
As you may already know, the Office of Administration has postponed the original dates for Parent/Teacher Conferences from October to December 2020. The new dates are Tuesday through Friday, December 1st through 4th, 2020. December 1st through 4th will be one-session days with a 1:15PM dismissal on each day. Please see the district's 2020-21 Pupil/Teacher Calendar for further details. Your elementary schools will be sending home important information to schedule your virtual parent/teacher conference. Please make every effort to attend your child's parent/teacher conference. Your attendance at conferences gives you the opportunity to discuss your child’s progress privately with the classroom teacher.
Lastly ... Back-to-School nights in our seventeen schools were a great success. Held virtually on October 7th and 8th, 2020 throughout the township, HTSD families had the opportunity to hear Back-to-School greetings from their school principals and PTAs; meet interactively with their classroom teachers; and also select from electronic choiceboards on upcoming events; ongoing school activities; and information on health and safety protocols for their students. Please enjoy the upcoming holidays.
Secondary Education Fall 2020 Update
Dr. James Altobello
Proud to share that we have:
- successfully launched our hybrid instructional model for all students at the secondary level;
- held six virtual back to school night events for our families;
- provided multiple virtual Financial Aid Night presentations for students and families;
- offered all fall athletics as well as a number of other extracurricular activities;
- launched our second season of ESports programming at our high schools.
McGalliard Elementary School Virtual Veterans Day Assembly Video
Free or Reduced Lunch Application - Please submit
We encourage all parents / guardians to complete a free or reduced price meal application to determine if your student(s) is eligible. Applications must be completed every school year. Parents need only to complete one application per household. For half-day Pre-K students, the application is used to determine whether your student(s) qualifies to receive free milk.
Applications are available online at www.PaySchoolsCentral.com or you may request a paper application from the main office of your child’s school. All new families must set up a user profile prior to completing your online free or reduced price meal application. Users with an existing online application profile can login with their existing credentials and click to begin your online free or reduced price meal application. Please note that if your household income changes at any time during the current school year, you may apply/re-apply.
If you have not yet completed an application for the 2020-2021 school year, we ask that you please complete one now.