Sparta Public School District News

September 2019

A Message from Dr. Michael Rossi, Jr., Superintendent

We spent the better part of last year meeting and developing Vision 2025, our school district strategic plan and blueprint for success. It contains four major domains: student achievement, community connections, health and wellness, and facilities. In the area of student achievement, our focus is on creating multiple pathways for students to demonstrate competencies, learn valuable practical experience and gain entrance into their choice of colleges and careers. Within the domain of community connections we seek to enhance and expand partnerships with parents, local organizations, and higher education. In the area of health and wellness, we recognize the critical implementation of character education, social-emotional learning, response to intervention, and the student voice. Ultimately, our facilities must reflect future ready learning spaces, top-tier performance environments, and differentiated engagements. One significant improvement is the installation of a ‘turf field’ at Sparta High School. Equipped with LED lighting, a new scoreboard, fencing and bleachers, Cassels will be a state-of-the-art, multi-sport venue.

Sussex County Teacher of the Year

Congratulations to Jennifer Caputo, 5th grade teacher at Helen Morgan School, for being named the 2019-2020 Sussex County Teacher of the Year.

Alpine Elementary School

Alpine Elementary School staff members are excited to welcome the Class of 2032 this September. We believe a strong partnership between school and families will make a great difference in our children’s educational experience and we hope to continue to make great strides in this area. We will continue to celebrate our monthly character traits, theme days, school spirit days, Week of Respect, Love Reading Week, STEAM Olympics, assemblies, field trips, author visits, family fun nights and grade level musical performances.

Mohawk Avenue School

At Mohawk Avenue School, our mission is to provide a mutually supportive and secure environment that fosters self-worth and creates positive, caring relationships among students, teachers, staff, parents, and the community. The foundation that will ensure this success includes: love of learning, partnerships with parents and community, independent, creative thinking, nurturing emotional and educational growth and encouraging and empowering children to be responsible.The staff can’t wait to meet all the new students so we can begin building relationships and creating a sense of belonging for all our students.

Helen Morgan Students Collaborate to Improve their Environment

Mrs. Shepherd's 4th grader have initiated a pilot program to reduce single use plastics. Students in the class wrote Dr. Rossi letters after reading an article on the environmental impact of single use plastics. Dr. Rossi met with the class to discuss possible solutions and ways to enact change. Dr. Rossi then met with the district food services vendor and a plan to eliminate the use of plastic utensils was developed. Thank you to Mrs. Shepherd's class for identifying a real world problem and working to develop actionable solutions.

Coding Comes to Sparta Middle School

Sparta Middle School will be adding a Coding elective this year. Through a grant received by Code.org, Mrs. Shefferman has completed training to deliver the Computer Science Discoveries curriculum. This program focuses on the problem-solving process, and then takes students through website design/coding, as well as game and app design/coding. Through a variety of creative projects, students learn to code in html, css, and javascript.

High School to Launch Humanities Academy in 2020-2021

Sparta High School will be launching a Humanities Academy starting in 2020-2021. Any high-achieving student with future goals related to English and Social Studies is encouraged to apply for the program in which students will progress through a 4-year sequence of coursework. During the first year, students will take a Foundations of Humanities course that will expose them to the various schools of thought and career opportunities available under the umbrella of a study in the humanities. At the conclusion of the first year, students will have an opportunity to select their Humanities pathway: Letters, Public Administration or Social Sciences. Each pathway will allow for specialized learning opportunities. Students are encouraged to discuss their scheduling options with their guidance counselors, English and Social Studies teachers, and families.

Student Support Services Department

Dr. Saskia Brown’s professional commitment reflects her conviction that quality education is a right that belongs to all students. Her vision as an administrator in Sparta is to catalyze change in the district by helping to create authentic learning environments that provide direct support, resources, access and opportunities to students, along with their families and district staff. Her goal is to cultivate a natural passion and ownership for both teaching and learning.


The Student Support Services Department is charged with maximizing the academic, social, and emotional potential of all students through consultation, evaluation, prevention, intervention, and enrichment. The goal of the department is to ensure an environment that increases the potential for success of all Sparta students. We believe that all students have a right to a comprehensive education that meets their individual needs.

Department Updates

English/Language Arts (Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 5)

Over the last few months the ELA teachers have been working to enhance the Word Study program based on needs identified through data collection, teacher observation and research-based instructional methods. The result of this work will vary based on grade level but the overall goal is to provide a differentiated approach to spelling and vocabulary development. More information will be disseminated in a variety of way to continue to provide clarification on these curricular enhancements.


Humanities (Pre-Kindergarten - Grade 5)

Teachers and supervisors identified several natural intersections within the ELA and Social Studies curriculum. These intersections will now become the foundation for cross-curricular, project-based experiences that embody a humanities approach to instruction this year. Three legacy projects will be re-framed as mini-units to enhance instructional practices and purposefully introduce students to interdisciplinary thinking.


Math

As we enter the 2019-2020 school year, the mathematics teachers will continue working towards a flipped classroom model and creating a video library on specific skills and concepts that can be shared with the students. The students will be assigned a video for homework with guided notes that can be completed while watching the video. The following day, the class will review the notes and work on an activity/task related to the skill(s) addressed in the video. During that time, the teacher will be able to pull small groups and provide differentiated instruction to help reinforce the concept(s). The students are able to work at their own pace and take ownership of their learning. Our goal as a department is to help our students become proficient in mathematics. A flipped classroom gives the teacher the time and flexibility needed to create the critically needed student-centered environment and will help them build their conceptual understanding and procedural fluency.


Science

Our K-12 science staff has an exciting year ahead. At Sparta High School, we are especially looking forward to continuing our work with the Walkill River Watershed Management group. To date our students have planted over 500 trees and shrubs along the watershed to reduce invasive species impacts. Next years steps include monitoring the direct impact the new trees and shrubs have on the water quality. Additionally, we are working to expand our Career and Technical Education offerings at Sparta High School for all students. Our plans for this school year are to explore student technical and medical organizations as well as lay out pathways within our course of studies. Lastly, the K-12 science staff is planning a Family STEM night in the Spring of 2020. It will be an opportunity for students and their families to enjoy a fun evening of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We hope to see you there!


Social Studies (Grades 6-12)

Students will continue exploring historical thinking through oral and written arguments. The use of document-based questions and primary sources will invite students to not only learn the lessons of history but also perform the tasks of a historian. By developing cohesive writing rubrics across grades 6-12, the department will begin to support student growth toward a common goal through rigorous instruction.


The History department organized an international trip this summer. Students experienced a 9-day itinerary that took them from the wonders of ancient Rome to the modern city of Munich. Along the way, the students sampled Italian, Austrian and German culture, food, language and, of course, gelato!


World Language (Grades 6-12)

Students will be encouraged to apply their understanding of world languages through integrated performance assessments. These project-based assignments involve students reading, listening, speaking and writing using authentic resources in the target language. These assessments will simulate real world experiences, like bargaining in a marketplace or using public transportation. Through these challenging performance-based activities, students will be better prepared for life in a globalized workplace.


Sparta Township Public Schools continues to be committed to providing students with immersive educational experiences that bring our curriculum to life. Over the summer, the Spanish program sponsored an 8-day tour of Spain. This trip included visits to the cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Granada and Sevilla. Students explored the culture and food of the region while practicing their proficiency in the Spanish language.

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