Superintendent's Update

January 2015

Happy New Year!

Our new year has started with reminders of how incredible our students are in so many areas. Many of you may be aware of the tremendous performance of our girls' and boys' track teams who are placing nationally and shattering school records. Both teams are anchored by talented athletes who are also incredible individuals. Their training and progress are guided by coaches who are proud of the performance of this talented group and who feel lucky to be in the presence of such greatness. This is another example of the team work that exists in our district where adults demonstrate a commitment to students and students excel individually and collectively. Yesterday, a teacher shared a story with me involving a group of 8th grade boys who carried some items out to a teacher's car in the Strong parking lot after the snowfall last Friday and decided to clear the snow off of all of the staff cars in the parking lot. This month whatever school I have visited I have witnessed student and staff learning, connections and commitment. We have a very unique district.

Current Topics

Breakfast Program

A breakfast program is being piloted at Lyman, Korn and Brewster. Some parents have shared concerns regarding the sugar content in the cereals that are being offered. All cereals are state approved, and we are committed to looking into other options. Thank you for sharing your ideas with our Director of Dining Services, Mark Basil. You may email him directly at He welcomes your feedback.

Budget/Enrollment Projections

The superintendent’s budget will be presented to the Board of Education on Wednesday February 11th at 7:30 p.m. at Strong Middle School. The administrative team has been working together to “prioritize the priorities” and think creatively about alternatives to achieving our identified outcomes. We have also looked through the lens of declining enrollment in the near future and as an on-going phenomenon as we plan forward. We will be on a journey that we have not experienced before to this degree in terms of declining enrollment, school closures, and a redefined vision. It has the potential to be an exciting time and an opportunity for creative thinking and growth. I am confident in our ability to work together on this.

Utilization Committee

At the January 14th Board of Education meeting Bob Fulton, Chair of the Utilization Committee gave an update on the committee's work that included the fact that it will be examining the feasibility of two K-5 school configurations, a 6-8 middle school and a high school, and the process of a phased implementation in achieving whatever change is ultimately agreed upon. At last week's Utilization Committee it was agreed that the possibility of closing Korn School at the end of the 2015-2016 school year would also be examined seriously as a first step in the phased implementation plan. Information will be shared from me and Board of Education Chairwoman Kerrie Flanagan as it becomes available.

Survey Results

Thank you to all of you who took the time to complete the School Climate Survey. We received 151 responses. If you have any questions on the survey results, or if you replied but would like to offer more in-person information, please feel free to contact me at or call me in the office at 349-7200. This year we were interested in feedback on all the items, but in particular we wanted your input on your awareness of how to get support for your child, what your child is learning, and our response to safety. A comprehensive summary is included below. Although the survey responses were generally positive, our administrative team has carefully reviewed all responses and will work together and with their respective staff to determine next steps for continued improvement.

Parent Involvement

· 82% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that the school offered opportunities to be involved in their child’s education.

School Responsiveness

· 73% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that issues related to their child were responded to in a timely fashion when brought to the attention of the school.

· 70% agreed or strongly agreed that their child’s school is sensitive to issues related to race, gender, sexual orientation and disabilities.

· 89% of parents report feeling comfortable talking with their child’s teacher/s about school work, challenges, and progress. 81% of parents are satisfied with the response they receive when they contact their child’s school with a question or concern.

· 89% of parents feel welcome at their child’s school.

· 83% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that the staff in our district model the Core Ethical Values of respect, responsibility, honesty, kindness and courage.

Academic Emphasis

· 95% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that the school is focused on student learning, and that teachers have high expectations for their child’s learning.

· 90% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that the school environment supports learning.

· 61% of parents agreed or strongly agreed that they were made aware of changes in the curriculum.

· 84% of parents know how their child is doing in school before they get their child’s report card, and believe their child has grown academically during the course of the school year.

School Safety

· 91% of parents agree or strongly agree that administration makes safety a priority and 96% report that their child feels safe at school.

· 96% of parents report that the schools are clean and well-maintained.

· 87% of parents agree or strongly agree that the adults at their child’s school treat their child with respect.

The survey included some open-ended response questions including:

How would you proceed if your child needed academic assistance?

In general the response to this question indicated that parents would start with the teacher and then go to other sources in the school including the school principal, counselor or special education teacher. Some parents indicated that the response from teachers is quick and supportive while others indicated that the type of response received was dependent upon the teacher. Some parents indicated that they had a negative experience contacting a teacher so they would direct their concerns to the principal, and others indicated that their children feared repercussions if a parent contacted the school or that the teachers’ schedule (at the high school level) made it challenging for a student to get extra help. Finally, some parents commented on the challenges experienced as a result of common core including the difficulty for both parents and children in understanding some of the new learning expectations.

How would you proceed if you had a concern about your child related to social, emotional or health issues?

Once again most parents responded that they would contact their child’s teacher/s, while others who may have met or worked with other staff members including the school nurse, special education teachers, counselors or the principal indicated they would reach out to them as well. A few parents indicated that they had a negative experience reaching out to a teacher and would reach out to someone else. Some parents referenced the needs that students have including behavioral and mental health needs and suggested that teachers might benefit from additional training/support to handle these student issues.

How are you made aware that your child’s school is focused on student learning?

Parents indicated that they receive information on their child’s daily learning in several different ways including directly from their child and their child’s assignments, homework and projects, communication with teachers, web-sites, report cards, progress reports, open house, parent teacher conferences, communication from the building principal. A few parents expressed a concern on the increase in assessments and test preparation.

How do you know what your child is learning?

The majority of parents indicated that they know what their child is learning by talking with their child or looking at the work he or she is doing. Some parents indicated that they get information from Power School and communication from teachers including the teachers’ webpage.

How are you made aware of your child’s progress?

The majority of responses indicated that progress is shared through Power School, report cards, conferences, and direct contact with the teacher. A few responses indicated dissatisfaction with the frequency of updates and a desire to be informed sooner if their child was not performing well.

What evidence do you see that our schools are preparing for college and career success?

There were several different responses given to this question including students use of technology across the grades, specific practices experienced at John Lyman School including democratic practices, presentation skills, collaboration and problem-solving, using agenda books and the quality of the work that the students are required to do, leadership opportunities and ECHO sessions. Some responses indicated concerns about the lack of opportunity for individualized thinking and problem-solving due to common expectations and test preparation. Some parents with recent graduates indicate that their children were well-prepared for college based upon their current success in college.

How are you made aware of the district’s or school’s response to safety related issues?

Most responses indicated that issues related to safety are communicated by administration. Some parents positively identified the practice at some schools of a follow-up communication to parents about a school-wide drill or incident.