Friday, February 28, 2014

Welcome to my blog

Thank you for joining my new blog to read and comment on the achievements we've made and the challenges we face in the Newton Public Schools.  We find ourselves in a dynamic environment of data-based decision-making, real-time communications, and enhanced expectations for student and school achievement.  Parents and students have choices and we embrace that reality.  I look forward to using this blog to encourage healthy, informed dialogue about our educational programs. 

I mentioned both achievements and challenges as we are presented both on a regular basis. How we handle and respond to those says a great deal about who we are and what we believe.

In the Newton Schools, we try to live out our mission on a daily basis. We are truly here to educate the whole child. How does that play out? 

Academic learning is Priority #1.  We discussed our academic performance data from the 2012-13 School Performance Reports publicly this week. The High School's HSPA passing rate was 95% in language arts and 90% in mathematics, and 90% of AP test-takers passed with a score of 3 or better. Merriam and Halsted scored near the average of their peer groups and met 100% of their student growth targets. There were other data that suggest areas that need our attention, and we use that information to help us develop our school improvement plans.

We're also proud of the achievements of our students outside the classroom. Here are a few from just this past week:
  • The Newton HS girls basketball team won their first conference championship in over 30 years!  The team worked hard this year and hopefully will continue their success into the playoffs.
  • The Newton HS FFA recognized staff members for their support to FFA students with a wonderful luncheon. Guests included board members from Newton, Andover, and Green as well as NHS staff members and representatives from the state's Fish & Wildlife Service. The state FFA advisor spoke about the quality of Newton's program and our chapters recent accomplishments (e.g., 8 teams competed at the National FFA Convention in Louisville, KY).
  • The Newton HS Trust-Respect-Support Club was recognized this week when they did tech training with seniors at Liberty Towers as TRS partner organization Pass It Along watched their President Diane Taylor honored as a New Jersey Hero by First Lady Mary Pat Christie.
We've had our challenges too.  If you've read the newspapers lately, you are aware of concerns voiced about tuition adjustments for the high school turf field.  We have addressed questions at recent board meetings in all three districts and granted several media interviews.  Some residents have been surprised to find out that certain questions weren't asked and potential implications weren't fully understood despite a great deal of planning, discussion, and a clearly expressed community desire to build the field. I'll include myself among those who assumed information about the project was understood.  Moving forward means better communication among all key stakeholders about our high school operating budget.  We will meet next week with the county and sending district administrators to explore solutions.

Again, welcome to this new blog, and I look forward to your comments.

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