Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Accomplishing district goals

Each summer I work with the Board of Education to create goals for the district. A plan to activate these goals is then developed and becomes a blueprint for improvement. Several times during the year we report on our progress on this action plan and at year's end present a summary report.  

Here is the 2013-14 summary report. I hope it sheds light on the level of commitment of our staff members and Board of Education to improve student outcomes. Goals are marked by Arabic numerals, activities by letters, and accomplishments with dates by Roman numerals.

Achieve Board Certification through a professional development sequence conducted by the New Jersey School Boards Association.
  • NJSBA presented Board Certification recognition at Sussex County SBA meeting on May 13th.


  1. Increase academic achievement for all students, especially subgroups not meeting state performance targets.
    1. Develop strategies and activities to address areas for improvement cited in school performance reports.
      1. School Improvement Plans were presented to the Board, based in part on areas cited in the state’s School Performance Reports (Board meeting 9-24-13).
      2. Monthly reports from principals, directors, and building coordinators documented activities undertaken to implement the improvement plans (September 2013-May 2014).
    2. Implement curricular standards and instructional practices consistent with the Common Core State Standards, New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards, and Tri-District Curriculum Documents.
      1. Lesson plans verify curricular and instructional implementation (2013-2014 school year)
      2. Multiple workshops and turnkey trainings have been presented to enhance implementation of the Common Core State Standards (Principals and building coordinators monthly reports, September 2013-May 2014).
      3. PLC meetings have been held at grade/department levels to develop unit plans and benchmark assessments (Building coordinators monthly reports, September 2013-May 2014).
      4. NJDOE released the 2012-13 School Performance Reports in January 2014, noting the following areas of achievement (BOE presentation 2-25-14)
          1. The High School met 100% of its academic performance targets with 95% ELA and 90% Math passing rates.
          2. Halsted (53rd percentile) and Merriam (46th percentile) placed among the average of their peer schools academically.
          3. Merriam’s math scores met 100% of their state targets in Grades 3-4-5.
          4. 90% of high school AP testers passed with 3 or better (state target is 75%)
          5. 52% of our high school students take Visual and Performing Arts classes compared to 47% across the state
          6. Merriam and Halsted met 100% of their student growth targets. Student growth measures the amount of learning in the core subjects of language arts and math from one year’s test to the next.
          7. Merriam’s 60 in math and Halsted’s 57 in language arts are significantly above the state growth target of 35.
          8. The High School had an 88% graduation rate and a 1.1% dropout rate, which exceeded the state targets of 75% and 2%, respectively.
          9. 76% of the Class of 2012 graduates were still enrolled in college 16 months after high school graduation.
      5. A review of the 2012-13 School Performance Report data also identified several challenges:
          1. Merriam’s language arts proficiency for all groups (recommendation: focused small group instruction)
          2. Halsted’s math proficiency (recommendation: test alignment to Common Core)
          3. High School student subgroup proficiency (recommendation: increased attention to needs of special education and economically disadvantaged student populations)
          4. Increase the number of students taking the PSAT (recommendation: test was offered during the school day this year)
          5. Increase the number of students taking AP tests (recommendation: offer more AP courses to 11th graders)
          6. Elementary and middle schools are judged on reducing chronic absenteeism. Merriam (10%) and Halsted (8%) are just outside the state target of 6%. (recommendation: increase awareness among parents and students)
          7. Middle school is also rated on % of 8th graders taking algebra -- our score is reported incorrectly. Halsted had 11% taking algebra and the state target is 20% (recommendation: prepare more students who take 8th grade math to take the new Algebra I exam).
    3. Prepare students for PARCC assessments by promoting computer-based testing as a part of regular classroom practice.
      1. All teachers were required to implement a minimum of one computer-based test this year as documented in lesson plans (2013-2014 school year).
      2. Students at each school participated in PARCC field testing (March 2014).
    4. Provide classroom support for blended learning as an effective instructional practice.
      1. Hired an instructional technology support person (BOE meeting 7-23-13)
      2. Librarians and IT staff held multiple training sessions and provided classroom assistance to teachers to implement instructional technology further into regular teaching practice (September 2013-May 2014).
    5. Develop and implement plans for student growth objectives for all teaching staff.
      1. SGOs developed and submitted (by 11-15-13)
      2. SGO’s implemented (November 2013-May 2014)
      3. SGO achievement documented (May-June 2014)
    6. Provide ongoing teacher training and support on the Danielson Framework as well as research-based instructional strategies.
      1. Educational Impact Online Academy licenses purchased for each school (Summer 2013)
      2. EI assignments documented in Corrective Action Plans (Fall 2013)
      3. Teachers access this training as part of their individual professional development and as units in PLC meetings (2013-2014 school year).
    7. Provide training and support for school leaders to promote professional growth and goal setting/attainment.
      1. MPPR training for Tri-District administrators held at Board Office (8-14-13 and 8-15-13).
      2. Each administrator developed individual administrative goals (Fall 2013).
      3. Progress on administrative goals was evaluated and discussed at post observation conferences (December 2013-June 2014).
    8. Investigate online learning options for remedial and enrichment classes, homebound instruction, summer school, and choice students.
      1. In-service training sessions on Google Apps were attended by teaching staff (10-14-13 and 1-20-14).
      2. High School staff held discussions with online provider Apex Learning (2013-2014 school year).
    9. Purchase tablet/laptop devices for all teaching staff members as a key instructional resource.
      1. Purchase approved (BOE meeting 6-25-13) and devices distributed (9-3-13).
  2. Build stronger parent and community relationships to increase student achievement.
    1. Use existing and new media channels to prioritize clear communication with parents and community members that promote positive perceptions of our schools.
      1. Increased our use of existing tools -- website, Twitter, Brave News, PowerSchool, Google Apps -- to distribute school and district news using multiple media (2013-2014 school year).
      2. Received increased coverage of district and school events through local media outlets (2013-2014 school year).
      3. Began a superintendent’s blog to highlight school achievements and discuss educational topics in an interactive format (2-28-14).
      4. Developed mobile app for district website (April 2014).
    2. Develop productive marketing strategies in collaboration with the Town of Newton to promote the economic, civic, social, and educational welfare of the town.
      1. Held regular meetings with marketing consultant (2013-2014 school year).
      2. Filmed a professional video to promote the district on our homepage, the Town’s website, and (10-17-13).
      3. Developed a marketing plan based on board discussions with marketing consultant and Town Council (BOE meetings 1-28-14, 2-25-14).
      4. Participated in planning session on town logo and branding (3-21-14).
      5. Participated in town logo and branding unveiling at kickoff event for 150th anniversary of incorporation (4-11-14).
      6. Began attending Town Council meetings as part of liaison efforts (4-14-14).
      7. Conducted interview for network television segment on Town of Newton renaissance (5-10-14).
      8. Promoting the district at a public booth on Newton Day (6-14-14).
    3. Implement a 21st Century Community Learning Center Grant  in collaboration with Project Self-Sufficiency.
      1. Wrote an approved grant (Summer 2013).
      2. Held planning meetings, parent orientations, kickoff events, and press conference (Fall 2013).
      3. Participated in monthly administrative meetings (September 2013-May 2014).
    4. Create policies and procedures for the Interdistrict School Choice Program to begin operation in the 2014-15 school year.
      1. Presented, discussed, and approved policies (BOE meetings 9-10-14, 9-24-14)
      2. Approved as school choice district with 13 seats for 2014-15 (10-3-13).
    5. Enhance opportunities for students through building stronger relationships with our key partner networks.
      1. Secured the donation of a 3-D printer from the Weston Foundation through our partnership with Picatinny Arsenal (BOE meeting 6-25-13).
      2. Pursued a college credit course in English through Syracuse University (Approval received March 2014).
      3. Secured a federal grant to implement a 21st Century Community Learning Center in partnership with Project Self-Sufficiency (Summer 2013).
      4. Brought a nationally recognized speaker on teen culture and violence to the district in partnership with the Newton Police and Action Alliance (9-30-13).
      5. Supported the activities of our local parent partner organizations: Merriam PTO, Halsted Pride Organization, and the Newton Pride Foundation (2013-2014 school year).
      6. Participated in planning meetings with Sussex County Chamber of Commerce members to identify business internships for high school students (Multiple meetings during 2013-2014 school year, including superintendents on 4-4-14).
      7. Presented an assembly program to middle and high school students on the dangers of firearms and imitation firearms in collaboration with Newton Police (5-6-14).
  3. Invest in capital improvements to improve student achievement.
    1. Join consortium with Sussex County Community College to provide high speed, dark fiber network to all schools.
      1. Sent letter of intent to join consdortium to use state bond funding to build a fiber optic network for increased bandwidth and digital learning services through NJEdge (Letter dated 3-15-13).
      2. Approved for state ROD grants to connect MAS and HMS to NHS once SCCC project is completed (Approval letters dated 1-6-14).
      3. Network construction is planned for Summer 2015.
    2. Implement facility recommendations from school security audits to enhance safety of students and staff members.
      1. Hired four new staff with law enforcement experience as security monitors (Summer 2013).
      2. Mounted door lock block devices on each classroom to allow doors to be locked easily from the inside during a lockdown (Summer 2013).
      3. Purchased stronger mobile communication devices (Summer 2013).
      4. Installed signage to direct visitors on each campus to monitored entrances (Summer 2013).
      5. Installed digital fob access to selected doors at each school for better control and monitoring of building (April 2014).
    3. Discuss and prioritize options for renovating and/or expanding performing arts space at Newton High School.
      1. Held facilities priority discussion in Committee of the Whole (BOE meeting 1-7-14).
      2. Approved for state ROD grant for auditorium HVAC upgrade and asbestos removal (Approval letters dated 1-6-14 and 2-24-14).
    4. Install new switches and other network hardware to upgrade Merriam Avenue School’s infrastructure.
      1. Installed switches and hardware (Summer 2013).
    5. Consider costs and benefits regarding future maintenance projects at Halsted Middle School given anticipated building lifespan.
      1. Solicited architect proposals for capacity studies of all three buildings as well as more specific data on renovations needed at Halsted (BOE meeting 3-25-14).
    6. Additional activities
      1. Approved for state ROD grants for emergency generators at each building and upgraded telephone systems throughout the district (Approval letters dated 1-6-14).
      2. Approved a 2014-15 budget to include a proposed property purchase, access points for expanded wifi for classroom instruction/PARCC readiness, and a direct install clean energy project (BOE meeting 4-29-14).

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