Chatham school board ponders new to-do list

CHATHAM–The Board of Education discussed changing the district’s long-term strategic goals last week. The five goals on the current list were adopted in 2010 after board members discussed what they wanted the district to look like in five years. But three years later schools Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo as well as board members say some of the goals have been met and it’s time to refocus on new ones.

The five goals adopted in 2010 were: 1. Provide an educational program that promotes excellence and prepares students for success in the 21st century.
2. Develop a school system that has the flexibility to address the learning and developmental needs of individual students.
3. Develop and support leadership at every level that promotes positive school culture and supports student achievement.
4. Develop a culture of long-range planning that supports continuous improvement while addressing the impact of declining enrollment and economically challenging times.
5. As a Board of Education seek and implement best practices in district Leadership.
Ms. Nuciforo said these goals have driven the all the decisions made by the district over the past few years, and she believes Goals 3 and 4 have been achieved. She asked board members whether they think the goals need to be adjusted.

“Those goals have gotten us to this point, and I think we’re at a pivotal point here,” she said.

She cited the progress she said had been made regarding the first two goals, including development of the school’s instructional model, the certification of its Project Lead the Way courses, implementation of a co-teaching model, the institution of a high school literacy lab, the upgrades of course and assessment materials and improvements in the guidance office, among others.

She said Goal 3, which aims to develop leadership among students and staff, is now being done well in the district, thanks to activities like Model Congress, student government and student leadership club, and instructional study team leader groups for the staff.

“This is something we weren’t doing very well a few years ago, but I feel we’re doing a really good job now,” said Ms. Nuciforo. “We’re going to continue to work on it, but I’m not sure it still needs to be a goal.”
She said the same of Goal 4, pointing out that over the past few years the district has done several studies for long-term projections regarding topics like enrollment, facilities, finances and transportation.

“I think we’ve established a culture of long-term planning,” she said. “Where do we go from here?”
She said that with the plan for consolidation, the board may want to discuss what the district should look like.
Board President Melony Spock agreed that developing leadership and a culture of long-range planning have been achieved.
But board members David O’Connor and Gail Day spoke out against removing the 4th goal, saying they want to keep a focus on long-term planning and finances.

Mr. O’Connor suggested eliminating Goal 5 on best leadership practices and urged the board to consider other ideas, like promoting student physical wellness and increasing student input on important issues. He said he’s concerned about the effects of obesity and the lack of physical exercise wants more emphasis on those concerns. He also feels the students are not offered enough opportunity to provide input on various school topics.

Ms. Nuciforo responded with examples of how students have opportunities to provide feedback, such as when middle school students were asked for input on the plan to move the 5th grade to the Mary E, Dardess Elementary School. There are also anti-bullying surveys and student focus groups regarding the consolidation decision. And she also the district has programs that address student wellness.

Board member Mike Clark agreed with Mr. O’Connor. “Having a goal on health and fitness would give us a more rounded set of goals,” he said.
The board agreed to remove goals 3 and 5, and to continue the discussion about adjusting the list of long-term goals. Ms. Nuciforo said she will prepare a draft for the board to discuss at another time.

Also at the September 10 meeting:
•Ms. Spock presented High School Principal John Thorsen with a certificate from the state Education Department in honor of the high school being designated by the state as a Reward School. Ms. Nuciforo said that Chatham was recognized for being in the top 10% of schools in the state in terms of academic growth over the past two years
•Mr. O’Connor requested permission from the board to approach Congressman Chris Gibson’s office as an individual to request information regarding the Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (JROTC) program. The board agreed that he may do so and may discuss the subject further after Mr. O’Connor has gathered the information
•The board heard a presentation from Gail Sheldon of Auctions International, a company that helps school districts auction off excess items online.
•The board was formally introduced to the district’s new teachers: Stephanie Ayotte, middle school reading; Michelle Emma, 4th grade special education; Meredith Klein, MED reading; Will Richard, 7th grade social studies; Jenn Dilorio, high school math; Kathy Saso, English as a 2nd language; and Jeff Artist, high school English.

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