The school year is in full swing, and for students and teachers in the Rockville Centre school district, that means a fresh start — new faces, classrooms and courses.
For the district’s central administration and Board of Education, on the other hand, it’s time to prepare for the year ahead.
At the first board meeting of the year on Sept. 7, Superintendent Matt Gaven said that he had met with board members over the summer break to draft five key objectives that they hope to accomplish this year.
“Our goal for this year is to build upon some of the work we did last year,” Gaven said. “It’s really important that we don’t just do five new things every single year and throw out the stuff we did the year before.”
The first goal is for the board to establish a five-year curriculum review cycle for all major subjects. Last year, trustees focused much of their attention on reviewing the English Language Arts curriculum, to make sure that it conformed to existing standards.
“This year we’d like to look at math as our goal — but that doesn’t mean ELA goes away,” Gaven said. “We still have more work to do. We have units to create with English Language Arts.”
In addition to the math curriculum, the district will continue to design and develop new ELA units across different grade levels.
The second goal is a continuation of the school board’s discussion of Multi-Tiered Support Service. In May, a committee composed of administrators, faculty members and service providers from all seven schools in the district created a framework for a new approach to academic support programs. In the coming months, trustees will discuss ways to design and implement a progress monitoring system for these new support services.
“If we’re trying to provide support for students, we want to monitor their progress with their support so we can make appropriate, time-based adjustments to instructional programs,” Gaven said. “For example, a typical time frame might be six weeks, where we try to start intervention.”
The administration’s third objective is to introduce integrated co-teaching at the secondary level, which is already underway at South Side middle and high schools. Last year, each of the district’s five elementary schools set up a full-day integrated co-teaching model, with both a general- and special-education teacher working in tandem. The program was initially tested for two periods a day at one of the schools. Based on the overwhelmingly positive results, the full-day model was rolled out at all five.
At last week’s meeting, Gaven indicated that the district would continue to provide professional development for integrated co-teaching at the elementary level.
The board’s fourth goal for the new school year is to identify and implement capital improvements that support innovative educational and extracurricular program enhancements that reflect stakeholder feedback. Last year, the board established a strategic list of priorities as part of a five-year capital improvement plan.
“The other piece that we want to do is establish that second cyclical system of repairs and maintenance with a budget cycle,” Gaven said. He explained that this also means keeping tabs on facilities and existing infrastructure to see if any of it is in need of repair or replacement.
“As the board knows, it’s super important for all of us to listen to our stakeholders as we try to find a way forward,” Gaven continued. “That will require us talking with parents. That will require us having focus groups with teachers and with students so that we’re asking these questions over the course of this year.”
The final goal for the board in the year ahead is to design and develop a communication plan designed to foster increased community engagement and collaboration.
“One of our goals as a district is to always make sure that the message that we want to get to parents about the things that we do is timely, informative and not annoying,” Gaven said. “We don’t want the information that comes from the district about the programs that we do to go into the 347,000 unopened emails.”
By creating a strategic plan, the district hopes to better engage parents with relevant communications from the schools.
Donna Downing, vice president of the school board, thanked Gaven for articulating many of the district’s objectives for the year ahead.
“When we started talking about our goals over the summer at our retreat, we all had a lot of thoughts,” Downing said. “It’s a process. Making it understandable. Making it organized. And really making sure that we’re keeping our eye on the ball of the children in our district.”
Trustee Erica Messier stressed the importance of looking toward the future when compiling a list of objectives. “I think it’s really important that we’re not only just focusing on now, but that we also have our focus forward,” Messier said. “That we’re looking at what’s to come, and not just content per se, but also really kind of focusing on skills, the dispositions that we hope our students will have when they graduate.”