I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.
The decision to delay, close, or keep open our schools is never an easy decision. This week’s decisions were nail-biters! While sometimes not a popular decision, I want you to know that the decision-making process begins well before the actual verdict. Networking with other area superintendents, phone conversations with a local meteorologist, our maintenance and grounds crews, and of course, the bus company, begins in the wee hours of the morning. Making these decisions are as hard as predicting the weather!
The Board of Education met this past Tuesday night. At this meeting, I presented the 2015-2016 Proposed BOE budget. As defined in Connecticut General Statute 10-222, this proposed education budget represents an “itemized estimate of expenses” for operating our schools in the coming year.
2015-2016 Proposed Budget
This budget sustains previous priorities, such as funding for significant curriculum changes required for the implementation of the Connecticut Core Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, the Next Generation Science Standards and the Connecticut Elementary and Secondary Social Studies Frameworks. This budget addresses numerous recommendations from our recent New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) evaluation report. It also contains reallocation of resources as we continually realize savings in such areas as energy and service costs to offset the increases in medical insurances and pension accounts. This budget also contains several modest additions to our staff including a .4 secondary math teacher and three new paraprofessionals necessary at Valley View Elementary School for our growing population of students with special educational needs.
This budget continues our investment in technology, both hardware and software and also contains the position of a data specialist. In addition to addressing the emerging need to integrate and centralize our data systems, the data specialist enables us to improve the integrity of our data by reducing redundancy of input and increasing uniformity and accountability between and among our five schools and our Central Office.
Other Decisions at the BOE Meeting
Board members approved a proposed job description for a district Data Specialist. I presented the rationale for this proposed position and explained the importance of this new position in light of, what I am now terming, our Technology Leadership Team. This team will be working together to manage our growing digital resources, to enhance our instruction with these resources, and to improve our automated support systems throughout the district. In a related matter, we will be submitting a proposal seeking additional grant funds recently made available by the State of Connecticut.
The Board also approved a leave of absence for Lauren Miller, Consumer Science teacher at PHS. It was also announced that Patricia Mangini, school nurse at the PMS, is retiring at the end of this school year and Ashley Pizzoferrato (paraprofessional) has resigned.
I reviewed with the Board my decision to seek an agreement with the Community Health Center in Middletown to create a new school based health clinic at Portland High School. A number of towns across Connecticut are establishing these clinics in their schools. In Portland, we are seeing a growing need for mental health support in our schools and this would provide an additional certified counselor in our secondary school, with no additional cost to our district. This clinician would work with our own counselors and would be assigned a regular caseload. Additional support in other schools would be possible in the future and health and dental services could also be introduced in subsequent years.
I shared the School Climate Fall Family Survey data with the Board. This data will be posted on the home page of our website. http://www.portlandctschools.org/
Finally, after review by the Policy Subcommittee, the Board approved a revision to our existing substitute policy.
New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC)
As you know, our secondary schools completed two phases of the accreditation process (the self-study and the evaluation visit) this past spring. Several weeks ago, we received notification from the New England Association of Schools & Colleges that The Committee on Public Secondary Education voted to award Portland Secondary School continued accreditation. The Committee noted their impression with many of the programs and services at the school(s) and referenced numerous commendations that were made by the Visiting Committee last May. Furthermore, they noted recommendations in each area of the report. We are required to implement a plan to address the valid recommendations, and to provide a Two-Year Progress Report in 2016. A copy of the NEASC report is on both the PHS and PMS websites.
Project Lead the Way (PLTW)
This week, I attended a Project Lead the Way conference at the University of New Haven. As many of you know, PLTW is a national provider of K-12 Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) programs. PLTW is an activity, project, and problem-based STEM curriculum. There is also a first-rate teacher professional development model required of all teachers who use the curriculum. We are proud to offer a part of the PLTW curriculum at Portland High School. PLTW has recently written and piloted an elementary STEM curriculum and devised a middle school curriculum as well. More than 6,500 elementary, middle, and high schools in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are currently offering PLTW courses. Follow the link below for more information about PLTW.
As we begin a new calendar year and we near the midpoint of the school year, I wish you a very happy and fulfilling 2015.
Philip B. O’Reilly, Ed.D.