The Board of Education has met three times this month in order to review and discuss my proposed district budget for the 2017-2018 school year. This budget request represented an increase of 2.97%. Last Tuesday, at their final January meeting the BOE adopted my proposed budget and now will be sending it to the First Selectwoman, Susan Bransfield, and the Board of Selectmen in the coming week.
This budget sustains our efforts to meet the far-reaching goals outlined in our Portland Public Schools Teaching and Learning Priorities. Building a “continuum of practice” within our horizontal teams (subject matter and grade level teams) as well as articulated practices from school to school and throughout our school district remains vital to our enduring work in the coming year. Toward that end, we remain committed to providing Portland students with a meaningful pathway to college and career by making both curricular and professional teaching shifts necessary for a vibrant 21st Century education.
This budget contains no new teaching or staff positions and sustains the reallocation of resources approved by the Board of Education over the last three years. It continues our investment in technology hardware as we plan to enhance our specialty technology labs at Portland High School and Portland Middle School, principally for our Project Lead the Way, computer science, and graphic arts programs. This budget also contains a modest increase in our digital software line due to the enhanced digital component of our changing curriculum, especially in need to promote our Next Generation Science Standards and the K-12 Connecticut Social Studies Curriculum Frameworks.
At the same time, there are several crucial enterprises that require our ongoing focus in the coming year. Most notably, we must adhere to our curriculum revision cycle as outlined in a plan approved by the Board of Education, so that all content areas possess and implement an effective 21st Century curriculum. We must continue our work with our curriculum digital online platform, Atlas Rubicon, as a foundational educational tool to house teacher curricular resources promoting uniformity, accessibility, and collaboration across the grade levels and content areas. We must continue supporting our summer summit opportunities for teachers, so as to further advance our Pre K-12 instructional practices.
As we reflect on the previous three years, we must consider what we have accomplished. This includes:
- A significant shift in instructional practices in our elementary schools, including the implementation of math workshop and the restructuring of reading and writing, which incorporate key elements of Lucy Calkins Writing & Reading Workshop model.
- The improvement of our technology department to include the four integral pillars of a multifaceted technological infrastructure: hardware support, data management, information system support, and technology integration.
- The integration of 1:1 Chromebook devices across grades 5-12 and the development of a K-12 technology fluency scope & sequence.
- The establishment of curriculum specialists in each of the 11 content areas who facilitate curricular and instructional shifts with K-12 content area committees.
- The enhancement of professional learning at all levels of our school district.
- The restructuring of our intervention program at each school in an effort to promote maximum student growth in math, reading, writing and student behavior.
- The expansion of our preschool program at Valley View, including a new curriculum framework.
We have made these investments in Portland in order to meet the escalating demands of a 21st Century school district. At the same time, we are vigilant in our efforts to pursue grant opportunities and other funding mechanisms, while pursuing cost savings at all levels of our organization and growing our own internal capacity to meet our students’ needs. We appreciate Portland’s ongoing and willing support of its schools and will continue to work hard to carefully manage our town’s fiscal resources.
The Hour of Code takes place each year during Computer Science Education Week and is celebrated worldwide. This introduction to computer science shows that anybody can learn the basics as it sparks an interest and promotes participation in the field of computer science. Our school librarians organized programs and events at each of our schools last month celebrating the Hour of Code.
Gildersleeve & Brownstone Principal Search Process
After a month long job posting, I have received 88 applications for the two open elementary principal positions in Portland. I am amazed and very pleased with the number of candidates and their caliber. As outlined in my hiring timeline presented to the BOE in December, the paper screening process has begun. Due to the large number of excellent candidates, and my need to narrow the field down to 15-16 candidates, I have decided to conduct preliminary screening interviews with 24 applicants. This screening process, done with Valley View’s Principal, Jessica Bruenn, and Middle School Principal, Scott Giegerich, will be completed on Monday, January 23. Our goal is to identify about 15 candidates to be interviewed by a full interviewing stakeholder team consisting of parents, staff members, teachers, administrators, and Board of Education members in early February. Numerous parents and a large group of teachers and staff indicated their interest in participating in this process. The stakeholder selection process will occur this week and all interested participants will be notified. I wish I could honor each request, but the interviewing committee will be about 12 people. Stay tuned for further updates as we continue this important hiring process.
Open Choice Book Club
A number of teachers and administrators are participating in a professional development experience designed to facilitate discussion and deepen knowledge about working with diverse students and families. This no-cost program is open to Hartford area districts participating in the Open Choice. We are reading the book, New Ways to Engage Parents: Strategies and Tools for Teachers and Leaders, K-12, and will participate in three after-school on-district discussions. Several of our building administrators are participating along with 10 teachers. This program will conclude in early April with an event with the book’s author, Dr. Patricia Edwards, a distinguished professor of teacher education at Michigan State University. I am truly grateful to those participating as we seek to find new and creative ways to welcome, encourage and involve parents in the Portland Schools.
In a recent article in The Hartford Courant, the notion of Superintendents’ evaluation processes was probed. The Portland Board of Education has worked diligently to develop a comprehensive school governance policy complete with an identified evaluation process for the Superintendent of Schools and a self-evaluation process for them as a Board of Education. This process consists of a mid-year evaluation, which is not written, but requires a meeting to discuss mid-year progress on our shared goals. It also includes an extensive evaluation conducted at the end of each school year that includes a written narrative, which evaluates me in several areas of performance expectations including educational leadership, organizational management, student achievement, community relations, Board of Education relations, and personal and professional qualities.
I am convinced that members of your Portland Board of Education recognize the power and potential to improve teaching, learning and student achievement in our school district through a cooperative, purposeful and professional working relationship that must exist between us. Their commitment to providing me with ongoing honest feedback and guidance is to be commended.