The new school year is underway with the first week under our belt. I spent a good deal of the last three days in and about our schools and it appears that our students and staff are engaged with the teaching and learning one would expect. It is wonderful to see “our kids” back in the buildings. I am grateful for the work of the administrative team and our staff for their efforts to get this year rolling. I am also thankful for parents’ patience and understanding in dealing with some of the normal opening week challenges.
Board of Education Update
This week, the Board of Education met. As in the past, I will briefly highlight what occurred at the meeting. If you have thoughts relative to the topics discussed, you may contact BOE members through their email addresses located on our District website.
· Members welcomed our new student representative to the BOE, Jonathan Backus.
· Members accepted a donation from Pratt & Whitney for our Porland High School Project Lead the Way program.
· Members reviewed an updated staffing report. We have hired many new staff members this year, including more than a dozen new teachers.
· 47 new students have enrolled for this school year and an additional 17 students who participate in Open Choice have enrolled. (Information regarding student withdrawal information is incomplete and will not be finalized until October 1.)
· Our business manager, Laura Webb, reviewed the 2014-15 year end finances. She also updated members about our Capital Improvement Plan progress this summer that included the renovation of two Boys’ bathrooms at Brownstone and new floor tiling in numerous classrooms at Gildersleeve.
· Our Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Technology, Krista Karch provided information about our two-day new teacher orientation program that she ran with grade 4 teacher, Ramsey Binnington. (As part of this new teacher orientation initiative, Mrs. Binnington will be providing ongoing support and guidance throughout the school year.)
· Dr. Karch also reviewed the convocation and teacher profession development events that occurred on Monday and Tuesday. This included a video highlighting many alumni who sent clips describing their success since graduating from PHS. This video will be featured on our town’s website, http://www.portlandct.org/.
· I reviewed the 2015-2016 Teaching and Learning Priorities that have been identified. Members also discussed related BOE priorities for this new school year, including the direction to explore the option of closing the portable classrooms at Valley View.
· Members listened to a concerned citizen who requested their consideration of changing school schedules, particularly for high school aged students. (The Board has agreed to make this an agenda item for a later date.)
· Several new policies have been approved by the Policy Subcommittee and will be considered for full Board approval next month.
New Professional Development for Science Teachers at PMS and BIS
We are lucky to be one of 12 Connecticut school districts sending teachers to the Next Generation Earth and Space Science Literacy Instruction Expertise (NESTLE) project at Central Connecticut State University this year. This included more than a week of training this summer with additional training during this school year. The focus of this professional learning experience will be the new earth science standards as well as the Connecticut Core Standards (writing). Grade 8 science teacher, Susan McDougall and new grade 6 Brownstone science teacher, Kelsey Russo, are participating in this training initiative.
Board of Education (Central) Office
We have relocated both the Director of Student Services (Dr. Mary Anne Morris) and the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology (Dr. Krista Karch) from the high school to the Board of Education Office on the top floor of the Portland Town Hall, across the hallway from the First Selectman’s Office.
Smarter Balanced Results
Today, the Connecticut State Department of Education released statewide scores for the new Smarter Balanced exams. As you know, all districts in the state have transitioned to the new Common Core-aligned exams that presented new “higher bar” standards for students. While it is too early to comment on our district and school outcomes, I assure you that we will be digging into these results in the coming weeks. Certainly, we will be making a presentation to the Board of Education in the fall after we have had a chance to analyze the scores and plan our course of action. Statewide, district and school results can be found online at www.ct.gov/sde/SettingtheBaseline2015.
Best wishes to you as we say goodbye to August.
Philip B. O’Reilly, Ed.D.