Last week, seniors Haley Turecek and Christopher Dinnis (and their parents) accompanied me to a ceremony at the Saybrook Point Inn in Old Saybrook where they were presented with the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) Superintendent/Student Recognition Award. This annual award of excellence is presented annually to two seniors in recognition for service to the school, academic prowess relative to ability, and service to others in the community.
Haley Turecek is a member of the National Honor Society, the Youth Action Council, the Student Senate, and the Key Club. She has also been a lifelong Girl Scout. Haley has been a top scholar at Portland High School and has been awarded numerous honors for academic excellence and leadership. Beyond her school work, Haley has been an avid dancer for eleven years.
Christopher Dinnis has done a great deal for his community and has worked hard to meet his goal of becoming an Eagle Scout. Chris has numerous leadership positions, including President of the Robotics Club, Vice-President of the National Honor Society and is a drum major for the high school band and participated on the varsity soccer and track teams. Academically, Chris is an outstanding student and has taken almost every honors and advanced course available.
Meeting with Parents
Last week, I met in my office in an open forum with a group of eight parents who responded to my invitation to meet and share with me their perceptions of our schools and our programs. I felt the 90-minute meeting was very well spent for me and for these parents who clearly care deeply about our schools. I offer the same invitation to any group of neighbors or townspeople who would like the opportunity to meet with me to share thoughts, ask questions, or provide valuable feedback regarding the Portland Public Schools.
Laurie Boske and Eileen Katz have informed me of their intent to retire at the conclusion of this school year. Laurie Boske has been an educator for 37 years and Eileen Katz for 41 years. Their many years of service to children are a testament to their dedication and commitment to public education. Laurie and Eileen have advocated for masses of students and made a vast difference in the lives of so many. They have much to celebrate and in Portland we have much for which to be grateful!
Leaving us will be hard for Laurie and Eileen, but finding their respective replacements will be even harder. On Tuesday evening, I will outline for the Board of Education my plan for appointing new leaders. I will mirror the selection process I have used in the past two years. Toward that end, I am seeking four parents, two from each building to serve on a single interviewing team. Similarly, I will be seeking two administrators, two BOE members, as well as several teachers and staff members to join this team. Please let me know in writing if you have an interest in serving on this interviewing committee in this capacity. (This will require an afternoon dedicated to reviewing applications and two full days of interviewing candidates sometime in late January.)
Portland High School teacher, Deb Wood, has also notified me that she intends this to be her final year in teaching. She has spent nearly four decades teaching Portland students. For many of us, saying goodbye in June will be difficult. However, please join me in congratulating each of these exceptionally fine educators today!
Digital Citizenship in the Portland Public Schools
One of the topics mentioned at last week's parent gathering had to do with students who now have increased access to technology and the need for us to increase our online monitoring of students when using their new Chromebooks. Digital citizenship is an important aspect of our 1:1 technology initiative and I asked Dr. Karch to share some of her thoughts about digital citizenship.
Addressing the 21st century skill of digital citizenship is an important teaching and learning priority in the Portland Public Schools. Through the promotion of digital citizenship, our goal is to support both staff and students to learn, communicate and collaborate safely and responsibly in a digital arena. Being a digital citizen can include many responsibilities that include, emailing with etiquette, reporting and preventing cyber bullying, learning how to protect private information, recognizing the importance of an impeccable social media profile, and understanding appropriate technological use at appropriate times.
As the Portland Public School District advances our vision for 1:1 accessibility, both staff and students have ongoing interaction with technology and must have the capacity to examine the impact of their on-line activity. Many of our learners embrace technology on a daily basis without understanding the necessity of becoming a digital citizen. As such. our curriculum will incorporate the founding principles of 21st Century learning and digital citizenry allowing for ongoing advancement of skills.
Technology use has certainly added a new level of responsibility for all of us, including our students and their teachers. Appropriate and responsible technology use will always be a hallmark of our increased on line presence in Portland as we continue to rollout 1:1 devices to our students. As many of you know, we now have an updated Acceptable Use Policy. As presented in this policy, we will continue to build our students' respect for these devices, educate them about the importance of digital rights and responsibilities, and demonstrate and ongoing commitment to protecting our students. As with anything we do here in our school system, we ask that you reinforce these important themes at home.
We recently purchased an education-focused software tool called GoGuardian. This amazing software offers Chromebook management and web filtering. It allows Chromebook filtering, monitoring, and management and enables us to monitor student activity online, filter potentially harmful or distracting content, and recover lost or stolen devices. Our teachers are all learning how to use this management tool, which can be used at the classroom level.