Education Changes, New Curriculums Discussed

The Rochester School Committee met on Thursday, February 7 to discuss numerous issues, including their preparation for the snowstorm that is expected this coming weekend, as well as potential changes in the state’s educational budget and a new learning curriculums in writing and science that are currently underway.

Director of Facilities Gene Jones assured the School Committee that his staff had taken all the precautions in the last day or so to assure that the Rochester Memorial was ready for the snowstorm.

 “We’re preparing for the storm.  That’s the latest thing we’re doing today.  Making sure that the fuel generator is up and on, that our transfer switch is operational, everything is ready to go to maintain the building for the storm,” said Jones.

He also said that the staff would be working Saturday to clear the fire lanes as well as any other maintenance necessary.

Jones added that an engineer had recently come to the school for a yearly inspection of the 15,000-gallon aboveground fuel service tank at the school, and that everything had checked out all right and paperwork had been filed.

Lastly, Jones said that a heat wheel that was leading to heating issues at new wing of the school had been repaired. Some teachers had voiced complaints regarding the temperature in the wing, but Jones said that this repair should solve the issue.

Superintendent Doug White spoke about Governor Deval Patrick’s presentation on January 23 of a new state budget, which includes a new $550 million investment in education for fiscal year 2014.

According to a report from the superintendent, the new investment in education “would provide universal access to high quality early education for children across the state, from birth to age five; fully fund K-12 education and allow for extended school days in high-need schools; make college more affordable and accessible for high school graduates; and allow community colleges to expand their efforts to provide students with the knowledge and skill training needed to succeed in the workplace.”

White added that if the governor’s plan were approved, it would mean a potential $593,336 for Old Rochester Regional (an increase of 2.17% over fiscal year 13) and $12,625 for Rochester Memorial (an increase of .7%).

“He’s put an emphasis on high quality education for all children in the state,” said White.  “The $593,336 would be a welcomed increase that will help us balance the local budget.”

He added that the proposal included $25 in funding per student in all districts within the state.

Assistant Superintendent Elise Frangos discussed the implementation of several new initiatives and a new curriculum within the school system, including two new programs—a new English and Language Arts (ELA) program and a new science program—that they hope will benefit in the student’s learning processes.

“Lot’s of initiatives have been placed on our shoulders, and as we swim through the sea of change, we’re entering, as far as our district, the implementation phase where we’re putting together our new unfolding ELA curriculum,” said Frangos.  “Teachers have worked very hard to create that curriculum.”

She added that teachers have been working in teams to look at student’s writing samples for the purpose of building the new ELA curriculum.

As far as the new science curriculum goes, she said that teachers have also been working to perfect what they hope will result in the strengthening of what she already considers to be a strong program.

“We are on the cusp of having those (new) standards approved,” said Frangos.  “I think we are (already) ahead of the curve with science.”

She added that the state currently has a shortage of approximately 100,000 workers in scientific fields.

“We don’t have the workforce to fill these jobs.  We hope our students will fill those voids.  My personal hope is that our children are excited about science,” said Frangos.

She added that students from grades 3-6 have recently undergone testing that they will use as a “dipstick into where our children are.  It’s very helpful to teachers.”

By Nick Walecka

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