Schools Reflect on First Year of 5-Year Plan

            Superintendent Doug White gave a mid-cycle review of the Tri-Town schools’ five-year strategic plan, summarizing all that has occurred according to the plan’s timeline and what is still to come as year two starts in September.

            On June 4, White went over each of the goals of the strategic plan – 21stcentury learning, social-emotional learning, and global citizenship, as well as the areas identified for exploration and implementation under each theme across the four school districts addressed in each school’s two-year plan to help meet those goals.

            The aim is to achieve consistency in these areas across the four districts.

            In 21stcentury learning, the focus is on the four Cs – collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking – and providing at least one opportunity for student growth within each C.

            During this first year, educators and administrators were tasked with identifying the gaps in the current state of the four Cs in each school and to find ways of implementing project-based learning opportunities to increase student engagement and rigor in all subjects.

            “This has been an opportunity for us to really focus in on these three particular areas and really make sure that we’re going to be doing them well, and it’s really going to affect the learning that’s going to take place in our schools and the development of skills that will allow our students to be 21stcentury learners,” White said.

            Project-based learning is at the core of each goal of the strategic plan as schools strive to imbed at least two project-based learning opportunities each year.

            In social-emotional learning, the focus is on relationships and the student as an individual “as they build a sense of belonging and engagement,” said White. The Responsive Classroom approach, which focuses on the link between social-emotional learning and academic success, has been implemented in grades K through 8 and imbedded into the classroom. Training opportunities are available for new staff and ongoing monitoring of the success of the approach to identify areas where adjustments might be needed year after year.

            Under social-emotional, behavior has been an area of focus with administrative teams assessing data and looking for patterns and trends and ways to address them.

            “We want to move away from the days of suspension and detention and look more about ‘restorative justice’ and look for ways the students are going to benefit and learn from the behaviors they have done,” said White.

            Restorative justice is a behavioral approach that embraces mediation and agreement between students rather than punishment.

            Safety in school buildings is also worked on under social-emotional as administrative staff, educators, and local law enforcement work to make students feel more secure in their learning environments.

            Under global citizenship, the school districts hope to develop students’ awareness of diversity in culture and religion and open the dialog about these subjects to encourage respect and appreciation on multiculturalism both locally and abroad.

            Staff is receiving racial bias training and sensitivity training, White said, “as a result of some things that have happened at the high school.”

            The “big one” for the districts, White said, is the eventual alignment of a social studies curriculum across the board, and a civics course for high school freshmen is under development that will eventually be woven into the younger grades. Cultural proficiency, global themes, and civics will be introduced through project-based learning experiences moving forward, White said.

            “It can’t be understated how this carries through in every school … and it has been very well implemented,” said Old Rochester Regional School Committee member James Muse.

            The school committees will hold another joint meeting on September 26 at 6:30 pm in the junior high media room.

Joint meeting of the school committees

By Jean Perry

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