Vernon Board of Ed. updates long-term goals

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon - posted Wed., Apr. 13, 2011
Vernon Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Conway updates the Board of Education on the school system's long-term goals at the meeting on April 11. Photo by Steve Smith.
Vernon Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Conway updates the Board of Education on the school system's long-term goals at the meeting on April 11. Photo by Steve Smith.

The Vernon Board of Education met Monday, April 11, to update its plan to achieve the goals it set for itself.

Superintendent Mary Conway said she had met with her administration team to brainstorm and lay out pathways toward reaching the three main goals.

The first goal is “to build and improve relationships and partnerships with family and community.”

“We're looking at increasing overall communication,” Conway said. “Electronically, our websites need to be updated – our school websites, as well as our district website.”

Conway said electronic notification systems, such as iParent, iTeacher, and iPass are being implemented, which assist with student attendance, grading and communication.

“iParent is a great communication tool,” Conway said. “Parents can just log on and see where their children are [academically] – did they turn in that homework assignment last night, what was the grade on that quiz, and things like that. We think it’s important to expand that.”

Each school will also choose at least one partnership with a local business or civic organization. The school system will also collaborate with the adult education department to create a “Parent Academy,” which Conway said is still a work in progress.

The second goal – “to increase achievement through high-quality curriculum, instruction and assessment” – will also be approached using technology.

“We're trying to have a technology audit, to figure out what those gaps are, and create a plan to move forward,” Conway said.

The system’s teacher evaluation and professional development plan is also being revised.

Conway said the ARRA funds, which have been helping to fund professional development, will be used up by September, and the administration is seeking ways to use the remaining monies “thoughtfully, to provide resources to teachers.”

More attention will be focused on - along with teachers - the efficiency of teacher development days.

“Just how are we using those early-dismissal days?” Conway postulated, “What are we doing with them? How are we using our whole days, and is there something else we can be doing to embed professional development in some way?”

The math and applied studies curriculums are being revised, and those revisions will soon be before the board. Revisions to the language arts curriculum are commencing.

“We're working with the state,” Conway said. “They are using the common core state standards, and they are preparing the scope and sequence. We are trying to mirror them and watch what they are doing.”

The biggest piece, Conway said, is the system's internal accountability.

“We set those common assessments up three or four times a year,” she said. “Then we're measuring ourselves against ourselves – what we're teaching, what we say we're going to teach, and what the kids are learning, and then we can form our instruction and professional development that way.”

The third goal is “to provide safe environments that are socially, emotionally and physically conducive to learning.”

Conway said a second day of training on school climate was just completed.

“That was all about a safe environment for kids,” she said. “We’re going to be rolling that out to our schools, as well.”

Conway said a social-emotional curriculum is also being developed. “Part of that is developmental guidance,” she said. “Part of that is positive behavior support.”

Another part is to respect and understand differences, and respect diversity.

“We always say that that is a part of everything,” Conway said. “But [from] my conversations with parents since last fall, I feel we need to articulate that, and say what we are doing in terms of diversity and strengthening our students’ skills in that area.”

Another part of that goal is to increase the schools’ capacities to be used as community centers.

“That's an extremely expensive proposition,” Conway told the board, “so, I think we are looking at that. We would love to have all of our schools be community centers. They could have social services, and could be a place to play basketball and use the library centers in the summer. We don't know what that's going to look like, but we'll bring those proposals to you.”

Student identification badges are also being looked at, Conway said, but not simply to identify students. She said the hope is that the badges can be used as electronic cards for purchasing lunches, as well as to provide access for students, such as for those in the vocational agriculture building, where students currently use key fobs to enter for after-hours duties when the school buildings are locked.

Grant opportunities will also be sought for any improvements to school buildings or infrastructure.

Conway said that she can't assure the board that all of the goals will be met by the fall.

“I expect that the board would be looking at these in the fall,” Conway said, “and then, at the last September board meeting, would be approving something even more particular than this.”

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