Progress Toward Goals and Superintendent’s Professional Growth
New Superintendent’s Induction Program Content Day
I attended my 3rd of 8 full-day content sessions on October 1st. The primary areas of focus were identifying and developing District strategy and evaluating principals. I consider any conference where you leave with at least one good idea that you can put into practice a worthwhile endeavor. The day forced me to critically examine the strategy work that we had undertaken as a District Leadership Team last year. A realization that I had is that our strategic objectives are too narrow. Another concern that surfaced was the fact that, as a District Leadership Team, we have not had an opportunity to do the type of root cause analysis that is needed to be reasonably sure that our Strategic Objectives are the right areas of focus to improve our student achievement. We also had a guest speaker through the wonders of Skype who detailed how he resolved this tension. It was a thought provoking day.
In the past two weeks I have visited the Forest Avenue and Mulready Elementary Schools. In each classroom visit I had the opportunity to visit fourth grade classrooms. In 1/3 of the fourth grade classrooms I observed, I had wonderful, rich discussions with students about their literacy tools that they were using while reading. The students were focusing on the skill of good readers ask questions. I was impressed with how each student I spoke with displayed metacognition of the strategies they were using while engaged with literature. The remaining 2/3 of the fourth grade math classrooms were engaged in math instruction. I am aware of the heightened concern that many families are feeling regarding the new math program and I invite them to join Karen Martin, Director of Elementary Curriculum, on Wednesday October 8th, for a District Elementary Math Workshop Presentation in the Farley Elementary School Cafeteria from 6:30-8:30. Mrs. Martin will be presenting on the math workshop model using the Engage NY Program. The math instruction I observed was related to the skill of estimation and place value of larger numbers. The objective was developmentally appropriate. For parents that are looking for more information on the Engage NY Program, each elementary school website now has a link to more information. There are also some helpful videos regarding tackling homework. We will continue to monitor the efficacy of the program in helping our teachers present rigorous, standards-based math content in a manner that results in student learning and the transfer of skills.
Finance and Operations and Facilities
We currently only have one outstanding transportation issue that the transportation team is aware of. Our transportation provider, North Reading Transportation, has completed a safety study and we are awaiting the final written report.
Secondary School Enhanced Lockdown Drills
Our High School and Middle School held school safety drills on Friday, October 3rd. I would like to thank Mr. Reagan and Mr. Webster for the thoughtfully worded notifications they sent to families. The following information is taken directly from Mr. Reagan’s message to Hudson High Families: These drills allowed our students and staff to practice the District's enhanced school lock down procedures. Our new procedures have been developed in consultation with the Hudson Police and are based on practices identified by law enforcement agencies across the country supported by evidence from real life situations. The new procedures give students and staff options with respect to their response in the event of a crisis. In the unlikely event of a school crisis where the safety of the building is compromised, staff members will direct students to either barricade the classroom, evacuate the building, or fight back. On Friday, each building ran three short scenarios allowing all students and staff to practice each of the possible responses in a controlled manner. Students were briefed on the new procedures during short class meetings on the day prior to the drill being conducted.
Unfortunately, the need to conduct drills of this kind have become a reality in American schools. While we cannot possibly prepare for every scenario, we believe, and evidence supports, that the best way to keep individuals safe in the event of an emergency is by giving them options.
Parent and Community Groups
School Health and Safety Advisory Council
On Friday, September 26th, I attended the first School Health and Safety Advisory Council meeting for the 2104-2015 school year. This council has as its mission: To serve as a Hudson area community forum to address the topics of physical and mental health, wellness, safety and nutrition that influence student success and learning. Twenty-four people attended this meeting.
The goals identified for this year are:
1. Present recommended updates for Wellness Policy to School Health and Safety Advisory Council on December 12, 2014. After these recommendations are fully vetted by the full council they will be ready for presentation to the School Committee Policy Subcommittee.
2. Provide draft crisis guidelines to Superintendent for review. These will be presented to the council at the March 20, 2015 meeting.
3. Continue sharing of health and safety issues impacting learning through discussion and quarterly district-wide newsletter, e.g. healthy eating, physical activity, stress/depression/anxiety, substance abuse
The School Health and Safety Advisory Council has broken into two subcommittees to complete this work. I would like to thank Tammy Murphy and Lee Waingortin for volunteering to co-lead the crisis guidelines subcommittee and Ellen Capstick for leading the Wellness Policy Recommendation subcommittee. Mrs. Jenny Gormley, Director of Health, Nursing and Safety, does an outstanding job of chairing this group.
Middlesex County School Safety Summit
Mr. Reagan, Mr. Webster and I attended the Middlesex County School Safety Summit on Thursday, October 2nd. This is an annual program put on by Middlesex County DA Marian Ryan. This years line-up of speakers included MA Secretary of Education, Matthew Malone. Mr. Malone spoke about the Governor’s Task Force Report on School Safety which provides resources for school crisis planning. David Esquith, Director for the Office of Safe and Healthy Students, United States Department of Education, spoke to the audience about the need to take a balanced, operational approach to school safety planning. He highlighted for us that the focus on big national events often leads to tightly focused, narrow views of what school safety means. Examples he provided were the highly publicized student suicides due to bullying four years ago leading to a call for a focus by schools on bullying prevention programs, the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary and other recent school shootings leading to a focus by schools on active shooter response plans. Mr. Esquith counterbalanced this by showing the statistical fact that more children are severely impacted by bicycle accidents and drowning than by these more publicized events. He used these illustrations to encourage balance in our approach to school safety planning. It is all important, but it must be viewed broadly and all encompassing.
In my opinion, the most powerful speaker of the day was Michele Gay, M.Ed., founder of Safe and Sound Schools. http://www.safeandsoundschools.org/ This organization works as a clearinghouse of resources available to school communities and their website identifies the organization as the following: “(a) source for information, resources, and ideas for improving safety in your school community. We are a non-profit organization, dedicated to empowering community members to learn how they can join hands, hearts, and minds to make schools safer.”
Currently a resident of Sudbury, Mrs. Gay told the story of losing her youngest daughter in the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Through her sorrow and pain she found the strength to never give up and created this organization to support other communities make their schools safer. It was an honor to hear her speak.
Personnel and Celebrations
Special Education Community Outreach and Integration
We have had two excellent, well attended community wide special education events. The first was our fall integrated sport, Bocce Ball. We now have an integrated sport for each season that our students with special needs can participate in. We had 22 participants at the first meeting held at Forest Avenue. We ran two groups and had dads interacting with their children throughout the night. Mrs. Kilcoyne reports that this was a heartwarming event. We will have integrated basketball for our students in the winter and integrated track and field in the spring. This is another reason why I am so proud to be in Hudson. We also held our first sensory-friendly movie morning where about 50 attendees gathered at Hudson High School on Saturday, September 26th to watch the movie Frozen. I am told that the sound of children singing was beautiful. The families that attended are eagerly anticipating the next event and have shared some wonderful ideas about events they would like to see happen. Mrs. Kilcoyne is looking forward to exploring these further.
October 8 District Elementary Math Night 6:30-8:30 p.m. Farley
October 11 A Midsummer Night’s Dream 7:00 p.m. HHS
October 12 A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2:00 p.m. HHS
October 13 No School Columbus Day
October 15 &16 Elementary Half Days PreK-4Conferences
October 22 District Half Day Professional Day
October 23 HHS Evening Conferences
All enrollment numbers are up to date as of the writing of this report. They are unofficial numbers. The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education collects snapshots of enrollment data three times per year October, March, and June. I will provide you with monthly enrollment and School Choice numbers so that you can be aware of the amount of fluctuation that may or may not be occurring on a monthly basis.