The Mamaroneck School Board kicked off its first meeting of the new school year with some good news and updates from the summer before diving into the details of the districts goals for 2009-2010. Also kicking off at this weekend’s homecoming is private fundraising to renovate the high school football field.
Private Partnership for Memorial Field
The board is continuing with plans, announced at its July 6 meeting, to partner with community groups on a modified field proposal.
The scaled-back plan, described by Board President Linnet Tse, would reorient the high school’s Memorial Field and install synthetic turf there, allowing lights and a track to be installed at a later date. Several private groups have expressed an interest in contributing funding for such a plan, adding their monies to the $500,000 in district funds earmarked for high school field work in 2004 and a $250,000 pledge from Assemblyman George Latimer. No bond or community vote would be required.
Fields for Kids, the local non-profit the has been advocating for new fields, is kicking off its fundraising efforts this weekend in connection with the homecoming football game on Saturday, September 26. A release from the organization reports there will be an information and sales booth at the game. The aim of the campaign, dubbed project 2010, is to quickly raise funds sufficient to open a renovated field by the fall of 2010.
Superintendent Search Ongoing
Ms. Tse also discussed the search for a new superintendent to replace Dr. Fried, who will be retiring on June 30. She noted that “the board is committed to going through a full national search for this critical position.” The board has been interviewing search firms and hopes to select one by next week.
UPDATE Friday, September 25: Ms. Tse reported that a search firm had been selected and a formal announcement would be made next week.
The consultants will help plan a process for getting community input for a detailed profile of a new superintendent. The focus groups should have completed their work by early November, which will allow a profile to be developed by the end of that month.
The next step, recruiting and interviewing, will be confidential, “which is really necessary to attract the highest quality candidates,” explained Ms. Tse. The board hopes to be able to announce the new superintendent in April or early May.
FAQs, additional information and updates on the process are available on the district website.
District Goals Mostly Continue Recent Work
District goals for the year, presented by Dr. Fried and his administrative team, for the most part, represent advances in ongoing initiatives, rather than dramatic new directions. (See the district website for all the goals.)
Consistency is Back: As part of its goal to review and strengthen district-wide assessments, the district will be scrutinizing standards and grading practices at the secondary schools for consistency within departments. Annie Ward, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, acknowledged that this objective “is a thorny one.”
Two years ago, Dr. Fried proposed a budget that included the hiring of content-area curriculum directors to address consistency concerns. That budget failed, however, in part because of opposition to the new administrators. Since then, secondary department chairs have working to improve consistency across grades and even content areas, as demonstrated in their goals presentations last May.
Ms. Ward noted that eSchoolData, the district’s computerized student data system, makes this type of inquiry easier.
She also described tension with another goal, however: the development of a Response to Intervention (RTI) plan in accordance with state mandates. The RTI initiative, which requires teachers to modify classroom practices to support struggling students, “muddies the water” when consistency of grading practices is being examined.
Ms. Ward will work with other administrators and teachers to see how to frame this issue and yield measurable data.
More Student Learning Initiatives: By June, the district expects to have in place a consistent district-wide Instructional Support Team (IST) model. An IST is made up of building-level personnel (and a parent, if appropriate). The team reviews school-based information regarding a child who continues to struggle after the teacher has implemented modifications in curriculum and instruction. Currently, there is an IST operating at every level (elementary, middle school and high school) but there is no consistency, said Anthony Minotti, assistant superintendent for support services, personnel and administration.
Ongoing work on a K-8 balanced literacy program includes a new word study program for first and second graders at Central, Chatsworth and Murray Avenue schools. The “Words Their Way” program, which teaches phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling and vocabulary, was implemented at Mamaroneck Avenue School in February.
Collaborative co-teaching partnerships, which are in their third year at the elementary schools, will be extended to the Hommocks and high school.
More Tech Support for Teaching and Learning: Continuing a trend from last year, technology continues to be increasingly important in assessing student learning, sharing and assessing teaching practices, and communicating with parents and community members. A new monthly e-newsletter has been launched by Debbie Manetta, the district public information officer. The district will continue to work to improve communications.
Meryl Rubinstein, assistant superintendent for business operations, is working to provide a new five-year financial plan for the district, as well as to plan for reserves against expenses like tax certioraris. In addition, the district is exploring the possibility of entering into an energy performance contract.
Reorganization at Central Administration
With Dr. Minotti now serving as assistant superintendent for both student support services and personnel/administration, certain central office functions have been redistributed.
English as a Second language (ESL) programs have been moved to Ms. Ward’s purview in curriculum and instruction, as have teacher evaluations, which previously had been part of the personnel function.
Ms. Rubinstein now has responsibility for policies and health services, which were previously under personnel/administration and student support services, respectively.
Future Business: Academic Intervention Services
At its study session on October 6, the board will hear a presentation about the newly-adopted Academic Intervention Services (AIS) plan, which can be found on the district website in the Curriculum and Instruction tab. The community is invited to attend.
- Mamaroneck High School Drama Director John Fredricksen, known as “Mr. Fred” to scores of PACE students and alumni, has been awarded the prestigious Rod Marriot Award by the New York State Theatre Education Association.
- MHS senior Daniel Cooney was honored this summer with the Baseball Research Award from the Society for American Baseball for his Original Science Research (OSR) project and research paper, entitled “The Effect of Bat Composition on Swing Speed and Ball Exit Speed.”
- MHS seniors Lois Sobel and Natalie Diacovo have been named as semi-finalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. They were chosen from a pool of 1.5 million juniors who took the PSAT last year.
- MHS junior Ben Silverstein won a third place medal at the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, California this summer.
- Board member Robin Nichinsky reported that the districts’ auditors have given the district a clean bill of health. The full report will be shared at an upcoming board meeting.