Saturday, September 10, 2011

Welcome Back!

I hope you had a wonderful summer. I recognize that many members of our school community were affected by Hurricane Irene. If you need assistance, please speak to your child’s teacher or a Somerville Public School staff member. The school district would like to help and assist, as feasible.

Despite recent statewide criticism and negativism associated with public education, the Somerville Public Schools remains committed to what really matters most, developing the whole child. The district added personnel, reinstated sport offerings, and enhanced technology opportunities while decreasing taxes for the 2011-2012 school year. The Somerville Board of Education is committed to providing a quality educational experience for all children and a positive climate for all school community members.

Unfortunately, our recent AYP status reports suggest areas in need of improvement. Although difficult, we have to accept the fact that our society relies upon the one-dimensional, standardized testing to grade all school districts and all children using the same measuring stick, no matter how unreasonable or fair we consider them to be. As superintendent, I will not encourage “teaching to the test,” but rather ask that educators use the test to compass our discussions and guide our action plans for improvement. Coupled with the recent district-wide needs assessment, we will be formulating a strategic plan with the Board of Education in October aimed at improving these areas of deficiency.

The district has made significant advancements in the area of technology this summer under the direction of Mr. Jason Solomon. In addition to 95 new laptops and wireless access at the high school, we have increased our internet connection speed tenfold. Plans are underway to provide wireless access to the middle school and Van Derveer School by mid-year. The Board of Education purchased a private fiber optic network that will connect all schools and provide for instant district-wide video chat and streaming, instant file transfers and much more. Mr. Solomon is in the process of launching our new website interface which will provide each educator with his/her own web space to post homework, blog, podcast, host discussion groups, survey and disseminate information. Finally, the Board of Education added a help desk (see Mr. Solomon’s humorous video below) to provide staff members with a dedicated technician to assist remotely on a daily basis in order to minimize the loss of valuable instruction time.

The district continues to execute its capital improvement plan aimed at providing safe, efficient facilities. Capital projects completed over the summer at Van Derveer School include the replacement of interior lighting and data cabling. Somerville High School improvements include new floors in the auxiliary gym and Project Lead the Way classroom, track resurfacing, new HVAC units on the first floor and parking lot paving. All three schools had partial roof replacements projects as well as solar panels installed.

It is important to note several procedural changes with regards to Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB). The Board revised the HIB policy over the summer to fulfill requirements of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. As mandated, this policy was discussed with all staff and students at their respective opening day ceremonies. The Board has appointed school safety teams and an anti-bullying specialist in each building. If you hear of an incident, please contact the respective school’s anti-bullying specialist (contact information can be found on the district homepage). The specialist will determine if an incident is bullying and whether it will have a nexus to the school. All reports will be investigated and parents/guardians will be immediately notified by the building principal.

I am honored to serve as your superintendent and privileged to be an advocate for your school district. Successful schools are the product of an inclusive learning environment in which students, parents/guardians, staff members, administrators, and community members grow and learn together. One of the strongest research findings in the field of education is that a child’s academic success is related to the connection between the home and the school. I encourage you to get involved in your child’s education this year!

I look forward to working alongside of you this year and wish you all the best for an extremely successful 2011-2012 school year.
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