Back in the thick of it...

Last night I heard the BRRSD Superintendent speak. First I had to sit through a loooooooooooong meeting, but it was worth the wait!

I haven't been to a single BOE meeting this fall, nor have I been to a PTO meeting, and because of my job I have been largely absent from the school scene, so I felt somewhat out of the loop.

After a brief introduction, the talk turned, of course, to the upcoming budget vote. Two years ago, in an unexpected move, the district cut the library assistant position at all of the elementary schools. After that I started to pay attention to our district's activities. Last year the Superintendent held several pre-vote "get to know the budget" meetings. At one of them I pressed him, unsuccessfully to elaborate on what would get cut if the budget didn't pass. I left frustrated and a little bit mad. Apparently I wasn't the only person with that reaction, because this time he has made a "doomsday budget" public knowledge. He has included it in this power point presentation. See slide number 9 for the budget changes should it not pass. (He didn't cut library assistants again - I'm happy to see that). The budget will be presented at the January 27th BOE meeting.

Most of the discussion at his talk tonight was about Everyday Math (EM) and Langauge Arts and Literacy (LAL). EM is undergoing an extensive evaluation. In general, teachers in BR support the current math program. Last year a survey showed that discontent with the program was wider than "the few who complain at BOE meetings". A committee has been reviewing EM and other programs this fall and winter. The group reviewing it includes some 35 teachers. They are looking at other programs to find if there is one equal or better than EM. He wasn't willing to tell us which specific programs they were considering but he did mention that he wanted a more BALANCED program. He also made it clear that even if they group found a more suitable program, if the budget doesn't pass, then they would not change from EM. Too many students get tutoring in math - and it is a source of contention. LOOK FOR A DECISION AT THE FEBRUARY 24th BOE MEETING!

There was also a considerable amount of time spent discussing the language arts program. BRRSD NJ ask scores (in my humble opinion) are in the gutter and the administration has noticed! Someone said that parents have been very vocal in the need to bring in more direct instruction of grammar, spelling, etc. Dr. Schilder addressed this as well as other issues, including the need for increased teacher training in the language arts. He also said they are looking into new programs/textbooks, and that students now have access to a computer program that helps teachers assess students in LAL skills. He was quick to say that he wants to make sure this doesn't replace what needs to be done in the classroom. We were also alerted to the fact that our school's teachers are getting extra training from our in house LAL gurus.

Finally, NJ Monthly Rankings were discussed. (see my blog from August). The BR-high school principal as well as others contacted NJ Monthly requesting more information. On a point-by-point analysis, BR High School actually does better than Somerville HS (which scored in the 70s). Alas, no one has returned either the principal or the parent's request for more information. But it was noted that our language arts scores could be higher... maybe that had something to do with it?

I guess it feels good to be back in the saddle addressing our local educational system. After months of not having time to think about it, I'm glad I am once again engaged.


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