safety, budgets, and Edwin on the agenda
By Becky Harvey
Kosta Karamanakis, student representative to the Dudley-Charlton School Committee, started off last Wednesday’s meeting with a report of his visit to the presidential inauguration in Washington DC. He returned only just before the meeting. He was part of a Student Council program that invites select students to take part in a very special program. Later in the meeting he read a thank you to the committee for its efforts to make the schools a safer place. Karamanakis made sure to say that it isn’t the role of just the school committee, but of the entire school community, including students, who are responsible for creating a safe environment.
Superintendent Sean Gilrein had the floor next for the superintendent’s report. He reviewed Governor Deval Patrick’s newly released budget. All of the current target aid will be removed with this new budget, a great concern to Gilrein. He made sure to note that these changes were only “proposed.” They still have yet to pass the House and Senate before they are written in stone.
With safety as a top concern of late, the fingerprint check bill, which will go into effect state-wide in 2013, was the next topic of concern. This bill is an added criminal check over the CORI check, which is currently required for all who work in the public schools. Though CORI checks are free to schools, fingerprinting will not be. As it stands, nobody is sure which departments will absorb the cost. All new hires for 2013-2014 will be required to have a new fingerprint check, in addition to other checks already in place. Gilrein noted that current employees will be required to submit to the checks by the 2015-2016 school year.
STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs are up and coming in many local school systems. The high school has been awarded two grants to help expand this program. Grants were:
$1,466 for a Lenovo think pad for the science department from Webster Five Cent Savings Bank
$2,824 toward building materials for an introductory engineering course from Millenium Power.
$5,000 for the Shepherd Hill Regional High School for their Leadership Development Program, awarded by WPI and Karl Storz.
Julian MacDonald, Executive Director, and representative of the Southern Worcester County Educational Collaborative was present to review the collaborative’s first quarter report. The collaborative helps school districts by supporting them with services needed for special education students, life skills classrooms, providing assistive devices and more. They also provide professional development for school staff members. Over two hundred and fifty teachers, mostly special education, have attended the collaborative’s programs over the past few years. MacDonald shared the report as a result of new laws requiring transparency. The group has never been required to provide financials in the past. The committee voted to accept everything that was presented by MacDonald.
The proposed budget supports smaller class sizes and adds a few additional teacher to help raise scores in math and English. With a slight influx of capital, there are also some proposed upgrades to the current buildings. Also being looked at is the possibility of upgrading the schools’ energy efficiency. Gilrein stressed that this initial budget plan stresses the importance of keeping staff at levels to allow teachers to properly educate the students of Charlton and Dudley. He also spoke to the importance of keeping up with new technologies so that the students and teachers could remain current. Gilrein made a point of stating that the provided budget was only a preliminary and assured the committee that there would be “lots and lots” of further discussion in the months to come.
“Edwin,” an integrated suite of tools and resources, which was introduced to the committee, is a Race to the Top initiative. It allows educators to access up-to-date student information as well as educational resources for students and teachers. Curriculum tools, analytics, student assessment tools and digital resources are all parts of the Edwin program, which will be available to schools across the state. By using the Edwin program, teachers won’t have to scramble to drag information from many different places and across many different districts. This tool allows teachers to keep all major teaching tools in one place. The entire curriculum can be mapped within the program. There is a built-in “Early Warning Indicator System” that will help teachers identify struggling students as well as to help them figure out which tools would be most beneficial to those students. This program will show whether students are on track to graduate, based on attendance, testing and other indicators. The program doesn’t compare students to each other, rather, it determines if the students have hit specific educational goals as they progress through the grades.
Current statewide Edwin results show that students in grades 1-6 have a high risk of not graduating. Only around sixty percent of the state’s students are hitting the goals in those grades. Edwin results do show that current high-schoolers are at lower risk, with over eighty percent on track to graduate. These results can help school systems to address issues by seeing where they are failing. Almost the most impressive is Edwin’s ability to generate information on how students do after graduation. The information is also based specifically with relation to the classes those graduates took while in high school and what effect those classes had after graduation. This is a growing and evolving program that ties into the National Student Clearing House. Gilrein joked that no student would be able to put on his or her aluminum hat to keep this “big brother” from tracking him or her.