Superintendent's Report for December, 2012
During the first few months of becoming Superintendent, I have focused on an entry and transition plan that included setting up and holding monthly meetings with principals, directors of the various areas of responsibility, leadership of the two Associations, leadership of the two Boards, and the teacher liaison group. Much of my time was spent listening to various perspectives about the current status of the district, and leading the Boards through a process to identify priority goals for the coming months. Now that those goals have been identified and approved, for the remainder of the year my monthly superintendent report will focus on a report of activities and accomplishments for the three goals identified as priorities for the Five Town CSD Board. Last month, I submitted a working draft of an action plan to achieve the Five Town CSD and MSAD # 28 Board goals. As a working draft, that document will capture the ongoing work to bring the goals to fruition over a period of several years. Administrators and staff will be key to shaping the activities that will become more focused and specific over time. One of the challenges of leadership is to maintain a focus on goals, when there are many competing demands for time and attention. It will be incumbent on all of the district’s leadership to periodically return to the goals to make sure we are accomplishing what we have set out to do. Certainly, the board goals will need to be reviewed at least annually, but a longer range multi-year view is intentional , based upon the Board’s identification of the need for stability, succession planning, and continuous forward progress. This is consistent with a concern that I have repeatedly heard from staff that the district leadership identify a direction and stay the course.
Goal: Evaluate programs proactively and make decisions about continuation
Program evaluation is a complex process, which is perhaps the reason that many districts talk about program evaluation, but few get around to actually doing it. Often program evaluation is discussed as a topic around the time of budget development, but the reality is that program evaluation is an indicator of a culture of continuous improvement that should pervade every aspect of our work year round. We should be basing decisions about program adoption, continuation, expansion, revision, or abandonment on evidence of how effectively or efficiently progress is being made toward identified goals. We have a wealth of data about student achievement in the district, much of it very positive. The challenge is to put the data into a form that staff and administrators can use to make recommendations to the Board, and that the Board can use to inform their decisions.
I have introduced a program evaluation format for pilot programs to the administrative team and shared the format with the curriculum committee. The reason for having an evaluative process for pilot programs as a starting place is two-fold. First, we should be encouraging and supporting entrepreneurial ideas as a part of research and development. Educators of all people should be looking for innovative ways to teach and learn. Those ideas need to be sought and supported. Second, when ideas are tried on a small scale to test them out before widespread implementation, there is an opportunity to evaluate the success of the idea to see if it should be continued, expanded, or abandoned.
The administrative team has developed an initial draft of some key questions to be answered for broader program evaluation. This is important, because the shape that program evaluation takes depends upon the initial question that is raised, much as in the field of action research. Teachers and other staff members who are intimately involved with the program being looked at need to be part of the process. We especially need to look at the value gained from the program, both as an intended outcome and possibly as an unintended consequence.
The administrative team is in the early stages of identify existing programs for consideration of program evaluation. An eventual goal would be to have an evaluation plan that is known to all, and includes a cycle of evaluation similar to the curriculum review cycle.
In another area of evaluation, the teacher evaluation committee has been reconvened after a lapse of meeting. The group is looking at the effect of having a three-year probationary period for teachers, as well as discussing how first and second year continuing contract teachers will have an evaluation score to consider in the event of a RIF situation.
We have also established the International Advisory Committee, which is charged with advising the Board regarding the scope and scale of international cultural experiences for staff and students. We have a recommendation for membership and plan to set up the first meeting this month. I have included this committee under the broad topic of program evaluation, because it is important to revisit the vision for international cultural and travel opportunities, and to set the parameter for these offerings.
The Administrator Evaluation Plan, which has been approved by the Board, is being implemented, and I am meeting monthly with administrators. Most administrators will have a full evaluation this year, in keeping with the timeline that was established.
Goal: Improve technology:
Last year, a one-year technology plan was submitted to the Department of Education in late June to comply with the State requirement. In late August, a technology committee was convened to draft a new multi-year technology plan for the Board’s consideration in January. A sub-committee has been writing the draft plan and will have the plan ready for the technology committee to consider this month.
A Board Technology Committee is being formed and is given the charge of making recommendations to the Board to use technology as a tool to not only be integrated with teaching, but to transform the educational opportunities for students and staff.
Hopefully, you will have noticed that the website has been improved. Board policies are now posted and information is updated regularly to remain current. We still have much work to do in this area in order to communicate effectively with all who have an interest in our schools
Goal: Standards Based Education:
A series of three joint Board workshops involving the boards and administration of all five towns have been held, and both administrators and the board will be discussing the next steps to take toward standards based education. The Five town Advisory committee has been reformed and will be continuing this work.
Art and Science of Teaching has been adopted as a comprehensive instructional framework and common language of instruction. Having this adopted common instructional framework puts us ahead of many districts that are moving towards the use of standards. Use of the Art and Science of Teaching is being brought to fruition by the full staff. It is critically important for staff to not only be involved, but to take the lead in forming and implementing study groups. Much of this framework is already well known and used by staff members. What is different is that this common framework sets the stage for staff members to work with each other collegially to improve student learning. Now that all staff have been trained in overview of Art and Science of Teaching as instructional framework based on research, a Steering Committee has started to implement instructional rounds. Instructional rounds is a process where teachers and administrators observe each other and use a specific protocol to identify and discuss excellent teaching, thinking of ways to adapt or adopt those strategies in their own classrooms and content areas. I anticipate more teachers will want to be involved in instructional rounds as a way to become reflective about teaching practices. The Steering Committee will reconvene K-12 to advise the next steps in bringing this instructional framework to full fruition in the coming months and years.
The district has joined the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning in order to have access to the resources of professional development, and access to the development of curriculum and assessment documents. I have attended several of the leadership meetings of the cohort, and several teachers attended a multiple day training to learn more about how to explicitly teach higher order reasoning skills. The presenter for this series of workshops, available only to cohort members, is well known author, Debra Pickering, who is a researcher with Robert Marzano. Reasoning skills is one of the three components of standards based instruction, along with subject content and habits of mind. Staff at the high school are already identifying and assessing the habits of mind that students need to develop in order to become lifelong and independent learners.
I have been able to work with other leaders among Midcoast superintendents and curriculum coordinators to identify areas of common interest to advance standards based education as we work to develop proficiency for all students. We are looking for ways to collaborate on professional development for the Art and Science of Teaching and the implementation of standards based education as a system. Some of us are attending a training to learn about the use of technology in iObservations to observe classrooms using the Art and Science of Teaching. In this district, we are not using this information as an evaluative tool. We are giving staff an opportunity to become informed about the framework and to observe each other as a professional development opportunity that is apart from their formal evaluation process.
Finally, we have developed a coaching system for teachers who are new to teaching. Teachers who are in their first or second year of teaching have an opportunity to observe more experienced teachers for a morning once a month, then meet as a group to discuss one of the ten lesson design questions that comprise the Art and Science of Teaching.
Other Areas of Activity:
Russ Holden and I hold monthly meetings with administrators at Midcoast School of Technology to discuss any issues that need to be addressed as we work to make sure our students have meaningful and unencumbered opportunities to pursue the pathway of career and technical education
I serve on the Communities that Care Board of Directors
Whenever possible, Russ and/or I meet with the Wellness team, participate in the Helm, which is the advisory committee for Americorp, participate in Childfind meetings, have had 504 meetings to review the process of developing, coordinating and implementing 504 plans. In addition, I have attended the West Bay Rotary as a guest speaker. I have also participated with a community group to develop a Five Town Literacy for ME plan.
Please note that Russell Holden is a major participant in these activities, along with Nick Ithomitis, Graham Bode, and Piet Lammert as the building principal and assistant principals at CHRHS. Such a scope of work can only be effectively accomplished by a team of people who communicate well and share the goals that are being pursued.