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Schools and Board Get Back To Work

After an extended break, Greenwich Public Schools are back in session.

 

The Price Of Safety

After an extended school winter recess which started with a snow day on Friday, Feb. 8, the Board of Education will return to business at their next meeting on Feb. 21 at Julian Curtiss School, 7 p.m.

At the top of the agenda will be expected Action on Safety & Security Proposal , which was first presented at the board's work session before recess. The Administration's proposal came as the result of a district–wide audit and consultation with the First Selectman as well as the Greenwich Police Department.

The improvements and enhancements in security outlined in the recommendation call for a financial investment of $1.5 million are meant to "enhance access control in and out of schools."

If the request is authorized by the board, the admnistration will seek an interim appropriation for the funds through the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET) Budget Committee on March 12, the full BET on March 18 and the Representative Town Meeting on April 18.

Pomp and Circumstance

The board is expected to take Action on GHS Graduation Date  for the 2012-13 school year. According to the recommendation, the Administration is seeking a graduation date of Friday June 21, 2013.  

The Connectcut State Department of Education requires a graduation date after 180 days of classes, except if a district sets the calendar before the school year begins. Greenwich is taking advantage of this exception and is seeking to hold graduation for seniors on the 179th day of school. 

With the recent snow day earlier this month, the 180th or last day of school for students including the graduated seniors, will be Monday, June 24. It is unclear how the district will motivate the graduates to comply with the Monday attendance.

"Art Education is an Essential Part of the Intellectual Development of all Children" 

First presented at the board's work session earlier this month, Monitoring Report E-001/E003, Visual Arts states that "most people look for meaning in art and seek the message of the artist, but child artists are not only communicating with the public, they are primarily communicating with themselves.”

The report highlights both the successes and challenges of the program including a high qualified staff which features graduates from some of the finest visual arts programs in the country and includes teachers “who are adjunct professors on the college level and a number who have received their 6th year and doctoral degrees." Noting the achievements of the staff, six of the teachers have won Distinguished Teacher of the Year Awards and one who received the Connecticut Elementary Art Educator of the Year Award.

Not to be out done, students of visual arts have a long track record of winning state and national awards in the Scholastic Arts Programs. The program was redesigned four years ago and is aligned with the District’s Vision of the Graduate with its focus on the need for innovation and creativity as key competitive tools in the new economy.

Creative Challenges

The program faces challenges however including inconsistecy at the middle school level, overall large class sizes and a need to incorporate technology into the Visual Arts program. The report also noted that the broad definition of "Arts" used at GHS, which includes business, family and consumer science and technology. As a result, a student can graduate without ever taking a traditional arts class. Lastly, an annual equipment budget of $100k, which has not changed for many years was cited as inadequate to support music, visual and theater arts programs for 16 schools, especially when a replacement piano can cost upwards of $40k.

10% of nearly 9,000 GPS students

According to the Monitoring Report E-001/E003, Special Education , Greenwich’s special education population (911 out of 8,593) is consistent with other benchmark communities, but the challenges to the system continue to be myriad and complex. With a 2012-13 budget of $18.7 million, the program also is near the highest budgeted consuming 14.7% of the District’s total spend.

Last year, the program dealt with 288 referrals for evaluation with a 1/3 of the K-12 evaluations for students enrolled in private schools in Greenwich, but for whom the District must provide evaluation services. Eighty-one percentage all the students evaluated were found eligible for services with learning disabilities, speech/language, autism and attention disorders the most dominant causes, though frequency differed by grade level.

In past years, Greenwich had been cited for the over-identification of Hispanic students in the category of speech/language impaired however a recently completed Connecticut State Department of Education review found no issue with discriminatory practice or non-compliance which would require correction action. The last year also saw Greenwich dealing with proportionally higher levels of hearing (9) and mediation (22) requests by parents versus comparable districts.

Making Progress

The SPED monitoring report outlines the wide number of steps taken both at a district and school level to meet the needs of the students. One positive trend noted was the percentage of students who achieved “mastery” on their Individual Education Plan (IEP) objectives, which are established annually for each child. For the 2011-12 year, the percentage stood at 89.9%, up from 83.6 three years ago. Another highlight was that of the 82 Special Ed students graduating in 2012, 40 were enrolled in a 4-year college, 21 were enrolled in a 2-year program and 5 enrolled in technical schools or apprenticeships.

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