With student achievement on the forefront in Greenwich, the Board of Education recognized 17 Greenwich High School seniors as National Merit Scholarship Semi-Finalists at Eastern Middle School last week.
For the second consecutive year, the Town of Greenwich has the highest number of Semi-Finalists in Connecticut with GHS the second highest individual school in the state.
The following scholar students scored in the top 1% in the nation on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT):
Capital Plan Approved
The Board voted 8-0 to approve their 2013-2014 Capital Plan at $10,075,000, which is $2 million higher than the $8,000,000 target stated in the draft Board of Estimate and Taxation budget guidelines.
Administrators responded favorably to questions from the Board as to the ability of the district to complete their capital plan over the "short compression" during the summer break. Time isn't necessarily the issue however; it is funding.
Options On The Table
In the next chapter of the Racial Imbalance story, Superintendent Dr. William McKersie gave the board an update on the complexity of the issue.
McKersie and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ellen Flanagan recently met with state officials to continue discussing Greenwich's approach to a solution.
McKersie explained that in the Oct. 5 meeting held in Hartford, GPS discussed that approach to dealing with the racial imbalance, stressing however that the primary focus of any effort was to raise student achievement "first and foremost." Board Chair Leslie Moriarty agreed that Greenwich "needs to focus on and fix student achievement first."
GPS was notified in June 2012 that two schools, Hamilton Avenue and New Lebanon, were not in compliance with state requirements that individual schools must be within 25 percent of the overall district racial mix. New Lebanon and Hamilton Avenue minority students comprise 68.9% and 68% of the schools population respectively, as compared to the overall district minority enrollment percentage of 33.3%.
Under this criteria, Hamilton Avenue has been "imbalanced" since 1997 and New Lebanon since 2006. Similar issues are being faced in other districts such as Fairfield and West Hartford.
Creating A Plan
State Commissioner Stefan Pryor was given a time-line which included submitting a new action plan to the State Board of Ed by February or March of 2013 with a subsequent presentation the following month and the initial implementation of the plan in the fall of 2013. The Commissioner also stressed that the racial imbalance plan should be coordinated with the overall plan Greenwich has for dealing with all educational issues and not be seen as a stand alone effort.
IB Gets Attention
McKersie revealed that the Commissioner expressed hope that GPS' efforts to rollout the International Baccalaureate program could be strengthened. Recognizing that the topic of IB is a "controversial" one, McKersie admitted that "IB catches a lot of attention in Hartford." Two schools, New Lebanon and Western Middle School, are "well down the path" to accreditation, and McKersie asked rhetorically "where is the board on that?"
The State has also suggested that Greenwich may consider revisiting expansion of pre-school education and as well as the use of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs.
McKersie assured the board and public that the state would not insist on redistricting. In addition, the Commissioner of Education unequivocally stated that he would not grant Greenwich the option of opening a charter school since he does not view Greenwich as an under-performing district.
The R Word
McKersie explained that the GPS had gathered the necessary background data and was now focused on reviewing various options available to it including modifying or establishing magnet schools, revisiting school choice and looking at redistricting. Board Member Steve Anderson suggested looking at a priority system for magnet based upon race however his Board colleague Peter Sherr took a more aggressive stance and suggested "we need a full-throated discussion about redistricting."
Is Greenwich At Capacity?
As far as the magnet programs, it is the building utilization that impacts the ability of creating magnets at some schools; "there is just not room to attract more in." McKersie told the board that the average class size in Greenwich is 19.5 students and using that as a "base of analysis," the district is at a 95% space utilization level. However, Sherr stated "we have more than enough capacity to have less elementary schools than we do."
The administration will be compiling a preliminary time-line for the first four months of work and will submit monthly progress reports to the board. After completion of the analysis of the various choices, a preliminary report will be submitted in January with the thought of a phased in implementation of any new program in the fall of 2013 and 2014, with the bulk of the program in the latter years.