Following last week’s discussion on Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the school calendar, the Greenwich Board of Education discussed a plan to deal with the resulting loss of 6 school days as well as any additional "closure" days that may occur this school year.
By shortening the school year from 181 to 180 days, which is consistent with state attendance requirements, the board created some slight flexibility as the existing calendar can now absorb the 5 lost days and still end as scheduled on June 21. The vote to approve that change was 6-1 with board member Steve Anderson opposing.
If more days are needed, the last day of school will be moved to June 24th. Any additional lost days beyond that will then be made up from the April school break starting with the end of the vacation week, which was approved by the same vote.
Anderson once again suggested consideration of cutting or shortening February break to "re-establish" a cushion as the district heads into winter weather. As a result of the recent closures, "we have no safety net under us," said Anderson.
April remains the primary option
Other board members, however, expressed the view that utilizing April break would be a better option. Board Chair Leslie Moriarty reminded her colleagues that the current "calendar indicates that we would go to April" if necessary to re-capture days. Therefore, utilizing February, said Moriarty, she believes that "it is fair to staff and families. I don’t support it for 2012-13."
The GPS did make up one day already by holding school on the school's Veteran's Day holiday which was initially slated to be a professional development day. This came at a cost to the system of having to pay GPS employees who were scheduled to be on holiday time and a half.
Planning for the future
Following the clarity arrived at for the 2012-13 calendar, the board discussed both the 2013-14 and 2014-15 calendars. Board member Barbara O'Neill stated that she felt that "instruction" should be the "primary criteria" when considering the school calendars. "Anything else and we have missed the mark," she said.
When discussing the 2014-15 school calendar, all board members were in favor of considering a shortened February break, as well as making Veteran's Day a regular school day. An additional complexity for that school year is that it will be the inaugural year for standardized testing based upon SBAC, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. The actual timing and protocol for the online testing have yet to be established. The new testing will replace the current set of standardized testing.
Asking "what's best for the continuity of the children?" the board asked that options for both calendars be provided by the Administration for Board approval.
Continuing his "aggressive" drive to enhance digital learning for GPS, Superintendent William McKersie will soon select the district's first technology consultant. With the mantra of "raising the bar and plugging the gap," McKersie's plan is to "re-fashion" the district's existing digital learning.
The Technology RFP issued “seeks a qualified consultant to develop a detailed implementation plan for digital learning” and will “ensure Greenwich Public Schools will become leaders in digital learning."
It is envisioned that at the end of the assignment, the consultant will provide “specific and measurable recommendations”, a “detailed multi-year plan” including “critical success factors and decisions to be made in area of policy organization, budget, operations and infrastructure.”
Previously, McKersie revealed that there were four submissions to the Technology RFP: Pearson, November Learning, Knowledge Network Solutions and Improve – NYC.
After reviewing the proposals with a group of administrators as well as input from Board of Education members, McKersie narrowed the field to two consultants based on the criteria outlined in the Technology RFP and is expected to make a decision this week
New Courses at GHS
With a vote of 7-0, the board approved several new courses for Greenwich High School to be offered in 2013-2014—an introductory Latin course, several AP Art classes and an AP English Language and Composition.
The addition of the AP English class is the just the second advanced English course offered at GHS, joining AP Literature and Composition.
Of note, the new selections include a course in Digital Media Production to be led by media specialist Aaron Johnson, who films all of the Board of Education meetings for GPS. Johnson was recently selected as one of just 50 teachers across the country to participate in the Google Teacher Academy.
The board will convene again on Tuesday, Nov. 27 at 7 p.m. for a budget specific meeting ay Cos Cob School.