School Board Business Beyond The Budget

9th Grade English, Racial Imbalance, Human Resources and more on the board's agenda.


Other Board Business

While the budget process is a priority, there is also important work to do for the Greenwich Board of Education who will meet for their monthly work session on Thursday, Dec. 6.

The packed agenda will begin with a Discussion of GHS 9th Grade Honors English Course, which originally appeared on the board's agenda last month.

Responding to repeated requests of parents, the administration undertook a review of the 9th Grade English classes at Greenwich High School to determine whether they were academically suitable and rigorous enough for advanced students.

Incoming 9th grade students are offered the choice of English 112 (grade-level) or English 113 (advanced.) Following a year of analysis and review by GHS English and Social Studies teachers, and supported by a student survey, it was determined that the current course structure should be maintained albeit with some reduction in the number of students who qualify for Advanced English by adjusting the criteria for placement in the class.

The analysis indicated that the performance for both ALP and non-ALP students was not negatively impacted by the mixing of ALP and non-ALP students in the same class. As a matter of fact, 78% of students felt challenged in their English class, close to World Themes as the highest scoring class. English also scored the highest in terms of students who felt the pacing of the class was appropriate and the lowest in terms of feeling frustrated by peers slowing down the pace of learning.

IB Scores

Also scheduled for Thursday is the next step on the Racial Imbalance front with the board getting an update on the International Baccalaureate Programmes in the GPS. In addition to an update, School Superintendent William McKersie seeks to clarify the district's commitment to IB at The International School at Dundee (ISD), New Lebanon School, and Western Middle School and examine STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs as theme options and/or a strong focus across curriculum in all schools.

The report noted that for ISD and New Lebanon the annual cost of supporting the IB program is approximated at $50,000. The presentation goes on to focus on ISD as its long experience with IB helps to facilitate an analysis of the effectiveness of its program

Achievement levels of ex-ISD students are compared to the overall district  as well as versus comparable schools districts, DRG B and DRB A. Despite  generally having a more diverse student population versus comparable districts in terms of minority enrollment, students with disabilities, free/reduced lunch and English as non-dominant or language learner status, the alumni of the program significantly outperformed other students on a variety of standardized tests throughout their academic careers.

Most striking was their performance on SAT scores, where ISD Alumni who had at least 3 years at the school, outperformed their peers by a range of 200-250 points consistently, even outscoring DRG A students by a wide-range. The report noted that while ISD alumni comprised 8% of the seniors enrolled at GHS, they made up 21% of the National Merit semi-finalists for the class of 2013. The report also compared IB to the newly rolled out Common Core Standards noting a wide range of consistencies.

A quote from one student summed up their experience at ISD by stating “ISD definitely changed my life and made me into a better person and student."

Following the racial imbalance update will be a First Reading of Monitoring Report E-001 on Magnet Schools will be delivered by McKersie and John Curtin. This is also a piece of the imbalance puzzle, which includes building utilization and the ability to attract students to the 4 magnet elementary schools, 3 of which are also Title I schools.

Two Ends of Student Engagement

A report on Whole Student Development describes the "Districtʼs efforts toward ensuring that students have access to a wide range of experiences designed to support their physical, creative, social and emotional development."

Greenwich students are participating in "all of the activities made available to them including sports, arts, clubs, student government and community service." However, on the other end of the spectrum, there are students that are not making "positive and productive choices" in school.

At the secondary level, along with successes there are challenges which include:

  • an increase in reported incidents of substance abuse;
  • high discipline incidents for males, African-Americans, Hispanic and special education students;
  • the number of middle school students who are "cut" from sports teams, with the limitation of available facilities as a stated obstacle.

Creating Efficiencies

A common thread throughout all budget discussions has been the need to identify and utilize more efficiencies. As a result of the 2011 Hay Study commissioned by the Board of Estimate and Taxation, a recommendation was made to consolidate the Town of Greenwich and Board of Education Human Resource Departments to "improve efficiency and effectiveness."

However, the BOE requested more involvement in the process. In early 2012, a working group of BOE and Town representatives was formed to begin to develop an implementation plan. After 5 meetings held throughout the year, Joe Pellegrino and Mary Lee Kiernan, the two BET members of the working group, developed a set of recommendations that were approved by the full BET on Nov. 19.

These recommendations and the push for consolidation of HR has been summarized to the Board of Education in a report on the BOE/Town of Greenwich Working Group on Human Resources to be delivered by board members Barbara O'Neill and Peter von Braun. In the memo, the two BOE members express that their Board "is interested in greater efficiency and effectiveness, but the need to be able to collaborate on priorities and time-frame is essential."

While they state that "good work" has occurred, they also note concern that the BET is setting "priorities" for the BOE as well as "holding the BOE accountable to BET requirements, which have not been jointly developed or agreed upon." According to the BET report, the TOG HR Department of 21 individuals runs at a salary cost of nearly $2.4 million for fiscal year 2012-13 while the BOE HR department of 7 runs just shy of $1 million, at $960k.

Calendar Conversations Continue

Following the extensive calendar discussions at their Nov. 15 Business Meeting at North Street School, the board had requested that a Review of 2013-2014 School Calendar occur to ensure that tweaks that have been made uniformily on each calendar.

The board meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Havemeyer building at 290 Greenwich Ave.


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