It is with great anticipation that I write this article as we prepare for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the community of Suffield for its continued investment in the education and welfare of our children. In addition, I would like to highlight several of our new initiatives that we hope will exceed the high expectations that the community has set for the Suffield Public Schools.
As I have noted on many occasions, Suffield is a very special community because of the opportunities it makes available to its residents. I feel very fortunate to be serving as your superintendent of schools, and I can only hope that you view the efforts of our BOE, faculty and staff, and our partners in education as beneficial to the quality of life the community of Suffield provides to its residents. The vibrancy and attractiveness of the town is the result of the hard work and dedication of many, and we recognize the role our school district has in supporting the many agencies, departments, and volunteer committees that represent the interests of Suffield residents.
Each year, the administration of the school district provides a “Year in Review” during the September Board of Education meeting. Over the past several months, we have been preparing the content of this presentation and it has been inspiring to reflect on what we accomplished in 2019-2020. Although we are always planning for tomorrow, it helps to look back and see how far we have come. This year’s presentation will also include our recently adopted BOE goals, as well as district and school objectives and initiatives that will serve to further these ideals throughout the upcoming school year. We look forward to presenting our “Year in Review,” and we are hopeful that residents will take the opportunity to watch this presentation or view it on our district website.
As has been done in the past, this past year we have established a set of District Priorities that will give focus our 2020-2021 efforts. These priorities, which focus on professional learning, curriculum and programming, and academic achievement, will serve to guide our efforts throughout the school year. They will be presented to the Board in September, and we will be assessing our progress toward these initiatives throughout the school year. In addition, there are several key objectives I would like to share in this article. The following list provides a brief synopsis of what our students, staff and parents will be experiencing as we continue to meet the needs of our learning community and enhance our programming within the Suffield Public Schools:
Due to our current health crisis, the Suffield Public Schools have thoughtfully developed a reopening and sustainment plan for the 2020-2021 school year as required by the Connecticut State Department of Education. Through the use of surveys, planning sessions, and stakeholder committees, the district plan addresses the various requirements and suggestions that have been set forth by the Center for Disease Control, the Connecticut Department of Public Health, the North Central District Health Department, and our district’s medical advisor, Dr. Segool. As we continue to learn about COVID-19, we recognize that our plans will likely evolve as new information and trends emerge in the weeks and months ahead. With this being said, we recognize the many reasons why it is vital that our students are able to attend school within their classroom environments. Our reopening and sustainment plans include safety measures that are intended to keep our students and staff safe from COVID-19 exposure, and will be closely monitoring our effectiveness throughout the upcoming school year.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council
As noted in previous communications, the Suffield Public Schools acknowledges the important role we have in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity for our entire school community. To this end, our district will be developing a committee of stakeholders to further these ideals in the form of a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council. The response we have received regarding this endeavor has been extremely positive, and we look forward to beginning this collaborative endeavor as we look to create a brighter future for the generations of students our district will serve.
Strategic Plan and Portrait of a Graduate
We are excited to announce that the Connecticut Center for School Change will be supporting the Board of Education and our schools as we engage in a two-year process aimed at developing a Strategic Plan and Portrait of a Graduate. Throughout this multi-year endeavor, we will be engaging with stakeholders from each of our schools in workgroups that will focus on enhancing our academic, social, and emotional programming. Further, the planning process will further define a means of continuous improvement that will carry us beyond the formulation of our initial plans as we look to our future.
For the 2020-2021 school year, the Suffield Public Schools Preschool will be experiencing a facility makeover through the financial support provided by Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance, and the town’s Advisory Committee on Capital Expenditures. The classroom renovations, which are scheduled to be completed by the first day of school, will involve the relocation of bathrooms and storage areas within each of the preschool classrooms. The enhancements will result in spatial improvements that improve safety and promote emerging trends in high quality preschool programming.
Multi-tiered Systems of Supports
The Suffield Public Schools looks forward to furthering our partnership with EASTCONN’s Psychological and Behavioral Consultation Services for the upcoming school year. This past year, the focus of their efforts with our faculty has been on establishing protocols for working with our special populations within each of our elementary schools. For 2020-2021, we will be extending these efforts to each of our secondary schools, as well as, enhancing our tiered intervention and support programs for students in PreK-12.
Elementary STEM and Gifted & Talented Programs
Over the past year, and through the support of the Board of Education, Suffield Public Schools is excited to provide a focused STEM experience at both of our elementary schools. Students will be afforded the unique opportunity to attend a weekly STEM class in our newly created STEM labs. These innovative programs will incorporate the 21st Century Skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity through an inquiry-based model of teaching and learning. In addition, a school-wide enrichment model that includes Gifted and Talented programming for identified students will be incorporated into our daily offerings for our elementary students. Our STEM and Gifted and Talented programs will greatly enhance the opportunities we have to offer our students in the Suffield public schools, and we look forward to sharing more about these efforts over the course of the school year. Be sure to stop in the STEM Labs during our annual Open Houses.
Lexia, Dreambox Math, and Smarter Balanced Interim Assessments
After several months of researching our universal screening measures, the district will be providing students in K-8 access to Lexia and Dreambox Learning for literacy and mathematics and the Smarter Balanced Interim Assessments for middle and high school students. Due to the potential for distance learning during the 2020-2021 school year, these online resources will provide important instructional resources that will strengthen our ability to meet the needs of our students if remote learning should become necessary. Further, the progress monitoring tools that they will provide will enable us to set individual student learning targets that will help to focus classroom instruction, interventions, and enrichment for our students.
Bonstingl Leaders for the Future
We are very pleased to welcome the Bonstingl Leaders for the Future program to McAlister Intermediate School for the 2020-2021 school year. An author and sought after keynote speaker and lecturer on the Worldwide Quality Learning Movement, Mr. John Jay Bonstingl, will facilitate his student leadership program that focuses on his Seven Personal Practices of Quality: Personal Leadership; True Partnership; Systems Focus; Process Orientation; Deeper Understanding; Love and Appreciation, No Matter What; and Ongoing Learning and Improvement. In fulfillment of the Bonstingl Leaders for the Future program, student leaders embark on a year-long journey of self-actualization as they develop their personal practices of quality while completing community service projects for McAlister Intermediate School.
As per a new graduation requirement, our incoming ninth grade students will begin a four-year process of engagement with the Core Values of Suffield High School through a multifaceted process of Capstone Project development. The Suffield High School Capstone endeavor will be offered in parallel tracks and be based on a special interest that each student will select and develop their understanding of throughout each year of their high school experience. They will be guided through this process through an assigned teacher-mentor and a special committee designated to oversee our Capstone program. During their senior year, students will then develop a final project that will demonstrate their understanding of several core competencies in the areas of research and career-based learning.
Suffield Public Schools Smartphone App
The Suffield Public Schools will be releasing a Smartphone App to enhance both school and district communication. The app will be free to download and is IOS and Android friendly. It provides families with live feeds, push notifications and bulletins, emergency alerts, and other important school information. Parents are also able to utilize the app to email teachers or call the school without needing to search our website for contact information. The app will serve as a primary source for district and school communications.
To close, I wanted to begin this year by thanking the community and all of our partners for your continued support of the Suffield Public Schools. Although there are many school opportunities for Suffield residents, we strongly believe that our outstanding public school programming rivals the academic and social experiences of our competitors. Further, the connections we foster with and among families is a great source of pride for us. We are honored and privileged to be serving you and your children, and we look forward to our continued partnership in education with you. ζ