NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk Public Schools has completed its first school climate survey, a measure of how the schools are perceived by those who are in them.
Also announced in the last Board of Education meeting was the creation of a beginners’ manual for Special Education and comprehensive SpEd manual for teachers; accreditation for Brien McMahon High School; and an effort by Norwalk Police to educate teens about what to do when they are stopped by a cop.
Here’s your education roundup:
Students learn more when their school climate is good, Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski said at the Dec. 6 BoE meeting, announcing the results of a survey that was done in May and June.
The Comprehensive School Climate Inventory was developed scientifically, he said, explaining, “This happens to be the measure that is used most commonly in the United States today to measure school climate. It was recommended to us by several authorities in this area.”
“The Safety Rules and Norms and were consistently rated very high across all populations and all school levels,” while improvement is needed in Sense of Social-Emotional Security, Adamowski said.
“Sense of Social-Emotional Security, which represents how safe students feel from teasing, verbal abuse, and exclusion in school. Sense of Physical Security also emerged as an area for potential improvement at some of the school sites,” the study reports.
Also, “Social and civic learning may be gap in our school district today. We really have no organized and systematic way of approaching it currently,” Adamowski said.
Students consistently gave high ratings to interpersonal relationships, which “means they feel they are getting the support they need from adults in the building,” he said.
The schools are setting goals for climate this year, he said.
Summing it up, he said, “We know what we didn’t know and we have a new point of data that will be helpful to us in improving our schools.”
But BoE member Mike Barbis said the range of participation was fascinating, as that some schools there was zero parental response and the highest level of parental participation was at Brookside, at 13 percent. Staff response varied, with 98 percent at Brien McMahon High School and 12 percent at Roton Middle School, while students participation was “pretty good,” except at Norwalk High School and Ponus Ridge Middle School.
“This was a learning experience, this was our very first time with it. We learned a lot. I think the returns will come up significantly this next year and we will have a better point of comparisons,”
Special Education manual
NPS Chief of Specialized Learning and Student Services Lynn Toper, the day before announcing that she’s resigning, shared with the Board a new Special Education Policy and Procedures Manual.
This effort began with a group of about 60 people, a “pretty good cross section of anyone who would participate,” she said, listing administrators, teachers, parents, paraprofessionals, pathologists and others. It then went through a committee of 20 people, before being vetted by Attorney Terri DeFrancis, who presented a draft to the BoE Ad Hoc Special Education Committee.
Committee Chairman Yvel Crevecoeur said the diversity of input made for a robust manual, calling it “Version 1.0” and predicting further improvements.
“A lot of times there is a lot of tension when a child is referred, or, in the process and this manual will help them understand the process a lot better, understand their rights. It’s written in a manner that is both informative and at the same time gives them guidance, to give them an idea of where they stand,” he said.
The work was collaborative, he said.
“You could see there was some tension but you could see the tension was based on past history. So, I hope this manual will help us forget about the past history and help us move forward,” Crevecoeur.
The process resulted in a user-friendly manual but also a huge binder full of materials for professionals.
“This is going to be the Bible now. Anything anyone needs to know about Special Ed, it’s going to be in here and it’s easily referenced,” Toper said, hoisting the binder. “…We developed a document that we are going to call A Parent’s Guide to Special Services in Norwalk Public Schools. As you can see, it’s a smaller document written in much more user-friendly terms.”
“This is required in all school districts so this is a document that we really needed to have, so I am glad that we are at that point,” Toper said.
“This is great,” BoE Secretary Heidi Keyes said. “I think it’s really helpful for parents, even for teachers, to have a really comprehensive handbook like this. I think it’s just streamlined, it’s easy to read… I think it will go a long way with families.”
Brien McMahon High School has received its 10-year accreditation from New England Association of Schools, Adamowski said.
“The report is a glowing one,” he said. “… Any recommendation they can make was already recommended by the school in its self-study. So, I think we see this as culminating or describing a school where the faculty or leadership have a very strong handle on where they are, where they should be going and how they are improving.”
An example of this is the International Baccalaureate Program, he said.
Brien McMahon went through the process with flying colors, he said.
“After two years of preparation which enabled them to sharpen their practice to the point that this kind of report could be written and received,” Adamowski said.
New lesson for young drivers
The Choose2Live program is coming to the high schools on Jan. 25 and 26, to teach teenaged drivers what to do when they are pulled over by a police officer, Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said.
Officers will also be taught about the interactions, “so we are both on the same page,” he said.
Choose2Live is a community advocacy initiative of Dedication to Community, Kulhawik said, touting the credentials of speaker Quentin Williams, who grew up in a tough area and went on to the a F.B.I. agent and attorney.
Deputy Police Chief Ashley Gonzalez met Williams in New Haven, Kulhawik said.
Gonzalez said Norwalk is fortunate to have a chief that is progressive and looking for new programs to help the community.
BoE member Artie Kassimis coordinated the program. It would be great to give each student a book to go with the presentation they’ll be receiving. That would be $10 a book, a cot of $15,000.
“It’s one thing that we don’t teach our kids,” Kassimis said. “It doesn’t even get taught in driver’s ed.”