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NPS lays out ‘comprehensive’ goals for coming school year

Norwalk Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Schools Rob Pennington begins discussing goals for the upcoming school year during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting on Zoom.

NORWALK, Conn. — Norwalk’s schools superintendent and her staff are said to have exceeded their goals for the 2021-22 school year. Now, the Board of Education has approved six overall goals for the upcoming year, each with a set of specific benchmarks, from rewriting four curriculum plans to developing five-year facilities plan in coordination with the City.

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella and her team presented their recommended goals in detail at Tuesday’s BoE meeting. Board members approved them unanimously.

The Board met last week in an executive session to review and rate Estrella on her performance in each of the 2020-21 goals, Norwalk Board of Education Chairman Colin Hosten said, promising that a summary document will be made public “very soon.”

Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Alexandra Estrella briefly discusses last year’s goals.

All the goals are tied to the district’s strategic plan, Estrella said. One of last year’s targets was to “infuse multiple departments so that no one is working in silos, but in tandem with one another,” and “I think that was very evident… you were able to see the number of departments working together to accomplish the different goals throughout the scope of our work.”

The sixth goal had revolved around family support and equity. The new NPS family center on East Wall Street “you were able to see the number of departments working together to accomplish the different goals throughout the scope of our work,” Estrella said. It will “enhance access to systematic change, provide information around the resources available to our families, and provide them guidance and how to access this information.”

As for this year’s goals, the business education, world language, twelfth grade English Language Arts electives and social studies curriculum will be rewritten, building on the curriculum updates already done for math and literacy, which will continue to be revised, said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Rob Pennington.

All of the pre-K programs will “implement a center-based curricula across all content areas, and that’s especially with the expansion of the South Norwalk school,” he said.

Center-based learning means that teachers group materials for one type of subject together… Including centers in the classroom encourages young children to explore materials on their own,” classroom.synonym.com reports.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Rob Pennington discusses goals for the upcoming school year during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting on Zoom.

By the end of the school year, 90% of NPS teachers will have been in at least four district-wide professional development days “to improve teacher practice and student outcomes as measured on NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) and district-wide interim assessments,” Pennington added. LETRS® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) training will have been given to 90 teachers, 60 of whom will have graduated having completed all four units of study and 95% of the staff will have had dyslexia training, he said.

Further, 90% of schools will continue to build common language around Scientifically Research Based Interventions (SRBI), aligning with best practices, Pennington said. “We are going to measure that by a decrease in the students required for Summer Academy.”

All of the schools will implement counseling guidelines tied to the American School Counselor Association, according to Pennington.

“We’re seeking to have an additional five providers coming in through Mid-Fairfield (Childhood) Guidance to provide additional therapeutic support for our students,” Estrella said. “So the support is going to be focused around preventative care. And we are looking to have one provider at every single middle school” and at Concord Magnet School (formerly Columbus).

“That’s an expansion of the work we started this year at the high schools,” Pennington said.

In addition, NPS will revise the health and physical education programs “with an emphasis on social emotional learning practices,” Pennington said. Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) will spread from the high schools to the middle schools and “even in elementary school.”

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Rob Pennington discusses goals for the upcoming school year during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting on Zoom.

In a “big task for next year,” NPS will transition to the CT-SEDS platform, he said.

“The Connecticut State Department of Education, Bureau of Special Education (BSE), is planning to implement a new Individualized Education Program (IEP) document and the Special Education Data System (CT-SEDS) in the 2022-23 school year,” the State’s website states.

This will include workshops for parents to learn about the live platforms “to see up to date information,” Pennington said.

Lastly, he said, a specialized learning audit will continue, focused on:

  • Coherence
  • Missed service hours
  • The idea that specialized learning is a service and not a place
  • Mindset

 

Assistant Superintendent of Business and Operations Sandra Faioes said that in the coming year, the facilities department will “develop building specific action plans for improving facilities,” including training maintenance staff and “have a plan for securing additional resources for maintenance and preventative care for all school facilities in accordance with the efficiency study.”

NPS Director of Human Resources Lissette Colón discusses goals for the upcoming school year during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting on Zoom.

Human Resources will enhance and streamline processes, reduce processing time and expand its legal expertise and support, keeping informed on “updated laws and legal interpretation to reduce district liability,” NPS Director of Human Resources Lissette Colón said.

It plans steps to increase number of new applicants by 10% and reduce staff turnover by 5%, she said. Staff roundtables will be developed, and union partnerships will be strengthened.

Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Lunda Asmani discusses goals for the upcoming school year during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting on Zoom.

Multi-language learners (MLL) were included in the student-based budgets this year and next year, “we’re going to enhance that by including our special education,” Norwalk Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Lunda Asmani said. “…The resources to follow the needs, and therefore we would have a better picture of where the needs are.”

NPS will build on the school safety plans it developed this year and will institute an incident reporting platform that interfaces directly with current school software to provide “actionable data for school leaders on behavior management,” Faioes said. “This is so that school leaders understand the patterns of behaviors that are that are occurring at their school, and they can actually react to them in a timely fashion rather than through a monthly report.”

Capital budget appropriations approved this year will enhance school security, including “phase one of door alarms and added cameras,” she said.

Assistant Superintendent of Digital Learning and Innovation Ralph Valenzisi discusses goals for the upcoming school year during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting on Zoom.

In school communications, “100% of the school district sites will have an updated template for better navigation,” Assistant Superintendent of Digital Learning and Innovation Ralph Valenzisi said. All schools will make at least six social media posts a month by January.

NPS Executive Director of Leadership Development Mary-Anne Sheppard described intensified professional learning for staff, “focused on our data driven instruction priority,” and by the end of the year all “of our school based administrative teams will engage in a minimum of five calibration processes to ensure that the feedback and the support that’s being provided to teachers is aligned, actionable and timely, to achieve increased accuracy in the calibration.”

Additional STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) units of study will be implemented and “measured through pre and posttests that will be used for each for each one of those units,” Valensizi said.

Assistant Superintendent of Digital Learning and Innovation Ralph Valenzisi discusses goals for the upcoming school year during Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting on Zoom.

By the end of the school year, “We plan on having 85% of the classes taken by students to have a minimum grade point average of 2.5,” Valensizi said. “And by June of 2023 100% of all K eight students will have received instruction in digital citizenship and research skills that will be measured through the administration of pre and post assessments. And this will be done in conjunction with our new library media specialists that will be in each one of our buildings.”

Deputy Superintendent of Excellence, Equity, and Inclusion Thomas McBryde Jr. spoke of “culturally responsive teaching,” explaining that “data analytics and evaluation team will facilitate the implementation of a district wide data driven culture,” to be supported by targeted professional development.

“And last, but not least, our final goal is focused around ensuring families are provided with equitable opportunities to access district resources and programs,” Estrella said. “A lot of these goals will be accomplished through the work that will happen through the family center.”

NPS will increase parental family center visits by 30% by the end of the year by expanding its hours and by “partnering with local community providers as well as the city agency, particularly the youth service department, to really have an array of services at the Family Center at the fingertips of our families,” she said.

Workshops and roundtable discussions will increase families’ understanding of district initiative and special education services, and a health center will be established at the location, Estrella said.

All of the goals will work together to increase the district’s graduation rate and decrease absenteeism, she said.

Hosten thanked Estrella for the “very, very thorough presentation.” He said, “I think it’s ambitious. It’s broad in scope, and depth. And I really appreciate the thoughtfulness behind the metrics by which we’ll be able to measure our progress.”

11 comments

John O'Neill July 1, 2022 at 9:16 am

IS there a teacher out there who can put the above into plain English for us common folk ?

Piberman July 1, 2022 at 11:45 am

Not a word about improving “student achievement” in meeting standards of the CT Edu Dept. Most Norwalk students fail to meet CT Edu Dept graduation standards. Almost all students in surrounding towns meet those standards.

We need elect BOE members who understand the role of the Supt and staff is to secure improved student outcomes.

DryAsABone July 1, 2022 at 12:29 pm

Sort of reminds me of public schools, in general. Our society, with all the cool tech and highly paid management, gets dumbed down.

NYC beaches are open!!!

“Dozens of applicants who’d previously failed the qualifying tests were sent automated text messages this week from the Parks Department gauging their interest in taking a new accelerated class to become lifeguards.”

Wow July 1, 2022 at 11:34 pm

I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a teacher and have the latest clueless administrators push the new nonsense with a new acronym every few years. It must be exhausting.

How about “Improve math scores by 3% district wide” or some other concrete, measurable goal? Did they talk about anything like that or did they just stick with the intensified, inclusive, data-driven, excellence workshop, roundtable equity gibberish? As a parent of nps students this was a scary read.

Seriously? July 2, 2022 at 9:54 pm

This plan doesn’t do much to address the unprecedented number of Norwalk Public Schools educator resignations.

One strategy in the plan is: “HR will reduce the processing time for HR transactions and enhance staff experience through enhancements of the Frontline system.” That’s an interesting objective because it gives no measure by which success will be determined. It doesn’t say what the current transaction times are, and it also doesn’t offer a target for improvement.

Another stated strategy is: “By June 2023, the Human Resources Department will maintain regular communication with key stakeholders on updated laws and legal interpretation, to reduce district liability.” This department has a fulltime attorney, in addition to the law firm that the district employs, and they should already be doing this.

A third stated strategy is: HR will “increase number of new applicants by 10% and reduce staff turnover by 5%.” It fails to identify the current number of applicants and the current turnover numbers, which I am providing below. Staff roundtables aren’t going to work if educators see no likelihood that the district’s hostile environment will improve. “Union partnerships” is an interesting term, but nowhere in the plan are such partnerships defined.

For those who aren’t aware of the seriousness of staff turnover, I have done the research. The numbers below are from the board of education agendas for the past school year. Retirements total 44, but resignations total 98, a huge number of resignations for a school year. But noting the 32 resignations in August of last year, the 98 resignations may become a much larger number by the time the board of education meets again in August.

August 2021 – 4 retirements 32 resignations
September 2021 – 3 retirements 13 resignations
October 2021 – 2 retirements 10 resignations
November 2021 – 2 retirements 4 resignations
December 2021 – 9 resignations
January 2022 – 5 retirements 4 resignations
February 2022 – 1 retirement 4 resignations
March 2022 – 6 resignations
April 2022 – 3 retirements
May 2022 – 24 retirements 16 resignations
June 2022 – none none

Using the HR director’s proposed 5% reduction in resignations means that her hope for next year is to have a reduction of 4.9 educators, which means there will be 93 resignations. Did anyone vet these goals? (Note that the 98 resignations represent only teachers and administrators who have quit.)

Pardon the cliche, but this plan is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Frustrated July 4, 2022 at 8:54 am

Round table discussion will never work because teachers and other staff are not allowed to disagree with any administrator.
MLL money is now school based but there are no parameters. Some schools are hiring MLL teachers to keep caseloads lower and offer more service time while other schools are not. Some teachers have caseloads of 30 students while others have caseloads of 50.

Joe in Norwalk July 4, 2022 at 10:20 am

“explaining that “data analytics and evaluation team will facilitate the implementation of a district wide data driven culture,” to be supported by targeted professional development.”
________________________________________________________

So 85% of administrators agree that 92% of teachers will be teaching 78% of the students about the 83% of the curriculum in double speak and gibberish.

I actually waste my tax dollars on these blokes.

James July 8, 2022 at 9:59 am

It’s time for a change

Here we go again. Lets rewrite the Norwalk Public schools curriculum, lets have new reading, writing, Math, and science programs each year. Lets’take the teachers out for more meaningless training sessions. Let’s confuse the students even more with new curriculum theories and programs, let’s devise new ways of learning for the students which have amounted to nothing. Let’s give the new Superintendent another raise and extension and yet our Teachers are leaving the system like crazy because they are underappreciated, overworked, underpaid, and stressed out. If only the Tax Payers and Parents of Norwalk would rise up and get rid of these corrupt, selfish people running things in the Education system the Norwalk CT Public schools could function so much better. It’s seems all that matters is that the Central office people get richer and richer, the teachers and students get poorer and less functioning, and let’s not forget the LGBT and Racial Equity programs that are being pushed down the throats of our students because that’s more important than kids actually learning in school about basic math, reading, and writing skills. Tax Payers and Parents of Norwalk wake up and vote these people in power out of Norwalk. We need to save this city before it’s too late.

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