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.”
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.
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.”
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:
- Missed service hours
- The idea that specialized learning is a service and not a place
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”