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Superintendent To Form School Culture And Climate Panel

After hearing a presentation by the Newtown Federation of Teachers at the Board of Education’s May 20 meeting, Superintendent of Schools Joseph Erardi, Jr, said this week he plans to form a culture and climate committee in the school district.

At the school board’s May 20 meeting, federation members voiced concerns regarding a range of topics, and Dr Erardi suggested at the meeting that a committee be formed.

The concept for the panel has grown in the last week, according to the superintendent.

“The intent of the committee will be to work in partnership in a positive manner with the teachers’ association and the Board of Education,” Dr Erardi said.

Membership of the committee will be determined by the end of this week, according to Dr Erardi. He said he asked the teachers’ union to recommend four teachers to be on the committee, the administrators’ union to recommend two administrators, and the Board of Education to offer two representatives. The superintendent and assistant superintendent will also serve on the committee.

Dr Erardi said he expects the committee to meet before the end of the 2013-14 school year, and to launch its work at the start of the 2014-15 school year.

“It will be a standing committee that will meet on a recurring basis throughout the next school year,” the superintendent said.

Dr Erardi also said he has asked the school board members to share their “big bets,” their top priorities for the 2014-15 school year, and other groups within the school district will also be asked to share their “big bets” with Dr Erardi.

“My job with all of this is to then vet it out to a final draft for the Board of Education as the superintendent/Board of Education goals and objectives for the new school year,” said Dr Erardi.

It is important to the superintendent, he said, to listen to all the stakeholders, including parents.

“This serves as a beautiful forum to get information out,” said Dr Erardi. “On or around July 1 I will be beginning to finalize my draft for the board… Then the plan will be in place for August for the start of the new school year.”

Dr Erardi also shared a vision he plans to implement for the school district.

“I want the Newtown Public Schools to be a [Professional Learning Community (PLC)] for certified and noncertified staff,” Dr Erardi said. “At the start of the new school year we will be beginning an aspiring administrator program. It will be an opportunity for any teacher who is either thinking about administration or who may be presently in a certified program, a credentials program.”

Dr Erardi said he plans to have a cohort of aspiring administrators meet with him monthly to gain “authentic learning on a number of different levels on the [kindergarten through twelfth grade] spectrum.”

The superintendent said he has created an initiative like this in the past. He also plans to establish a relationship with a higher education program that he hopes will bring courses to Newtown, rather than have teachers attend classes at the college or university campus.

“This is also a group of aspiring administrators that would get involved with the district’s long-term planning,” said Dr Erardi.

The superintendent also said he expects a presentation by an advisory committee that looked into the district’s gifted and talented education program to go before the school board during its planned June 3 meeting.

“The intent of the work is to offer to either identified or highly capable learners the most challenging and rigorous program that we possibly can under the constrictions that we have,” said Dr Erardi. “The will take place in grades four through eight.”

With the end of the 2013-14 school year approaching, Dr Erardi said there needs to be a balance between celebration and education.

“The expectation is that there is teaching and learning taking place every day of the school year,” Dr Erardi said, “and that balance, I am certain, will be taking place in all of our schools.”

Following the Newtown Middle School moving up ceremony and the Newtown High School graduation ceremony, Dr Erardi said he will look into gathering data.

From the middle school’s ceremony, Dr Erardi said he will look to see if the district is losing students, and what programs the students plan to take next school year.

He said he would also like to begin looking at where NHS graduates go within a five-year study. Dr Erardi said he plans to speak with the Board of Education about what that study could offer the district.

“I’d like to be able to use the Class of 2014 as the launch point for gathering that type of information,” said Dr Erardi. “That really will begin to tell us an awful lot about preparation, about the work that we have done in our [kindergarten through twelfth grade] system.”

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