NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 18, 2013

Pentucket approves district improvement plan

BY JENNIFER SOLIS
CORRESPONDENT

---- — WEST NEWBURY – Superintendent Jeff Mulqueen got the nod from the Pentucket Regional School Board this week to pursue a five-pronged district improvement plan. According to Mulqueen, these five strategic objectives were selected for their potential to “drive significant improvement in student learning and instruction.”

They are: develop a powerful curriculum by integrating challenging standards, adaptive leadership skills and high levels of personal meaning and implement 3-tiered instruction to accelerate the learning of every student; develop a dynamic program of studies that reflects the voice of students and ensures each student a future of choices.

Also, implement systematic educator evaluation that results in the continuous improvement of adults and increases the collective capacity of the system to deliver world-class results and strengthen systems of support for the instructional core, including academics, arts, and athletics.

“Although the district’s performance is similar to other high-performing districts on the north shore, a persistent gap in the achievement of high-needs students was identified,” the superintendent said. “Pentucket needs to strengthen its curriculum, align its assessments and systematize instructional practices to ensure the success of every student. “

Under each objective, the plan also stipulates a total of 20 initiatives, many of which, such as Innovation School development, are already underway.

Announced by Mulqueen earlier this month, Pentucket’s Innovation School initiative stresses the need to implement new ideas, create new opportunities for staff and students and “personalize the Pentucket experience.”

Possible innovative schools the district will explore this year include Movement Science and Athletics, Animation and Visual Effects, and Safety and Public Service for grades 7 to 12; and International Baccalaureate and Design and Engineering for grades K to 6.

Other initiatives Mulqueen is exploring to support his vision for a “world-class future for Pentucket” include: integrating standards, adaptive leadership skills, and high levels of personal meaning into high-powered units of instruction; shifting to an electronic format for unit and course design; implementing Ten Marks to accelerate performance in mathematics, and conducting regular instructional rounds with staff in all schools.

Also, developing and implementing accelerated early high school and early college courses, implementing the district’s new educator evaluation system; instituting leadership teams at each school; ensuring small class sizes, particularly at elementary schools, and strengthening the delivery of the arts, and the delivery of services to students with a high degree of need.

Accomplishing these initiatives will “ultimately improve the district’s delivery of high quality academics, arts, and athletics,” Mulqueen said. But he also stressed that the effectiveness of his plan will be tracked throughout the year and is “not set in stone.” It will actually be “quite dynamic” he added.

Other business

In other business on Tuesday, the committee chose representatives to serve on a screening panel for candidates to replace Pentucket’s business manager, Michael Bergeron. Bergeron, who came to the district last year, has accepted a new post with the Marlborough School District effective Jan. 2. The last day for candidates to apply for the Pentucket position is this Friday.

The board approved spending an additional $9,362 to cover a higher-than-anticipated cost for schematic designs for a project to repair the boiler and pitch roof at the middle school. The committee had previously approved $40,000 from its stabilization fund for the work. If the project is accepted into the state’s accelerated repair program, the state funding will cover this cost. The balance in the stabilization fund is now at $105,000.

The committee accepted two grant awards from the Pentucket Education Foundation: $1,508 for stop animation video equipment for the Donaghue Elementary School and $2754 for 3 licenses for Lexia Strategies Reading software at the high school.

Members approved two new policies that authorize the superintendent to approve home school requests and to accept, without school board approval, donations to the district that are under $5,000. An executive session was held to discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining or litigation.