By Greg Phipps
---- — NEWBURYPORT — New Superintendent Susan Viccaro presented her areas of focus before the School Committee earlier this month, and one of her most important objectives is to ensure that education in the city’s public schools is meeting the state’s Common Core curriculum requirements, most notably in the areas of English/Language Arts and mathematics.
Massachusetts adopted the nationwide Common Core model two years ago.
“We want to make sure we’re matching up with these standards,” Viccaro said this week. “One way we’re doing this is to have teachers, who are teaching at different grade levels, work together to double-check and make sure everything is in its proper place.
“For example, some areas of a subject that were being taught at one grade level before we adopted the Common Core standards are now being taught at another level. We want to assure we’re in line with these changes.”
Another part of meeting standards is educator evaluation and what Viccaro calls “calibration of evidence” to ensure that classroom instruction and teaching is satisfying the curriculum.
“We’re in the second year of our present Educator Evaluation Plan, which we’re looking to fine-tune this year,” she said. “It’s a system of accountability that examines for evidence of teaching and learning, and evidence that teachers are meeting the set standards.”
Connected to the curriculum issue as well is an accreditation examination of Newburyport schools by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) set to take place in October. Accreditation examinations by the NEASC are done every 10 years.
Viccaro also said refining and redeveloping special education is a focal point for school officials this school year, as is managing the ongoing construction of the new K-3 Bresnahan School, scheduled for completion at the beginning of next school year, and the renovation of the Nock-Molin Middle School.
Viccaro said that, aside from just the construction, building and budget aspects of the projects, a lot of preparation and collaborative work will need to be done on the part of school staffs, such as administration, faculty and support staff, etc., during this period of transition over the next year.
Assessing where the school district stands from a technology standpoint in terms of equipment, facilities and education is another priority, she said.
Viccaro said an independent consultant will evaluate the school district’s overall technology infrastructure and how effectively technology is being integrated and utilized in the schools.