NEWBURYPORT — With fiscal 2022 budget discussions underway, principals presented their school improvement plans and goals for the next year to the School Committee on Monday.
All principals had the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, citing an urgent need to support the mental health and social-emotional wellbeing of all students and staff. Additionally, calls for social and racial justice over the past year pushed faculty and staff to look closer at how each school could work to establish a foundation for cultural competency.
The district has been working with inclusion consultant Michael Eatman to review district curriculum, policies, programming and culture to create a more diverse and equitable environment.
At Bresnahan Elementary School, Principals Timothy Miller and Amy Sullivan are working to reimagine the school's literacy program, so that teachers feel prepared to support students at all levels.
Particularly with the impact of COVID-19 on education, Sullivan said assessments have been important to track how students are doing and to see where there may be gaps in learning.
Kindergarteners recently had a mid-year assessment of their reading level, for example.
To her surprise, Sullivan said there has only been "about 10% difference in achievement towards proficiency" than there usually is.
"I wouldn't have been surprised if it was a 50% difference," she said, noting that full in-person learning is ideal.
"What that tells me is that the teachers have really adjusted to their model and are really working hard," Sullivan added.
The school also wants to continue to "refine and enhance" its response to intervention program, which trains teachers to notice and support students who appear to be struggling with academics, behavior and/or socialization issues.
Other goals with connections to the budget include funding partnerships with Newburyport Youth Services and other organizations, adding another Grade 3 teacher and a new math coach, and supplying stipends for further professional development opportunities for staff.
Molin Upper Elementary School Principal Tara Rossi and Assistant Principal Jamie Sokolowski spoke about the importance of continuing trauma-sensitive training.
Their budget requests included funding various professional development programs, hiring a language-based teacher and a second interventionist for academic intervention in math and literacy, supplying Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports materials for staff and students and funding Schoolwide Information System, which is a web-based data and reporting system that analyzes behavioral data for discipline referrals.
At Nock Middle School, Principal Lisa Furlong and Assistant Principal Nicholas Markos are focused on continuing to build a more rigorous world language program, so that students can work toward biliteracy.
They are also focused on adding more professional development opportunities, wellness support for students, assessments to see where students are at, prevention/intervention programs and skills-based instruction.
At Newburyport High School, Principal Andrew Wulf and Associate Principal Michael Testa are looking to develop a college and career center and hire a counselor to oversee it.
One of their requests is for the district to pay for all sophomores to take the PSATs. This will provide each student with a college readiness report.
The high school continues to expand its dual enrollment offerings with local colleges, which allow students to receive college credits while still in high school.
Additionally, the school continues to benefit from partnerships with the Anti-Defamation League and Essential Partners to work on the use of dialogue both inside and outside the classroom.
More details on each school's plans can be found in the School Committee packet at https://www.cityofnewburyport.com/sites/g/files/vyhlif3521/f/events/mar_1_sc_packet.pdf.