Marlboro Superintendent Michael Rydell introduced a presentation at the last school board meeting on the district’s educational Action Plans that are being implemented and coordinated in each school.
Rydell said the district is doing this “to link and align building and district initiatives to the goals that the Board of Educational sets each year as well as to link and align them across the district; to strategically plan and implement programs for Continuous Improvement and to create written records in order to increase memorability of success and efficacy.”
Rydell said each school will be using the same template for their Action Plan to show “when are we going to do it, who is responsible, who is going to be impacted in a positive way by this and what are the resources required. That way we can plan short-term, long-term and also be able to measure these goals.”
Elementary School Principal Jena Thomas said that last year they conducted site visits to neighboring schools to evaluate their literacy plans and brought FUNdations to grades k-2 this year, a program that “emphasizes explicit phonics and phonemic awareness instruction.” It is expected to be implemented in the 3rd grade next year.
The elementary school also adopted uniform guided reading texts and assessments in grades k-5 that align with the school curriculum materials and restored iReady ELA [grades 3 through 5], the Sitton Spelling program and Common Tasks.
Thomas stressed the importance of the “No Place for Hate” initiative, noting that the core tenets of this program are “anti-bias, anti-bullying and promoting an affirmative environment that’s more inclusive.”
Thomas said her school has 25 student ambassadors in grades 3 through 5, “where our students bring forward some feedback and things that they are facing and in ways that we can improve in our building.”
Thomas said they are presently updating the school report cards, which is considered a critical tool for communicating with families. The school wants to ensure that the cards align with the state’s newly revised Next Generation Learning Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics and with the new curriculum that the district has adopted. She noted that besides focusing on reading, they are also pushing Writing Instruction, “that is being done through our common tasks, which are benchmark assessments where our students are actually scaffolded throughout the entire quarter in the writing process.”
Thomas said her school is seeking to carve out more professional development and curriculum time, “to really hone in on the skills that we need to target.”
Thomas mentioned the “One School, One Book” initiative.
“We had an author visit this year that really touched students and my goal as Principal is that I hope K through 5th grade will have a token book from every year that they remember reading with their school. It’s really made an impact on our students,” she concluded. Middle School Principal Debra Clinton said last year her school emphasized their literacy initiative and also implemented their “One School, One Book” plan with the book “White Bird,” which was very successful and allowed students to see how it fit, not only in English class, but with the Social Studies curriculum and other areas across the school.
Clinton noted the interest in reading: In 2021, 528 books were checked out of the school library. Toward the end of the 2022 school year that number increased to 1,021 and moving into 2023 the students had checked out 1,567 books.
“You cannot walk through our building without seeing students with their reading books in hand and that is coupled with the great work in our ELA department as well as using our ‘Mindful Mondays,’ which are all connected together.”
Clinton said they continue to implement their “Safe School Ambassador Program,” and have begun to put into place the “No Place for Hate” plan. She thanked the board for making the SOAR program a permanent course offering at the Middle School.
For this year Clinton said the Middle School is “continually looking at our programs, at what we do well and ways that we can continue to improve in all areas.”
English teacher Hayden Carlin said the middle school continues to encourage a culture of learning and a love of reading. He said the school library is beginning to weed out books that have not been checked out for decades and is ordering books of topical interest to the students, while continuing Free Reading Friday and the Lunch Book Club.
Guided Reading is being coordinated with the school’s Literary Coach and their ‘One School, One Book’ choice is “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson will start in February.
Asst. Principal Demian Stanmyer said he reviewed the state’s Star Testing to assess the school’s reading and literacy prowess.
“I noticed that the current 8th graders had a percentile rank of an improvement from the 31.8 and 32.1, and the 7th graders improved from a 39.2 to the 44.6 percentile rank, so it’s a snapshot that we hope to build on with state and star scores moving forward.”
Stanmyer touched up the school-wide Climate and Culture initiative, that also includes ‘No Place for Hate’. He said they will be creating a Flip Tok, using social media for social justice with students making videos in the vein of Tik Tok.
Stanmyer said they are keeping their Positive Referral Program, the Star Breakfast and the Quarterly Incentive Events, “and will continue to see what we can do better to make sure we’re meeting the needs of every student.”
Clinton said the final action plan centers around the Multi-Tiered System of Support [MTSS].
“The district has been revising their process of identifying the needs for tier 2 and tier 3 interventions and broadening their approach to addressing the whole child and not just their academic needs,” Clinton said. “We are formalizing it and looking to bring it to that next level. More importantly, we are really thinking of that child who moves through the elementary school to the Middle School and to the High School and making sure that coordination and collaboration is there for that transition between 5th grade to 6th grade and between 8th grade to 9th grade.”
High School Principal Ryan Lawler said, “these Action Plans are powerful vehicles for all of our schools to improve, to identify areas that we want to target and put resources, time and energy to get students and staff working together.”
Previously, the High School implemented the Marlboro Foundations in the 9th grade that challenges them in skill based work along with having them do interesting projects; continued the Seal of Civic Readiness in the Social Studies classes from middle school through high school; and support the monthly Student Voice Committee.
The high school will again host their annual College Fair to make students aware of many of the choices they will face upon graduation; students will be exposed to electives, careers and a technical academy and business programs.
Lawler said new electives have been developed with input from the academic departments and the students; all high school student will participate in an Arena Scheduling event, “that makes sure our students know what’s out there and excitement about the programs that we’re offering and re-branding some offerings that accurately and fully describes the scope of the class.”
Lawler said they are exploring diploma seals in the Arts, Business, Humanities and STEM.
“We want to push students to take more electives because they may realize that they are a course or two away from achieving that seal,” he said.
Lawler said the student led and student driven “No Place for Hate” initiative has made many students feel safe an included at the high school.
Lawler noted that 40 students are the high school’s Safe School Ambassadors who represent the entire school body. They meet monthly in Family Lunch meetings along with staff leaders to learn intervention strategies to help their peers.
The high school also has a multi-tiered system of support to help students through ongoing collaboration involving teachers, administrators, family, specialists and community partners.
Superintendent Michael Rydell concluded by saying, “I want to commend each and every one of you; building principals, teachers, counselors and social workers that are here. That was an incredible presentation and I cannot adequately express my pride to be the Superintendent of this school district; really, really great job.”