Superintendent's Blog



Recent Posts
1  2 

Today’s Topic: Teachers Matter Most

“Teachers matter more to student achievement than any other aspect of schooling...Although curricula, reduced class size, district funding, family and community involvement all contribute to student achievement, the most influential factor is the teacher” (Teachers). To be clear, not every teacher has a positive impact on student performance. Teachers who offer high quality, effective instruction will likely influence student performance in a positive direction.


What are the characteristics of an effective teacher? According to Harry Wong, an educator, speaker, author, and recipient of many educational awards, including the Horace Mann Outstanding Educator Award, effective teachers:

  1. Have positive expectations for student success and trust that ALL students can learn if given proper, differentiated instruction and guidance.
  2. Excel in classroom management, run well-organized classrooms using reliable procedures and anticipate disciplinary challenges before they occur.
  3. Know their content, are familiar with state standards and regularly assess their students to determine their level of mastery (About).

What are the habits of an effective teacher? The chart on the right, provided by Edutopia, lists the 11 Habits of an Effective Teacher. It describes the quintessential teacher who is passionate about teaching, is happy with his or her job, and who every child in the school would love to have as their classroom teacher (Lam). 

Can teachers learn how to become effective? According to the staff at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “it is not always easy for districts to identify effective teaching and use that information to help teachers improve and become great.” Thus, they teamed up with three school districts that had committed to giving teachers the feedback and support they needed, including classroom observations, student achievement measures, and student surveys in their evaluation process. At its core, this initiative was about maximizing student learning. In the beginning, progress in terms of student achievement was slow, but over time the reforms these schools adopted began to show a positive impact on student outcomes (Scott).

One of the key takeaways from this initiative is that it is extremely worthwhile to provide teachers with the support and tools they need to improve and strengthen their craft. In doing so, students stand a better chance of having greater success in school. 

What is Leicester Doing To Strengthen Teacher Effectiveness?

We believe one of the best ways to give our students the opportunity to succeed is to support teachers in every classroom by giving them the tools they need to be effective.

 

One thing we have done to strengthen teacher effectiveness is to hire Dr. Matthew Joseph as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. Over the past 25 years, Matt has held positions as a school and district leader in many capacities, including director of digital learning and innovation, elementary school principal, classroom teacher, and district professional development specialist. Dr. Joseph earned a master's degree in special education and administration and has his Ed.D. in educational leadership from Boston College. Matt holds licenses in teaching, school administration, and MA superintendent. Click HERE to see his biography.

Over the past 25 years, Matt has collected incredible insights on how best to support teaching and learning and will be using his expertise to identify the district’s strengths and challenges in the area of instruction.  As a way to focus on instruction, one of the major strategic objectives outlined in the District Improvement Plan is to:

“Design engaging instruction grounded in rigorous and relevant curricula in order to improve overall student achievement.” 

At the district’s first professional learning workshop held in October, Dr. Joseph kicked off the day by challenging the teachers to look at themselves in a different way. Instead of asking the question, what do you teach, he encouraged the teachers to ask, why do you teach? In other words, what is your purpose? When asked in this way, their purpose becomes very clear--student learning. His point was when we communicate our purpose first, we communicate in a way that drives behavior. And positive behavioral changes work to improve effectiveness in the classroom, not only in what we do and how we do it but also in how we measure results. Matt will continue to work with administrators and teachers to strengthen teacher effectiveness in the classroom and, by extension, improve student performance.

For the rest of the day, teachers learned something new from their peers. In one session, Ms. Stapel focused on Flipped Learning, an approach to instruction that turns conventional teaching on its head. In this model, students learn the material outside of the classroom and then use class time to deepen their knowledge and understanding. An effective flipped classroom is one in which the time normally spent on lecturing is used for in-class activities, discussions, problem-solving, and group projects. The most meaningful learning in a flipped classroom occurs as a result of efficient use of the extra class time.

Dr. Joseph held a session that focused on creating active learning environments. One of the keys to academic achievement is active learning. According to research, personalized, collaborative, and connected learning experiences enhance student engagement, which in turn drives student success. During the session, teachers worked with online tools like Flip Grid, Padlet, and EdPuzzle, giving them the opportunity to actively engage with the information instead of passively taking it in. This is another instructional practice that is very promising in terms of helping students achieve their goals.

For the next three years, one of our key objectives will be to strengthen teacher effectiveness in the classroom. With the addition of Dr. Joseph to guide faculty and staff, we believe that we can meet this objective and look forward to Leicester’s students reaping the benefits of these efforts.

Go Deeper

Click on the following links to read the full articles cited in this blog.

“About Best Practices in Defining Characteristics of Effective Teachers.” Benchmark Education,           https://benchmarkeducation.com/best-practices-library/defining-characteristics-of-effective-teachers.html


Lam, Carrie. ”11 Habits of an Effective Teacher.” George Lucas Foundation, July 2015.

https://www.edutopia.org/discussion/11-habits-effective-teacher


“Teachers Matter: Understanding Teachers' Impact on Student Achievement.” Rand Education and Labor,

https://www.rand.org/education-and-labor/projects/measuring-teacher-effectiveness/teachers-matter.html.


Scott, Irvin. “Learning from our Efforts: Improving Teacher Effectiveness at Scale.” Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 

https://k12education.gatesfoundation.org/blog/learning-from-our-efforts-improving-teacher-effectiveness-at-scale/


Posted by colbyl  On Nov 04, 2019 at 2:57 PM
  

StrongMSBA Commendation - Master Facilities Custodial Plan

Recently, the Massachusetts School Building Authority commended the Leicester Public School District for its comprehensive Maintenance and Custodial Plan. We are pleased to announce that school districts across the state are using Leicester’s Master Plan to keep their buildings clean, safe, and operational.


This post is a summary of the topics within the plan. If you would like to read the entire document, just click on the following link. Master Facilities Maintenance and Custodial Plan


Facilities Mission

Our facilities will support and enable student-centered learning; function as community resources; provide access to technology (anywhere/anytime); be safe and secure; maximize energy efficiency and cost-effective sustainability; foster collaborations; and inspire excellence in teaching and learning (both inside and outside) at all grade levels and abilities.  


District Facilities Audit

In 2015, Leicester Public Schools engaged Johnson Roberts Associates to conduct an audit of its school facilities. The results of the audit included an analysis of the existing conditions of each LPS facility and the potential impact of future enrollment and community use of LPS buildings. Most importantly, Johnson and Roberts, in coordination with the School Department, the Select Board, the School Committee, the Finance Advisory Board, and many students, teachers, and townspeople, developed an overall Facilities Master Plan to address the potential mid-term (+-10 years) facility needs of the Leicester Public Schools. It took six months to develop the plan, which will serve the district well for many years to come.  


Facilities Capital Committee and Facilities Budget

Each year, the School Department works with the town’s Capital Committee to build a budget and identify items and projects in the schools that need attention. After free cash has been certified, the town determines how much money is available for capital projects. A town board consisting of four members and the director of facilities for the school department weigh each request and vote to approve projects individually.


Custodial Staffing and Standards

The director of facilities, in coordination with the school principals, serves as the supervisor for the custodians, grounds staff, and contractors; oversees the scheduling and accomplishment of all maintenance activities including the scheduling of work, the assignment of work orders, the development and implementation of preventative maintenance, safety, and facilities programs and policies, and the provision of needed supplies and equipment. The director also helps develop the Maintenance Department’s budget. 


The school principal supervises the building’s cleaning staff on a daily basis. They work closely with custodians to ensure that the needs of the building, staff, and students are being met. 


The district contracts with qualified vendors to clean, maintain, and operate its facilities. The current vendor is National Facility Services. The vendor is required to meet documented Standards for Cleanliness and Routine as adopted from the Association of Physical Plant Administrators (APPA) publication “Custodial Staffing Guidelines for Educational Facilities.”  The district’s intent is to consistently deliver Level 2 (as described in the attached document) to our staff and students.


Factors that adversely affect achieving the desired level are environmental, facility age, facility usage, and availability of manpower. Audits are randomly conducted by the director of facilities and the building principal. A Master Custodial Schedule is included in the attached document.


Maintenance Priorities and Procedures

Requests for work orders from faculty and staff are submitted to the Maintenance Department electronically. Based on the priority, the director of facilities assigns work orders to the appropriate custodian(s) or contractor(s). The director of facilities also oversees a comprehensive Preventive Maintenance (PM) Program, which can be found in the attached document.


Training and Certifications

The attached document lists the training programs offered by the district including OSHA training, asbestos training, best practice training, and district training.


Energy Conservation and Management

Energy conservation and the quality of the indoor environment in a school are contributing factors to the health and safety of the students and staff and the efficient operation of a school facility. The Town of Leicester has a contract with Honeywell to address electrical, building envelope, heating, and water conservation. In addition, the district’s technology department monitors energy usage using a product called Surveyor. Surveyor is a comprehensive power management solution that helps manage the power states of computers and network-connected devices in a way that reduces energy consumption without disrupting work activity. 


Environmental Quality

The indoor environmental factors that most influence occupant health and welfare are thermal conditions, lighting, and the concentrations of indoor pollutants. At the High School and the Elementary School, the HVAC systems can be accessed through an AME BMS system. This system is configured to give access to authorized personnel both on and off-campus. The cleaning crews routinely inspect the air handlers and air filters in all of the classrooms and replace them as needed. Air and water testing is routinely conducted at all schools. If a new school is built, state-of-the-art air and water quality monitoring systems will be available.

A great deal of thought and many hours went into preparing the Master Facilities Maintenance and Custodial Plan, and its use will help the town keep the school facilities clean, safe, and operational. 


Posted by colbyl  On Sep 23, 2019 at 9:08 AM
  

MSBA Commendation

 Recently, the Massachusetts School Building Authority commended the Leicester Public School District for its Middle School/Elementary School Educational Plan. This plan is a comprehensive document that describes the current state of education in our existing buildings along with our proposals for a new Pre-K to 8 school. We are also pleased to announce that school districts across the state who are thinking about building new schools are using Leicester’s Education Plan as an exemplar for moving forward.


This post is a summary of each topic within the plan. If you would like to read the entire document, just click the following link.  Leicester Middle School/Elementary School Education Plan

 

Leicester Public School’s Education plan is a list of what we would like the proposed Middle/ School/Elementary School to be:

  1.  Overall Vision - One building with two independent schools each with its own identity, name, principal and teaching staff; shared common areas such as the gymnasium and cafeteria
  2. Grade and School Configuration – Grade level separation to manage transitions safely, while allowing for connection and collaboration when needed; focus on academic neighborhoods, serving grade levels and subject areas
  3. Class Sizes – Reasonable class sizes determined by grade level with exceptions for classes in certain subject areas, the need for specialized instruction, and availability of classroom space and equipment – target range from 20:1 in kindergarten and 25:1 in high school
  4. School Scheduling – Upper school with rotating schedule, heterogeneously mixed; lower school self-contained classrooms with grade four teacher or student movement; appropriate staff planning and collaboration time and space
  5. Teaching Methodology and Structure – Focus on student-centered, project-based learning with the teacher as coach or guide; engaging hands-on activities that foster inquiry, research, and investigation; classrooms built to house “works in progress” to promote observation, discussion, and collaboration
  6. Teacher Planning and Room Assignment  – Teacher workspaces for each grade level team, allowing teachers to interact, create, plan, collaborate, and complete their work; consideration given to the level of privacy required for specific tasks
  7. Pre-Kindergarten – At least three preschool classrooms including a program for students with more intensive needs; programming that allows time for students with special needs to interact with neurotypical peers
  8. Kindergarten – Non-tuition based, full-time kindergarten with large enough classrooms to set up a variety of learning centers; carpeting in one area for reading and instruction and flooring in another for snacks and “messy” projects; adjacent to restrooms
  9. Lunch Program and Student Dining – A “cafetorium” that is centrally located with a well-equipped kitchen and two serving sides designed for maximum production; a space that promotes all-day student use and community use after-hours; retractable stadium-style seating for performances, presentations, and student assemblies
  10. Technology Instruction, Programming, and Infrastructure – Rigorous, student-centered learning in a safe and technology-rich environment; anytime, anywhere learning based on competency and mastery; high quality, high-speed technology, and infrastructure systems
  11. Art Program – Well-equipped primary and specialized art classrooms - the hub of visual art instruction, close proximity to the media center, video production, and language instruction; satellite studios for the execution of painting, assembly, and graphic design required across the curriculum
  12. Music and Performing Arts Programs - Dedicated music spaces with music rooms; instrument areas, visuals, music technology, and movement spaces; a performance space (cafetorium) with appropriate acoustics and state-of-the-art curtain, lighting, sound, recording, and video equipment
  13. Physical Education Program – A gymnasium complex that is a multifunctional space large enough for both schools to use at once for classes and combined school assemblies; locker rooms attached to the larger space; community access for large events
  14. Outdoor Learning and Exterior Spaces – Two playgrounds, one for Prek to K and the other for grades one to four; hard surface with basketball hoops and other features for all types of ball play; playing fields including a dedicated Middle School field appropriate for interscholastic football, soccer, and field hockey contests; other practice spaces for the Middle School and a baseball/softball field for interscholastic contests; restrooms that can be accessed from outside the building
  15. Library/Media Center - A centrally located space that serves as both a teaching area and a resource center for teachers, staff and students; satellite media resources located in various academic neighborhoods; a space for project-based activities that require strong media and data content; expert specialists that lead, teach, and support the entire school
  16. Special Education Programs – Fully integrated academic teams; ample classroom space, small group rooms, inclusion rooms, and space for administration, testing, meetings, de-escalation, and adaptive PE/OT; specialized programs like the Living and Learning Center
  17. Transportation, Drop-Off, Building Entrances – Separate locations for school buses and parent drop-off/pickup; safe pathway for students who walk to school away from bus traffic; entrances linked to employee badges; adequate parking for staff and visitors including for night events and athletics, adequate lighting on the building and parking lot; separate entrances for the upper and lower schools
  18. Spatial Relationships and Key Adjacencies – A welcoming environment for students, staff, and the community at large; ease and accessibility of use by the community; a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces that supports educational goals; learning neighborhoods with general education classrooms and common spaces to facilitate project-based learning, teaming, STEM and special education; shared teacher workspaces in each neighborhood; flexible classrooms that allow for integration of key subjects
  19. Security and Access – Electronic monitoring of exterior doors, unlocked by a card-based control system or a push-button intercom system; inner set of doors in the main vestibule locked at all times except for drop-off and pickup times; panic buttons throughout the building; cameras placed on all entry doors into the building, interior hallways, and shared spaces; system monitored by LPD 

 A great deal of thought and many hours went into preparing the Leicester Middle School/Elementary School Education Plan, but it was necessary in order to decide what type of school would be best for the Town of Leicester. We hope you will continue to learn about this project and reach out to the School Department with all of your questions and concerns.

 


 


Posted by colbyl  On Sep 02, 2019 at 4:04 PM
  
Today's Topic: Interdisciplinary Learning Interdisciplinary learning develops awareness and understanding of the connections and differences across subject areas and disciplines. Research shows that this type of instruction has many benefits:
  • Teacher collaboration
  • Student engagement
  • Higher level thinking
  • Content mastery
  • Real-world application
  • Non-fragmented learning

While many schools try to infuse interdisciplinary instruction into the curriculum, one barrier they face is the daily schedule. In most schools, the day is divided into periods during which students are exposed to one subject at a time. Each teacher has a specific responsibility to cover the material that is mandated by the state standards. Many teachers try to broaden the scope of their lessons and may even do some co-teaching. For example, if the subject is Ancient Egypt, the teacher may include a bit of history, literature, and the arts. This approach provides some relief for the problem of fragmented learning, but doesn’t really give students the chance to explore a subject in depth.

What is Leicester Doing?

To get around this barrier, Leicester Middle School has become very creative. This year, Friends of Leicester Middle School applied for a grant from the Osterman Family Foundation to finance The Innovation Hub at LMS. The Innovation Hub is an after-school enrichment program consisting of four activities: the Movie Club, the MakerSpace, the Audio/Visual Club, and the Robotics Club. The overall goal of the Innovation Hub is to provide opportunities for youth to learn and grow in creative areas that will prepare them for their future endeavors. By taking part in one or more of these activities, students are able to explore what interests them in much greater depth than they have time for in the classroom. And, they get to experience authentic learning at its best.

This year, one of the best examples of Interdisciplinary learning was an original film created and produced by the LMS Movie Club. The film, entitled Leicester Academy of Magic: The Book of Times to Come, is based on the popular Harry Potter series. It took hundreds of hours by many staff members and students to complete this project. Approximately 50% of the school community participated in it under the supervision of Ms. Minton and Mr. DePace. High school junior, Devyn Butkiewicus, spent countless hours filming, editing, and creating special effects. Ms. Dusty’s Art Club created artwork and set design for the film. Ms. Looney’s Band and Chorus recorded the soundtrack for the film. And through the community’s generosity, the crew was able to film at notable locations including Leicester Congregational Church, the Castle Restaurant, the historic Swan Tavern, the Leicester Town Common, and St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer.

The film project was a great success due to the commitment of everyone, especially Mr. DePace and Ms. Minton. They dream big and make their dreams become reality. Other key success factors are: Students and staff members WANTED to participate, even on their own time. The activities were extremely engaging and fun. Students were able to forge strong relationships with their teachers and other students, which might not have occurred without this project. The administration and staff were very supportive, providing flexibility during and after the school day to help make activities run smoothly. The community pitched in to volunteer when needed.

They say it takes a village, and the LMS community came together to provide a unique interdisciplinary learning opportunity for its students. They took on a complicated project that showcased students’ abilities and interests in the areas of art, drama, music, and technology. Anyone in attendance at the movie premiere will tell you that it was fabulous. Kudos for everyone who made it happen!

References Hayes Jacobs, H. (2019). The Growing Need for Interdisciplinary Curriculum Content. [online] Ascd.org. Available at: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/61189156/chapters/The-Growing-Need-for-Interdisciplinary-Curriculum-Content.aspx [Accessed 14 Jun. 2019].

MacDonald, H. (2004). Why Teach with an Interdisciplinary Approach?. [online] Interdisciplinary Approaches to Teaching. Available at: https://serc.carleton.edu/econ/interdisciplinary/why.html [Accessed 14 Jun. 2019].













Posted by colbyl  On Jun 14, 2019 at 7:54 PM
  

New Exchange Teacher The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. State Department has selected Leicester Middle School to host a fully-funded teacher of Modern Standard Arabic as part of the 2019-2020 Teachers of Critical Languages Program (TCLP). The exchange teacher will be coming to the U.S from Egypt. This program is one of several State Department initiatives that support U.S. students, teachers, and professors in learning critical world languages through instruction in the U.S. and abroad.

To learn more about this exciting opportunity, please click HERE.


Posted by colbyl  On Apr 09, 2019 at 4:06 PM
  
Please click on the following link to see last week's School Department Recap.

March 1, 2019, School Department Recap
Posted by colbyl  On Mar 05, 2019 at 9:27 AM
  
There is movement state-wide to update the method for allocating funds to school districts. If you want to find out more about it, please join state legislators, school committee members, and school superintendents for a Community Forum on State Funding to Public Schools. Click on the following link to see the details.

Community Forum Flyer
Posted by colbyl  On Feb 13, 2019 at 10:56 PM
  

The School Department is facing a significant budget shortfall for next year:


Requested School Budget      $17,440,595

Town Proposed Budget           $16,881,790 ($9,755,847 - State; $7,125,943 - Town)

Deficit                                     $ 558,805


After conducting a comprehensive analysis, school administrators came up with two options for reducing expenses: close Memorial School or keep it open. This evening the School Committee unanimously voted to close Memorial School beginning with the 2019-2020 school year.


This decision was not made lightly. The group considered many factors such as maintaining educationally sound practices, the impact of potential actions on the Middle School building project, grade restructuring, the capacity of existing buildings, and much more.


This action means that the Pre-K will move to the High School, grades three and four will move to the Primary School, and grade five will move to the Middle School. This could mean that staff may be reduced by up to 13.6 FTEs, and 24 stipends could be eliminated.  


By adopting this plan, our schools:

  • Maintain educationally sound practices
  • Enrich programming at each school, including adding STEM education for elementary students
  • Minimize transitions for students
  • Provide handicapped accessibility for all students
  • House all students on one campus
  • Provide more efficient transportation
  • Utilize staff in a more efficient and effective way
  • Keep all current programs in place

There will be one-time construction costs, and the Memorial School will be vacant in the short term. However, there may be opportunities to lease the facility to other educational organizations or businesses. Under both options, there will be a reduction in staff, but the impact will not be as great under this plan.

Over the next few months, the School Department will be working diligently to bring this plan to fruition with as little disruption as possible.


Posted by colbyl  On Feb 12, 2019 at 7:34 PM
  

During part 2 of the Visioning workshop on January 29,  the Educational Working Group created a list of “Future-Ready” learning goals consisting of the following items:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving - Prioritize, plan, and manage for results, access and analyze data, conduct quantitative and qualitative reasoning, and master core academic content
  • Caring, Empathy, and Humility - Exhibit service, compassion, integrity, ethics, citizenship, develop digital, social, and civic competencies and cultural awareness, and engage in multi-generational community activities
  • Adaptability, Initiative, and Risk-Taking - Inspire curiosity, imagination, confidence, inventive thinking, wonderful ideas, and joy of learning
  • Growth Mindset - Learn how to learn, take ownership of learning through self-direction, ask good questions, realize that failure is a learning tool and use it to improve
  • Effective Communication - Strengthen literacy skills to enable effective written and oral communication, especially with digital media
  • Effective Use of Real-World Tools - Increase productivity and expeditionary learning (learning by doing), enhance career and college preparation, and learn to know, do, be, and live together in an increasingly digital world
  • Leadership and Teamwork - Exhibit leadership and collaboration, take part in a positive competition, and develop strong interpersonal skills.

Click on the link to see the slides that were used for the first workshop.


Visioning Workshop One - Slide Presentation


Posted by colbyl  On Feb 12, 2019 at 8:21 AM
  
Every week I meet with my staff and others, as needed, to discuss what is going on in the schools, communicate important items, solicit feedback, and plan for the future. Starting today, I will be publishing a recap on a weekly basis. Click on the following link to see the recap from February 8, 2019:

School Department Weekly Recap - February 8, 2019
Posted by colbyl  On Feb 11, 2019 at 3:15 PM
  
1  2 
 
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2019 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.