• September 2017 School Board Wrap

    school board wrap

    Superintendent David Woods began his report by asking Assistant Superintendent Dr. Margaret Billings-Jones to update the board on recent curriculum- and technology-related activities.

    Dr. Billings-Jones reported that 2,600 new iPads were delivered to the school buildings prior to the first day of classes. "Our distribution team inventoried the entire delivery and checked every piece of equipment," she said. "All of our support staff and our secretaries took a day from their regular work at a very busy time of year to help with the distribution. It was a very positive atmosphere.

    "Even while staff members were breaking their nails and cutting their fingers, they were all really motivated to help. Thank you to Roger Madron and the building and grounds department members and to everyone involved in completing this project."

    Dr. Billings-Jones also thanked the technology department staff who scanned each iPad for digital inventory and then went about the task of making every tablet ready for student use on Day One. "Our technology people did a tremendous job, and I also want to thank our building secretaries who were responsible for getting the iPads to each classroom for the start of school," she said.

    Dr. Billings-Jones said that the September 22 teacher in-service day will include training in the use of instructional technology focusing on the new iPads. The Act 80 day will also include instruction in the Blackboard learning management system at Oxford Area High School, a review of the Exact Path student learning diagnostic program which is being piloted this year in grades 3-6, and examination of the Math in Focus curriculum at Penn's Grove School.

    "We want to shore up the math scores in seventh and eighth grade," said Dr. Billings-Jones. "With our new Math in Focus program, some of those gaps that the students have experienced in the earlier grades are now being seen in the seventh and eighth grades."

    The district's library and media specialists will receive training in the Common Sense digital citizenship program in grade K-12. "We want to make sure our students understand the responsibilities that come with using digital resources as well as best use of the software programs they will have access to in the classroom," said Dr. Billings-Jones.

    Professional development activities will also include training in mental health and first aid for school nurses and a new electronic SAT prep program to help support teachers in better preparing students for the exam.

    Dr. Billings-Jones also presented her goals for the 2017-18 school year to the board and community. Her first set of goals is in the area of continuity, consistency and effective communication across all grade levels.

    Dr. Billings-Jones said the district will continue to support efforts to improve the student transition process from pre-kindergarten programs to kindergarten at Jordan Bank Elementary School. Regular departmental meetings reviewing instructional content will also continue, as will monthly principals' meetings.

    Dr. Billings-Jones said the district will continue to engage the student advisor group which gives Oxford Area High School seniors an opportunity to provide feedback to the superintendent. 

    In the area of programming and curriculum development and evaluation, Dr. Billings-Jones said the district's curriculum review cycle will proceed on schedule and professional development activities will continue to be held regularly, with relevant focus on the use of instructional technology. She will establish a student technology initiative at Oxford Area High School and Penn's Grove School where students will be trained to be the first level of support for classmates having difficulty with a particular iPad exercise. Similarly, the district will develop a cohort of expert teachers to assist colleagues in the use of instructional technology.

    Dr. Billings-Jones said the district will continue the high school's Early College Academy partnership with Cecil College, which in the spring will award associate's degrees to seniors in the program's first cohort.

    In the area of community outreach and involvement, Dr. Billings-Jones will continue to encourage community participation in development of the district's comprehensive plan, which must be submitted to the state Department of Education by the fall of 2018. Current partnerships with numerous community organizations will be strengthened and new partnerships cultivated.

    Chester County School Boards Legislative Council representative Robert Tenga reported that no state budget revenue bill has been passed by the legislature, although the state House of Representatives and Senate have passed separate bills which have yet to be reconciled. A spending bill was passed by the both chambers in July and put into law without Gov. Wolf's signature.

    "School districts will not receive any additional subsidy payments until a revenue bill is passed by both chambers and enacted into law with or without the governor's signature," said Mr. Tenga.

    In recent revisions to the Pennsylvania School Code, Mr. Tenga said the moratorium on Keystone Exams as a graduation requirement has been extended until the 2019-20 school year. The state also granted school districts the ability to furlough employees for economic reasons. 

    The board approved the School Directors goals for the 2017-18 school year. Among the goals are:

    • Negotiate and ratify a new teachers' contract. The current contract expires June 30, 2018.
    • Keep any tax increase for 2018-19 to less than the state Act 1 index.
    • Every board member will visit a school not attended by his or her child, which can include attending a Parent University evening.

    The board approved the Superintendent’s Goals for the 2017-18 school year. Among the goals Mr. Woods presented at the September 12 work session are:

    • Devote a portion of each monthly Leadership Meeting to providing basic Spanish language instruction for all administrative staff.
    • Begin discussions for improvement of facilities and educational programming to include a capital campaign in coordination with the Oxford Educational Foundation.
    • Continue to enhance the agricultural studies program at Oxford Area High School.
    • Reach out to resident students who currently attend cyber charter schools with the goal of enrolling them in district schools, and establish cyber course options for all high school students. Quarterly informational meetings will be held for cyber charter parents and students. 

    The board approved a contract with Dr. Diane Lane for a Post-Secondary Educational Consultant and Liaison to the Superintendent.

    The board heard the second reading of a revision of Policy #5150 – Attendance: Excuses for Absences and adopted a new policy, #3710 – Food Services: Cafeteria Meal Charges & Collection of Debt.

    Calendar

    Tuesday, October 10 - Budget & Finance Committee, 6:30 p.m., Administration Building

    Tuesday, October 10 - Work Session, 7 p.m., Administration Building

    Tuesday, October 17 - Technology Committee, 6:30 p.m., Administration Building

    Tuesday, October 17 - Regular Meeting, 7 p.m., Administration Building

    The September 19 regular meeting will be available to watch at any time on Oxford ipTV.

    Send comments and suggestions about the School Board Wrap to asalatto@oxfordasd.org

    wrapping up

    School has been in session for about a month now, but most of our community members probably don't realize how much work and planning go into ensuring a smooth start to the school year. This year required an exceptional amount of preparation.

    Yes, the typical room assignments were made, books ordered and planned maintenance performed. But in addition to this, OASD had just run a highly successful summer program with the largest ever number of Oxford area children participating.

    But still, teachers, maintenance crews, secretaries, and administrators managed to get all the planned jobs done and the last minute "add-ons" mostly completed. Also, there were 2,600 new iPads leased for our students, individual iPads for students in grades 7-12 and shared iPads for grades 1-6.

    Every teacher in the district received an iPad and started the necessary training in its use. The employees of our school district made sure that all these individually packaged iPads were distributed, assigned and programmed before school began.

    A major SHOUT OUT to all involved for a job WELL DONE.

    “... what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.”  ― Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

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