Earlier this month, NHTS completed our 2016 administration of the PARCC assessments with 100% participation. Throughout New Jersey, PARCC participation is very hot issue. In some districts, participation is as low 25%. I want to thank our community for opting in. By doing so, you are not supporting the test, you are supporting our students. NHTS has experienced unprecedented academic growth over the last four years coming from multiple drivers. For us, assessment is the life blood of improvement. Tests, like the PARCC exams, are diagnostic. They are our academic cat scans. The staff at NHTS review the results of these tests and make school wide, programming decisions based upon our findings. Because all of our eligible students took this year's test, the resulting data will paint a detailed picture of our strengths and weaknesses.
I have heard and read the arguments against high stakes testing. I understand, believe me I do. But, assessments allow our teachers to focus on the specific needs of our individual students. They allow our administration to evaluate our programs and make improvements. The results are there and they are spectacular. So, thank you again for a being a true partner in making NHTS a remarkable school. I feel strong about what we have accomplished and the way we have done it. If you would like more information about any of the above topics, feel free to stop by my office, share a cup of coffee, and have a conversation. I think you will be proud as well.
Spring has long been held as a time for renewal. As we return from a restful Spring Break, our community sets its sights, once again, on the renewal of our pledge to succeed. Over the past several years, we have accomplished great things as a school community. We have established a pattern of substantial, consistent growth, sought new resources for students and families, grown our professional practice, increased family involvement, and thrived in extracurricular activities. Continuing this upward climb may seem daunting and arduous. But, our world class professional staff and the best students in Burlington County will continue to excel. Our recent gains are not an end point or finite victory. To the contrary, they provide a clear picture of what is possible. Thank you again, to all, for being a part of something truly special.
In 1997, a task force of the NEA met to discuss ways of spreading the importance of reading. The resulting big idea was Read Across America Day, which the group decided to celebrate on February 2nd to coincide with Dr. Suess' birthday. Today, schools across America create activities to motivate students to read. Now, more than ever, literacy is an essential key to success beyond the schoolhouse doors. In a 2009 article, Bob Wise note the following:
At New Hanover Township School, we are dedicated to teaching literacy and preparing our students for successful. I want to thank our staff, led by Ms. Levan and Ms. Thomas for planning this week's activities including, the book fair preview, literature trivia, school-wide read in, and "Bookstock."
To assist students at home, families can utilize the following strategies:
So have a great Read Across America Day. With your assistance ans support, we will continue to inspire hardwork and celebrate success.
I will often describe the New Hanover Township School community as one of inspiration and celebration. Our school placed those attributes on display at yesterday's Honor Roll Breakfast. Thanks to the generosity of our PTO, we recognized 48 students for academic excellence. In my closing remarks, I discussed a lesson learned from one of my first professional mentors. The students are our North Star, the glowing force that steadies our path when we seemed lost. There's a lot going on in the world today. And as we narrow the focus to our lives, the impact of unsettlng times multiplies. I frequently reflect on matters both near and far. During these moments, I look to those North Stars that keep me moving on the right path. Thank you to our students for inspiring us and providing reason to celebrate.
Yesterday, Sgt. Tuliano from the New Hanover Township Police Department and I attended a training seminar entitled "Crisis Management for School-Based Incident-Partnering Law Enforcement, First Responders, and Local School Systems" presented by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. Topics included incident planning and preparedness, proactive threat mitigation, incident response, and incident recovery. While the information was highly advanced and useful, the best part of the afternoon was the ability to collaborate with local law enforcement. I suspect this is highly hypocritical, but I talked a lot during class. Sgt. Tuliano and I discussed multiple ways for us to improve our emergency preparedness. Our society is in constant flux and each emergency event presents its own challenges. At New Hanover, we always rise to the level of our training in order to protect this community's greatest asset--our children.
I want to thank everyone in the New Hanover Township School Community for their efforts in keeping our children safe today. This afternoon, at 3:00, a member of the staff told me that he smelled gas in the rear of the building. Mr. Bramley and I confirmed the odor and contacted local authorities. At this time, we evacuated students to the front of the building with their belongings. I am so proud of our students and staff for remaining calm and orderly during this potentially hectic period. As per their training, teachers ensured that all students were present. At 3:20, Sgt. Tuliano from the New Hanover Township Police Department stopped traffic so that students could board their busses on Fort Dix Street. Students who walk home were permitted to leave at this time as well. During this period, the Wrightstown and Cookstown Fire Departments secured the parking lot and examined the area along with PSE&G. I am truly fortunate to be part of such a special community. We drill various evacuation scenarios throughout the year. Each event, however, is unique and requires decision-making. I am thankful that those decisions are executed by a highly trained, professional, and caring staff. Today, I will tell you, without reservation, everyone joined together to ensure the safety of our children. PSE&G cleared the area at 4:25 and school will open tomorrow at regular time. As I reflect on the day, I'm reminded again why we are the best school in Burlington County. If you have any questions regarding today, please feel free to call me at (609) 723-2139.
In this morning’s Star Ledger, State Senator Raymond Lesniak wrote an opinion piece describing the benefits of community schools. The full text of that piece can be found at http://www.nj.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/01/lesniak_attack_poverty_and_improve_education_with.html#incart_most-comments. I strongly suggest you read the article.
The author cites “numerous studies” that have proven what we in Wrightstown and Cookstown have always known; our beloved New Hanover Township School is the epicenter of our community: a place where students come for knowledge, comfort, and caring. Our school is much more than the bricks and mortar that form its historic exterior. It is an institution that has served our families since 1938.
Senator Lesniak refers to “current strategies employed in education reform.” I will only guess that he is referring to large, conglomerate educational factories that lack the resources, time, and ability to identify each child’s uniqueness. I often tell others, we not only know all of our students by name, we know them by voice. Additionally, we know what motivates them to excel. We know their individual learning styles. We know their strengths and weaknesses. We are deeply invested in their success.
Two years ago, I authored the following piece for our newsletter:
During my opening remarks at Back to School Night, I referenced research that indicates benefits from small school environments. For the purpose of this discussion, multiple researchers have indicated that the optimum size for an elementary school is under 350 students. Specifically, the Office of Planning and Research observed that students from smaller schools achieved higher academic scores and that each 500 students added reduced student scores.
As state and federal agencies increase their scrutiny of public schools, the framework for that accountability has changed. With the adoption of the Common Core of State Standards, acceptance of Race to the Top III grant monies, and full implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of College and Career Readiness (PARCC), schools are turning their sole focus to academic achievement. Consistent research in the area of school size supports the small school model, particularly at the elementary level. In New York, a 2004 study found higher achievement scores in smaller schools even after controlling for socioeconomic factors. A similar study in Illinois during the same year confirmed these findings. In 2013, the Carnegie Foundation published a report supporting the small school stating that these types of schools could provide the intense support needed for students with diverse needs to meet new rigorous standards.
Additional research on schools also finds that smaller schools display better school climate. Specifically, larger schools report disproportionately larger discipline infractions, higher dropout rates, and more expulsions. Small schools foster greater participation in extracurricular activities, lower level of school violence, and higher attendance rates. Key factors causing these results are greater personalized learning environments, increased school-decision autonomy, stronger focus on student learning, highly supportive environments, and greater accountability for student achievement.
At the New Hanover Township School, our size is our strength. Anecdotally, I will say that the results of the above-referenced studies ring true. Small class sizes and a small school environment allow our staff to focus on individual student needs.
While I am thrilled to read that a member of our Legislature has studied the successes of community-based schools, I offer him a standing invitation to make that trip down the New Jersey Turnpike to experience it firsthand.
At the December 10th meeting, the New Hanover Township Board of Education approved a shared service agreement with the North Hanover Board of Education to provide Child Study Team services for our students. Today was Day One of that arrangement and I am thrilled with the prospects of working with such a talented, dedicated, and professional group. I wish to express my gratitude to both Boards and both Administrations for making this collaboration possible. While I am not one for cliche, the phrase "win-win" fits here seamlessly. The new Child Study Team will give our students the world class services they deserve while also providing a benefit to local taxpayers. Once again, I am proud to work for a school community that is committed to achieving excellence.
On January 4, 2016, New Hanover Township launched its new homepage. With this new configuration, viewers will be able to access vital information more easily through the site and through the accompanying mobile site. I am excited for this change and hopeful that this new design will improve our ability to communicate all the great things happening here at New Hanover Township School. As part of the new website, I will be posting an informational blog periodically. In it, I will list import dates, student/staff accomplishments, and general school information. I welcome your feedback and participation. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.