Town Hall Mostly Deja Vu
Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III held sway Thursday over an audience that was about half school administrators and staff, with a smaller representation of parents.The meeting date coincided with the historic juxtaposition of Barack Obama's acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination and the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, which may have lessened the crowd at Washington Community School in favor of those watching television. Gallon called for a moment of silence in recognition of King's legacy.
The strategic plan has more than 80 metrics, reflecting Gallon's drive for "tangible and measurable" results in the district. Several items have already been accomplished, such as establishment of an electronic newsletter to improve community involvement.
Among the new information revealed Thursday:
- With 90 percent of administrators having less than five years' of administrative experience, professional development will be stressed.
- A new free-standing high school for talented teens is in the works, with auditions required and academic excellence demonstrated before admission. Gallon declared the proposed school will be "the first and only" program of its kind in Union County. A January presentation is scheduled on the new school.
- The district will also seek to have its own pre-school programs integrated with existing elementary schools for the convenience of parents. Currently, outside agencies provide programs at their own sites.
- All future school meetings will showcase students, as the forum did Thursday and the August business meeting did with a dramatic reading by students of Othell Miller. On Thursday, Maxson Middle School students took part. Jachai Simmons introduced Board of Education President Bridget Rivers and Joslyn Barco introduced Gallon.
- Student schedules will first reflect subjects required by the state, then intervention needed to increase academic performance, and lastly electives that enhance the learning experience.
"We need to improve the level of intervention built into the schedule," Gallon said.
Among answers to questions from the audience, Gallon said his strategic plan has been presented, but not yet distributed. He will present it to Plainfielders at three more town hall meetings. A summary of goals for the 2008-09 is also on the district web site.
"This is your plan," he said.
Middle school will not be eliminated, he said in response to another question. Gallon recently unveiled a plan for two elementary schools to change from K-5 to K-8, starting with addition of a sixth grade in September. But he said parents will have the choice of a middle school or K-8 setting.
"It will never be an either/or," he said.
Those who want to become involved in the schools can learn of opportunities through the office of Administrative Services headed by Assistant Superintendent Garnell Bailey, he said in answer to another question. Gallon said participation might range from mentoring and workplace shadowing to simply writing a check for causes such as recognition of student accomplishment.
To a parent's concern about special education, Gallon responded that the district's goal is to expand mainstreaming.
Gallon urged everyone to ask district leaders questions before speculating on matters of concern.
"Feel free to contact us about questions," he said.