Thursday, August 28, 2008

Town Hall Mostly Deja Vu

Those of us who already saw the unveiling of the school district's strategic plan for 2008-12 were looking for the new news in Thursday's Superintendent's Town Hall meeting at Washington Community School, one of four scheduled over the next few weeks. Click here for Plaintalker's prior post on the strategic plan and here to read the district's news release on the plan.

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.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A "metric" is generally defined as a "standard of measurement" and even by this simple definition, Dr. Gallon's "metrics" fall far short of the mark.

If this is all there is to the "metrics", the community is being bamboozled. If there is more depth to them, the full metrics need to be on the website and available to the community.

For example, one of the "metrics" is "Decreased Dropout Rate."

What is the rate now, how is it measured, what tracking is done of students who leave the district, what are the causes, by what % and by what time will the rates decrease--these should all be part of the "metric."

3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should have come to the Town Hall Meeting and asked the question of the man himself. I will say the fact that a plan with even an inkling of measurement has been developed and presented to the public is light years from past administrations. I applaud the administration for their effort.

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to the district website to see the metrics mentioned for myself. What I found was a comprehensive long range plan for Plainfield. Is the poster who is critical of what Dr. Gallon is doing here serious? The fact that the new superintendent has been to this district for all but a few months and has developed a plan for the future is outstanding. As a person with a background in business management it is obvious that a sound business approach is at play here. I commend the new superintendent for this approach. Keep up the great work.

8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the poster critical of the efforts is looking for "real" leadership, one that is open and honest with the citizens of Plainfield. Someone in the caliber of Paula Howard? Give me a break! This super is open and responsive and has an overwhelming understanding and vision of education.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to the school website also and could only find the metrics listed--I cannot find any "comprehensive long range plan for Plainfield" posted anwhere.

Can you please provide the link? Thanks.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If "the super is open and responsive and has an overwhelming understanding and vision of education", why isn't there more to his "metrics" than that on the PPS website?

I wish him all the success in the world since how well he does very much affects how high my taxes go and the quality of life in the City. I would just like to see more "meat" in the metrics.

Anonymous 341 PM & 848 AM

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess you would like the entire plan on the website. Maybe you would want to contact him directly or use the district blog to ask the super. Yes, this is another metric for communicating with the community that did not exist before. I guess that does not enough "meat" either. Keep up the great work, Dr. Gallon. I have been here long enough to see and apprecaite the difference.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I would like to see he entire plan--and it should be available to the community--the metrics posted on the website are meaningless if they cannot be quantified or measured over a set period of time.

For example, "Increased Graduation Rate" tells me nothing--it is motherhood and apple pie. It cannot be measured/compared/evaluated. Now, if you changed it--and all of the others--to something like:

"Increase the PHS graduation rate from 65% to 75% by the end of the 2008-09 school year" you have something to which you can hold the district accountable.

I just don't see this on the site and I hope they exist.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Taiwan said...

Othell Miller is a former PHS teacher of mine, great guy!

2:15 AM  

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