2016-2017 School Year Offers Opportunities for Growth and Excellence

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Dear Delran Stakeholders,

The months of July and August quickly turned into September and nearly October!  As I have said on many occasions, there is much to celebrate in Delran.  Below is an update in several major areas of our program here in Delran Township.

Curriculum

This past summer was  a busy time for curriculum writing.  Several curricular areas were revised and updated to address the district’s curricular needs.  Some of the committees at work this summer included K-8 Language Arts, K-5 Mathematics, K-8 Social Studies and 6-12 Health.  The district is also preparing for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with groups of K-12 teachers performing gap analysis, evaluating model curriculum alignment to NGSS and creating unit assessments.  Additionally, some high school teachers are involved in writing curricula for new Advanced Placement courses and/or revising those courses due to revised exams.

You can get a sense of the state of many curricular areas in the District here.

This past summer marked the inaugural voyage for our STEAM Up Summer Camp.  This initiative was created for students in the district that finished grades 3, 4 and 5.  We hosted students who learned concepts and skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.  The district was partially funded by Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) and has applied for additional funding for next summer with the hope of having a full day program.  You can find more information about STEAM Up here and here.  A great first year!

Professional Development

It’s one thing to hire the right people; it’s another to keep them current and apprised in all areas of instruction and best practices. One area this district invests in is professional development.  During the summer months groups of teachers met with professors and professionals from Princeton University, Columbia University and Rutgers University in the area of literacy (Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project), infusing the arts in the curriculum (Geraldine Dodge Foundation for the Arts) and in the area of Advanced Placement (AP) Curriculum.  

The professional development opportunities were invigorating for those in attendance. You can view a reaction that Kathy McHugh, Kindergarten teacher at Millbridge, had to attending a full week training at Columbia University in New York City HERE.  

An important component of our professional development program take place at the high school during each academic day and during the school year for our K-8 schools during early closings (called PCPEP Days).  During these sessions, teachers examine student work in engage in professional dialog and articulation exercises to examine their outputs.  More specific information regarding actual PCPEP activities can be shared from your child’s Principal or through Mrs. Kari McGann, Director of Curriculum.

STEM Pathways Grant

The District has applied for funding in the amount of $60,000 in technical assistance in the area of science, technology, engineering and math.  This grant is being submitted by the District in partnership with several local and regional organizations that will allow us to continue to refine and define what courses and opportunities we are offering to Delran students, particularly those at the grade 6 through grade 12 level:

  • K-12 Partner
    • Delran Township Public Schools
    • Delran Education Association
  • Higher Education Partners
    • Rowan College at Burlington County Department of STEM Programming
    • Rider University Department of Education
    • Princeton University Department of Chemistry
    • University of Kentucky Biology Lab
  • Industry/Business Partners
    • New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission
    • Lockheed Martin
    • PSE&G Office of Energy & Environmental Resources
    • Radwell International
    • Barnes & Noble
    • Township of Delran, Office of Mayor Paris
    • Township Council of Delran
    • Princetel Lighting and Fiber Optics
  • Community Partners
    • Perkins Center for the Arts
    • Delran Education Foundation

Delran Education Foundation

This past school year the District was fortunate to be the direct beneficiary of funding provided by the Delran Education Foundation.  As a result, the following programs will be funded and taking place in and around the District:

  • $1,500 to Laurie Fauver for Advanced Art Club
    • This project will enhance the art program at Millbridge and provide 2nd grade students weekly enrichment in the visual arts.
    • Children will study master artists, experiment with various materials, work with an artist in residence from the Perkins Center for the Arts, and enhance the beauty of the school by creating a wall mosaic. The program will culminate in a field trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • $1,300 to Mary Jo Hutchinson for DIS Robotics Team – FIRST Lego League
    • 4th and 5th grade students will learn the basics of robotics, build Lego robots, learn to operate the robots, and prepare for the specific theme or challenge for the yearly FIRST Lego League competition.
    • Students will also attend a regional robotics competition in the spring.
  • $400 to Jason Pope for Antebellum American Regional Cuisine
    • To supplement classroom learning of American history, 6th grade social studies students will conduct a cooperative research project to discover authentic, period-appropriate, American cuisine from different geographic regions and execute a recipe and cooking plan.
  • $1,500 to Jen Frisella for Motion, Forces & Energy – Rocket Engineering Project
    • 8th grade science students will work in groups to design and construct rockets following the engineering design process.
    • The culminating event will be a rocket launch competition and performance day.
  • $1,500 to Mary Jo Hutchinson for DHS Robotics Team – FIRST Tech Challenge
    • 9th through 12th grade students will learn the intricacies of robotics, design and build their robots, learn to operate the robots, and prepare for the specific theme or challenge for the yearly FIRST Tech Challenge competition.
    • Students will also attend a regional robotics competition in the spring.

The Delran Education Foundation has two events planned for the 2016-2017 school year.  They will be hosting the Harlem Wizards on November 19, 2016 and Casino Night on April 1, 2017.

Sustainability

In the past eighteen months the Board of Education has worked diligently towards the concept of reducing its operating expenses and its carbon footprint.  In the past year the Board approved a recommendation to enter into an energy savings improvement program (ESIP) in cooperation with Schneider Electric.  We are almost prepared to break ground on several major projects, including solar panel projects at each of our schools.  If you are interested in more detailed ESIP information, you can view that here.

The ESIP projects are in addition to two of our schools being recognized by a sustainable practices organization called Sustainable Jersey for earning Bronze status.  Millbridge Elementary School earned Bronze status in 2015 and Delran High School earned it this past summer.  Delran Intermediate School and Delran Middle School are working towards Bronze status as well. Millbridge and Delran High School will continue its work in sustainable practices as it approaches Silver and Gold status.  You can review Sustainable Jersey here  and the Bronze level standards here.

The Board of Education members, school administration, teacher representatives and student groups will be present at Delran Day at Holy Cross Academy this coming Sunday, September 25, from Noon to 4pm whereupon you can learn more about the ESIP projects.

Additionally, the district will be hosting a Sustainability Open House on October 19, 2016 at the DHS Cafeteria at 6:30pm in concert with Schneider Electric.  Please connect with the Board of Education in the coming days at one of these opportunities in order to get a great sense of how far the district has progressed in the area of sustainability in a short amount of time!

Governance

One  of  the roles  that  the Board of Education serves is in the area of planning.  The Board is charged with developing Board Goals and District Goals annually and measuring their progress.  At the September 12, 2016 Board of Education Meeting, the Board adopted District Goals and Board of Education Goals.  

The District goals for 2016-2017 are below:

Goal One – Student Achievement

Increase student achievement for all students at all levels in the area of literacy with an emphasis on narrowing the achievement gaps among the various sub-groups, as evidenced through benchmark assessments and other data sources.

Goal Two – College and Career Preparedness

Support student environments that prepare for college and career competencies through the development and expansion of programming in the areas of literacy, science, technology, engineering, arts, industrial arts and mathematics for all students.

Goal Three – Student Integration

Increase opportunities for special education and English language learner programs in the least restrictive environment through the enhanced use of differentiated instruction in all settings.

Goal Four – Community Engagement

Prioritize timely collaboration with parents, students and residents through the frequent and ongoing communication that provides information on coursework, assessments, homework, projects, school/classroom events, and any other school-related information.

Goal Five – Budget, Finances and Operations

Develop a cost-effective operating budget that promotes educational programming, district infrastructure and facilities maintenance and grant funding procurement.

The Board of Education goals for 2016-2017 are below:

Goal One – Teaching and Learning

To understand all phases of curriculum implementation, monitoring processes and the connection to student achievement.

Goal Two –  Student Demographics

To understand Delran Township demographics, projections and their impact on the governance of the school district.

Goal Three – Public Integration

To effectively communicate with the public in areas of student achievement, finance and infrastructure.

Goal Four – Efficient Governance

To welcome new Board members and effectively transition as a governing body.

The 2015-2016 District Goal cycle ended on June 30.  If you click here you can view what was reported publicly and serves as the final report with respect to the 2015-2016 District goals.  Additionally, this presentation was shared publicly in July.

Finance

The area of school funding over the past twelve months has resulted in much debate statewide.  As a public school, Delran Township receives a significant amount of funding derived from state income (taxes).  It has been noted that the School Funding Reform Act of 2008 has been grossly underfunded, resulting in an annual shortfall of approximately $11,000,000 in comparison to what  the SFRA outlines we should receive. The gross under funding stimulated the Board of Education to join with the Delran Education Association and Delran Principals and Supervisors Association to develop an official position statement in the area of school funding.  You can view that position statement HERE.

In addition to drafting a position statement, the Board members also hit the road and traveled to Trenton, Bordentown and Collingswood to give testimony regarding the funding cuts that taxpayers, students and faculty have endured in Delran.  Our Board members have testified in front of the New Jersey State Assembly (Mr. Glenn Kitley, Board President), in sessions with Senate President Sweeney (Mrs. Amy Rafanello), lobbied legislators (Mr. Tyler Seville) and wrote letters on behalf of the Township (Mr. Bob Porreca).

Due to the efforts of the Board of Education, the Delran Education Association and the Delran Principals and Supervisors Association the topic of school funding stayed current in the news cycle during the summer months.

As a case in point, no less than four school funding plans were promoted by legislators and the governor.  Second, a local grass-roots effort to promote awareness in the area of school funding was spawned by local residents Mike Piper and Lucy Horton called Our Fair Share NJ.  Third, a commission developed by the New Jersey Senate was initiated by the Senate President Sweeney and Senator Ruiz.  That commission will report out in the coming months regarding their findings in all areas of school funding.

None of the above happens without an engaged community, a motivated Board of Education and positive, active residents.   As funding news comes to my attention, I will continue to keep the public apprised.

Moving Ahead

The district will continue to forge ahead with its many curriculum programs in the areas of literacy (Teachers College Reading and Writing Project curriculum), sustainability, robotics, engineering and a focus on college and careers.  On the operations side we will keep the community abreast of developments in our solar panel installation project district wide.  In the area of governance we are spending the year examining enrollment trends and student needs for our population as we develop both a long-range strategic plan as well as examine facility needs throughout the District.  

An area that we continue to address immediately is in the area of transportation.  In addition to many other districts in Burlington County and the state of New Jersey, Delran struggles with the regulations connected to issuing appropriate licensure for all school bus drivers.  Delran parents have been extraordinarily patient as we continue to work through these matters with our vendors and lobby for relief with at the state level.  I ask for your continued patience and, above all, to continue to work with Mrs. Janikowski in our transportation department with specific issues.  You can find more information about transportation here.

A new school year offers renewal and a great opportunity to grow.  The areas addressed in the communication above underscore the growth and progress that we have experienced as a District while framing the trail we blaze in front of us.

I look forward to seeing and hearing from you all in the near future.  On behalf of the Board of Education and the entire District, thank you for this opportunity to positively influence your most precious commodity – your children.

 

Sincerely,

BBB Signature

Brian Brotschul, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools

 

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