WESTFIELD – Before giving an update on the District Strategic Initiative at Monday’s School Committee meeting, Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski called up Ralph and Sue Figy to present them with “Above and Beyond Certificates” for their leadership roles in the November 20 Thanksgiving Food Drive.
Czaporowski said the drive put together Thanksgiving meals for 170 families, up from 117 last year and 87 the year before. Munger Hill Elementary School held a separate drive for meals for 27 families, bringing the total close to 200. He said the schools identified the families, and Sue Figy put together the meals for each family.
Highland Elementary School Principal Mary Claire Manning then talked about the 40 meals for families at her school. She said it was “hard to describe the thankfulness and gratitude these families felt, having one less thing to worry about.” She gave the Figy’s a thank you poster from her school.
Sue Figy thanked all the staff for their help. She said the school did all the identifying of families that might need the meals. She said fifteen of the families had over 12 members in them. “The City of Westfield stepped up,” Sue Figy said. Ralph Figy also thanked the many volunteers who helped out. He said earlier in the day they had received a thank you card from a family at Franklin Avenue, which “said it all.” The School Committee stood and applauded at the end of the presentation.
In his Strategic Initiative Update, Czaporowski talked about the professional development training in the schools, new curriculum that is being implemented, and college and career readiness initiatives in the district.
Susan Dargie, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, said the district has held combined professional development training for staff in grades 5-6 and 7-8. Beginning in September of 2018, grades 5-6 will be in North Middle School under Principal Katherine Bourque, and grades 7-8 will be in South Middle School under Principal Paul Newton.
Dargie said teachers have also attended trainings for Google classroom, which is beginning to be implemented throughout the district. School Committee member William Duval asked if staff provides feedback on outside training. Dargie responded that teachers that go to outside training agree to bring what they’ve learned back to the district. Czaporowski said the district has added 1500 Chromebook laptops since the summer, and is getting closer to having a device for every student.
Czaporowski said another strategic goal they have completed is restructuring the special education department handbook for staff and handbook for parents, which is now available on the district website at www.schoolsofwestfield.org under the Special Education Department.
Another program which has been a focus for the district this year is Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS). Dargie said that PBIS is now fully implemented in grades K-8, and there is currently a pilot program for grade 9, which will be decided as they move forward. She said the district teams meet monthly at all the sites. They also partner in the program with the University of Massachusetts, who gives monthly seminars in Holyoke on PBIS
Another focus has been substance abuse prevention, and they are currently studying the results of the recent survey on risk behavior filled out anonymously by grades 8-12.Czaporowski said they plan to respond to the high incidence of responders that said they get alcohol from either their homes or those of friends. Czaporowski said they will disseminate information on the liability and legal consequences of giving alcohol to minors. The district is also using the Botvin Life Skills curriculum this year, which has a substance abuse prevention component, and has” vastly updated” the district’s health curriculum, according to Dargie. She said they are also providing training to teachers on the curriculum.
A major strategic focus this year is increasing early college and career-readiness opportunities for high school students. Westfield Technical Academy Principal Joseph Langone and Westfield High School Principal Charles Jendrysik came forward to talk about the increasing collaboration between the city’s two high schools. Langone said the two will be meeting together with deans of different schools at Springfield Technical Community College to find out about more opportunities for their students.
“He and I have been collaborating a lot,” Jendrysik said. He also spoke about another new curriculum this year, Navience, which helps students to identify career interests. “I think that we’re looking for students to identify interests even before high school,” Jendrysik said.
Czaporowski said the district has also had meetings with CareerPoint in Holyoke about the possibility of sending their staff in to work at the Career Center at Westfield High School. “We do want to try this out,” Czaporowski said. He also said dual enrollment is getting huge with students taking classes at Westfield State University, STCC, and Holyoke Community College, and a potential partnership being developed with Elms College.
Tara Bean, the district’s college and career counselor, said that the colleges are coming to Westfield to speak about opportunities for high school students. She said one successful program is Westfield Promise, which has Westfield State teachers co-teaching English 101 and other classes with high school teachers to juniors in both schools this year.
Ryan F. Meersman, Early College Access and Education Recruitment Coordinator at Westfield State, said there are currently 20 juniors at Westfield Tech and 22 at Westfield High School taking at least one stretch course that lasts the entire year, giving students an idea of college level work and college credit upon successful completion of the course.
Meersman said their senior year they will have the opportunity to take a class or classes on campus. He said that 35 of the students attended an overnight orientation in August, where they met students from Holyoke and Springfield enrolled in the same program. He said the students have expressed an interest in more opportunities to get together with the students from the other districts.
School Committee vice-chair Cindy Sullivan asked Meersman how the classes affect a student’s GPA and class rank. Bean answered that the classes are the same level as Advanced Placement classes, except they also offer college credit and a college transcript.
Also increasing are career-readiness opportunities in the schools. Langone said that he will be asking for a full-time cooperative education coordinator next year, because that position is shared this year by Student Services Coordinator Rob Ollari, Career Technical Director Peter Taloumis and in some cases Langone himself. Czaporowski said they have increased job shadowing, internships and co-ops this year.
The team also credited Westfield Education 2 Business Alliance (WE2BA) for opening up career readiness opportunities for students.