Monday, the Beecher Road School PTO held its first meeting of the new school year. Mothers, fathers, teachers and administrators were all in attendance to hear Second Grade teacher, Peter Halsey talk about the Responsive Classroom.
Mr. Halsey has been a long time responsive classroom consulting teacher. He spoke about the importance of teaching students good social skills to complement their academic skills. To do this, the classroom environment should be child centered with as much intrinsic motivation instead of extrinsic motivation as possible. Students who have choices in how they will learn their academic material will be better motivated.
Key aspects of the responsive classroom is the morning meeting and teachers not only talking about appropriate behavior, but modeling it. The teaching methodology fits nicely with the Reading and Writing Workshop methodologies that the school has adopted based on work at Columbia Teacher's College.
Woodbridge School District Superintendent Dr. Guy Stella also attended the PTO meeting and talked about how the responsive classroom related to the school climate project. This project tracks improvements in student behavior. Just as data from the Connecticut Mastery Tests is being used to continually improve the academic performance of Beecher Road School Students, data from the school climate project can be used to improve the social performance through programs like the responsive classroom.
The meeting ended with a vote to approve the PTO budget and a discussion about various PTO goals for the year. Popular events like the Halloween Hoot are returning and there are many opportunities to help with the PTO. To encourage greater participation, the PTO continues to have babysitting available during PTO meetings and is now having a raffle for attendees. All parents and teachers are encouraged to participate in coming PTO meetings and activities.
Note: This article was originally written for the Woodbridge Citizen. I encourage residents of Woodbridge to read the Citizen, and to consider writing for it.
In addition, I encourage parents in all communities to attend and write online about their boards of education and parent teacher organizations.
Members of the Woodbridge Democratic Town Committee gathered Thursday evening in the Senior Center Cafeteria to hear candidates and their representatives talk about the upcoming election.
Former First Selectwoman Nan Birdwhistell started off by talking about upcoming events where independent and undecided voters would have the opportunity to meet Democratic Gubernatorial candidate, Dan Malloy.
She was followed by Secretary of the State candidate Denise Merrill. Majority Leader Merrill spoke about how this year, Democrats have the strongest ticket for state office that they have had in years, and that while there might be an enthusiasm gap nationwide, Democrats in Connecticut have much more to be enthusiastic about than Republicans in Connecticut.
As a Secretary of the State Candidate, Majority Leader Merrill is particularly concerned about voter turnout. However, she feels that the doom and gloom about low voter turnout in the recent primaries, while bad, is not significantly different than in previous elections. She noted that the past couple of primary cycles have been exceptional, and the primary cycle most similar to this year was the 2004 primary cycle when the primaries were held in September and were also particularly low.
She spoke about how currently there is a great distrust of all the institutions of our daily lives; government, business, and religious. This often translates to low voter turnout and needs to be addressed.
One of the most important things is to try and stay away from the negative advertising that is so disenchanting the electorate. She noted that she has received considerable praise for her positive ad about getting things done as a PTA member and bringing that can do, get it done attitude to all aspects of life.
Yet with lots of money floating around in the election, especially with the $30 million that Linda McMahon is spending compared to the $9 million that Attorney General Blumenthal currently has available, we can expect a lot of negative advertising coming out in the final days of the election cycle. Yet in spite of all the negativity, when people get to the voting booth she believes they will vote for experience, the sort of experience that she, and the rest of the Democratic ticket bring.
The problem is to get people to the voting booth. One important initiative is the ninetieth anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Ms. Merrill spoke about how people died for that right, and we have a responsibility to honor that right. She also spoke about campaigning the old fashioned way, of reaching out to families, friends and neighbors instead of relying on impersonal robocalls and television advertisements.
Majority Leader Merrill was followed by State Senator Joe Crisco. Senator Crisco thanked the people of Woodbridge for helping him qualify for the Citizens Election Program. He also spoke about getting back to the basics of getting out the vote.
Sen. Crisco spoke about various recognitions he and teams he has been on have recently received for work on breast cancer, autism and childhood domestic abuse. He did note that the national average for Autism in the United States is 1 in 150, but in Connecticut it is 1 in 100.
Sen Crisco was followed by Jacqueline Kozin. Ms. Kozin is the campaign manager for Kevin Lembo, who is running for State Comptroller. Mr. Lembo could not attend the meeting because of the Hartford Votes Candidate Forum.
Ms Kozin spoke about Mr. Lembo's experience as Connecticut's Healthcare Adovcate, where he has won major battles for people fighting for their health care. She noted that the Comptroller's office overseas the purchase of healthcare, a large part of the state budget, and that Mr. Lembo has ideas about how to streamline it.
She also spoke about his commitment to transparency and getting more of the Comptroller's data online. This will also lead to greater efficiency.
Patrick O'Sullivan, the town clerk from Orange was also in attendance and he spoke about the coordinated campaign running out of New Haven for Dan Malloy and others on the ticket.
The final candidate to speak with was Josh Hershmann. Mr. Hershmann is running a spirited traditional campaign for State Representative. He has been busy going door to door gathering support and attending many different events to meet the voters.
After the candidates spoke, Woodbridge First Selectman Ed Sheehy gave a brief update on what is happening in town. He mentioned that the new librarian has started at the town library, that the Department of Transportation has started studying the traffic issues on Amity Road and Litchfield Turnpike, that the first phase of restoration of the old firehouse is 99% complete and that the town director of finance and operations has won another award for excellence in financial reporting. Mr. Sheehy also touched briefly on the bidding to operate or own the Country Club of Woodbridge.
Other reports included a mention of the departure of Principal Mary Lou Torres from Beecher Road School, the great CMT report from Beecher Road, and a discussion about sign regulations.
Members of the Democratic Town Committee left the meeting better informed about the candidates and what is going on in town. With this increased knowledge came an increased commitment to work harder for the town of Woodbridge and for the candidates that they support.
I strongly encourage more people to attend town political committee meetings as well as other town meetings and share their experiences online so that we can all get a better understanding of what is going on politically in our towns.
That said, I do apologize for the poor quality of the photographs. They were taken with my cellphone from a distance. While I look like better quality photographs, I believe this also illustrates the value that any one can bring to coverage of local meetings.
Monday night, the Woodbridge Board of Education, at its regular monthly meeting explored several aspects of achievement as well as the state of the Beecher Road School building infrastructure.
The meeting started off with an executive session where the board conducted an exit interview with outgoing Principal Mary Lou Torres. Principal Torres has been an important part of the Beecher Road School administration and is moving on to a new position starting in October. While the primary focus of Beecher Road School is the success of the elementary school students, good educational programs recognize that we all remain students throughout our lives, and celebrates the successes of not only the young students, but also the students that are part of the staff.
Early on in the meeting, Principal Torres, assisted by sixth grade teacher Nancy White spoke to the board about the Tri-State Consortium.
The Tri-State Consortium is a learning organization devoted to assisting its member public school districts in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey in using student performance data to develop a rigorous framework for systemic planning, assessment, accreditation, and continuous improvement.
Last year, the Tri-State Consortium visited Beecher Road as part of the administration's ongoing effort to improve the quality of education at the school. The consortium recognizes the successes of the school and made recommendations about areas where the school could improve. A key area that they focus on is professional development and professional learning communities. Beecher Road School does well with its profession development, and Principal Torres' successes are a good example of this.
Following the discussion of the Tri-State Consortium report, there was a lengthy discussion of the results of last year's Connecticut Mastery Tests (CMT). The test results are usually reported in the context of schools in similar districts, called a District Reference Group (DRG).
Woodbridge scored well in its DRG as well as compared against the state as a whole. In terms of the No Child Left Behind Act, Woodbridge made Adequate Yearly Progress. However, for a high performing school district like Woodbridge, adequate may not be enough, and the board discussed how the CMTs fit into a larger framework of student assessment and other methods of analyzing the CMT scores so that the district can continue to learn from its previous experiences and improve the quality of education that is provided.
The presentation of the CMT results was the last one that Principal Torres and Ms. White will give together as Principal Torres moves on. Her service to the school district was recognized and the board moved on to the next item on the agenda.
Beecher Road School was built in phases starting in 1960, with important parts of the infrastructure being nearly fifty years old. There are major concerns about the boiler, sections of the roof and the air quality in sections of the school. A building committee has been investigating what it would take to update the infrastructure, including getting sections of the school to meet new building code standards and be more energy efficient. Such a project will be expensive and the board sought to understand which parts are most urgent, and which parts might be deferrable until we are in a better economic time.
The long board meeting continued with addressing its regular business, including correspondence, approving financial reports and hearing reports from various committees. During public comment, one parent spoke up expressing his thoughts about the CMT scores. The meeting ended with the board settling in to its continued discussion about the long term goals of the board.
Woodbridge Board of Education meetings typically occur on the third Monday of each month and are open to the public to observe and comment. Citizens are encourage to attend and participate.
(Cross posted at the Woodbridge Citizen)
Everyone year around one hundred students move on from Beecher Road School in Woodbridge, CT. Most of them continue on at Amity Middle School. Some move with their families to other towns, and a few are adult students who are moving on with their careers.
It is an important perspective and a sign of a successful educational system where a lifelong love of learning is taught and when everyone is viewed as a student. So, it is with mixed feelings that Beecher Road School prepares to say good bye to one of its star students, Principal Mary Lou Torres.
Principal Torres has been at Beecher Road School for five years and has accepted a new position that furthers her career. Tuesday evening, the Woodbridge Board of Education regretfully accepted her resignation and shared many words of praise for Principal Torres. The board then moved on to appoint Dr. Len Tomasello as Interim Principal. Dr. Tomasello and Principal Torres made a brief appearance at the Board of Education meeting and additional commendations for Principal Torres were shared as well as some of the hopes that Superintendent Stella, Dr. Tomasello and the board all share for the transition period.
The Board of Education then continued on with its special meeting to address goals for the board of education over the coming year. There is an important need to address the aging infrastructure of the school building. The board hopes to further explore the quality of education at Beecher Road and the departure of Principal Torres provides a great opportunity for the Board of Education to reconsider the structure of the administration.
The next regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting on September 20th will address many of these issues and parents are encouraged to attend.
(Cross posted at the Woodbridge Citizen.)
Wednesday evening, the Beecher Road School Parent Teacher Organization held its annual back to school Ice Cream Social. As with other years, it was a well attended event. Sen. Joe Crisco and State Rep. Themis Klarides were both on hand to help PTO members, Superintendent Guy Stella, and members of the staff serve ice cream to students, parents and community members.
Parents sat in lawn chairs and compared notes of summer vacations and hopes for the coming school year as children ran around with their friends or danced to the music of a DJ.
Wednesday was a particularly hot day and many enjoyed the cold ice cream. Others talked about the effect of the heat on education. The Horace Porter School in Columbia, CT closed early because of the heat on Wednesday and the Laurel School in Bloomfield, CT is closing early today because of the heat. While there are currently no plans to close Beecher Road School early because of the heat, such a move would create complications with bus routes.
Beecher Road School appears to be adequately handling the current heat wave. While there have been scattered reports of students heading to the nurse's office because of the heat, it has not been at such a level that the administration has needed to take action, and so far, there is only one report of a class having to be moved because of excessive heat.
Indoor air quality has a significant impact on education which needs to be carefully considered at Beecher Road School. Events like the BRSPTO Ice Cream Social provide an important opportunity for members of the community to gather for a fun social event, as well as to share concerns about what is best for long term education in our town.
(Cross posted in the Woodbridge Citizen.)