School District Leaders Share Thoughts On Curriculum Alignment, Anti-Bullying Initiative
By: Alex Scofield
Bourne schools Superintendent Steven M. Lamarche and Assistant Superintendent Susan J. Quick opted for a “Dr. Phil format” with onstage armchairs in which to meet Bourne parents Tuesday night. Both in the first year of their respective positions, the administrators are also about to become neighbors. Ms. Quick is moving to Bourne this weekend, and Mr. Lamarche will move into town several weeks from now.
Mr. Lamarche said he was sure to make some missteps as superintendent in concluding Tuesday’s televised question-and-answer session at Bourne High School’s Beth Bourne Auditorium sponsored by the Bourne PTA. “I’m not going to solve everyone’s problems all the time, or quickly.”
However, Mr. Lamarche added that he felt he already has a strong vision for where he wants to see Bourne schools go, and he is here for the students. “I love my job. I love being here in Bourne.”
Based on a mixture of school visits, questionnaires, informal discussion, and in-person talks with every member of Bourne schools staff, Mr. Lamarche and Ms. Quick continue to work on an entry plan.
However, both said that they have come to some early conclusions about Bourne schools.
A steady refrain from Mr. Lamarche and Ms. Quick on Tuesday was their determination to vertically and horizontally align school curriculum district-wide, meaning that the curriculum in each grade from kindergarten through 12th must be part of a flow that is in tune with overall frameworks—neither redundant nor scattered.
“A 3rd grade teacher of science needs to know what is going on with 10th grade science,” Ms. Quick said, and vice versa. “For us, that is number one.”
“We expect every teacher in the district to know what a graduating student looks like,” Mr. Lamarche said. “Wouldn’t it be nice for you to know? And on top of that, wouldn’t it be nice for students to know? … It’s the hardest work in the district, and that’s why people don’t always take it on.
“The instructional capacity of the district is in the right place. What Susan and I want to do is take it to the next place,” Mr. Lamarche said.
Mr. Lamarche said that there would be a program installed at Bourne for students with exceptional aptitude by the 2011-12 school year.
Bourne Selectman Mary S. Meli was one of several parents who asked about the possibility of implementing such a program in the interim period. Ms. Meli said she felt that there are some exceptional students who are not reaching their potential, and she asked if “some kind of Band-Aid” could be put into place for high aptitude students.
“We don’t just want to jump into something,” Mr. Lamarche replied. “We could be setting the program up to fail right away. … I’m trying to give you a realistic time line.”
Several parents asked about Peacebuilders, the school system’s anti-bullying initiative.
“I don’t understand the Peacebuilders program, to tell the truth,” Mr. Lamarche said, adding that he did not have the data to see whether or not it was working. “I really need to take some time to look at what Peacebuilders is.”
Ms. Quick seemed to have her doubts about it, particularly the pledge that students recite. “I’ve worked with 8th graders for awhile,” she said, and she did not think that they were likely to take a mandated pledge seriously.
When asked about what does work, Ms. Quick said she had seen strong results from an advisory program, a variation on homerooms in which small groups of students meet daily with a staff member. The goal of an advisory is to ensure that every student forges a relationship with an adult in the school, and feels comfortable discussing problems with the adult.
“It’s very valid on the high school level, but I think it’s especially critical at the middle school level. … I really believe that it starts with that kind of relationship-building,” Ms. Quick said. In her prior experience with an advisory system, Ms. Quick said all of the 10 to 12 students in her advisory program knew they could come to her with problems. Advisories prevented many potential incidents from happening, she said.
“We had a lot of tolerance for a lot of different kinds of kids,” Ms. Quick said.
Just over 40 people were in attendance on Tuesday night. Mr. Lamarche said that he hoped the televised session would generate larger audiences in the future, but he later added, “There are enough people here for me to call this a success.” It was the night before Thanksgiving vacation, he said, and attendees had questions all the way through the two-hour meeting.
“We hope to do many more Q&As in the future,” said BPTA co-president Silene Gordon, who hosted the meeting onstage with co-president Stacey Maxwell.
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