Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 36
 
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
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Construction Over, District Prepares to Track Performance

Linda Arntzenius

The Princeton Regional Schools Board of Education held a regular public monthly meeting on Tuesday, August 28, at 8 p.m., in the cafeteria of John Witherspoon Middle School.

Board President Michael Mostoller noted the end of construction after almost five years at Princeton High School and said that things were on track for the first day of classes tomorrow, Thursday, September 6.

He reported that the board had met twice over the summer to hear presentations from various committees and discussions including recommendations for the future of the district's Valley Road Administration building as well as energy conservation as part of the Sustainable Princeton effort.

Mr. Mostoller welcomed two new student board members onto the board for the year: PHS seniors Clayton Spann and Nakita Raghunath.

After reporting on summer activities that included programs for hundreds of students as well as staff development, Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilson introduced a representative of Performance Matters, the Florida-based company that is installing new technology that will facilitate student and administrative data collection and allow teachers to monitor the progress of individual students within their classes as well as provide the basis for longitudinal studies of achievement with respect to state standards.

According to Ms. Wilson, information that is currently on the SASI student information system will be collected in the new web-based service being customized for the district.

The service is designed to facilitate improved student learning and will be used by teachers, administrators, and school board members to inform their decisions with respect to student academic achievement.

The demonstration introduced board members to technology, which was described as a managed service, with no software or hardware to buy or support.

According to the company's website (www.performancematters.com), Performance Matters is in use by more than 100,000 teachers, administrators, and board members "to improve student learning." It makes it easier for -teachers to track the progress of individual students in their classes with respect to their own and state education standards.

Performance Matters provides "a comprehensive solution for continuously monitoring student, school, and district progress toward mastery of the published state standards, administered on the annual state test," the website states.

It also allows for the integration of district scores and proficiency levels from state tests with benchmark assessment scores aligned to state standards.

By means of a "Baseball Card" report chart, the service offers a view of student records aligned and banded according to district standards. Bands can be used to identify at-risk children.

Described as a data management and a data analysis tool for educating students better, the software gives teachers access to the courses that they teach with the ability to export information to word documents or spreadsheets.

It was reported that the database system would take some 30 days to build. The district expects it to be up and running by mid-October. Ms. Wilson said that she expects the new database to be used in the 2007-08 school year to enhance parent-teacher conferences.

Other Business

The board voted to submit plans from the Spiezle Group for renovations to all district school kitchens to the Department of Education and to approve a proposal that Ms. Wilson described as one that would impact the district in the long term: an application for membership in the Tri-State Consortium, at a cost of $12,000. The Consortium provides "external peer review, professional learning opportunities, and Middle States accreditation."

Reporting as chair of the Personnel Committee, Jeffrey Spear commended the district for a successful hiring season, particularly with respect to the hiring of minority candidates. Of the 53 new hires, 15 were minority candidates, he said.

Reporting as the new chair of the finance committee, board member Joshua Leinsdorf reported that the district's liability insurance premium has been reduced by $94, 000 by switching to a different broker.

Mr. Leinsdorf asked for several items on the agenda to be discussed prior to the board's vote. He questioned expenditure for three items: a speaker for a district-wide parent/community workshop as part of a Parent Speaker Series, on October 18, for a fee of $3,750 plus travel; a speaker for the opening day staff program on September 4, for a fee of $10,000; and the hiring of Transformation Systems, Inc. for a fee of $13, 250, to facilitate the district's strategic planning. Regarding the last item, Mr. Leinsdorf commented: "We do not need a consultant to tell us that we should be teaching more world languages. This sum would be better spent on putting Arabic into the curriculum or restoring German."

Ms. Wilson pointed out that funding for the parent speaker series and the staff development program were provided from the NCLB Title II A Program and did not constitute a burden on the school budget. She defended the $25 per employee amount spent on staff development to "impart important current research on motivation" to district teaching staff.

Regarding the parent speaker series, Ms. Wilson pointed out that this was a result of the state mandate from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program, through which dollars are earmarked for professional learning and professional development. "It's a supplemental part of our budget," she said.

Regarding the amount to be spent on strategic planning, Ms. Wilson said the item had been extensively discussed at prior board meetings and that a great deal of thought had gone into the process which would be done once every five years or so and was important for the district's future growth.

The vote was carried with Mr. Leinsdorf as the sole dissenter.

———

Rebecca Cox led the board in thanking the Princeton Education Foundation for the donation and installation of new fitness equipment in excess of $50,000, which brings the foundation more than half way to its goal of furbishing the new Fitness Center at the high school.

The next meeting of the Board of Education will take place on Tuesday, September 25, at 8 p.m. in the cafeteria at John Witherspoon Middle School. There will be public meetings of the Program Committee on Friday, September 14, at 2 p.m.; the Minority Education Committee on Monday, September 17, at 7:30 p.m.; the Facilities Committee on Tuesday, September 18, at 10:30 a.m.; and the Finance Committee will on Monday, September 24, at 4 p.m. All meetings will take place in the Valley Road Administration Building and members of the public are encouraged to attend.

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