BRIDGEWATER, NJ - In an effort to continue to offer the best educational opportunities for students, and in particular with regards to STEM education, the Board of Education approved an administrative restructuring that creates a position for a specific supervisor of science and moves around other administrative responsibilities.
According to Superintendent Victor Hayek, in his first 100 days with the district, he met with stakeholders, conducted exit interviews, reviewed teacher evaluations and more.
“We are a good school district, and we have a lot to celebrate, the kids are fantastic,” Hayek said. “We have started talking about how to get to the next level, and ensure the programs we offer are in line with what the expectations are in college or career.”
The first goal, Hayek said, which was discussed at the most recent Board of Education retreat, was to continue reviewing full-day kindergarten options and potentially implementing one in the 2018-2019 school year.
“We’re going to come up with creative ways and put a plan together,” he said. “We’re focusing on a number of different options and bringing ideas to the table.”
In addition, Hayek said, the district started discussions about the possibility of implementing different academies in the high school, which would allow for a number of courses that culminate in some kind of project at the end.
Some of the considerations, Hayek said, would be for law, computer science, fashion merchandising, MBA programs and medical ones.
“Given the size of the high school, academies can be as small as 25 to 30 students,” he said. “The goal is to open up the opportunities for the students.”
But the district, Hayek said, is also looking to put an emphasis on STEM education, starting in the younger grades.
“We are talking about technology and embracing it, as opposed to trying to fight it,” he said.
First, Hayek said, the district is looking to have a 1:1 ratio for students to computers by 2020, and they also want to expand educational technology uses in the district.
The purpose of changing the administrative structure in the district, Hayek said, is based on the board’s goals for improving facilities, creating a central registration process at the Harmon V. Wade Building and expanding those technology opportunities.
According to Hayek, the state Department of Education granted the district a waiver to reduce its observations by one-third, or 800 in total. The district had previously changed its administrative structure to accommodate the increase in observations as required by the state.
“In looking at our goals, we didn’t want to reduce administrators, so we set out to put a plan in place to modify it,” he said.
First, Hayek said, they have eliminated the floating assistant principal positions.
Next, he said, they have established a director of STEM, as well as a director of humanities and the arts.
“The director of STEM will create cross-curricular programs, and focus on the foundation of math and science,” he said. “The director of humanities and the arts gives us a renewed focus and support for the arts. There will be increased writing across the curriculum and a focus on the initiative of reading and writing.”
Hayek said they are creating an office of the central registrar, to make a one stop for parents looking to handle enrollment, particularly when they have students in multiple schools.
Finally, Hayek said, the final step is to redesign supervisor responsibilities.
Under the current structure, Hayek said, the district has a supervisor of science and social studies split among the nine schools and doing observations.
“Since the observation count is down, we have narrowed the scope of responsibility,” he said.
Katrina Macht, a teacher at Hillside Intermediate School, said she wanted to advocate for increased science education, as well as professional development for teachers in the lower grades to be better equipped to teach the subject to their students.
“By 2018, 8 million more jobs will require college degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” she said. “By the age of 13, half of the young people in the K to 12 system have disengaged from science, and deemed it to be irrelevant to their lives or future plans. That is why in recent years there has been a strong push to bring science to the elementary grades.”
Macht said it is important that they do not wait until middle and high school to focus all of the STEM expertise and resources.
“Science education needs to be a priority for K to 6,” she said. “At the K to six level, we need a supervisor who can focus on the Next Generation Science Standards and provide us wiht the professional development we need to be ready for full implementation.”
The new structure includes a supervisor of science and a supervisor of social studies, as well as supervisors of math split among the grade levels – kindergarten through fourth, fifth through eighth and ninth through 12th. All the supervisors will report to the director of STEM.
“The director will be coordinating activities,” Hayek said. “We will be ready for the next generation, and expect to be leading innovation in the next generation in science studies. That also has quite a bit of math, so we believe it makes sense and will meet the demands upon us.”
The board unanimously approved the administrative restructuring.