BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Superintendent Russell Lazovick gave the second part of a presentation at a recent board of education meeting on the strategic plan, with a focus on the heath and wellness, safety and sustainability action teams.
Lazovick said the teams are following a five-year outline, with researching and drafting issues related to the focus; targeted implementation of changes in year two; border implementation in year three; reflection in year four; and full implementation in year five.
With regard to the health and wellness team, Lazovick said the goal is to effectively address the needs of the students within safe environments.
“We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to build healthy and well students and adults,” he said. “By 2022, we want to have refined programs and policies to support health and well being.”
The team, Lazovick said, identified four risk factors to focus on, namely homework, self-harm, social and emotional learning and substance abuse.
“These are the four pieces they felt mostly strongly about to focus on,” he said.
Homework, Lazovick said, has been a topic in the district for a long time, and there are polities to govern it, but things differ based on grade level.
“It appears to be, based on feedback, that homework is the cause of a great deal of inconsistency and stress to where it is no longer healthy,” he said.
The action team, Lazovick said, would like to form a district homework committee that will start in September to go over the issue. In the meantime, they will begin to gather information from other districts to make sure homework achieves its purpose.
“We are looking to have forms by level to look at elementary, intermediate, middle and high school because homework takes on a different form at each level,” he said. “We brought students to speak as part of action team meetings, and it was eye opening and interesting, reaffirming what the adults already thought.”
Lazovick said there will be open communication with staff to reiterate the current state of homework, and they will encourage people to come out to meetings in September and October to speak about the issue so recommendations can then be made to the board.
As for self-harm, Lazovick said, this is something that unfortunately affects the district regularly, and there is training to deal with it, but it is something they have to address to make sure students know it is not an option they should take.
“The idea of communication is to make sure this is a significant issue that the district is addressing,” he said.
With regard to social and emotional learning, Lazovick said this is connected to everything.
He said they have already begun mindfulness programs at John F. Kennedy Primary and Eisenhower Intermediate, and are working to implement the Start With Hello program that is done through Sandy Hook Promise.
The latter program should kick off in September.
“There will be information going out to parents,” he said. “We are ensuring that whatever students are learning in kindergarten through fourth grade, it will carry through the grades.”
Finally, with regard to substance abuse, Lazovick said they are focusing on what is coming into the schools, what happens when it is discovered and how to educate parents and staff.
“There is the idea of educating parents and staff so we can then work on educating students,” he said. “We will focus on how to generate websites to make sure the information is coming out in an effective way.”
“This is an issue we have to be aware of and engaged in, otherwise we will never be fully impactful,” he added.
For year two, from the action team, they will be combining plans from all four sections of health and wellness to make sure staff is properly trained for the students.
As for the safety action team, Lazovick said this was a singular issue when they did a strategic planning survey.
“People define it differently, so the goal is to make sure we are providing the safest possible environment for those on our campuses,” he said.
Lazovick said the state provides guidance to districts for safety, and they are working on putting a draft plan together regarding budgeting and communication.
“Areas of focus include stakeholder responsibilities, what we should be doing, being proactive, prevention programs, communication procedures and mental health information,” he said.
Year two will involve completing an assessment plan, and training for September.
“There are certain things we can do that are minimal in terms of costs, but there are some that are incredibly cost prohibitive, that we will have to work with the board on,” Lazovick said.
Finally, the sustainability action team dealt with whether the district is sustainable and leveraging its resources in the best way possible.
“We want to make sure we are not just looking from one year to the next, but doing so in terms of a longer vision to make sure we are taking care of all pieces of the district,” he said.
Lazovick said the team is looking at budget and revenues, as well as expenditures.
“One of the pieces is that we have a number of different perspectives on the budget, so it was nice to allow voices to be heard and come together to understand how the budget comes together and what we can do year to year,” he said.
Next year, Lazovick said, they will be looking at non-personnel expenditures and cost-saving opportunities.
The action teams will continue their work in the coming year to implement changes in the different categories, and will continue requesting input from stakeholders and communicating results.