Education

Westfield School District’s New Goals Focus Heavily on Students, Communication

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WESTFIELD, NJ -The Westfield Board of Education did a little homework of its own on Tuesday night as board members reviewed and discussed the district’s 2011-2012 strategic plan.

The plan, which is essentially the district’s goals for the school year, encompasses student achievement, student personal development, finance and facility, communication and community engagement. 

For student achievement, the plan emphasizes a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM. The board based that goal on a review of neighboring cities, such as Livingston, that already have a STEM program in place. STEM is focused district-wide, from kindergarten through grade 12.

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Superintendent Margaret Dolan said the board first plans to expand on technology. Board member Mitchell Slater referred to Westfield’s public schools advancement in technology as a “revolution.” Discussions are underway on implementing wireless internet throughout the district, and updates have been made to the website. The site may soon include the option to download textbooks to Kindle.

Board member Rosanne Kurstedt called the technology plan an expansion of the classroom walls.

“(This is) a plan to embed 21st century skills into our children,” she said.

The second goal of the plan, student personal development, is built around the state’s Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Policy (HIB). The Westfield Public Schools have their own adaptation of HIB as well as anti-bullying training for teachers, supervisors, administrators, and board of education members in order to maintain an atmosphere of respect among the students.

The finance and faculty there seemed to be a concern about increasing enrollment at Westfield High School. Superintendent Dolan stated that the focus was to “ensure the continuous success of Westfield High School.”

Dolan added that building capacity, staff, programs, and support services are all under review to ensure they are sufficient to accommodate the district’s growing student body.

Professional development workshops, funded by the PTO, have also been added to the plan.

“We are able to accomplish so much because the parents are involved,” said Board Member Julia Walker.

The board also discussed the district’s use of social media such as Facebook to communicate with students and families, but discussion with the public during Tuesday’s meeting showed there is room for improvement. Angry parents have been contacting the district since the beginning of the school year to complain about the lack of communication.

Parent Cindy Smith told the board she called the transportation department to complain about a busing situation and was treated poorly by an employee. Board member Vincent Yaniro asked Smith to send him the specifics in an e-mail and he would address it.

The next board meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m.

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