NORTH BRUNSWICK – School officials are working collectively to ensure the long-term success of students in all six of the township’s schools.
The Board of Education will continue to facilitate the district’s approved three-year strategic plan in the areas of student achievement, safe and caring schools, physical and fiscal operations, and engaging the community, Superintendent Brian Zychowski said during his State of the Schools presentation on Feb. 21.
For student learning, the Connected Action Roadmap has been implemented at all four elementary schools. A standards-based report card for grades K-5 will launch in the fall of 2019. The Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program is on target. Positive Behavior Support In Schools (PBSIS) is in effect at Judd Elementary School, Linwood Middle School and North Brunswick Township High School, with the program intended for the other three elementary schools as well, Zychowski said.
To ensure safe schools, airphones, early parent pickup, safety booths, signage, lighting, monitoring of before and after school programs, enhanced safety education training, the addition of Class III officers, an upgraded K-12 guidance curriculum, assistance with translations and the continual review of the safety plan with community partners are priorities, Zychowski said.
In terms of physical and fiscal operations, meetings with zoning officials, community cohorts, foundation trustees and legislators will continue. Budget reserves will be examined. There will be an audit of STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) at each school, according to the superintendent.
To engage the community, the district will hold an annual meeting of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, work on website improvement and a possible app, distribute a monthly Board of Education newsletter, expand parent information sessions, continue promoting the district art gallery and science symposium, and observe American Education Week and other educational fairs, according to the presentation.
Overall, the district’s and board’s goals are to develop SMART goals that focus on best practices to close the achievement gap; to investigate within the Pre-K-12 continuum how to impact the learning environment of the diverse population in career academies, middle school scheduling and digital curricula; ensure the construction of the new middle school in a timely manner within the approved budget; and appeal to state officials for additional funding.
The positive opportunities for the district include $2.75 million in additional state aid, no debt on the new middle school building for three years, providing Chromebooks and other future-ready tech books for grades 3-8, dual enrollment programs with Middlesex County College and Rutgers University, higher education partnerships with other colleges and the state Green Ribbon Award for NBTHS.
“The district has made great strides in closing our achievement gaps. Recently, Linwood Middle School was removed as a focus school for closing its achievement gaps between and among student groups by demonstrating growth on PARCC [Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers] assessments within all of its cohorts,” Zychowski said.
Some obstacles, however, are achievement gaps, enrollment of about four percent of the school population in charter schools, a lack of state funding, issues with student mobility, student absenteeism and graduation rates.
Some immediate steps to address graduation rates include enhancing peer tutoring, supporting ESL students in mainstream classes, using tracking systems and using communication tools such as KinVolved. Long-term, the plan is to establish a staff Graduation Rate Improvement Committee, focused professional development, strategic scheduling, a review of the Freshman Academy, greater communication with the middle school, re-establishing staff/student mentoring program and a review of discipline.