By DAVE GYMBURCH Staff writer
Changes in instructional staff responsibilities and more time for English and math classes could be ahead at Strough Middle School, among results from a new state-driven report on its academic restructuring, says Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons.
Simons, who received the document last week, said Monday "I would expect some impact on personnel." It could include "roles and responsibilities of instructional staff...the overall way the school is organized to ensure changes in curriculum and instruction and testing are being implemented."
One example involves the amount of instructional time for English and math, which Simons said could require schedule changes to provide more than the typical class of about 37 minutes. He is not sure if a change would fit within existing work agreements, adding that feedback would be needed from teachers.
Input from Strough staff and parents will be part of a sweeping academic improvement plan that is to be submitted to the state Education Department in about 30 days, said Simons. It likely would involve a 2-to-3-year timeline, he added.
The state’s restructuring report, from a "joint intervention team" of state and district representatives that visited Strough in March, was briefly discussed by Simons with the Board of Education Monday night. He will review it this week with Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Sherri Walczak and Strough Principal Tracy O’Rourke; with the board’s instruction and services committee on July 24; and will be meeting with Strough faculty.
Simons, who will release a copy of the report following the board review, said its findings and recommendations are similar but more detailed than what was verbally indicated after the March visit.
Among categories, he said, are professional development; scheduling academic support services; overall building organization and configuration; enhancing overall school climate; and relationships between staff-students, staff-staff, and staff-parents.
The deeper state involvement was prompted by several years of concern over English test performance by Strough students with disabilities. Strough was labeled as "in need of improvement" in 2004-05, then "in need of corrective action" in 2006-07, and downgraded to the more severe "restructuring" in March 2009. The entire school is subject to state accountability reviews and corrective measures.
A worst-case outcome of the state review could have included a phase-out or closure of the school, Simons has said. While that was not part of the intervention team report, Simons said the recommendations are serious, and "we must demonstrate our plan is well thought out...likely to be effective."
The Strough plans will be under tighter supervision by the state, which for example will have a "more direct involvement in choices of professional development," Simons commented. An Education Department liaison has been assigned to work with the district, he added.
Coupled with the restructuring changes at Strough will be districtwide revisions for new state standards including the "common core" curriculum, said Simons. Improving Strough’s performance also needs to focus on earlier grades, beginning with pre-K, he observed. Strough has about 780 students in grades 7 and 8.