Lenox schools superintendent reports progress on goals; new website to debut soon

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LENOX — The school district's high-priority action plan, as outlined by its five-year strategic study, has its first report card in the form of a progress report from Superintendent Timothy Lee.

Updating his annual superintendent goals at the School Committee meeting this past week, Lee noted that all his benchmarks will be linked to the study adopted earlier this year, focusing on student learning, district improvement plans and professional practices.

He reported good progress on stepping up transparency for the community through a new, more detailed website to go live early next year. It will allow easy access to state assessments, school profiles, Common Core curriculum information, district MCAS scores, general information, calendars, lunch menus and a "parent portal" for student-specific details.

Student learning resources such as curriculum specialists, as well as documents, forms and "Safe Schools" information on dealing with any concerns about reporting bullying, are featured, Lee said.

The modernized site, now in beta testing, also offers lively images of students to enhance visual appeal.

The new, all-encompassing, user-friendly site also will serve as a marketing tool to help step up enrollment, Lee said.

Significant progress is reflected by a new system of surveying parents and students who choose to "choice out" of Morris Elementary and Lenox Memorial Middle and High by enrolling in neighboring districts or private schools, the superintendent added, even though "people's willingness to take the survey is perhaps not what I'd thought it would be."

Little progress has been made so far on surveying student and parent satisfaction with the school district, he acknowledged.

In the area of academic excellence, the superintendent cited some progress in collaborating on benchmark goals for grade-by-grade student performance.

"That's pretty well established in the elementary school at this point," Lee said. "Benchmark goals are being developed at the middle school level , but we do not have them all written down in one place yet. Until we do ... I'm hesitant to call that 'good progress.'"

A key action step in promoting a positive school culture involves adults "modeling positive and respectful communication in every interaction," according to the strategic plan.

"I certainly do see it when I go to our schools," Lee said. "However, I label this as 'some progress' because I don't think we've found a way to institutionalize this goal yet. We talk about it a lot, I see reminders and modeling, but I don't feel I can say this is 'good progress' because I don't think it's become part of the ethos at each of our schools yet."

A mixed evaluation on enhancement of professional development emerged from the superintendent's report, though strong progress has been made on helping faculty and staff to earn points from the state.

More work is needed on recognizing staff accomplishments and on clearly communicating the district's mission to "encourage all staff to own it," Lee said.

Additional research is planned to identify alternative revenue streams to help the school budget's bottom line, he noted.

Lee emphasized that Morris Principal Carolyn Boyce and Michael Knybel, principal at Lenox Memorial, are linking their school improvement goals to the strategic study.

At Morris, an advisory team of professional staffers will help Boyce on curriculum and instruction, school culture, building schedules and other areas.

Knybel is stepping up classroom observation to assess faculty strengths and areas for growth while focusing on leadership communication, team building, a positive professional learning environment, as well as maintaining and improving academic excellence.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.

Next steps ...

Some of the goals cited by Lenox Schools Superintendent Timothy Lee for year one of the district's strategic plan:

• Launch new, enhanced website in early 2016 for Lenox Memorial and Morris Elementary; include staff, students and community on task force to develop satisfaction survey.

• Increase faculty and staff engagement in short-term and long-term planning of professional development.

• Prepare curriculum documents and assess student and parent satisfaction in the area of academic excellence.

• Clarify status of student in-school service opportunities.

• Identify school-finance performance indicators and include budget information on the district's new website.


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