May 2020 Superintendent’s Report

Superintendent’s Report – May 2020

Thanks to all Hinsdale staff who have demonstrated a tremendous focus on our joint commitment to provide Hinsdale students with the best education possible in this incredibly trying time. Also thanks to all those who have worked to maintain our additional essential services, including our student meal program, our business functions including payroll, all the additional technology support that has been needed in this remote learning/working environment, all our end-of-year obligations managed by our administrative assistants, our custodians who have been sanitizing the areas of our buildings that are common to our guests and our employees, and the search committees that have been working to keep our hiring process for the 2020/2021 school year on schedule.

Our teachers and paras have been incredibly patient as they have tried to make remote learning work for every student.  Unfortunately, many students are without access to high speed internet and as a result are running into obstacles that compromise their learning progress. Approximately 15% of our students have no access to the internet. In addition, 91 of our students only have a smart phone to work with at home. We had hoped to provide some relief regarding available hardware for our students by using funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act, but as of May 26thth we still haven’t received the funds promised to the Hinsdale School District. Another complicating factor, in regards to remote learning, is that many of our parents are working from home which has significantly reduced the band width available for our students due to the number of devices competing for available band width. Another complicating factor is the lack of an opportunity for long term planning due to the speed of our pivot to remote learning.  Many of our staff thought the stay-at-home order would last for a few weeks. Given those factors it should be of no surprise that remote learning in Hinsdale is losing some of the fidelity we depend on in order to maintain an accurate assessment of individual student learning progress.  I am fearful that for many of our students the loss of a strong learning environment, supervised by trained staff, will be a burden that will be very hard to overcome.

Most of our parent partners have tried hard to create a great home learning environment but it has become apparent that some of our parent partners are exhausted and with warmer weather it will likely become even more difficult for them to maintain a quality learning environment for their children. In addition, some parents are facing economic hardships further complicating their ability to maintain the learning support their children need.

The Hinsdale Federation of Teachers Executive Board proposed we shorten our remote learning year with the last day for students on Friday, May 29th.  I support the request to move our last day for students to May 29th. The Hinsdale School Board agreed with the Hinsdale Federation of Teachers Executive Board proposal which effectively ends our school year for students on Friday, May 29th.

Obviously, the sooner we can get back to our traditional classroom learning model the better. At the earliest, we will have a physical classroom experience ready to go for students on the first day of classes scheduled for August 26th.

However, if we are directed to hold traditional classes in August our school environments would likely look very different. Unless our students and staff are vaccinated we would mandate social distancing.  Even though there are eight vaccines approved for clinical trials, it is unlikely a vaccine will be ready for wide spread distribution before next winter.  Therefore, we are developing a detailed plan that would both ensure staff and student safety and would reinforce parent confidence. There are so many questions we are trying to answer. Some of the questions that quickly come to mind include the following: How would lunchtime work? How would recess work? Do protocols for special education change? What steps would we take to ensure mental health? How would after school programs work?  Would we prioritize getting elementary school students into classrooms first since they need the most supervision

Other possible scenarios for the opening of school  include the continuation of remote learning or a blend of remote learning with traditional building based learning.

We plan to use some of our staff workshop days, after remote instruction ends for this year, to accomplish the planning needed for all the above scenarios. Our Director of Curriculum and Instruction is leading  a School Reopening Steering Committee.  The steering committee intends to involve all stakeholders including the parents in the proposed plans we will need prior to the staff leaving for summer break.

We have a track record of being out front of the personalized learning experience initiative.  In order to prepare for a personalized learning experience for each student we will need to do a group overview of the progress made over the past few months and to determine the best strategy for catch-up learning. Certainly current year instructors for each student will need to work with the instructors scheduled to work with that student in the fall if we are to realistically help the student catch up during the first few months of the school year.  It is clear to me that we have much work to do before the summer break begins for our staff.

As of May 26th we are still waiting a decision from our Governor regarding the status of summer school this year.

The 2019/ 2020 Board Goals are as follows:

2019-2020 Hinsdale School Board Goals

  1. Curriculum and Instruction
  • Ensure that all students receive personalized guidance regarding post-secondary education or career options.
  • Provide students with educational opportunities and learning based upon the student’s unique needs, interests and learning styles.
  • Establish continuity and collaboration in instruction between the school buildings.

As of March 3rd we already have more than 67% of our seniors admitted to a college or university. We have one student planning to join the Armed Services and we have 30% of our seniors planning to join the workforce. At present, 20% of our seniors will graduate with a certification. Examples include the following certifications: LNA, EMT, Fiber Optics, and OSHA. As of May 5th our HHS counselor is unaware of any change in plans made during the last few months. However, she suspects that many students are waiting until June to make final plans for the fall.

By order of the Governor, the State is not mandating State tests for our students this spring.

  1. Communication
  • Internal
    • Twice yearly school board tours of all school buildings – 1 tour during the school day and 1 tour when classes are not in session.
  • External
    • Maintain communication to promote a collaborative relationship with the community through a continued commitment to holding a minimum of two forums and maintaining a presence in other committees, boards and community events in town.
    • Maintain relationships with town governing bodies.

We have two new Board members of the Communication Committee, Sean Leary and Kaylah Hemlow.  At present, the Committee is focusing their support on our class of 2020 and on school families.

  1. Culture
  • Ensure clear behavioral expectations are communicated and followed up regularly through the development and implementation of a district-wide behavior code, the progress of which will be reported to the Board monthly by the Superintendent.
  • Promote an atmosphere that supports a forward-thinking, professional learning community.
  • Support and promote anti-bullying practices and ensure policies are being followed.
  • Superintendent will spot check the bullying logs and report monthly to the board.

We have had no reports of bullying since we implemented remote learning.

  1. Personnel
  • Support initiatives to recruit and retain professional, high-quality staff that are innovative, dynamic and dedicated to the success of all students.
  • Promote an atmosphere that supports an inclusive, professional learning community.

We have hiring committees that have already completed their part of the hiring process for several positions. We will have two candidates to recommend to the Board at the May meeting.

  1. Financial
  • Search for ways to conduct business in the most efficient and effective manner.
  • Work with administration to identify and secure additional sources of revenue.
  • Work with the administration to proactively monitor the fund balance.
  • Maintain ongoing communication with the Budget Committee regarding any potential changes in funding.
  • Work with the administration to present a Warrant Article to rebuild the maintenance fund.

We are working hard to conclude our current year expenditures while trying to access grant funds that are related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We still haven’t received our CARES Act grant.

  1. Security
  • Continue to review security audit information and move forward, in a fiscally responsible manner, to ensure our buildings are secure and our students are safe.

Our security needs have changed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our Director of HR has worked hard to procure PPE from the State.  We anticipate needing much more for the fall, including up to a dozen scanning thermometers.

  1. Technology
  • Continue to align the district budget to support the 5-year plan of the Future Technology Committee.
  • Support the development and implementation of a data governance plan.

We are currently implementing the third year of our five-year Technology Plan. Funds to add our 8th grade and our 12th grade students to the one-one initiative are included in our 2020/2021 School District Budget that was passed on March 14th. We hope to access CARES Act funds that will allow us to purchase additional school computers to be used by students who do not have computers at home and are struggling to keep up with our remote learning plan.