November Superintendent Report

Superintendent’s Report – November, 2020

The Hinsdale School Board asked me to communicate an important update related to our return to in-person learning scheduled for Monday, November 30th .  The update reads as follows:  “With the upcoming holidays and a return to in class learning on November 30th, the school board wanted to communicate some updated policies and remind everyone of some that are already in place.   When creating policies, the school board references the guidelines of the New Hampshire department of health and human services and the New Hampshire School Nurses’ Association when applicable.

  • If you or anyone in your home travels outside of the New England states of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, you are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, starting the day they return to New Hampshire.
  • If anyone in your home received a COVID-19 test due to symptoms or exposure to the virus you must inform the school nurse.
  • If you have received a COVID-19 test and are awaiting results you must notify the school nurse.  Proof of a negative test must be provided, in writing, before you may return to school.
  • Please notify the school as soon as possible of any student that was previously attending in-class learning but will not be returning to school on November 30th.  Please refer to the remote learning guidelines at the end of this notice.
  • Remote learners can only return to in-class learning at the end of a quarter.  Any student who was previously or will be remaining remote after November 30th may not return to school for in-class learning until Monday January 25th.
  • Beginning Monday November 30th, the SNAP program will be activated, participation will be required for all students entering the school.   SNAP is the program we will be using to monitor health and gather data relevant to COVID-19.
  • Due to extreme caution, there has been a high instance of students and staff absenteeism as people quarantine or receive COVID testing to insure the safety for the school community.  This is not due to actual COVID cases, but the policy put in place that anyone exhibiting any possible COVID symptoms follow these protocols as a precaution.  If at any time the absenteeism of students, staff or administration reach a level that negatively affect the ability to insure safety of all and provide quality education to our students we will switch to remote learning until we are confident that attendance is at appropriate levels.   This determination would be made by school building, elementary or HMHS, and may not necessarily affect the entire district.
  • As always, we will communicate any updates or changes as they happen.  This continues to be a very fluid situation for everyone and we appreciate the entire community as we continue to navigate these challenging times together.

On October 15th we were awarded a state grant of about $102,000 to help cover COVID-19 expenses over and above the expenses approved in our application for the $179,000 CARES Act grant.  The new grant is titled “Supplemental Public School Response Fund” (SPSRF) grant. The funds must be spent by December 30, 2020. The proposed expenditures must not have been previously budgeted for before 3/1/2020. Our Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment has been compiling a list of COVID-19 expenditures that would meet the criteria of the grant. So far we are considering the following needs that are driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Cameras to assist with remote learning. Computers and cameras for paras that work with remote students. Laptops for our K-1 students.  Wiring for the second floor of our elementary school so our teachers can work effectively with remote students.  There were no connections for wireless connectivity completed as part of the 2007/2008 elementary school renovation. The wiring will likely cost about $4,000. We are also considering the purchase of hands-free toilet values and an air filtration device from the grant funds. We are also planning on the purchase of additional sanitation spray, paper towels, and sanitation wipes.

The New Hampshire Commission to Study School Funding is reviewing the Massachusetts model of state funding. When Massachusetts reformed the state’s school funding formula a year ago, they determined that communities with more families qualifying for free/reduced lunch need more funding.  The new Massachusetts model doubles state aid in communities with high concentrations of students in the free and reduced lunch program.  Massachusetts’ new formula, which will be implemented over the next seven years, provides about $12,000 per student as compared to about $3,700 per student in New Hampshire. The New Hampshire Commission to Study School Funding is preparing a recommendation for the New Hampshire Legislature prior to this session.  The FY 2021 legislative session should end in June of 2021 with an approved two-year state budget.

We are still in an enviable position regarding the spread of COVID-19 in our school community.  As of November 23rd, we have had one Hinsdale School District student test positive for COVID-19.

I toured all the Hinsdale Middle/High School classrooms on October 16th and toured all Hinsdale Elementary School classrooms on October 26th. Board members Sean Leary and Kaylah Hemlow, our Facilities Director, and the HMHS principal were part of the HMHS tour.  Our elementary school principal served as my guide on the HES tour. Based on my observations we are doing an excellent job of providing a safe learning environment. I spoke with numerous staff members during the tours and, for the most part, I felt that staff morale was better than I expected.

I believe we are doing better than most districts in our area. One reason I have reached that conclusion is that Hinsdale is the only School District in our area that has started compensatory education for our special education students.  Also, daily operations are going better than expected. Transportation, daily building cleaning, and the distribution of lunches are all going better than expected.

On most mornings I greet the second and third grade students as they enter the cafeteria door.  As a group they were very happy to come to school the first day. I noticed for several days after the first day the students looked down as they arrived at the doorway. I think they were just uneasy due to the relative weirdness of their experience at school.  However, by the second week our students seemed to have adjusted, and as a group were once again happy to be coming to school.  The HMHS principal recently told me that lately she has heard more student laughter in the HMHS lunchroom.

Our staff continue to build positive relationships with the students and we are beginning to close the learning gaps, however, our Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment believes we have long way to go, especially in reading.

The evening calls made by our Director of Personalized Learning have made a positive impact on the majority of our remote learners. Thanks to these evening calls our level of parent support for remote learning has remained high.

Ancillary support for middle school classes has begun with one full time substitute teacher. A second middle school substitute teacher will begin next week when many of our remote learners return for in-class instruction.

Overall, I am proud of the way the staff have made the first quarter of the 2020/2021 school year work for our students and families. I am sure that a majority of the 165 staff members that work with us have personal struggles as they navigate life in the times of this pandemic. Undoubtedly, teachers who are providing both remote and in-class instruction have an additional difficult task to accomplish each school day.

In addition to the in-class program and our remote learning model our sports program has had a great fall season. Our soccer teams have been competitive against Keene teams and our girls’ soccer team won their first playoff game on October 27th by a score of five to one. The girls’ soccer team has advanced to the second round of playoffs for the first time.

We continue to develop action plans to follow in order to accomplish the expectation described in the 2020/ 2021 Board Goals.

The 2020-2021 Hinsdale School Board Goals are as follows:

  1. Curriculum and Instruction

Ensure that all students receive personalized guidance regarding post-secondary education or career options.

We recently hired a high school counselor who has previously worked in the field of career development at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

Provide students with educational opportunities and learning based upon the student’s unique needs, interests and learning styles.

Our Director of Personalized Learning/Director of Remote Learning has been focusing her time on the 20% of our students who are engaged in remote learning only. Last week she was able to assign existing staff to groups of remote students to make certain there would be frequent check in opportunities for remote students and their parents. 

Establish continuity and collaboration in instruction between the school buildings.

Our Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment is leading the action plan to help coordinate a smooth learning transition between HES and HMHS. At present she had focused her effort on reading. She has developed a plan where our district reading specialist who had been only working with our elementary school teachers and students to work more closely with our middle school teachers.

Ensure all staff has access to pertinent trainings.

We are in the process of setting up professional development for PACE related adjustments to curriculum and instruction.

PACE-All grade levels will move towards performance assessment and enhanced personalized learning.

Our Director of Personalized Learning recently completed a grant that will help us move forward with our PACE directive.

  1. Communication

Internal-Improve overall communication.

The Board is frequently communicating to the public as part of the new Communication Plan approved by the Board in September.  The new communication plan is driven by the need to more quickly and thoroughly communicate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

External-Maintain communication to promote a collaborative relationship with the community in the following ways:

Continue to hold a minimum of two community forums during the school year.

Maintain a presence on other committees, boards and through attendance at community events in town.

Maintain relationships with town governing bodies.

  1. Culture

Promote a culture of kindness and open communication.

We are doing a better job of providing open communication with staff. Our meetings with the HFT leadership group has helped listen more closely to the concerns of our teachers.

Ensure clear behavioral expectations are communicated and followed up on regularly through the development and implementation of a district-wide behavior plan, the progress of which will be reported to the Board monthly by the Superintendent.

The Behavioral Support Team in each school have been working on their building school wide behavior plans. Recently our District Behavioral Support Team Steering Committee met to review building progress and to determine a first draft estimate of budget needs to be included in the 2021/2022 draft budget.

Promote an atmosphere that supports an inclusive, professional learning community.

We plan to use our PLC’s to help pivot to remote instruction for all students, whenever necessary. Although we are incredibly hopeful we can make it through this school with our current model, I believe we will likely need to go fully remote for at least ten school days during this school year.

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 zero incidents of bullying at HMHS and two incidents of bullying at HES since our last Board meeting.

Support the development of a diversity plan that can be integrated throughout the district. Our diversity team has completed a diversity complaint form. This team has also made recommendations regarding the current Board Diversity Policy. We will present these recommended changes to the Board at the November Board meeting. The Diversity Team is currently reviewing one complaint from a situation that allegedly occurred with a HMHS student. 

Acknowledge the diversity of student accomplishments in all areas. We have a team in the process of developing an action plan to better celebrate student accomplishments, especially as the celebration illustrates diverse members of the student body.

4. Personnel

Support initiatives to recruit and retain professional, high-quality staff that are innovative, dynamic and dedicated to the success of all students.

We still have five para positions that remain unfilled. We have found four long-term substitutes that will be used to help us meet our social distancing guidelines.

  1. Financial

Support ways to conduct business in the most efficient and effective manner. At present, I have not heard of any request to add staff to the staffing numbers in the current budget. We are in the process of setting up meetings with the Hinsdale Support Staff Association leadership in order to draft an agreement to present to the Board and, if approved by the Board, to present to the District voters in March of 2021.

Work with the administration to identify and secure additional sources of revenue. We have been approved for several grants since our last Board meeting.

 Work with the administration to present a warrant article to rebuild the expendable trust funds. We have not formulated an amount to recommend to the Board.

Work with the Administration to proactively monitor the fund balance. Our Business Administrator is presenting his estimate to the Board each month.

Maintain ongoing communication with the Budget Committee regarding any potential changes in funding and expenditures and continue to provide detailed backup information for the budget. Our Business Administrator will lead the effort related to this action plan.

  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 and staff are safe. We are focusing our efforts on provide the needed PPE and frequently sanitizing our buildings.

  1. Technology

Continue to align the district budget to support the 5-year plan of the Future Technology Committee.

Our Director Technology and her team are preparing the budget requests necessary to complete the final year of our 5-year Technology Plan.  Due to the number of students who are engaged with our remote learning model we are currently focusing on finding grants funds to support the technology needs for remote learning.

Ensure all staff has access to pertinent trainings.

We continue to provide training that is needed to meet the needs of our remote learner.

  1. Facilities

Twice yearly School Board tours of all school buildings –1 tour during the school day and 1 tour when classes are not in session.

Fully utilize all building spaces.

We are currently doing a great job of utilizing our building spaces for instruction. The early release on Fridays plan has led to a new plan for HES building utilization.  Our HES principal will present this new proposal to the Board at the November 4th meeting.