Public forum on Gloversville school plans held

GLOVERSVILLE — Following the recent completion of a state mandated school improvement plan, Gloversville Middle School Principal Mark Batty held a public forum Wednesday to share details with families and to begin organizing a parent advisory council to help monitor the plan next school year.

An “all call” notification alerting parents to the public forum at Gloversville Middle School went out to parents a few days before the meeting that was also listed online on the Gloversville Enlarged School District event calendar, but no parents were present on Wednesday evening.

While waiting roughly half an hour to see if any parents would drop in, Batty said he wasn’t expecting a large turnout due to the abundance of end of the year activities, but scheduled the forum wanting to share information on the school improvement plan that district officials and building leaders completed within the past few weeks.

“It’s an extremely busy time of year so I knew it was going to be tough,” Batty said. “We’ll do it again and we’re going to continue to do it until we get the word out.”

Batty said he will provide the information he planned to cover to parents and families in the fall during orientation and at the fall open house.

“I was going to explain what a Focus School is and how you end up being designated as a Focus School,” Batty said. “There’s a process that you build your plan for the next year from that is somewhat driven by what the state recommends you to do if you’re a Focus School.”

The New York State Education Department identifies schools with low academic performance on English Language Arts and math exams as Focus Schools that must undergo a school improvement process to address the reasons why some students are not succeeding. Most designated Focus Schools receive additional state funding and support to aid improvement efforts.

“It comes really from your ELA and math scores if you’re students don’t perform up to proficiency which is a level three or a level four on a state exam,” Batty said, acknowledging that the middle school has been designated a Focus School by the state.

Following the designation, a state review process is carried out to identify strengths and weaknesses at the school and this information is used by district and building leaders to develop a school improvement plan.

“They come in for a three day period and observe, they go into classrooms they meet with teachers, they meet with parents, they meet with kids, they ask questions,” Batty explained, “to learn more about what you are doing, to learn what you’re having success with and what you’re not having success with and then they make recommendations.”

The state review process was conducted at the middle school in March and Batty said the education department returned recommendations for inclusion in the school improvement plan in April surrounding student performance in ELA, math and science and student attendance.

“A school improvement plan is a document and it has every one of these categories, it shows exactly what your objective is, the goal you want to hit and how you expect to get there. Then you progress monitor all year to see how you’re doing and when you get to mid-year if you’re not seeing improvement you have to make changes to your plan,” Batty said.

The school improvement plan prepared by middle school leaders and the district will focus on tighter curriculum alignment and improved academic intervention services to provide struggling students more time on task with content teachers to address any gaps.

The plan also includes a new team concept for grouping students by grade level and across the school called “Color Wars” that will introduce a competitive element to school activities.

“It’s a different way to team our kids to make the year fun. They’re going to be in smaller teams coded by a color. There will be four at each grade level and they will be the same colors,” Batty said. “There will be a teal, green, orange and yellow [team] at every grade level so you can compete as a whole school as the teal team or just at the grade level.”

Teams of students will compete for points in daily, weekly and quarterly categories such as performing the most random acts of kindness, best attendance and best effort in class. Team scores will be displayed throughout the school building to let students know how their group is doing both by grade level and as a whole. Points will be used to award prizes depending on the size of the accomplishment from small rewards like a pizza party to large rewards like a school trip to Boston.

“Every single thing we do will be with the Color Wars concept and the neat thing about the concept is that my teachers came up with it and they’re excited about it,” Batty said. “For everybody to be coming up with new ideas about next year when we’re not even done with this year, that’s exciting.”

“Our kids love to compete at everything,” he added. “I’ve got 70 kids that show up for early morning dodge ball in the gym, that are at the door at 7 a.m. waiting to get in, because they like to compete. I’m talking girls, boys, all ages, all sizes and they have a ball. I think this will spread into making this place fun.”

In addition to sharing details on the school improvement plan, Batty planned to seek out volunteers during the public forum for a parent advisory group to participate in the district’s monitoring of the improvement plan throughout the 2019-20 school year and to provide suggestions for other methods to address areas identified by the state for improvement.

“What I want them to help us do is to help us progress monitor our school improvement plan over the course of the year from their viewpoint,” Batty said. “As a parent in our city what is your view on improving attendance? What would you think would be a good idea? I like to see it from a standpoint of someone outside of the building that looks at it through a different lens.”

The advisory committee would be asked to meet with building leaders once a month at their convenience to share thoughts and ideas. Batty noted that he similarly meets with students once a month to gather ideas, which led to the development of several performance incentives including recess lunches and a VIP lounge for students.

“I’m looking for a more diverse viewpoint,” Batty said of the parent advisory group.

In general Batty is hoping to improve communication with middle school parents and families aided by the district’s plans to hire a communication specialist before the fall and to expand the use of social media to create an open dialogue.

“I think there will be so many layers of ways that I can get in touch with people that it will help with communication. I need our parents to know what’s going on here,” Batty said.