More changes in store for Sussex-Wantage schools

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Directors of various programs throughout the Sussex-Wantage Regional School District outline additional changes that are in store for the district beginning in the 2014-15 school year at the Nov. 20 Board of Education meeting.

Audrey Poggioli, director of special services, covered the district's goals and methods to improve and modify services for students with special needs at all three of the district's schools.

Patrick Higgins, director of curriculum and professional development covered the change from the "One Book-One Classroom" approach to the Balanced Literacy Approach in Language Arts. He said under the new approach, 25 students could be working at 25 different reading levels, all in the same classroom.

Superintendent of Schools Jeanne Apryasz said between presentations that there will be overlap in working collaboratively to reach the district’s goals and objectives.

"There is a recurring theme, which is parental involvement, especially in the Balanced Literacy Approach for the Language Arts classroom, assessment driven, which causes teachers to plan instruction around the students."

Poggioli also said she plans to provide additional activities with non-disabled peers, which she said is pivotal to students who have special needs.

She would also like to collaborate with other special-service providers through workshops, a referral process and by sharing success stories, which would help new teachers identify students who have special needs and find the best way to connect them with the necessary services.

Higgins explained the goal of the Balanced Literacy Approach is to bring all students at lest to grade level. The new method much different than what has been done before in the district.

No longer will there be one book for all. Instead, there will be an increased quantity and quality of classroom libraries. Each student will work on an independent level, and the quantity of reading and writing will increase to raise each student’s level. In order for the Language Arts class rooms to use the Balanced Literacy Approach by September 2014, teachers and administrators have started learning about the new approach and will train through June 2014.

The district also will educate the community about changes to classroom practices and philosophy through community presentations, outreach through digital media, and a Parent University to teach parents how to use the technology their children are using,and current issues in education.

A Teacher Academy also will be established, where teacher leader volunteers will help in the planning and preparation of curriculum-themed events in each of the school buildings. Teacher and parent volunteers will be ndeeded. Higgins also will develop a districtwide plan to provide a mentoring program for new staff members.

Also, starting in January, a new approach to training teachers will be implemented based on educational arts, technology and based on the content.

Questions and concerns

Board member Lisa A. Frisbie said the Board of Education's goals are aligned with student achievement based on the Common Core Standard goals.

Higgins said the Balanced Literacy Approach uses an independent level of reading and writing which results in a high success level. Also, he looks at who is behind something.The same people who authored the Common Core standards developed the Balanced Literacy Approach.

Bob Maikis asked about the effect moving from the one-book, one-classroom approach would have on teachers.

Higgins said his wife has taught a class where 21 books that she hadn't read were being read by students.

“It will be a process for the teachers," Higgins said. "They can’t just be dumped in to managing a classroom with all the different levels.

Robert Heiden asked about the financial effect, questioning whether there will be funding from others, donations or grants?

Higgins said he is checking into funding from other sources and ways to keep expenses low. One possiblity is to mark the levels on all the books in the district. There is an app available to scan the books' barcode, which will give the reading level, which can be labeled on the book.

He also plans to ask teachers for a list of the top 100 books and ask for donations from the community.

Ava Sanderson Shark pointed out a problem of segregating special-needs students from the general popution.

Higgins said there would be no segregation. For example, a class could be studying a theme or genre by the author Jerry Spinelli, so the whole class could be reading a different book of his at different reading levels.

Apryasz said possible funding can be generated in the transition from the traditional classroom to the 21st century classroom. For example, the district can sell the old TVs, collect money and use it for technology or books. As the school district makes transitions in house, money can be made in the process.

Janice Phillips-Mezier said the reading and writing model already exists and uses less expensive paperback books.

Apryasz added that the General Education mini-lessons can be with all students, and then students can go to resource rooms for the writing. The reading together at different levels will make students with special needs more mainstream.

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