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Mount Greylock School Committee Hears about School Improvement Plans
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:37AM / Friday, October 26, 2018
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Lanesborough Elementary School Principal Martha Wiley, left, and Mount Greylock Principal Mary MacDonald follow the meeting.


Mount Greylock Principal Mary MacDonald, left, and Williamstown Elementary Principal Joelle Brookner join their counterpart from Lanesborough in presenting to the Transition Committee.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional School District's three schools have a lot in common as they plan for future improvements throughout the PreK-12 district.
 
The Transition Committee, which governs the newly expanded region through the Nov. 6 election, at its October meeting heard presentations from the principals at Lanesborough Elementary, Williamstown Elementary and the middle-high school about each building's School Improvement Plan.
 
And in each case, the plans touch on social development, technology and curriculum — specifically science in the two elementary schools.
 
The SIPs are the product of each building's School Council, a board consisting of parents, teachers, community members and, in the case of Mount Greylock, students and chaired by the principal.
 
Mount Greylock Principal Mary MacDonald told the committee that, typically, goals are designed for a two- to three-year time horizon, and the school has been making progress in the areas it has targeted.
 
Going forward, the school wants to work on developing and revising curriculum maps, MacDonald said.
 
"It's the third and final year to create a systematic structure … across all of our different courses," she said. "Essentially, teachers have developed maps that have themes and standards. These are now ready to be addressed with a protocol both horizontally and vertically so we can, essentially within departments, make sure we're covering what we're supposed to cover."
 
This year, one of the points of emphasis is on aligning the science curriculum vertically from the elementary schools up through Mount Greylock, a process made easier by the full regionalization approved by voters in Williamstown and Lanesborough last year, MacDonald said.
 
Science instruction is an emphasis in the SIP at each of Mount Greylock's "feeder" elementary schools.
 
"We're in the second year with a science goal," WES Principal Joelle Brookner said. "We're going to continue alignment with the most recent state science standards. This past year we were using a new program in Grades K-through-5 called 'Mystery Science,' which is also used in Lanesborough. This year, we were excited to learn that Discovery Education, an online platform, provides well-vetted, excellent source materials in the classroom. We had a trainer come in this fall to work with the sixth-grade teachers, and they loved it.
 
"By the end of the summer, our goal is to have general science curriculum maps we can put on our website with monthly themes — essential topics happening across grade levels."
 
First-year LES Principal Martha Wiley told the committee that the School Improvement Plan in Lanesborough was developed under the prior administration, and, like Williamstown's, includes a focus on science.
 
"One of the important action steps was facilitating instructional rounds where teachers can observe each other using Mystery Science," Wiley said. "We're going to start that in January on a volunteer basis."
 
Technology also is addressed in each elementary school's SIP.
 
Wiley said Lanesborough Elementary is benefiting from a new laptop cart in third grade and that the teachers are undergoing professional development training in Google Classrooms. At Williamstown, the re-evaluating its need for two full computer labs as it moves to a one-to-one model of putting devices in the hands of each pupil.
 
Along with that one-to-one initiative comes a continued focus on digital citizenship, Brookner said.
 
"Our students are very young and learning," she said. "Part of what we're doing is helping students become responsible users of technology. We're finding the scope of the needs for education for our students has really broadened."
 
Social and emotional learning have been topics of discussion in education for some time, and at Mount Greylock, the subject has led to some self-examination, MacDonald said.
 
"We've thought a lot about the physical environment [at the new middle-high school], but we're also talking about the cultural environment: How do people interact? How do adults interact with students? How do adults interact with adults?" she said. "We would like to identify a company to help us with a survey instrument to do a broad view of our community's opinion about how our school culture is perceived and better understand what the areas of growth are to then develop an action plan."
 
Wiley said Lanesborough continues to look at social and emotional learning throughout the school day. Brookner said Williamstown wants to do a better job of communicating with parents about the social lessons being taught at the school.
 
Dan Caplinger, who serves on the Transition Committee by way of his seat on the now disbanded Williamstown School Committee, noted that full regionalization offers a chance for greater coordination of the School Improvement plans.
 
"I think there's an opportunity here for the parents and teachers and community members and students on the councils to share their work among the three," Caplinger said. "The elementary school plans are so similar in goals. It will be interesting to see how collaborations among the three schools germinate.
 
"I like how these three sets of plans done by three different sets of people work together."
 
While the plans may be similar, perceived dissimilarities at the district's two elementary schools again were a topic of discussion at the Oct. 11 meeting.
 
Lanesborough Elementary music teacher Jacqueline Vinette was back before the Transition Committee to refute a response from Superintendent Kimberley Grady to Vinette's comments at the committee's September meeting.
 
At the prior meeting, Vinette said pupils at Lanesborough were missing out on instrument instruction time because of staffing issues at the school. Grady later in the September meeting told the committee the pupils' needs were being met, saying, in part, "They still have instruments, they still have technology. They still have art, music and gym. The programs they receive are the same and in line with what they had last year."
 
Vinette in October said she was surprised to read Grady's comments on iBerkshires.com.
 
"Yes, we still have instruments, but programs are not the same or in line with what we had last year," Vinette said. "It was said [at the meeting] that curriculum alignment is happening, and it's not happening in music. Williamstown has not seen a cut in music like we have.
 
"I don't understand how we can say both schools have the same opportunity for success in the performing arts."
 
Grady did not at the October meeting say anything related to the concerns re-raised by Vinette during the meeting's public comment period.
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