Lots of Industry…Lots of Product
October 2014 Superintendent Essay
William S. McKersie, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools
(Updated October 7, 2014)
In the world sport of football, known stateside as soccer, commentators bring verbal art and dexterity to calling the game. Words and phrases not typically used by American sportscasters to describe sports action are the norm with international play-by-play and color commentators. One of my favorite moments was when a British football announcer offered, “We are seeing lots of industry today, but little product!”
Looking over the first six weeks of school in Greenwich, I am proud to see lots of industry, and lots of product. Indeed, the industry: product ratio is so favorable, I will devote my October and November essays to the news. This month, I will start with what I am seeing in several schools. Next month, I will follow with more school news, as well as several examples of district-wide industry and product.
Academic excellence requires close attention to positive relationships—student to student, student to teacher and teacher to teacher. Cos Cob School this year is emphasizing Responsive Classrooms, a focus it launched on August 21 with special professional development for all teachers. Principal Gene Schmidt notes that all Cos Cob staff have implemented the "Morning Meeting,” which includes the Greeting, the Sharing, the Activity and News and Announcements. Teachers and students are actively involved in this step to bolster academics with attention to social-emotional learning.
North Street School also has pushed the essential link between academic excellence and positive relationships, but they expanded the fostering of relationships to include families. Principal Jill Flood reports “a terrific start to the school year with a real sense of community and positivity. The best early moment was the overwhelmingly positive response we had to the "Thinking Outside the Box" Art Challenge. Families, students, parents, and friends worked together as innovative and creative problem solvers to transform recycled boxes (from matchbook size to refrigerator size) into 3-D sculptures. We now have over 100 sculptures that will be on display at the school through this week and during Open House.”
Assessment results matter to us as a measure of student academic progress. While multiple measures are the state-of-the-art approach, single measures are revealing. North Mianus School deserves to point with pride to its most recent CMT Science results, which saw 94 percent of their students scoring at the goal level and 75 percent at advanced. Most impressive, in just one year the percent of students at the advanced level jumped by 18 percentage points (57 to 75 percent). We will be conferring with Principal Angela Schmidt and her staff to gather insights to help our other elementary schools have similar success in science.
Digital learning is a major priority for the Greenwich Public Schools. We are entering the second year of a comprehensive process to transform teaching and learning by providing teachers and students with the digital tools necessary to personalize instruction and accelerate achievement. This fall we are providing all sixth grade students with Chrome Books. Last spring, all sixth grade teachers received their Chrome Books, as well as in-depth professional development from November Learning (our professional development partner for Digital Learning). Central Middle School Principal Shelley Somers reports that “the consistent Digital Learning professional development that teachers have been offered has paid off. My teachers tell me that they are, "...ahead of where they thought they would be!"
Western Middle School's industry was strong this summer, with 30 teachers coming together to develop plans for advancing three priority areas for improvement: increasing the rigor of instruction, deepening parent engagement, and offering a robust extended day program. Regarding Digital Learning, Western Middle School Principal Gordon Beinstein echoes the good reports from Central Middle School, highlighting that the November Learning team has been very well received by Western staff during the Chrome Book roll out.
Tradition and beginnings matter greatly in effective schools. Julian Curtiss has the long-standing tradition of “The Ringing In Ceremony” for kindergarten students, an opening ceremony in which each kindergartener rings the school bell to signify their induction into the school community. The entire school community is present to welcome the new students to the school. Principal Trish McGuire sent me the following description for this year’s program, highlighting the international and domestic diversity that is Julian Curtiss’s hallmark:
At the beginning of Friday’s ceremony, Principal McGuire introduced each of the four kindergarten teachers. As each teacher waved to the crowd, hundreds of students and parents cheered and whistled. Amid the earnest faces, McGuire read Maya Angelou’s poignant words. “It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” “At JC we celebrate the diversity of our languages, our cultures and our traditions,” McGuire continued. “These children will work together, learn together, and become friends,” she said of the students who speak Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Greek, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Bulgarian, among others. “They are the hope of our town and the future of our country.”
Accelerating achievement and compassion are big priorities for the Greenwich Public Schools (Superintendent Essay, September 2014). Greenwich High School already has examples this year of notable achievement and compassion. Headmaster Chris Winters reports, “Academically, we are very proud of our latest Advanced Placement (AP) results. The data show that, while participation in AP has more than doubled over the past 10 years, the mean score has remained at a high rate. These outcomes counter a normal trend where increases in the number of students taking high level classes and exams typically result in a decrease in the scores on the exams. Over 57 percent of the GHS seniors take and pass at least one AP exam during their four years at GHS.”
Compassion also runs strong at Greenwich High School. One of the highlights of the year so far was the effort to involve all students and staff in GHS’s annual food drive on 9-11, known as “One-For-One on 9-11.” The goal is for each member of the GHS community to bring in at least one non-perishable food item—ideally reaching a total that honors the equivalent of each life lost on 9-11. Over 3,695 items were donated this year, surpassing the goal.
We are a busy district, driven by many hopes and promises. We have our expectations as highly dedicated educators. We have the aspirations of our energetic and inquisitive students. We have the dreams of families, rightly wanting the best for their children. We have goals and targets set by the Board of Education. We have standards, assessments and other policies and procedures required by the State of Connecticut. To succeed, our modus operandi has to be lots of industry…lots of product. I will be back in November with even more examples of our industry and product.
October 7, 2014, Superintendent's Message: Lots of Industry...Lots of Product
September 2, 2014, Superintendent's Message: Our Signature: Achievement and Caring
June 1, 2014, Superintendent's Message: Distinguished Ideas
2014 Distinguished Teachers Essays
April 3, 2014, Superintendent's Message: Accelerating Achivement for All: Greenwich and the Achievement Gap
March 4, 2014, Superintendent's Message: Smarter Balanced - Field Test: Facts & Interpretation
February 5, 2014, Superintendent's Message: A Word on the Common Core
January 3, 2014, Superintendent's Message: Popular Knowledge of Complex Questions
December 3, 2013, Superintendent's Message: Distinguished Reflections
November 27, 2013, Superintendent's Thanksgiving Day Message
November 12, 2013, The Roots of Excellence
September 26, 2013, Letter to Greenwich Public School Families on our Call to Action and Strategic Focus
September 11, 2013 Letter to Greenwich Public School Families on Safe School Climate
September 3, 2013 Letter to Greenwich Public School Families on Safe School Climate
April 25, 2012, Superintendent of Schools Appointment Announcement
Resume for William S. McKersie (April 2012)