The first year John Gratto served as a principal, in 1984 at an Upstate New York school, a young teaching assistant told him she had made a grave mistake by going into education. The woman was a senior in college, on the verge of graduation, when she discovered teaching didn’t suit her.
“What a terrible time to find out she didn’t want to be a teacher . . . People ought to have a good handle on what they want to do. Seventeen and 18-year-olds make the best decisions they can, but we can help them make better decisions,” opined Gratto, current superintendent of the Sag Harbor School District.
Gratto floated the idea of establishing a senior internship program at a long range-planning meeting held with the school board and administrators two weeks ago. This idea was one of many presented to the board as a way to improve academic rigor. The board meets several times throughout the summer to construct their goals for the upcoming school year and beyond.
According to school board president Walter Wilcoxen, this year the board called upon the school’s administration to formulate its long-term goals, whereas in previous years it was the board’s responsibility to compile the list of school goals.
“John is bringing what he has done in the past and the board has accepted this . . . [The administrators] are the professionals and we are happy with what they have come up with,” explained Wilcoxen.
The list of goals includes everything from implementing an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program in 2011 to establishing a list of financial reports the board should receive periodically and a schedule for distribution.
The premise of the senior student internship program is to link graduating seniors with professionals in the field of their choice.
“Sometimes a senior thinks they want to pursue something as a career but they may not have enough information. Our intent is that we would like to facilitate an internship to get their feet wet in their intended career,” clarified Gratto.
In addition, establishing a pre-kindergarten, an issue that has been discussed for several years, is also on the list and the board hopes to implement a program by the 2010-2011 school year. According to Gratto, the board asked administrators to present a more detailed analysis of the cost of a pre-kindergarten program. Wilcoxen added that he believed the federal Universal Pre-Kindergarten funds, to establish a program of this kind, were already exhausted and UPK would only cover pre-k programs already in operation.
“The question is, ‘can we afford to do this?’ I don’t think we will be able to know until we see the full expenses [associated with establishing pre-k],” explained Gratto. “After our budget deliberations for 2010, we will be able to decide if it is something we can afford.”
At the other end of the education spectrum, Pierson Middle and High School Principal Jeff Nichols presented the idea of implementing an International Baccalaureate Diploma Program in 2011.
“The Regents Exam is to New York State, what the International Baccalaureate Diploma is to the world,” remarked Gratto. The International Baccalaureate Diploma program is a curriculum which is broken down into six different subjects: native language, second language, individuals and societies, experimental sciences, mathematics and computer science and the arts. Gratto added that the curriculum emphasizes project-based learning, instead of test taking.
The school board is also eyeing a redesign of the district’s website to make it a more accessible communication tool between teachers and their students, as well as parents and administrators. Wilcoxen noted the board will most likely have to contract the services of on outside website designer and a preliminary figure for the website redesign is around $20,000, said Wilcoxen.
These goals, along with several others, will be further discussed and refined at a special meeting on Tuesday, August 4.