By Melissa Lynch
As the Sag Harbor School District settles into a new school year, superintendent Dr. John Gratto and members of the board of education are looking forward to a new year of their own as well — one in which they will seek to refine the way student progress is tracked and analyzed.
At the school board meeting on Monday night, Gratto presented new plans for tracking students’ improvements in English and mathematics for grades three through eight.
Students in those grades are required to take state-mandated tests in English and math and Gratto said the tracking plan will provide teachers with individualized test results in order to help them understand the needs of each student.
“It helps the teachers to focus in on rectifying the specific skills that each kid may have,” he explained.
At the beginning of each year, said Gratto, a student’s new teacher will be given an in-depth report for the child with performance indicators showing how the student is progressing in English and math. The indicators will point out how many questions relating to a particular skill the student answered correctly or incorrectly on the last state mandated test. Gratto explained that this will help teachers understand the areas in which students may require more help.
Audience member Chris Tice expressed concerns over how a teacher who is responsible for covering a new year’s curriculum will be able to review the previous grade’s material as well and further, make plans to also cover that material with students.
Tice asked, “If there are certain areas where that specific student clearly has not attained a satisfactory level of understanding is it the teacher that goes back the next year and teaches them those skills that they didn’t get?”
Gratto responded by explaining that teachers will receive a list of the top 10 performance indicators by grade level. That, he added, will enable the teachers to have an understanding of what English and math skills the class needs to work on as a whole.
Ultimately, it was decided that additional help, if needed, would be given to students after school. Gratto also believes the individualized analysis will provide academic intervention services, teachers and special education teachers with additional knowledge to help their students as well.
“Teachers can hone in on the area that a particular student may need to learn,” Gratto commented.
Also on Monday, the board announced the formation of a long-range planning committee that will address infrastructure needs in the district. The district’s architect will share information at committee meetings and describe projects that are currently in the design stage. According to Gratto, new buildings and grounds/athletic director, Bill Madsen, is also expected to attend these meetings. Topics might include things such as installation of security cameras, parking issues, storage concerns, building systems, sidewalks or landscaping. Items of discussion will be presented to the board of education for consideration before any decisions are made on costs and scope of the projects.
The planning committee’s first meeting will be September 18 in the Pierson School library. The district asks that anyone interested in attending future committee meetings check the website for dates.
Also at Monday’s meeting, board president Walter Wilcoxen announced that he is expecting to report on the Pierson lunch program sometime around Christmas.
The report will be in response to an audit completed in July, which showed that the Pierson lunch program was operating in the red. In an effort to fix the problem, the board opted to terminate the school lunch coordinator, Paula Brannon, who was making $49,000 in the position. Because just 11 percent of the children were purchasing lunches, Brannon’s salary was not being covered by the money coming in and the program operated at a loss. This year, in an effort to cut costs, Brannon’s duties have been assumed by head cook Lisa Becker.
“The only complaints of the lunch system are that there is not enough room in the cafeteria,” joked Len Bernard, business administrator for the district.
Wilcoxen asked whether the board might consider adding boxed lunches for the elementary school, which may help increase profits.
“We’re doing well if the program just breaks even,” replied Bernard.