Friday, June 22, 2018

Farewell 2017 - 2018~

Welcome to the Summer of 2018!

Our school year seemed to fly by in 2017-2018 and we have successfully gotten our
studentsthrough another  year of projects, assignments, and homework. Camps are
in full force and over the last weeks of June we are hosting about 200 children in
our various programs offering Makerspace, Sculpture, Coding, Camp Dynamite,
and Basketball.

Before I share some reflections of last school year I want to describe the scene at
Conley Schoolat dismissal on June 11th - Music was playing (Justin Timberlake and
other songs), the students and staff danced to the busses with a combination of sadness
from leaving for the summer mixed with happiness for having such a great year.  

The joy was evident as our drivers were honking their horns and staff stood waving
at students who returned the waves out their windows.  Hoppock was a bit more
reserved but the emotions were evident - and after an amazing 8th grade graduation
on Friday night the last day seemed like more of a preparation for next year rather
than an ending of our current year.

What a year!  We began Project Launch (STEAM) in Conley school and the
3rd - 5th graders made some amazing projects and fine tuned their problem solving
abilities.  Our students at Hoppock were coding and making rockets and sustainable
housing in their electives while preparing in their core areas for rigorous coursework
at North Hunterdon.

Next year we want to focus on empathy and character programs as well as our
academics and our counselors and staff will be preparing a “Mindfulness” type
experience for all of our students.  Also, we will be presenting our Strategic Plan
at the July 26th Board of Education meeting as we move forward to 18-19!

If anyone has any questions or concerns please contact us at the schools and we will
be happy to discuss anything--

Have an amazing summer!

Below is a post about the future that includes information from a book study the
Hunterdon County Superintendent’s participated in facilitated by me and
Dr. Rick Faulkenstein--

As the Summer of 2018 flies by we look forward to school opening in two months!

This is a very hectic time of year and the past two years have flown by - I have
learned so much about our students, parents, and community members and feel
the bond with our stakeholders and the enthusiasm for our programs and student
learning.  As we begin to implement a strategic long-range plan beginning in Fall
of 2018 we must set our goals and think about the future of our children. I will
be inviting members of our educational community to be a part of our planning
process and everyone that wants to be involved will have the opportunity to have
their voices heard.

A question I ask to educators and stakeholders is "What are we preparing our
students for?"  The answers typically range from colleges and careers to becoming
productive citizens, and the most basic Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.  I believe
all of these to be true. However, my recent thinking, spurred by my last read,
The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb, and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon
Valley Are Changing the World has been altered by our new reality.  If our schools
function to prepare students for their future what exactly does that future look like?

This reminds me of the trendy and popular quote "All we know about the future is
that it will be different..." and that we need to think creatively and not be constrained
by what we know.  What we know can be debilitating to creative thinking and problem
solving by limiting us to our current understanding of how things work and the structure
of rules and fear of any disruption or change in how we understand the world to work.  
Confinement to 'that's the way we always did it' can be devastating to free thinking and
whatever awaits us in the different world of tomorrow.  

We have heard the Educational Evangelists talk about how we used to be taught not
to take rides or stay in homes with strangers (businesses now worth $68 Billion
Uber-and $30 Billion Airbnb) in which both companies implement and embrace
the Sharing Economy.  These ideas were cast aside and seen as too revolutionary to
take on systems that were so ingrained with history, rules, policies, and Associations
to be successful.  Why did these ideas and this type of thinking take so many people
by surprise? What kind of thinking do we need to be encouraging to prepare our
students for working in the world of 2025 and beyond?  It is time to do something
about it.

Bethlehem Township Schools is adding key components to our curriculum and
program for next year. This includes STEAM projects (Science - Technology -
Engineering - Art - Mathematics) which are precursors to Project Lead The Way
which will be offered in North Hunterdon beginning next year. This is more than
simply an Engineering/Computer Science pathway for student learning, it is
teaching students to think.  In an Articulation Meeting with Lou Mazzella
(former STEAM Supervisor at North Hunterdon-Voorhees) we discussed fostering
student learning and Lou profoundly said "We want our students to make something
- to do something." I found that to be so forward thinking and moving away from
the testing mentality that can consume other educators. Research suggests students
become better more independent learners, and creative problem solvers when taught
critical-thinking skills.

Can we have a Makerspace?  The answer is yes. We will also be adding Global Day
of Design and increasing opportunities for students to  create, make, and build - and
to take charge of their learning. Children and parents of Bethlehem Township please
prepare for lift off as we offer some challenging programs for next year!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Strategic Planning in Bethlehem Township Public Schools!

What is Strategic Planning?
Strategic planning is an organizational management activity used to set priorities, focus energy and resources to ensure that our staff and stakeholders are working toward common goals.  The process builds consensus around intended outcomes/results, and assesses and adjusts our direction in response to a changing educational environment. It is an effort to produce fundamental decisions and actions that shape and guide our school district to best serve our students with a focus on the future.  Effective strategic planning articulates not only where we are going and the actions needed to make progress, but also how we will know it is successful.

Last  night was our kickoff to our Strategic Planning meeting! 

Below are the notes and outcomes from that working meeting--

Please put February 26th on your calendar and come out to participate in charting the future of our schools!

February 26, 2018 Meeting #2
Registration at 6:30 p.m., Meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Dream - Outcome:  Creating a Common Vision

March 19, 2018 Meeting #3
Registration at 6:30 p.m., Meeting at 7:00 p.m.
Design the District’s Destiny - Outcome:  Goals and Objectives

Creating a Strategic Plan for the
Bethlehem Township School District

Session 1 of 3

 What Are the Strengths, Achievements, and Challenges of the Bethlehem Township School District?

On January 30, 2018, Bethlehem Township School District administration, Board of Education members, staff, parents and community members came together to initiate strategic planning. The first evening’s topic was focused on the strengths, achievements, and challenges of the Bethlehem School District.  The meeting began with a welcome and introductions by Board of Education President, Kimberly Solino, and Dr. Gregory Farley, Superintendent, presented an excellent overview of the current “state of the schools.” Mayor Paul Muir,and the Teacher’s Association President also greeted the attendees. Gwen Thornton, assisted by Maryann Friedman New Jersey School Boards representatives, reviewed the strategic planning process the group would be undertaking.

Twenty-one (21) participants then gathered in randomly assigned groups to identify the strengths/achievements and challenges of the Bethlehem Township School District through brainstorming and the sharing of ideas.  After discussion, each group came to a consensus of its top 10 strengths / achievements and top 10 challenges and presented those to all meeting participants.

The information that follows is a summary of the work of the small groups. As discussed with the meeting participants, all consensus points are recorded and posted on the district’s website to share the work of the groups during the course of the strategic planning process.

Group Consensus
Strengths / Accomplishments and Challenges

Green Dot Team
Strengths / Accomplishments (Top Ten)
Caring competent staff
Character education
Broad array of activities (sports, clubs)
District size – student centered, strong school / community relationships
L-E-A-D program
Strong curriculum – state of art programming
Technology integration

Challenges (Top Ten)
No community – social “center”
Dual income family financially necessary
Concern for children’s opportunity for exposure to negative influences
Declining enrollment is it a natural cycle that will turn?
Maintain independent status for district operations
Staffing impact
Programming upgrade costs

Red Dot Team:
Strengths / Accomplishments (Top Ten)
Student / teacher ratio
Quality of education
After-school activities
Water fountains
Lunch food options

Enrollment ($)
Discipline (inconsistent)
Communication (Conley)
Athletic fields
Time for lunch
Orientation into Hoppock
Homework – inconsistent
Same grades have different homework
Parent / Teacher Conferences

Blue Dot Team 
Strengths / Accomplishments (Top 10)
Current ranking and competitive strength as a district
Full-day Kindergarten
Activities / Sports
Summer camps
Flex hours
1-1 tech
Food services
Quality teachers

Challenges (Top 10) 
Declining enrollment
Special ed program maintaining
Staff health care costs
Safety Unfunded mandates
Attracting families
Maintaining programming
Staying up with the latest IT / tech

Following each group reporting out on their consensus points, the following common themes emerged from multiple groups:

Size = strength and challenge
Quality staff
Ed program and technology
Clubs & sports
Facilities = strength and challenge
Safety & security
IT & tech = strength and challenge
Quality of education
Special education $$

The second strategic planning session is scheduled for:

Monday, February 26, 2018 from 7:00 – 8:30 PM – 

Meetings are scheduled for 1.5 hours. Meetings start and end promptly.

During the February 26th   meeting we will create a shared vision together for the future of the Bethlehem Township School District . . . we will talk about our aspirations and expectations for our students and school district.

We look forward to seeing you!