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Professional Development Committee to Work With Staff In Improving Daily Instruction of District Students

Specially Written for The Times 97aug28

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Carol B. Choye of the Scotch Plains-Fanwood School District will welcome back an estimated 4,300 students for the first day of the school year on Wednesday, September 3.

"I think Scotch Plains is a wonderful place to be," Dr. Choye said. "It’s a school community dedicated to high quality education."

Courses of study for students fully exceed state education requirements, Dr. Choye said, indicating that district standardized test scores are up.

"Attendance is good," she said, which is also positive.

According to district spokeswoman Kathleen L. Meyer, Dr. Choye continues to encourage and lead district teachers down a path of commitment to improving instruction and learning every day.

"We want to ask the question, ‘how do we help every child to learn?’" Dr. Choye added.

With that in mind, a revived Professional Development Committee will work with teachers throughout the district. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction, Dr. John R. Crews, has said the committee will evaluate teacher performance and recommend possible training programs.

"An example," Dr. Crews said, "is technology. Some teachers use it and integrate it. Others are afraid of it. This is something we need to work at."

Additionally, district central administration offices on Evergreen Avenue were refurbished over the summer to create more space for the Director of Instructional Technology, Jeff Ross. Mr. Ross often shows teachers how to expand the role of computer technology in their classrooms.

There are 25 new district staff this school year, according to officials. Six of those are additional teachers, primarily for the Kindergarten and sixth grades. New teachers had two days of orientation this week, officials said

A new district Supervisor, Diane Kelly, will share duties with Supervisor Patricia Boland for language arts, English and social studies. Ms. Kelly will be responsible for elementary school social studies and Ms. Boland will target social studies for grades 6 through 12.

Additionally, Ms. Boland will supervise high school English while Ms. Kelly will focus on language arts in Kindergarten through eighth grade.

When Dr. Crews proposed the split supervisory plan to the Board of Education earlier this year, he said the new system would benefit the primary grades particularly, noting they were often short-changed under the traditional supervisory set up of a subject supervisor being responsible for all 13 grades in the district.

Dr. Choye has said she wants to eliminate some of the clerical duties for supervisors and get them into the classrooms where they can evaluate programs and staff. New office space also was created in the central administration office for subject supervisors as a result of construction over the summer.

Ms. Kelly has also been a supervisor in Keyport and has advanced degrees in both English and Education, according to district officials.

Both language arts and social studies curriculums will be reviewed this school year as part of a five-year cyclical process, officials noted.

In a different area, the University of Chicago’s "Everyday Mathematics" and Harcourt Braces’s "Science Anytime" will be used in all elementary grades throughout the district.

Board of Education member Richard R. Meade praised the mathematics program, stating, "I think it reaches out to different learning styles. I think it will help close the gender gap in math."

The new science program may require a longer science period during the school day, since it has a "hands-on element to it," officials explained. Earlier in the year, Board of Education member Theresa Larkin lauded the new program.

"It was a science program that really needed overhauling," she said.

A new $180,000 special education program for children ages 3 to 6 who exhibit signs of autism is ready to open this fall at Coles Elementary School. Suzanne Flannery, Special Education Supervisor for the elementary grades, piloted the PDD (pervasive developmental delays) program’s startup, while Tara Pankuck will now head the teaching of the program.

Officials said the program could have as many as 15 students who previously would have been educated in private schools outside the district at a cost of about $50,000 each.

Eleanor McClymont, who retired in 1995, returns as Interim Director of Special Services, following Susan Tillis’s resignation this summer to accept a position in Westwood, Bergen County.

Ms. Tillis has said that Mrs. McClymont's appointment will "provide continuity" for the department, whose budget is $1.8 million.

In other developments, the district bought and will install six new modular-style classrooms by November of this year. Two classes each will be added to Coles and Evergreen Elementary Schools as well as Elementary School One.

Although each school principal will decide on the use of the new rooms, officials have speculated that art and music classes may be moved into the new facilities.

The three modular units house two classrooms apiece and cost the district a total of $745,302. They were purchased with "free balance" or reserve district funds. The units will have brick exteriors, according to officials.

Even though district enrollment has risen by approximately 400 students over the past three years, in recent years the rate of increase has dropped. This year will see an estimated 40 new students, as opposed to 160 additional students last year and nearly 200 new students in the 1995-1996 school year.

However, district planning groups anticipate increased enrollment based on new home building and a possible rise in birth rates, officials said, and hence the modular classrooms.

District Assistant Superintendent for Business and Board Secretary Richard J. Marshall will retire by January but will continue on a part-time basis as planning associate for six months. Matthew Clarke, who is currently serving as administrative assistant in the business office, will assume Mr. Marshall’s duties.

District officials said the yearly update of the district’s Strategic Plan would be available next week. It will include recommendations for district priorities from Dr. Crews.

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