Click to email the Region 14 Superintendent of Schools - Jody Ian Goeler
Region 14's District Strategic Plan: Update on Progress 1/15/2014
January 31, 2014
Dear Teachers, Parents and Citizens:
In yesterday’s blog posted on our district website, I shared the following thoughts:
Let Hartford Be Hartford
January 30, 2014
Here we find ourselves in another political season with Hartford abuzz over the degree to which legislators and the Governor will support the public education reforms it voted into law in 2012. In a January 29th article in the Hartford Courant titled, Educators Relieved by Malloy’s Proposed Slowdown of Teacher Evaluations, the Governor appears to have recognized that there has been too much reform too soon, and that the pace of reform exceeds the capacity of nearly all districts to rollout, implement and support it.
Upon my arrival in Region 14 in August of 2011, we have had to work together to create and implement a transformative teacher and administrator evaluation plan, implement the K-12 Common Core State Standards for math and language arts, prepare our technological infrastructure and student for the new computer adaptive assessments being field tested this spring, and continue our work ensuring all members of our school community are safe. All of this is set in a context of evolving knowledge about best instructional practices, how students learn, how adults work best together, and how districts best measure their success.
While the politics of public education are ever changing, we have set a course in Region 14 guided by a thoughtful, inclusive strategic plan. While our plan serves to build coherence around these initiatives, its overall purpose is to improve student learning. In Region 14, our way of doing things is through teamwork and a commitment to continuous growth.
Therefore, our Teacher Evaluation Committee will continue to meet to review our plan and improve it. Whatever flexibility we receive from the state will be applied towards achieving better results and return on investment. Our Curriculum Professional Development Council will continue to meet to ensure the curriculum we write sets aggressive targets for student growth and a clear learning path across all disciplines and through all grades. Our Ad Hoc Safety Committee will continue to meet to ensure we consider and implement the most effective ways to fortify our schools and provide safe learning environments for our staff and students.
In other words, despite the whims of politics, Region 14 will take our internal capacity (our staff, our parent community, and the community at large) and stay on course ensuring all of our students receive better instruction from teachers better trained to deliver and assess it. And we’ll just let Hartford be Hartford.
Over the past two years, I have attended meetings along with superintendents and assistant superintendents from across the state to learn about reform initiatives, the implementation requirements and aggressive timelines, and state and federal accountability standards. In addition, district leaders have worked with our organization, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) to share our concerns regarding the number of initiatives all occurring at the same time, placing an untenable burden on local districts to successfully carry them out. Many have joined me in expressing the need to allow local districts the flexibility to work with teachers and administrators in applying research, local initiatives, and best practices to their implementation plans as well. I remain hopeful that the State Board of Ed and the legislature will take this opportunity to reflect on striking a balance to remain committed to ensuring our evaluation plans are designed to improve instructional practices, our curriculum builds deep understanding and promotes critical thinking, and our assessment programs identify areas of student strengths and weaknesses and informs instruction.
Irrespective of these demands, our teachers and administrators have approached the implementation of our new evaluation plan, the Common Core State Standards, and the new computer adaptive assessment program in a thoughtful and professional manner. The same teachers who elected to freeze their wages upon my arrival in August of 2011 have continued to be partners in the development and implementation of reform in district participating on the Evaluation, Curriculum and Strategic Planning Committees. While we agree that the timeline for revising and implementing the new evaluation system was and continues to be exasperating, we firmly believe that the strength of these initiatives lies in the process that supports more meaningful dialogue about teaching and learning to occur among all of us, at all levels. We are pleased to see significant growth in this area.
We are keenly aware of how the change in the evaluation process, instructional shifts, the fortification of our technology infrastructure, the implementation of new internal and state assessment programs, and the attention to implementing new levels of safety have stretched and stressed us personally and professionally. We continue to applaud and appreciate the teachers’ and administrators’ collaboration and professionalism toward the work in which we are engaged to improve teaching and learning.
As I noted in my blog, whatever level of flexibility districts receive as a result of the State Board of Education’s action on Wednesday will be applied directly to our continued efforts at ensuring each student receives the best instruction available. I will continue to keep you updated. Region 14 remains fortunate to have educators prepared and passionate to meet the ever-changing educational needs of our students. We appreciate your support. You can receive my blogs by going to the district’s website at www.ctreg14.org.
Jody Ian Goeler
For more information, please go to:
http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/site/default.asp CT State Department of Education (SEED-educator evaluation; CT Common Core Standards; Student Assessment)
December 17, 2013
At the December 16, 2013 meeting of the Board of Education, the Board unanimously approved my request to modify the 2013-14 calendar to change Friday, January 17th from a Modified Day for students to a full day of professional development for teachers and professional staff only. This means that schools will be closed for all students on Friday, January 17th, extending the MLK Holiday weekend.
The extension of professional development time on this day will allow professional staff at each school to participate in critical training and collaboration necessary to prepare for online testing, conduct reviews and evaluations of new programs, monitor school improvement initiatives, and complete work related to curriculum, instruction, and assessment. There is much to do!
Any change to the school calendar may impact family plans and arrangements, so the district is grateful for your understanding and flexibility in responding to this modification of the calendar. A final decision will not be made about rescheduling the instructional time for students until the district has a more accurate grasp of the impact of weather-related schedule changes on the overall school calendar. It is most likely that the student time will be added at the end of the school year, to assure students meet the state instructional time requirements rather than impacting other vacation dates. The Board of Education will make a decision at a later date, and this information will be communicated to families as soon as it is available.
Please note this change on your family calendars. Each school will provide reminders after the winter break and prior to January 17th through various mediums including automated announcements, newsletters, and the website.
Jody Ian Goeler
Superintendent of Schools
Guidance for Teachers and other School Personnel around the time of the
One-Year Anniversary of the Shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School
David J Schonfeld, MD, FAAP December 10, 2013
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, teachers and other school personnel may wonder how best to acknowledge the passing of a year, what to expect of their students, and how they can be of assistance. This guidance will help you and your schools think about how to prepare for the one-year anniversary and provide advice on how classroom teachers can handle this topic sensitively. When using this guidance, it is important to keep the following things in mind:
- Children and adults, even if they were not directly impacted, may still have feelings related to the event.
- The anniversary may remind people of the feelings they had around the time of the initial event.
- Children and adults may become distressed about other troubling events in their lives when they are reminded about the tragedy – even if their own experiences are unrelated.
- There is no one “best way” to acknowledge the anniversary. But saying nothing in response to children’s questions says a lot.
- Helping children deal with a difficult event is hard work – teachers and school staff need to be sure to take care of themselves.
What should we expect to see in our students around the time of the anniversary?
At the time of an anniversary, just as with adults, children frequently experience a recurrence of some of the feelings associated with a loss or tragedy. Given the enormity of the tragedy of December 14, 2012, the likely media attention, and the recent release of audio of the 9-1-1 calls and official reports about the shooting, it is likely that many adults and children will be thinking about the event around the time of the anniversary, even if they do not live in Newtown and did not experience personal losses from that event.
Children who appear to be “back to normal” may still be feeling at times sad, scared, anxious, or angry. They may have difficulties that neither they nor adults around them connect to the school shooting. Especially at the time of this first anniversary, these difficult feelings and reactions may become more pronounced.
There are many ways that children, and adults, may indicate that they are feeling stressed or distressed, such as: depressed or irritable mood, sleep disturbances, change in academic performance, change in appetite, or behavioral problems. The extent and nature of difficulties may be related to many factors, including the child’s age, the child’s personal history (e.g., of prior trauma, loss, or threats to self or family members), and the support the child received from peers, parents, and school staff.
What other reactions should I anticipate?
A crisis often uncovers feelings related to other current or past troubling events that were not fully resolved, many of which will not be directly related to the crisis at hand. Around the time of the anniversary, children may become focused on some other crisis in their life – such as the death by natural cause of a family member, or ongoing or past abuse. We need to remember that traumatic exposure, including ongoing or chronic trauma, was a part of life for many children prior, and subsequent, to December 14, 2012. Understandably, for these children their own personal crisis may take precedent. If we demonstrate to children that we are available to help them deal with troubling events such as a school shooting, they may be more comfortable telling us about other worrisome thoughts or feelings – and provide us an opportunity to help them cope and adjust.
Teaching children in school about important and relevant events is the best way to demonstrate that education, and schools, are important and relevant.
Children and their parents depend on schools to help children understand and deal with important events in their lives and communities. If we avoid dealing with important issues in schools or imply to children that we do not think they are capable of discussing difficult topics or that it is inappropriate to talk about these events and their associated feelings, we risk children seeing schools as irrelevant to their personal lives and unable to deal with difficult issues. We risk teaching them that these events and the many lives impacted by these events are unimportant or inappropriate to discuss. We risk implying that there is something wrong with them if they still have some troubling feelings about the event even a year later.
Adults should avoid telling children what they should feel or how they should express their feelings – instead, adults must try to listen to children and follow their lead. Imposing a moment of silence on children as a way to mark the passing of another year may not be appreciated by children if they feel that they have not been given the opportunity to talk about the event throughout the year. But if children are given the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings, they may choose to acknowledge the needs of others through a moment of silence.
In addition to remembering the losses associated with the events of December 14th, it is also important to remind children and their parents of all of the steps we are taking to keep them safe, to highlight community strengths, and to foster a sense of hope for the future. For example, some schools may choose to acknowledge the anniversary by conducting classroom or school-wide activities that help children think about how their own community service can help them contribute to and enhance their local communities.
What should I do if I find this work difficult?
Teachers and other staff who are dealing with their own personal losses, even if they are not related directly to the events of December 14, 2012, may find it difficult to approach this topic with students. But even for those teachers who are not dealing with personal losses, helping children understand and cope with a tragedy, even a year later, is hard work. It is difficult enough for us, as adults, to understand and deal with our own feelings; to have to, at the same time, try to figure out what children – especially a large and diverse group of children – are thinking and feeling and how to help them can seem overwhelming. Children’s questions and reactions are often very poignant – they ask questions that we often can’t answer and frankly may not even wish to think about. But being able to help children cope with meaningful and troubling events can be extremely gratifying – it can define what separates a good instructor from an educator that has personally touched a child’s life and made a meaningful difference.
If adults are going to be of assistance to children, then it is important that we figure out how to have our needs met. It is important for all adults working with children to give some personal thought to how they have been affected by these experiences and what impact this may have on their ability to facilitate such discussions with students. You may find it useful to identify colleagues that you can talk with about any concerns or apprehensions you may have. Providing an opportunity for faculty and staff to talk about their own reactions prior to talking with students may be useful to them personally and will better prepare them to respond to the children’s needs.
What other advice should we give parents?
Too much attention to the anniversary can also cause problems. This should be considered both in school and at home. Parents should be advised to limit the amount of television coverage, especially of graphic material that may be broadcast on the anniversary, particularly for younger children. If older children and adolescents do view television, radio, internet or other media coverage, parents should try to watch along with them and use it as an opportunity to discuss not only what they are seeing, but how it makes them feel. Recording the broadcast allows parents and children to pause for discussion or if they are feeling overwhelmed. Parents and teachers should work together to ensure that children aren’t overwhelmed by the material related to the anniversary.
Where can I find additional information?
This guidance represents some initial points to consider in planning for the one-year anniversary.
Further guidance and information are posted on the CSDE website at: http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2683&Q=334634.
Additional material can be found at the website of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at www.schoolcrisiscenter.org, including a free booklet for parents and other adults that can be downloaded in English or Spanish on how to support grieving children (www.achildingrief.com).
December 10, 2013
Dear Parents and Staff:
I apologize for the late call this morning and the inconvenience it caused you. At 4:30 am, area superintendents and I participated in a conference call with our meteorologist to learn about current weather conditions and get his insights into what we could expect throughout the day. At that time, it appeared as though we would be able to get a full day of school under safe conditions for arrival and departure.
Around 6:00 am, we received additional weather information indicating the weather system was “coming together much faster than modeled and widespread light to moderate snow” had overspread all of western and central Connecticut and eastern New York. In addition, our meteorologist noted, “While the faster arrival could imply a quicker exit, I am not sure that is the case at this time.”
Once I received this alert and consulted with other area superintendents, I made the call to cancel school today at 6:05 am. At that point, we followed the prescribed protocols for notifying the bus company, media, staff and parents. In addition, I immediately contacted the Patch, and posted the cancelation on our webpage and Facebook page as well. Unfortunately, the other methods for notifying the media took longer than usual as many districts were in a similar position. Therefore it took longer for the television stations to post our cancelation. More importantly, the system we use for notifying staff and parents via phone and email alerts was significantly slower than usual due to the high volume of calls.
Please know that I take my responsibility to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being very seriously and acted this morning based upon the best information available at the time. This was a tough call, but I believe it was the right one.
Thank you for your support.
Jody Ian Goeler
Regional School District #14
December 9, 2013
Dear Staff, Parents, and Community Members:
As we become fully immersed in the festivities of the holiday season, one can’t help but reflect on the events that unfolded in Newtown almost a year ago. As a community, we can fully embrace the wish expressed by town leaders to suppress attention and allow Newtown citizens the opportunity for, as first selectman Patricia Llodra states it, “our own time to heal.” We wish the citizens of Newtown the very best and hope their desire for as little media attention as possible is granted.
Over the past two weeks, members of our professional staff, Board of Education, law enforcement and I have met with each of our school communities to provide updates regarding our own safety enhancements over the past year. As our Safety Ad Hoc Committee continues to meet to ensure the safety of all members of our school community doesn’t become a passing priority, Region 14 has taken measurable and sustainable steps to improve safety procedures, equipment, and personnel. At the heart of these enhancements are the School Resource Officers, fully ensconced in and embraced by each of their school communities. Along with surveying their buildings on a daily basis to ensure doors are closed, protocols are followed, and safety enhancements made, each SRO has become an integral part of the team in place to support the health and well-being of each child. For more information regarding our Ad Hoc Safety Committee’s work, please refer to our website under “School Safety Meeting Handout”. In addition, please take the opportunity to hear our SRO’s talk about their work on the latest Superintendent’s Roundtable on NEAT TV, Channel 17.
While safety continues to be of paramount concern, we are forging ahead with other issues as well. Last week, members of our Economic Development Committee met with Southington’s Technology Advisory Board to learn more about their efforts over the past six years to develop a successful internship program and provide their high school students greater exposure to the world of work and light manufacturing opportunities. Our meeting was truly inspiring and left our Committee with a road map for our continued efforts in this area. We look forward to our continued networking with Southington Public Schools and those who have supported their efforts.
Our students and teachers have been preparing for the new generation of assessments. These tests are aligned with state standards and are delivered online. We expect these assessments will provide more detailed and timely information about student proficiency to help fine-tune instruction and aim toward challenging and rigorous academic targets.
I hope you can take the opportunity to rest a little during the upcoming holiday season. January promises to be a very busy time, as the Board begins the budget building process and considers the recommendations from the upcoming Special Education Opportunities review and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) report. Our elementary principals will present their School Improvement Plans, which are aligned with our Strategic Plan, at the Board meeting on December 16th and will post them to their school’s webpage shortly thereafter. Woodbury Middle School and Nonnewaug High School Plans were presented on December 2nd and are currently being posted on their school sites.
Finally, thank you to our towns of Bethlehem and Woodbury for putting on such lovely community events over this past weekend. What a pleasure it was for me to see so many of you come out and support your community and participate with our Middle and High School performing groups in the sing-along at the North Green in Woodbury. Congratulations on a great event.
Best wishes for a healthy and happy New Year!
Jody Ian Goeler
Regional School District 14
Dear Parents, Staff, and Concerned Citizens:
As we approach the last days of November, I want to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. After two years of tropical storms, super storms, and crippling snowstorms, one thing we can all be thankful for is the beautiful autumn weather we received the past two and a half months.
Last night, I attended one of my favorite events of the year, The Litchfield County Superintendents’ Association’s Student Recognition Award Ceremony. Congratulations to this year’s honorees: Skylar Delp and Dean Jones from Woodbury Middle School and Sarah Schivera and Brandon Simmons from Nonnewaug High School. All four students were recognized for their service to their schools and communities while maintaining good scholastic progress and exhibiting leadership qualities.
For those who haven’t been to our website lately or saw the excellent presentation at Monday night’s Board meeting, Region 14 placed on the College Board’s 4th Annual AP District Honor Roll for significant gains in Advanced Placement access and student performance. Nonnewaug High School is one of 477 schools in the U.S. and Canada being honored by the College Board and one of 18 schools in Connecticut. For more information regarding this distinctive honor, please read the press release on our homepage: www.ctreg14.org, or view Monday night’s Board meeting on Neat TV.
Speaking of Neat TV (Channel 17), with the leadership of Will Michael, NHS technology and media teacher, and Paul Ciotti, Director of Network Operations and Technology, Neat TV has a new look and is running outstanding student produced shorts and informational programs. We are putting the final touches on the latest edition of the Superintendent’s Roundtable featuring our four School Resource Officers. We will have that ready for viewing over the Thanksgiving holiday. I’m sure there’s someone out there who’ll be looking for something other than football to watch, and for those football enthusiasts, we’ll run these shows beyond the holiday weekend as well.
In addition to our greater presence on Neat TV, our district website continues to provide information that may be of interest to you. If you click on “Departments” and then on “Curriculum and Instruction”, you will find outstanding resources on the Connecticut State Standards, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and the new teacher evaluation and support plan. All schools are investing considerable time and energy on developing professional goals for raising student achievement and growing professionally. Elementary teachers are improving their expertise in delivering a Reading and Writing workshop model and delivering a standards-based math program. Teachers at all levels are aligning their curriculum and instructional practices to reflect state standards and prepare students to demonstrate their mastery of information on the next generation of state assessments. All of these efforts are aimed at providing an educational program that prepares students to be competitive in college and in the job market.
Under “District Information”, if you click on “Region 14 Strategic Planning”, you will find our Strategic Plan, and if you click on the “Board of Education” tab, you will find recently posted legal briefs related to Nonnewaug High School building project referendum. These are just a handful of examples of the information we provide our communities to keep you updated and informed.
Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend the CABE/CAPSS Conference with Board of Education member, George Bauer. Each year the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education joins with the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents to provide workshops and meetings to learn about critical trends in education, legislative changes impacting districts, emerging policy issues and new best practices. This year’s conference was outstanding.
During the fall months, I’ve had the pleasure of attending many of Nonnewaug High School’s athletic events. Once again, I was truly impressed with our athletes’ commitment to teamwork and shared success. The grit and gamesmanship they displayed throughout the season was admirable and clearly representative of skilled and passionate coaching. Congratulations to all the fall teams on a great season.
Once again, our Woodbury FFA (For the Future of Agriculture) program does our Region proud. This year, program director, Bill Davenport, brought 36 students and graduates to the National FFA Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. The Woodbury Chapter is the only chapter in the nation, out of over 7300 FFA chapters and over 579,000 FFA members nation-wide, to send seven teams to national competition from one chapter in the same year. The number selected to attend this prestigious event is based upon the previous year’s performance in various competitions throughout the year. Of the seven teams sent, we had four top ten Gold Medal Teams and three Silver Teams. Our Vet Science team placed 3rd; Floriculture placed 5th; Milk Quality placed 9th, and Dairy Judging placed 10th nationally.
In addition to their outstanding teamwork, three of our students ranked in the top ten in individual competitions. Congratulations to Maddie Crane for placing 2nd in the nation in Vet Science, Laura Gilette for placing 5th in the nation in Dairy Judging, and Taylor Alves for placing 9th in the nation in Floriculture. All in all, our students came home with 14 individual Gold Medals, 12 Silver Medals, and 4 Bronze Medals making Region 14 the class of the nation.
And there is more good news on the Agriscience front. Sarah LaRose was named Outstanding Young Agriculture Professional for 2013 from the Connecticut Grange in October, for her work with the local food production class in growing and donating over 3000 pounds of produce grown at school to local food banks over the past two years. Bill Davenport was recently appointed by the National Association of Agricultural Educators to serve a three year term on the National FFA Board of Directors, as the sole teacher member of the Board representing the 12,000 agriscience teachers in the country.
We truly have so much for which to be thankful. Enjoy your holiday.
Jody Ian Goeler
Dear Staff, Parents and Concerned Citizens:
This autumn is particularly superb as I get to follow a gritty and thrilling Red Sox team into the World’s Series – hopefully. What a wonderful fall season! Few New Englanders would argue that autumn is the best season of the year. Each morning’s drive to Woodbury and my drive up Flanders Road to Bethlehem Elementary School are more beautiful with each passing day. The weather Saturday couldn’t have been better for enjoying the Garlic Festival and stocking up on Goat Boy Soap and a great Nonnewaug High School football game!
After a great start to our school year, I’m pleased to report that as the trees become more colorful and the air a bit crisper, our schools are now in full swing. Our leadership team continues its work with teachers in implementing the Common Core State Standards. The “Modified Mondays” have been instrumental in providing the necessary meeting time for teachers to improve their instructional practices, align their assessments and review student performance data. This additional time is proving critical for teachers to work with administrators in developing their student performance goals for the year and learn more about the new teacher performance standards.
With our Director of Instruction and a permanent Director of Finance and Operations in place, we’ve been able to transition Central Office from a center of operations to a support structure for teaching and learning. My work over the past two years has centered on building human resource capacity, strategic planning and leading the effort to introduce Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Computer Adaptive Assessments, and implementing the state mandated new Educator Evaluation and Support System. Central Office now has a team in place to assist our administrators in becoming better at what they do and helping teachers become more effective. We believe that the new Common Core State Standards will provide us the opportunities to deepen student understanding and develop the skills necessary for college and career readiness, and the Smarter Balance Assessments will provide teachers with actionable information regarding student performance, which will better guide effective instruction.
The Director of Instruction has assembled a Curriculum and Professional Development Council, per the district Strategic Plan, to make important decisions about the curriculum review and revision cycle, the K-12 curriculum template, and the management of professional development time to support district, building-level, and individual professional needs. All of the schools have been concentrating efforts on implementing the new educator evaluation plan. This includes deeply understanding the teacher performance rubrics, setting appropriate and rigorous student learning objectives, and commencing with the observation process. This process has caused us to reflect on our assessment practices and how we measure student growth. We are also strengthening connections between the schools, which will result in better articulation and consistency through the work of the Elementary Math Specialist, a professional learning community for the Literacy Specialists, and examining areas where we can benefit from a K-12 process or protocol.
On a practical note, I’ve been asked how decisions to delay or close school are made. Sometimes the tone of the question suggests my decision is made out of concerns regarding our hyper-litigious society; others point to a cavalier attitude towards student safety when school isn’t cancelled on a morning of inclement weather. Please know that neither is the case. Instead, when a weather event is anticipated, area superintendents participate in a conference call at 4:30 of that morning. The call is facilitated by a meteorologist who provides the latest forecast and current conditions. Before participating in that call, I check with our Director of Facilities to discuss local road conditions as well as driveway, sidewalk, and parking lot conditions on our school grounds. Part of this process includes gathering input from our towns’ highway departments and police. Assessing all of the information provided to me, I make a decision and begin the process of alerting the media.
I can only hope that unlike the last two years, my early morning wake up calls will hold off until winter settles in. Enjoy these days, as it won’t be long when you’ll be receiving the anticipated early morning message that school will be delayed or cancelled due to snow and ice.
Have a great week.
Jody Ian Goeler
Regional School District 14
9/16/2013 Superintendent's report on R14's progress on moving forward on our District Strategic Plan (click to see attached report)
9-13-2013 Welcome back to school letter (click to read)
Dear Parents and Community Members,
By now you have probably learned that our communities voted in support of renovating our High School by a four vote margin. The narrow margin triggered a recount expected to take place on Saturday. I remain hopeful that the recount will confirm this great news. In the meantime, I wanted to thank the Building Committee for its tireless efforts in moving this project to a vote. In addition, a special thank you to those of you who provided the voters accurate information and remaining positive and constructive while the Region was required to remain silent over the past several weeks leading up to the referendum.
We will continue to work together with the community to meet the challenges before us. Have a relaxing and enjoyable summer. I look forward to a great future for our Region.
Jody Ian Goeler
6/17/2013 Welcome letter for Susan Ruddock (please click to read)
Dear Parents and Citizens:
As we continue to reflect on the Sandy Hook tragedy just over one hundred days ago, I wanted to express my appreciation for those who have attended our follow-up Safety/Security updates at each of our schools. However, it’s disappointing to note fewer than thirty parents have attended all three meetings combined. With one final meeting scheduled on April 9th at Nonnewaug High School, we need to be sure the community has not lost its resolve in ensuring the events of Sandy Hook would unite us in the fundamental belief that our children are our most precious assets and must feel safe and cared for. Our follow-ups have provided members of the Board of Education, law enforcement, administration, mental health personnel, town officials and me an opportunity to provide you with information related to the safety assessments performed at each of our buildings and aspects of the overall safety enhancement planning currently underway.
On March 26th, the Region’s Ad Hoc Safety/Security Committee met again to review the outcomes of the safety assessments, police walk-throughs and other strategies related to mitigation, infrastructure enhancements, communications upgrades, access controls, and our continuing efforts in working collectively with law enforcement, emergency management, and town officials. In addition, the Committee gave its full support to ensure each of our four schools has a designated School Resource Officer. As the Board of Education puts the final touches on its budget and prepares to present it to the elected officials in both communities for input tonight, April 1st, it is more important than ever for you to understand all aspects of Region 14’s budget as it relates to improving instruction and ensuring the safety and security of all members of our school community.
Our Region 14 Board of Education, leadership team, and staff need your continuous involvement and support to move our schools forward. In a matter of a year, our students will be taking computer adaptive standardized assessments measuring the extent to which they have mastered key skills prescribed in the Common Core State Standards, requiring a virtual overhaul in how we teach, align our curriculum, and assess our students. In addition, our teachers and administrators next year will be evaluated partially on the extent to which all students demonstrate growth on standardized measures of performance, and our district will receive an index (District Performance Index) number as a metric to measure our success. While we are committed to meeting the significant challenges before us, I cannot express how important it is for you to get involved by attending meetings, reading the materials posted on our website, and voting.
I am hopeful we will see a large group at Nonnewaug High School’s Safety/Security follow-up meeting on April 9th at 7:00 PM in the library. In addition, please note the following dates related to the budget process:
April 1st, 6:30 at Nonnewaug High School, the Board of Education presents its proposed budget to the Boards of Finance and Boards of Selectmen in both towns.
April 8th, 6:30 at Mitchell Elementary School, the Board of Education presents its budget to both communities. (Last year there were fewer than ten members of the public in attendance.) With feedback from the towns' officials, parents, community members and Budget Survey results, the Board will formally adopt its budget.
May 6th is the Annual/District Meeting on the budget. (Time and place to be determined)
May 7th is the budget referendum. (Last year our budget was defeated twice before it was finally passed with a .63% increase eliminating instructional supports, capital improvements and safety and security enhancements.)
We look forward to seeing all of you at these upcoming meetings. Our students need to know their community values them and understands they are our most precious resource. The work we have in front of us is too important to lose intensity or focus. It’s a privilege for me to be a part of this effort.
Jody Ian Goeler
Jody Ian Goeler
Regional School District 14
Jody Ian Goeler
February 21, 2013
Testimony at the LOB
Good morning. My name is Jody Goeler, and I am the superintendent of Region 14, Bethlehem and Woodbury where we house one of the finest Agriscience programs in the state, if not the country – The Ellis Clark Regional Agriscience and Technology Program. (Founded in 1920)
Every morning I arrive in my district and see the most engaged, eager to learn, career – minded, highly motivated young men and women actively learning and accountable to the high standards of our program, their teachers, and themselves.
As I see our students interact with their peers and other adults, I can’t help but think of the various educational reform initiatives currently before us: The Common Core State Standards, Secondary School Reform, CAPSS’s Educational Transformation Project, our efforts to teach students 21st Century Skills.
Through our Agriscience program, our students are already actively engaged in creating their student success plans (an upcoming requirement through Secondary School Reform), and they have access to a program with a clear set of priorities for guaranteeing universal student success and a system that accommodates parent and student choice regarding pathways to learning (an expectation of the Educational Transformation Project).
In addition, our Agriscience program, which serves our students from Bethlehem and Woodbury and 23 surrounding towns remains a model for teaching 21 Century skills and dispositions: Using real-world digital and other research tools to access, evaluate, and effectively apply information appropriate for authentic tasks; working independently and collaboratively to solve problems and accomplish goals; demonstrating innovation, flexibility and adaptability in thinking patterns, work habits, and working/learning conditions, and so much more.
In short, our Agriscience program should be the poster child for everything worthy of our consideration, and certainly funding, for improving public education. We have the program; we just need the support to ensure our students and future students have greater opportunities to benefit from what a state of the art Agrisceince center can provide.
Because of the lack of operating funds we receive from the state, it is difficult to cover the costs of educating our current students, and we are not able to expand our program to accept more, even though we have the physical capacity to do so. The state needs to increase the per pupil funding to become more in line with the other schools of choice including charter schools, Magnet schools and Vo-Tech schools.
Finally, I have to add that if my Agriscience Director, Bill Davenport, the 2003-04 Connecticut State Teacher of the Year and highly recognized and tireless advocate for fair and adequate funding for this tremendous educational resource and these extraordinary students, who have taken time out from the studies to patiently wait to make their pleas again this year, cannot convince you to adopt your own ECS Task Force School Choice Funding recommendation into the Governor’s proposed budget, I do not know what will.
On behalf of the students who thrive in our program and those who hope to someday, I ask that this inequity be addressed now.
Thank you for considering my testimony.
Jody Ian Goeler
Regional School District #14
January 2, 2013
Dear Parents and Citizens:
On behalf of the Regional School District #14 faculty and staff, I wish you a happy and healthy new year. Over the holiday break, I had the opportunity to meet and work with members of our Board of Education, town officials, and our Resident State Trooper to continue our work in ensuring all members of our school community have a safe place for teaching and learning. While we are pleased to report we have a variety of procedures in place, such as name tags and lockdown procedures and drills, there remain things we can do to improve upon what we already have in place and adding new systems to provide greater levels of security throughout the Region. Following is an update of the work currently being completed:
- We have secured the locksmith familiar with our district’s door locks and keys to perform a complete assessment. As a result of his work, all doors will have locks and teachers keys by the end of this week. The next phase of our work will be to consider the best ways to address access control in our buildings.
- Police will continue an active presence at our schools, patrolling them regularly and maintaining contact with school administrators and me on an ongoing basis.
- Lockdown drills are being scheduled with members of our police force and our Resident State Trooper to ensure we are successfully implementing best practices in lockdown procedures. Their recommendations will be acted upon immediately.
- Building principals are continuing to work with their staff in ensuring they are following existing security measures.
In an effort to find additional ways of communicating with the public, meetings have been planned in each of our four schools the community is invited to attend. The purpose of these meetings will be to share our current lockdown procedures, respond to questions regarding how to best secure our schools, discuss ways we are moving forward, and provide information regarding supporting the needs of our students. These meetings will run from 7:00pm to 8:30pm and will be held on the following evenings:
- January 14 Bethlehem Elementary School
- January 15 Mitchell Elementary School
- January 16 Nonnewaug High School
- January 17 Woodbury Middle School
Finally, over the next several weeks, the Board of Education will begin the budget process for the 2013-14 school year. Please know that along with budgeting to ensure our students are provided with the most up to date curriculum, our teachers are trained to deliver the Common Core State Standards they are required to teach, and our new professional evaluation system is in place as mandated, we will look to provide adequate resources for enhancing security in our Region’s buildings.
Jody Ian Goeler
Regional School District #14
December 21, 2012
At a time when I would normally send a message asking you find the time to relax and enjoy time with family and friends over the holidays, I find myself wrestling with the right words to convey in the wake of the events over the past week. Our hearts go out to the students, parents, family members, educators, administrators and community members of Newtown, who have been so deeply affected in the wake of these tragic events.
Perhaps Newtown’s Superintendent, Janet Robinson, said it best in an interview with Scott Pelley on the CBS Evening News the other night when she said, “The kids are the therapy for the teachers.” During this season of gifts, we are reminded that children, our students, the reasons why schools exist, are the greatest gift educators receive, and you, in turn, are a gift to them as well. Thank you for devoting your professional lives and a good deal of your personal lives to the service of children. Every day you ensure our students are cherished, nurtured, loved and educated. I can’t imagine a gift more valuable than that.
Do try to have a restful and enjoyable vacation, and take time to enjoy those who mean so much to you. Thank you for your great work.
December 18, 2012
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Citizens:
In my effort to keep you informed, I’d like to share the following:
- I have requested continuing police coverage at our four schools through the end of the week. I appreciate the steady support we have received from the Selectmen from Woodbury and Bethlehem to make this happen. I know their continuing presence is important to the community, and I appreciate their effort in making this happen.
- Just a reminder that we will be on a modified schedule Wednesday and Thursday in support of those who wish to attend Dawn Hochsprung and Rachel Davino’s wakes at Munson Lovetere Funeral Home in Woodbury. Community members and visitors may use the parking spaces available at both Mitchell Elementary School and Woodbury Middle School for their convenience. Volunteers are organizing ways to ensure those waiting on line are as comfortable as possible. Woodbury’s First Selectman anticipates there will be thousands of people wishing to attend. The open space adjacent to the cemetery on Washington Street will be used as staging for the media and overflow parking. If you are not attending the wake on both days, you may want to avoid these areas if at all possible.
- Building principals have been actively securing their buildings ensuring their staff follow all safety protocols and building accessibility remains as limited as possible. They have been communicating with parents informing them of the changes they’ve instituted while asking for their cooperation and tolerance for the inconvenience these changes may cause.
- Facilities Director, Mike Molzon, will be going to each building with a locksmith to devise a plan to ensure all teachers have keys to their classrooms and to address all matters related to locks and security. Teachers and staff members are compiling lists of concerns to be addressed.
These past several days have brought profound sadness, fear, and confusion to our communities, our state, and our nation; indeed the events of Friday have reverberated around the world. At a time when we expect to embrace the joy and bustle of the holiday season, we live with the violent imagery and tough questions resulting from this assault on these most innocent of victims. While I will continue to keep you informed of our continuing work in securing our schools, I look forward to the long term cooperative efforts among our community members, town officials, and professional and support staff to ensure the lives taken from us will not be in vain.
Thank you for your continued support.
Jody Ian Goeler
Regional School District 14
December 16, 2012
Dear Parents, Citizens, Faculty and Staff:
As the events of the Newtown school tragedy continue to unfold in the news and the full impact on our community becomes evident, I want to take this opportunity to reach out to you to keep you informed on how we plan to move forward this week.
This afternoon, I convened a meeting with our district’s administrative team, social workers school psychologists, school counselors, and members of our maintenance/custodial staff. In addition, I’ve remained in touch with selectmen from both communities to ensure we have all the appropriate security and police support needed Monday morning as we begin the week. The purpose of our meeting was to review procedures for delivering the supports we need for students, faculty, staff and families. Each Principal will meet with faculty and staff tomorrow morning before school begins to discuss the best ways to communicate with their students and remind all staff to be in the hallways, and maintain a presence to provide comfort and observe any behaviors that may bring concern or require additional services. In addition to asking teachers and staff to remain visible, Principals will remind all staff to wear their identification badges, keep doors closed, and follow the procedures developed by the Region to ensure the safety of all.
While each school in the Region adheres to specific emergency plans, which have been developed in full cooperation with local police, fire and emergency management personnel and are reviewed regularly by each department, tomorrow I will meet with Woodbury’s First Selectman to discuss the extent to which our current review process reflects best practices. From our meeting tomorrow, I will convene a region-wide safety team meeting to ensure our plans are coherent and streamlined affording the best opportunities for successful implementation.
As noted by many professionals conversant in crisis response, it is critical that we resume with normal routines as soon as possible. Though it may be difficult for some, it is necessary, as routines will assist our children in feeling safe and secure. Tomorrow, all of our schools will resume a normal schedule following staff meetings held prior to students arriving.
We will continue to post on our website valuable links for your use.
Jody Ian Goeler
November 6, 2012
Dear Staff and Citizens:
Thank you all for your patience and support over the past week as we once again had to deal with a destructive and inconvenient weather event. In the past year, we’ve dealt with flash floods, tropical storms, a little earth quake, and now a “Superstorm”. Whatever Sandy will keep as its enduring storm title, the days our community members went without power and the utter destruction along the New Jersey, New York and Connecticut coast will be enough to remember this storm for years to come.
Over the past week, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with our local emergency team and receive regular updates from CL&P as part of this process. I can’t help but be impressed by the extraordinary professionalism exhibited by all involved in ensuring our communities’ citizens remain safe.
Throughout the district, our custodial crews worked countless hours to ensure our staff and students would be able to resume their important work immediately upon return. In addition, Glenn Bliven, from the Nonnewaug High School kitchen, monitored freezers and coordinated donations of perishables to members of our community throughout the week to ensure our food would not go to waste.
These events have a way of testing individuals, families, and entire communities. I am pleased to note our citizens and leaders, once again, responded to the challenges before them.
Have a great week.
Jody Ian Goeler
Superintendent of Schools
Dear Teachers, Staff and Concerned Citizens:
Thank you to all for making the beginning of our school a successful one. It is great to see everyone back and ready to tackle the unprecedented changes before us. On the Teaching and Instruction front, we will continue learning about and developing units of instruction based upon the Common Core State Standards. Connecticut is among 46 states committed to using these standards to guide all instructional practices and assessments in language arts and math, with science not far behind.
These Common Core State Standards represent a significant shift from the previous standards, as they more closely align with international benchmarks and focus instruction on transferrable skills, ensure college readiness for all students, and provide all students the technological tools to engage in meaningful research, individualized and self-guided instruction, and locating and utilizing up to date information. In addition, student progress will be measured by an entirely new assessment regime developed by the Smarter Balance consortium. These assessments will replace the Connecticut Mastery Tests and the Connecticut Academic Performance Test in 2014. However, we cannot wait until then to prepare our students. Without the support of a Director of Curriculum and Subject Matter Coordinators, positions eliminated in previous Region 14 budgets, district administrators and teachers are working to develop model units of instruction across grade levels to begin making the necessary changes to our curriculum and instructional practices. High School Assistant Principal, Jose Martinez is serving as our district's point person for establishing and facilitating our district committee to ensure we take a thoughtful and purposeful K-12 district approach to this work.
Critical to our success is a coherent and thoughtful approach in keeping students and their growth at the center of our work. To that end, Region 14 is engaged in a strategic planning process, which will assist us in the following:
Command respect and derive support from a broad cross-section of the Region 14 Public School CommunityArticulate 2-4 priority strategic goals that will serve as key areas of developmental focus over the next several yearsProvide suggested indicators of success, strategies and action plans for continuously improving performance and/or capacity in those areas of focus.
In addition to the foundational changes before us in the area of instruction, our teacher/administrator evaluation and support program will undergo significant changes as well. By March, our district will join all other Connecticut communities in either choosing to accept the state's model evaluation plan or designing one of our own. In order to meet state guidelines, our evaluation plan must follow the strict state guidelines requiring student performance growth and development, determined by assessment data, observation of teacher performance and practice, and peer or parent feedback.
Rather than looking at the reform agenda as plates to stack, I’m confident we can embed the “new” into what we already do well. Our Strategic Planning process includes teachers, administrators, public officials, board of education and community members. With all of these initiatives, strategic planning will give us an opportunity to fold this work into a coherent and sustainable plan ensuring our continuous growth as a learning community.
I look forward to our continued work together to ensure the success of all students.
Jody Ian Goeler, Superintendent
August 21, 2012
Dear Teachers and Staff:
After almost thirty years of reading opening lines written by superintendents in their back to school messages, I’ve concluded there is no great way to begin such a letter. I nevercared for those whimsical openings, such as “As the daylight decreases and the shadows of the day increase…..” Nor did I care for those attempts at humor, such as “As the line at Staples grows longer, it’s evident that school is just around the corner.” And I’ve always had a disdain for those personal experience openers, such as, “As I sit on the beach, I think of how each grain of sand is different, much like the children we teach.” So let me begin my letter by simply welcoming you back to what will be a challenging andrewarding school year; I hope you’ve enjoyed your time away. I truly look forward to our working together to ensure the success of all students. As we begin this coming year together, we will have more to do and higher expectations upon us than ever before. While our plate will be full with initiatives, such as developing a new professional evaluation plan (PEAC), implementing the Common Core State Standards, preparing our students for a new set of assessments, and other changes basedupon an ambitious state reform agenda, we will work together to ensure our students remain at the center of our work. I am confident that our strategic planning process, through Jonathan Costa’s expert facilitation, will afford us the opportunity to continue and deepen our work. Rather than looking at the reform agenda as plates to stack, I’m hopeful we can embed the “new” into what we already do well. Our Strategic Planning process will include teachers, administrators, public officials, board of education and community members. With all of these initiatives, strategic planning will give us an opportunity to fold this work into a coherent and sustainable plan ensuring our continuous growth as a learning community.
In fact, I would like to avoid the words “change” and “reform” to the extent possible. I don’t think either word reflects the depth of the work in front of us. As I see it, you willall be returning back to schools; students will be filling your classrooms; parents will place their hopes and dreams for their children in your hands, and the community will expect us to meet its multifarious set of expectations. I’d like to believe we simply have urgent work to do. It’s the work that defines us - the persistent exercise of improving our practice, the desire to improve results, the expectations we hold for each other and our students. That isn’t change. That’s knowing what we have to do and doing it better than ever before. The best way to engage in such a task is together, harnessing the talent, various perspectives, and wisdom of all members of the community.
While I approach our work together with optimism and enthusiasm, I’m sad to note we will face these challenges without two key leaders. Jim Reese, Director of Finance andOperations, will be leaving our district and perhaps really retire this time. Melinda McKenna, Principal of Bethlehem Elementary School, has taken a position with North Haven Public Schools as Director of Curriculum and Instruction. We wish them both the best and thank them for their leadership. I look forward to seeing you all at our opening Convocation which will be held on Wednesday, August 29th beginning at 9:00 am in the auditorium of Nonnewaug High School. All staff may arrive as early at 8:00 am to have badge photos taken and enjoy light breakfast refreshments and conversation until 9:00 am. You will be welcomed by newly appointed Board of Education Chairman, George Bauer, and the keynote address will be given by Jonathan Costa. After the convocation, please plan to return to your buildings for faculty meetings and other business in preparation for your students’ arrival on Thursday!
I will keep my fingers crossed that last year’s events spawned by Hurricane Irene will remain a distant memory. Enjoy the remaining days of summer. I look forward to seeing you all soon.
Jody Ian Goeler, Superintendent