With the first implementation of a curriculum and assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards and a compromised assessments issue, which led to an investigation, it was a rocky year for the Montclair Public Schools district. Starting the upcoming school year off on more positive note, the Montclair School District and Montclair Education Association(MEA) today announced that a collaborative task force has developed an educational framework for the 2014-2015 school year. The overriding goal of the task force was to create an agreed upon plan for providing a quality educational experience for all Montclair Public School students.
The task force was put together by MEA President Gayl Shepard and Montclair Schools Superintendent Penny MacCormack, who selected, evenly, the 26 members who met in May and June.
According to the press release, the framework was created for all students from k – 12th grades and will be used as a road map for educators.
The work of the task force has forged an alliance around regular benchmarking of student progress to ensure the strongest instruction. In addition, the framework focuses on ensuring needed resources and support for teachers and other educators. Information on the taskforce members, minutes of the task force meetings and the overall elementary, middle school and high school frameworks can be found online here.
“Today’s announcement by the MEA and the school district is a big step for Montclair and will serve as a foundation of collaboration in the years to come,” says Dr. MacCormack.
She went on, “As a teacher, I know firsthand that the district can only address our educational challenges through strong communication and transparency. The Task Force Gayl and I created together debated and discussed many important issues.We listened to each other, we treated each other with respect, and we learned from each other’s ideas and needs. Most of all, we came together to best serve our students and families. Gayl is a wonderful partner and friend, and we stand united to provide the best possible education for all Montclair Public School students.”
Shepard added “This task force came about because of specific concerns brought to the attention of the Montclair Board of Education by the MEA members during the 2013-2014 school year. The three frameworks are living documents, which will be used and modified by teachers and staff. I look forward to working with the administration and educators, as we continue to develop the framework.”
“Dr. MacCormack and I are committed to working together to address and solve district challenges. I greatlyappreciate the members of the taskforce who volunteered their time and imparted their educational knowledge with the goal of providing the highest quality education for all students, said Shepard.
David Deutch, the newly appointed president of the Board of Education said “The Montclair School Board commends both Dr. MacCormack and Ms. Shepard. The 2014-2015 action plan has strengthened the voice of our teachers and ensured clear expectations are set throughout the district. Most of all, the agreements announced today show the true commitment both Gayl and Penny share toward our families and schools. There is certainly much more that unites us, than divides us.”
The following is the letter sent to every teacher in the district:
Over the past few months we have been discussing both the challenges and the benefits of the work we have been doing to align instruction to new standards and implement the new teacher evaluation system. These discussions led us to conclude that,collectively, Montclair educators, teachers and administrators could work to develop and implement a plan that would facilitate regular and common benchmarks of student progress while at the same time addressing some of the major concerns raised by teachers during this past school year.
Working together, we agreed to set up a task force to do this work. As part of this process we developed a mission statement for the task force and agreed on a process for identifying a representative group of teachers and administrators to participate in the task force. In late May, task force members came together, agreed to attend four meetings, and set a framework for those meetings to support honest and respectful dialogue. Task force members also agreed to divide up into elementary, middle and high school groups in order to ensure that any decisions made would take into account the unique needs at each level.
By communicating directly and honestly, while being open to compromise, each group was able to agree on a plan that met the mission of the task force and addressed the major concerns identified by staff including concerns about assessment, curriculum and the Marshall Rubric components connected to those practices.
During this week, the task force members will be talking with teachers and teacher aides to share the plan they developed. The plan we have agreed upon will increase communication, strengthen the voice of our teachers, and ensure that clear expectations are set for all parties throughout the District. Additionally, we have agreed to reconvene in September to provide a status update.
In order to keep you abreast of all the work thus far, we are posting the agendas and minutes from the prior meetings on our website under Academics. For your convenience, we will email you the link when it is live and continue to update the page with any new developments. We thank everyone on the taskforce who has worked so hard these last few weeks, and we look forward to continuing our work together.
Penny MacCormack, Superintendent and Gayl Shepard, MEA President