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There's A Wait for Weighted Grades at GHS

Superintendent search moves to 2nd stage; deadline looms for Distinguished Teacher Award nominations; vacation week activities.

Wait on weighted Grades

After holding three forums with parents,  Headmaster Chris Winters has pushed the pause button on a proposed change to the grade weighting procedure at the high school.

In a statement released last Friday, Winters said that "the opportunity to engage the community in a substantive discussion around a critical issue is beneficial." Clearly, Winters has appreciated the feedback that he has received from parents and students alike. "I’ve heard some praise for the
proposal, some excellent questions and a significant amount of opposition," Winters said.

While he has responded to community concerns with a change in the proposal timing, Winters noted the issue needs more time to develop. From the start, Winters has maintained the intent to make the change was to benefit students.  "I believe firmly that actions are needed to help students choose the best classes for them."

When one looks at the GHS Course of Study Guide (COSG), the 76 pages of course offerings resembles a college handbook. Winters has said there are many worthy and substantive courses that students simply won't consider taking because they don't have a weighted grading component. At one of the forums last week, he called this a "disservice" to GHS students.

Last week Winters also stated that he did not want to put the 8th-graders who are about to peruse the COSG in a position that they would be choosing classes only to have the courses' credit change after selection. "Therefore, as GHS considers a revised proposal, students currently at GHS and the incoming ninth-grade (Class of 2016) will proceed under the current
grade weighting procedures," Winters said. 

Late last week, the COSG was sent home to parents at , therefore creating the timing issue Winters had specifically voiced concern about avoiding.

Walking on water is optional — the BOE releases its Leadership Profile Report 

On Feb. 10, Board of Ed Chairman Leslie Moriarty released the superintendent Leadership Profile Report detailing the type of individual it is seeking to lead Greenwich Public Schools.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA), the firm hired to recruit candidates  the superintendentency, prepared the 21-page report which summarizes input and comments from more than 200 individuals either through personal interviews or focus groups as well as 360 respondents to the on-line survey. Combined, input was received from 372 parents and community members, 50 administrators, 94 faculty, 8 board members, 26 support staff and 11 students.

The process focused on identifying the strengths of the district, its challenges/concerns/issues and the desired personal characteristics of a new superintendent. 

Among the district’s strengths identified were the national reputation for the quality it commands, the caliber of graduates and their subsequent successes, the community’s strong support, high expectations and diversity, the quality of teachers, staff and administrators, the support of elected bodies and officials such as the Board of Education, the Board of Estimate and Taxation and Selectmen, and lastly the support and opportunities provided to students. 

Equal to the long list of strengths was that of challenges, concerns and issues. The “regrettable pattern of superintendent turnover which has persisted for over a decade,” lack of focus on student achievement, initiative overload, lack of progress in dealing with the achievement gap and the lack of clarity between the superintendent's role versus the board's which hampers the superintendent’s ability to manage appropriately and with the right level of oversight.

Stakeholders expressed hoped for a strong collaboration between the two which hopefully will result in the required focus on reversing the perceived decline in the district’s performance and reputation. There were aspirations to be equal and superior to the highest performing districts, not only in Connecticut but nationally.

The desired characteristics of the new superintendent were daunting both in number and variety:

  • Experience and a track record of success, but the candidate could not be seen as one nearing the end of their career but rather a mid-career candidate who would commit to the community and who would spend the time to develop an understanding of the unique nature of Greenwich.
  • A clear understanding of the roles of the superintendent versus the board;
  • An ability to work with others to develop a plan to drive student achievement and then set high expectations for self, staff and students;
  • A sense of vision and consensus building;

Teachers and professional staff responding on-line highlighted the creation of a professional climate as their most important item. Creativity, humor, energy, visibility and community involvement were all cited to varying degrees.

With such an extensive list, it is not surprising that HYA concluded their summary with the caveat that they “cannot promise to find a candidate who will possess all of the characteristics desired by the respondents."

No Fault, Excused and Unexcused

Last June, GHS revised its Attendance Policy. The rationale behind such policy states  that "attendance is a critical element that supports teaching and learning."

In order to benefit from the classroom experinece which is "enriched by the synergy of multiple minds working as a team, and benefit from the direct instruction of a qualified teacher," the policy maintains that "consistent class attendance is vital to students' success."

Basically, the 3 categories of No Fault, Excused and Unexcused create parameters for missed classes. Earlier this month, GHS Headmaster Chris Winters sent an update as to how the school administration is communicating absences:

"As stated in the policy, absences that are excused or unexcused count toward a possible loss of credit. Absences for a school-sponsored activity do not count toward a possible loss of credit. Also, the policy states that three tardies equals one absence that counts toward a loss of credit. Loss of credit is determined on a semester basis."

Winters also communicated that it is "critical that parents are made aware of all absences and tardies," so to this end the school will be sending:

  • Two e-mail messages and a phone call for every class for which (a student) is absent or tardy.
  • One e-mail and the phone call will specify if that day’s absence or tardy
    counts or does not count toward loss of credit.
  • The second e-mail is a summary of all the absences and tardies from the start of the semester.

So if students think that they are too cool for school they should think twice as a call and emails home will certainly ensure that the gig is up.

"Greenwich Distinguished Teacher award stands at the forefront of my other accomplishments and awards."

Arch School's  Anthony Mullen Jr., a 2008 Distinguished Teacher, was honored as the 2009 National Teacher of the Year at a White House ceremony, after winning the CT State competition in fall 2008. Mullen described the Greenwich Distinguished Teacher award as "the highest recognition I received because it was given to me by my students. The process begins with parents and students submitting a teacher for this wonderful award and then having colleagues and administrators confirm the submission."

Teachers, the often unsung heroes, may be thanked privately but are not often publicly recognized for their work and impact. The Distinguished Teachers Awards Committee (DTAC) is a nonprofit organization established in 1984 to recognize and celebrate excellence among the dedicated teaching staff of GPS.

The 2012 DTA Nomination Packet outlines the process and nine criteria
that the DTA Committee will review in the selection of up to six special Greenwich Public Schools teachers this year.

Make no mistake, this is an arduous and intense process beyond simply “liking” a teacher. Nominators must give specific examples of  the teacher’s work and qualities including how the individual:

  • Inspires enthusiasm for learning and academic excellence,
  • Elicits a high level of achievement from students in relation to their ability,
  • Expects students to take responsibility for their own learning,
  • Shows a high mastery of subject matter,
  • Has the respect of students and colleagues,
  • Communicates well with parents,
  • Pursues personal and professional development above and beyond what is   required of GPS teachers,
  • Contributes to curriculum and/or program development for the school or district,
  • Contributes to the school and/or community beyond the classroom.

Mullen aded, "Although it was a great honor for the Town of Greenwich to have one of their own teachers named the Connecticut Teacher of the Year and the National Teacher of the Year, both of these awards could not have been made possible without first receiving the district distinguished teacher award. I can say, without any reservations, that my Greenwich Distinguished Teacher award stands at the forefront of my other accomplishments and awards."

So, if there is a teacher out there that you feel has truly made a difference in your life or in your child's life, click here to download the form and send it in. All submissions must be received by March 8.

Winter Break

Greenwich Public Schools are on a February recess this week through Monday, Feb. 20.

If you are looking for some 'staycation' strategies to keep you sane
and your kids occupied in Greenwich, keep Patch-ed into Greenwich Patch!

- During Winter Break, the club will be open Feb. 13 through the 17; hours 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Special events during the week include an ice-cream social, a President Day’s Mini-Theater Production and Black History Month Trivia.

Greenwich Basketball - being held at , 270 Lake Ave. Greenwich School Break Basketball Camps: Wednesday, Feb. 13th - Friday, Feb. 15 and then on Monday, Feb. 20, 9 a.m. through 1 p.m., for Boys and Girls grades K - 7.

Dorothy Hamill Skating Rink - Sherman Avenue, Greenwich. Check website for skate schedule. Rentals and concession available. Fees vary.

: 613 Riversville Rd., Greenwich; Grades K-5; 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 14: TRACKS & TRACES - Hop, waddle, bounce and trot your way around the Audubon sanctuary in search of animal tracks and traces. Learn how to identify footprints and search for clues in the snow and mudas we discover the amazing wintery tales of the secretive world of animals in winter. Warm up your senses and bring your inner detective out!

Wednesday, Feb. 15: HOMES & HIDEOUTS: You may not think that snow, rocks, logs, mud or fallen leaves are the coziest places to spend a  cold winter’s day, but animals trying to survive the northern winters do. Learn about the many ways local wildlife copes with the cold and snow, while discovering their hiding places at Audubon. Don’t forget your warm gloves on this day – you’ll need them when we build snow shelters for people AND animals!

- 1 Museum Dr.. February School Vacation Workshops: A series of one hour hands-on workshops, for students in grades 1-3 who will explore the exhibition Coming Full Circle: The Greenwich Art Society Celebrates 100 at the Bruce Museum and then work on fine art projects in drawing, printmaking, sculpture and painting.
Tuesday – Works on Paper: Pastels, Pen-and-Ink and Colored Pencils
Wednesday – Impressions: Scratchboard Printmaking
Thursday – Sculpture: Creations in Clay
Friday – Paintings: Tempera on Canvas

Each workshop is a complete program, but the four projects are complementary. These inclusive workshops are suitable for students of all abilities. Members $5, nonmembers $7, per student, per day, includes all materials.

Reservations are required for each day by calling the museum (203) 869-0376.

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