As I reflect back on the three years of my serving as Superintendent of the Milford School District, I smile with pride as we have accomplished many things that at one point, were not deemed possible. When I first arrived, the High School was in its third year of declining test scores and facing a restructuring program that would have zero based the teaching staff and the administration as required by one of the No Child Left Behind regulations. However, with increased use of data informing instruction, formation of productive professional learning communities, strategically targeting students who were low performers and a change in the culture of the school, the high school test scores increased to the point of being identified as a superior school by the state in 2011, after the state adopted a flexible scoring rubric. The achievement gap was decreased between African American and white students.
The district also opened two new schools that were planned from the 2007 referendum. In opening two new schools, it required much preplanning of moving staff, students, programs and curriculum before the doors were opened. We opened the schools on time, with a seamless transition of identifying the students to ensure equity across the district, changing major boundary lines within the district, revamping the entire transportation program to efficiently transport the students, identifying staff and administrators to populate the schools as well as ensuring that materials, supplies, equipment and furniture were all in place.
Our reserves continues to grow even though there have been major cutbacks on programs from the state. Over the past 3 years, we have managed our reserves carefully and frugally and are now at the highest level ever in the district’s history at $7.7 million dollars. We were at $5.4 million when I first started in 2009. With collaborative efforts in all departments, careful scrutiny of spending and embarking on energy savings programs, we have made the district fiscally stronger. Furthermore, we even reduced the Tuition Tax for residents since we have made many efforts to educate our own students and not send them off to residential or county wide programs which would have cost us and the taxpayers.
We have seen an increase in our special education students’ achievement. Although we have far to go, we are providing increased professional development to staff and administrators to assist them in differentiating for diverse learners in the classroom. All kids can learn! We, as a district, need to continue our efforts to ensure that all of our students are receiving the optimum instruction to meet the highest potential of every student.
We have increased our Advanced Placement offerings at the high school and expanded our Honors program on the secondary level. We have begun an acceleration program in the summer for students to have an opportunity to meet the criteria for entering into the honors program. This allows for more opportunities and to open doors for students who would not otherwise been selected to participate in these advanced programs. We are also looking to provide increased challenges to our elementary students and embarked upon the Odyssey of the Mind program this past school year and are looking toward STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs and Project Based Learning in the near future.
The district office was revamped to reflect a continuum of services for prek – 12th grade. An office of Teaching and Learning and Student Support were created to address the holistic needs of the district, provide continued vertical alignment and articulation and provide services to schools that are seamless. Principals are supported by both offices and there is a direct line to the district office that allows building administrators to receive needed services and ongoing support continuously.
The district’s Race to the Top plan was cited as one of the state’s outstanding plans by the Department of Education and has been used as a model to follow for other districts. It was written collaboratively with teachers and administrators providing essential input. In leading this effort, we focused on the direct needs of our lowest performing students while providing additional challenges and opportunities for all students.
When the 2010-2011 school year ended, the district was rated “Commendable” as a whole with 5 out of the 6 schools meeting AYP. Prior to my arrival, the district had 3 out of 5 schools meeting AYP – all 3 being the elementary schools while the middle school and high school were in academic review/corrective action. At the conclusion of this school year, it is my hope to meet the AYP standard in every school in the district – 7 out of 7 schools showing a Superior rating!
We successfully negotiated union contracts each year in my tenure. All negotiations were collaborative with each side meeting goals that were a “win-win” for all. We met as a team and had discussions that were transparent, congenial and genuine. There were no “behind closed door” deals that defied the collaborative nature of the negotiations.
Furthermore, we have embarked on critical partnerships with local business and community agencies. A Parent Resource Center has been developed in one of our local businesses whereby we send a team of educators to work with the employees in assisting them with their children’s education. This will be ongoing on a bi-monthly basis. Our hope is to prepare the parents (the employees) with the confidence and knowledge to help their children succeed in school and to engage them in school activities at their child’s school.
For the next school year, we will begin a partnership with a Head Start program to be housed at the Morris Early Childhood Center. This expands the community’s need to accommodate children who qualify for Head Start and not remain on a waiting list.
In addition to partnerships with local business and community agencies, we have engaged members of the local community to become mentors to our students. Many of our students do not have support at home and need an interested adult who can assist the students in any way possible. We started with 30 mentors in the first year (2009-2010) and now have grown to over 200 in this school year alone. They participate in monthly activities with their mentees and are monitored by our district wide mentoring coordinator. We have had continued positive results with students showing increased attendance, no behavioral referrals and passing their classes.
I am quite proud of my time in the Milford School District. I have maintained my integrity, dignity, professionalism at all times, even in times of turmoil and discontent with some community members who did not totally understand the philosophy of teaching all kids and not just the privileged few, who did not understand the changes that needed to be made to accommodate every student in this district, to help every child reach their potential and to hire the most qualified candidates for any position within the district. Furthermore, to understand that we are in the business of education, that we need confident, intelligent and caring adults to lead that charge, that means to hold the adults more accountable for their instruction and their delivery to impact student achievement for all kids!
I only wish the best for the district and that the future is bright for all of our students!
Milford School District 2009-2012