Climate, curriculum and construction mark changes for 2017–2018 school year

The 2017–2018 school year will emphasize “student-centered” instructional strategies, according to superintendent Richard Perry.

Haddonfield Superintendent of Schools Richard Perry is a firm believer that today’s students think differently than the students of 10 or 20 years ago.

“The way [students] learn is different, and I think we have to alter our curriculum to meet those types of strategies and capacities for children, and also at the same time prepare them for what’s being taught at colleges and universities, especially with creative, divergent thinking,” Perry said.

Following a summer of extensive referendum construction making the schools unenterable at times, the doors of all five schools will reopen on Monday, Sept. 11 to begin a school year geared toward “student-centered” instructional strategies, according to Perry.

When students and faculty return, the most visible change will undoubtedly be the physical alterations that took place over the summer, Perry said. This summer, all of the schools had concrete work done on sidewalks and steps, and at Haddonfield Memorial High School, the stadium is receiving a major overhaul that will have teams that usually utilize the field displaced. The football team, for instance, will hold all of its home games at Cherry Hill High School West, Perry said.

Additionally, with construction on the high school’s B Wing continuing into the 2017–2018 school year, HMHS students will not have access to the cafeteria or gymnasium housed in that section of the school, Perry said. The ongoing construction is going to force the high school to get creative about where lunches are served. Utilizing the A wing gym and creating student lounges in sections of the hallways are a couple of the options the school has put forth, Perry said.

With construction timelines constantly changing, Perry said he is hesitant to give any sort of timetable as to when work on the B Wing or stadium will be completed, though he anticipates the B Wing out of commission for most of the year. Most of the major construction took place before the start of school, but limited parking, noise and general inconvenience will continue to be some of the byproducts of the ongoing construction, Perry said.

While the construction may be the most visible change, curriculum changes have the district thinking about how to continue to excel academically, Perry said. At HMHS, the school is adding its 22nd Advanced Placement course this year with the introduction of an AP Latin course, and the school has also added a new show choir course in an effort to increase the number of fine art electives. HMHS students will also have opportunities to participate in lab tech and American sign language internships run through the school to help develop a mentor and mentee relationship between staff and students.

Additionally, Haddonfield Middle School’s and HMHS’ science curriculum has been aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.

“Staff has worked for the past two years to revise their curricula and are looking forward to integrating problem-solving, authentic learning experiences that foster a positive a student centered approach in science,” Middle School Principal Tracy Matozzo said.

In conjunction with the realignment, new biology books and revised chemistry curriculum are being implemented this year at the high school. Perry said mathematics courses have also been realigned to match with PARCC testing and other standardized assessments.

The district also is seeing changes to administration with Matozzo, the former dean of students at HMHS, becoming principal of Haddonfield Middle School. Tammy McHale has become the new dean of students at HMHS. McHale was formerly the special education director at the Clearview School District.

The 2017–2018 school year will place particular emphasis on robotics initiatives, which will be implemented at all schools. Last year, a Robotics Club was piloted at Elizabeth Haddon Elementary School to great success, Perry said. For that reason, a Robotics Club for students in first through third grade at all three elementary schools will be available this upcoming school year.

At the middle and high school level, the district is looking into how to have STEM and STEAM robotics initiatives coordinate classroom work with extracurricular activities. Perry said he’s interested in coordinating with Drexel University’s engineering program in an effort to mirror what’s being done at the college level. Perry said Drexel’s ExCITe Center utilizes robots to put on a performance. He said his goal is to bring something similar to the district, where students could utilize both technology and creativity.

The district is also making a push in terms of student climate. Perry said at the middle and high school levels, the district will work with peer leadership groups to encourage inclusivity. HMS is implementing the STOPit app, which enables users to anonymously report bullying. The app will be introduced to students in October during the school’s “Week of Respect.”

“We hope to empower our middle school students to take a stand against bullying behavior,” Matozzo said.

The focus will be on the middle school in particular, but the goal at every school is to foster an inclusive environment, Perry said.

“We want to use our students to be leaders and to understand the issues in society and try to work within those frameworks to try to make every student feel special, supported and safe,” Perry said.

For updates on ongoing construction at all five schools, visit http://haddonfieldbondreferendum.com.