With school back in action, The Sun decided to sit down with Superintendent Robert Cloutier and talk about what might be coming up for the district.
For Cloutier — who in previous years had worked closely with the District Advisory Committee — receiving feedback from a variety of stakeholders is one of the best ways to continue bettering the schools in any way possible. He says the district has had two full meetings thus far during the 2019-2020 school year.
New this year was the creation of a steering committee, composed of members who had in prior years helped the committee that formulated this year’s district goals. According to Cloutier, the steering committee will help plan for big-picture ideas during the larger meetings with the advisory group.
The superintendent says there is one ultimate goal for the committee to reach by the end of the school year.
“The ultimate goal with district advisory is to come away with a five-year strategic plan,” he said. “We’ll be writing some of the main elements of that plan at our next meeting. The first two meetings have been conceptual and general in framework, mostly about figuring out what are our priorities and ideas.”
In the coming months, Cloutier says the district wants to identify specific things it can work on to improve the schools’ student life. Sometime during the current school year, the district is expected to set aside time for students to complete a “school climate/school culture survey.”
At present, the district and District Advisory Committee are still in the process of selecting specific questions it will ask students for feedback. The survey is expected to have approximately 70 to 75 questions for students.
The district also is expected to release a general communication survey for stakeholders in the community — such as parents and guardians — that will determine ways for communication to be improved.
The survey was originally scheduled for the first half of the school year, but was pushed back until the second half, so it now coincides with the student survey.
According to Cloutier, the district expects to release the survey for students before spring break. It is now in the process of selecting a date that works best for students to complete the survey, with minimal interruption of the school day. There is no expected date for the stakeholder survey to be released.
In terms of education, Cloutier says the district continues to expand its dual enrollment opportunities so students can earn college credit while at Eastern. In the past, the district has had a strong partnership with Camden County College, but in recent years has formed another partnership as well.
“In the last four or five years, the participation in dual enrollment courses has skyrocketed,” Cloutier explained. “We have approximately more than 250 dual enrollment courses; that can be because over the years, we’ve added some new courses … and we’ve also moved to have some of our advanced placement courses be recognized for dual enrollment, which has increased dramatically.”
Aside from its partnership with Camden County College, Eastern also has worked in the past two to three years toward a relationship with Stockton University. Two courses are recognized for dual enrollment with the university; reworking the curriculum may result in a third.