Eastern prepares for hybrid learning to start next month

BOE reviews three presentations during recent meeting

The Eastern Camden County Regional School District Board of Education met for a virtual session on Sept. 16 and reviewed three presentations pertaining to student safety, HIB (Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying) incidents and Eastern’s new Cultural Responsiveness Initiative.  

The first of the three presentations was a report on the district’s Student Data Safety Systems (SSDS) by School Safety and Security Officer Bill Westerby. The information compared Eastern’s SSDS statistics from the second half of last school year to its first half, meaning the presentation covered the entirety of the previous school year.

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The biannual report typically shows any incidents that occurred on school grounds, ranging from violence to vandalism to substance abuse. With COVID-19 forcing schools to go fully remote for much of the early part of this year, report numbers were not fully reliable compared with other data sets.

According to the SSDS data, the district had two fights during the second half of last school year, two false public alarms, four substance abuse incidents and no weapon possessions.  

Overall, the district had 45 incidents leading to student removal during the second half of last school year, down from 52 the previous fall and winter.

“Again with that comparison for the first semester, obviously we missed a few months out of school for COVID, so in January and February we were off to a decent pace,” said Westerby. “Which is  typical for most school years during those winter months. Then after that, no reports really came in.”

The next presentation before the board pertained to the district’s self-assessment of its HIB procedures, based on data from the previous school year. Presented by anti-bullying coordinator Jason Hill, it showed that Eastern’s climate team met last spring to complete the self-assessment. Following approval by the board, it will be sent to the state Department of Education, from which Eastern Regional will receive an official grade.

According to Hill, the school climate team gave Eastern 76 out of 78 total points, for a 97-percent grade on the self-assessment, the same grade given the previous year. Based on eight core elements, the self-assessment reviews the district’s ability to address, prevent and solve HIB incidents.

“These core elements really assess our overall procedures and protocols that we have in place,” Hill noted. “It evaluates the effectiveness of our HIB program and really assesses how it can be improved.”

The only part of the eight core elements Eastern lost points on was on HIB programs, approaches or other initiatives, the most heavily graded portion of the self-assessment. The team gave Eastern 13 of 15 total points. Hill did not expand on why the self-assessment lost those two points.

The last meeting presentation pertained to the Eastern Cultural Responsiveness Initiative, created this past summer as a result of  increased discussions about social justice issues following the rise of the Black Lives Matters movement across the country. Vice Principal Robyn Clarke spoke during the presentation, underlying the importance of the initiative.

“The Cultural Responsiveness Initiative is a direct outgrowth of district goals one and two, which is to provide a positive, supportive and equitable school culture and climate,” she said, “while goal number two is to provide social and emotional support to students, staff and to the entire Eastern community at large.”

According to the presentation, the initiative is implemented in four ways: courses, activities, resources and training. Some of those  have already begun or have been instituted at Eastern since last school year. Part of the development of the plan involved discussions with current and former Eastern students in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police and the protests that resulted this summer.   

The initiative was approved by the board following the presentation.

During the meeting, superintendent Robert Cloutier stated he felt the beginning of the school year was successful, with the district hosting outside events for students to meet teachers and departments before 100-percent remote learning started. The district has also recently started fall practices and student activities after the school day.

Cloutier said the district is making final preparations as it prepares to offer hybrid learning beginning on Oct. 5. Households will receive a final letter in the mail that breaks down A/B cohorts for hybrid learning.

In other news:

  • Cloutier said the district did not receive word back from parents or guardians of 56 students on their preferred method of learning when the hybrid option is implemented. According to Cloutier, they will be placed into hybrid learning by default.
  • Bryce Dersham was honored as Scholar of the Month for September during the meeting’s recorded video message.
  • The board acknowledged the sale of 216 Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) that occurred on Sept. 14 at a price of $226 each, for a total of $48,816 in revenue.
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