Board of education hears district assessments on educational goals

All curriculum phases to undergo change during multi-year implementation.

At its latest monthly public meeting, Haddonfield’s board of education heard from district administrators about their progress in advancing three primary educational goals: social and emotional learning, cultural responsiveness  and embracing a contemporary learning mindset.

Regarding the first goal, Assistant Superintendent Gino Priolo revealed the district is in the middle of a five-phase plan to address students’ burgeoning needs as they face a competitive environment focused on faculty and staff personal and professional learning.

“Back in February, we created RULER, the approach and framework that we use for our SEL (social-emotional learning) teaching,” he stated. “It is an evidence-based framework that is out of Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. It stands for Recognizing, Understanding, Labeling, Expressing and Regulating Emotions.”

Priolo reiterated that the district created a three-person RULER team in each school, a total of  20 staff members who have been formally trained in the framework. He added that, in May 2020, teachers began the formal RULER training process, which requires ongoing professional development.

In addition, to further monitor students’ mental health, Priolo revealed the district has partnered with the anxiety clinic at Temple University. 

“We will have two clinicians from the anxiety clinic in the district one day a week, essentially bringing the clinic to Haddonfield to service students one on one,” he offered. 

The district will also issue a survey targeted toward students in October, to explore questions related to social and emotional aspects of long-term online learning.

Dr. Carmen Henderson spoke on the second goal, introducing her segment by saying: “Our goal in the Haddonfield School District is to adopt culturally responsive and sustaining practices that are equitable, inclusive, transformative in (the) quest for differing perspectives.”

Aiding the process will be investment into Rowan University’s PEER (Partnerships for Educational Equity and Research) program, which outlines 10 core values intended to bring about a shift in cultural competency beyond Western perspectives. 

Henderson further stated that one primary goal of her purview going forward is to identify a leadership team and create an “equity council” sometime next month. All district staff will be part of a series of professional development sessions during the school year that will focus on unconscious bias training and equitable practices both within and out of the school community. Students will then participate in an Action Research Project intended to be sustainable, for which Henderson suggested parents be involved. 

The academic future of the district will rely on six main action steps regarding curriculum, including designs for the extension of hybrid learning;  gifted and talented classes’ needs and curricular assessments; data-driven adjustments and the requisite professional development to make it all work, according to District Chief Academic Officer Colleen Murray.

While not the most satisfying or attractive part of student and teacher development, Murray acknowledged the district’s processes for determining an idealized version of a Haddonfield graduate, along with formulating effective ways for teachers and administrators to confer and collaborate,  are the most important work ahead.

“Under the circumstances, with so much going on and so much pressure from so many levels, ‘visioning’ seems like the last thing that anyone wants to spend time doing,” she noted. “But it’s the institutions that spend time with visioning work; that are the ones who are driving change.”

More comprehensive information on presentations at the meeting can be found at: https://haddonfieldschools.org/announcements-and-news-releases/.

In other news:

  • Superintendent Chuck Klaus praised the work of the school nurses in all five district schools for their dedication, hard work and positive attitude in ensuring the highest quality of service in taking all COVID-19 precautions seriously. “We wouldn’t be open if it weren’t for them,” he admitted. 
  • Board Vice President David Siedell also called attention to district anti-bullying Coordinator Sandy Horwitz, who played a major role in securing a grant of nearly $500,000 from the state for installation of future school security upgrades, including cameras.
  • Board negotiations Chair Tom Vecchio, along with HEA (Home Education Association) co-President Rachel Gould, acknowledged the completion of a new contract for district teachers, retroactively effective on July 1.