NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck public schools are developing a new math program for grades K-8, giving teachers more professional development time and putting new technology into the hands of students.
Those are among the highlights spelled out in a six-page report on the status of public schools released last week by Superintendent of Schools Sharon Locke.
Locke, who officially started in Naugatuck July 1 after serving as assistant superintendent in New Britain, said the purpose of the report is to highlight progress and communicate effectively with the public. She plans to put out three reports — one every four months — throughout the year.
The report also gives an indication of what Locke has accomplished in her first five months in the district. Thus far, the Board of Education, parent leaders and the union that represents teachers say she is doing a fine job.
“She is a breath of fresh air, and she is doing great things for the district,” said Charley Marenghi, vice president of the Naugatuck Teachers’ League, the union that represents the district’s more than 300 teachers.
He pointed specifically to her work on the new Naugatuck teachers’ contract, and described her as a hands-on leader who can make sure teachers are given the training and resources to best educate children.
Locke, according to her report, has been putting in a lot of work in an attempt to gain respect in the district and to improve teaching and learning.
The first thing she did over the summer was to develop a mission statement that states Naugatuck wants students who: Are responsible and engaged community members; Who demonstrate initiative, persistence and adaptability; Are curious and value risk taking as part of the learning process; Access and analyze information, ask questions and formulate opinions; Communicate effectively; Work effectively and on teams to solve real-world problems.
The second goal was to develop a strategic plan across schools that states all schools must strive to meet the overall goals of the district. Every month, a different school must reveal its strategic plan in front of the Board of Education.
Naugatuck High School put out its plan in November, and City Hill Middle School is expected to present its plan on Dec. 11.
Additionally, Locke’s report states that each school has created teacher learning teams that meet monthly to develop and share instructional and assessment strategies.
Teachers also have 10 additional hours of professional development as part of the new teachers’ contract, which Locke told the school board is “huge” in terms of preparing teachers for ever-changing teaching strategies.
Locke also pointed out that the board is poised to hire a curriculum coordinator using state grant money and will start a new math program after the new year.
The district will try out three math programs across the schools and will decide before next year which program is best suited for the district, before recommending to the school board that it invest in that program for the 2015-16 school year.
The district is also working on interventions and alternate approaches to deal with students who have chronic behavioral issues in the classroom. And the school system recently put 770 Chromebook laptops in the hands of students to use for testing and other classroom assignments.
Board of Education Chairman David Heller said the board has loved what Locke has done so far, but he says he believes her best days are ahead of her.
“She has some great ideas about ways to make the budget process more transparent for everyone and to show where every dollar at every school is going, which I think will go a long way toward our goal of better communication with the public,” he said.
Matt Fortney, a parent who has children in the school district and is the chairman of a nonprofit that raises funds for educational programs, said the public could not ask for more than what Locke has brought thus far to Naugatuck.
“As far as I’m concerned, she’s done a great job for the amount of time she has been in the job,” he said. “She has done what she set out to do, and I have no doubt she will continue to do the same.”