Well, the new school year, new students, new families, new staff, new program offerings: lots of new things in our Pittsfield schools this year. Here’s my Top 12 answers to the question What’s new in the schools this year:
- New Students and New Families. We welcome many new students and families to our Pittsfield Schools learning community. At this point, we have been joined by twenty new PES students and ten new PMHS students; so glad to have you newbies with us!
- New Staff. New staff members include six teachers, two special educators, two nurses, and our school psychologist. We also welcome a number of new paraprofessionals, but are still in the process of filling all our positions. We’ve believe that we’ve hired very well again this year. (We’ll introduce new staff members in an upcoming notice.)
- Positions Eliminated. Due to budget restrictions, a number of positions that have contributed significantly to our students in the past have been eliminated this year; these include our community liaison, our extended learning opportunities coordinator, our foreign language teacher, our technology education teacher, and a PES office staff member.
- Rosetta Stone. Foreign language students are receiving instruction through the widely-known program Rosetta Stone. Students can earn up to two credits through this approach.
- Project Lead the Way. Our woodshop has been closed due to staffing cuts, but we now offer our middle school students Project Lead the Way, which places an emphasis on math and technology as students learn important workplace skills.
- Playworks. Playworks has become a focusing feature of our PES before-school and recess times; our teachers have learned about this positive approach to recess-time fun and our students are now learning and practicing healthy social and emotional skills through play.
- PES FLEX. This new program offers a personalized and flexible learning program for students who may be experiencing behavioral challenges. Our PMHS FLEX program supports our middle and high school age students, and we’re pleased to be able to offer this option to younger students.
- Life Skills Kitchen. Thanks to the Foss Family Foundation, a new kitchen is being installed in our PMHS life skills classroom. The kitchen will provide real-life experiences that will support independence for students who are members of our life skills class.
- Universal Design for Learning. Initiated last year, UDL provides a planning process intended to increase access to the curriculum for all students. This district-wide program is receiving a major emphasis this year as we seek to strengthen our academic program for all students.
- Multi-Age Grouping in Middle School. Our middle school grades (7 and 8) are now organized in multi-age groupings. This mirrors our successful multi-age groupings at PES and strongly supports our commitment to personalizing learning for all students.
- Early Release Wednesdays. Both schools will dismiss early on Wednesdays this year to allow for additional time for professional development of our staff. This time is essential in support of continuous improvement of our programs and is particularly relevant due to our high staff turnover rates.
- Vision, Mission, and Priority Development. It’s been nearly six years since our last review and restatement of the district’s vision and mission. Having begun last winter, this process will conclude before the holidays. We thank community members who have been involved in last spring’s sessions and encourage community members to look for opportunities to lend your voices to the conversations as we schedule several events for this purpose throughout the fall.
Each new school year brings changes, both positive changes that provide stronger programs and options for students and negative changes that limit what we can offer our young people. About 2500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus observed that change is the only constant in life. Guess we have to acknowledge that he had it right, don’t we?