Editor's note: the following is a letter written by Morris Plains Superintendent Mark Maire.
We’ve had a very successful start to the year and we are excited about the important work ahead of us. We’ve been busy working on a number of initiatives to strengthen our academic programs, and better ensure the safety and security of our schools. Our first priority is to improve our use of data as the foundation for making better educational decisions about our academic programs, instructional resources, staffing, and student support services. Our District Goals for 2013-14 are a continuation of the Strategic Planning goals developed in the spring of 2013:
Self-improvement through workshops that relate to Strategic Plan
and/or Board Goals.
Commitment to Board obligations, Board meeting attendance and
committee meeting attendance.
Strengthen committee communication by publishing agendas and
Analyze data to determine where support is needed for administration and staff to improve student achievement.
Find alternative sources of funding to support activities - income
or cost savings opportunities.
Implement process to coordinate use of funds with outside
With the new teacher evaluation program (AchieveNJ), Common Core Standards, and upcoming PARCC assessments that are replacing NJASK (spring 2015), we are moving into a new generation of testing where students will be asked to prove their answers by providing evidence and reasoning, rather than just recalling facts. Due to the shift in education, teachers need to prepare and implement curriculum in a whole new way.
Over the course of the school year, the school calendar is marked with early dismissal and professional development days. Thus far, this time has been vital for school staff members to work together on numerous initiatives. Professional development topics this year represent an opportunity for us to link many different initiatives. In spring 2011, the state introduced new Curriculum Frameworks that included the Common Core State Standards. Additionally, this year marked the first year school districts must implement the new teacher evaluation model. This includes staff members drafting Student Growth Objectives, which are connected to their final evaluation. Staff members must develop a minimum of two SGO’s to target student growth. Ongoing professional development time has been given to staff to realign units, develop common student assessments, work in PLC’s, increase the mastery of instructional and technological resources, and to work with educational consultants to develop and implement best teaching practices. Opportunities for teachers and staff to work together to plan differentiated activities and share successful instructional practices are vital for continuous improvement.
Another priority for the district continues to be the safety and security of all students and staff. We have taken several key steps to update our security systems and procedures at both Borough School and Mountain Way School. We collaborated and coordinated efforts with the Morris Plains Police Department to map the locations of the internal and external security cameras in both buildings. In addition, we are working closely with the Morris Plains Police Department in order to share access to our security cameras, where they can help to monitor our building and grounds, whenever necessary. Lastly, we have added extra morning supervision at both schools, are implementing monthly safety drills, and will be keeping all doors locked throughout the day.
In 2013, the State of New Jersey selected the Morris Plains School District
as a New Jersey Department of Education Choice District. For the 2014-
2015 school year, the Morris Plains School District will continue to
welcome Choice students. This means that residents of other communities
may attend the Morris Plains School District free of charge in the 2014-
2015 school year. As a participating Choice district, Morris Plains will receive additional state aid. Recently, we received 2014-2015
School Choice enrollment information from the state. For the 2014-2015 school year, the number of seats we have available is 15. The target enrollment number includes our currently enrolled students who will continue as choice students next year, which we anticipate to be 12. We will have 3 seats open, which we will assign for Kindergarten.
Academics, sports, fine and performing arts, and many extra-curricular activities make this a wonderful time of year for students, staff, and families. I have highlighted just a few key areas for your review:
Fall sports are in full swing.
Halloween Window Painting - Borough School students will enhance the town with their beautiful artwork on October 25th.
Students and staff celebrated a “Week of Respect”; and we are preparing for Red Ribbon Week/Violence Prevention Week. 8th grade students participated in several transition events.
Increased access to technological resources
o 30 chromebooks (Science Program)
o Student Responders were purchased for students in
Mountain Way and Borough School.
Articulation work with the Morris School District to address Science,
Language Arts Literacy, Character Education, and various curriculum
Collaboration and partnership with HSA and EFMP to enhance
o HSA - Picnic tables (Mountain Way) and wall mats
(Borough School). Future projects include cubbies, recess
enrichment, and technology devices
o EFMP – Chromebooks. Preparing for upcoming fundraiser
As winter weather approaches, we would like to remind you of our weather
delay/closing procedures. Our school district uses School Brains for
automated emergency notifications. This includes school closing, delayed
opening (90 minute delay), and early dismissal information. Families have
the option to receive text message notifications, in addition to the usual
phone and email messages. Also, relevant closing information will be
announced on each school office voice mail, on the district website, New
Jersey News Channel 12 and News12.com, 1010 WINS radio, and CBS
News Channel 2.
If you have not yet completed a registration form and would like to be included in the School Brains alert system, please email Cristie Bruhn at email@example.com.
District staff will be meeting soon to develop a budget for the
2014-15 school year.
November 4th – 6th: Early Dismissal Days (Parent-Teacher
November 7th & 8th: School Closed (NJEA Convention)
Board of Education Meetings – Borough School Library
o November 12th: NJASK Testing Results Presentation o November 26th
Finally, I want to inform you about an upcoming Morris Plains School District Parent Forum meeting, which I will be hosting on the evening of November 13, 2013. More information about this event may be found on the district website.
As parents/guardians, please continue to participate in your child’s
education. Parents have an important role in the success of
their child’s school and overall education. Have a happy and healthy upcoming Holiday Season