Thirty Days In, the Montclair Superintendent of Schools Is Working on a Plan

Local press was invited to meet with new Montclair Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Penny MacCormack, today at central office to learn more about her “90 Day Plan of Entry,” in which she is about halfway through. Stating that transparency is important  in order to reach goals, Dr. MacCormack has been sharing her plans and progress through touring the schools, meeting with PTA members, parents, teachers and staff, as well as meeting with BoE members individually, to get a better understanding of the Montclair school district. She has also been holding morning and evening forums at the schools in order to meet parents and share her plans.

Dr. MacCormack stated that after her 90 days of gathering information, taking feedback, and making assessments of the schools, she will put out a public report in April 2013 that will give her plan and vision for the Montclair School district. Her plan will support her three main educational beliefs that: 1) All children can learn at high levels, 2) Education should have continuous improvement and 3) That improvement requires a strategic plan with inspiring goals, which are backed up by measurable objectives and a way to evaluate them.

What Dr. MacCormack most wanted to share, was the state’s adoption of new Common Core State Standards Inititative, which have undergone an overhaul, and have been adopted by 45 US states and 3 territories. The initiative was a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce. Dr. MacCormack explained that these new standards, if implemented correctly, would help our students be prepared for college and higher education. She believes they are a big improvement because they are clear, understandable and rigorous. These standards were outlined in a Power Point Presentation at the last BoE meeting and can be seen on the district’s website here.

Dr. MacCormack explained that the NJASK standardized testing for 2012 hasn’t changed, but that in 2013-2014 the district will be transitioning to Common Core and by 2015, we will start using the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) assessment, a common set of K-12 assessments in English and math anchored in what it takes to be ready for college and careers. “These new K-12 assessments will build a pathway to college and career readiness by the end of high school, mark students’ progress toward this goal from 3rd grade up, and provide teachers with timely information to inform instruction and provide student support.”

Press was then allowed to ask the Superintendent questions and Diane Lilli of The Jersey Tomato Press started off asking “What has been your biggest surprise?,” to which Dr. MacCormack answered, “I can’t say that there have been any surprises, but I have been impressed by the level of engagement by all involved, especially the students I have spoken to.”

Mike D’Onofrio of Montclair Patch mentioned that at the PTA Council forum, Dr. MacCormack stated, when questioned about the security of Montclair’s Magnet School System, stated “It was one of the things that brought me here. It is the foundation. It is here to stay,” and asked her if now, after 30 days in, she felt differently. She replied that she didn’t and has found that “there is real, solid support for the magnet system.”

I, on behalf of Barista Kids, asked is the new Common Core standards would change the implementation of Everyday Math, used in all elementary schools, but Watchung School. Dr. MacCormack said that with these new standards, the program doesn’t matter as much, as how the standards are being addressed. That means that as long as a lesson can meet the core standard, is can be implemented.

I also asked how teachers would be held accountable in teaching these new Common Core Standards, an Dr. MacCormack explained that the adoption of these standards coincides with the state’s adoption of a new Teacher Evaluation procedure, which uses performance based assessments and rubrics around expectations to make sure that learning objectives are aligned with the standards.

George Wirt of The Montclair Times asked how the district planned to explain these new standards to parents, so that they could understand what all the changes mean. Dr. MacCormack explained it was through these forums and press conferences that she hopes to get he word out. She believes that transparency is key and plans to do that in her position as Superintendent.


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