State Testing in Somers has its student body consistently in “good standing” and on par with other school districts of equal size and demographics. Of course, that doesn’t exempt the district from all the excessive resources and angst devoted to this mandate. Nonetheless, Somers is doing more than simply standing by and making the best of the much maligned system, according to Matt Carr, the Human Resources Student Services Manager in the Somers School District .
The district has resolved to be extremely discerning in selecting and evaluating the most relevant data to student success. Devoting a great deal of timeand resource to pinpointing the appropriate data, he says, "We hope to then put all our efforts in the right place so we can deliver instruction in the best possible manner for students,” said Carr.
Additionally, the process has been preempted by a good deal of pre-assessment to have a baseline level of data to further improve the desired outcomes. “What good is testing if you don’t have anything to compare it to,” says Carr.
That said, Somers is saddled within a teacher retirement system that has seen an increase in expenditure of 37% this year, while the tax cap creates a new challenge of its own. In the midst of the budget process, he says, “We’re making adjustments and making sure we’re complying with the governor’s mandated tax limit.”
Encompassed within that paradigm, are the mandates required in regards to special education. “We make decisions on special ed that are both fiscally sound and are a right fit so students will succeed in the environment that’s chosen,” said Carr.
Somers also makes sure the opportunities are available for students who wish to extend beyond the requirements of the state. A science, technology, engineers and math initiative stands out most prominently. Soon moving into robotics and electronics, he says, “Students will gain college credits through the Rochester Institute of Technology.”
But Somers aims to keep the 21st century within the school day too. The district hopes to put professional learning devices like Ipads and Notebooks in the hands all students and already has a pilot program doing just that with a number of middle schoolers. "We are looking to infuse technology into thecurriculum as much as possible," says Carr.
Of course, today can easily have kids a step ahead in that regard, and it's the teachers who need to keep up. Either way, he says, "Our teachers are the consummate professionals. They are always looking for professional development and ways in which to utilize all these devices."
Somers science teacher Brian Hujick exemplifies this technological devotion in writing the grant that brought solar panel technology to the high school. "His students do use the real life example with direct access to the onsite equipment," says Carr.
Finally, school security has moved to the forefront of every district's agenda and Somers is obviously among them. The district will employ one unarmed school resource officers to each of their two campuses. "We're hoping for each officer to really become a part of the community within the schools and their roles will expand as time progresses," he says.
At the same time, Somers realizes that students may not always feel comfortable disclosing threats without anonymity so they will have access to a hotline service where a possible threats could be conveyed confidentially. From there, the school resource officer will receive the information and proceed with an investigation.
As for the complexities exasperated by social media in this regard, the district does all it can to monitor the dialogue. One such problematic discusion emerged at the beginning of this school year, where a former student made a threat. "The state police directly intervened and the individual was in custody before school even started the next day," said Carr.
If that's the extent of any future issues, Somers will gladly take that as the good standing they are in pursuit of most diligently.
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