Elementary schools all in on tech for improvement plans

Nov 23, 2020

Each of the town’s four elementary schools has big plans for the school year, and keeping connected with the community in a time when many have to isolate at home is at the top of that list.

At the Nov. 23 School Committee meeting, administrators presented their school improvement plan — for which all agreed that technology must remain after the pandemic is handled.

“We didn’t want to lose the good work we’ve done up until this time,” Director of Teaching and Learning Tracy Oliveira said.

Quinn Principal Kyle Grandfield praised technology specialists for helping set up virtual classrooms for remote learning and constantly supporting teachers since the shift to partial in-person classes.

He noted that this collaboration has made the school’s hybrid return more “streamlined.” A big highlight, the principal said, was through online classrooms his staff call “command centers.” 

“These command centers allowed students at home to feel as though they were right there in their classroom,” Grandfield said. “Many teachers used this opportunity to create a classroom community to build a rapport with their students and families.”

Potter Principal Rick Porter highlighted the need for all students to have equal access to their classrooms, noting that while some are home learning, many are learning under different conditions.

“We need to make sure some of those unique conditions do not turn into barriers for our students,” he said.

One of the biggest improvements Oliveira said she wants to see is with math fluency for elementary students. She noted that this is not about how fast students can get through their units, but how much they can comprehend by the year’s end.

“Just like we know everyone can memorize the pledge of allegiance, it doesn’t really mean they understand what it means,” Oliveira said. “So we’ve done some work on that and broke that up into grade-level standards.” 

The School Committee unanimously approved the plan.

At the same meeting, officials discussed the next steps for the Equality and Diversity Committee that was created in August.

The new 10-person committee will comprise two members from five different stakeholder groups: school administrators, School Committee members, Dartmouth High students, community members, and teachers or staff.

According to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bonny Gifford, the High School plans to create its own diversity committee that would elect members to address the town one.

Vice chair Dr. Shannon Jenkins noted to ensure this committee is composed of people of all demographics, that those from underrepresented backgrounds should be reached out for recruitment.

“There’s a lot of research that shows women and students of color are less likely to step forward when they’re asked to volunteer in a way where we just send out a generic call,” she said. “We have to work in concert with what we know to be the best practices to create an inclusive environment where people feel comfortable speaking up.”