During the Monday, August 8 Northampton School Board meeting, the district presented the Comprehensive Plan development process update. Presenters included Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik, Assistant Superintendent Michelle Schoeneberger, Director of Special Education Vicki Kropf, Curriculum Supervisor of Grants and Special Programs Nicolette Teles, and Elementary Curriculum Supervisor Katie Trach.
Superintendent Kovalchik stated the Comprehensive Plan is required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education every six years. The current plan cycle spans from 2016 to 2023, and the upcoming plan will take effect from 2023 through 2029.
Changes over the past seven years include: a decrease in enrollment, an increase in economically disadvantaged students, an increase in students with disabilities, and a decrease in students reported as gifted. Additionally, there was an increase in Hispanic students and a decrease in Caucasian students between the seven years, which accounts for a total student population of: 13% Hispanic, 81% Caucasian, 3% Black, and 3% other ethnicity in the 2021-2022 school year. There were 33 students (0.6%) during the 2015-2016 school year whose first language was not English, which has jumped to 88 students (1.7%) during the 2021-2022 school year; 41 homeless students (0.7%) during 2015-2016, which has also increased to 52 students (1%) during 2021-2022; and 26 students in foster care (0.5%) during 2015-2016, which also increased to 34 students (0.6%) during 2021-2022.
The goals of the current 2016-2023 Comprehensive Plan are: (1) effective instructional practices, (2) focused, comprehensive, and flexible professional development, and (3) district and community communication to promote positive school culture. The focus areas of the 2023-2029 Comprehensive Plan are: (1) social, emotional, and academic growth, (2) stakeholder engagement, and (3) climate and culture.
Participation for the upcoming Comprehensive Plan included 104 committee members comprised of students, parents, community members, teachers, nurses, counselors, psychologists, building administrators, district administrators, and board members; eight focus groups comprised of 31 parent/guardian participants, 39 students, and six principals; survey responses comprised of 473 parent/guardian responses, and 166 staff responses; and interviews of district administrators and Northampton School Board members. Combined, these results helped form the revised mission, vision, and profile of a NASD graduate for the 2023-2029 Comprehensive Plan.
The social, emotional, and academic growth focus area of the 2023-2029 Comprehensive Plan includes two goals with implementation targeted during year 3 of the plan. Goal 1 states that NASD will research, develop, and implement skill-based curriculum and instructional practices that intentionally and strategically integrate academic/career readiness and social and emotional skills into all programming K-12. Goal 2 states that NASD will expand upon the current Multi-Tiered System of Supports structure to strengthen the coordination and implementation of a well-developed tiered structure of academic, behavioral, and counseling/mental health supports for all students.
The climate and culture focus area of the 2023-2029 Comprehensive Plan also includes two goals for the district. Goal 3 is stated as increasing the sense of a positive school climate and culture K-12 by establishing a Climate and Culture Committee that plans and implements strategies to engage all stakeholders in efforts focused on fostering empathy, valuing diversity, and ensuring each student feels a sense of belonging to the school community. Last, Goal 4 is to establish a districtwide system of communication practices that involves internal and external stakeholders, strategic use of resources, and leveraging student leadership that focuses on disseminating important information, promoting stakeholder engagement, and contributing to a positive school climate and culture.
The 2023-2029 Comprehensive Plan also includes four other plans that are required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The Professional Development Plan must provide professional development that has options for teachers, be aligned with the Danielson Framework, help teachers meet the needs of diverse learners, include strategies to improve language and literacy skills for all students to help close the achievement gaps among students, focus on teaching diverse learners in an inclusive setting, and evaluate the effectiveness of professional development offerings.
The goals of the Special Education Plan are to provide professional development in literacy instruction, IEP development, instructional practices in the least restrictive environment, and continue to focus on improving the instructional services for students with disabilities.
The goals of the Gifted Plan are to improve awareness and knowledge of gifted and talented learners by providing professional development to faculty members focusing on the characteristics and “look-fors” of gifted learners, analyze academic achievement data to identify potential students who may demonstrate characteristics of gifted learners, and strengthen the continuum of services available for children identified as gifted.
Last, the goals of the induction plan are to assess the needs of inductees using checklists to guide mentor/inductee discussions and a revised mentor/inductee and administrator/inductee meeting documentation process; improve the induction program structure by expanding Year 1 Induction Orientation to three days, include flexible topics, hold after school meetings, and establish a mentor training component; and to update the induction plan evaluation process using revised inductee surveys and by creating mentor surveys.
The 2023-2029 NASD Comprehensive Plan draft will be reviewed by the Professional Development Committee, Steering Committee, and Focus Area Committees in September. Then, a final draft will be presented to the school board for review in October before it is posted for public comment in November-December. The Northampton School Board will vote on the plan’s approval in January 2023, followed by the final plan being submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education in March 2023.