The Peekskill school district is marshaling its resources to develop a plan to address shortcomings cited in a recent state report about Peekskill High School.
A draft report, based on a three-day visit by a Joint Intervention Team (JIT) in late November, was received just before Christmas, Superintendent of Schools James Willis told the Board of Education during a work session Tuesday night. The district now must develop a specific response including actions, deadlines and persons responsible for implementing changes.
The JIT visit, a highly structured process including 100 indicators, involved extensive review of data and first-hand observations to assess conditions at the school. The visit was prompted by the high school’s inclusion on state watch lists for six years; it is in its second year as a school in need of restructuring. Students with disabilities are not reaching goals in English language arts and mathematics while all student groups are falling short of the target graduation rate. To read more about the Nov. 28-30 visit, please click here.
The district is required to submit a comprehensive response and plan by February and, after state review, begin implementation by September.
“This is important, this is serious, this is very thorough,” Willis said.
“We need a sense of urgency,” board President Joseph Urbanowicz said. “This is about students and their lives, not about systems. We must do better.”
The JIT process was triggered by test results. “Now we want to find and address the causes,” Willis said.
Joseph Mosey, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, is using the draft report to develop a comprehensive action plan that identifies concerns and gathers information to develop remedies, people responsible for implementing them and time frames. The action plan will be posted on the district’s Web site, along with the formal JIT report. Under JIT rules the initial draft is not available to the public.
Mosey said one goal of the plan is to “identify and emphasize positive things that motivate kids to do well.” Outside experts will be consulted “to help us get it right. … We expect a positive outcome.”
Successful actions in school districts with problems similar to those of Peekskill will be examined with a view to adapting them, Willis added.
Urbanowicz emphasized that the people developing the action plan “must be our best people,” a thought echoed by several board colleagues. Board member Tuesday McDonald cautioned that some of the prospective “players” may be part of the problem. Board member Douglas Glickert suggested listening to and utilizing suggestions from staffers, some of which could be implemented quickly.
“We need to make sure we have instructional leadership,” Willis said, noting that school officials often are so busy managing buildings that too little time is devoted to managing instruction.
In a related matter, Willis noted that Peekskill Middle School and Hillcrest Elementary School are undergoing the state School Quality Review process. Reviewers spent two days at Hillcrest before the winter break and are spending two days this week at the middle school. To read more about the review process please click here.