Superintendent takes coffee detour, discusses district's educational future
Old Rochester Regional School District Superintendent Doug White talked educational goals with interested staff and parents during "Coffee with the Superintendent" at Rochester Memorial School on Feb. 13.
White spent a majority of the time discussing the district's next strategic plan. "Where do we see the future of our education going?" he asked.
The current plan, which encompassed the past five years, dealt strongly with social-emotional learning, meant to help students be in the best mental and emotional state to process the things that they're taught.
The next strategic plan, White explained, will cover the next five years of district eduction. It will likely include a strong push for further science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. What the school district has heard from employers, he added, was that not enough students, either in college or otherwise, are graduating with the skills necessary to fill jobs in those fields.
"We need to identify where the future jobs are," he said. "How do we blend books and increased technology? The most important skill a child needs, to this day, is the skill of literacy. If they can't read anything, they can't go further."
One parent mentioned the concept of financial literacy, which he said should be formally taught to students.
White agreed with the assessment. "It's definitely something we've talked about, and we do hope to offer it at the high school in the future," he said.
White also dealt with questions of school technology that is rapidly becoming obsolete. Teachers pointed out that some of the tablets at the school are now so outdated that nothing can be downloaded to them anymore.
"Right now we have our iPads on a three-year lease," White explained. "That way when the lease is up, we still have money budgeted to invest in newer iPads, and we have the option of purchasing the older models for $1 as well."
The discussion also turned to decreasing enrollment in elementary schools. White said that over the past year or two, there has been a downswing in kindergarten and elementary school enrollments, leading to a situation where there are more older students than younger. "In Mattapoisett, a teacher has been laid off every year for the past three years to accommodate attrition," he said. While some teachers can be "re-purposed" to teach another class or skill, there is simply no room for others.
White noted that the separate operations of the three elementary schools can be a roadblock for teachers who might be let go. "If the elementary schools were set up as a regional model, I could shift teachers from one school to the other," he said. "But they aren't, so I don't have that option."
He added that he's happy to be at the Old Rochester Regional School District as an educational evolution continues. "There's so much support for education here—a real commitment to students' needs."
"Coffee With the Superintendent" is an event meant to allow interested residents to ask White questions regarding school budgets, curriculum, and whatever else might cross their minds.
Future events will be held at Mattapoisett's Center School on March 22 from 1-2 p.m., March 23 from 1-2 p.m. at Old Hammondtown School, April 10 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Old Rochester Regional High School, and May 16 from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Old Rochester Regional Junior High School.