This section of the superintendent's website will include information regarding important matters impacting our students, our district, and our community. Please visit this page often, and bookmark www.methacton.org/communityconversations to stay informed.
If you have feedback for my consideration on any of these matters, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to the March 2019 edition of my Community Conversations. My hope is that with this message, we see an end to the winter weather, and you can take a few minutes to allow me to share some important thoughts with you.
The Arrowhead Forward effort is in motion. The district has established a web page to house all things related to the conversations, public input, and decisions along the way in determining the facility renovation or construction needs on this campus.
Relating to this effort, the Board of School Directors has moved its work session meeting for Tuesday, March 19, 2019 to Arrowhead Elementary School, starting at 7PM in the auditorium. During this work session, the Board will discuss potential options and matters that it feels should be considered as we proceed forward. In addition, the Administration plans to recommend to the Board that it considers engaging a design professional firm that can assist the Board with this endeavor. While the timeline has built in opportunities to gather public feedback, the Board encourages the community to join us next week and to take a tour of the facility in advance of the meeting by signing up here.
This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Methacton Post Prom. It is a unique community event that has been keeping our children safe on prom night. On April 16, 2019, the Board of School Directors will be celebrating 20 years of the Post Prom event by recognizing community members for their leadership in bringing and growing Post Prom. If you have been a volunteer for Post Prom, please consider joining us for this historic event. Contact Amanda Kelly at email@example.com to RSVP.
Back in October 2018, I shared that the Arcola Intermediate team of administrators and teachers, led by Principal Dr. Amy Mangano, began a review of programming, services and structure at Arcola. This review included research, discussion, and planning to ensure that they remain aligned with the changing needs of our 7th and 8th grade students. While Arcola has always been recognized as a high achieving school, Dr. Mangano’s professional drive and the engaging spirit of the Arcola team places students first in their constant effort to improve. Dr. Mangano plans to share with the Board of School Directors at its meeting on March 26, 2019 the results of the review, along with recommended changes for next year.
In other happenings, Methacton High School has established a Unified Sports team that will begin this spring with Track and Field events. The Unified Sports program, available through Special Olympics Pennsylvania, was approved by the Board of School Directors in February. To learn more about Unified Sports, visit Special Olympics PA. To find out how you can volunteer or join the team, please contact Dr. Paul Spiewak at the High School, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. David Zerbe
Superintendent of Schools
Dear Methacton Community,
This community conversation is centered on our efforts to address facility needs around the district. However, before we dive into this information, I want to extend warm thanks during this Thanksgiving holiday to all the volunteers, parents, and community members for all of their effort and support of the Methacton School District and our students. Furthermore, I hope that this Thanksgiving allows everyone in the Methacton community to give thanks to those that have inspired you, nurtured you, and continue to push you to do outstanding things for yourself, for the school district, and our community.
As background, in 2016, the Methacton Board of School Directors accepted a facilities study of all buildings owned by the district. This study has helped provide perspective on facilities needs and to help us begin addressing those needs in a comprehensive and organized manner.
In April of 2018, we began to address matters at the High School and at Arcola Intermediate School. The High School project included mechanical and electrical upgrades along with roof-top HVAC unit replacements, pool dehumidification upgrades, roof repair and replacement, as well as masonry testing. The Arcola project focused on the auditorium where interior ceiling and exterior roofing work along with HVAC upgrades were made. It also included acoustical sound clouds, lighting and sound system upgrades, finishing, stage improvements, and seating and flooring renovations.
The high school projects have reached substantial completion and the Arcola Intermediate project is near substantial completion as of this writing. While much of the high school project involves less visible improvements, the Arcola project includes several visible changes which we are very excited to unveil.
As such, I am inviting the community to attend any of the upcoming events scheduled at the Arcola auditorium. Not only will you see outstanding student performances led by our talented and hard working staff and volunteers, but also witness future stars in the making in our newly renovated auditorium.
Please join me for any and all of the following activities planned and check the district and school websites calendars for updates and additional events.
The district is looking at continuing to address our identified facility’s needs. The projects for the summer of 2019 include masonry and window work at Eagleville Elementary, sections of roof replacement at the High School and Arcola/Skyview, mechanical and electrical work at the High School, and security enhancements at all buildings just to name a few.
Lastly, on November 8, 2018, I provided the public with a presentation regarding the state of the district that included more information on facility matters. More specifically, this presentation was a starting point of a larger conversation to determine how to best address substantial facilities improvements identified at the Arrowhead Elementary School. As this conversation progresses, we will be keeping you informed.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and see you at the winter events. Go WARRIORS! – Go METHACTON!
Welcome to the start of the 2018-2019 school year and the first of many Community Conversations that I will share throughout the school year. In this edition, I will be touching on the following matters: Mental Health Services, Strength of Staff, Strategic Plan, and Scheduling/Programming at Arcola.
Before I dive into many topics in this edition, let me share a few words about this year’s district theme- the Power Of We (“POW”). It is hard to imagine a school district with greater potential than Methacton with its strong Home and School organization, a one of a kind Post-Prom, a growing Education Foundation, a top quality and caring staff and faculty, and a supportive administration and school board! Together, WE can and WE will continue to make a difference for every child. Together, WE will help our students reach their potential. Together, WE will learn, lead, and succeed! “POW!”
In an effort to address the rise in social and emotional challenges facing our youth in society and in response to recent tragedies, the Methacton School District has developed a new program called REACH (Raising Expectations and Children’s Hopes) to provide a proactive, preventive approach to support our students at risk, by delivering intensive mental health therapeutic services. The REACH program will be implemented at Arcola Intermediate School (target date for services is November 2018). The district has formed a partnership with Springfield Psychological to provide individual, group, and family counseling services within the school setting in order to remove any challenges and barriers for our students and their families. As this program progresses, we will share more insights.
As we begin to provide this new support for our students, I would like to remind our readers that there are a number of other supports available such as School Counselors, the Student Assistance Program, Mental Health Specialist, Home and School Visitor and many more resources. The most important support is that of our compassionate, knowledgeable, and dedicated professional and support staff. Our teachers, custodians, secretaries, and aides go the extra mile, give the extra smile, and take a genuine interest in our students. Part of our way to recognize staff for their contributions is through the Methacton Award of Excellence. So when you see a Methacton employee, give them a fist bump and thank them for caring!
On September 26, 2018, more than 75 Methacton stakeholders – including students, teachers, administrators, parents, and others – participated in a mid-point review of the district’s 2016-2022 Strategic Plan. Participants were divided among the five Focus Areas and discussed strengths, challenges, opportunities, and threats associated with each area. District administrators will be reviewing the goal recommendations, revising the plan, and sharing a draft with the community at large for feedback. The goal is to have the plan updated by November 2018.
Several themes of that evening’s discussions were centered on improving the academic, social, and emotional experiences for economically disadvantaged students; increasing access to extra-curricular activities and the use of an after school activity bus; increasing the breadth of systems use such as Power School; relocation of bus garage and conducting traffic studies to reduce congestion; providing more professional development on safety related matters; look at consolidation of communications tools used with students and parents; provide a mechanism for students to provide comments on facilities improvement needs; and pursuing recruiting practices, methodologies, and mediums that are more closely aligned with district needs and talent pool.
The Arcola Intermediate Team has been engaged in a project led by Principal Dr. Amy Mangano, with support of teachers from various disciplines, to review best practices and conduct research in an effort to ensure that their programs, services, structure, and schedule are aligned with the changing needs of our students. This is a journey that will likely affirm much of what we do well and provide opportunities for new programs/services/structure for students in the future. The Arcola Team will be presenting recommendations to me in January. The recommendations will be formalized and a plan of action will be developed with the help of the Arcola Team and Central Administration. This plan will be communicated to students and staff appropriately. As this journey unfolds over the next several months, Dr. Mangano will be keeping everyone informed. “Our goal has and always will be the academic, social and emotional learning of all of our students,” Dr. Mangano said.
I continue to be thankful for members of our community, our parents, our staff and our students and their commitment of time and talents to making the Methacton School District one of the region’s most desirable districts to educate and raise a family.
Dr. David Zerbe
Superintendent of Schools
Dear Methacton Family,
For the next installment in my Community Conversation series for 2018-2019, I would like to honor our teachers.
This past week, students, parents and volunteers could be seen all over the district sharing special lunches, baskets of goodies, flowers, notes, and many other gestures of kindness and thanks for all that our teachers do for our students every day. This week-long appreciation period annually reminds us of how important our Methacton teachers are to us, to our children’s current and future successes, and to the future of our community.
As we reflect during this time, I’d like to share an inspiring quote that resonates with me, and which is indicative of our teaching staff here at Methacton:
“Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Anonymous
The care that our teachers take to be there for each and every student daily in a variety of ways is a true testament to our teaching staff as professionals, as individuals, to our culture as a school district, and to the culture of our community. That said, I want to give thanks to you as students, parents, School board Directors, and community members for taking the time express your thanks to our teachers not only during this most important week, but all year round. Teaching is rewarding work. The gratitude means a great deal.
I’m proud of the work that our teachers do to make Methacton such a warm, wonderful place to learn and grow. They are the heart and soul of our district, and are deeply deserving of our recognition!
“Teachers affect eternity; no one can tell where their influence stops.” - Henry Brooks Adams
Dr. David Zerbe
Superintendent of Schools
Dear Methacton Family,
Following the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, our students and families may have questions about the ways in which the Methacton School District works to maintain a safe learning environment.
We address safety with a multi-faceted approach. The district’s efforts include:
- The Methacton Administration works with County Emergency Management Services and local law enforcement to review its emergency procedures, conduct safety audits, and ensure we consider best practices in our emergency preparedness and response methods. This is a continuous process.
- Each school’s emergency response team meets every other month to review, consider, and recommend ways of improving safety on campuses for our students and staff.
- The district’s strategic plan leverages our teachers and administrators working together to develop supports with a focus on the “Whole Child.” While listed as a curriculum and instruction matter within the strategic plan, the Whole Child focus considers the well-being of our children, including their social, emotional, and mental health.
- District staff are diligent in their efforts to form positive relationships with students that foster the communication and approachability necessary to support students and families in need.
- School counseling and nursing staff are trained in youth mental health first aid. The district has also provided free community mental health awareness trainings.
- We have begun to expand the Student Assistance Program (SAP) training to the elementary levels. Used primarily in secondary schools, SAP teams consisting of teachers, administrators, and outside mental health professionals meet to monitor and assist students and families in a variety of ways. The training that accompanies SAP helps our staff recognize early warning signs associated with drug, alcohol, and mental health concerns. This allows staff to be proactive in their support, and prepares them to communicate concerns to school personnel so that the appropriate community resources can be deployed. Click to learn more about the SAP process, or how to make a referral.
- Our partnership with Central Behavioral Health for four mental health specialists provides school based individual and group sessions with students with emotional support needs. In addition, Central provides professional development and consultation with Methacton staff.
- We have updated the physical security at several of our schools to increase safety with the use of technology, door locking mechanisms, and protocols.
- Families will find a number of resources for talking to their children on our pupil services department website here.
While the district has these and other emergency response procedures in place, it is understandable that school safety is at the front of parent’s minds and may generate questions. While most of our families know that we regularly conduct fire and weather drills, they may not know that we also conduct regular intruder drills. In addition, the district developed a Safety Awareness Presentation that can be found here https://youtu.be/JEoHYL7yvF4. This is designed to communicate a common understanding of safety terminology and the role we play in an emergency.
More than 4,000 students, along with many hundreds more staff walk through our doors each day. We take our responsibility to maintain a safe and secure learning environment seriously.
Thank you for your support.
Dr. David Zerbe
Superintendent of Schools
In this issue of my “Superintendent’s Community Conversation,” I will be sharing an update on the district’s strategic plan.
As a result of an effort that involved over 100 participants including students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community and business leaders, the Methacton School district developed a plan to guide our work through the year 2020 in five focus areas.
I recently presented many of the changes, and revisions to strategic objectives at a public meeting of the Board of School Directors in November. Several of the highlights include major efforts in the area of career education; STEM; staff development, and the use of data to drive planning and instruction.
The Board approved the appointment of Ms. Judi Schmitz as Methacton’s K-12 Career Counselor in May 2017. Working with the office of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, and the office of Pupil Services, Ms. Schmitz is engaged in planning services and activities aligned to the Pennsylvania Career Education and Work Standards. Our goal is to ensure every student and his/her family has access to the necessary academic, personal/social, and career development information that will allow informed post-secondary decisions. There are several actions in the works to this end, including collaboration on the district’s Pennsylvania Chapter 339 Plan, which includes the establishment of a an advisory committee. We expect to extend the work of this committee beyond the 339 Plan in order to assist our district with the development of comprehensive K-12 Career programming.
Use of Data in Planning and Instruction
Our Supervisor of Professional Learning and Continuous Improvement, Ms. Tara Ricci, will work with an advisory committee to establish a system of continuous improvement inclusive of staffing, systems, and protocols whereby the use of data can be easily leveraged by administrators and staff. As a main focus, Ms. Ricci is working to develop and supervise our efforts to put into cultural practice a set of processes that improve our efficient use of data across the district in making instructional and programmatic change.
The work of the Methacton Education Foundation, combined with internal efforts to document our current program and future direction, is at the forefront of our work with STEM. We had planned for a STEM strategic planning session earlier in the fall, but needed to pull back so that we can better prepare for the engagement of the community in that process. Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, Dr. Mary Katona, will lead that process along with other administrators and staff. I am eager to move the district forward with STEM and look to the day when we have the support of our local STEM industry, higher education institutions, our teachers, our parents, and our community organized in a cohesive and targeted fashion in support of our students and their success in the future workplace.
While there are a number of other additional strategic objectives, it is important to know that all of these efforts contribute to a stronger Methacton - one that is an exemplary, student-focused, and community-centered environment that prepares learners to meet the demands of our evolving world.
Dr. David Zerbe
Superintendent of Schools
This is the first issue in the 2017-18 school year for my monthly “Superintendent’s Community Conversation” communication. This edition will feature just a few of the ways that our teachers are transforming the learning experience for our students. Rooted in our Strategic Plan, these activities may be observed in classrooms throughout the district. I’m proud to share how the efforts of our teaching staff are helping our students demonstrate critical 21st century skills.
This communication is not about the tools, the resources, or the things that we buy. It is about the passion, ingenuity, courage, and relentless pursuit of excellence of our classroom teachers, our librarians, music teachers, science teachers, special education, world language, math and English teachers, and countless others. Leaders in their profession, our teachers are finding new and exciting ways to reach our students and make learning fun and engaging. Whether through the use of technology tools like a Chromebooks or Ozobots, or some other resource, our teachers are pushing the envelope and enriching the lives of all children.
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning is a key focus of our planning now and in the future. Our science department is committed to proving high quality STEM research support for teachers across the curriculum. Longtime members of the Montgomery County Science Teachers Association (MCSTA), Methacton science teachers have supported their students in conducting high quality research in and out of the classroom through science fairs and other activities. Methacton High School students are averaging $275,000 per year in awards and scholarships associated with participation in these high-level science research competitions. These projects provide unique hands on experiences as well as opportunities for personal achievement and recognition.
There are numerous examples throughout the district on any given day that demonstrate what this looks like in practice. Below is a sneak peek into our classrooms.
Arcola Intermediate School and Methacton High School
The implementation of Chromebooks and Google Classroom at the high school and Arcola has made a huge impact on the way we deliver instruction. Teachers leverage Google Classroom to assign class and group project work, share materials, and communicate important concepts. Google Classroom is a great place for individual student reflection and practice, and is a method for submitting projects and assignments. While Google Classroom is free for school use, our teachers have leveraged much of this system to provide our students with the experience with what they will someday find at most post-secondary institutions and in the world of work.
In the video below, librarian Janice Conger continues the conversation with her students after a recent library lesson during National Banned Books Week at Skyview. Students read and research on their Chromebooks while Ms. Conger leads them in a lesson on the SmartBoard. Later, the students save their work directly to Google classroom.
Elementary teachers are focusing on integrating numerous coding resources and apps into their instruction along with Google Classroom and other unique experiences and activities. In the video below, Eagleville teacher Mark Keffer’s third grade students are using Google Classroom while working on a writing prompt as part of the new Wonders English Language Arts program.
While the availability of Smart Boards in our classrooms goes back around ten years, the frequency of use has increased in recent years as our teachers integrate more visuals, text, and hands on activities in classroom lessons.
As a department, our Librarians have been leaders in providing transformative learning experiences for our students. We continue to leverage the philosophy that knowledge is power and frequent reading is at the heart of knowledge attainment. However, our librarians also recognize that the use of manipulatives and experimentation helps place theory and what students read into practice. Like all of our teachers, our librarians are challenging our students to be critical thinkers and problem solvers.
With the support of our administration and Board of School Directors; our dynamic, creative teachers are key to the district’s ability to accomplish its mission to be an “exemplary student-focused and community-centered environment.” For this, I am thankful. Of this, we are proud - Methacton Proud!
Dr. David Zerbe
Superintendent of Schools