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.