Shelter Island School is poised for big changes.
Superintendent Michael Hynes is kicking off curriculum and building use plans that he told the Board of Education are vital to preparing students to compete in college and job markets. In what amounted to a state of the district speech at the January Board of Education meeting, Dr. Hynes recounted changes to date and those that are on the horizon in terms of both curriculum and use of space in the building.
Outlining changes that have already taken place at the school, Dr. Hynes said he was mindful of advice he got during his first 100 days as superintendent last year — don’t change too much too soon.
“I tried,” he said about that goal, drawing laughter from board members and staff. He concentrated initially on getting to know students, staff and residents and listening to their concerns and priorities. Based on their input and state mandates, changes to date have concentrated on balancing accessibility to the school with safety concerns; a demonstration of the appreciation of scholars and athletes to the school community; the beginning of an intensive and teacher-supported and state mandated program to support their professional development; and efforts to provide emotional support to students with the hiring of a social worker.
A major thrust in curriculum will result in realigning basic disciplines. In what he’s calling the “elementary house,” embracing kindergarten through grade five, the combined kindergarten-grade one class that started in the 2012-13 school term will continue. Dr, Hynes is also pushing for “team teaching” in math, science, English language arts and social studies for grades three and four and grades five and six.
At the secondary school level, embracing grades six through 12, Dr. Hynes is proposing a “humanities house” that will deal with English and social studies and an “MST house” focusing on math, science and technology. Those concentrations will require realignment of room use as follows:
• The technology lab will be moved the a newly created MST wing.
• The library will relocate from its space near the lobby to the business office space while the administrative and business offices take over the current library space. That will improve safety, since most visitors to the school during the day are bound for administrative offices and won’t have to have access to the rest of the building as they do now.
• The current technology lab space will become a conference room and Board of Education room to serve staff and board members.
The overall result will be better cohesiveness with the curriculum; more opportunities for integration of curriculum while teachers will no longer have the same students for four years in a row. There will also be enhanced concentration on writing skills and more depth of learning of math skills.The realignments will result in instructions for gifted students at the elementary level and academic intervention services to support students in kindergarten through grade eight.
The school has piloted iPads for use in the third and fourth grade classes and there’s a need to expand that technology throughout the school by 2015, Dr. Hynes said.
Additional new classes will be included in the curriculum, he said. In the current year, the district has added journalism, advanced placement art and Intel research courses.
The administration has also begun to reach out to community members, including retirees to add to student knowledge. There’s also an ongoing effort to tap into resources such as the Mashomack Preserve, Sylvester Manor, the Shelter Island Historical Society and the Reporter, where staff worked with journalism students to produce the first of what should be three newspapers this school term.
While complimenting the board for a budget passed by 80 percent of voters last May and completing a review of all board and school policies, Dr. Hynes asked them to clarify the roles and responsibilities of various committees with an eye to merging or eliminating some and bringing others into compliance with the ongoing aims of the district.