By Katie Crawford
Swarthmore-Rutledge School was the focus topic of Monday night’s school board meeting. The board heard a detailed presentation from SRS principal Dr. Angela Tuck, who was joined by fellow teachers and students. SRS librarian Roberta Shapiro distributed iPads to board members before the presentation began so that they could experience first hand the Nearpod application currently used in many SRS classrooms. Nearpod allows for real-time, interactive instruction and assessments, and can be accessed on iPads and other devices. Ms. Shapiro demonstrated how Nearpod can record students’ answers immediately, and display answers for teachers in a way that quickly reveals gaps in student understanding. Shapiro emphasized that this allows for “data-driven instruction,” which helps SRS faculty work towards their goal of providing differentiated instruction in an effort to close the achievement gap among students.
Third grade teacher Brian Neuber spoke to the board about his own positive experiences using Nearpod in his classroom and described the app as user-friendly and effective at gathering both formative and summative data on students. He also commented on how the use of the app has encouraged sharing and collaboration among fellow teachers.
‘Digging Deeper’ in Writing and Reading Assessment
SRS 5th grade teacher Liz Corson described her methodology during her recent memoir writing unit. She spoke of how she encouraged students to “dig deeper” and reveal both the positive and negative sides of specific memories before writing. Jennifer Conahan, also a 5th grade teacher, spoke to the board about 5th grade teachers’ work developing a coordinated reading assessment schedule that incorporates the skills necessary for success on the PSSA standardized tests.
In completing the SRS focus, the board heard from a dynamic group of 5th grade girls who described for the board their experiences in creating a school newspaper, the SRS Star. Ella Grossman, Bea L’Armand, Olivia LaFrance, Natalie Caputo and Izzy Rau spoke passionately about their desire to find ways to share student writing with the school community. The girls described challenges such as paper costs, school staffing changes, and selecting volunteers, and credited their own persistence and support from parents and teachers for overcoming these obstacles. Board member and SRS parent Wendy Voet thanked Dr. Tuck and teachers for creating a wonderful learning environment at SRS.
Panthers for Panels
“Panthers for Panels” was also a focus topic of Monday night’s meeting. School district Sustainability Committee member Carol Getty, joined by students Madison Balthazar and Zoe Brown of the SHHS environmental group Green Haven, presented a proposal to add solar panels to the Panther Pit, the snack bar at George L. King Stadium. They highlighted three goals: community education, energy and money savings, and a visible demonstration of sustainability for the community. The committee proposes to raise the entire estimated $30,000 cost of the project privately and is seeking no district funding. That number includes both the purchase and installation of the panels. If approved by the board, they hope to have installation complete before the 2017 football season. Getty noted that they have the support of interim superintendent Michael Pladus, head of facilities Jim Hardy, and the Foundation for Wallingford Swarthmore Schools.
Board member Paul Schregel followed up the presentation with a question about maintenance costs. Getty responded that she is confident that the utility savings realized from use of the panels will offset any future maintenance costs. Wendy Voet asked about any increased liability and insurance costs that the panels may produce. Getty responded that the first person consulted was the fire marshal, who had no concern about additional fire risks from the panels. She said that, again, she believed that any increase in liability insurance costs would be offset by savings. In response to board member Chapin Cimino’s question about the selection of the Panther Pit, Getty highlighted its attractiveness as a highly visible, stand alone building.
Beginning Student Conduct Code Consideration
In anticipation of the upcoming review of the district’s student code of conduct, the meeting ended with a brief discussion of the role of the school if a student is caught breaking the law outside school hours and off school grounds. Board member Robert Reiger questioned what role the district would play in such a circumstance. Dr. Michael Pladus spoke of the complexity and difficulty of this situation, noting that while we want students to participate actively in our schools’ extracurricular programs, such participation is a privilege. He noted that many school districts are wrestling with the same questions as the NFL and the NCAA regarding what are appropriate consequences for behavior that takes place outside the realm of school and/or team.