School Configuration and Transition - Updated 12/20/2019
The initial meeting of the Elementary Transition Committee was held on 12/17/19; the standing committee, which will meet monthly, consists of about two dozen parents (representing a range of student ages and situations) and district staff members (classroom teachers, counselors, special education, and support staff) from the three school communities:
Jillian Antinore (Parent - Memorial)
Melissa Bianchini (Teacher/Parent - Walls)
Melissa Brown-Harrison (Parent - Walls)
Debbie Calabree (Principal- Memorial)
Amber Christy (Parent - Walls)
Jackie Constantine (Parent - Memorial)
Jill DuBois (Teacher - Walls)
Dare Euler (Teacher - Memorial)
Dennis Keefe (Parent - Kindle)
Mary Beth Koniecki (BOE/Parent - Memorial)
Christe Leakan (Teacher - Memorial)
Katy Lynch (Parent - Kindle)
Ashley Mason (Parent - Walls)
Karolyn Mason (Principal - Kindle)
Chris Morris (Principal - Walls)
Stacey Pappalardo (Parent - Memorial)
Darlene Powell (BOE/Parent - PMS, PHS)
Karen Roberts (Teacher - Kindle)
Carisa Rose (Staff/Parent - Walls)
Stacy Specht (Teacher - Walls)
Stacie Streater (Staff/Parent - Walls)
Amber Thomason (Parent - Walls)
Cindy Thompson (Counselor - Memorial)
Cassandra Wright (Staff/Parent - Walls)
Erica Wright (Parent - Walls)
At the meeting, the committee discussed the development of a mission statement; the roles that individual members held, the expertise and experience that they brought to the discussion, and their expectations for the transition process; and the structure of the committee. Future meeting dates have been scheduled, including building tours of each school. The members also laid out expectations and suggestions regarding communications of the transition process with the rest of the community.
The bulk of the time meeting was spent identifying key issues, concerns, and unresolved questions about the transition, and how things will operate both next fall and longer term under the new school configuration model. Key concerns included:
- Logistical issues: bell schedules (start/end times); logistics of moving classrooms; reallocation of resources (books, equipment, technology, etc.); safe routes to school; arrival/dismissal procedures;
- Program issues: departmentalization of subjects (grades 4-5); class sizes and number of sections per grade; budgets for classroom supplies (teachers); field trips; special education services; food service program; student health needs; preschool; Panther Club; communications between schools (vertical articulation);
- Personnel issues: staffing decisions (assignments); staff preparation and/or training for new roles;
- Facilities issues: playground equipment and configuration; safety at drop off/pick up; security procedures at buildings; summer cleaning of buildings;
- Traditions and school culture: HSA coordination; branding of elementary schools; creating opportunities for students/families to get to know their new school; building positive excitement for new configuration; opportunities for older students to mentor younger students;
- Student assignment concerns: communicating with parents re: student placements; Memorial 1st grade; Memorial 5th grade; boundary line exceptions (usually program placement related – current and new);
- Traditions/events – do we keep them? Expand them? Changes to accommodate families in multiple buildings? (e.g. Butterfly parade, Halloween activities, concerts).
As issues/concerns are identified, the committee members will be assisted by district leadership and other stakeholder “consultants” (e.g. school nurses, special education staff, facilities staff, local police and borough officials, district support staff, and others) in setting timelines for issues to be addressed and resolved, and determine responsible individuals. Internal issues, such as staff assignments and budgets, will be the primary focus of district leaders and staff members (with some parent input as appropriate); external concerns (e.g. creating opportunities for students and families to engage with their new school community) will likely be driven by parents with support from district staff.
Dating back to the development of the school district's Strategic Plan in 2017, it has been clear to the community that the district would continue to face challenges with declining enrollment and reduced state funding for the foreseeable future. In Fall 2018, in response to these challenges, a preliminary proposal to reconfigure the three elementary schools as grade-level schools was submitted for consideration; in response to a desire on the part of a significant number of community members to give the issue further study, that proposal was withdrawn, and the Pitman School Advisory Committee was formed in early 2019.
Over the course of several months, the PSAC - consisting of more than 20 members, including parents from all five schools, community members, local officials, and school district staff members - has examined a variety of school configuration models to determine which model fulfilled their mission to balance maximizing student achievement with the fiscal realities that the district is facing and will continue to face.
On September 18, 2019, after more than seven months of work, the PSAC issued its recommendation to the Superintendent and the Board of Education. The slide show from their presentation is linked below:
After a review of the PSAC recommendation and additional information, the Superintendent presented a formal recommendation to the Board of Education on October 9, 2019. He has proposed a configuration similar to that recommended by the PSAC - a hybrid configuration in grades preK through 5th:
- an Early Childhood Center for the entire district (grades preK through 1st) at Memorial School;
- two neighborhood schools (with redrawn boundaries) at Walls and Kindle Schools (grades 2-5).
The Superintendent also recommended a phase-in allowing current Kindergarten students to remain in their current school building for grade 1 during 2020-21.
The Superintendent's detailed presentation is linked below:
At a special meeting on October 29, 2019, the Board of Education unanimously approved the Superintendent's recommendation (as described above). For 2020-21, current Kindergarten students will stay at their previous neighborhood school for grade 1; beginning in 2021-22, the Early Childhood Center at Memorial will then house all grade 1 students, in addition to pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten. Walls and Kindle Schools become neighborhood schools for all other grades (revised boundary map).
A transition committee, which will advise and assist district leaders in making the transition to a new school configuration as smooth as possible, is being formed. Some details regarding the committee and its work are as follows:
- The committee will be made up of 2-3 parent representatives from each of the elementary schools, as well as teachers and other staff members. The elementary principals will have a role in leading the committee; the Board of Education will also have a representative. Committee members would ideally represent a variety of perspectives (different age of children/students, special education, etc.).
- The committee will consider and advise us on a number of issues. Some examples include arrival and dismissal procedures; potential schedule changes; internal logisticsrelated to moving staff and resources; impact on special education services; outreach and communication to families; specific issues that concern particular student groups; facilities concerns; and other topics.
- The committee will also consult with other stakeholders with particular expertise: district facilities manager; district administration; counselors and nurses; local officials, including the police department; and staff in other school districts who have experienced similar changes.
- I would envision that the committee (approximately 12-15 members) would meet regularly– perhaps on a monthly basis; there would also be an expectation that some additional subcommittee work between monthly meetings would be required at times. The transition team’s work will begin as soon as possible, and will likely extend through the end of this school year, with some work beyond that timeframe as the 2020-21 school year begins next fall.
Additional details on the transition process can be reviewed below:
If you have any questions or wish to provide feedback, please contact Dr. Patrick McAleer (Superintendent of Schools) at 589-2145 or firstname.lastname@example.org.