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Orange supt. presents plan for districts

ORANGE — Newly appointed Superintendent Tari N. Thomas of Orange Elementary, Petersham Center and Ralph.C. Mahar Regional schools presented an entry plan at School Committee meetings this month. According to Thomas’ presentation, the plan is a guide for the districts and a way to set action plans and execute them over time. Thomas says the information was compiled as a result of interviews, briefings, document/assessment reviews and surveys.

The entry plan identifies strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the districts. Overall research showed a recurring theme of pride in each school, Thomas says. She also pointed out a belief that all members of the school community are committed to continuous improvement of student achievement for each child.

In all districts, surveys revealed strengths in the school climate and culture, curriculum and instruction as well as student support services. Areas of growth showed a need for attention in technology integration and finance and asset management. Thomas pointed out opportunities for the districts in plans to restructure the central office personnel, regionalization and sound budget development. Moving toward this goal, she will be announcing a new hire at the school’s next committee meeting to replace Administrator of Finance and Personnel Robin Briand, who recently retired. The new position will facilitate the needs of all three districts.

Topping the list of threats was the health of the Orange Elementary School Buildings. Another issue being dealt with is that Orange has recently been voted in to work with the School Building Association Bureau of Massachusetts on possibly building a new elementary school.

Specifically, Thomas had six areas of focus for the information gathering along with strengths and gaps listed for each. Starting with climate and culture of the schools, a particular strength was that the schools offer physically safe environments.

However, a gap that arose was indication of staff-to-staff bullying and staff-to-student bullying behaviors which need to be addressed. In curriculum and instruction, a positive was putting teachers at the heart of curriculum development and refinement, while a gap showed needing consistency in implementation of curriculum.

The remaining categories of student support, financial and asset management and technology all showed equal strengths and weaknesses.

Superintendent Thomas concluded the presentation of her entry plan by stating that she will be working over the next several months with her Executive Leadership team. They will vet all the findings from the data collected for her plan and concentrate on key areas as well as current areas of focus. The key areas will be part of a long-term strategy to create action plans for execution over the next five years.

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