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Finish line near for G-M?

TURNERS FALLS — State education department officials have given a positive review of the Gill-Montague Regional School District’s progress on its turnaround plan, coupling that with presentation of a recent letter from the department’s top official setting the finish line for the district’s Level 4 or “underperforming” status.

In a letter sent to the district last week, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester indicated he will consider removing the district from Level 4 once two conditions are met: the district has hired a permanent superintendent and developed a plan to maintain progress.

Senior Associate Commissioner Lynda Foisy discussed the letter at Tuesday’s School Committee meeting following a quarterly review presentation.

Joan Connolly, the state turnaround plan monitor assigned to the district, said the district has continued to make progress toward the goals of the state-mandated turnaround plan from September to November 2012, despite the many new teachers and administrators dropped into the process.

Connolly said the systems are in place but the corresponding student improvement remains to be demonstrated, but also said the district’s test scores are about at the state average.

Asked for a time line for removal from Level 4, Foisy said it could be done as soon as the two conditions are met.

The commissioner’s letter specifies that the development of the plan must take place after a permanent superintendent is in place. The superintendent search is under way and should be complete before the end of the school year.

The plan must set out structures to “support a cycle of continuous improvement,” including how the district uses data, establishes priorities and monitors its efforts, according to the letter.

Foisy said the operational plan is meant to hold all parties responsible for staying the course.

“I think it’s very clear, from both your presentation and his letter, what’s expected and what we need to do,” said Joyce Phillips, School Committee chairwoman.

A lack of clarity in the state’s expectations has been a frequent complaint heard in the district, labeled Level 4 or “underperforming” since 2007.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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