Education Feature: A Few Thoughts
By Toni Jones
Let me start by saying that I am grateful for the warm welcome that I have received since my official arrival on July 1st. To date, I have held more than 100 meetings and spent more than 80 hours in an effort to connect with members of our school and broader community. I have learned so much about the generosity of the town and the support for our schools. I will be continuing my outreach all year and I look forward to meeting and learning from our community. Greenwich Public Schools is one of the most progressive school systems in America, and I feel honored to be leading this great school district.
As I begin my first school year with the district, these are a few thoughts that are top of mind:
2015-2020 Strategic Plan and Beyond
This year marks the fifth and final year of the Board of Education 2015-2020 Strategic Plan. This means the next pathway for excellence is on the horizon. To shape this plan, there will need to be many community conversations about education and about how Greenwich will continue to be a leader in the region, and the country. The Strategic Plan’s capacities of Academic, Personal, and Interpersonal will likely remain the three focus areas as they cover all aspects of helping students find success. We have outstanding Board of Education members who have made sure that we have sustained our excellence, and there is no doubt that the future will remain the same. It goes without saying that our teachers and staff across the district are the best in the country.
Stay tuned for opportunities to provide input through Listening Tours, Back to School nights, and surveys. We want to hear from you! We are working on a new and more expansive proactive communication plan to enhance our outreach and ease of finding out about All things GPS!
The Evolution of Education
For many years, the districts which were first to support the integration of individual student technology were seen as innovative and leading the pack. Now, technology is a basic, but essential educational tool, expected to be available for our students and teachers. And while technology is necessary, the future of education will require more emphasis on human connection, and making sure that our students can collaborate with others, think creatively to solve problems, and be well-versed in a comprehensive education. Our students are expected to respect others – both online and offline – take care of the environment, and embrace resilience and self-reflection. In many ways, what we are asking of our students is almost incomprehensible compared to just a decade ago.
Going forward, we will be carefully studying our Greenwich Public Schools approach to meet the needs of all students. We want to be sure that our comprehensive programming provides the best opportunity for every student in our classrooms to succeed. As the school superintendent, I am committed to making sure that our resources are utilized wisely.
One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century has been to create safer and more secure schools. There is nothing more important than the safety of our children and staff. Greenwich Public Schools has a full-time safety and residency officer. He works with all of the local agencies and our School Resource Officers to make sure that our campuses are secure. It is mandated by law that all schools have safety teams and practice on-going and regular drills for a wide variety of emergencies. The district has enhanced the investment in safeguards, such as the universal keying system, to eliminate risk for all of our buildings. A universal safeguard we utilize is the power of observation and reporting. We ask that as a community, if you see or hear something concerning, say something. We are a collective community working to keep our students and staff safe at school. This year, we will also be enhancing our use of Greenwich Public Schools social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, to provide instantaneous updates on safety notifications, such as weather related events. We are also committed to tightening the protocol at our school building entrances, so we ask our families to be patient as staff respond to the entry buzzer and ask the necessary questions before buzzing a person into our buildings.
Join Me in Thanking a Teacher or Staff Member
We are fortunate to have amazing teachers and staff in our district who are incredibly talented and kind. I encourage you to join me in a campaign of gratefulness, consider writing an e-mail or handwritten note to a previous teacher or staff member who had an impact on your life, or the life of somebody in your family. I assure you that our teachers and school staff see their work as an extension of service to others, and when they hear that their work had real value on a personal level it means more than you know.
I am looking forward to a fabulous year in Greenwich Public Schools!
Dr. Jones is the Superintendent of Greenwich Public Schools