A year ago Nov. 15, Superintendent Dr. Sandra Brower took her first steps into the Lacey Township School District.
The highlights of her first year fall back to all that was accomplished during the transition period—listening and learning, she said.
“We made a lot of changes,” she said.
That first year was a time for Brower to get to know the community, its expectations and its desires, she said.
“I have learned Lacey is unlike any other district. It’s about involvement, tradition and cherishing the things that make Lacey different,” she said. “You don’t change those things but keep them intact and build on them.”
But the year also was one of challenges with the loss of student Ana Kopack and Hurricane Sandy, she said.
“To watch the community come together when we’re hurting was remarkable,” she said. “Our parents are raising students to be responsible and to give back.”
Not only did Brower “listen and learn,” which was the title of her first phase of work in Lacey, but the district took action in areas of staffing, technology and resources, she said.
Changes were enacted from new technology and a special services director to restructuring the administration and supporting new employees with an intensive development program, she said.
Since Brower has been superintendent, the district also has increased resources to classrooms with promethean boards, enacted backend systems to create more efficiencies, focused on professional development, embarked on a curriculum mapping project, implemented a kindergarten pilot program, hired new principals, modified the school district calendar and kickstarted a virtual learning program.
Currently the district is working to combat its dropout rate, which Brower is closely monitoring, she said. Administration is debriefing on every case and profiling students from start to finish to determine why a student dropped out or may drop out, if they can complete school and how the district can help.
“It’s a huge task,” she said. “I’m taking it very seriously. This has my full attention.”
With the new Four initiative, one that calls for students' involvement in four extracurricular activities in or outside of school, Brower believes that will help in addition to the virtual learning program and two new substance abuse counselors.
“I’m really proud of the board’s support for what we’ve done this year,” she said.
Brower will be initiating her “Listening and Doing” phase in January with a forum for the public, she said. There will be one in each school.
“It’s about the next step,” she said.
Through these sessions, Brower will learn the community’s wants and needs. This phase is ultimately about “carrying out a mission,” she said.
“It’s going to be me creating a list,” she said. “I have done that already but it’s going to be actionable items.”
In the upcoming year areas of focus include: a teacher evaluation program, work on implementing a full kindergarten program, taking stock on new programs such as enVision Math, further work in the technology department, analyzing data and setting improvement goals for student achievement and enhancing the Gifted and Talented program.
“We have three things we’re working on unveiling,” Brower teased, declining to be more specific.
In January, Brower will be presenting a State of the State on the district’s Curriculum Mapping Project and another on the Kindergarten Pilot
“It’s not as flashy but a lot is going on in the second half of the year,” she said.