As our first four months of school round the bend to the start of the new year and beginning of the fifth month of school, the energy and practice of outstanding teaching and learning are evident everywhere.
My calendar includes scheduled bi-weekly visits to each of our five schools. Our school leaders, teachers and staff work together to provide a learning environment that is safe and provides opportunities for students to truly connect to learning. This happens because members of our school community are dedicated to providing the best possible learning environment for students; RSD 13 is a model district for dedicated, caring, and conscientious staff members.
As the administration and board move forward strategic planning for a dynamic future, which includes decision-making about grade configuration at the elementary school, they encourage members of the community to participate in a one question survey regarding grade configuration preference. An online survey can be accessed at rsd13ct.org and on each town’s website. Paper copies are also available at both town halls.
Our collective commitment to every student is stated in our mission statement, “Through engagement in authentic learning, all Regional School District 13 students are empowered to thrive and contribute as global citizens.”
Our strategic coherence goals, which are organized around student achievement, well-being and engagement, outline the actions we use in order to deliver on the pledge we make to all students in our mission statement. This year we continue to make deliberate progress towards our students becoming thriving and contributing global citizens by designing and supporting opportunities for them to make important connections beyond the RSD 13 district and classroom.
Our school leaders and staff arrange opportunities for students through in-school learning which can include bringing people and events into our schools as well as out-of-school learning opportunities.To bring this to life, I’d like to share a few examples with you this month.
In November, our students at the elementary and middle schools hosted local veterans and learned about the contribution of men and women in the military. Our students listened to stories and saw through the experience of family and community members the impact these people have and continue to have on the world.
The career exploration program at Coginchaug is designed to provide students with real-world experience in identified areas of career-interest by working in partnership with nearby businesses and industries, schools, medical facilities, government, and other community and service organizations.
The job shadow experience helps assist students in defining their focus for postsecondary education and employment by affording them authentic opportunities to apply what they learn in the classroom to the world of work. Our students have given us very positive feedback about the impact this has had on their plans for the future.
Guests come to the high school to talk with students about various careers. Students are able to participate in job placement in areas ranging from learning about a career in welding to interviewing an FBI agent and students participate in mock interviews where they receive direct and real timely feedback. Our students report feeling so much more informed about what various career choices entail. Most importantly they have already started the networking and career support process in high school that will contribute to their future success.
As part of our commitment to understanding and promoting equity in our district, we have started the process of establishing a partnership with the Middletown Public School district. Our Equity Committee includes the First Selectmen of Durham and Middlefield, members of the Independent Day School and Middletown Public School staff. This committee identified the organization of a partnership with MPS within the framework of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics as a means of advancing our equity and diversity efforts.
Recently, a small group of RSD 13 staff and administration visited several Middletown schools and observed their high school Engineering and Robotics and Advanced Placement Computer Science classes as well as elementary and middle school STEM classes. This partnership is aligned with our current practices at Strong Middle School in our Innovation Lab as well as our current work at CRHS in coding and robotics. Our projected plans for the immediate future include engineering and computer science courses at CRHS. We are energized by the opportunity to work with a neighboring school district to provide opportunities for our students to learn and work together.
China “Friendship and Partnership”
Recently, our initial visiting team returned from China. While there, we learned about Chinese history, culture and the educational system. This initial visit was intended to assist us in planning next year’s visit to China for Coginchaug students. We were introduced to our partner school, Tongji High School of Ningbo City, Zhejiang Province. At our partner school we met school leaders, teachers, food service staff and students. We toured school buildings and grounds, observed classes, discussed lessons, and finalized and signed a “Friendship and Partnership” memorandum of agreement.
Our agreement includes the exploration of new directions for the “development of education and teaching that are purposeful through the theme of STEAM and online communication projects.” This agreement also includes a provision for visits for teachers and students to eachother’s schools in order to provide real-world experiences to develop cooperation dedicated to education and teaching.
Our initial plan includes welcoming Tongji students from China next fall for 10 days to two weeks and sending our students the following spring for nine days. Our partner school has a well-developed astronomy program which we look forward to learning more about. The school is exceedingly proud of this program which has, in addition to a collection of impressive telescopes, a planetarium where we were able to observe a display of illuminated constellations.
A presentation on this trip and an outline of our partnership program will be shared at the Jan. 9 Board of Education meeting.
We know that our students’ learning is more authentic when they are able to work with others who offer perspectives and experiences that differ from their own. Our afternoon in the planetarium at Tongji confirmed for us that although geographic locations can separate us, we are all global citizens living under the same sky. When people visit our district, or when our students are on field trips or attend events outside of school, we consistently receive positive feedback about the impression they make.
If I were to summarize the content of the affirming comments, it is that through words and deeds, our core ethical values are evident. The world needs Regional School District 13 students to thrive and contribute as global citizens because they so authentically embody respect, responsibility, kindness, honesty and courage. Near or far, our students have what it takes to illuminate their world.
Kathy Veronesi is RSD13 Superintendent of Schools.
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