Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Superintendent Ahern - Community Forum Recap - Nov 30, 2017

Newly appointed Franklin Superintendent of Schools, Sara E. Ahern, held a forum at the Municipal Building on November 30, 2017 to provide a chance for community members to meet and share their concerns and for her to discuss her approach to school management. 

The meeting commenced at 6:30 PM with an overview provided by Ahern. She first described the four primary initiatives within the 2017-2018 District Improvement Plan: Social-emotional learning, curriculum and instruction, collaborative culture, and two-way communication. In pursuing these initiatives, she said she is starting with stakeholder engagement through events such as the forum and similar events held with faculty, administration, school committee, and small groups of parents. 

Based on input from these sessions, Ahern said she hopes to identify themes and patterns that will help her to understand concerns and problems needing attention. She said she will then report on those findings to the district as a first step in developing a strategy for implementing improvements.

Ahern explained that her goal is to provide “stakeholder” (parents, faculty, etc.) awareness and “investment” in the District’s Strategy. In other words, she emphasized; she plans to listen. 

One of the attendees expressed appreciation for that approach and said she had “tried for five years to get an appointment with the previous superintendent and couldn’t even get a return phone call.”

She and others commented about concerns such as extremely short recess periods that they felt were not conducive to learning in young children. Similar comments were aired regarding lunch periods that were perceived as being too short for a child to eat and snack breaks for young children as late as 11 AM.

Another parent raised a concern regarding frequent changes in math curriculum that required his child to relearn fundamental skills in a new way in order to move ahead. Ahern said some of those shifts were driven by external changes in state mandates. The future, she said, would likely be less chaotic.

A parent whose children are no longer in the system, expressed concern that Franklin schools were perhaps not measuring up to their public reputation, since most were ranked as “level 2” [In a Massachusetts 1-5 ranking system]. “Only the high school is level 1,” he said. Ahern, for her part, said that the high school is actually now also ranked as level 2. However, she noted, the rankings can be misleading since they measure improvements and the standards by which they are measured shift. Therefore, she explained, even a top-rank school can have its designation reduced simply because it hasn’t improved further.

Ahern closed the meeting with an invitation to participants to reconnect at any time.

Submitted by Franklin Matters contributor Alan Earls

The handout Superintendent Ahern talked to for her overview:

The MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) published the district scorecard. The scorecard and supporting information for Franklin can be found here

Superintendent Ahern - Community Forum Recap - Nov 30, 2017
Superintendent Ahern - Community Forum Recap - Nov 30, 2017

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