Derry School District Puts Strategic Plan into Action

The Strategic Plan for the Derry Cooperative School District is working on every level, in every school.

Superintendent Laura Nelson gave a quarterly update on the plan at the March 25 School Board meeting.

Nelson said the Strategic Plan called for each school to work on fulfilling each of the plan’s three goals, plus the subgoals.

The first main goal of the plan is, “To have all students, K-12, learning at a high level by: Providing a rigorous curriculum aligned with the Common Core for all students.”

For Derry Village Elementary School, that meant doubling remedial reading time for struggling readers; for Ernest P. Barka Elementary, it meant leveled “book clubs” and a final project; for Grinnell Elementary, it meant a faculty reflection on an article, “Five Things Every Teacher Should Be Doing To Meet The Common Core Standards.”

Having a high quality teacher in each classroom meant, at East Derry Memorial Elementary School, “mentor” teachers meeting with their “mentees;” at Grinnell, it meant meeting with a Data Coach; and at South Range Elementary, social media was studied as an education tool.

Integrating technology throughout the curriculum meant, at South Range, the purchase of two “document cameras;” at East Derry Memorial, that meant integration of “Chromebooks” (see related story page 3); at Grinnell, it meant staff workshops.

Working closely with Pinkerton Academy, Next Charter High School, and all high school facilities that serve Derry meant, at West Running Brook Middle School, career classes in line with Pinkerton’s Career & Technical Education (CTE) program. At Gilbert H. Hood Middle School, that meant working with a high school liaison; and at South Range, it meant students job-shadowing teachers.

The second main goal is “To Provide a Safe, Positive School Environment that Promotes Learning and Well-Being by: Ensuring that all district facilities are well maintained and safe for students, staff and visitors.”

At Grinnell that meant lock-down drills and fire drills in October; at Derry Village it meant monthly safety “walk-throughs;” and at Barka it meant a Nutrition Unit for fourth-graders, where they learned about analyzing food choices, reading labels and food safety.

Working to ensure that building infrastructure supports the implementation of technology into the curriculum, for South Range meant identifying a need for more electrical outlets; for the School Administrative Unit (SAU) Leadership Team, it meant wireless and fiber optics “to keep us current.”

Encouraging positive relationships and interactions throughout the school community meant, at Hood, posting behavioral expectations in all classrooms; at Barka it meant a Weight Watchers unit formed for faculty and staff; at Grinnell it meant several assemblies designed to recognize the PIE (Positive Attitude, Improvement and Effort) program.

Other subcategories include developing and maintaining a long-range plan to ensure facilities are appropriate and meet the needs of the student population, and fostering awareness of sustainability and environmental stewardship.

The third main goal is to increase community involvement, and it was dealt with in the following ways:

Ensuring timely communication between schools, parents, staff and students.

That meant at West Running Brook, a feedback form on the school Web page; at Grinnell, a Twitter account parents can access; at Barka, two parent coffee hours sponsored by the Guidance Department.

Engaging the wider Derry community: at East Derry, it meant creating a float for the Derry Holiday Parade; at Derry Village and West Running Brook, a community service initiative that allows West Running Brook students to earn credits by volunteering at the elementary school; at the district level, it meant Assistant Superintendent MaryAnn Connors-Krikorian working with the community and school district on Cyber Safety.

Encouraging and supporting parent involvement at South Range meant a family Math and Reading Night; at Barka, a representative from each grade level attending Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings; at Hood, “communicating clearly, appropriately and in a timely manner with students, parents and staff members.”

“It’s a lot of work,” newly-elected Board Chairman Neal Ochs observed.

“It is very comprehensive, and gives us a structure to move forward,” Nelson said. “It gives us all accountability. And it is a living document, so we are constantly aware of it.”