In Avon Grove, great expectations as new school year begins
By Steven Hoffman
The Avon Grove School District welcomed back approximately 5,115 students for the 2014-15 school year on Aug. 25. Three days later, there was a strong sense of optimism at the school board meeting.
Superintendent Dr. Christopher Marchese said that as he toured the schools on the first day of classes, it was obvious that the high hopes that administrators have for the upcoming school year are matched by the enthusiasm of the staff and students.
“The enthusiasm of the students and the high level of energy for the staff were quite evident,” he explained.
District officials lauded educational consultant Alan November for the engaging series of workshops that he conducted to kick off the school year for administrators and teachers.
Marchese said that numerous professional development activities are planned throughout the school year to enhance the teaching and learning that takes place in the classroom.
“We have an exciting year planned when it comes to training,” Marchese said. “I think the future is very bright in Avon Grove.”
A step toward that bright future involves the development of the district’s next strategic plan. Both Marchese and school board president Brian Gaerity offered praise for the strategic planning process that is currently taking place.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Margaret Sharp said that thirty-five people, representing 50 stakeholder groups, took part in the first two days of co-labs.
The thirty-five people represented a cross-section of the community, including students in the district. Sharp said that there was one administrator and one teacher from each of the school buildings. There is a parent representing each school community, and those parents also represent different student-groups—for example one parent would have a child who is classified as gifted, another parent would have a child who is an English language learner, etc.
“Lots of points of view were represented,” Gaerity said.
School board member William Sites, who was one of the 35 members of the co-labs, said of the co-labs: “It was a diversified group and there were a lot of opinions.”
Gaerity said that more than 115 ideas were discussed during the co-labs and every person at the table had an equal voice when it came to the discussions.
“It is truly a democratic process in the truest sense of the word,” said Gaerity. “It is an impressive process. I think it has been incredibly effective.”
The next two days of co-labs will take place on Sept. 5 and 6. The work from the co-labs will help shape the strategic plan. A preliminary draft of the plan is expected to be presented to the school board on Oct. 9. A final strategic plan is expected to be submitted for approval to the state in November.
“We have an aggressive timeline once we get through the co-labs,” Marchese said..
In a welcome back message from Marchese, he talked about upgrades to the security system at both the middle school and high school. Projects that have been completed over the summer include the installation of additional security cameras and an electronic system to lock and secure exterior doors. Security fencing has also been installed on both campuses around the modular classrooms to ensure a secure perimeter. Gates will permit students and school personnel to exit the fenced-in areas in the event of an emergency. All plans were approved for fire safety and township code enforcement.
An additional security measure will make it necessary for all parents, volunteers, delivery personnel or contractors who visit any district building during the school day to show a valid, state-issued ID in order to get a visitor’s badge. The ID will be entered into a Raptor monitoring system, which is connected to a law enforcement database that will provide an alert if a known concern exists.
“We believe the additional security measures that include secured access, electronic locks, additional cameras, and fencing will help improve campus safety, and we thank you in advance for your cooperation in presenting a valid state-issued ID when visiting the school facilities.”
In other business, the school board approved a contract for legal services with the firm of Sweet, Stevens, Katz, & Williams, LLP.
The Avon Grove School Board will meet again on Thursday, September 11 and Thursday, September 25. Both meetings will take place at 7:30 in the Avon Grove Intermediate School Audion.
To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email firstname.lastname@example.org.