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MSBA Commendation

 Recently, the Massachusetts School Building Authority commended the Leicester Public School District for its Middle School/Elementary School Educational Plan. This plan is a comprehensive document that describes the current state of education in our existing buildings along with our proposals for a new Pre-K to 8 school. We are also pleased to announce that school districts across the state who are thinking about building new schools are using Leicester’s Education Plan as an exemplar for moving forward.


This post is a summary of each topic within the plan. If you would like to read the entire document, just click the following link.  Leicester Middle School/Elementary School Education Plan

 

Leicester Public School’s Education plan is a list of what we would like the proposed Middle/ School/Elementary School to be:

  1.  Overall Vision - One building with two independent schools each with its own identity, name, principal and teaching staff; shared common areas such as the gymnasium and cafeteria
  2. Grade and School Configuration – Grade level separation to manage transitions safely, while allowing for connection and collaboration when needed; focus on academic neighborhoods, serving grade levels and subject areas
  3. Class Sizes – Reasonable class sizes determined by grade level with exceptions for classes in certain subject areas, the need for specialized instruction, and availability of classroom space and equipment – target range from 20:1 in kindergarten and 25:1 in high school
  4. School Scheduling – Upper school with rotating schedule, heterogeneously mixed; lower school self-contained classrooms with grade four teacher or student movement; appropriate staff planning and collaboration time and space
  5. Teaching Methodology and Structure – Focus on student-centered, project-based learning with the teacher as coach or guide; engaging hands-on activities that foster inquiry, research, and investigation; classrooms built to house “works in progress” to promote observation, discussion, and collaboration
  6. Teacher Planning and Room Assignment  – Teacher workspaces for each grade level team, allowing teachers to interact, create, plan, collaborate, and complete their work; consideration given to the level of privacy required for specific tasks
  7. Pre-Kindergarten – At least three preschool classrooms including a program for students with more intensive needs; programming that allows time for students with special needs to interact with neurotypical peers
  8. Kindergarten – Non-tuition based, full-time kindergarten with large enough classrooms to set up a variety of learning centers; carpeting in one area for reading and instruction and flooring in another for snacks and “messy” projects; adjacent to restrooms
  9. Lunch Program and Student Dining – A “cafetorium” that is centrally located with a well-equipped kitchen and two serving sides designed for maximum production; a space that promotes all-day student use and community use after-hours; retractable stadium-style seating for performances, presentations, and student assemblies
  10. Technology Instruction, Programming, and Infrastructure – Rigorous, student-centered learning in a safe and technology-rich environment; anytime, anywhere learning based on competency and mastery; high quality, high-speed technology, and infrastructure systems
  11. Art Program – Well-equipped primary and specialized art classrooms - the hub of visual art instruction, close proximity to the media center, video production, and language instruction; satellite studios for the execution of painting, assembly, and graphic design required across the curriculum
  12. Music and Performing Arts Programs - Dedicated music spaces with music rooms; instrument areas, visuals, music technology, and movement spaces; a performance space (cafetorium) with appropriate acoustics and state-of-the-art curtain, lighting, sound, recording, and video equipment
  13. Physical Education Program – A gymnasium complex that is a multifunctional space large enough for both schools to use at once for classes and combined school assemblies; locker rooms attached to the larger space; community access for large events
  14. Outdoor Learning and Exterior Spaces – Two playgrounds, one for Prek to K and the other for grades one to four; hard surface with basketball hoops and other features for all types of ball play; playing fields including a dedicated Middle School field appropriate for interscholastic football, soccer, and field hockey contests; other practice spaces for the Middle School and a baseball/softball field for interscholastic contests; restrooms that can be accessed from outside the building
  15. Library/Media Center - A centrally located space that serves as both a teaching area and a resource center for teachers, staff and students; satellite media resources located in various academic neighborhoods; a space for project-based activities that require strong media and data content; expert specialists that lead, teach, and support the entire school
  16. Special Education Programs – Fully integrated academic teams; ample classroom space, small group rooms, inclusion rooms, and space for administration, testing, meetings, de-escalation, and adaptive PE/OT; specialized programs like the Living and Learning Center
  17. Transportation, Drop-Off, Building Entrances – Separate locations for school buses and parent drop-off/pickup; safe pathway for students who walk to school away from bus traffic; entrances linked to employee badges; adequate parking for staff and visitors including for night events and athletics, adequate lighting on the building and parking lot; separate entrances for the upper and lower schools
  18. Spatial Relationships and Key Adjacencies – A welcoming environment for students, staff, and the community at large; ease and accessibility of use by the community; a connection between indoor and outdoor spaces that supports educational goals; learning neighborhoods with general education classrooms and common spaces to facilitate project-based learning, teaming, STEM and special education; shared teacher workspaces in each neighborhood; flexible classrooms that allow for integration of key subjects
  19. Security and Access – Electronic monitoring of exterior doors, unlocked by a card-based control system or a push-button intercom system; inner set of doors in the main vestibule locked at all times except for drop-off and pickup times; panic buttons throughout the building; cameras placed on all entry doors into the building, interior hallways, and shared spaces; system monitored by LPD 

 A great deal of thought and many hours went into preparing the Leicester Middle School/Elementary School Education Plan, but it was necessary in order to decide what type of school would be best for the Town of Leicester. We hope you will continue to learn about this project and reach out to the School Department with all of your questions and concerns.

 


 


Posted by colbyl  On Sep 02, 2019 at 4:04 PM
  
Today's Topic: Interdisciplinary Learning Interdisciplinary learning develops awareness and understanding of the connections and differences across subject areas and disciplines. Research shows that this type of instruction has many benefits:
  • Teacher collaboration
  • Student engagement
  • Higher level thinking
  • Content mastery
  • Real-world application
  • Non-fragmented learning

While many schools try to infuse interdisciplinary instruction into the curriculum, one barrier they face is the daily schedule. In most schools, the day is divided into periods during which students are exposed to one subject at a time. Each teacher has a specific responsibility to cover the material that is mandated by the state standards. Many teachers try to broaden the scope of their lessons and may even do some co-teaching. For example, if the subject is Ancient Egypt, the teacher may include a bit of history, literature, and the arts. This approach provides some relief for the problem of fragmented learning, but doesn’t really give students the chance to explore a subject in depth.

What is Leicester Doing?

To get around this barrier, Leicester Middle School has become very creative. This year, Friends of Leicester Middle School applied for a grant from the Osterman Family Foundation to finance The Innovation Hub at LMS. The Innovation Hub is an after-school enrichment program consisting of four activities: the Movie Club, the MakerSpace, the Audio/Visual Club, and the Robotics Club. The overall goal of the Innovation Hub is to provide opportunities for youth to learn and grow in creative areas that will prepare them for their future endeavors. By taking part in one or more of these activities, students are able to explore what interests them in much greater depth than they have time for in the classroom. And, they get to experience authentic learning at its best.

This year, one of the best examples of Interdisciplinary learning was an original film created and produced by the LMS Movie Club. The film, entitled Leicester Academy of Magic: The Book of Times to Come, is based on the popular Harry Potter series. It took hundreds of hours by many staff members and students to complete this project. Approximately 50% of the school community participated in it under the supervision of Ms. Minton and Mr. DePace. High school junior, Devyn Butkiewicus, spent countless hours filming, editing, and creating special effects. Ms. Dusty’s Art Club created artwork and set design for the film. Ms. Looney’s Band and Chorus recorded the soundtrack for the film. And through the community’s generosity, the crew was able to film at notable locations including Leicester Congregational Church, the Castle Restaurant, the historic Swan Tavern, the Leicester Town Common, and St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer.

The film project was a great success due to the commitment of everyone, especially Mr. DePace and Ms. Minton. They dream big and make their dreams become reality. Other key success factors are: Students and staff members WANTED to participate, even on their own time. The activities were extremely engaging and fun. Students were able to forge strong relationships with their teachers and other students, which might not have occurred without this project. The administration and staff were very supportive, providing flexibility during and after the school day to help make activities run smoothly. The community pitched in to volunteer when needed.

They say it takes a village, and the LMS community came together to provide a unique interdisciplinary learning opportunity for its students. They took on a complicated project that showcased students’ abilities and interests in the areas of art, drama, music, and technology. Anyone in attendance at the movie premiere will tell you that it was fabulous. Kudos for everyone who made it happen!

References Hayes Jacobs, H. (2019). The Growing Need for Interdisciplinary Curriculum Content. [online] Ascd.org. Available at: http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/61189156/chapters/The-Growing-Need-for-Interdisciplinary-Curriculum-Content.aspx [Accessed 14 Jun. 2019].

MacDonald, H. (2004). Why Teach with an Interdisciplinary Approach?. [online] Interdisciplinary Approaches to Teaching. Available at: https://serc.carleton.edu/econ/interdisciplinary/why.html [Accessed 14 Jun. 2019].













Posted by colbyl  On Jun 14, 2019 at 7:54 PM
  

New Exchange Teacher The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. State Department has selected Leicester Middle School to host a fully-funded teacher of Modern Standard Arabic as part of the 2019-2020 Teachers of Critical Languages Program (TCLP). The exchange teacher will be coming to the U.S from Egypt. This program is one of several State Department initiatives that support U.S. students, teachers, and professors in learning critical world languages through instruction in the U.S. and abroad.

To learn more about this exciting opportunity, please click HERE.


Posted by colbyl  On Apr 09, 2019 at 4:06 PM
  
Please click on the following link to see last week's School Department Recap.

March 1, 2019, School Department Recap
Posted by colbyl  On Mar 05, 2019 at 9:27 AM
  
There is movement state-wide to update the method for allocating funds to school districts. If you want to find out more about it, please join state legislators, school committee members, and school superintendents for a Community Forum on State Funding to Public Schools. Click on the following link to see the details.

Community Forum Flyer
Posted by colbyl  On Feb 13, 2019 at 10:56 PM
  

The School Department is facing a significant budget shortfall for next year:


Requested School Budget      $17,440,595

Town Proposed Budget           $16,881,790 ($9,755,847 - State; $7,125,943 - Town)

Deficit                                     $ 558,805


After conducting a comprehensive analysis, school administrators came up with two options for reducing expenses: close Memorial School or keep it open. This evening the School Committee unanimously voted to close Memorial School beginning with the 2019-2020 school year.


This decision was not made lightly. The group considered many factors such as maintaining educationally sound practices, the impact of potential actions on the Middle School building project, grade restructuring, the capacity of existing buildings, and much more.


This action means that the Pre-K will move to the High School, grades three and four will move to the Primary School, and grade five will move to the Middle School. This could mean that staff may be reduced by up to 13.6 FTEs, and 24 stipends could be eliminated.  


By adopting this plan, our schools:

  • Maintain educationally sound practices
  • Enrich programming at each school, including adding STEM education for elementary students
  • Minimize transitions for students
  • Provide handicapped accessibility for all students
  • House all students on one campus
  • Provide more efficient transportation
  • Utilize staff in a more efficient and effective way
  • Keep all current programs in place

There will be one-time construction costs, and the Memorial School will be vacant in the short term. However, there may be opportunities to lease the facility to other educational organizations or businesses. Under both options, there will be a reduction in staff, but the impact will not be as great under this plan.

Over the next few months, the School Department will be working diligently to bring this plan to fruition with as little disruption as possible.


Posted by colbyl  On Feb 12, 2019 at 7:34 PM
  

During part 2 of the Visioning workshop on January 29,  the Educational Working Group created a list of “Future-Ready” learning goals consisting of the following items:

  • Critical Thinking and Problem Solving - Prioritize, plan, and manage for results, access and analyze data, conduct quantitative and qualitative reasoning, and master core academic content
  • Caring, Empathy, and Humility - Exhibit service, compassion, integrity, ethics, citizenship, develop digital, social, and civic competencies and cultural awareness, and engage in multi-generational community activities
  • Adaptability, Initiative, and Risk-Taking - Inspire curiosity, imagination, confidence, inventive thinking, wonderful ideas, and joy of learning
  • Growth Mindset - Learn how to learn, take ownership of learning through self-direction, ask good questions, realize that failure is a learning tool and use it to improve
  • Effective Communication - Strengthen literacy skills to enable effective written and oral communication, especially with digital media
  • Effective Use of Real-World Tools - Increase productivity and expeditionary learning (learning by doing), enhance career and college preparation, and learn to know, do, be, and live together in an increasingly digital world
  • Leadership and Teamwork - Exhibit leadership and collaboration, take part in a positive competition, and develop strong interpersonal skills.

Click on the link to see the slides that were used for the first workshop.


Visioning Workshop One - Slide Presentation


Posted by colbyl  On Feb 12, 2019 at 8:21 AM
  
Every week I meet with my staff and others, as needed, to discuss what is going on in the schools, communicate important items, solicit feedback, and plan for the future. Starting today, I will be publishing a recap on a weekly basis. Click on the following link to see the recap from February 8, 2019:

School Department Weekly Recap - February 8, 2019
Posted by colbyl  On Feb 11, 2019 at 3:15 PM
  

At the first Visioning workshop on January 29,  the Educational Working Group created a list of priorities and considerations for the design of the renovated or new school.


Summary of Priorities and Considerations

  • Innovation and Engagement - Space that encourages student engagement, fits the school’s climate and curriculum, and more project-based learning spaces
  • Shared Culture - Warm and welcoming, efficient facility, and vertical alignment of professional learning communities
  • Community Access - Community use of the building, accessible restrooms when the building is closed.
  • Agile Classrooms/Flexible and Collaborative Spaces - Efficient classroom adjacencies to minimize travel time for students, flexible breakout spaces, well equipped with technology and storage
  • Outdoor Spaces and Connections - Age appropriate and accessible playgrounds, access to outdoor classroom spaces, and more fields
  • Sustainability/Ease of Maintenance - Environmentally-friendly facility, efficient building that is easy to maintain, and reasonable cost without sacrificing quality
  • Safety, Security, and Ease of Access - Building check-in that is safe and welcoming
  • Parking, Drop-off, and Pick-up - Big enough parking lot with separate area for drop-off
  • Unified Arts/Performance and Display Spaces - Large enough auditorium to support the district’s commitment to the arts, along with plenty of space to show off student work
  • Sufficient Resources - Adequate resources: books, materials, and technology

Click on the link to see the slides that were used for the first workshop.

Visioning Workshop One - Slide Presentation


 

Posted by colbyl  On Feb 07, 2019 at 5:22 PM
  

Educational Working Group

The architects for the Middle School Building Project, Finegold Alexander, the School Building Committee, and Dr. Marilyn Tencza, Superintendent of Schools, are bringing together a group of people to develop an educational vision for the proposed renovated or new Middle School in Leicester. The educational vision will be developed in a series of three “visioning” workshops.


Workshop 1 - January 29

The goals of the first workshop are to: 

  • Share priority goals for Leicester Public School’s master planning process and the design of the renovated and/or new Leicester Middle School.
  • Discuss 21st-century teaching and learning strategies and identify learning goals as connected to current and future best-practices within LPS’s K-12 schools.
  • Assess Leicester Public School’s strengths, challenges, opportunities, and goals (SCOG) with regard to the development of its academic programs and school facilities.
  • Share visions for the future evolution and growth of the LPS K-8 schools.
Workshop 2 - February 5 The goals of the second workshop are to:

  • Review and expand upon the learning goals and SCOG analysis for Leicester Public Schools.
  • Explore and prioritize a range of architectural design patterns that will best support 21st-century teaching and learning within LPS’s K-12 schools.
  • Understand the role that guiding principles play in setting facility design priorities and intent.
  • Create a set of guiding principles and priorities for the design of Leicester Middle School’s renovated or new facility.
  • Share blue sky Ideas for the design of Leicester Middle School’s renovated or new facility.

Workshop 3 - February 26

The goals of the third workshop are to:

  • Review a compilation of notes from workshop two, including priority design patterns, guiding principles and blue-sky ideas for the renovated or new Leicester Middle School facility.
  • Generate a listing of key spaces and adjacencies for the renovated or new facility.
  • Engage in a bubble diagramming activity to identify important spaces and adjacencies within the renovated or new facility.
  • Identify key points to share with the community about LPS’s design priorities for the renovated or new facility.

The education of our children is the school district's top priority, and any facility should reflect that. This committee will develop an educational vision that will put teaching and learning at the forefront prior to the beginning of renovations or new construction. The next steps will be for Finegold Alexander to conduct meetings with parents, students, and community members to get their feedback on what they are hoping to see in the new school. All voices need to be heard in this process.

Posted by colbyl  On Feb 07, 2019 at 3:17 PM
  
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