The school district and municipality are two separate entities with different rules, budgets and purposes, yet our challenges and successes can be intertwined. A healthy, thriving school district will continue to attract new residents and keep our property values high. When Dr. Melissa Friez became superintendent, she offered to write a column to help us keep you informed of her plans and priorities. We are thrilled to present you with her first update.
The first five months of my time at Mt. Lebanon School District have been very busy and rewarding. I have enjoyed speaking with and getting to know students, staff, families and community members in schools, during walks to school, at meet and greets, sporting events, arts activities and around the community.
Our theme for this school year is Building on the Success of our Past, while Forging a New Future. Our team is focused on meeting our goals: analyze, make recommendations, and implement improvements for the optimal use of district personnel; curriculum, instruction, and professional development, student services, and the special education department; culture and environment for teaching and learning; and communication. We have accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time due to the dedicated administration and staff who are working collaboratively to achieve our goals.
In November, the district ratified a five-year contract with Mt. Lebanon Education Association (MLEA). This agreement provides for increased wages which keep Mt. Lebanon competitive and will allow us to continue providing a premier and comprehensive educational experience for our students and families, in a financially responsible way.
The agreement also contains increases in health care contributions by association members and updated language in several areas including leaves, professional development, academic reimbursements, standards for use of compensatory time, preparation time, flexible learning and extra duty remuneration.
These negotiations were professional and collaborative, and resulted in an agreement that reflects the valued relationship we have with MLEA. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with them.
In October, the district began its effort to strengthen our students with a new English language arts experience by piloting a new core text resource in grades K-5 throughout the district. Initially, a review of four core resources was conducted by elementary teachers/facilitators, reading specialists, special education teachers and principals.
The two core resources that received the highest scores were selected to be piloted. They are Into Reading: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, publisher and Wonders: McGraw Hill, publisher. Forty-six teachers signed up to pilot these two core resources through March. At the end of the pilot period, the core resources will be evaluated to determine which will be recommended to the board of school directors for adoption. We will develop an implementation plan based on the program selected.
This year, we are working on new strategies, finding various ways to engage our community. In August, we introduced a new streamlined approach to communications that includes school-based newsletters. This district-wide email, sent once a week during the school year, shares district news and links to each school’s newsletter. We encourage all members of the community to sign up for our newsletters via our website, mtlsd.org.
Additionally, there is a bi-weekly district-wide staff email that streamlines communication to employees. Another way to engage our community is through the implementation of a business roundtable, which allows me to hear from our community partners. This year we will hold two business roundtable meetings. The business roundtable is an opportunity to engage with local business stakeholders. Our first meeting was held in October and our next meeting will be Tuesday, March 12. In the spring, we will begin Strides with the Superintendent. This will be an opportunity for Gold Card members—residents of the Mt. Lebanon Municipality who are 62 or older—to meet with me and hear more about the school district.
As we prepare for the start of the second semester in January, we will continue our work to meet the needs of our students, staff, and families. First is the addition of School Based Behavioral Health (SBBH) provided by the Bradley Center. I am pleased that we are able to bring this service to the district.
SBBH brings together schools, county mental health programs and community resources to develop a continuum of services that enable children to have their educational and mental health needs met within their school. These resources are accessed through the Student Assistance Program in each school.
The Bradley Center offers a tiered approach to behavioral health supports including assessments; assistance with transitions from a more restrictive school placement or hospitalization; professional development, individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy, psychiatric services, psychiatric evaluation and medication management.
The creation of a professional development committee, composed of administrators, teachers and support staff, is being created to help plan professional learning for the next school year. This committee’s focus will be to continue to grow the knowledge and skills of our professionals.
Continued enhanced training on safety and security for our staff and students is critical. And finally, I would like to welcome the addition of Dr. Joseph Sciullo as our Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education. Dr. Sciullo has a range of experience in special education, elementary education, teaching, administration, and student services, and his talents will serve our elementary students and families well.
A lot more is happening in the district, but these highlights give you a sense of our efforts to improve the district and to provide the best education possible to each and every student. I look forward to future articles in the magazine where I can share our progress toward building on the success of our past, while forging a new future for our district.