Last Week Marlboro Superintendent Michael Brooks presented information to the school board and the public on the district receiving $4,587,463 in new Federal Funds. It will be divided up into $160,059 in the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief [GEER]; $1,647,370 for Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security [CARES], and $2,780,034 from the American Relief Plan [ARP]. He said the board, principals and the Teachers Association have all been briefed about the process in the last few weeks.
“There is some flexibility in this grant structure so you can spend it in one, two and in some cases in three or four years,” he said. “We are most likely going to take an approach that the bulk of this money will be spent in the 2021-21 school year.”
Brooks said money can be spent to provide a clean and healthy learning environment, such as purchasing new furniture that is easier to clean, safety devices such as vaping detectors, barriers or to completely wire the district’s large generator. He said the district can also charge back to March of 2020 their costs for cleaning supplies and PPE materials.
Brooks said they can utilize the money to modernize their public address system for emergency communication, upgrade their computer network to support computer operations as well as their wireless system.
“The way that I describe this is it’s the stuff behind the walls and above the ceilings to support our computer network,” he said.
Brooks said any teaching or assistant positions that he suggests will be tenure- waived and for 1 year. In this case, the grant will pay for 1 computer technician.
Brooks highlighted Digital Learning Technology, calling it, “the stuff that is inside our classrooms, these are the devices that people touch.” He said this part of the grant can be used to upgrade school computer labs, classroom computers, smart-boards, ensuring that classrooms are digitally connected, and purchasing needed software. He suggested hiring two part time teaching assistants for technology support.
Brooks said funds can be used to help Offset Learning Loss that may have occurred this past year during the pandemic. He said the district will have to spend a significant amount of time assessing how students fared during the virtual learning of 2020 and into 2021; “figuring where did we get and not get with our children…and intervening wherever they have academic need.” He said they will be looking at the before and after school programs, broadening the districts summer offerings and improving and/or increasing daytime interventions.
“Really it’s support for vulnerable students, whatever led to that vulnerability,” he said.
To help in this critical area, Brooks proposed short term hiring of 4 early intervention teachers – 2 for kindergarten and 2 for first grade; a Literacy Coach that would be assigned to instruct staff and students on how to advance literacy; a part time reading Academic Intervention Services teacher at the Middle School; a part time Math teacher also at the Middle School; one additional Occupational Therapist; an additional Speech Therapist and one English as a New Language teacher with an assistant.
Brooks stressed the importance of providing Social-Emotional Support for the students and staff. He suggested adding more recess equipment outside of the buildings to encourage unstructured play and recreation and adding 2 school psychologists and 3 Social Workers, who can also be available for families when needed.
Brooks expects these positions will be on the agenda for the June 17th school board meeting.
“Under the rules of these grants I have to post my proposal on or before June 15. It is my intention to meet that deadline because it’s either submit it or don’t get it,” he said.
A Simple Thank You
Superintendent Brooks informed the public and the board of a communication that was sent to Athletic Director Jonnah O’Donnell.
“We got a communication through our Athletic Office that praised our athletes and our coaching staff for the year. There was a resounding thank you about how they carried through with the very difficult Covid protocols during the season this year. Officials and other athletic directors and coaches actually took it upon themselves to communicate with Jonnah about how impressed they were, especially with the mask piece, because that was most challenging for our athletes. I just want to publicly thank our coaches and athletes for being such wonderful role models, wonderful people, rule-followers and projecting fantastic things for the Marlboro School District and therefore, for yourselves. So thank you very much.”
Robin Hecht, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, touched upon the district’s after school academic intervention programs as part of an update for the Return To Learn initiative. She said during an initial 4 week program, aimed at helping struggling students, the district assisted 42 high school students, 66 middle school students and 20 elementary students. The program was then extended and is now ongoing. Hecht said they have included Spanish and their English as a New Language [ENL] population and take on students when there is a need.
“It’s been a revolving door and as a student gets caught up we continue to add additional students,” she said.
Hecht said they met the quota in both the high school and middle school but were only able to serve kindergarten, first and fifth at the elementary level.
“That’s where we fell short and probably serviced about a third of the students that we had wanted to there,” she said. “But we were very fortunate that you [school board] also approved prior to that, a program for Academic Intervention Services and we were trying to pick up a lot of the students there.”
6th Period Assignments
Brooks projected a slide on four 6th period assignments for the 2021-22 school year: at the high school Special Education, Spanish and Art and Health at the Middle School, all dependent on enrollment.
Brooks said, “These are budgeted items. I wait until the end of the school year to make final determinations from the middle and high schools based on our class counts and our enrollments. This is a very cost effective way to add sections on for those programs.”