Commentary

Tom Forcella: What we’re doing on our summer ‘vacation’

August 2, 2013 

Tom Forcella

CHAPEL HILL-CARRBORO CITY SCHOOL

Over the years, many people have asked me, “What exactly do school people do when the students are gone?”

Well, everything seems to fall into one of two categories. Our team is either catching up on all the to-do list items that could not be completed when students were on campus, or preparing for the new school year. While we would love to catch our breath and celebrate the success stories of the recently completed year, the reality is our students will be returning in just a few weeks and we have no option other than to be ready for what projects to be a rewarding and productive year.

There is much work to be done to make sure every school and every classroom will be ready for our students.

Here are a few examples:

Our Office of Human Resources is busy recruiting, hiring and training new employees. In fact, they have hired more than 80 certified staff members thus far. They are working especially close with our newly constructed Northside Elementary and our first ever magnet school, Frank Porter Graham Elementary, to ensure those schools are fully staffed. Additionally, they are rolling out a new software platform for educator evaluations that requires training for school administrators.

All school districts in North Carolina are migrating to a new instructional improvement and student information system for teachers, students, parents and administrators. The new system is called Home Base. Teachers will be able to use Home Base to access student data as well as teaching and learning resources. Students will be able to access their schoolwork, grades, and learning activities. Parents will eventually be able to view their child’s attendance and progress, and administrators can monitor data on students, teachers and schools. Staff members are busy preparing for the launch of this major project.

The IT department has been working in July and August on several projects to increase the performance and reliability of the district’s technology assets. The wireless networks in our high schools have been expanded to provide more robust coverage throughout the schools. Thousands of computers have been re-imaged to provide teachers and students with updated tools. In addition, the district’s finance, human resources, and telephone systems have been moved to cloud solutions reducing management and cooling costs for the district.

Principals, assistant principals and district leaders have been working with a trainer from the Institute for Learning (aligned with the University of Pittsburgh) to generate new ways of assessing classroom instruction and providing helpful feedback to teachers. This work will assist our leaders and teachers with the implementation of the new Common Core.

District leaders have been putting the finishing touches on the new Long Range Plan to be implemented this fall. Twenty-eight specific strategies have been created to assist us in meeting the goals of our mission and vision. More to come on this initiative in my next column.

Detailed descriptions of the work being done would more than fill up this newspaper. I did not have room to discuss the very detailed budget work being accomplished by our finance team while they simultaneously close out our fiscal year on June 30 and begin afresh on July 1, nor the many work orders being filled by our maintenance team. Summer camps and summer school are both off to a great start as well.

In just 22 days more than 12,000 students will be walking through our schoolhouse doors. We are excited and we will be ready… but only because of the hard work of our dedicated staff.

Enjoy the remainder of your summer, and I look forward to seeing you in late August.

Tom Forcella is the superintendent of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

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