Martin wants KCSD students to flourish in new school year
By CHRIS MORELLI
MILL HALL — A new school year. A clean slate. A fresh start.
With the 2019-2020 school year right around the corner, students in the Keystone Central School District are preparing for the year ahead.
The KCSD administration is ready as well.
In the coming days, families should be on the lookout for a letter from superintendent Jacquelyn Martin. The letter outlines some changes, some new expectations and a general outlook for the upcoming year.
Parents and students will be hearing a lot about the ABCs — attendance, behavior and coursework.
Martin is hopeful that the letter will open up the lines of communication between parents and the district.
“We’ve been working very diligently to improve communication efforts for the upcoming school year,” Martin said. “In order for us to develop trusting relationships, we must improve communication.”
Martin said that the communication “chain” is extremely important for the district to run smoothly.
“When people have a concern, I want them to get support for solving the problem. The purpose of the communication chain is to provide family and community members with direction on who to go to to solve their problems, issues or concerns,” Martin said.
For example, Martin said that if a parent has a concern about something happening at an elementary school, they should contact that school first.
“You’ve got to start with the teacher, the counselor, the principal,” Martin said. “They’re going to get a faster, more direct response in solving the issue. I expect my staff to be responsive to families and their needs.”
In the end, Martin said, it’s all about getting people answers in a timely fashion.
“We’re trying to increase customer satisfaction,” she said. “I think that customer satisfaction will help us develop the trusting relationships we were seeking between parents and district staff members.”
Here’s a closer look at Keystone Central’s ABCs:
Martin, along with director of pupil services Christina Manning, recently revised the district’s attendance policy. Changes in the policy have been a long time coming, Martin said.
“Attendance has clearly been on my agenda since I’ve been here. Recent changes in attendance laws will go a long way for helping us to improve regular attendance for students,” Martin said.
To help improve attendance, parents will be receiving alert messages when their child is absent. Messages will come via email, phone call and text. A note will need to be provided within three days, or the absence will be considered unlawful. Students with three unlawful/unexcused absences will be required to attend an Attendance Improvement Conference with parents/guardians to develop a plan to support attendance.
Absences will only be excused for the following reasons:
∫ Impassable roads/natural disaster
∫ Court appearance
∫ Death in the family
∫ Educational trip (with prior approval)
∫ Recovery from an accident or injury
Students who miss more than 18 days of school at the secondary level will suffer a loss of privileges.
“We’re enforcing protocols to adhere to the policy,” Martin said.
Schools in the district will continue to implement Positive Behavior Intervention Support programs. This means the district will use proactive strategies for defining, teaching and supporting student behavior resulting in academic and social gains and a positive school environment for academic and social success.
According to Martin, bullying has been an issue in the district. She’s trying to change that.
“We know that from our plan. Overall, we need to cultivate a safe and supportive environment conducive to learning,” Martin said.
Martin said that bullying is an issue everywhere. However, it rears its ugly head quite a lot at certain grade levels.
“It’s been really significant here, especially at our middle school,” Martin said.
When Martin took over as superintendent, eliminating bullying was another one of her priorities.
“What we discovered was that it was really a small group of kids who were repeat offenders,” Martin said, “and the repeat offenders are the ones ruining it for everyone else. The kids told me they don’t like (bullying).”
The district contracted with Nittany Learning Services, which aids students who are struggling with behavior and academic issues.
“It’s a customized learning program,” Martin said.
According to Martin, learning is the district’s fundamental purpose.
“I stand by that,” Martin said. “We are here to grow kids.”
To that end, teachers will keep parents informed about progress and any concerns throughout each marking period. The district has added a new STEM (Science, Technology, Engineered, and Math)) for all K-5 classes. According to Martin, students will be able to use math and science concepts to solve problems and create innovative ideas.
The first day of school in the district is Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Martin said that she’s excited to hit the ground running on her first full year as superintendent.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to set the expectations for our school year as well as set the support,” Martin said. “High expectations, high support.”