Back to school: From K to 12 and beyond

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

Southington Public Schools are not just preparing students for the first day of school, or readying the senior class to graduate in June of 2019. With the newly adopted “Vision of a Graduate,” school administration and staff are already planning for year 2031—the year that this year’s incoming kindergarteners will be entering the workforce or heading to college.

“Seventeen years down the road, what will the world of work look like for them? What career opportunities will they have? I don’t think we can really be sure,” said superintendent of schools, Tim Connellan.

The “vision of a graduate” is a statement that was adopted at the June Board of Education meeting after months of crafting with input from approximately 50 Southington stakeholders, including members of the Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, Southington Education Foundation, Town Council, BOE, PTO executive boards, SPS staff and faculty.

The final vision states: “A graduate of the Southington Public Schools will be college or career ready, and prepared for life beyond by mastering the knowledge and demonstrating the skills to communicate effectively, think creatively and critically, and contribute to the global economy.”

Connellan said, in today’s world, knowledge is a commodity. Today’s sixth graders, around age 11, have never known a world without a smart phone. Planning for 17 years down the road, he said, is difficult because it’s a world of unknowns.

“We can ask Siri, or Google, anything, in seconds,” he said. “What our students will need to do is demonstrate what they can do with that knowledge. They will need to be excellent communicators, excellent collaborators, exhibit good citizenship, and be creative thinkers and problem solvers.”

SPS’s long-term vision at this time is to implement the strategies that will help them to realize that vision for students. That involves strong communication and collaboration with all staff members, starting from the top in a curriculum leadership team that will review, help and coach teachers in writing their classroom’s units and lessons.

“We have excellent folks who are experts in their content areas, who have gone through training. We will work in a backwards design model: we look at where we need to be in the end, and design off that,” said Connellan. “This is really exciting, because it means we’re focusing on curriculum renewal. It’s a moral imperative for me.”

The vision of a graduate has been a big task this summer for SPS, but other ongoing work has not slowed down because of it. Projects like sidewalk repairs, re-painting of interiors, installment of new fiber-optic cables at the high school and general tidying up have persisted.

Connellan championed a greater collaboration with town departments for some of the construction projects, in particular the sidewalk repairs, and made particular note that work with the Southington Police Department has been “amazing.”

“Safety of our students is our number one priority,” he said. “The SPD has dedicated their resources to help us review every school’s safety and security plan, and made suggestions, identified areas that need to be addressed, answered every question and have continued to work with us.”

This year, SPS have increased their visitor security. They are in the works of training teachers on option-based responses to immediate threatening situations, and will soon reach out to parents, then eventually students, to do the same. Staff and SPD will be trained on what to do in an active shooter situation prior to the start of school.

SPS has also implemented an emergency notification system “EverBridge” that will give parents and teachers options on how to receive real-time notifications from SPS and SPD.

“It has been a busy summer, but these are all good things. We are all looking forward to the first day of school, like always,” Connellan said.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email us her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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