REGION 4— Region 4 schools open Thursday for the 2013-2014 academic year, with expanded technology in the classrooms, a new teacher evaluation process, and cameras on all school buses among the enhancements awaiting students in the new year. About 2,100 students in grades kindergarten through 12 are expected to return to the five district schools, with teachers and other district staff returning on Monday to prepare for the opening day.
Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy said Friday that technology will expend throughout the district, particularly in the primary grades, with about 125 iPads purchased for use in various classrooms. Elementary school students will learn additional keyboarding skills as the year progresses. Levy said the district will begin implementing a new teacher evaluation plan, a step that is linked to instruction for new Common Core State Standards that were required as part of the statewide education reform legislation approved in 2012.
Levy said video cameras will now be in place on all 17 of the First Student Inc. buses that transport district students. In recent years, three cameras have been rotated among the buses over the course of a year. There have also been improvements to school security in response to the Newtown elementary school murders last December. Visitors will be buzzed in to all schools, and will be required to leave a drivers license or some other identification with the office during their visit. Staff, substitute teachers, and visitors will all have color coded ID badges while in the buildings during school hours.
The school year begins with 16 new full and part-time professional staff. Tyson Stoddard, who started working in the district in July, is the new supervisor of pupil services, a new position assisting Director of Pupil Services Tracy Johnston is coordinating special education services in the five schools. Stoddard had worked previously as special education coordinator for the Plymouth school system.
New teachers at Valley Regional High School include Kevin Woods-special education, Sarah Rubelmann-special education, Elizabeth Nischan-English, Amy Farotti-science, para-educator Nancylynn Maselli, and Lori Sullivan as a half-time art teacher. Catherine Vashel is the new math tutor at John Winthrop Middle School. New positions funded through the supervision district include Christine Corcoran as a new half-time instrumental music teacher, and Susan Alfiero-Bavasso as a four-tenths time speech and language pathology therapist.
Kirsten Reynolds is the new network technician at Essex Elementary School, with Katie Duncan in a new one-third time para-educator position. Caitlyn Hardy is a new teacher and Julie Papalia a new long-term substitute at Deep River Elementary School. Pamela Baclaski is the new remedial reading teacher and Marijane Mantie is returning as a teacher at Chester Elementary School. Mantie had worked at the Chester school in the 2011-2012 school year, but was laid off last year due to a drop in student enrollment. She has been rehired to replace a retired teacher. Grade assignments for the elementary school teachers are still being determined.
While schools open Thursday, there will be no classes on Thursday Sept. 5 for the Rosh Hashanah Jewish holiday. Students will have Oct. 14, Columbus Day, off but school will be in session for district staff as a professional development day. Schools will be open on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, with special programs on veterans to be presented during the school day. This is a change from last year, when school was in session for Columbus Day and closed on Veterans Day.