The Hewlett-Woodmere School District is doing its best to forecast, or at least prepare for, the future. Hewlett 2025 is the school district’s seven-year plan to create the best possible environment for future students, using input from staff members, current students, parents and community members.
The district’s website lists the program’s goals: “to ensure the district’s continued success; to serve the community; to achieve their hopes, dreams and aspirations; to en-sure that resources are in place to support their programs and services through 2025 and beyond; to make sure they continue to do the right work; to permit stakeholders to have a voice in the course they take going forward and to ensure a thoughtful, purposeful, inclusive and collaborative process.”
The initiative began in 2016, with the formation of a 21-member strategic planning team. Now numbering 19, the team includes middle school and high school students, teachers, teacher’s assistants, non-instructional staff members, Central Council PTA members, community members, administrators from Five Towns private, a Hewlett-Woodmere school building administrator, a district administrator, a Board of Education trustee and Superintendent Ralph Marino Jr.
Marino ex-plained the plan’s evolution. “The first year was all about surveying our stakeholders — that was a yearlong project,” he said. “Last year we took all that stakeholder survey data and wrote the plan. This is the first year of seven years of implementation.”
Student-centered curriculum; the creation of a “culture for success”; increasing collaboration and partnership among the district, school families and the community; and implementing these plans efficiently and cost-effectively are the four “pillars,” or foundation, of the plan.
As smaller actions — like adding peer review to the assessment process, incorporating public-speaking skills into all subjects or formalizing outreach to community service groups — are implemented, the district plans to regularly survey students, alumni, staff and parents to ensure that they are having the intended effects. “We’ll implement something and then go back to resurvey,” Marino said.
Five different surveys will be conducted intermittently throughout the plan’s seven-year span. Student-engagement surveys were filled out last month, and the plan is to revisit them every two years. Recent graduates will be asked to complete alumni surveys each December. Curriculum and instruction surveys will be given to students and staff in January of years one, two, four and six. Students, parents and school employees will be surveyed on school quality every March, and every May they will be given state-of-the-district surveys, along with community members.
The planning team met for the first time this school year on Oct. 23. “The first thing we went through was [the student-engagement] survey line by line,” said school board Trustee Cheryl May, an original team member in 2016 who now serves as an alternate. “We just want to make sure that this continues to be a great place. We like hearing from people . . . As a [school] board, we like when people come to our meetings. We hate when we’re here alone.”
Increasing communication among the district, families and the community was one of the benefits of the program touted by the administration. Dr. Lorraine Smyth, principal of the Franklin Early Childhood Center and one of the planning team members, said she believes direct feedback will help shape the district’s future. “[Hewlett 2025] is a wonderful way of finding out what the real needs of the district are,” Smyth said. “We’re getting the opinions of students who have gone through the district or are in the process of doing so, and the perspectives from parents . . . We’re actually getting input from the people involved.”
Previous efforts to understand where the school district’s educational focus should be paid dividends with back-to-back grand-prize-winning teams in the prestigious Siemens Math, Science and Technology Competition in 2012 and 2013. Six other Hewlett High School students received high honors in two prestigious science competitions last year — the 2018 New York State Science Congress contest and the Long Island Science Congress.
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