By Kim Siebert MacPhail
In her final presentation to the Bedford School Committee before stepping down at the end of this school year, Davis School’s Interim Principal Nancy Peterson began discussion of the Davis School Advisory Council’s improvement plan by summarizing this year’s initiatives and providing a blueprint for continuing the work next year. The improvement plan focused, Peterson said, on the establishment of “Professional Learning Committees” (PLCs) or collaborative teacher teams, which were formed this year in an effort to change how the school functions internally, create consistency in the quality of instruction across all classes, and gather and analyze student data to inform instruction.
“We have two PLCs per grade level, [each of which] consists of a four-classroom teacher team, plus a reading specialist, a Special Ed person, and an administrator,” Peterson explained. “The whole focus of these teams is to look at student learning—to implement common assessments, common curricula, common pacing—and to systematically review data to inform instruction.
“I think part of what made the implementation of the teaching teams so successful was the data training that the team leaders received in the last two years,” Peterson continued. “When they come to these meetings now, they have formed agendas. We put together a calendar to look at data points—specifically three times this year. Next year it may increase.”
“The most surprising [thing that was learned] is that this would actually work,” Peterson added. “Prior to this year, [the staff] did some collaborating, but. . . now we’ve got these teams and they meet every single week, with an agenda. They know that the focus has to [be to] talk about the curriculum, to look at the assessments—and normally that kind of shift in culture is different—that I need to feel safe enough to share all my student data with you. But we just [went ahead] and did it, [and] they’re doing it.”
Peterson also said that a big focus of this year was school culture. Monthly all-school meetings were used as vehicles to talk about topics such as social responsibility, things like holidays and other timely issues. For example, Davis School took an active role in the Bedford Rotary’s Pay it Forward initiative in April, and that involvement was facilitated by one of the monthly meetings.
For the upcoming school year, Peterson said that a lot of the same threads will be continued, such as a strengthening the PLCs, as well as Phase 2 of the teacher and administrator evaluation systems as prescribed by the Common Core of Learning standards.
Increased attention to students’ social-emotional needs—as well as academic needs—was emphasized as was active support for new principal Beth Benoit’s transition into the community.
After the presentation concluded, School Committee members along with Superintendent Sills thanked Peterson for her service to Bedford that began as a one-year interim position but grew to a second year when an initial search process for a full-time principal did not yield a suitable candidate. A second round of the search resulted in the hiring of Peterson’s successor, Beth Benoit, who assumes the job on July 1.
Sills said, “The thing that Nancy has done so beautifully at Davis is create a schedule that will take some getting used to [for staff], but actually says that [the benefits of collaborative teacher teams] are important enough to make time for. It’s becoming a part of the culture of Davis School; it’s the way of doing business. It’s going to bear tremendous results.
“You’ve done a phenomenal job, Nancy,” Sills said to Peterson. “The energy that you feel at Davis School, the sense of community that you’ve built—very purposefully and successfully— and the kind of ‘whole school’ sense that’s been created is going to carry us into the next stage. . . . Finally, you deserve credit for [Bedford] going to the full-day kindergarten. It was largely your advocacy that helped us keep that on the table when we were looking how to balance things. I don’t think we would have successfully moved in that direction without you.”
To read about new Davis School Principal Beth Benoit, visit: http://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2013/02/11/davis-school-has-a-new-principal-beth-benoit/
This year’s Davis School Advisory Council membership included:
- Nancy Peterson, Interim Principal
- Amy Cormie, Teacher
- Jeremy Royds, Teacher
- Mitch Evans, Parent
- John Hybl, Parent
- Teri Morrow, Parent
- Barbara Feehrer, retired Davis School teacher, representing the Bedford community