By Kim Siebert MacPhail
In a follow-up to last April’s visiting team evaluation report, Health, Physical Education, and Family and Consumer Science Program Administrator Jackie Supprise returned to the School Committee on November 5 to unveil an action plan for improvement.
Although the visiting team gave high marks to Bedford’s Health, Phys. Ed and Famco curricula and to the department’s educational practices, several areas of concern were noted such as the minimal amount of gym class time at Davis School, program articulation at Lane, and the poor condition of fitness facilities at JGMS and Bedford High. The team also identified time for collaboration and professional development as areas of weakness.
Davis School Gym/Health Class Time
In the section of her report on Davis School, Supprise noted that the current 50 minutes a week dedicated to physical education does not meet the recommended 150 minute per week wellness standards. A relatively recent schedule change at Davis prompted a decrease in gym class time and, while the new schedule works well for the school in other respects, Supprise will advocate for a return to two 30-minute class periods.
Program Articulation at Lane School
Supprise noted that many positive things are happening within the Lane School program but getting the word out about them to parents and the community has lagged. In fact, Supprise said that the K-12 Health and Phys. Ed curriculum is a mystery to most parents, adding that there are many benefits to correcting this lack of information.
To improve communication, Health and Phys.Ed faculty at Lane— and across the system— have started blogs as a method of connecting with one another, students and the community. Assessment standards posted on the department website have been added so that it is clear what constitutes a particular letter or number grade. Program highlights will be included on the website as well, and in blogs, school newsletters, and during informational parent meetings that Supprise will coordinate in the future.
Condition of Fitness Equipment at JGMS and BHS
The condition of the fitness equipment at both schools is a matter for concern. A program of ongoing equipment maintenance is recommended to maximize the resource, although there would be impacts to the budget. Supprise noted that the amount of funds currently needed to first fix and then maintain the facilities is more than her department’s entire annual non-salary budget.
Staff Collaboration and Professional Development
Following the recommendations of the visiting team, “professional learning communities” or PLCs have been formed to look at the curriculum and to incorporate national and assessment standards. Supprise said she is considering an all-department reading exercise, centering on the book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain” by John Ratey that establishes a strong, direct connection between physical well-being and mental health.
In terms of staff and training, Supprise noted that there is no longer an Adaptive Physical Education professional on staff, although there are some teachers with occupational and physical therapy training. Because it is important to serve students with Adaptive Phys. Ed needs, Supprise said she will either hire a specialist or provide training for existing staff. Additionally, training in both neuroscience and the benefits of movement is desirable for all teachers at all levels and subjects across the system.
Supprise said it is her intention to rejuvenate the dormant Wellness Council within the month, with the goal of having an active advocacy group for health and wellness in the schools and in the community.
The visiting team’s evaluation and the action plan developed from it is “a living document,” Supprise told School Committee members.
“Some of the discussion will be ongoing [about how to proceed with the action plan] but much of it will begin in 2013 and 2014,” Supprise said. “We really have already taken action on a lot of items and we’ll be looking at others next year. Our timeline is to address those that are within our control as quickly as possible. But, we’ll always be looking at our curriculum, always looking at what’s happening in current research and what we should be doing differently or doing more of.”
To read the district’s “Wellness Policy”, that predates the visiting team evaluation, see: https://mail.bedford.k12.ma.us/~wellness/Wellness%20Policy.pdf
To read about the initial Health and Physical Education department review presentation from last spring, visit: https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2013/04/26/physical-education-health-and-famco-programs-evaluated-praised/