Board planning for future

School Board plans to create a Human Relations Department to update technology programs and bring diversity to schools.

By: Rebecca Tokarz
   MONROE — The school district plans to create a Human Relations Department over the next three to five years to help bring in qualified staff, upgrade the technology programs and bring more diversity to its curriculum.
   "Now we need to put it into action," Superintendent Ralph Ferrie said following the plan’s approval by the school board Jan. 4. "We will review it periodically and provide updates and possibly recommend changes in the future. This needs to be a fluid document to take us into the future."
   A planning committee consisting of parents, residents that no longer have children in the system, residents in the planned retirement communities, school officials, board members and students, worked on the district’s new strategic plan for about a year.
   The group of more than 120 members evaluated how the district operates, and established points and issues the district should look to improve over the next couple of years.
   District officials said the plan consists of many things the district is already doing, they are just looking for ways to improve what they are doing and address issues that could be improved upon.
   Under the plan, the district will continue to work on student achievement through standardized testing and other mediums. The district plans to formulate a student assessment program by having them create student portfolios.
   In addition, the district is looking to expand the diversity of its curriculum. The plan calls for adding more diverse course offerings.
   "African-American studies will be added to our curriculum so our youngsters know we live in a very diverse world and we should celebrate our differences," Sharon Vogel, administrative assistant and committee member, said.
   The district will try to increase the number of outside work opportunities for students to offer them more "real world" experience. Recognizing that not every student heads off to college following high school, the district plans to create a program that will aid students who are heading out into the workforce following graduation, officials said.
   Under the plans, the district will evaluate the quality and length of a school day and look for ways to possibly reconfigure the school buildings to maximize education. Ms. Vogel said there are plans to look at whether the high school would function better working under a "house" setting where students are broken down into groups of a couple of hundred students.
   In addition, the plans call for the district to employ a grant writer to help identify, research and apply for grant opportunities to keep funds coming into the district. The district has not decided whether this position will be a paid one or a volunteer, Ms. Vogel said.
   Updates will be made to the district’s technology system, including changes to the communication system with voice mail, paging and wireless communication. In addition, the district wants to automate each of the elementary school libraries.
   The district plans to continue attracting and retaining quality staff members and is looking at ways to make that happen. The plans include the development of a Human Relations Department and increasing the amount of money reimbursed to teachers who take post graduate courses, and to work with the teachers union to make salaries more equitable to the rest of Middlesex County.