Emerson School Board Advances Inclusive Education and Technology

The Emerson School Board convened to discuss a range of topics aimed at advancing the educational experience within the district. The meeting’s focal point was the adoption of a new grading system, Otis, designed to track student proficiency across various subjects, with emphasis on personal growth over numerical grades. Discussions also encompassed inclusive curriculum updates, professional development for teachers, and the enhancement of student support systems.

The introduction of Otis, a software system for tracking student progress, garnered attention during the meeting. The board members deliberated on the adoption of Otis as a tool to monitor student proficiency, which aims to provide detailed insights into students’ performance in key areas. The system is expected to facilitate tracking across different demographics, including race, gender, and special needs, providing a comprehensive view of student achievements and areas that require additional focus.

In line with New Jersey Department of Education mandates, the board reviewed updates to the social studies and mathematics curricula, including the approval of a new world history textbook. Changes placing an emphasis on African-American history, the Holocaust and genocide, LGBTQ+ and disabilities, Asian-American Pacific Islanders, and diversity inclusion were highlighted. This curriculum revision aims to provide a more inclusive and comprehensive educational experience for students.

The board also focused on the enhancement of teacher learning and professional development. Initiatives such as proficiency-based learning groups and self-directed growth plans were discussed. The district’s dedication to professional development was exemplified by the implementation of the Orton-Gillingham program, which is anticipated to augment teachers’ expertise, particularly in teaching phonics to K-3 students.

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A new report card system was introduced to simplify proficiency reporting for parents and streamline data collection for interventions. This system is also expected to support a growth mindset among students by using descriptive language rather than traditional numerical grades. The board members recognized the importance of clear communication with parents regarding their children’s progress, with a new report card for pre-k students being part of this effort.

Additionally, the board discussed the inclusion of new elective courses at the high school level, including astronomy, and changes to the grade six schedule to accommodate cross-curricular and cycle courses. These changes aim to provide students with more instructional time and support.

Professional development for teachers received particular emphasis, with upcoming sessions on IPS 504s and tiered systems of support, and dyslexia PD for Memorial teachers. The board also considered hosting parent education events on internet safety and technology and mental health.

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The meeting touched on plans for a summer enrichment academy for grades three and four students, which seeks to bolster students’ learning experiences during the summer break. Furthermore, the board discussed the positive impact of events such as Heritage night and the unsung heroes event, which celebrates students who exhibit exceptional character and perseverance.

The success of the high school play was highlighted, and the board expressed appreciation for the teachers who obtained Orton Gillingham certifications. The student representative reported on the Key Club’s clothing drive and acknowledged the efforts of the cast of the play 1776. The superintendent extended thanks for the teaching staff’s support and drew attention to upcoming events, including cultural events and inductions by school clubs.

In administrative matters, the business administrator discussed the approval of the tentative budget, which is slated for review at the county level. Public input was sought, and the meeting was subsequently adjourned at 8:19 p.m.

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Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Superintendent:
Philip H. Nisonoff
School Board Officials:
William Graulich, Amanda Riccardi, Amy Mara, Behrooz Pasdar, Keith Smith, Denise Connon (District Anti-Bullying Coordinator), Meagan Tuchler (Memorial Anti-Bullying Specialist), Amanda Binetti (Villano Anti-Bullying Specialist)

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