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December 2016

Midyear Update on our Schools

Superintendent Dr. Marty Semmel

It’s becoming clear that you do not need to travel any farther than Plymouth/Terryville to get a great education. All of our students have access to effective schools with talented and caring staff ready to help all students learn. In fact, many of our students are outperforming peers from other districts and magnet schools that surround Plymouth. We also recognize, that some of the most important learning does not come from textbooks, or even Chromebooks, for that matter. Our students have learned from their families and their schools that giving back to your community is a powerful learning opportunity. This sense of community is best evidenced by the mere fact that our Leo Club at Terryville High School is the biggest in the state. Think about that. Our little town of 12,000 people has more Leo members than much larger suburban towns and even the cities. The school system, beyond fully supporting community service, also supports and will continue to develop hands-on learning and internship opportunities for our students. It can be so difficult for students to figure out what they want to be when they grow up! We believe that the more opportunities we can provide our students to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, the better prepared they will be for their future.

Inside the four walls of our schools we have seen some great stuff this year as well. Priority one is making sure that our students have excellent attendance. Missing even one to two days a month resultsin chronic absenteeism and significant holes in student learning. Our efforts this year have already significantly increased student attendance. For example, at everyone one of our schools this year we have seen a decrease in the percent of students who missed four or more days through October 31st as compared to last year at the same time. In addition, we have seen some real progress in our reading and writing programs at the elementary level. Our elementary students are becoming voracious readers, as they devour all of the new books in our classroom libraries. They are also engaged in book clubs and discussions where supporting your ideas with evidence is so important. We are also excited about all of the wonderful things going on at the middle school and high school. More and more of our 8th graders are taking Algebra I, which challenges our students to think at a more conceptual level. We are also excited about the additions of new courses at the high school level, like Advanced Placement English for next year’s junior class. Beyond the academics, our students are involved in so many extracurricular activities, too many to outline here. However, if you ever get a chance, you should come to a show, see a game, or check out the annual art exhibits at the different schools. Our high school offers a monthly movie showing for our senior citizens, in addition to the annual “Senior Friendship Tea”, hosted by our vocational foods class and held at the Lyceum each spring.

What I am most worried about is that even though we are accomplishing great things with our students, the harsh reality of the budget process continues to eat away at opportunities for our children. We have seen staff reductions each year, and with those reductions came some loss of programming for our students. This past year we also saw the School Resource Officer eliminated from the police department’s budget. We certainly don’t live in a bubble and understand that budgets are tight. However, we need to recognize that providing our students with a strong education will make the community better and stronger as well.

In closing, I am so fortunate to be in a career where my major focus is to help students achieve. I get to work with compassionate parents and talented staff to get this job done. If you don’t have a child in our school system, then you may not be fully aware of the complexity of the work that is accomplished each day. However, if I could walk each of you through the hallways and into the classrooms, I am confident that you would be surprised and very impressed by what you saw. To get a small glimpse of what we do, I ask that you check out our website (plymouth.k12.ct.us/) and like us on Facebook (facebook.com/plymouthctschools). For now, I wish everyone a terrific winter season!

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