Superintendent: Enrollment growth among key issues heading into school year

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Superintendent of the Hopkinton Public Schools Dr. Carol Cavanaugh will be focusing on student growth, diversity, communication and innovative learning opportunities during the 2019-20 school year.

The leader of the school district presented a draft of her FY20 goals to members of the School Committee during their July 18 meeting.

The superintendent’s first goal is “in response to enrollment growth, conduct an analysis of school facilities, and develop a capital budget reflective of perceived facilities’ needs.”

With enrollment in the Hopkinton Public School district closing in on 4,000 students, the district is facing space issues in a number of the school buildings.

“I hope to look at each building to see where we need to generate more space — whether through renovations or additions,” Cavanaugh said.

A number of wheels are already in motion to begin this goal, Cavanaugh reminded the School Committee, with a application into the Massachusetts School Building Authority for a new construction or renovation of the Elmwood School, ongoing renovations for the “White House,” which will be the home of the district’s 18-22 program, and the approval of a $50,000 capacity study at the spring Town Meeting.

The goal, which is tied directly to the district’s strategic plan, said Cavanaugh, also would be tied into the capital budgeting process.

“I think the community is feeling a little unease about the growth [in the district], so this is a great pathway for how we are going to move forward and be proactive,” commented School Committee vice chair Nancy Richards-Cavanaugh.

School Committee member Amanda Fargiano asked that Cavanaugh include a study of “non-classroom” space such as hallways, study halls, cafeterias, after-school program spaces, etc., into the goal.

Cavanaugh’s second goal is “understanding that staff growth in the area of diversity, sensitivity, equity and inclusivity cannot be fostered by professional development alone; continue grass roots methods to build the repertories of administrators, facility and staff with the hopes of ensuring greater social and psychological safety for all students.”

A carryover from last year, this goal will continue to be ongoing within the district and not just a one-day professional development presentation, Cavanaugh explained.

“This year we are taking the focus away from just working with the adults in our schools and thinking more about the relationships between the adults and the kids,” she said.

Part of this goal will be to review the curriculum to “ensure its responsiveness to sensitivity to all students.”

School Committee chair Meenah Bharath suggested that a concrete way to measure the effectiveness of this goal and its impact on the students should be developed. The committee and Cavanagh agreed to consider how to develop a way to measure this goal, even if it was over a longer period of time.

The third goal is to “grow communication between families and the superintendent and grow relationships with elected officials.”

“I started with my first year [as superintendent] last year with some good community outreach, but I think there are other ways I can reach out to the community; to reach out to families with more frequency,” Cavanaugh said. “I think this is a place where I can personally and professionally grow.”

Part of that goal will be a new blog written by the superintendent that will be posted to the district’s website on a weekly basis, an idea that was well received by the School Committee.

“I love the blog idea,” Fargiano commented. “I have learned a lot through your voice and experience and am glad people will be able to hear your ideas as well.”

The fourth goal is to “launch initiatives that build innovative learning opportunities for students.”

Cavanaugh said that the district is in line to receive a “substantial” grant that will allow it to hire a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) coordinator to help bring new and innovative leaning programs to the Hopkinton Public Schools as part of this goal.

Now that the draft goals have been presented, Cavanaugh will present them again at the next School Committee meeting with the suggested revisions for formal approval.