CHESHIRE -- The school district, owners since September of an entirely renovated high school and now under new leadership, has goals of boosting enrollment numbers and improving student achievement and common assessments as it looks to the future.
Kristen Gordon, Adams-Cheshire Regional School District's (ACRSD) new superintendent, told staff at a district committee meeting Monday night that she seeks to help improve upon the district's self-promotion, work closely with the teachers union, foster a "positive, respectful environment" for students and staff alike and maintain an "open door policy" at her own Cheshire Elementary School office.
Gordon said she hopes these cornerstones can establish a continual arc of improvement for the district and remedy declining enrollment numbers that district staff are trying to better understand.
ACRSD recently learned that 71 fewer students enrolled this year, with 100 leaving over the past two years. Gordon adds roughly 300 to this total to account for students who live in Adams and Cheshire who don't attend ACRSD schools.
"We're not the only game in town," Gordon said at the meeting, adding that she is committed to seeing the trend reversed. A variation on the typical exit interview was discussed as a way to learn from students leaving the district and their parents.
A certain amount of student losses for ACRSD or any school district are so-called "transient students" -- those who leave a district due to changes in housing over the course of a school year.
While the numbers -- including this year's enrollment gains -- are still forthcoming, Gordon listed some additional strategies in a Nov. 11 letter to district staff after taking on the superintendency.
In it, Gordon claimed "goals for all of us" and remarked upon the "enthusiasm, positive energy and clear vision" she's felt since taking the post. She then went on to stress efficiency, communication between all staff and administrators, "marketing our school district more than ever" and three R's: rigor, relationships and relevance.
" ‘No' should never be the first response in speaking to parents or any of our customers," Gordon said at the meeting.
Committee members also discussed the district's need for a new Information Technology (IT) director at Monday's meeting. Its schools, particularly Hoosac Valley Middle & High School, which were subject to a $40 million renovation this past year, have needs beyond its current IT department of three -- referred to by Gordon as a "skeleton crew."
Gordon said district treasurer David Hinkell is working on areas of the budget that could accommodate the creation of such a position.
"When you look at where we're at compared to where we came from, we need to seriously consider changing directions here," committee member Stephen Vigna said.
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