HARVARD -- As the School Committee discussed school climate survey results and new critical-thinking rubrics, they also took the time to thank several members of the community for their work.

Appreciation was expressed to those who put together the new Emergency Management Handbook by presenting them with certificates of appreciation.

Recipients included, newly appointed Superintendent of Schools Linda Dwight, Assistant Principal of The Bromfield School Scott Hoffman, Sara Merrihew, Susan Downing, Police Chief Ed Denmark, Gretchen Henry, Colleen Nigzus, Drew Skrocki, Fire Chief Rick Sicard, Principal of The Bromfield School Jim O'Shea, Christine Reale and Lisa Soldi.

"I really think this is so critical to have in place, really well thought out and not something you can put together at the drop of your hats," Chairman SusanMary Redinger said of the book.

The tome provides clear guidelines for school staff on what to do in any emergency situation. Staff members were presented the book at the start of the school year and are required to keep it in their top desk drawers at all times. Superintendent Joe Connelly added that any new staff that come in over the years must go over the guidelines as well.

School climate survey

O'Shea and Hoffman presented their school climate survey results. The survey is filled out by students, faculty and parents of The Bromfield School in a practice that enables the administration to get a feel for how well the community feels the school is doing.

Results varied widely between how students, faculty and parents answered the questions. For example, for the survey question "Students feel they 'fit in' at The Bromfield School," only 59 percent of faculty agreed with this statement, 43 percent of parents agreed and 79 percent of students agreed.

However, the survey also had a "neither agrees nor disagrees" option for the questions that may have given the survey some unclear results. For the same question, 14 percent of faculty neither agree nor disagree, 45 percent of parents said the same and 11 percent of students did.

O'Shea expressed confusion over how to understand the middle category and plans to eliminate it in next year's survey.

"I think a lot of the questions were very vague because I didn't think that I could provide accurate data for each of them," student liaison Katya Schwiegerhausen said. "I was probably one of the ones in the middle category for a lot of the questions."

The School Committee suggested greater transparency and communication between the schools and parents. "Inside the walls of the building, communication is maintained, but outside the walls, it's more difficult," Redinger said.

O'Shea said that on top of the "Bromfield Bulletin" newsletter that goes out bi-weekly, every effort is being made to add newsletters to send to parents weekly and maybe daily.

The Bromfield School will use the survey results to create programs around some of the issues that arose. Other high target issues in the results included bullying, drugs and alcohol.

"Looking through the data, no matter how we slice it, there are still a number of issues that need to be addressed," O'Shea said.

21st century thinking

The School Committee looked at newly created "rubrics that will assess students on 21st century critical-thinking skills. This is a requirement of NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) that gives accreditation to The Bromfield School," Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent, Mary Zadroga, said.

Skills in the rubrics include analyzing and integrating information, demonstrating understanding through performance-based tests and developing one's perspective and understanding of others, to name a few.

Students will be assessed periodically on the rubrics based on how well they perform on certain presentations or projects in their classes.

Teachers Julie Horton, Trish Nilan and Denise Keating presented the rubrics to the committee.

"We had a very thoughtful and collaborative process and focused on skills that we believe Bromfield students really need to have going forward," Horton said. 

There are a total of nine detailed rubrics that assess valuable skills for Bromfield students. Although this year is only a pilot test for using the rubrics, both teachers and the School Committee are confident in their use.

"This is really designed for students to make sure that they have met these skills, kind of like a report card, and also we will know how we are doing as a school to see how many have met these skills," O'Shea said.

"I'm incredibly impressed, this is great work," School Committee member Keith Cheveralls said.

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