WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

PALMER — During the Feb. 14 School Committee meeting, Superintendent Matthew Francis highlighted several goals and areas of improvement needed within the district.

Outlined in his presentation of the Entry Plan, Francis explained that the report was designed to assist the school department with prioritizing needs and identifying steps forward. The data for the report was collected through connecting with the schools and greater community in multiple ways, such as through interviews, surveys and forums, Francis said. On Feb. 15, the report was published for the public on the school system’s website.

He began the presentation by highlighting Palmer Public Schools’ “areas of strength,” emphasizing the department’s staff, traditions and local support from parents as well as the community.

One point that Francis emphasized in the presentation was the need to increase support for staff, specifically within the Human Resources and Information Technology departments in addition to the needed creation of a professional development plan.

“This is by no means critical of our one — and I’m going to stress that one — HR administration assistant,” Francis stated. “But I do believe after looking at everything that it entails, we are doing a disservice to our employees [with the current minimal staff].” He later echoed the same sentiment for the current two-person IT Department.

Both the HR and IT department changes will be reviewed when creating the budget, Francis said. Other areas of needed growth he discussed included creating a curriculum review process, forming a Long-Range Capital Plan based on an analysis of the school buildings and increasing student engagement.

For recent improvements in the department, Francis listed points such as new educational materials, the cooperation of payroll services with the town, the use of smart boards, small class sizes and the Title I After-School Enrichment Programs. These are 10-week sessions that support learning from Palmer’s after school programs.

Through student surveys, he stated that 91.3% of students in the school system reported having “at least one adult they are able to connect with” and 58.8% felt a sense of belonging at Palmer Public Schools. However, Francis acknowledged that this meant 41.2% felt they didn’t belong.

Francis also drew attention to Palmer Public Schools’ strong special education program. “For a smaller district with a $23 million budget, I was amazed at our special education programming and the offerings that we provide for our students — ranging from the inclusion model to our sub-separate classrooms, our step one, step two Rise and Discovery classrooms,” he said. “It’s pretty much unheard of around the commonwealth for a district our size to have such a robust special education programming.”

Moving forward, Francis stated that the areas of needed growth identified in the Entry Plan would be transferred to a plan of action over the summer along with community feedback. The final plan would then be publicly available “around this time next year.”

lmason@thereminder.com | + posts