LINWOOD — Mainland Regional High School Superintendent Mark Marrone unveiled the district's strategic plan Monday that provides a roadmap for where the district wants to be in five years.
With the help of former Superintendent Robert Previti and James Giaquinto of the Southern Regional Institute and Educational Technology Training Center at Stockton University, the school district and the community weighed in over a period of 10 months on what Mainland needs to do to accomplish the goals laid out in the plan.
The goals as defined in Mainland’s strategic plan include:
- The first goal is researching and implementing student-centered instructional strategies and best practices to identify, remediate and close achievement gaps. Marrone said one of the avenues to accomplish this will be to develop partnerships, reach out to available resources, like the New Jersey Department of Education, and continue to monitor indicators for success like improved standardized test scores and evaluations.
- The second goal is the district will increase the collection, analysis, and access to student data to better inform instructional and program decisions. Achieving this goal depends on effectively allocating financial and human resources to collect data that will help in the decision making process and guide the alignment of the schools programs.
- The third goal is to refine Mainland’s traditional and non-traditional course offerings to support students career awareness and preparation for the workforce. Admitting that the district has to better prepare students for life beyond Mainland, Marrone said the district will work to provide a diverse set of options including better preparing students for employment after high school.
- Moving away from the simply traditional classroom offerings the fourth goal. Expand the non-traditional opportunities including dual and concurrent enrollment (that would allow students to be enrolled at MRHS but also be enrolled for post secondary courses), work study program, independent study, as well as online and off-campus course offerings. The district is looking at with internships for students that earn credit toward graduation.
- The fifth goal set in place by the strategic plan calls for more professional development, training and certification for staff and students.
- The sixth goal is to increase the student population. Marrone said the district has to work in concert with the sending districts to make Mainland the destination where kids want to be. To reach that goal the superintendent said the district will need to develop specialized education settings within the high school that will meet the needs of students who otherwise would be placed out of district. Following up on what Mainland began in the just completed school year and promote itself as the destination where all students wish to be.
Marrone said Mainland is a highly recognized school but that will never be enough, adding they must continue to evolve and grow. The strategic plan is meant to guide the district to what it needs to look like and who the staff and the school community need to be day in and day out for the students.
“We need to be a premier school district and to do that we have to offer our students options and experiences. We need to have goals that push us every day,” he said.
With its diverse school community Marrone said the district needs to begin the process of educating students socially, emotionally and academically, and to accomplish that by first identifying student learning needs.
“Ten years ago we had 1 in 10 students qualifying for a free or reduced lunch; we are now close to 1 in 4,” said the superintendent. “That is just a reflection of our changing local economy and we have to always remember that things are ever changing and we need to respond to those changes.” He also spoke of the responsibility to taxpayers to spend all school funds in the most fiscally responsible manner as possible.
The district wants to keep an open line of communication between former and current students to check their level of readiness and has made it a goal to continue to connect and survey current and former students to understand what they perceive as their level of readiness as they leave Mainland for college, the work force or the military.
Better communication with all stakeholder groups in the community is a key component of the success of the five-year plan. Marrone said the support of the community is key to Mainland’s success. All three sending districts of Linwood, Northfield and Somers Point need to communicate with one another to make sure all students are properly prepared when they arrive at the front doors of Mainland to succeed.
Lastly the piece of the puzzle is to make use of all assets at the districts fingertips. This includes financial, technological and human resources to maximize opportunities and outcomes for students, faculty and the community while continuing to maintain a safe and secure learning environment.
The committee included facilitators, administration, teachers, former students, parents and community members. The main tool they used to gauge the community's attitude toward the school and its programs was a survey. There were 630 surveys returned, and Previti said the information culled from those community surveys helped to guide the strategic plan.
The Mainland Board of Education unanimously approved the strategic plan at the Monday, Aug. 21 meeting.