By Katina Caraganis
TOWNSEND -- North Middlesex Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers praised the work done over the past few years but said during Monday's School Committee meeting that there is still work to be done.
"It's really going to take me a full year to get a true handle on things to fully address the needs of the district, but it's been a wonderful experience so far. We have a lot to be proud of," she said.
Landers, who began work Aug. 1, said it's been a whirlwind experience. One of her biggest priorities has been visiting every school in the district and sitting in on every class in every school. To her, she said, it's important to not only see the good things the kids are doing, but to talk to them as well.
"All of the kids I've met are very mature and insightful. I'm excited to visit every school and classroom," she said. "I want to gain insight and identify and prioritize issues. We need to develop an action plan going forward and we need a means of implementation."
Landers said she's also made it a point of getting out in the communities to meet parents at coffee hours, sporting events and extracurricular activities. Some of the biggest concerns she's heard raised include seeing the before- and after-school program offered at Ashby Elementary expanded to other schools.
Additionally, she said they would like to continue to see state-of-the-art technology implemented into classrooms and that more gifted and talented programs for students be incorporated.
The need for increased communication between all stakeholders is something that was brought up repeatedly, especially when it comes to transparency in the budget process.
Landers also said parents value smaller class sizes where applicable and would place emphasis on more student-centered education.
She would also like to focus on closing the achievement gap for special-needs children and plans to form a school-building subcommittee to talk about all of the available space within the district.
The possibility of changing the scheduling at the high school is something that is being considered. Currently, the school has a block schedule.
"A scheduling subcommittee has been in place for a year now. It is my belief they would like to implement something different," Landers said.
High School Principal Christine Battye said the committee has yet to come back together this school year, but they left off with multiple strong possibilities if they were to change.
Some School Committee members, including Anne Buchholz, said they were not in favor of changing the current schedule.
"The reason so many of our advanced-placement scores are up is because of the block scheduling. That's something that needs to be considered," she said.
Landers said she also recently submitted a progress report to NEASC about updates and improvements that have been implemented recently, including the continued work with the Massachusetts School Building Authority for a building project, a media specialist and assistant were both hired to man the library, which will not be open from 6:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Follow Katina Caraganis on Twitter @kcaraganis.