Bethlehem Central School District Superintendent Jody Monroe went outside the numbers and shared what was stated within the recently released climate survey while she delivered her State of the Schools address.
What was shared in the Feb. 6 school board meeting were the general comments left by students, parents and school staff.
While the BCSD school climate survey results were initially released back on Friday, Feb. 1, the Feb. 6 meeting included more data and confirmed that a total of 3,784 people completed the survey — 2,679 of which were grades 5-12 students, 729 were parents, and 376 were staff members. The survey, conducted in December 2018, included 72 questions which asked about school diversity, safety, communication, sense of belonging, attentiveness of staff, and helpfulness of school curriculum and extracurricular activities. Spotlight News covered the survey’s statistical findings in a Feb. 6 article, the same day as the meeting but at an earlier time.
Among the concerns elementary school students had included wanting healthier food choices, cleaner restrooms, less bullying and more lunch/recess time. For middle schoolers, they wanted less homework, nicer lunch aides and for school to start later. High schoolers were concerned about parking lot improvements, wanting to start school later, how student vaping/juuling is too common on campus and dress code fairness. One main concern across all grade levels was addressing favoritism/bias in classes, particularly between girls and boys, and athletes and non-athletes.
Parents, regardless of their children’s grade level, generally wanted more direct communication between them and teachers, and to confront favoritism/bias in class. Notably, parents with elementary school children wanted school to start earlier but those with middle or high school children preferred a later school start time. School staff expressed desire for the district to fix any classroom heating and cooling issues, to maintain more communication with parents, to see more in-school mental health resources, and to address student behavior issues.
For a comprehensive list of data, statistics and comments, visit www.bethlehemschools.org/school-climate-survey-results.
The survey was partially meant to better inform the long-term 2019-2024 Strategic Plan, which would outline goals and objectives for the district through the latter year.
Monroe’s presentation included how the plan includes four main goals — Academics, Character, Community and Wellness. In respective order, it looks to develop a much stronger curriculum and instruction standards for students and staff; to instill positive model behavior and attitudes as well as embracing student equity and cultural diversity; strengthen communication and relationships among parents, schools, staff and the local community; and to provide a healthy and positive learning environment in the schools where students’ socio-emotional wellness is more considered.
While Monroe added that all BCSD schools were “in good standing” since none has any academically underperforming student subgroups, K-12 enrollment has been projected to gradually decline from now through the 2023-2024 school year, according to the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, from 4,451 in 2018-2019 to 4,154 in 2023-2024.
Monroe also mentioned that the 2019-2020 school budget will be up for district residents to vote on Tuesday, May 21 at the BCHS gym from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. BCSD Chief Financial Officer Judith Kehoe presented the proposed budget, showcasing a preliminary baseline budget gap of $1.5 million, between $99.5 million in revenues and $101 million in expenditures. From now through April, the budget would be tweaked to ensure equity between both sides.
Lastly, two seats at the Board of Education, those of Michael W. Cooper and Jonathan Fishbein, will be up for district election. Their seats expire on June 30 this year and would each be up for a three-year term that will expire on June 30, 2022. Nominating petitions will be available starting on Feb. 25 from District Clerk Brittany Barrett and all petitions are due by Apr. 22 at 5 p.m.