Below is my inaugural State of the District letter that went to almost 5000 homes in Waterford Township / Atco, New Jersey.
FROM THE DESK OF:
Jason M. Eitner, Superintendent of Schools
Dear Residents of Waterford Township,
It is my honor and privilege to write my first State-of-the-District letter to you. Since August, 2015, I have had the pleasure of serving as your Superintendent of Schools and have had the opportunity to speak with teachers, administrators, parents, board members, community leaders, and many other stakeholders who value our schools. The goal is to move our schools forward educationally while keeping our finances in check. In fulfilling my job requirements, I wish to share with you our district’s current status and the steps we need to take in order to grow, learn, and progress in ways that are best for our learners and community.
Upon entering the district, I was charged with a series of tasks with special attention needed in the following areas: curriculum & instruction, facilities, spending, and a focus on our 6th-grade students that transition to the Hammonton schools. After examining test scores, studying schedules, reviewing teacher assignments, and vetting our current instructional practices and programming, it was apparent that some big decisions had to be made. Additionally, I reviewed the information from the feedback forums that the Board of Education had conducted when looking for a new superintendent. The overwhelming response was a desire to change the status quo. It was clear that my job was to return the quality of education provided in your schools to a level that would once again see our students achieving academic excellence. You may have heard about some of the proposed changes and those that have already occurred. As your superintendent, I have an obligation to share with you the overall status of the district and to help explain why these changes are necessary.
To begin, the 2015-16 School Report reflects that only 21% (1 out of 5 Waterford Township students) passed the math portion of the state performance assessment, and approximately 28% passed the English language arts section. Currently, Waterford Township is the third lowest performing district in Camden County. This is a grave number. Not only are our students not receiving the education they deserve, but, as taxpayers, you know the value of the district’s schools directly correlates to the value of your homes. These scores did not happen overnight. Years of status-quo operations have held back our progression. Given such drastic numbers, I have implemented a series of swift changes in the district that reflect meeting learners where they are today. Updating curriculum and technology needs was essential, and, with that in mind, curriculum has been revised, academic coaches have been implemented, and numerous personnel have been realigned to ensure that your children are getting the best possible education. Such swift change can feel jarring to staff and community, but my hope is that everyone will see what is at stake–the education of your children, the value of your homes, and the overall health and welfare of your community.
What students learn today, combined with how students learn, is paramount for their success. Traditional instruction is no longer meeting the needs of our learners, as evidenced by our recent state performance scores and years of failing scores in the instruction & practice category of the state monitoring program. Additionally, a lack of consistent curriculum, an adherence to “past practices,” and an absence of a clear vision and message have also hindered progression. I am proud to inform you that these issues are being corrected and we are beginning to move forward. I am also proud to report that many teachers, parents and administrators are in favor of change.
Social media has been introduced to our district, as I believe in meeting parents, staff, and students where they are in today’s times. We are also keeping our schools up-to-date with infrastructure improvements to everything from HVAC systems to energy-efficient boilers.
Please note that all of this change will not lead to improvement overnight. However, over time, these advancements will allow our district to become the academic leader it once was before and deserves to be. Like you, I want families to come to Waterford Township to raise their children because of our schools and be proud of our community achievements. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with anyone regarding the issues addressed in this letter. Please feel free to call me at 856.767.8293, ext. 3010, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or concerns.
Together let us embrace the changes, support our staff, and celebrate as our students achieve success.
Yours in education,
Superintendent of Schools