Bethlehem Press

Thursday, February 22, 2018

New programs announced for 2018-19; honest financial reporting applauded

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 by Heather Nigrone Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

After snow canceled one meeting, and nearly threatened to cancel another, the BASD Board of Directors diligently worked through four committee meetings in one, long session on Tuesday January 16th.

The Board Curriculum Committee along with Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jack Silva, announced a long overdue restructuring of the Elementary arts programming, to be rolled out in the 2018-2019 school year. The current program is a 5 day rotation of art, music, physical education, library, and academic integration (technology), which averages out to approximately 36 instances of each class over the school year.

After input from teachers and parents alike, the district is keeping the five-day rotation with set days, so that parents can easily remember which day of the week is the “sneakers for gym” day. The basic courses of art, music and physical education will not be modified. However the district has taken a unique approach in redesigning the other two days, to match the needs of the diverse BASD student population, and to start preparing students for the future at an earlier age.

The first new program is Elementary Spanish, which will be taught not as a traditional language course, but rather will focus on both language and culture. The curriculum is being designed to follow along with core subjects through the school year, to allow students to tie the new language and culture to relevant topics, and build a more diverse understanding of each topic. With a large portion of Bethlehem’s student population coming from Hispanic families, this unique program may offer better social integration and acceptance amongst students, and may help BASD deter dual language students from jumping ship to competitive charter schools in the area.

The second new program is Digital Literacy. Digital Literacy is defined by the American Library Association as the “student’s ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” This program, to be lead mostly by library staff, will focus on the integration of traditional brick and mortar libraries, but also the integration of technology in a meaningful manner. Dr. Silva noted that most students know how to find digital media, but may not know how to seek out quality content, or how to verify whether content comes from a credible source. He also envisions a program that assists students in creating quality digital content, so that students are more aware of what they publish to the internet, and how that content is received by the public.

The other major topic discussed at the meeting, was the review of the 2016-17 financial reports by Auditor Bill Gorman. Mr. Gorman, a veteran auditor, with a team devoted to finding any and all errors, was dismayed at the news he shared at the Finance Committee meeting. He stated, to some laughter amongst the board, that the 2016-17 audit was “the best audit report I have ever given any school district” and that “you cannot get a better report then this.” He indicated that the district had no deficiencies or errors, and commended Dr. Roy and the senior staff for not only doing an excellent job, but also in ensuring that proper controls and management are in place to adequately catch, correct and record any errors throughout the school year. He finished his report by joking that 2017-18 is a new year, but both Gorman and the Board seemed confident that the financial future of the district will continue to be stellar.