Homer BOE discusses future plans, students in more active roles

(Photo Source: Homer Central School District's Facebook Page).

The Homer Central School School Board of Education (BOE) met on June 14 to discuss future plans for the board and district, as well as students taking on more active roles. 

Part of those plans include implementing a mentoring program for new and future BOE members so they can learn how to get more readily involved, and looking into how a student member may be added to the board.

The Homer BOE is slated to meet this Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Committees Check In

The board heard from the Wellness Committee, which aims to address the social and emotional wellbeing of students, faculty, and staff. The district’s Wellness Plan has been updated for the first time in five years, and will be renewed every three years in the future. The committee is also looking into adding a student member to its board, which includes members from Seven Valley Health Coalition, Cortland County Mental Health, and the Youth Bureau.  

The Safety Committee presented its progress, which includes a software system currently in place to check students in for attendance or if pulled into a classroom in an emergency such as a lockdown. Police have also been provided with information on every room in the district for safety planning. Future improvements include wider implementation of a two-factor authentication and other cyber safety updates.

Student Engagement

The board also heard from the Student Engagement Task Force, which seeks to get and keep students actively involved with their learning. Some improvements of the task force include students being able to track their own progress in class and providing better professional development on instruction techniques. 

One strategy for improving instruction is “Learning Walks”, where small groups of teachers visit other classrooms to observe the learning environment, student engagement, and instructional strategies such as use of technology. Teachers participating on walks place a sign outside their door, letting others know they are welcome to observe.

It was noted that students need to feel safe so they can fully participate in their learning, and that the engagement at Homer reflects that students are comfortable expressing themselves in class. Another key takeaway was that technology should be used efficiently, and that students could use less screen time with the return to the classroom.

The students members of the taskforce also presented their takeaways from a survey conducted of their peers, one of which echoed the need to not overuse technology now that they are back to in-person learning. They also expressed a hope for the younger students to have more breaks during the day, and are looking forward to utilizing the new outdoor classroom that is being created. 

When asked by the board if anything surprised them about the results of the survey, the students reported that the teachers were more surprised by some answers, such as the number of students dissatisfied with their learning experience. Another notable response from the survey was that students preferred when teachers placed them into groups to do project work, rather than being allowed to choose groups with friends, which tended to be less productive.

The student members plan to survey a more diverse group of students and to conduct the survey several times throughout the next school year. They also hope to be able to go into classrooms to observe what students are reporting, and to let teachers see the results and ask students for more feedback throughout the learning process. 

End of Year Events

The meeting concluded with board members sharing the events they had recently attended, including the Honors awards ceremony, art expo, baseball games and other sports, and simply enjoying seeing the senior pictures posted on the fence leading into the school. 

The board expressed gratitude for the artistic and musical talent that has been fostered at Homer schools, and even gave a nod to technology, noting that while students could use less of it in classrooms, having performances and ceremonies available online is great for family members who are far away or simply want to relive those moments.