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Aviation board named, literacy goals set at Westfield School Committee meeting

Date: 3/6/2015

WESTFIELD – The Westfield School Committee meeting on March 2 saw plans and promises for the future of the district begin to blossom.

Westfield Vocational Technical High School has moved closer to the establishing its new program that has the entire city excited, according to Westfield Vocational Technical High School Principal Stefan Czaporowski.

The Westfield Vocational Technical High School has named its Aviation Maintenance Technology Advisory Committee, the next step bringing this new program to fruition. The aviation technology program was announced back in December 2014, but Ed Watson, general advisory chairman and CEO of Mobius Works, said it was not hard to find 21 members to fill the committee.

“Aviation is one of those industries that there’s a lot of passion involved with it. You know, it’s funny when we talk to all of these people, you’ll never see anybody that’s says, ‘Oh, I hate it. It’s awful,’” Watson said. “It’s always, ‘Oh my gosh, how much deeper can I get into this’ and a way to involve kids and get people more involved with aviation … Everybody’s all for it.”

The committee includes City Advancement Officer Joe Mitchell, General Manager of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation Fran Ahern, Barnes Airport Manager Brian Barnes and Lt. Col. Christian Bigelow, the deputy maintenance group commander of the 104th Air National Guard.

The committee unanimously approved the board, crediting Czaporowski and Watson with putting together an “impressive” list, according to Kevin Sullivan. The credentials of the board members and its overall effectiveness have not been lost on Czaporowski or Watson.

“This board has been absolutely amazing to work with. I’ve never seen a group of people, we’ve literally been able to hit every sector of this industry, the aviation industry,”?said Watson. “This board is absolutely fantastic. Most organizations would consider themselves lucky to have this variety of people working together on one goal … We keep moving it a little bit forward every day.”

The board will be presenting at the Westfield School Committee-Westfield Vocational Technical High School General Advisory Joint Meeting on March 9.

The District Literacy Team made its annual presentation, announcing its latest literacy goals and efforts.

English Language Arts Supervisor Chris Tolpa said that the team hopes to have 95 percent of students from third to ninth grades at or above their respective grade literacy levels.

This assessment will be made through the Lexile Framework, which measures the difficulty of a text’s comprehension based on word frequency and sentence length. Students then receive reading lexiles that based on their own comprehension.

Denise Ruszala, the director of assessment and accountability, said that there is a real advantage in this system.

“The real power of understanding this Lexile Framework is that you’re able to match the reader to the text in their developmental reading,” Ruszala said.

Both Tolpa and Ruszala said that this system will allow for “more meaningful” data, which will ultimately lead to greater progress. It provides a universal measurement, instructional placement and benchmarking progress, Ruszala said.

While the Literacy Action Plan was drafted in 2011 and passed in 2012, the growth of the plan has been substantial, including a data management program that will be implemented by spring 2015.    

“I did not think we were going to get that data management component by 2015 if you asked me four years ago, but we did. We are beginning to train teachers,” Tolpa said. “If you can have data at the push of a fingertip, you can use data, and we’re going to learn how to do that. We have the ability. “

Though the team has come far, there is still a ways to go. As of spring 2014, the percentage of students at or above grade reading levels was well below 95 percent. From third to fifth grade, 78 percent were at or above grade reading level. From sixth to eighth, 81 percent made the mark, and in ninth grade, 76 percent hit the target level.

Topla said that it is sometimes an “uncomfortable struggle” to overcome changes that are necessary, but that is for what the team and the plan have been established.

“We’re all about getting kids to read, write, speak, listen and become interactive community members because that is the way we are going to move forward, and through that, we’re learning on the way, “ Tolpa said.