On January 1, 2023, Teaneck Voices introduced Dr. Andre D. Spencer, Teaneck Public School District’s new Superintendent of Schools. (Click Here) At that time, newly hired Dr. Spencer and the Teaneck Board of Education (BOE) decided that Dr. Spencer would come on board 6 months before he would traditionally begin his tenure on July 1st, so that he could get to know the district – the students, the teachers, the administrative staff, the parents – so the academic and social decisions and innovations made would be informed by the reality and uniqueness of the Teaneck School System.
On July 21st, we had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Spencer about his plans for the upcoming school year 2023-24. The ideas that Dr. Spencer and the BOE will introduce this year truly reflect a firm knowledge of Teaneck Schools and the experiences and innovations that led the Teaneck BOE to hire Superintendent Spencer. They also make evident the robust and productive working relationship that has been developed between the Board and the new Superintendent.
New Program in Teaneck High School
“A lot of great things are happening in the district and we want to reach out to the Teaneck Community and let them know about them. The most exciting program the Teaneck school leadership is bringing to THS is the Early College High School Program (ECHP), an innovative idea that is producing exciting outcomes for the school districts that have instituted it.
The program provides the opportunity for our students to graduate from high school with both a high school diploma and an associate degree (usually attained after 2 years of college).”
Here is the description of the program from Bard Early College High School the originator of the Early College High School concept 20 years ago:
Our model is premised on the belief that many adolescents are ready and eager to start college at an earlier age. Empowering them to do during the last 2 years of high school in a supportive environment inspires love of learning and civic and intellectual engagement and propels students toward success in college and beyond.
As a society, we need college to be an inclusive home for free, rigorous, and fearless expression and inquiry for young people from all corners of American life.
“We have established a partnership with Bergen Community College (BCC) which offers the associate degree and with whom we will be developing the curriculum. We are starting the program this September with a course (Teaneck Success) that will be offered to all 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students. The course is about our young people learning about college life – what it means when I have to advocate for myself – as the basis for building the self-sufficiency necessary to benefit from the empowerment and enrichment subsequently offered by the program”.
As Dr. Spencer says, “ No more calling mommy and daddy; now it’s me! What do I need to know? What are my study habits? How do I engage with my teachers? How do I manage my time? How do I manage my money? What does it look like, feel like, to function as a successful college student? The course is just as important for the students not going to college – simply substitute the word ‘workforce’ for college. We aim to produce productive citizens in our society.”
In the academic year 2024-25, the course will be offered to all entering 9th grade students. “We are also working with BCC to develop the Early College curriculum. BCC has been phenomenal in working with us in a partnership to develop the requirements and courses to earn the degree,” says Dr. Spencer.
To support this significant new program, the district is also instituting a program to prepare students to become and feel competent to move toward self-sufficiency and success. Based on a program Dr. Spencer initiated in Colorado Springs, Colorado (Click Here) the Teaneck School District will increase the number and variety of advanced academic courses at the high school and also at the middle schools. The Middle School Program is to make sure that our students are prepared for high school work and the ECHP Program if they choose that route.
These combined programs, as well as preparing the student for competence and self-sufficiency, will provide the groundwork and opportunity to:
? Engage with others in a team effort,
? Work together to problem solve and effectively produce a common project, and
? Think critically about information so that they can be informed, productive, and high quality citizens.
Bergen Community College is also working with Teaneck Public Schools to educate the parents about this new opportunity being offered to their adolescent children. This parent education includes:
? Information about the finances of paying for college,
? The Governor’s stance about students attending community college at no cost, with the intention of cutting parents’ obligation to pay for college from 4 years to 2 years.
In addition, the district will hold its First Annual Parent Conference on August 26th from 9am to 2pm. It will be recorded and uploaded onto the district’s website for any parents who are unable to attend. The purpose and goal of the Conference is to provide professional learning to parents about:
? Financial literacy,
? Managing social media (SM); pros and cons of SM, how to work with your child to manage social media,
? Immigration Rights,
? Managing stress – your own and your child’s.
In addition to the above initiatives, Superintendent Spencer is forming a Parents Advisory Committee (PAC). If you are interested in participating in the PAC, please email [email protected].
The commitment of Dr. Spencer and the BOE is to make sure the parents know that they are being listened to, that they are being respected, that administrators and teachers want to learn from them, and to activate and galvanize parents to play a key role in their child’s education. Parents are encouraged to have their child read for 20-minutes every night, complete all home assignments and attend school on-time, every day. “It truly takes a town to educate a child.”
Lastly, Dr. Spencer expressed the importance of professional learning. Contrary to past Professional Development curricula, the district is going to focus on two or three key topics a year, in depth, with the goal being to enable the Professional Staff to become masters of a few things, rather than dipping into the vast pool of professional development for a small taste of many things. This year TPS will focus on “Teacher Clarity”. They will concentrate their efforts on job-embedded professional learning throughout our district to strongly emphasize the importance of the Professional Development to their ongoing work.
Superintendent Spencer reemphasized his respect and admiration for the Board of Education Trustees. The Board Trustees take required courses, learn New Jersey State Education Laws and Regulations, review hundreds of documents, and give many hours to public meetings and workshop meetings. “They do this work and give this service for free. They do this work because they truly care about children and families. They take pride in Teaneck communities. They bleed blue”
Dr. Spencer also said, “I am very appreciative of and thankful to the Board of Education for the work that they do. One of the most important draws of Teaneck for me was the BOE and the fact that they really care about the quality of the education that Teaneck schools offer. That’s where my heart is.
“The Board and I will work together with our multitude of stakeholders – Students, Teachers, and Parents – to build a culture in our schools that, ‘Achieves the Promise’. All of us in Teaneck know about Teaneck’s history of promise. We are known nationally for it, most families give that as the reason they moved here, and books and theses have been written about our promise.
“But have we Achieved the Promise? We want to build a culture where our students demonstrate high academic competency, strong socio-emotional skills, robust problem-solving capabilities and a high level of compassion and care for others.
“We want our graduates to consistently see what it means to be a Teaneck High School graduate. We want to, “Achieve the Promise.”