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Norwood-Norfolk Central School begins work to address designation as Focus District

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NORFOLK - The Norwood-Norfolk Central School District and its high school are both taking steps to address their designation by the state Education Department as a Focus District and Focus School.

“We are on track and we’re on time,” Superintendent Elizabeth A. Kirnie told board of education members Tuesday night.

Norwood-Norfolk was among 70 districts statewide identified as a Focus District, meaning they must develop comprehensive plans to support improvements.

Focus Districts were identified by the state Education Department as a result of their low performance and lack of progress in English language arts and math combined or graduation rates for one or more accountability groups.

Norwood-Norfolk was identified because of the graduation rate of economically disadvantaged students in the Cohort class of 2006, those who entered the ninth grade together in 2006 and graduated together in 2010.

“We were below the state average,” Mrs. Kirnie said. “It was a small Cohort. All students are important and we want all students to graduate.”

She said the district appealed the process, but “we were not eligible to be excused.”

“We are now in the midst of sort of a very complex review of the district and high school,” she said.

Mrs. Kirnie said they’ve already set aside Title 1 funds to help address the issue and are in the process of writing a district comprehensive improvement plan for the district and a comprehensive educational plan for the high school. Those are due to the state Education Department by the end of November.

“We hope to have them finished this week and to State Ed by the end of the month,” she said. “This gets the ball rolling.”

The district is also required to hire an outside education expert, according to the superintendent, who said they would pay for that out of their Title 1 funds and any other funds they receive for being identified as a Focus District and Focus School.

They already have a person in mind to fill that role and are just waiting for approval, Mrs. Kirnie said.

“She has quite an impressive resume. She had very good qualifications. We submitted her credentials to State Ed for approval. Hopefully she will be ours,” she said.

But there’s more work ahead for the district, she said, noting they will soon have to do a school self review as part of the process.

Mrs. Kirnie had previously told board members that they were already making progress in improving graduation rates for the subgroup. Now in their second year of putting strategies in place, they have raised the graduation rate for that subgroup to more than 70 percent.

In the meantime, she said, they continue to plot out more strategies to improve that number even more.

“We see it as truly an opportunity to focus even more on graduation rates which we recognize are always a challenge, and to put even more energy into this process,” Mrs. Kirnie told board members last month. “We welcome this as another challenge. Our goal is to make sure every student, economically disadvantaged or not, has the same opportunity to graduate college- and career-ready.”

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