The Mars Area School Board voted to approve the district's draft 2021-2024 comprehensive plan at a meeting Tuesday.
The plan, which was posted to the district's website a month ago for public review, outlines the district's priorities and direction for the next several years. The plan must be sent to the PA Department of Education by Nov. 30.
The plan emphasized making sure that students have kept up with English/language arts and math education after a year and a half of pandemic disruption and closing gaps in literacy and achievement across disadvantaged groups.
Targeted intervention, a strategy in which teachers frequently check in with students through “prescriptive” teaching to make sure they are where they need to be, was highlighted in the plan. Prescriptive teaching identifies what specific parts of the curriculum students might be struggling with and allows teachers to adjust their teaching strategy to meet those needs.
The district plans to bring in three new literacy education programs at the elementary and special education levels to focus on multisensory learning and to integrate different learning styles into the curriculum.
Some changes that are intended to align with the plan have already been put in place in schools. The district is using its Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to create after-school reading and math remediation programs in an effort to combat learning loss.
Departing board members
Tuesday's meeting was the last meeting for board members, Dayle Ferguson, Christine Valenta, Gordon Marburger and Rita Dorsch. Their terms are ending and they did not run for reelection this year.
The board members will be succeeded by the recently elected Lee Ann Riner, Jennifer DiCuccio, Nicole Thurner and Justin J. Miller.
Members of staff and administration thanked the four departing members and recognized their accomplishments while on the board.
Superintendent Mark Gross commended the outgoing board members for all they had done.
“You've impacted lives, and there is nothing better,” he said. “That is what makes this profession so great. I just want to thank all of you sincerely. You're my first board here at Mars, and I want to thank you for bringing me on. I wish you nothing but the best.”
Sharyn Lipnicky of Mars Area Education Association sent best wishes to the four departing members and thanked them for their time served.
“We're hoping they enjoy their retirement from the school board,” Lipnicky said. “We would also like to send a welcome to the new school board members, and we look forward to working with them.”
On departing, Valenta encouraged the board and superintendent to hire a full-time curriculum director, and wished new members the best.
“My interest in joining the board was to improve the quality of the district's curriculum for students, and in the end, I ended up receiving an education,” she said. ”It's been an honor serving on the Mars Area School Board for the last 10 years, and I am grateful to everyone who supported me.”
“I am happy to be finally retiring from the Mars Area School District after 48 years, and I am looking forward to spoiling my first grandchild, who was born on Oct. 17, just in time for my retirement,” said Dorsch.
“It has been an honor to serve the community,” Marburger said.
“I feel very proud to have been one of many voices — loud voices and quiet voices — that have shaped what we have become,” Ferguson said. “This is an outstanding institution and an outstanding place to grow up, to grow professionally and grow personally.”