Welcome Back Notice - Dr. Harry R. Thomas III

Welcome Back Notice - Dr. Harry R. Thomas III
Posted on 07/17/2023
Dear Essex Schools’ Family:

I write to you with contagious enthusiasm about the promise and possibilities of the coming school year. Approximately 30 days from now, our school campuses will once again be buzzing with our beloved Essex students. Our relentless focus on quality teaching and learning continues to yield results as evidenced by achievement gains over the prior school year. As many of you know by now, two of our three schools are fully accredited, with the high school poised to achieve full accreditation status, particularly with the change in our grade level configuration.

On Monday June 12, the Essex County School Board voted unanimously to change the current grade articulation for 4th and 8th grade students. TES and JCIS staff members are working incredibly hard to open each building for 4th and 8th grade students in a manner that will facilitate an enhanced student experience. We are excited about our grade articulation change as it serves as a response to the difficulties we have observed these students experience, both behaviorally and academically.

As has been discussed, collaborated and debated from School Board meetings, to editorials in the newspapers and even discussions via social media channels, ECPS has experienced an uptick in teacher turnover. The current turnover is a confluence of two primary issues (in addition to individual personal matters), a more transient teacher market, and an insistence by the ECPS division on structures needed for quality teaching to ensure accreditation. We have reflected on the demands placed upon our teachers and will seek a better balance between the challenges of teaching and the support our staff members have requested and deserve.

Additional feedback from teachers has been captured in exit interviews, focus groups, and individual conversations; and as such, student discipline continues to be an issue of concern for ECPS and has also been mentioned as a reason some of our faculty members have decided to leave. While I feel that we have taken a strict stance on discipline across the school division, more needs to be done. We would like to partner with our families and commit to improved behaviors that allow for better climate and harmony in our schools. Collectively, parents and ECPS staff shall work together toward the aim of better schools for our children.

In conclusion, we believe the 2023-24 school year promises to be notable and noteworthy. Our motto for the year is to “Embrace Excellence.” This motto captures the notion that while we are proud of our progress, there is yet more to do. We recognize that students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators must work more cooperatively to continue our onward and upward trajectory of success. Let’s all do our part to ensure that Essex students receive an education that is indeed excellent!

Dr. Harry R. Thomas III Division Superintendent, Essex County Public Schools 
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