By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — As Timberlane Superintendent Earl Metzler prepares to start his second year on the job, there is one word he is focused on for the district: accountability.
Whether it’s students, teachers, administrators, school board members or himself, Metzler, 49, is making sure everyone knows what is expected of them this year.
“There will be no surprises and no excuses,” said Metzler, who was hired last August after serving as principal at North Quincy (Mass.) High School. “We want to improve teaching and learning.”
To do that, Metzler is asking each school to present an action plan with attainable goals to be reached by the end of the school year. Timberlane School District will have action plans starting this year, which will be released next month, while Hampstead School District will begin in the 2014-2015 school year.
“I want the high school and middle school to look at having vertical teams from grades six to twelve,” he said. “We want a consistent learning approach. They aren’t just two separate buildings, we want them working together.”
At the elementary level, he is looking to change things as well.
“I want them to test less and teach more,” he said. “I want to give the opportunity for teachers to be more creative and to take a look at programs, and let them know that programs don’t teach children, teachers do. We don’t want them just relying on programs.”
There will also be quantitative goals as well, from scores on SAT and New England Common Assessment Program tests to retaining students throughout the district.
So far, Metzler’s vision of the district has pleased School Administrative Unit 55 Board members. They voted in May to extend his contract through 2017 and increased his salary by more than 3 percent. Metzler will make $134,225 this school year.
“We are pleased with his performance, energy and knowledge,” SAU 55 Board Chairman Michael Mascola said. “The board unanimously felt that it would be in the best interest of the district to extend his contract.”
Metzler’s new contract takes effect Sept. 1.
Mascola said the SAU Board also supports Metzler’s goal-driven vision.
“The board believes all these data driven plans and accountability are all in the best interest in the district,” Mascola said.
In addition to setting specific goals, Metzler has outlined strategies designed to get a better idea of how the school district is functioning.
He created the Superintendent’s Leadership Team, made up of Timberlane and SAU administrators, which will be visiting schools regularly to sit in on classes to provide feedback to the teachers and school administrators.
Metzler also is asking students to participate in the Tripod Project, a survey designed by Harvard University to better understand students’ perception of how they are being taught.
At the high school, Metzler hired four academic deans in an effort to reorganize the high school.
“If one person is responsible for too much, some things don’t happen at the level they should,” he said. “This is a way to get and give teachers feedback in a really timely matter.”
Starting this year, high school students will see a very big change: Midterm and final exams will return after a five-year absence.
“We wanted to put more rigor into the curriculum,” Metzler said.
But while Metzler wants to put his own footprint on the district, he wants to be careful not to make too many changes.
“We don’t want to get too far away from what’s worked for a very long time,” he said, “but we want to stay cutting edge with new technology and new instructional strategies.”