Pittsfield Piloting New Sex Ed Program At Reid Middle School
The School Committee approved the program on Wednesday night.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is testing out new sexual education curriculum in the sixth grade at Reid Middle School.
The School Committee on Wednesday approved the pilot program for two sixth grade classes. The curriculum — Get Real Comprehensive Sex Education That Work
s — is aimed to help teach the students about their bodies, reinforce family communication, and improve communication skills regarding sexual relationship.
"It is developmentally appropriate," said School Adjustment Counselors Unit Leader Ann Marie Carpenter.
The curriculum was adopted in partnership with the Berkshire United Way. It expands the sex education offering down to lower ages.
Currently the school has an eighth-grade program and a separate program for ninth and 10th-graders. The goals is to eventually, should the Get Real curriculum work, expand it to Herberg Middle School and into 7th grades.
Carpenter said the lessons will be delivered through physical education class on a biweekly basis. Gym classes are being used because more students are required to take that than health classes. She said the program includes not only increased focus on teaching anatomy and puberty but also includes parent orientation ahead of time and homework assignments that help increase communication in the family. Sex education classes will increase the student's self awareness, self management, responsible decision making, refusal skills, and social and emotional skills, Carpenter said.
"Refusal skills and communication skills are developed and get them to be more conscious of their decisions," she said.
The focus of both expanding the school's sex education expansion and the Berkshire United Ways' teen pregnancy programs is to continue a downward trend in teen pregnancy — a particular issue in Pittsfield.
In 2003, there were 56 births for every 1,000 teenage (ages 15-19) mothers in Pittsfield. That figure far exceeds the county, state, and national averages. In 2013, that number had decreased to 27.6 per 1,000 but Pittsfield is still 10th highest in the state teenage pregnancy.
"That is an improvement over prior years but we're still significantly higher than other parts of the state," said Carpenter. "Although we made some significant gains, we still have a long way to go."
The new curriculum will be tested this upcoming school year and reassessed after that. Carpenter said it cost about $1,500 to train the teachers in the curriculum so the test run will help guide staffing needs and ensure that it is worth it. The curriculum won't be taught on a larger scale if the proper staffing and training isn't in place.
In other business, the department is seeking a replacement for Stephanie Case, director of special education, who is retiring.
Superintendent Jason McCandless said the city received 17 applicants and a search committee has narrowed it down to five to be interviewed.
"We're going to be conducting next week, two evenings of in person interviews," McCandless said. "We have 14 questions we will put to these candidates and three written questions the candidates will receive this Friday and be expected to walk in the door and hand to me."
Of the 17 applicants, 11 had Massachusetts certifications for the position already. Those 11 were narrowed down to five candidates, two currently working in the department and three from other schools.
The interview team includes principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, parents, administrators, and other department employees. They'll narrow the pool down to two for the School Committee to interview.
"We should be looking at an hour, hour and a half interview for each of these interviews," McCandless said, suggesting a special School Committee meeting be called for it.
He hopes to have a recommendation on June 10 for the School Committee to vote on. He said he wants to have the person start in July so there is a minimum of two weeks of transition before Case retires.
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