Archive for November, 2008

Investment to Action

November 13, 2008

The investment the community made in public schools on November 4 is leading to immediate action.  Specifically, action is being taken to reduce unreasonably large classes; restore lost courses; move forward on focus schools; implement pre-AP programs at Longs Peak and Erie Middle Schools, and begin the process of implementing capital improvement projects.

We will see the effects of these actions when school begins again in January.

For more details, here is the Times-Call article.  And, the source documents distributed at last nights school board meeting are here.  Download sb_class_size_reductions.pdf

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Board Priorities

November 9, 2008

With the election results all but official, the work continues to honor the investment the community has made in the school district.  First and foremost we must be vigilent to remember that the dollars voters approved are indeed a community investment and not an entitlement.

Now that we know the election results, the school board will be able to continue its focus on a set of strategic priorities established in the spring and fall.  These priorities include:

Continue to strenghten district fianances.  Passage of the mill levy override is a big step forward.  We are responsible to ensure that these dollars are used as intended.  In addition, as we all know, effectively managing finances is always a top priority.  The board's role is to ensure that we are maximizing the value of the resources we have and ensuring that there is a clear, transparent and accurate accounting of how funds are being uses.

Continue to strengthen leadership, management, teachers and staff.  Again, the mill levy override will make it easier to compete with surrounding school districts to recruit and retain high quality educators.  At the board level, we also must ensure that the conditions exist to enable people to succeed at their jobs and that we have systems in place to manage situations in which people underperform.

Align standards, curriculum and assessments.  This is the number one recommendation of the Comprehensive Appraisal for District Improvement (CADI) a study done in the spring.  We have district standards for each of our instructional areas now.  The problem is that they are too vague, schools interpret these differently and there are not consistent assessments to guage student learning.  The process is already underway to develop clarity and consistency.  The board's role will be to ensure that there is timely progress on this work; that the work on standards and assessments includes policies to support students that either exceed or fall short of standards and that schools are developing effective quality improvement programs.  A strategic question we must sort through is how to balance standarization between schools with the need and demand for customization for students.

Develop a portfolio of high demand focus schools, course offerings and learning environments.  We must offer our students a learning experience that they value.  And, we must make sure that we have the program offerings that will enable students to successfully advance beyond high school.  Again, the mill levy and bond provide a big boost in this effort.  The board role will be to, again, ensure timely progress on the initiatives to create focus schools, reduce class sizes and ensure that we have a robust set of course offerings for all our students.  The board also has a responsibility to stay current on the needs and interests of the stakeholder groups so that the district keep pace with these needs.

One area of work that needs particular attention is extended instruction for students at our low income schools.  I will write more about this in the future but extending the time of quality instruction time is the only formula that has proven consistently successful in serving low income communities.  That is a lesson being learned all across the country and one we need to act on.

Align organizational structure with growing size of the district.  Over the years, the school district has outgrown our management structure.  As a result, communications with, collaboration and responsiveness to studenst, teachers, building administrators is not as effective as it could or should be.  District leaders are working on ways to more effectively organize.  I will be able to say more about the board role when we hear their report.

Improve communications and collaboration.  The strategic priorities we are taking on are big not small.  The importance of effective communications and collaboration is at a premium when an organization takes on big initiatives.  It also is a challenge for a time starved enterprise.  But, we must not let the challenges of time impeded our efforts.  We have established good intentions.  Now, we must improve our execution of efforts to effectively communicate and collaborate with various stakeholder groups.  And, the district will need a mutual effort on the part of the stakeholder groups – e.g. teachers, parents, community members.  The board's first responsibility is to strive to be a role model for good communications and collaboration.  We'll make mistakes from time to time but we must keep striving to do better in this regard.  The board's second responsibility is to help ensure that effective communication and collaboration becomes an organization habit.

Improve board effectiveness.  I have great appreciation for each of the board members who serve their communities and the school district.  I now know from first hand experience that service on the board is a time intensive undertaking.  I believe we have good board members.  Our priority must be to continue to improve our effectiveness as a group and our effectiveness to support district leaders, managers and staff.  We need to do better at staying focused on strategic issues and strategic questions.  We must resist the temptation to drop down into organization operations.  The strategic priorities outlined here is a good step forward in staying focused.

Thank You

November 5, 2008

I want to thank the St. Vrain voters for their support of ballot measures 3A and 3B.  As a board member, I will do all I can to honor the additional investment of tax dollars – using this dollars as promised and with prudence.