Thursday, February 10, 2011

School Board Retreat

Yesterday the School Board met for a retreat, which was a public meeting, so I attended.  The agenda had items on it I am interested in knowing about.

The first item was Board Meeting Agendas and Procedures.  There was a lot of discussion about what types of items should be discussed in Study Session and what should be part of the General Business Meeting.  I believe some of the presentations given during the Study Sessions are now going to be part of the General Business Meeting.  This would include presentations from district administration on various programs or policies.  There was also talk of adjusting times for Board Meetings. 

Steve Dunham, District Communications Director, came to talk about the website and social media and answer questions.  He showed the Board Members how to search and where to find links to commonly sought information.  They discussed the use of BoardDocs.  Facebook and Twitter accounts have been reserved but not activated, because the Communications Department was cut from four to one person.  Steve doesn't feel he can respond as people on Facebook and Twitter expect at this point.

The Board wants to be more proactive in telling the District's story.  They want the positive aspects of the District to be known.  The website has a lot of information on it.  The Sunshine Review graded the JSD website with an A+ for transparency as far as information found on the website.

Morale of employees was discussed.  Several Board members agreed that employees want to feel valued.  There was a discussion on how to help employees feel valued.  They recognize that it is going to take some time to rebuild trust.  Susan Pulsipher suggested that Board members be visible in schools as often as their time permits and just listen to employee concerns.

Clyde Mason, Director of Compliance and Accountability, gave a presentation on test scores for just the west side current Jordan District for the last five years.  There has been some progress made in closing the achievement gap between Hispanics and Caucasians.  The bar is being raised for NCLB, so they should expect more schools to not make AYP for this year.  Secondary Math and Science scores are down. 

Schools implementing the Math Scope, Sequence, and Assessments are seeing improvement on CRT's. 

The DIBELS testing done mid-year showed approximately 1/3 of students in grades 1-3 were not on grade level at that time.

The District has had a grant to give the EXPLORE test in eighth grade, the PLAN test in tenth grade, and the ACT to all juniors this year.  Using the entire cadre of tests would prove valuable for teachers, students, parents, and counselors in helping find the best path for post-high school education and employment.  These tests would be more meaningful to students than UBSCT, because they gain valuable information and have scores sent to colleges and universities.  The UBSCT was for legislators.

Laura Finlinson, Director of Curriculum and Staff Development, shared information about PLC's, which include learning, collaboration, elimination of failure, commitment, guaranteed curriculum, specific goals, dynamic assessment, planning to improve, learning fixed, and learning for all.  The questions that need to be asked are:  What do we want students know and do? How will we know if they do? What will we do if they don’t? What will we do if they do?

Board members want the School Board to become a PLC.  They want principals who come to Board Meetings to celebrate their schools to talk about how PLC's and collaboration are working in their schools.  They see PLC's as the research based tool for school improvement.
Burke Jolley, Business Administrator, presented a 10-year plan for building new schools.  The new elementary in West Jordan is under construction and scheduled to open Fall 2011, and a new middle school in the Herriman/Bingham areas is planned using county equalization money and scheduled to open Fall 2013.
Nine other schools are planned to open between Fall 2013 and Fall 2018, including six elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school.
A discussion followed about a bond of about $230 million that will be needed to pay for those nine schools. The Board doesn't think now is the time for a bond election.  They will start an Enrollment and Housing Committee this fall after the new superintendent starts.
It was interesting to listen to the discussions.  The Board seems very aware of problems in the district.  They recognize their role is to determine the "What" as far as the direction and policy for the District.  They then leave the "How" that direction and policy are carried out to the administration.    

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