Interim superintendent, board discuss goals for schools

Interim Supt. Bo Yates outlined to the Lebanon School Board on Tuessday, Aug. 7, the goals the district will pursue in the next school year.

“I thought it would be prudent to talk about expectations for the year,” Yates said during the board’s regular meeting. He met with the district’s leadership team and put the goals on the board’s agenda, looking for input.

The first set of goals are measurable, Yates said. They focus on improving student achievement, attendance and behavior, while the remaining goals support the first set.

At the top of the list is to improve on-time graduation for each cohort to 90 percent, Yates said. Currently, that percentage is running in the low 80s.

The district should be graduating students who stay in Lebanon through their senior year, Yates said.

“We have four years to support them and get them to graduate on time.”

The district will implement individual support programs for students who are not meeting grade level benchmarks, he said.

Second is to continually improve student achievement through curriculum refinement, focusing on best-practice teaching and support, a robust student support system and use of assessments.

District-wide, the district’s goal is to improve the number of students meeting or exceeding the state standard on state assessment tests by 3 percent per year to reach the statewide averages, while schools at or above the state average continue to show positive growth.

Schools “well-exceeding” the state averages should maintain their current standards and serve as models for similar schools.

Third, 100 percent of students should be reading at grade level by the third grade, Yates said.

“This is a really strong indicator if kids are going to be successful or not.”

Figuring out how to support students who are not reading at grade level in kindergarten through third grade will take resources, Yates said, and the district will need to implement programs. Failure to do so “is going to cost us much more later on.”

The district will implement support plans for students as soon as they show deficiency. Resources for the plans include 21st Century Grants and priorities developed by the District Improvement Group with support from the Oregon Department of Education.

Fourth, the district will devote Professional Learning Communities time and resources toward creating and maintaining a culture in which all students belong and are supported.

The district will implement multiple attendance supports, with a goal of improving overall student attendance and decreasing chronic absenteeism, students who miss more than 10 percent of school. In each of the next three school years, the district’s goal is to reduce chronic absenteeism by 3 percent.

This has already been a goal for three years, Yates said. The district is using Measure 98 funds to help address attendance, and the district is planning to hire a full-time attendance support person, who will spend time tracking down absent students.

He added that the position won’t be about writing citations for truancy.

The district spends some $10,000 per student each year, Yates said. That means every day a student misses has an opportunity cost of about $60.

Yates outlined five “process goals,” a set of goals aimed at helping with the first set.

First is to standardize school systems, processes and expectations, Yates said. The district has a mobility rate of about 40 percent. The mobility rate is the number of students who switch schools in a year.

When students switch schools, they face different systems and processes, which can put them 2 to 3 months behind, he said.

Board Chairman Tom Oliver said the district has talent, and the district should look to those schools – or other districts – where things are working best and implement them in other schools.

Second, Yates described the creation of a dashboard for teachers that collects data about students to help staff identify student strengths, weaknesses and target areas in a simple, useful format.

“This is an essential part of our work,” Yates said. “If we can’t get good data, it negates our PLC work.”

Without good data collection, teachers in PLCs are really just talking about opinions, he said. The dashboard will show information about individuals as well as collective data about classrooms. A version of the dashboard will be available to provide the School Board with a “20,000-foot” view of the district’s students.

The district will implement a beta version this year with full implementation in the second half of the year.

Third, the district will develop a year-round student support system focused on reading, math and behavior issues during the next school year with full implementation in 2019-20.

The district spent about $20,000 on summer school this year, Yates said. It can do more, and it won’t cost “a ton of money.”

A lot of students have behavior problems, Yates said. “We need to have an option where we can work with them going forward.”

With a student, for example, who “cannot handle a full day of school,  we can extend their year,” he said. It won’t change things immediately, but it will get better over time.

It also is aimed at preventing the “summer slide,” where students forget some of what they learned during the school year, a problem that compounds and cannot be fixed when students reach high school, Yates said.

Fourth, the district will develop and implement a communication plan that encourages ongoing among students, staff, parents, administration and the community, Yates said, and fifth, all efforts and resources will be aligned toward achieving the district’s strategic goals.

“It’s important to note that all these fit into the strategic goals identified in the 2020 Vision document,” Oliver said. “These are all in alignment. This is just pulling out, ‘OK here’s some items that we think we can reasonably focus on this year and make some progress.’

“I like the fact that we’re looking at streamlining processes and just looking at some fundamental pieces, supporting behavior, trying to keep the kids here.”

Board Member Nick Brooks said he likes timelines.

“Let’s hold ourselves accountable. We’ve set these goals, and we’ve set priority, but let’s hold ourselves accountable to how fast we’re going to move along.”

Brooks said he also would like to see some time spent on the proposed alternative school, which was included in the 2017-19 Strategic Plan. He has “a lot of feedback that it’s a good avenue to at least explore.”

He thinks there are opportunities to improve career and technical education as well.

The goals set out a kind of road map, he said. “I’m looking for some of the meat behind it, what your vision is, what you worked with the principals and staff. I really like the seven things you laid out there earlier. We just have to go out and execute them, right?”

Oliver said that these goals don’t mean that other things, like alternative education, are not moving forward.

The district has the opportunity to use Measure 98 funds to help move forward an alternative education school and CTE programs, Yates said, and there are some things the district could do to improve facilities as well. He said the board could see an alternative education building sooner than it may think.

The district is moving along with alternative education, said Human Resources and Community Relations Director Jennifer Meckley.  “The processes for alt ed is something that we’re working on. How do students get into alternative education? What’s that path look like? Those things take time. Those being built are going to help us determine what that school will look like.”

Brooks expressed concerns about the tone of the goals list.

“This to me looks like a document I send off to corporate to people that – I just need to appease them,” Brooks said. “It doesn’t look to me like it’s a document I’m going to work off of that’s going to help me and help my team get better.

“Just my own thinking on this would be to take it, rework it. Maybe it’s just at your level to decide, ‘Yes, we’re going to work on that.’”

The plan is labeled 2017-19, Brooks noted.

“What does that really mean? Are we going to put that on hold until 2019? That’s OK because I think that’s where you guys are going. You’re probably not going to focus on them. Let’s say that.

“If it’s something we are going to focus on, alternative school, let’s put the meat and potatoes behind it, what we need to do and when it needs to get done. I know you’re just getting going on this, so I’m not trying to say there’s anything wrong. That’s just my way of thinking on how I would go about that. That way, we can all look at this document, and we can pull it back together and  we have updates, this is the direction we’re moving. Talk about communication, what a great way to communicate to everybody out there. They know it’s on a list. They know it’s being worked.”

Something may not be a priority right now, and the district can say it will get back to it in 2020, he said.

“We’re trying to target those things that are not going to cost us money,” Yates said. “And they’re going to impact all those other goals that we have so there’ll be a cumulative effect of hopefully moving the district forward.”

Brooks added that he really likes the way the document has a metric to measure progress and get better.

Attending the meeting were board members Brooks, Oliver and Tammy Schilling. Absent were Richard Borden and Mike Martin.

In other business:

n Oliver said that he expects that at the September meeting, the board will have proposals and a recommendation on a superintendent search consultant.

n Changed the date of the board’s September meeting from Sept. 13 to 6 p.m. on Sept. 20.

n Held the first reading of board policy updates based on recommendations by the Oregon School Boards Association, primarily to comply with changes in state law.

n Approved the hiring of Kyle Peterson, math; Dianne Sutherland, counselor; and Erin Forrest, temporary elementary teacher. Additional hiring is expected in September.

n Approved a leave of absence for Tracy Olin, nurse.