From the Publisher

Looking forward

By John Graham, president of the D 49 Board of Education

Many people are wondering what the new Board of Education Directors will bring to the table as they were sworn in Dec. 5. I have my own hopes, but as it is said, “Hope is not a strategy.” The outgoing BOE has made some strides in repairing the trust issue over the last three months now that we are down to four directors. I hope the new BOE continues to move forward and build trust with our community, our parents, our students and our staff. They should also look to build trust with each other. It has been my experience that trust takes a long time to build and a very short time to break.

I have been working to encourage the remaining directors, Jamilynn D’Avola and Lori Thompson, and our three new ones Marie Lavere Wright, Mike Heil and Deb Schmidt to identify two to three priorities they can agree on and have some wins to start. Winners keep score. I also strongly urge the BOE to keep the focus on student achievement and outcomes. They are different and require a careful balancing act. We commonly understand “achievement” to be the state standardized test. It does not really test the intelligence of students. Many feel it is an indicator to determine if students are meeting the grade level standards of the state, but there is more to it than that.

Traditionally, the D 49 BOE has not focused on that test or its previous iterations because of a general dissatisfaction in what are mediocre standards initially based on common core and the time it takes away from the classroom to administer the test. The “score” that we see many people criticize D 49 for does not consider that we authorize the largest statewide charter high school and offer more parent choice than any other district per enrolled students in this state.

Student “outcomes” are everything else such as concurrent enrollment (we have the highest completion rate in our region), career and technical education (we have the highest offerings in our region), graduation rates and assessing if students are completing the pathway that helps them achieve their goals. D 49 has focused extensively on these outcomes and individual pathways. We focus on these pathways because they offer parents and students choices to best fit their educational needs. We try to meet each student where they are and to take them to where they (and their parents) want to be.

When I asked Lori what she hoped to accomplish in these next two years, she was right on target. She wrote back that she wanted to focus on inspiring more parental involvement, academic achievement and a culture of respect.

Our community wants a functioning and responsible BOE that is respectful and listens to all the diverse stakeholders that make up our community to improve the educational outcomes of our students.

This begs the questions: what does our community want from the BOE and what are D 49 parents concerned with? Our community wants a functioning and responsible BOE that is respectful and listens to all the diverse stakeholders that make up our community to improve the educational outcomes of our students. Our parents, regardless of where they end up on the political spectrum, are concerned with the safety and well-being of their children when they entrust them to us. They also want the district to provide the best education we can to each student. Parents want us to stamp out bullying and to meet their children, our students, where we can work together to bring them to where they want to end up.

Education is like a three-legged stool. It takes a team effort. The best results take an involved parent that guides and nurtures the importance of education, an engaged student that takes agency or ownership of their educational outcomes and a dedicated, highly effective teacher. The district only provides one of those legs. I encourage parents to get more involved the right way and for students to take responsibility for their education at the high school level.

Parents and teachers are concerned about student behavioral dysregulation and what the schools should do about these students and disruptions in the classroom that affect everyone. One parent lamented a shared concern with many on the “failure of (ballot issue) 4C,” which she believes will “affect the continuous loss of our most experienced teachers and an inability to attract new ones.”

Special education is doing better in many areas but is always a concern as it is a very demanding specialty and has a high turnover. There are many competing concerns. I hope and am encouraged that the new BOE and district will rise to the many challenges. Your involvement in your child’s school can make all the difference.

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