Published On: Thu, Jul 13th, 2017

LCC Board members use special meeting to examine priorities

LAUREL — Laurel-Concord-Coleridge School Board members established priorities for the future of families in their school district at a special July 5 meeting here.
Guided by Marcia Herring of the Nebraska Association of School Boards, Board members got together to see how they can best serve the students and community.
“Information from all previous strategic meetings was gathered to allow the board to decide on which issues need to be addressed, “ Herring said.
Board members discussed the information and shared ideas for a priority analysis of the challenges that had previously been identified by staff, business leaders and community participants.
Staff members listed what LCC School District can do to provide quality instruction to support growth and improved student learning. They also examined what can be done to improve parent engagement and partner with the school district on what must be done for LCC to foster a positive climate and progressive learning environment.
Business leaders listed priorities of academics, district climate, skills and finance.
Community members listed aspects of academics and district climate.
First on the agenda was the opportunity to identify strengths for the district to build upon.
The middle school has been growing from approximately 103 to 150 with more lockers added in order to accommodate additional students, according to Superintendent Randall Klooz.
Technology was another strength with board members stating their one-to-one technology status for grades 5 to 12.
A favorable “student to teacher” ratio exists within the school system. A class of 18 for kindergarten size and preschool numbers grew which called for more staff to be hired. Enrollment is growing. Test scores are improving. Class offerings and strong community support are strengths listed.
Multiple extracurricular activities and three gyms for community use were also listed by board members who worked in four small groups to list these priorities, identify district areas of growth and improvement on core problems by building on strengths for growth and improvement.
Criteria was given to board members by Herring, however she said board members need not be limited by it.
“One important thing is to not jump to the negative conclusion,“ board member Jay Hall said. “That is up for all of us to do. Everyone needs to remember when something happens maybe it wasn’t someone trying to be malicious. We all own a little bit of a problem.“
Board member Robert Colwell said we all need to lead by example.
Communication, curriculum and work ethic were identified by board members for discussion.
“What message of purposeful action items are we discussing? Planning is a huge piece of it,“ Herring said.
Board members answered on to how they plan to engage parents through newsletters, which are online quarterly, parent-teacher conferences and social media. Facebook consistency is important. Several successful apps discussed by board members included “See Saw” for elementary parents and “Blackboard”.
“The app Blackboard will be useful for everyone even grandparents,” Klooz said.
Herring said some communities have had success at engaging parents through a parent-advisory committee to get feedback, especially at a secondary level.
The district does have approximately more than 100 activity boosters although meeting organizers have been facing challenges for attendance, board members said.
The FFA Alumni group was suggested by board member Carol Erwin as a group the board may gain input from. She mentioned strategic planning efforts as a way to talk to parents and suggested that the school system may be successful at expanding on good connections made with students and their parents in the ninth grade which can be continued though the higher grade levels.
Board members agreed, people need to make an effort to read information sent out to them on all levels.
A record needs to be kept on the successful procedures so school personnel know what worked and how to use it again.
This, plus other efforts to empower administration to do more to impact families, will allow the board to engage the public and achieve successful feedback from the community.
Board members agreed this can be achieved by working together.
“We are excited at where we are at right now and feel confident as we are working on establishing scope and sequence in our school system” Klooz said.
Board member Tyler Specht said communication for board members often comes from the coffee shop and that is not always good.
Herring suggested board members stop beating themselves up about negatives and carry through with the process to address positive things that are specific to their community.
“You need to grow and you can do that,” she said. “How well your follow up becomes depends upon the preparation of your children.”
Board members expressed a desire to put the power back into parents’ hands to make them aware of what they may not realize. This is a double edged sword because some parents are tough and some may not want their student to struggle. For an example, parents may not know what classes a student needs to prepare for college.
Ethics was listed as important by board members, although ethics become the victim of societal expectations. Board members discussed how ethics carry over into the classroom. Recognize rather than reward was an ideal several board members agreed upon.
“How we set guidelines is how we impact learning, “ Klooz said. “Practice of policies at school means board members need to be prepared for feedback from parents.”
“We need to set the line for each staff member,” board member John Wolfgram said. “We will also raise the level of expectations for students. We can do this together. If everyone gets on board and stakeholders trust each other by working together the process will turn into quality meetings. We can bridge gaps but need to try to get cooperation from all sectors.”
“You need to have a plan to develop goals so you can have staff buy-in and get staff cooperation by building specific goals,” Herring said.
Other topics pulled out by board members as vital included discipline, administration addressing concerns and following through, all-around morale, encouraging students to reach and fulfill their full potential and helping students achieve life goals and skills.
It will be necessary to listen to concerns and then follow through, Board members said.
Staff meetings will need to be held to align efforts and provide direction, it was noted. The Board was also told open communication will help address the lack of trust and curriculum should be evaluated at all levels.
Choices that staff members listed for board members to select from included: challenges of theft, consequences for students, staff morale, misbehaving students, unmotivated students, student bullying, communication, mentoring new staff, demand on students beyond academics and consistent treatment of students.
District-wide staff members listed a number of issues that need to be addressed along with options that help provide quality instruction to support growth and make improvements to student learning.
The list included: monitoring staff to ensure they are teaching the curriculum, employee accountability, classroom management, use of cellphones, bullying and the consequences, student discipline, students who ride the bus are shortened 20 minutes of instruction each day, not all students are motivated by grades, addressing student behavior to eliminate distractions,
Options that can help: good communication, professional interaction between students and staff, building relationships, an advisory program, teacher mentors, staff meetings involving all of the staff.
Staying current with technology, computer programing, college career readiness and preparation are very important.
Staff members listed these aspects for growing parent engagement and partnering with the school district: communication with parents and students who are struggling to achieve success, parent-player meetings, register for classes with parents, listen to all stakeholders, respond to citizens questions, board responding to concerns, asking for input, building trust, classroom teachers creating a working relationship with students, parents and guardians, forming a PTA, assisting parents to encourage involvement, implement extra credit to promote character and leadership and activities to foster a relationship between parents and teachers.
Fostering a positive school climate and progressive learning environment, staff members suggested preparing students for college and jobs, push students to reach potential, evaluate curriculum, cut out drama and hear-say among adults, listen to concerns and follow through, administrative address of concerns and following through, team building, positive behavior and good character rewarded, hold all accountable, hold post evaluative meetings, don’t let helicopter parents run everything, mentoring, have a school that people want to come to, suggestion box for teachers and celebrate success.
A list presented by business leaders included: academics including college career preparation, maintaining and growing technology, surplus of administration, increase test scores, help students reach potential, expect students to be productive and to get along with one another and develop staff skills.
Business leaders had also included the following on their list: a lack of trust, property taxes and ag economy, finances, student safety, responsible spending and a need for schools to support local businesses.
Skills listed by the business leaders included good face-to-face communication, problem solving, critical thinking, social skills, people skills, patience and persistence.
The LCC Community Summary included challenging students past average, providing interventions that allow each child to be successful, be career and college ready, reaching all students, the need for more opportunities for middle school students, a way to attract students to return to sustain the community, keeping core academics a priority, create a culture for success and address holistic needs of students.
Community members’ list included a need to establish goals to drive the district, improve school community communication, create a culture of success, better communication between administrators and teachers, and identify and improve channels of communication between internal and external stakeholders.