I have outlined six priorities on my website (www.dawnaubertford204.com) that I believe are the biggest challenges facing the district. These are: Covid-19 Impact, Equity for All Students, New Superintendent Transition, Strategic Planning, Financial Stewardship and Grading Changes Evaluation. Since this questionnaire has touched upon several of these priorities, I will provide more detail on those that have not been fully explored:
Students need to be back in school. The district needs to communicate a plan for the fall whereby students will return to school for full day, in-person learning for five days per week. Contingent plans should also be developed and communicated in case virus levels increase to a point where mandates prohibit students from returning to school.
The district needs to consider increasing safety levels on campuses to keep students and staff safe. Ensuring that all teachers who want to receive the vaccination receive it as quickly as possible, and implementing surveillance screening are two important safety layers to build confidence in students returning to school and keeping students and staff safely in school.
The district must also have plans to deal with the social and emotional needs of our students that are likely to look very different from the needs of the past. I am very concerned about the mental health of our students coming out of the pandemic.
My understanding is that LTHS currently has six social workers who work with a population of over 4,000 students. This seems to be a very high ratio of students to social workers and it will be important to understand if the current levels of staffing are effective in supporting students with emotional needs. We need to be proactive in addressing the emotional well-being of our students, not reactive.
Finally, the district also needs to be prepared to address educational setbacks that have affected our students during the pandemic. The learning models utilized this year had a significant reduction in instructional minutes, and the overall disruption of the pandemic has created challenging learning environments at best. It will be important for the district to determine ways to assess students for learning loss and to create plans to address these gaps.
Grading Changes Evaluation
Six grading changes were implemented this year that have been significantly challenging to student, teachers, and parents. It is curious to me that these changes were made during a time when our students and teachers are experiencing the most disruption ever seen in our education system. I have significant concerns about the grading changes and the impact they are having on our students right now.
Semester One grade evaluation indicated a significant increase in students failing classes and receiving D’s. While the pandemic and other factors may be contributors to the increase in failed courses, it will be critical to evaluate and understand how the changes in grading may also be at play.
In the new system, only summative assessments count toward the final grade and since homework and other work leading to the summatives does not count toward the grade, many students have interpreted it as “optional.” This could have significant impacts to the learning process itself, and this needs evaluation.
Homework and other formative work for many students is essential in the learning that occurs along the way, and provides students and teachers timely opportunities to build learning in the process toward mastery. A thorough evaluation of these changes is needed and a restatement and understanding of the goals to be achieved by these changes needs to be articulated. It will be essential to gather formal feedback from students, teachers, and parents about the impacts of these changes.
New Superintendent and Strategic Planning
The current school board has appointed Dr. Brian Waterman as the next superintendent for LTHS. Dr. Waterman, who is currently the principal of LTHS, will formally begin his new role on July 1, 2021.
Dr. Waterman and the new school board will need to work effectively and swiftly to navigate out of the pandemic and engage in the vision, goals, and direction of LTHS. LTHS does not have a strategic plan, and I view this as an immediate opportunity for the school board and superintendent to evaluate.
A strategic plan provides all stakeholders opportunity to give input on the priorities and vision of the district. Once adopted it provides stakeholders a shared language and understanding of the district’s mission, values, vision, and goals. This plan also defines how success is measured and progress monitored during the implementation of the plan. Since all stakeholder groups are involved and provide input into the plan, the process of strategic planning often results in increased engagement and communication in the District.