Editor’s note – A similar ‘back to school’ story about Farmington R-7, which also returns today, ran in the weekend edition of the Daily Journal as well as the Farmington Press.
With students of the Central School District returning to class today, the faculty and administrators for the district have prepared campuses and are ready for another successful school year.
The district has some new faces in leadership positions around the district, with Superintendent Dr. Desi Mayberry saying the district is focusing on readying faculty with initiatives focused on communicating support to the district’s students.
“The big thing we’re going to be focusing on this year is going to be our internal professional development,” Mayberry said. “The two main initiatives are the Missouri Reading Initiative (MRI) and Professional Learning Communities (PLC).”
Mayberry said the two initiatives are being headed up by the district’s curriculum coordinator, Lori England. Central Elementary Principal Tracie Casey described what the initiatives look like at the building level.
“We have a new program called ‘MRI,’ which is the Missouri Reading Initiative,” Casey said. “We’re bringing that in to help our kids with their reading levels and we’ve been doing specific professional development with MRI.
“We’ve also been doing professional development with PLCs, which are Professional Learning Communities. It’s a different way of doing business and looking at things a little bit smarter not harder, and being more efficient with the way we’re doing things.”
Middle School Principal Mike Harlow said the PLC model will affect how the district’s faculty, staff and administration connect and collaborate to improve learning outcomes over the long run.
“It’s an initiative that we’re doing K-12 in our district,” Harlow said. “It involves, really, revamping our curriculum, our programs and just basically how we do business here as a faculty and a staff in the district, in terms of how we meet and collaborate. It will be much more efficient and just a bettwe way to get information out to our staff and to also receive input from our staff.”
According to the organization’s website, the MRI’s goals include:
- “Providing ongoing, systemic professional learning to enhance the quality of literacy instruction leading to improved student achievement throughout all grade levels.
- Examine and disseminate research in reading and writing to educators throughout the state, assisting schools with the implementation of instructional best practices in literacy instruction through modeling lessons, coaching and collaboration.
- Assist schools with assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of school improvement efforts in literacy instruction toward a comprehensive model.”
According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the professional learning community model’s successful implementation results in schools that displays the following characteristics:
- “The daily work of the school is driven by common purpose, shared vision and collective commitments.
- There are high expectations regarding student achievement and a commitment on the part of staff to accept responsibility for student learning.
- The learning of each student is monitored on a timely basis using common core curriculum and common assessments aligned with state standards.
- School structures support student learning and provide additional time and support for students who initially do not achieve intended outcomes.
- Job-embedded professional development leads to the collective identification of, reflection about, and implementation of ‘best practices’ for improved student achievement.
- Staff members work collaboratively in processes that foster continuous improvement in all indicators of student achievement.
- The use of data promotes an action orientation and focus on results.
- Leadership of school improvement processes is widely dispersed and helps sustain a culture of continuous improvement.”
In addition to implementing these two programs at the staff level, Casey said administration has also had to look at the structure of the school day, as there has been time added compared to last years. For Central Elementary, Casey said the staff has also been focusing on character education while maintaining high academic standards.
“We are always looking to improve our students’ reading,” she said. “That is a big focus for us every year. But as a building, one of the things that we’ve said we really want to be our focus is to be kind and to teach our kids to be kinds. We want people to not want to leave the building because of how well they’re taken care of. The key word this year is ‘kind.’”
Harlow said the middle school’s character education program has largely been taken on by the school’s new assistant principal and former high school teacher, Greg Noble, with administrators seeking input from students and parents in the future for the program.
“One of our main focuses, in terms of helping middle school kids, is that we are in the process of developing a new character ed program,” Harlow said. “We feel like that’s very important in helping our students get prepared not only for high school, but for life.”
Mayberry added that with the shifting of the school’s bus schedule, parents should make sure to confirm their students’ bus numbers and pickup/drop-off times.
“The main thing is that if parents haven’t come to open house, they should be sure to go by the building their children will be attending because we have all new bus routes this year,” Mayberry said. “If they’re going to ride the bus, they either need to call and get their bus number and pickup/drop-off time in the morning, or they can come by the building and get a card if they haven’t done so. It’s going to be very important this year because their bus number will change, unless by a stroke of luck.”
Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at email@example.com.