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Schools face challenges ahead

by Merrie Leininger

The year 2000 will usher in a whole new set of challenges for the Douglas County School District in the form of implementing the competencies.

DCSD Superintendent Pendery Clark said the year will be focused on the class of 2002.

“I think it will be an exciting year full of a lot of hard work and challenges. I’m excited to see us actually begin the program to identify those 10th graders and identify which ones need help and which ones are well above. It will be nice to have the names and faces of those who will be the first in the program,” Clark said.

She said after planning for the change to a competency-based system for about 10 years now, the district will finally be able to get down to the logistics of setting the plan in motion, despite the fact that the district will have to tighten its belt because student enrollment dropped.

“We’ll be losing money. We’ll be focusing on how we use resources to get higher student resources; and that will be challenging to be sure we’re using those resources wisely,” Clark said.

Many areas of concern have already been identified and are being worked on.

How grades are reported and how the schools communicate with parents is a major concern. An implementation task force is currently revamping the report card sent home with secondary students, said Roy Casey, assistant superintendent of student services.

“There are 30 people – district office staff and secondary administrators and teachers who are on the task force. They are currently looking at how we report to students and parents,” Casey said. “That report card is in draft form and will be presented back Jan. 12. Hopefully, we will be able to pilot that this year. It will actually have assessment results on the report card so it will tell if they met or exceeded the assessment. It will be a whole different format than A, B, C, D and F.”

Clark said, in addition to the changes in the report card, DCSD is reassessing how to better provide parent-teacher conferences, refine testing procedures and provide remediation for students who need extra help.

“The class that is graduating in 2002 is the first being held to these higher standards. We will continue refining some of the new courses at the high school and starting up the remediation programs. That will be a major emphasis next year,” she said.

Clark said an important part of that is implementing personalized education plans for students who are behind and risk not graduating. Each student will have to complete a plan for their high school career and through the year after graduation. Those personalized education plans will be piloted this year with the sophomores.

“If a student is at risk of not graduating, they can also come and meet with a counselor and develop a plan how they would get caught up,” Clark said.

Casey said the schools will also focus on providing multiple remediation and enrichment programs for students, whether they have exceeded the requirements or need extra help.

“The district did secure funding to offer before and after school labs and tutorials to students. There will also be extended activities such as Saturday and summer school. We will not only focus on credit recovery, but now focus on proficiency,” he said.

Casey said the district hopes to have school labs that will allow students to receive extra help in areas such as word processing, writing and career planning.

Other areas that will be worked on are:

n Training teachers how to teach in a competency-based program, a major goal for the year 2000, Clark said.

“We will continue professional development that will focus on how to teach to meet individual student needs. We are offering new classes (at the professional development center) and new development opportunities,” Clark said.

n Training teachers to use the new technology that was put into the schools last year. Clark said this year the district expects to complete work that will provide a networked computer in every classroom.

“Next year, we will focus on training so they can use the technology and help students use the technology, and we want to also be able to provide technical assistance to the schools so glitches get addressed,” Clark said.

n She said the district will immediately begin planning an addition to Minden Elementary School in order to have a pod of eight classrooms ready for students to move into by December.

n The Regional Professional Development Center now has a director, Cindy Orr, and a secretary, and will begin training with teachers from five counties in January, Clark said.

n Assistant Superintendent of Personnel John Soderman is putting together a program to identify staff members who want to go into administration or have started coursework toward their master’s degrees in administration, Clark said. The goal is to have a pool of qualified applicants the district can pull from when they need to hire a new administrator.

The group will meet for training and support activities and the district will attempt to make their goals more attainable by working with the University of Nevada, Reno to bring some of the required classes closer to home.

“It’s more of an outreach approach. (UNR) would come out to Douglas County, so it would be easier for people to complete their classes. We will also work to provide internships here in the district,” she said.