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Teachers, parents say plan isn’t working

by Merrie Leininger

A roomful of teachers and parents listened during the presentation of the Douglas County School District Strategic Plan Tuesday night, then told the board members the plan, while nice on paper, isn’t working in the classroom.

The board members, who along with 11 other people spent two days in January revising the plan that was put in place in 1994. They told the teachers during the meeting at the Carson Valley Middle School library they would have to be more involved in the whole process rather than simply criticize the work once it’s done.

“I find it inconceivable, the notion that you haven’t had the opportunity to participate in this plan,” Board member George Echan said. “I sat in the meeting for two days last January and none of you were there. Is it just the fact that we have this tension about salary that brings you in? Four or five of these strategies had action teams that met all year. I don’t understand how you can say you didn’t have the opportunity to participate. You can’t say this district is the Titanic when the state’s making everyone do it anyway.”

The state Legislature has required every school to meet certain graduation requirements, and DCSD graduation requirements, developed in 1995, meet or exceed those.

Douglas High School students who are now sophomores will be the first who must meet them to graduate.

The strategic plan committee this year again put the competency strategy on the top of the priority list.

Following competencies are graduation, communications, career, technology, family, fine arts, cultures, environment and world issues, hiring, community service and facilities.

Echan, and the rest of the board members, said they understood the teachers were frustrated with the extra work and the lack of salary increases this year.

Last year, the district began piloting the higher standards and are still working the bugs out.

Board Vice President David Brady said he thinks the teachers have valid complaints and there needs to be a forum in which they could voice those concerns. President Don Forrester said the board would soon discuss the best way to do that.

However, board members unanimously approved the updates, citing the number of people who had worked on the strategic plan, including many teachers, the annual review of the plan, and said they believe the competencies will indeed work and make Douglas County graduates better suited for the workplace.

n Teacher’s complaints. Many of the teachers at the meeting were those who had picketed outside Carson Valley Middle School earlier Tuesday.

C.C. Meneley Elementary School teacher Diane Mitchell told the board they weren’t getting all the information.

“The presentation was lovely, but this is one small slice of what is happening. This is not really what teachers see,” she said.

Jeanette Turnbeaugh, a teacher at Douglas High School, used an analogy that the group repeated throughout the night.

“I’ve worked on the competencies, but as I’m listening tonight, the image I see is of a ship heading away. That ship has sailed for my students 24 weeks ago and there are kids standing on the docks and kids floating in its wake. There are serious problems that need addressing,” Turnbeaugh said.

Tony Villasenor, a CVMS teacher, said he understood the competencies because he had worked on them for six years, but many teachers don’t, and now that they are expected to meet them, are feeling overwhelmed.

Other teachers and parents had concerns about what grades the students were expected to meet on the Achievement Level Tests created by the district to measure student growth. Still others complained that not enough time was allowed for teacher training and it was unclear how teachers were expected to grade other district-required projects that may seriously affect a student’s ability to graduate.

Superintendent Pendery Clark said the information about ALTs, other assessments or competency requirements for teachers or students can be answered by school administrators, and competency coordinator Cris Etchegoyhen or assessments coordinator Janice Florey in the district administration office.

n Strategic plan highlights. Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Roy Casey led the presentation of this year’s changes to the strategic plan.

He said a task force will be formed this year to draft a new family strategy to get more parent involvement in the schools.

Other goals this year are:

n Schools will focus on preparing students in reading, math, science and foreign language.

n What is expected of students will be made available at all schools, and eventually, on a district Web site that is being planned.

n ALT tests will be implemented for world history, government and integrated math at the high schools. A science ALT will be piloted. Also being piloted are the employability report card and other performance assessments.

n Work samples in writing, technology and science inquiry will be gathered so teachers and students know what is expected.

n An exit survey of students who leave the district will be created.

n Active recruiting of adult students will be done.

n An audit process of the competencies will be created for use every year.

n A master list of intervention programs will be circulated at all the schools.

n A focus group will be formed to work on the question of how to have better communication within the district. Any teachers who wish to be a part of that focus group need to contact DCSD Communication Coordinator Maggie Allen at the district office, 782-5135. Allen is also asking any community members who can help form the district’s Web site to call.