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Tough new academic standards coming this year

by Merrie Leininger

Preparing students, parents and teachers for the implementation of the tough new academic standards is one of the biggest challenges the Douglas County School District will face this year.

Board President Randy Wallstrum said getting students, parents and teachers prepared for the changes is an immediate problem.

“I don’t think all of them are up to the level of awareness of all that is going to change. A lot is stuff we don’t have control over, and some is our way of implementing it,” Wallstrum said. “Our big job is going to get as much information out to every level and make sure everyone understands what is coming, why it is healthy and how we’re going to do it.”

He said the “how” part of the equation is still something the board is trying to figure out.

“We can’t just say, ‘Here’s the bar and you have to jump over it.’ That’s not good enough. There might be less electives or more summer school, but the point is to bring all the kids up higher,” he said.

Roy Casey, assistant superintendent of education services, is concerned about completing the testing to determine how the competencies are being received by students and teachers.

n On-going training. “For education services, our greatest challenge will be to finish our assessments and providing on-going training for teachers and administrators,” she said.

Once the assessments are done, results will be used to help teachers “make changes in their teaching,” Casey said.

He said the district also looks forward to getting the information about changes in the curriculum and requirements out to parents.

Board member Cheri Johnson said the board wants to urge teachers to teach students at their own levels.

“We are making sure students are prepared to go forward and that teachers have all the tools,” she said. “Professional staff development is a priority. We are preparing teachers to teach to every child’s ability.”

Superintendent Pendery Clark said the school district’s biggest challenges in the upcoming year depend on how the Legislature doles out the money.

Clark said the Douglas County school board adopted the state school board’s platform on legislative issues and will focus on getting adequate funding for kindergarten through 12 grade throughout the state.

“It is going to be a tight budget for the next couple of years, and we are concerned K-12 doesn’t lose any ground and we keep up with growth,” Clark said.

She said she feels the district is prepared for what the Legislature will do and doesn’t expect any surprises.

She said she also doesn’t expect the Tahoe schools will secede from the district.

“I haven’t gotten an indication there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among the parents. I think they are appreciative of the efforts we have made,” Clark said. She said an open-forum meeting is planned to let parents and teachers air any complaints.

n Negotiations. Douglas County Professional Education Association President Marty Cronin said, from his perspective, one of the greatest challenges of the year will be negotiations with the board for new teacher contracts.

The present contracts expire at the end of the school year and negotiations begin this month.

“It will be a challenge to get compensation for teachers at a time when we’re obviously up against it financially and growth-wise,” Cronin said.

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