Reconfiguration for Valley schools ready for new year |

Reconfiguration for Valley schools ready for new year

Lisa Noonan, right, outgoing Douglas County School District superintendent, meets with advisors recently at the Community and Senior Center. Members of the cabinet include, from left, Brandon Swain, director of Education Services; Brian Frazier, director of Assessments, Grants, and Special Program; and Christi Hines-Coates,director for Special Services.
Dave Price |

At least 100 Douglas County school employees will be in new jobs due to the reconfiguration of grades when students return to classes on Aug. 17.

“That is remarkable,” said outgoing Superintendent Lisa Noonan. “I don’t know of any time in the last 30 or 40 years when we’ve moved that many people in a single year for an event of this size.”

The new look for Carson Valley students, teachers and administrators alike — grades 1-5 for elementary, 6-8 for middle school and 9-12 at Douglas High School — is the culmination of an effort that has taken up the better part of eight months effort.

“I think we’re at a point where we’ve done the hard work,” said Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School Principal Keith Lewis. “I am extremely proud of my staff. We’ve asked a lot of them this last year to get ready. Every single teacher, except for maybe the art teacher, has moved classrooms. They did it professionally and they’ve worked hard. We’ve got a lot done and I think we’re ready to roll.”

Teri White said her first priority as incoming superintendent, starting today, is to oversee the reconfiguration. White is replacing Noonan, who is retiring the first week of August.

“The fifth- and sixth-graders will be moving into sixth- and seventh-grades this year at the middle school, and Douglas High School will bring in 800 or 900 kids who have never been on that campus,” she said. “So it’s not one group coming in, it’s double the group.”

Communication with staff members was key in helping lay the foundation for the plan, White added.

“Lisa’s leadership was instrumental because we shared everything with them up front, they knew what to expect and so things went very smoothly,” she said. “That is because Lisa spent so much time thinking about how it would play out and put together a very thorough process that made it easy for me to follow.”

Noonan said that of the 100 people who’ve moved, there were only a few who had to be asked.

“There might have been two people who had to be asked to move to a new job because we just ended up with too many bodies at their building and not enough at another building,” she said. “I don’t think, in the certified ranks, there were any reductions of force where somebody was laid off.”

Educational Services Director Rommy Cronin said staff movement of this magnitude has not occurred in Douglas County schools in at least 20 years.

“I think the last time we moved that many staff was when we built Pau-Wa-Lu and reduced Douglas from 9-12 to 10-12,” she said, referring to the opening of Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School in 1994.

Communication with students and their families has been a critical part of the transition, Lewis pointed out.

“I told the board during my (June 17) presentation that there was a lot of anxiety and concerns with parents,” Lewis said. “I’m proud of the job we’ve done to hold parent meetings and I think we’ve squelched a lot of those fears.”

A video posted on the Pau-Wa-Lu website transition page explains the middle school model and plans for the coming year such as activities, class electives and more.

“It talks about teams and how that’s set up with teachers and stuff like that,” Lewis said. “I think that has kind of helped take nervousness to excitement when they see we’re going to offer STEM for seventh and eighth grade. It’s the same program that will feed into the high school. We’ve made some pretty significant elective switches. We’re doing computer programming, musical composition with technology, we’re offering a basic introduction to technology to get kids up to where we think they need to be successful.”