District’s long-range plan in the works

District 51 School Board members may adopt goals, objectives and strategies for a long-term plan for the district as soon as their next meeting, Nov. 13.

At board retreats Oct. 16 and Tuesday at the Basil T. Knight Center, board members added their thoughts to a list of plan goals outlined by a committee of citizens and district personnel.

Board member Ann Tisue suggested Tuesday that plan goals include broader attempts at fiscal efficiency while board member Jeff Leany requested the district set a goal for firing ineffective teachers in a shorter time frame than the two-year period set by Senate Bill 191. The law allows districts to take experienced teachers off of tenured status starting in 2015 if they receive two consecutive years of poor reviews. Removing tenure would make it easier to dismiss those teachers but dismissal is not required by the law.

“I don’t want to drag it out for two years,” Leany said. “Why belabor the point if we have two years of kids we’re messing around with?”

Board members’ suggestions will be incorporated into plan goals, which will help inform yet-to-be-compiled action plans for carrying out the plan.

Board members delivered the majority of their suggestions for the plan at the Oct. 16 retreat.

At that meeting, board member Harry Butler suggested the district set an objective of using the Bible for literature lessons in a non-religious sense and said he would like screening for gifted and talented students to include more ways to include minority students in advanced programming.

Leany recommended the district set an objective for developing more online resources for advanced classes so students who want to be involved in certain classes offered at one school, such as the International Baccalaureate program at Palisade High School, could take those classes without having to drive across the county.

Leany suggested adding some books to history and civics curriculum that promote the U.S. Constitution as well.

Tisue suggested at the mid-October meeting the plan include goals for creating an ombudsman-like position so parents would have a specific advocate to talk to about alternative programming. She also suggested increasing programs or support for pre-kindergarten students and setting a goal for 90 percent of third-graders to score at or above grade-level in reading within five years of the adoption of the Long-Term Plan.

Tisue said she doesn’t want to see children “socially promoted,” which means a student is advanced to the next grade because they are the age for that grade, not because they are proficient with grade-level material.

Board Vice President Leslie Kiesler took offense to the term.

“You make it sound like it’s a huge problem or the majority of the district. I wish you’d focus a little more on our successes once in awhile,” Kiesler said.

“But it happens,” Tisue responded.


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