Members of the Roswell Independent School District, community of Roswell and parents of students worked together this week at a strategic planning brainstorming session to identify issues that are critical for the district to move forward to advance the achievement of students.
After analyzing data in key areas such as student achievement and attendance data, they looked at political, economic, social, legal and environmental trends within the district and community, culminating in an analysis that identified the district’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
The SWOT analysis resulted in identifying five areas of improvement, including recruitment and retention of teachers, student attendance, advancement in curriculum, communication and website design and an alternative setting for students.
Discussions, presentations and feedback resulted in rough draft plans for each area of concern.
It was agreed that the district must keep the teachers it has because valuable teachers with experience are good for kids, but the district must also be proactive in recruiting new teachers.
“Education has changed from interviewing teachers to recruiting teachers,” said RISD Superintendent Tom Burris.
In response to the changing climate in education, it was suggested to attend 12 to 15 recruiting fairs across the country per year, focusing on areas with high populations of teachers who might have problems finding employment.
“We also discussed offering a moving incentive for candidates coming from greater distances,” Burris said.
Other ideas included designing a brochure for each of the schools within the RISD to hand out at the recruiting fairs. The brochures would showcase the classrooms and school facilities.
They also discussed how to encourage RISD students to go into education and how to impress upon colleges to recruit more students into their schools of education.
Bernadette Ogas, a fourth-grade teacher at Monterrey Elementary School, said attendance is a big issue within the RISD.
“Every student needs to be in class on time, every day,” she said.
The district’s goal is a 97 percent attendance rate and in order to reach that goal, school leaders are planning on running a campaign involving the community to promote student attendance.
With the establishment of Common Core and the PARCC assessment, curriculum needs of the district have changed.
“In the past, the focus was on mapping a prescribed plan that could be given to teachers,” said Sierra Middle School Principal Kevin Summers. “Common Core has changed that, so we need to identify all learning targets between Common Core and state standards.”
In order to accomplish those goals, the plan would include professional development for teachers that would help in creating building blocks for students to progress, from first grade, to second grade and so forth.
Another part in the development of curriculum aimed at student success is in assessment. Proper assessments can identify students strengths and weaknesses and can be a tool used to redirect problem areas into areas of success.
“We worked on the communications/website and it was in two pieces,” said Royce Braggs, RISD’s director of technology. “One piece was talking about how we communicate with parents and also people inside the district and outside the district through phone, email, letters, so what we wanted to do was create a questionnaire that would address where the gaps were in our communications and from the committee we would assess that and come up with a plan to fill those gaps.”
The second communications piece is updating the district’s website. According to Braggs, the current website isn’t very user-friendly, so the plan would call for an updated website. Braggs also said it is difficult for teachers to create their own websites because the software is outdated, so the plan would not only update the RISD website, it would include new software to make it easier for teachers to create their own websites.
Another need identified by the strategic learning groups was a need to develop an alternative setting for students who are not successful in a regular setting.
“Typically, it’s kids who are long-term suspended and they don’t have any place to go after that suspension, so you want to make sure they’re continuing to get an education, so I worked on a team that put together a plan to implement an alternative setting for students,” said Mesa Middle School Principal Jennifer Cole.
Cole said the alternative site would ensure kids who are long-term suspended would continue to get their education. The goal would be to offer these students the social, emotional, and academic support they need in order to be successful. The alternative setting plan would also include a reintegration plan to ensure their success when they reintegrate back into their regular mainstream setting.
A revision of the district’s mission statement was also composed during the meetings this week and will be submitted to the superintendent’s advisory committee for consideration.
Long-term New Mexico educator Linda Paul facilitated this week’s meetings.
“There’s something really special about the Roswell community,” Paul said. “The community is very passionate about raising their children in that town. In that area, they are very supportive of that school district. The educators are wonderful, they’re committed, they’re intelligent, they’re smart and most of all they care. It’s always a pleasure to work with people that are very committed, very talented at what they do.”
This week’s planning session is the first in a process that will result in a new three- to five-year strategic plan for the Roswell Independent School District.
Staff writer Bethany Freudenthal may be contacted at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or firstname.lastname@example.org.