Archive for October, 2009

Excellence in education

October 29, 2009

What truly constitutes “excellence” in our education? I believe it’s readying our students for whatever they face, in whatever path they choose after graduation. Whether they choose to go straight to work; to a community college; a 4-year school; or to continue on to advanced degrees, the basic education they receive and attitudes they are taught about education are what will form their basis for success in the future.

There are many qualitative and quantitative ways to evaluate how our students are doing. A few weeks ago, I had a great talk with one of our elementary principals. He explained how they evaluate students at every step of the way, and how they work to ensure needs are met for each student, each year. It was very impressive, and sounded like exactly the approach a truly “excellent” school district would take.

We do know from a variety of test scores in high school that higher-achieving students appear to be well-prepared for life after Milford. Our SAT, ACT and AP scores are excellent. Our graduation rate is also continuing to increase, which is wonderful. Clearly, our educational staff, from the elementary level on up to the administration, is doing a great job in preparing students for meeting the needs of “test taking” for graduation & college.

But do we know what is happening to our kids after they graduate? Are we talking to them and their families six months, a year, five years down the road, to see how well they were prepared for college, how they fared in their first jobs, if they were able to meet their goals? How do we compare to students from other districts? This is one method that could be an extremely helpful measure of what the true worth of a Milford education is.

We know we are Excellent (with Distinction) according to state standards; now let’s find additional ways to make sure we are truly providing an excellent introduction to the world for our students.

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October 20, 2009

As posted previously, MEVSD is officially out of fiscal caution.  That’s a huge relief, but only the start of a long journey.

The challenge now is to keep us on track.  Mr. Seymour presented a 5-year forecast at the board meeting (which must be filed with the state) which incorporates projected changes in income and expenses for the next few years.  With many large income decreases expected, and expenses continuing to increase, the district must start planning now in order to make the 2008 operating levy last for at least 4 years.

The board asked Dr. Farrell and the administration to identify reductions of 2% of the budget starting this year, for the next five years.  This will stretch our levy dollars and keep us conservative re: the 2%/year we could lose for over 20 years.  However, there are even more questions:  it is still unknown if the state will be able to find funds to plug the almost $1 billion hole the loss of slots income has caused.  It is possible we could see additional cuts of up to $4 million in the next two years, in addition to the 2% we are losing due to changes to the state funding formula.

If these cuts happen, the district will have a lot of work ahead.  Right now, other options (such as delaying a tax break) are being discussed by the state, and districts have been told to assume the money will be available.

Congratulations, MEVSD!

October 16, 2009

At last night’s board meeting, Randy Seymour read a letter from the state confirming the district has been released from fiscal caution.  The hard work of all our district personnel, combined with support from the community, has allowed us to get back on track financially.  Congratulations, everyone!!!

What can other districts tell us?

October 12, 2009

I posted the other day about an “Excellence Committee” where we could seek out best practices and information from other school districts, organizations and businesses about what they’re doing that works.  By sharing information back-and-forth, we can all improve what we’re doing.

Apparently more people than I are thinking along these lines, because a teacher contacted me the other day with this same idea.  He knows a teacher in another district  – one that has significantly more problems than we do, and which is not even close to Excellent.  Despite this district having many challenges, he says his friend has just about every kind of technology imaginable.   Yet, we are struggling and relying on PTAs to scrape together fundraising money to buy Smart Boards.

What is this other district doing that allows them to purchase this technology?  Is it a great deal they get from somewhere?  Is it collective purchasing?  A grant or donation?  What can we find out from them that would help us?

This is one district and one issue – what can we find out if we are able to talk to many districts?  As this teacher said, we shouldn’t stop with Ohio districts – there are many great schools in Kentucky that are doing innovative things.  What can we learn from them, and from other states?

There is so much knowledge & creativity out there – if we can find a way to come together to share it, we will all benefit.  And the ultimate recipients are, of course, our children & our community … as we are able to find ways to do things more efficiently, we will have more funds to put toward education, which also will allow us to minimize the burden on our community.

I can’t see anything but wins in this scenario – can you?

Seeking Excellence

October 11, 2009

No company or organization exists in a vacuum – we all learn from others, and try to improve and adapt based on what we see that we like (and dislike) that others are doing.

This is the basis of “best practices” in the business world:  seeking out methods & techniques that have consistently shown superior results, and using these as benchmarks to strive for.

So how can we apply this practice to our school district?  How about actively seeking out “best practices” and innovative approaches at other organizations, including school districts, organizations, and businesses, to see what they are doing and how their approaches can apply to us?

I posted this idea of an “Excellence Committee” in answer to the Advertiser’s question about maintaining fiscal responsibility & finding innovative ideas.  Something like this can be beneficial not only for our school district, but also for others.  By sharing information, ideas and resources, we can all become more efficient and effective – something that is desperately needed to help all Ohio districts maintain quality.

There are many possibilities as to where an approach like this can go:  can we share resources re: professional development options, providing training we could not otherwise afford?  What can teachers share with each other to help improve methods & practices at various schools?  Administrators?  Board members?  Do other districts know of grants or programs we could benefit from, or that we could partner on?  What kinds of community partnerships and programs are other districts doing that could also benefit us?

I believe an Excellence Committee, looking for best practices wherever we can find them, could be a huge help in supporting our excellent education no matter what else hits our district from the outside.  No one has all the answers – but by seeking success in other places and pooling resources, we are guaranteed to find more of them.