Chief academic officer presents priorities, goals for district leadership division

Published 3:04 pm Thursday, December 21, 2017

STANFORD — With so many academic initiatives at work across the school district, Chief Academic Officer Jackie Risden-Smith presented the school board with an overview of the leadership division’s priorities and goals for the future.

Risden-Smith gave a presentation during the school board’s regular December meeting last Thursday on the Academic Division Leadership Team’s (ADLT) vision, as well as actions already put in place since the start of the year.

“We recognize that we have a lot of priorities,” she said. “If you ask our principals who are here, at the elementary level specifically, there are a lot of changes occurring right now, a lot of new initiatives, a lot of new things happening. We realize that’s a lot, but really we know right now is our opportunity.”

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One of the Academic Leadership Division’s priorities mentioned by Risden-Smith included the “Take 5” initiative, which began this year and aims to focus on “school and classroom presence” by having each member visit five schools and spend 10 to 15 minutes in five classrooms in each school every month. Each member is expected to update a shared Google document following each visit and to be prepared to discuss them at the monthly ADLT meeting.

In total, the initiative will result in at least 30 school visits, 150 classroom visits and at least 1,500 minutes of student learning being observed per month.

A Strategic Planning Committee made up of teachers, parents and community members has also been formed.

“We have met three or four times now,” Risden-Smith said. “We went through the strategic planning process, we looked at our mission and vision statement. We’ve looked at district priorities…we have our five strategic priorities we’ve identified as a team and then we’re meeting in focus groups with each of our academic division leaders leading those focus groups.”

Another priority of the ADLT is to provide support to improve the social and emotional development of students, she said.

“Some things we’re doing in the district is our social service worker program, the elementary and secondary social service worker, if you remember, we were able to do that through our Healthy Kids Clinic partnership,” she said.

Part of the action plan to improve and support social and emotional development includes training a district team in Level I Trauma Informed Care training prior to the end of the 2017-18 school year. Once certified, the team will develop a plan for implementation across the district.

“We have a lot of kids who come from trauma and we have to adjust what we’re doing at school based on those students and their needs,” Risden-Smith said.

Other priorities for the ADLT includes revising the district’s “walk-thru” process and reviewing all budgets and looking for better ways to utilize resources within each department in the district.

“We’re look at every budget and see if there is any waste, is there any way that we can be more effective in how we’re using funding? We can improve services for kids through that review with those budgets,” she said. “We’re constantly looking at what opportunity is there to better use the funds that we have.”

A complete revision of the elementary-level curriculum is also a focus for the ADLT this year, Risden-Smith said.

“The mapping, our pacing guides, our common assessments, all of that (we’re) completely revising,” she said.

Districts don’t typically revise curriculum all at once but because the state is implementing a new assessment system, this year provides the district with an opportunity, she said.

Superintendent Michael Rowe said this will help students who transfer to a different elementary school in the district.

“This will allow a student to go from one school to the other and not miss a beat and to make sure we’re covering what we should be,” he said. “This is something that we’re very excited about.”

Using data from the state’s K-PREP assessments, Risden-Smith said new initiatives have been implemented to utilize time outside of the regular school day.

“We talked about reading at home and the research that’s been around for years about reading at home,” she said. “(We) decided, as a team, that we really needed an initiative, as a district, that focused on reading at home.”

Under the leadership of Claudia Godbey, director of exceptional child services, a new initiative called Lincoln Reads 20 has been developed.

“The difference in kids reading 20 minutes a day in a year is 1.8 million words a year,” Risden-Smith said.

On the middle school and high school level, other initiatives developed this year aim to increase the learning of students in GAP groups while reducing the number of novice scores on state assessments.

As part of the action plan, instructional teams from Lincoln County Middle School and Lincoln County High School will attend a novice reduction training provided by the Kentucky Department of Education and develop novice-reduction strategies to implement within the district.

Community and public relations is also a focus for the ADLT, Risden-Smith said.

“We’re really focusing on Facebook, positive PR (public relations) out there. We’re also partnering with our newspaper and radio station,” she said.

To support and encourage parent involvement, the district is focusing on reducing barriers and including parents in decision-making.

An online volunteer training, which can be accessed 24 hours a day, will allow youth volunteer requests or criminal background record check forms to be registered with the Administrative Office of the Courts in a timely manner and in-person or phone trainings will also be provided upon request. Parents will also have the option of becoming a school visitor or volunteer.

A District Parent Involvement Advisory Council, comprised of parents, counselors, principals and Student Support Center supervisors, will have a representative from each school and will meet twice a year to discuss progress and voice new ways to improve parent involvement.

Employee recognition is also part of the leadership’s focus, RIsden-Smith said. The district has developed monthly Team Lincoln awards, Making a Difference awards and personalized birthday cards from the Student Support Center for every employee.

‘Grow your own’ leadership approach

Rather than focusing solely on recruiting leaders from outside the district, a new program this year, the Aspiring Administrators Program, aims to develop leaders from school district staff through a ‘grow your own’ approach.

“So through this Aspiring Administrators Program, we actually can grow and encourage those teachers, those leaders in our district to go into administrative positions. Hopefully by doing that, they will stick around at least for a few years after they gain our administrative certification rather than leaving and going to another district,” Risden-Smith said.

This year, 20 people have been selected for the program. Risden-Smith said there were several more people interested in participating in the program.

“We’ve already had our first meeting and have our plan for the year,” she said. “They’re going to do some shadowing. That was something that (Superintendent Michael) Rowe really thought would be beneficial to this aspiring administrators program.”

Risden-Smith said the group has met and developed an action plan for program participants to spend time with the administrators in the district and schools at different levels.

“It was really eye-opening for me to see the capacity of some of our leaders out in the district,” Risden-Smith said.