Greenville schools focusing on strategy

By Emilee Nielsen • Last Updated 10:51 am on Wednesday, February 15, 2017

GREENVILLE—  Strategic planning was the talk of Monday evening at the Greenville Public School Board of Education meeting.

Superintendent Linda Van Houten talked to the board about the strategic plan for the school district.

Areas included in the ongoing discussion are academic achievement, career awareness, communication and marketing and district infrastructure. Van Houten gave the board and members of the audience and update on the progress the district is making in accomplishing the goals of the strategic plan.

“… we have made great progress in all areas,” she told The Daily News. “We are excited about the growth specifically in the area of academic achievement. We have made shifts in how we provide services and support to our students. Most of these shifts are specifically student-centered and (are) helping us prepare our students for the 21st century.”

Strategies for achieving the district’s goals include focuses on professional development for teachers, changed implementation of the multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) and positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) and a renewed focus on other post-secondary options for students outside of a college track.

In the vein of MTSS, Chief Academics Officer Michelle Blaszczynski gave an update about the different ways the district is choosing to move forward in implementing those supports.

MTSS offers supports and intervention for students at each grade level. There are three tiers which Blaszczynski likened to a pyramid. She said the goal is to have 80 to 90 percent of students at the classroom level proficient within tier one at the classroom level.

With that, she said there would likely be 5 to 10 percent of students who would need tier two support with light interventions and support to achieve proficiency with 1 to 5 percent of students needing additional intervention and support beyond that.

“With getting our pyramid healthy and by investing in tier one, we believe that would be our best course of action,” she said. “We recognize the need to place our resources, meaning time and energy and support, within the tier one first and foremost before moving on to the other tiers of support.”

Focus on investing resources in tier one learning starts with direct contact with the teacher in the classroom and leaning on that relationship with the students to enhance education, opposed to bringing in paraeducators to offer support.

“What we’re saying is it’s best to invest in the instructional best practice or having a comprehensive curriculum right there in that classroom environment and taking care of first best instruction,” Blaszczynski said. “Instead of triaging ourselves out of data, we would instead be nurturing that environment and making sure everything possible is being done … within that tier one.”

Blaszczynski said MTSS has been around for a while, but this is the first time the district is using the data gathered from summative assessments to invest resources in students at the tier one level.

“There’s nothing wrong with helping in those upper tiers, but we have to get our house in order with the tier one,” she said. “That means that we have to … we have to spend the money we’re given, the time, the energy in making sure we support those teachers in delivering the instruction.”

Also discussed during Monday’s meeting was the operational budget for the 2016-2017 academic year. Director of Finance John Gilchrist told the board the final amended budget fund balance as of June 30, 2016, is $1,863,620.

Gilchrist emphasized the fund balance covers operational costs of keeping the district functioning well and does not reflect monies which could be allocated for district improvements that would come from the bond if passed by voters.

According to Gilchrist, the major investments made by the district include investment in a timekeeping management system for employees and a tracking system for student history for attendance and otter things.

“That will put more (student) data in staff’s hands,” he said. “There’s a lot of features this program has that will help us become more efficient in management of (student) records.”

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