Schools wrap busy year, look to 2019 with high expectations

The school calendar runs from fall to spring and this 2018-2019 school year is just beginning to hit its stride. Knowing we’re hitting the mid year mark on the school calendar makes it a difficult task to write a “wrap up” article for 2018. I will say there are a lot of items closed out for 2018 and some we are just beginning to move forward with as we begin the second semester in January of 2019 with the new year.

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The school calendar runs from fall to spring and this 2018-2019 school year is just beginning to hit its stride. Knowing we’re hitting the mid year mark on the school calendar makes it a difficult task to write a “wrap up” article for 2018. I will say there are a lot of items closed out for 2018 and some we are just beginning to move forward with as we begin the second semester in January of 2019 with the new year.

  We have closed out the spring of 2018 school letter grades. Our local schools remained consistent from 2017 by having the same letter grade in 2018. Our high school was a “B”, the middle school a “D”, Jeff-Craig a “C”, and Switzerland County Elementary a “D.” Obviously we feel this is not a true indication of the hard work taking place in each of the buildings daily.  I do feel parents need to be informed of the changes that have taken place over the past few years in Indiana and at the federal level. The federal No Child Left Behind was closed out and the new Every Student Succeeds Act or ESSA was implemented. This change now provides both an Indiana and federal report card to schools. In Indiana the accountability model has been modified multiple times through recent years to add growth scores, changes to the multiple measures for high schools, and to address changes in federal regulations.

  There was a major change to Indiana standards in April of 2014. A new test was launched in the spring of 2015 for grades 3-8. A new test provider was soon selected which added new technology features for students to navigate and then this 2018-2019 school year, for the spring test of 2019, we have changed test providers and test versions yet again. All of this while the state begins reviewing academic standard updates for the 2020 school year.

  If you look throughout the state of Indiana, schools have struggled with performance scores on the new versions of tests with the new standards. The state averages have dropped and many schools have turned their focus to individual student growth. In grades 4-8 Individual student growth is equally weighted with pass performance scores. Students can receive more than 100 accountability points for just passing the test. Growth can go up to 150 points for previous year passing students and 175 possible points in growth for students who did not pass in the previous year.

  Obviously student growth is where many schools will have a higher letter grade over schools with similar pass performance for this very reason. If you compare our results with many of the schools throughout Indiana we have similar pass performance results with a lower letter grade due to student growth. To help address this issue we have implemented a long range plan in regards to what is taught in the classroom.

  Beginning this year Switzerland County School Corporation has taken a district wide approach to curriculum. We feel this will be a three to five year process to update our standards, instill best practices which will emphasize effective teaching in every classroom, enhance grade level and school to school collaboration while creating a guaranteed and viable curriculum in each subject area, not just those tested, in all buildings within the district. As we make this transition principals are working hard to begin to look at individual student data points, share these items with teachers and begin discussions that will focus on the social and emotional side of learning as well as the academic needs of each student. Throughout this practice we believe we will see individual growth scores increase and our overall performance scores improve.

  We value the information contained within the letter grade and we value the educational success of each student.  As we transition to a new format again, and to a new set of standards, I know our teachers and administrators are working diligently to adapt to the new system. This hard work is evident in our classrooms daily and we feel over the timeline it will become evident in our letter grade.

  Some building and grounds changes took place this year. As the new superintendent coming home after 25 years it’s been amazing to see the changes throughout our campus. The middle school is a completely new addition from when I left home. The new wings on the elementary schools and updated safety entrances in all buildings are great additions. Even the overlapping “old gym” has been updated over the past 25 years. I want to take time to thank the endowment for their generosity over the years in helping Switzerland County School Corporation update buildings, playgrounds, HVAC, and needed roof repairs while keeping property taxes down by paying debt service. This year through the use of capital projects we have added a short sidewalk area for bus loading behind the high school, updated playground mulch at SCES, repaired the small roof area of the Middle School and put new stage curtains and window screen on Jeff-Craig. There have been numerous other small projects to close out 2018 but some exciting changes coming in 2019 include a security officer position at SCES and the use of School Guard 911 throughout the corporation.

  The security officer will be off duty officers from local and regional law enforcement agencies to help with the daily unloading and loading of buses, help with any issues throughout the day and be a positive role model for students in the halls at SCES. The officer will fall under the direction of Roy Leap our School Resource Officer for daily job duties. I want to thank both the Sheriff’s Department and Vevay Town Police Department for their cooperation in making this possible. Without the support of the school board and our local law enforcement agencies this would not be possible.

  School Guard 911 will give every school staff member access to a resource to alert 911 in the event of a emergency for general 911 assistance but also the capability to send an instant location report to both on duty and off duty officers in the event of a school threat.

  It’s hard to believe we have closed out our first semester of the 2018-2019 school year with our administrators. We have two new administrators doing an excellent job at the high school level. Mr. Boggs is transitioning well from the classroom to the office. Mr. Todd has been a good resource for Mr. Boggs but Mr. Todd has also made a smooth transition to the principal position. New in 2019 we will begin the principal search again as Mr. Druba retires from Switzerland County School Corporation after his return for the 2018-2019 school year. Mr. Druba has done an amazing job at SCES this year. Going from the position of a secondary administrator to an elementary principal is not an easy task. The schedules flow differently, the students require a different approach, and the teachers teach a class of students all day rather than rotate classes of students throughout the day in most grade levels. Mr. Druba worked hard to acclimate himself to the new setting and I want to thank him for his work as we close out the first semester.

  Overall I feel the first semester has been a great success. There has been a lot of transition for the corporation at all levels this school year. New administrators, new transportation director, a few new teachers in every building and if it were not for the veterans here to help show us the ropes along the way it could have been a difficult journey. Each of those teachers, secretaries, bus drivers, and support personnel throughout the district have ensured those of us who are new had some guidance along the way and I appreciate their help.

  As we look forward to 2019 we will have a few changes still coming our way. We are adding a counselor who will work with both elementary schools a couple days a week in 2019 in addition to the security officer at SCES. We have a new school board member, Adam Cole a 1994 Switzerland County graduate coming on the school board. As mentioned earlier we will have a new administrator hired at SCES. There will be some water sealing projects started at the old gym downtown. We have adopted a new school calendar with a few key changes, parent teacher night will be on one night but run from noon to 7 p.m. on an E-Learning day on October 24th. We will have late arrival days over early dismissal days, this will allow for career center to attend in their scheduled slot while other students are in their general classes. It also allows for the event of inclement weather. On a late arrival day we cannot dismiss early and count the day. So if we left our days to late arrival and we had event delay level weather we would be required to close school for the day, this prevents that situation.

  I’ve tried to make it to as many school related community events as possible this year. I always encourage parents to reach out when there are questions. I look forward to hearing from parents and community members, it’s with your input that helps me make decisions that impact our community. I encourage everyone to tune into Froggy radio on the first Friday of each month to hear a quick update. You’re always welcome to visit the school website for updates and please do reach out to both your building principal and to my office if you have questions. I look forward to 2019 and what the future holds for Switzerland County School Corporation.

  I appreciate everything our local community does to help our students and their support of our faculty and staff. I hope everyone has a Happy New Year in 2019!