By Steve Atwater
On behalf of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the 2014-2015 school year. With summer drawing to a close, it’s time for our students to head back to school and by extension, it is also time for our community to reengage and support our students’ education.
It was a busy summer at the district office with the close out of the financial year, data review and grant writing. I am pleased to report that the vast majority of our students continue to make good progress toward graduation and perform well above the averages on our state’s standardized tests.
It is also good to note that the state’s star rating will show that our schools have improved. Another indicator of success is the increase in our graduation rate. At the end of June, we learned that we are a recipient of one of the governor’s digital initiative grants. This will allow us to expand our distance learning infrastructure and better train teachers to utilize digital content. Each of these successes provides us with momentum on our continuous improvement journey.
An important step in this journey is the expansion of our reporting system for our elementary students. The new standards-based report card is a more comprehensive and accurate way to report our elementary children’s learning. This move away from just getting a B in math for example, will help parents better pinpoint the strengths and areas of concern for their child.
A second improvement is our continued work to improve our teacher evaluation process. Each year, we make small adjustments to this process as a way to improve instruction. At each school, we will pilot how to best tie evidence of student learning to a teacher’s performance. These plans are called student growth maps. As a way to help with this, we are developing performance assessments.
One other change of note for the year is to devote more training time for our staff about how to respond in emergency situations.
All of us at KPBSD strive to keep you — our stakeholders — informed about all of our operations; this is a responsibility we take seriously. An exciting change is the development of a KPBSD smartphone app. This will make accessing district information, school news, calendars, student information, staff directory and so forth, very convenient. We will continue to provide school district information and stories to you through social media including Facebook and Twitter and the various blogs in which our administrators and I write. In addition, your school news, district publications and local media will keep you up-to-speed on what is going on with KPBSD.
In the southern Peninsula, we welcome back our teachers, instructional aides, nurses, custodians, bus drivers and food service professionals; they are the backbone of our district’s success. I am pleased to welcome Alan Haskins, our new principal at Susan B. English School. We also have one new administrator at the district office: Julie Cisco takes over as director of planning and operations.
We invite parents and community members to join us by volunteering in the schools and becoming involved in partnerships to support students. Schools need the help of parents and community members to be successful with each student. It is also critical for our students to know that their parents, guardians, relatives and friends are supportive of their schooling process. A student without this support may, at times, feel at a loss to find the necessary focus to excel at his or her studies.
Please let your principal know of recommendations that you may have for improvement at your school or for the district; we are always receptive to hearing your thoughts. I hope to see you in the coming months and wish you a great start to the school year. We anxiously await the return of our students and look forward to another outstanding school year!
Steve Atwater, Ph.D, is the superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula School District.
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