Yes, we are doing what you told us to do.
That was the message administrators with the Ottumwa school district told their Community Advisory Committee this week.
“We want to stick with the plan,” said Superintendent Davis Eidahl. “These recommendations — at one time, there were 13, and in 2001, they narrowed it to these six.”
They don’t change much, either, which means the district is supposed to drive toward each goal until it is achieved.
The strategies are: quality teaching; instruction that’s based on research; deciding what’s working in school based on accurate information; classes that keep students interested; improving communication between teachers, parents and students; and finally, teaching children early in their lives through good preschool programs.
“I’m the third superintendent since then,” Eidahl said. “Often, when a school loses a principal or a superintendent, they start [plans] over completely. But these six strategies aren’t just a superintendent’s recommendations, they are the community’s recommendations.”
School board member Cindy Kurtz-Hopkins left the meeting feeling swept up in the possibilities for positive change. She said changes in the district give her hope for cultural and academic improvement.
“They’ve collected a lot of information, and they’re using it,” she said.
One way they’re doing that, said Eidahl, is with their focus on professional development among teachers.
At one time, the school principal was expected to teach every teacher the latest strategies. And they are still involved. But they also have a building to manage, said Eidahl. They’re meeting with parents, writing performance evaluations for employees, overseeing student discipline, ordering paper for the school year. “School improvement leaders,” on the other hand, are focused on learning and then teaching the latest evidence-based strategies.
“The role of the school improvement leaders in our district is to spend time in classrooms and with teachers supporting their continued professional growth,” said the superintendent. “To take the research [and use their knowledge of it] to provide modeling and feedback. They are coaches. Coaches in the classroom.”
To meet the strategy of “creating engaging classrooms,” the district agreed to put more technology into the lessons. They moved a teacher into a position to become a technology instructor — just for their fellow teachers.
“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in technology use in the classroom. It’s engaging, it’s interactive, it’s 21st century. Students are going to see [this technology] in any job they have,” Eidahl said.
Yes, we are doing what you told us to do.
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