Both the past and the future were in discussion at the Summit School District Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.
The meeting started off on a positive note, with principals throughout the district presenting highlights of the school year, including test scores and improvements, successful programs and student achievements.
“Definitely, I’d say it’s been a successful year,” Summit Middle School principal Joel Rivera said. “What I want to see is hopefully our achievement and growth scores keep moving the way they’re doing. If we show the same improvement next year that we did this year, that’s a pretty big thing.”
At the work session, the board discussed the results and changes of Senate Bill 10-191. The bill alters the way teachers and principals are evaluated in Colorado. Previously, each of Colorado’s 178 school districts had individualized methods of evaluation. SB-191 was designed to improve and streamline teacher evaluation across the state, said Summit School District superintendent Heidi Pace.
“This helps to standardize expectations for teachers across the state,” she said.
Under the law, evaluations will be based on statewide quality standards of effective teacher and principal practices. Half of an educator’s annual evaluation will be based on professional practice quality standards, while the second half will be based on criteria that measure student learning over time.
School districts then have the choice of accepting the evaluation guidelines defined by the state, or creating their own guidelines, so long as those meet or exceed the state requirements and qualifications. Summit County will accept the state guidelines, Pace said.
A number of districts, including Summit, have put some of the bill’s components into place this year, to try out the system, a method which Pace said has been useful.
“I think it’s been very helpful to be involved in a pilot year so people can understand, within the system, what it means,” she said.
The new evaluation system will go fully into practice for the 2013-14 school year.
At the regular meeting, the board also discussed upcoming changes to the graduation guidelines, another change that is coming from the state level. Since June of last year, the Graduation Guidelines Council, a representative group of educators and community members, has been meeting to draft and refine guidelines for high school graduation, which it then reports to the State Board of Education. The purpose behind the new guidelines is to make provisions for equally legitimate alternative pathways toward graduation. For example, certification that a student could receive from a program like Summit High School’s nursing or culinary programs could potentially be used to meet graduation requirements and prepare the student to follow that path into college or a career.
As with the educator evaluations, school districts will have the choice between adopting the state guidelines or developing their own, so long as they meet or exceed state requirements. Summit’s board of education will address the question in the fall, Pace said.
With all the changes and new initiatives coming from the state level, the district has scheduled two new professional development days for teachers in the upcoming school year. The main purpose is to keep Summit County’s educators abreast of the changes and on the same page as far as the district’s own goals.
“We need to meet with teachers as a district so we can get our district plan and vision in place for our implementation in all these things,” Summit School District director of curriculum and instruction Robin O’Meara said.
By adding days designated specifically for professional development and districtwide meetings, teachers won’t need to hire substitutes to take over their classes for those days. While there’s a lot to be done, O’Meara said she believes the results will speak for themselves.
“I think it will beget positive change, because the focus is on college and career readiness,” she said. “It’s all to support student achievement and learning for college and career readiness. That’s the goal.”
The board meeting concluded with an honorary dinner to recognize the district employees who are retiring this year. There are eight individuals retiring — Bonnie Dom, Gretchen Nies, Cathie Hill, Terri Vantiger, Nancy Beresford, Richard Allen, Kim Yessak and Bob Bentson. They have served a collective total of 192 years at the school district. All of them have served 15 years or more individually.
“Everyone on that list has a clear dedication to not only the students in the school district, but the school district in general,” Pace said. “We are just so grateful for their service to all of our kids. They have been a terrific group and it’s always sad to see people go who have been here long term and are still actively contributing and doing a good job, to see them go. It’s a great group.”