We are about to begin my favorite time of year. This is the time that students come back to school. All of the preparations to get ready for the new school year are completed and we are excited to have the kids coming back. We have been busy with getting our buildings ready. The High School has a new floor, we have replaced a lot of carpeting, floors are waxed and polished, and we have painted most anything that would hold still.
I am particularly proud of how good our campus looks. Our summer workers have taken a lot of pride in making our schools look as good as possible. We want our campus to reflect our values and we want our students to take pride in the school they attend.
One of the new changes for the school year is that our High School and Middle School have gone back to an 8 period day. The reason was more financial than anything. It does take more staff to run the block schedule and especially in the High School, students were having difficulty getting the classes they needed. As the superintendent, I couldn’t see us being able to hire additional staff when we are having trouble taking care of the people we have.
This past year we experienced some strong improvement academically in the District. Our test scores were reflective of better instructional practices. It was easy to see where we had strong buy-in with our staff, the students’ performance increased. The biggest jump in test scores was in writing and we want to continue the writing emphasis. Research tells us that students retain 70% of the information when they write. We also know that when students can write well, they are prepared for the rigors of most any college they may choose.
Our Middle and Elementary teachers received training in a program called Empowering Writers last spring. I have heard nothing but glowing remarks about the program and our teachers are ready to implement these writing strategies with our kids this year. We expect that we will once again see growth and improvement with our instructional practices and student performance.
The last item to share is that the District is seeking a millage increase. This proposal is an effort to make it possible for us to recruit and retain the best staff we can for our students. All of the revenue generated from this 3.6 millage increase will be going directly to staff salaries. It was especially heartbreaking to see some of our best staff members taking jobs at neighboring schools. We trained the teachers to where they were doing amazing things in our classrooms, only to lose them to other local schools. We had several instances where we would have a job opening and only have a couple applicants, and in a few cases, people pulled their applications once they found out what we paid.
We look forward to a wonderful year and like always we appreciate the way the community of Heber Springs supports our schools!
For the kids,
Dr. Alan Stauffacher