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School board priorities: safety, instruction

Vote expected Monday on a strategic plan that establishes goals for the next three years


BeckImproving instructional content, upgrading security at schools and determining how to make sure schools have the right amount of space for kids are among the top priorities in a three-year strategic plan that will be presented Monday to the Lake Oswego School Board.

The plan is the result of a work session held in July, when the board and new school Superintendent Heather Beck sought to prioritize goals and compile a conceptual to-do list for the district.

Once the plan is approved, district staffers will be asked to gather and analyze data, schedule meetings, visit facilities and update the board on progress. Timelines for proposed changes will be set later.

The school district updates its list of priorities every year, but the new strategic plan differs greatly from the one created for 2013-14 by the board and recently retired Superintendent Bill Korach. Last year’s plan did not specifically point to technology and facilities improvements, although safety and instructional improvements did make the list.

Some of the items on last year’s list have been completed: the search for a new superintendent, a real estate study and a local option levy renewal. In addition, the need to trim an additional $1 million per year from the district’s budget is moot because of a boost in state funding.

Improving curriculum

With those items off its plate, the board opted this year to focus on facilities upgrades and instructional improvements.Barman

“We’ve stated as a board that our desire is to be a top-top-top school district,” board Vice Chairman Bob Barman said.

Most of the instructional changes will be linked to Common Core State Standards. Common Core, which will be formally implemented throughout Oregon this fall, is a multi-state initiative that puts a greater emphasis on literacy in all subjects and a greater focus on informational, nonfiction text. The standards are accompanied by the new Smarter Balanced Assessment state testing, which involves more critical thinking than current tests.

The district’s strategic plan says district leaders and principals will collaborate with teachers to make sure all of the new curriculum is implemented as it’s meant to be.

“This is really foundational to making sure our district is working toward shared leadership,” Beck told the board at a recent meeting. “We’re all in this together.”

School officials will review current state testing scores and compare them to future test results to figure out where further improvements in curriculum and instruction are needed.Wendland

Board member John Wendland said students in the district perform well on the tests, but that there’s always room for growth. Special-needs students are among the subgroups in Lake Oswego that have not always met state standards, for example. Wendland said data from smaller groups can be less statistically accurate, with one or two students able to greatly alter results. But that doesn’t negate the need for change, he said.

“We need to be working with those kids as best we can and putting resources into instructional outcomes,” Wendland said.

State testing results will be employed to help evaluate teachers, a state requirement. To that end, school leaders will work with teachers to better understand and meet the new curriculum standards.

Upgrading safety

The board has made it a priority to assess each of the district’s buildings to pinpoint safety weaknesses. Each school will be asked to clearly document who has been assigned to specific tasks in an emergency. Participation in safety training also will be documented, and police, fire and safety consultants will be asked to lend support.

Barman said one key consultant will be the superintendent herself, who came to Lake Oswego from the Jefferson County School District (Jeffco) in Colorado. Jeffco includes Columbine High School, the scene of a horrific shooting in 1999. Beck worked at Jeffco from July 2003 until she arrived in Lake Oswego in July.

Barman said he’s impressed that Beck is already talking to school administrators throughout the district to determine what should be done, whether it’s installing security cameras or increasing awareness about security issues.

“She has a wealth of knowledge to bring to the table, and we need to lean on that,” Barman said.

Improving facilities

In addition to safety improvements, district officials also will look at facility improvements. The strategic plan calls not only for reports on existing conditions, but also for goals for developing a more-efficient use of building space for education programs. Those reports would be due in October, although that date depends on the amount of major repairs required at Oak Creek Elementary and Lakeridge Junior High schools.

The board agreed to develop plans for analyzing and upgrading technology, though whether that’s wireless, hard-wire or server equipment is not yet determined. The board also hopes to look at whether any physical changes to buildings are needed and then figure out how to pay for those changes in a way that’s gradual and gentle on the budget.

The strategic plan ties facility goals to enrollment goals, asking staff to determine likely future enrollment and to pay special attention to district and state mandates that may affect capacity, such as the new requirement to provide full-day kindergarten.

The state will begin funding full-day kindergarten for all Oregon students in the 2015-16 school year; to ensure that each school building isn’t over or well below student capacity, the district may have to consider shifting elementary school boundaries.

There will actually be fewer school buildings available soon, because the district plans to gain revenue from “surplus properties through either lease or sale.” The district recently shuttered three elementary schools — Bryant, Uplands and Palisades — and began using them for other purposes. (For example, Bryant’s gym and some offices are being used by next-door neighbor Lakeridge Junior High.)Photo Credit: REVIEW FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Uplands is one of three Lake Oswego elementary schools closed to save money, but it could be reopened. In its three-year strategic plan, the school board says it intends to gain revenue by leasing or selling school buildings.

A real estate study recently assessed the value and needed maintenance at all elementary schools and both junior high schools; that study will inform the board’s decision on which buildings to keep or sell.

The board is expected to vote on the strategic plan Monday. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at school district offices, 2455 Country Club Road.


By Jillian Daley
Reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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