Beth Happe, a consultant for school improvement with the Department of Education, summed up the Lynnville-Sully School District site visit March 6-7 best, “It is apparent that everyone has great pride in your school and community, and everyone is fighting for the same cause. From your vision and mission statements displayed throughout the school and even painted on the cafeteria walls, we noticed your high expectations of your administration, staff, and students. Your district has many, many strengths to be proud of.”
The L-S School is required to have a site visit from the State Board of Education every five years. This year, the visit was condensed into two days because of inclement weather. Along with Happe, Leanne Chapman-Thill, AEA 11 Regional Director; Michael Jepson, Curriculum Director and Assistant Elementary Principal at Williamsburg CSD; Angela Livezey, Elementary Principal at North Mahaska CSD; Carol Price, AEA 11 Consultant; David Roby, High School Principal at Twin Cedars CSD; and Peggy Van Kirk, Department of Education Special Education Monitoring Cadre; spent two days interviewing students, faculty, administration, community members, and business persons, as well as touring the L-S campus. From early morning into the evening hours, the state visit team covered all facets of the school district, interviewing more than 60 individuals and 12 teams.
During the Highlight Meeting at the close of the audit that was open to the public, each Department of Education team member reported on the strengths and areas for improvement in seven different categories. In the leadership category, Roby thanked L-S for the opportunity to visit their school and praised the leadership of the district, recognizing the collaborative efforts amongst administration, school board, community, and parents, and admitted he had already called back to his district with some ideas that could be implemented at Twin Cedars. “You have hard workers and they care deeply; everyone clearly bleeds blue and yellow,” concluded Roby, making those in attendance smile with pride.
Chapman-Till reported on the findings of the clean and safe building environment. “It was noted that students and faculty alike feel safe at school,” said Chapman-Till. One area of recommendation suggested a single point electronic entrance for everyone entering the building. “Homeland Security will be able to do a building audit and help you in this area.”
Price reported on how L-S integrates core academics in technology. The hiring of a technology director, staff web pages, blogs, and areas where students can track progress were just a few of the examples Price mentioned in her closing remarks. “Data is used for everything here,” said Price. Price also reported on the findings from the interviews with the Career and Technical Education (CTE) groups. The variety of the class offerings and the new FFA Land Lab were mentioned. It was noted that the district had made great strides since the last site visit. “However, the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) and CTE groups still feel the district needs more help in career prep for the students making them career worthy, including interview skills, writing resumes, more online opportunities, and job shadowing experiences,” said Price in her area of improvement recommendation.
Jepson was impressed with how the school has shared leadership. “The school board has a cohesive relationship with administrators and teachers. You also empower your kiddos,” said Jepson. “Bravo! It was great to hear that everyone thinks their voice is being heard, there is no separation in this district.” One area of recommendation included a district-wide behavioral system for K-12 that for all faculty to use.
In monitoring and accountability, Happe reported that parents like the way the district informs them of their child’s progress. From online tools for Accelerated Reader to daily announcements, the parents feel informed. The use of data days where teachers and administration meet and review student and data and plan student interventions was recognized as a positive for the district. “Principals provide walk-throughs of classrooms and teachers like that. Administration is described as colleagues and are welcomed in the classroom,” said Happe. It was recommended that para-educators have clearly defined expectations for all students.
A full report will be sent to L-S Superintendent Shane Ehresman and the school district in approximately 30 days after the visit.
“We were treated like royalty and we thank you,” was the consensus of the state board visit members.