The importance of meeting the needs of all students, whether gifted or special needs, was the top vote-getter for what Bowling Green School District needs to be a quality district.
|Group members discuss ideas during a planning forum for Bowling Green City Schools. (Photo EnochWu/Sentinel-Tribune)
All-day kindergarten was a close second
At least that was the opinion of the 19 people who attended the district’s first public forum Wednesday to help develop a strategic plan.
Of the 19 there, nine were directly tied to the district, either as a teacher, a principal or a school board member.
Gaining community support was number three on the must-have list.
Todd Cramer, executive director of teaching and learning, led the two-hour discussion on the attributes of a quality school as well and the pluses and negatives within Bowling Green specifically.
“Our goal isn’t to get agreement in the room,” said Cramer.
The top needs of a quality school, as given by the group, were having a quality curriculum, having committed and dedicated staff, having community support and involvement, and student success after high school.
Also making the list were having a bullying prevention program, levies that pass, the accountability of both parents and students, and having a safe environment.
After this list was compiled, Cramer asked attendees to list the positives in the Bowling Green district, as well as the negatives.
The negatives outnumbered the positives.
Among the positives was the improved communication from the district, well-maintained buildings, a devoted staff, academics, reading intervention at the elementary level, and graduation rates.
On the negative list was lack of all-day kindergarten, teaching to the masses rather than offering specific classes, parental involvement, community support, lack of stated goals, class sizes, school spirit, lack of an online homework option, better funding, bullying, and expanding preschool.
From that second list Cramer asked everyone to rate their three items that need immediate attention.
“Technology has come up every time, but has never made the top three,” Cramer stated.
The district planned to start all-day kindergarten for the 2013-2014 school year, but that was held back when the start of the Crim Elementary expansion was delayed.
The defeat in May 2013 of an operating levy request did not bode well to add the program. Superintendent Ann McVey had hoped to add the kindergarten program in 2014-2015 if the levy was approved.
“It must happen no later than the ’15-’16 school year,” stated Kisha Nichols, a kindergarten teacher at Kenwood Elementary.
“The (school) board has been on board with this for the past three years, but it’s funding, funding, funding,” said Steve Cernkovich, president of the board.
The district needs to look at transportation, classroom space, teachers and scheduling before adding all-day kindergarten.
How to meet the needs of all students left the group grappling for solutions, stating they didn’t know enough about what already is offered.
Paula Williams, seventh-grade science teacher, said she has 12 to 16 students each day that she hopes she is challenging enough.
Nichols said she sees the same thing in kindergarten.
To garner more community support, the group suggested marketing the good things happening in the schools; getting more parents to community meetings, including the PTOs; and getting more spirit pieces, such as decals and student artwork, placed in business windows around town.
“That catches your attention, and makes you smile,” said Williams.
“We really feel we’re going to have a positive outcome for our district and students,” Cramer said about the process.
The district already has held a parent and community survey, and is planning another one is February. Two planning sessions, by invitation only, also have been held with staff and parents.
Nearly 590 people took the survey, and listed as areas of strength the dedicated teachers and support staff; visual and performing arts; building principals; communication; facilities; and connection with the community.
Suggested areas of improvement included school funding, specifically the number of levies on the ballot; class size; all-day kindergarten; using of technology; better communication from building principals, the central office staff and school board members; and the need for higher level classes for honor and gifted students.
Feedback from high school students included the fact that teachers care about students, the number of clubs and activities, and services for those with a disability. On the negative side, though, was the need for more school spirit, getting air conditioning in the building, and the need to offer physical education and other classes over the summer.
McVey said the last request was being looked at. Students who take PE during the day are often closed out of other classes because of scheduling.
A second planning session, open to the public, will be held Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. at the Central Administration Building.
Cramer said the district will review the data in late February and develop a proposed action plan.