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Basora sets sights high for schools

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Yellow Springs Schools Superintendent Mario Basora is intent on making visible changes to the local district, already ranked by the state as excellent with distinction. At the school board meeting on Thursday, Sept. 8, he committed to personally visiting half of the district’s classrooms each week, and proposed that the school board evaluate his performance as the district’s lead administrator on his capacity to do that and meet other goals to create positive academic, cultural and budgetary change for the local schools.

The board agreed this year to pilot a new superintendent evaluation system that ties the district’s goals to the performance of its leaders. The new tool is based on the Ohio Superintendent Evaluation System, which encourages assessment through dialogue and narrative evaluation, rather than the older point system formerly utilized by Yellow Springs schools. And the standards are established by the district itself, based on the goals the district establishes at the beginning of each year. If the method works, the district could possibly use it as a model for professional assessment for other administrators, teachers and staff in the future, Basora said.

The proposal was, in the words of board member Richard Lapedes, “light years ahead” of any evaluation the district was using before, he said during the board meeting.

This year, Basora is asking the school board to evaluate him based on how well he manages to guide the district toward meeting four general priorities, including improving academic achievement for struggling students, creating a more positive district culture, initiating the implementation of the district’s Class of 2020 strategic plan and exploring new revenue sources. For each of these goals, he also proposes a list of specific action steps and leaders within the school to complete those steps, along with completion dates for each of the steps. And he proposes that the board evaluate him based on evidence of having completed and guided his team to complete those steps.

To improve on academics, Basora proposes to work with Principals Matt Housh and Tim Krier to refine the intervention and enrichment period of each school day and improve identification of struggling students. The principals would also work with special education coordinator Barb Greiwe to create an academic improvement plan for struggling students and to use both quantitative and qualitative data to monitor students’ progress.

Specific action steps to improve the district culture include working with the same administrative group to refine staff discussion teams, revise the district-wide surveys, attend workshops on improving school culture and improve parent communication tools. He also suggests that Principals Housh and Krier schedule classroom visits to at least 50 percent of the classrooms in their respective schools each week, and Basora himself plans to attend 50 percent of the classrooms in the district each week, a task that he estimates will take each of them at least six hours each week. He also committed to giving an annual state of the schools address to the community halfway through the school year.

Initiating the strategic plan is the third priority that will address some of the other priorities and also demand the commitment of all of the district’s staff members to achieve. According to Basora’s evaluation proposal, action steps include a draft plan to be completed, followed by establishing action committees and completing the process outlined in the plan. He also proposes having stakeholders visit innovative schools and implement the district-wide transition to wireless Internet connection and Google computing.

Steps to achieve the final priority of finding new revenue sources include discussing levy options with the school board, reducing building budgets by 10 percent over the 2010–11 school year and working with District Treasurer Dawn Weller to explore other budget reductions for the 2011–12 and the 2012–13 school years.

In order to better assess just how much the schools are improving and where exactly they need help, Basora is advocating ways to gather more data, such as the formative reading and math assessment tools that Mills Lawn is implementing three times this year. This kind of redactive screening will help to more quickly identify students who are falling behind so that intervention can be implemented earlier, he said.

“We need to do more formative assessments and get the report right away — we need to do more doctor well-visits to diagnose and address the problems immediately,” Basora said during the meeting.

“This is a logical and useful tool,” Lapedes said of the new evaluation system, adding that the school should incorporate the high school juniors and seniors into the process of achieving the district’s goals. Involving the students will help to involve the parents, who are ultimately the ones paying for the school system.

In other school board business:

• The school board members agreed to the appropriations recommended by Treasurer Weller for the new 2011–12 school year in the amount of $8,990,105. Of the total, $7.7 million was appropriated to the general fund, of which $4,684,436 was committed to salaries, $1,613,648 to fringe benefits, and $977,462 for purchased services. Board President Sean Creighton and members Angela Wright and Richard Lapedes voted yes. Board member Aïda Merhemic was absent, and board member Benji Maruyama is out of the country on a six-month leave of absence.

• The board welcomed former YSHS principal John Gudgel back as Mills Lawn’s Title I tutor. The district also approved homebound tutors Donna Haller, Pat Spracklen and David Johnston. The district approved supplemental contracts for Naomi Orme as freshman and sophomore class advisor; Leslie Welsh as sophomore class co-advisor; Lori Whitaker as mock trial advisor; Craig McCann as assistant football coach; and the following as substitute teachers, bus drivers, custodians, secretary or aides: Anna Stephens, Marcia Williamson, Kelly Young, Susan Butler, Pat Partee and Kathy Young. The board also approved the following contracts for drama club support staff, who will be paid from drama club box receipts and funds: Moira Laughlin as drama club advisor; Katie Manns as spring musical director; Ara Beal as fall play and one-acts director and Brian Carlson as tech advisor.

• The 2020 steering committee has agreed on a draft strategic plan, which it will present to the community at the end of the month for feedback from teachers, students, parents and community members. The plan will be posted on the Yellow Springs News Web site for direct online comment, as well as on the school’s Facebook page. Once all the feedback is gathered, the committee and Wright State CUPA consultant will hold a work session with the board and administrators sometime in October to draft a final plan.


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