Monday, August 30, 2010

Student Internet Access at Home

RASD is in the beginning stages of attempting to increase the ease and amount of community and parent involvement in the school. The foundation for this effort is a new school web site. The web site will allow easy access for parents to have conversations with teachers and administrators while at the same time monitoring their children’s class. One question that must be answered is this: how many students/parents are without internet access? In an attempt to get a ballpark figure of internet access of our community, the district conducted a survey of students asking, “Do you have internet access at home?” Granted this is unscientific, but it will show a ballpark figure of internet access. The overall figures show that about 12% of our student/parents do not have internet access at home (125 students in grades 1 through 12). The highest percentage of students WITHOUT internet access at home is in the elementary school, while the high school has the largest percentage of students WITH internet access. This raises some interesting points.

1. Most of our students have internet access at home.

2. The student body is well positioned for online learning opportunities.

3. How can the school district help make facilities available after school for those students that do not have internet access?

I thought that these figures would be interesting for you. Let me know what you think.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Student Enrollment at RASD

The student enrollment for RASD now stands at 1002. This figure is up from the 984 students that the district ended the year with in June and also an increase compared to the 989 that the district started with last school year. I hope that the trend toward higher enrollment continues. RASD has several initiatives that will improve education and hopefully increase enrollment. First, the district has started our own virtual academy to make our curriculum and teachers more accessible. The school district also sent seven teachers to be retrained in Advanced Placement classes in an effort to increase the rigor in those classes. Finally, RASD is "mapping" its curriculum this year. What this means is that at the end of the year the teachers and administrators will be able to sit down and see a map of all areas taught in every class. We can then look for redundancies and "holes" in the curriculum. This will assure that the students are getting the best curriculum possible. RASD is moving forward!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Teachers Are Back!

Yesterday was the day that I always look forward to every summer…the first day of school for teachers. I look forward to this day because the teachers come into the new school year with enthusiasm for the upcoming school year. The teachers have three days of school before the first students arrive. The district’s professional development committee builds the professional learning for the entire school year including the first three days. My opening day power point is here. The first day (August 23rd) was dedicated to a guest speaker. Dr. James Manley (The 2009 Pennsylvania Superintendent of The Year) spoke to the staff about his experiences as a superintendent for 27 years. Dr. Manley also worked with the teachers to start to form a vision of what education will look like in the future for RASD. I will have more about the results in a later blog post.

Today, the teachers are in training all day. They will be learning about data analysis, team teaching techniques, questioning strategies in the classroom, and they will learn how to set up their personal profile and classroom pages on Echalk (the school district’s new web site). Tomorrow the teachers will be in their respective schools doing any last minute preparation for the return of the students.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cost Savings at RASD

Today I would like to discuss some of the cost cutting measures the school district has taken this summer and the consequences of those cost cutting measures. If you have followed this blog for awhile, you may remember a discussion about the school district’s five year budget model. Based on the budget model (which includes less governmental funding and increased pension costs), even if the district raises property taxes one mill a year the district would still be over two million dollars in debt in five years. Obviously cost savings is in order. The administration will present a rough draft of a cost savings plan to the board in September. In the meantime, the district has not replaced three teachers that have resigned this summer. The savings to the school district is close to $150,000. This has resulted in increased class sizes in the elementary school. Even though class sizes are larger than in the past, the Kindergarten and First grade class sizes are still below twenty per class, and the largest class sizes are only 24 students per class. The district will provide added supports in these classes and I am confident that there will be no detrimental effect on education.

You may also hear some talk in the national news about how the federal government is providing funds to the States to “save teacher jobs”. This sounds very good in theory but the devil is in the details. I anticipate that the school district will receive no new funds to “save” teachers jobs. Rather, I suspect that the State will simply substitute this money with funds the school district is already going to receive. In other words, the State will simply use the “new” money to replace money that is already budgeted for education. I could be wrong about this, but based on past practice this is what I anticipate occurring. I will keep you updated on any changes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Summer Reading Program

The Ridgway Area School District conducted a summer reading program this year. The district received "stimulus" finds to operate the program so there were no "local dollars" used in the operation of the program. The program consisted of three separate weeks of instruction for students of Ridgway Area School District. The ability to read is so important in a global society. Reading is a "gatekeeper" skill that can either open up doors for advancement for students who can read well or keep the door closed to new opportunities if you cannot read well. Ridgway Area School District wants to make sure our student’s will be able to read well. The school board at Ridgway has made a commitment to literacy training for our students by making literacy instruction a nonnegotiable goal. The program has had an attendance of approximately 130 students during the three weeks with about 80 students being served (some students attended multiple weeks). I am proud of the work that the elementary staff has done to make sure the summer reading program was a huge success. The school district will be able to continue the reading program one more year with the stimulus funding available. In the future, the school board will have to make a decision about how to fund the program with local dollars.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Final Numbers for the Summer Food Program

I apologize for not updating this blog recently. I have been away from a computer and I still have not figured out "mobile blogging". The school district completed the first summer of offering hot lunches to the summer parks program. It was a successful endeavor. During the last week the school district served 150 lunches on each of the three days the summer parks program ran. Overall, the school district served 1,542 lunches over 18 days. I want to thank the cafeteria staff for working very hard to make this program a success....good job!