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UAS, JSD begin forging stronger bonds

Posted: April 10, 2011 - 9:56pm

The University of Alaska Southeast and the Juneau School District will begin forging stronger bonds and find ways to share common resources.

District Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich told the Board of Education on Tuesday both entities share “a collective sense of urgency” in trying to make things better.

Both entities said they’re interested in forming a tactical plan of how the two distinct educational organizations can work together for the benefit of students.

UAS has come up with an updated mission statement and strategic plan, UAS Chancellor John Pugh said. Part of that includes coming up with creative partnerships in the community.

JSD Board member Andi Story said one of the things they’re working on is strengthening teacher support through professional learning.

UAS Provost Rick Caulfield said faculty development is essential to their success, so they participate in online learning, bring in presenters and allow for a travel budget so staff can go to conferences.

One of the areas both entities were interested in linking up is staff training. If the university hosts a presenter for its teachers, district staff may be able to benefit, as well and vice-versa.

Another suggestion Caulfield had was to get English and math teachers together. Part of what the district is working on is linking between transitions of elementary, middle and high school and what English and math teachers expect of their incoming students. The same would apply to the transition from high school to college as far as aligning curriculums to make a transition as smooth as possible. Another suggestion is to offer a three-week refresher math course for incoming college freshmen so they have a better chance at passing the basic math test. Caulfield said that may be a way to cut down on the number of students needing the remedial courses.

Pugh said professional development kick started UAS’ cultural infusion program. A mixture of faculty at the university work together to include culture in the programs. Pugh said this has lead to an increase in Alaska Native student success, however the program needs more work to reach more students.

Joe Nelson, UAS dean of enrollment, said the cultural infusion piece is another place where the two could work together and develop a joint strategic plan. He said both sides have a lot of new administrators who are just learning what Juneau is about so the timing would be perfect.

He said some things that have been done in the past between the two have faded away because of transitions, but the two should work together on bigger goals.

Board member Ed Flannigan said this kind of partnership could have a great impact on the vocational/technical education the district offers. Right now, some of the district’s offerings could be in jeopardy because of budget cuts and lack of student enrollment.

Carin Smolin, district career and tech ed coordinator, said there are a lot of students who aren’t taking the opportunity. More than 100 students are enrolled in a certificate or endorsement program. Taking those courses through the high school costs $75, but it also gives college credit. Smolin said that’s significantly cheaper than going directly to the university. She said there has been a lot of communication to parents and students and isn’t sure why more aren’t taking the opportunity. Smolin said she’s had recent cases of graduated students coming back and trying to get college credits for those classes they completed in high school.

Pugh said there are a growing number of UAS students who complete their certificate or endorsement and also get a bachelor’s degree.

Board member Mark Choate said expecting students to do better and achieving those results will only work if everyone works together. There will be students who will exceed what the school district can offer, he added.

Pugh said a lot of times the focus is on preparing for college, however he said students should really be prepared for post-secondary education. For some students, that doesn’t necessarily mean a four-year bachelor’s degree.

UAS does not have any barriers for students to be admitted. Essentially, if they apply they can attend. Pugh said the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has higher expectations.

“The thing is that oftentimes you get confronted with people, well, ‘we don’t need to prepare them for college, most of the careers don’t need college degrees,’” he said. “One of the things about UAS, it’s not just a place prepare people for associates and bachelor degrees, we have other certificates and endorsements that prepare people for other careers.”

Pugh said last year alone UAS issued 79 occupational endorsements and only 129 bachelor’s degrees. If you add in the certificates, it’s about even.

Pugh suggested they work together to develop a technical plan versus a strategic plan since both entities have their own. The technical plan would identify 2-3 things both groups would work on together to benefit students and it would be evaluated and reconstructed each year.

“I really do want to work on summer programming partnerships,” he said. “We don’t do enough of that. We’re up and down. We’ve built non-sustainable things to do it, the grant goes away, and we drop them. Let’s start working on sustainable things. Let’s stop the grant running after, you can use it as planning and starting something, but when we start it we need to talk about how we’re going to sustain them.”

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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