District organization sees own improvement in evaluation

Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Juneau School District is working at a systematic approach for seven categories of district functions.

Last year, a consulting firm rated the district poorly in nearly every category. This year, the district improved in each.

Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich told the school board Tuesday about Krenek Consulting's visit and report. It evaluated the district's leadership, strategic planning and results, curriculum and teaching, stakeholder engagement, recruitment and retention of stellar people, effective and efficient processes, and accountability - and how they all affect student achievement.

"They give us feedback about how our practice as a school system matches up with the research of what affective school organizations look like," he said.

Part of the process involved overall opinions of staff and students. The opinions weren't differentiated by groups of staff. They were asked to say what one word describes the district. From staff, common words were: Evolving, potential, top down, love the children, hopeful, dysfunctional, confused, in transition, fascinating, diverse, progressive, purposeful and hardworking.

Students had a different perspective with: Awesome, fun, exhilarating, friendly, welcoming.

Of the seven categories in the evaluation, positives were given for the programs the district has initiated, but opportunities for improvement were identified:

Leadership - the perception is that changes are being done to staff, not with staff. There is not a common vision to move the district into the future. The district has used research-based strategies to support strategic direction.

Strategic plan - while the district has a strategic plan, not all stakeholders know their role and not all staff has seen their school department action plans support the strategic plan.

Curriculum and teaching - while work is being done on Power Standards, there is confusion about what they are and why they are being identified. Not all professional development is valued by staff. The district is working on equity for all students.

Stakeholder engagement - a lack of effective communication is causing inefficiencies across the district.

Stellar people - not all staff have the same opportunities for professional development. Some of the resistance to change is due to people not understanding the reasons behind the change. Human Resources' online application system is helpful.

Effective processes - staff has begun work on understanding processes to support student achievement.

Accountability - there is a wide variety of data being assembled and the district has implemented MAP testing, but some staff question its value. Holding staff accountable is inconsistent across the system as well as collected data.

The evaluation team rated each of the seven categories on a scale of zero to five. A rating of five indicates the district not only has a strong approach, but is sustainable. So if all top leadership at the district left, the programs and efficiencies in student achievement would remain. Gelbrich said of the schools that participate in this kind of evaluation, a five is a rare achievement.

Leadership, strategic planning, curriculum and teaching, stellar people, effective processes and accountability all scored a one - "just started: Beginning stages of a systematic approach; major gaps in implementation; little or no results from approach." In 2009, the district scored a zero in each of those categories, which says no evidence of a systematic approach exists and that actions are reactive.

Stakeholder engagement was the only category to receive a "one" score last year. This year, that score remained the same.

Board member Mark Choate was impressed with the report and the transparency in district leadership.

"Having a candid assessment and seeing growth is really exceptional," he said. "I think it bodes well for where we're going. I admire your courage and honesty. It gives us a great deal of reassurance. Our weaknesses are being identified and our strengths (are growing)."

There will be three public meetings to discuss the results of the assessment: from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday at Dzantiki'i Heeni Middle School and from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Floyd Dryden Middle School.

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

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