Leader Blues

Monday, December 03, 2007

TOP STORY >>District is seeking community input

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

The Cabot School District is seeking suggestions from parents, students and community members as it prepares for an accreditation review in March.

The goal of accreditation is to evaluate, verify and improve a school’s quality, and Superintendent Dr. Tony Thurman feels input is an important part of the process.

A community-parent survey, assessabled on the district’s Web site (http://cabot.k12.ar.us/) until Dec. 14 or via a hard copy, was developed to provide feedback to measure the district’s progress, identify areas that need attention and strengthen the bond between the district and the community.

“District accreditation encompasses the entire perspective,” Thurman said Tuesday during the school board meeting.

“The team will visit with a sample of parents, teachers and administrators from the district. A survey in which everyone can participate allows the accreditation team to get the big picture in terms of where our patrons, parents, teachers and students believe we are in the district.”

Thurman was recently part of the accreditation review team for the Nettleton School District. June Elliott, the district’s director of federal programs, has served on two review teams in the past.

Having staff members serve on a review team provides the district with insight into exactly what the team will be attempting to gain from its March visit.

“The entire four-day process is very intensive and will require a tremendous amount of preparation by the district,” Thurman said. “This is a great opportunity to have an outside review team take an in-depth look at our district and provide commendations, suggestions and recommendations for improvement,” he added.

The visit will also provide recommendations to the district in terms of the overall organization and systematic approach to operating the district, something Thurman says is crucial to Cabot schools as the district moves from a relatively small district to one of the largest in the state.

“It’s a great opportunity with the changes for our district to get refocused on the next steps for our district,” Thurman said, adding, “It is rigorous and time-consuming, but very good for the district.”

The AdvancED accreditation standards serve as the foundation for the accreditation process. The seven standards – vision and purpose, governance and leadership, teaching and learning, documenting and using results, resources and support systems, stakeholder communications and relationships, and commitment to continuous improvement – are tired directly to the research on factors that impact student learning.

Accredited schools adhere to the standards and use them as a tool for ongoing self-assessment.

To receive a copy of the survey, contact June Elliott at 501-843-3363 or email her at june.elliott@cps.k12.ar.us.

Parents will also be notified of the survey via their students’ school. A note will be sent home with students in grades k-4 and a postcard will be mailed to parents of fifth- through 12-graders.

A sample of 50 students in grades 4-12 will also be surveyed to gather their responses.

In other business, assistant superintendent Jim Dalton told the school board the district’s 10-year master plan will be completed within the next one to two weeks.

But instead of focusing on 10 years down the road, Cabot is focusing on five years due to recent growth.
“It’s the only way to project with any kind of accuracy,” Dalton said.

The student population in Cabot schools is projected to be at 10,590 in five years (2011-2012), an increase of 1,343 students from the current enrollment of 9,247.

In no particular order or priority level, the main items of focus include: new elementary classrooms at Westside; installing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in the district’s K-6 activity buildings; new secondary classrooms; a new elementary school in the north zone; and a health, physical education and recreation complex at the high school attached to a new cafeteria/student center.

Dalton also updated the board on the progress of rebuilding Cabot Junior High North.

The bus drive, located at the rear of the campus, has been curbed and guttered and the gravel is down. The foundation is stacked and once it dries out, will be poured; pipes and conduit will also be down soon.

Certified and classified staff were approved pay increases. Certified personnel will see a base salary increase of $500, raising the starting teacher salary to $35,400.

All classified staff (custodians, food services staff, interpreters, maintenance staff, nurses, clerical/office staff, paraprofessionals and technology staff) will receive a pay