Monday, October 10, 2011
A productive partnership: for this progressive superintendent and board, it's all about trust.
A productive partnership: for this progressive superintendent and board, it's all about trust. ON APRIL April:see month. 7, 2009, AS THE NATION agonized ag��o��nize?v. ag��o��nized, ag��o��niz��ing, ag��o��niz��esv.intr.1. To suffer extreme pain or great anguish.2. To make a great effort; struggle.v.tr. over a worsening economy,voters in western Wisconsin's Elk Mound Elk Mound is a kame (a type of conical hill formed by glacial debris) in northwestern Wisconsin. It has an elevation of over 1,200 feet above sea level. The hill lends its name to the village of Elk Mound, Wisconsin, as well as the Town of Elk Mound. Area School District passeda $9.3 million referendum to upgrade its three aging, overcrowded o��ver��crowd?v. o��ver��crowd��ed, o��ver��crowd��ing, o��ver��crowdsv.tr.To cause to be excessively crowded: a system of consolidation that only overcrowded the classrooms. schools. On that same day, similar referendums in surrounding schooldistricts failed. How did Elk Mound, a rural community without even alocal newspaper, convince voters to address the needs of students? "In a little town like this there's not much of adowntown, so the school is the main show," says Ron Walsh,superintendent. "We have tremendous support from our parents andcommunity," which includes students from the village of Elk Mound,plus seven additional municipalities in three counties. According to according toprep.1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.2. In keeping with: according to instructions.3. Walsh, parents commuting to jobs at regional hospitals, universities,high-tech companies and giant dairy farms appreciate having the choiceof a great school system in a small town where "everybody knowseverybody." Adding to that sense of familiarity is the strong partnership Walshshares with Elk Mound's widely respected seven-member schoolboard--a cross-section of the citizenry elected to staggered, three-yearterms. With service records ranging from three to 20-plus years, theboard includes farmers, a retired engineer, businesspeople andhome-health nurse Tim Sivertson, who has actively engaged theorganization in self-improvement work since he became its president,over a decade ago. Different Roles, Common Goals Sivertson, a past president of the Wisconsin Association of SchoolBoards, says superintendents and boards that stay focused on "whoseresponsibility is what," and trust one another to followprocedures, are bound to form a more effective team. "We are thereto write policy, do the budget and evaluate the administrator," hesays. "The administrator manages the district." [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Walsh and Sivertson agree their joint mission became clear in 2006,when Elk Mound enrolled in a national five-year pilot program devoted toidentifying and developing best practices for board governance that canlead to improving student achievement. The Multi-State Lighthouse lighthouse,towerlike structure erected to give guidance and warning to ships and aircraft by either visible or radioelectrical means. Lighthouses were long built to conform in structure to their geographical location. Until the beginning of the 19th cent. Research Project, coordinated through the Iowa School Boards Foundation,is a study running in select districts in seven states. The ISBF ISBF International Skiboarding Federation hasbeen examining the differences between higher- and lower-achievingdistricts for a dozen years. (For detailed information, visitwww.schoolboardresearch.org.) "A core belief in the Lighthouse project," Sivertsonexplains, "is that all students can achieve at a higher level ifthey're given the tools and the appropriate teaching. We have theresponsibility to provide that to them." A Principal Difference With guidance from Lighthouse facilitators, the board began makingchanges to its procedures--some as simple as inviting its threeprincipals to board meetings. "The principals are very adept atlooking at research," Walsh says. "They understand how tobreak tests apart, pull data, share it with their staffs, and change theway some instruction is occurring." New data-sharing techniques became crucial in Elk Mound'smultiyear process of getting its school facilities referendum passed.The district hired consultants to conduct a student population growthstudy, then formed a citizen-based growth committee, conducted acommunity survey to gauge support and finally mailed a conciseexplanation of the referendum to the 2,000 households that receive thedistrict's monthly newsletter. "We were as open book with the community as possible,"says Walsh. The payoff: Construction on new and remodeled classrooms andother facilities should begin in March. "Our total cost of the $9.5million debt will be less than $1.5 million," he adds, thanks tolow-interest-rate bonds and a favorable bidding climate forconstruction. "Our journey through this board development process comes downto what we call 'leading with trust,'" Walsh concludes. ELK MOUND (WIS.) AREA SCHOOL DISTRICT Superintendent: Ron Walsh, 7 years Number of schools: 3 Number of students: 1,075 Number of teachers: 74 Percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch: 29 Per-pupil expenditure: $10,024 District size: 100 sq. miles (approx.) Web site: www.elkmound.k12.wi.us Mary Johnson Patt is a freelance writer in northern California Northern California, sometimes referred to as NorCal, is the northern portion of the U.S. state of California. The region contains the San Francisco Bay Area, the state capital, Sacramento; as well as the substantial natural beauty of the redwood forests, the northern .
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