Collaboration key to change

School Board, district staff say work, cooperation necessary

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Years of work and cooperation between the Steamboat Springs School Board and district staff are necessary to implement numerous recommendations made in a curriculum-management audit of the school district, board members and district officials said Monday.

The comments were made during the School Board's first in-depth discussion of the $23,000 audit report, which was released in June. The audit, performed by Indiana-based Phi Delta Kappa International, analyzes district systems such as policy governance, curriculum development, planning, facilities, administrative structure, technology and professional development.

Its findings -- not surprising to many in the district -- include the prevalence of inadequate School Board policies, the absence of a comprehensive curriculum-management plan and ineffective use of student-assessment data, among many others.

"This is an exception report," Superintendent Donna Howell said during Monday's School Board study session. "It didn't point out all the wonderful things we're doing."

More important, district officials say, the report provides a blueprint to help the 1,900-student district to align and improve its systems and procedures.

School Board members supported the audit report and unanimously approved a resolution accepting the report and authorizing Howell to move ahead with audit recommendations.

Moving ahead and taking action on the lengthy recommendations will necessitate collaboration between the School Board and district employees, School Board member Pat Gleason said.

"It seems to me ... that this is a monumental undertaking," he said.

Brad Kindred, an executive council member of the Steamboat Springs Education Association, welcomed the call for a partnership between the staff and School Board, but reminded board members that many teachers are frustrated with the district's history of leaving projects and goals uncompleted and unrealized.

Every year, the district tries to implement "the newest, greatest thing," Kindred said. Teachers often spend significant amounts of time working on things that are never completed or brought to fruition.

Still, Kindred said he agrees with many of the findings of the curriculum-management audit, including that curriculum development needs to be a top district focus.

"We're looking forward to this partnership," Kindred said. "This document says some of the things we've been saying for 10 or 15 years."

Fellow SSEA member Mike Johnson cautioned that while the district is seeking staff partnership, it already has moved forward with some recommended changes without informing teachers.

Howell agreed with Kindred that the district needs to act efficiently and responsibly in bringing about the change called for in the audit report. The district has heeded an audit recommendation for revising its administrative structure, and the district will bring forward a three-year plan to accelerate the development of curriculum. A separate, comprehensive, strategic, districtwide plan that includes facility planning, curriculum development, technology and other aspects is expected to be completed by November, Howell said.

Implementing many of the audit recommendations will involve revising district policies, she added. The Colorado Association of School Boards has agreed to help the district integrate recommendations into existing policy.

"The policy work is going to be huge, and it's going to take us some time," Howell said.

Inherent in policy revision and change is the need for open and honest discussions between the School Board and staff, Gleason said, especially considering some changes may involve negotiated policies.

For information on how to obtain a copy of the audit report, call the school district at 879-1530.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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