Report points out school district flaws

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Organizational structure and curriculum design and alignment are among systems of the Steamboat Springs School District declared ineffective or inadequate by a recently released curriculum management audit report.

Those findings and others are part of a 160-page report provided to the school district last week. The audit, conducted by Indiana-based Phi Delta Kappa International, was commissioned by the district and paid for by the Education Fund Board at a cost of about $25,000.

Superintendent Donna Howell, a leading proponent of the audit, said it likely will take years before many of the report's recommendations are realized, but the end result will be better educations for students.

"It's not going to happen overnight, but it gives us an excellent blueprint for the future," Howell said. "It's really going to help us focus and do a better job."

A primary goal of the audit was for the district to receive a professional and objective evaluation of many of its systems, particularly as they relate to curriculum and instruction. Some of the systems evaluated include policy governance, planning, facilities, administrative structure, technology, professional development and student outcomes.

The lengthy and detailed report details many of those areas, often using staff comments as support for many of the findings. Phi Delta Kappa also provided a list of recommendations that correspond with each finding.

Among the findings:

n School Board policies are inadequate in providing direction for sound general management of the district.

n The organizational chart and decision-making processes are not structured for sound management of the district.

n The district lacks a comprehensive curriculum management plan to establish processes, procedures and timelines for curriculum review, development and implementation.

n Staff development is inadequate in design and delivery to meet individual, employee and system needs for improvement of teaching and learning.

n Use of assessment data by the district and its staff is ineffective in guiding instruction and decision-making.

Among the first audit recommendations Howell and the district appear likely to follow is reorganization of the district's administrative leaders and their job descriptions. Howell has discussed potential changes with her administrative team of department leaders, principals and assistant principals.

The curriculum audit recommends the district clearly specify its organization structure and give clearer and broader authority to Finance Director Dale Mellor and Content Standards Director Kelly Stanford. If the recommended changes are put into effect, Mellor will oversee the directors of nutritional services, facilities and transportation while Stanford will oversee the technology director, as well as the teachers on special assignment, or TOSAs, and the grants writer.

Howell said a revised administrative structure not only will provide clearer job descriptions and lines of authority but also will allow the superintendent more time to spend in the schools and work on developing and aligning district curriculum.

Many of the inadequacies of the district aren't a result of ineffective employees but rather an ineffective system.

"The people have done an excellent job within the constraints of the system," Howell said. "This isn't an evaluation of the people, it's an evaluation of the system."

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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