Goal Discussion Procedes Slowly in District 36
Winnetka District 36 School Board hashed out chief goals in special meeting on Tuesday.
Monday's two-and-a-half hour special public session held at the Carleton Wasburne Resource Center focused on determining clear definitions for the first of these goals – curriculum, instruction and assessment, all of which are part of goal number one. It was a continuation of discussion from the last board meeting.
“I have not seen us have goals put together in a report like this and have something that would be accountable to the community and the public,” said Dr. Thomas Hagerman, Superintendent of District 36.
The first goal — striving to continue to improve curriculum as well as instruction and assessment practices — is an objective that falls under what the board calls “continuous improvement methods.” Such methods implement curricular review, emphasize high quality staff development and employ teacher evaluations, district test scores and student-parent-teacher satisfaction surveys as measures for benchmark evaluation.
The task of setting, implementing and assessing goals for this year primarily aims to increase what Hagerman called, “overall organizational effectiveness.” Yet progress to this point proved sluggish.
With concern about nuances such as wording and the purpose of broad goals statements, discussion of other goals (metrics and reporting, communication, human resources, strategic planning and board goal) was stalled.
“I hate these [goals] for two reasons: Number one – there’s no way I know this actually happened. Can we improve curriculum? We added one more math problem – ‘check and check.’ We did it – we improved the curriculum. Everything needs to be ‘did we meet it or not’ and there’s no [set] date,” said board member Matthew Hulsizer, who was concerned with specific dates and numbers for each goal.
The committee will address the more detailed elements Hulsizer alluded to when it reviews sub-goals – specific benchmarks that put procedures in place for measuring achievement. However many members still felt hindered by its absence in Monday's dialogue.
“Our time needs to be spent on the benchmarks and my concern at the rate that we’re going, we’ll to have to have several meetings or this is going to be pushed off until February, March or April,” said board member William Meuer.
Although sub-goals are still provisionally tabled, board members came to a consensus on the first broad goals statement with a few tweaks in wording.
Moving into goal specificities, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Trish Kocanda headed up the conversation on various instructional elements such as curricular review and high quality staff development. Curricular review strives to align learning with district expectations in fields like mathematics, world languages, fine arts and language arts.
Indeed, board members managed to propose changes and provide input on these instructional components, but not without dispute.
“It’s okay to fail,” said Hulsizer in disagreement with Hagerman. “We’re not going to hit every goal.” In another attempt to fuel discussion of metrics, Hulsizer said: “The metric is that ‘how do you actually know?’ How do you check for that? That would be a next step instead of setting some lofty goal and saying let’s hope we’re going to teach.”
In other areas of instruction, such as staff development, the board talked at length about new district measures, which involve bringing in staff development professionals to work with students and teachers across grade levels.
Kocanda highlighted the district’s plan for academic growth in math, reading and writing, and said it primarily relies on the Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) and Educational Resources Board (ERB) for results and feedback.
“What do we currently have in place? What are the benefits? What are the limitations? We compare that to what most commonly is used in other districts,” she said.
The board briefly cast a fiscal lens over the meeting to talk about financial transparency and efficacy with newly appointed Chief Financial Officer Susan Pingitore.
Before adjourning, board members unanimously motioned to approve a professional agreement between the Winnetka Education Association (WEA) and the board on salary terms.
The next regular meeting will take place at 7:15 p.m. on Sept. 27 at the Carleton Washburne Resource Center. A 5 p.m. special meeting will precede regular assembly to discuss metrics and reporting as part of district sub-goals.