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Technology upgrades part of strategic planning in District 833

Pathway to Excellence, School District 833's strategic plan, has been in place for a year so it was time for a yearly checkup at last week's School Board workshop.

Not all areas were reviewed, including student achievement, because of the process of hiring Superintendent Keith Jacobus, and the departure of Rick Spiccuzza, who was assistant superintendent of curriculum and assessment before leaving for another position.

Areas updated included technology, creating a positive and safe student environment, recruiting, hiring and developing employees and forging partnerships with businesses and the community.


"We were very ambitious a year ago," said Keith Ryskoski, assistant superintendent for secondary education, who serves on the technology team along with Andrew Baldwin, director of technology.

Safari Montage, a digital library of more than 2,000 images, has been added to the list of technology resources for staff members and teachers. The district can add its own content to the inventory, Baldwin said.

Teachers can add material they've developed for classroom computer white boards and five online courses have been added.

Technology coaches and advisors are in place to help teachers use digital material in classrooms as opposed to sending teachers to outside workshops.

The goal is not to have students sit through a 45-minute video, Ryskoski said, but, for instance, to show students a clip of seeds opening up during a science lesson and then having students find it on microscopes, for example.

The goal is to innovate using not only technology but resources already available in the district.

A student-based "Geek Squad" can also be put together to help teachers with technology. Pizza and T-shirts are effective recruitment tools, Ryskoski said.

There are plans to eventually have digital books but "we need to look at using resources that are online, now," he said.

There are limits to the district's wireless Internet access system, according to Baldwin and Ryskoski, as more computers and hand-held student devices are added, which needs to be increased.



To further create a safe and encouraging student environment, Dave Bernhardson, assistant superintendent for elementary education, said a survey was sent to all parents and students in grades 4, 7 and 11.

According to the survey, parents consider their students more competent than do the students themselves, Bernhardson said.

One issue to be addressed is that students say getting good grades isn't respected by their classmates.

Survey results will be posted to the district's website.


Improving facilities includes updating emergency preparedness plans and using an existing grid of district neighborhoods to forecast future enrollment, according to Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for facilities.

Efforts by a middle school student group to get composting in their school and using real silverware to cut down on waste didn't work, Vogel said. It resulted in the disappearance of all the silverware.

While additional efforts are still possible, Nutrition Services has agreed, in the meantime, to cut the use of waste including plastic and Styrofoam by 20 percent, according to Vogel.

The district should also look at the existing open enrollment policy for possible changes including establishing an attendance boundary for Valley Crossing School, which is operated by District 833, 622 and Stillwater, to relieve pressure at Liberty Ridge Elementary School, Vogel said.



Under the strategic objective to recruit, hire and develop a quality workforce, Denise Griffith, director of human resources, reported that all principals, supervisors and managers have been trained on the scheduled start of the Employee Referral Online System and trained to do professional job evaluations.

Also, 85 percent of district job descriptions have been reviewed and updated.

All assistant principals have received "360" reviews that include peer and employee reviews.

On deck for the coming year are new evaluation criteria for principals.

To improve and increase district partnerships, a 34-member committee of business, community, district staff and government people are meeting on a regular basis.

A "tool kit" has been developed for the district's website to tell people how to access schools.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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