School chief's goal: A world class school district : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|School chief's goal: A world class school district |
|Wendt presents agenda to new teaching and learning committee |
|by Lyle R. Rolfe|
Oswego School District Superintendent, Dr. Matthew Wendt won't be satisfied until the district's schools are on an even par or better than any world class school district.
This was the message Wendt had for members of the district's Citizens Advisory Teaching and Learning Committee at their first meeting last week.
Wendt gave committee members an idea of what they'll find on future monthly meeting agendas.
One of the next duties of the district will be to hire an assistant superintendent for teaching and learning to replace Dr. Marsha Hollis who retired last year. Wendt said the best of the 40-50 applicants will be brought in for interviews.
Committee members will be asked to sit in on interviews for the position Wendt plans to fill by March 1.
He also noted that they plan to fill two other vacant positions-Director of Elementary Education and Director of Secondary Education. A team led by the new assistant superintendent will choose these two directors, he said.
This committee will be charged with coming up with a teaching and learning plan for 2020 when the district is expected to have about 20,000 students-nearly 2,300 more than today, he said.
This plan must pay more attention to the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, he said, using the acronym STEM.
Wendt said they are not intending to spend more money, but to re-allocate funds now in the teaching and learning budget as well as looking at how money is being spent across the district. He said this department should have as many employees as the business office because "...the district is not in the business of business, but in the business of teaching and learning."
Wendt said there are areas that should get attention by the committee, including dual credit and online learning. He asked the committee members to submit their own lists of additional areas for the committee to work on.
"If it's not happening in (school) districts that are named in U.S. News and World Report as some of the best schools in the country, we're not interested in talking about it. We want to be the best, so let's go find the best," he said.
In response to a member's question, he defined the best as saying it's more than testing.
"I'll go back to U.S. News and World Report and say they can be found by Googling the best high schools in the country. We should start by asking why we're not on the list. Are our kids just not capable? You can go online and look at the criteria. It's nothing we can't accomplish. We won't do it by next year, but I think it could happen by 2020," he said.
Wendt said they need to discuss why the district can't receive the national recognition seal.
"There are awards and recognitions that are happening (at districts) within 20 minutes of this building. It's time to ask why not us?" Wendt said.
Wendt pointed out that some issues such as budgets, buses and bus routes dominate public opinion and thought. He noted that there are other issues the district confronts.
For instance moving the high schools from the block schedule to the Flex 8 schedule this year had its challenges, he said. There were no study halls in the block schedule and only four classes per day.
Flex 8 has seven classes each day and study halls have been added at both high schools, he said. But as of next school year, only six classes will be required. He said students will be allowed and encouraged to enroll in seven or more classes but only with parents approval.
Students whose grades are lower than expected, should not be enrolled in seven classes again in the following semester, he said. He noted there are students for whom six classes are too much.
These are kids who need two study halls, he said. They include students from single-parent homes, who do not have the Internet at home, are at the low end of the economic scale, and may not have what is needed to do the very basic assignment that was assigned at 9 a.m., he said.
The quality of education should not be dictated by where a student lives, the school he or she attends, or where a boundary line is drawn, according to Wendt.
"This is a problem and we need to solve it," he said, noting that the high school administrators are working on it.
"Too many kids are failing and failure should not be an option. If kids can't make it here, I think you're going to have a difficult time in life. There's no reason-with the resources we have-for any student to fail a class," he said, noting that changes must be made in the system.
He said they believe there should be time for teachers to work with students in non-graded academic support classes.
Wendt said they are making areas available in the high schools for online learning, and said he met three times that week with Dr. Christine Sobek, president of Waubonsee Community College, to discuss dual credit classes.
"She asked me what classes I was thinking about and I said to start with all the classes and work from there. Don't start with two or three or 10 and work up. Tell me why a class can't be a dual credit class. I know there are some that should not be," he said. He noted that students who attend all types and sizes of colleges and universities benefit from having dual credit classes.
Wendt said the first curriculum subject they plan to work on is math, which will include looking at every math program in use throughout the district.
He asked the committee members to send him their thoughts on what the committee should accomplish and where they should be spending their time.
He also asked the committee for their thoughts on the school calendar. He said he plans to present a suggested calendar for next year to the school board at their Feb. 11 meeting.
The next committee meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21 at the District Administration Center, 4175 Rt. 71, Oswego, across from Oswego High School.
All meetings are open to the public and scheduled to last only two hours.
Volunteer members are Carol Cronin, Stephanie DeCicco, Jane Edrosa, Garth Ingram, Jill Ko, Kerry Merrill, Luis Perez, Sara Poniatowski, Kathleen Ramsey, Jim Richter, Roger Sanders, Josh Stumpenhorst and Keith Wheeler. Board Members Ali Swanson and Laurie Pasteris, who co-chair the meetings, chose them from a field of 92 applicants.
District representatives are Pam Jensen, Bednarcik Junior High principal; David Brusak, Lakewood Creek Elementary School principal; Kerri Soumar, fourth grade teacher at Fox Chase Elementary School; Greg Pelzer, math teacher at Oswego High; Jill Beane, language arts teacher at Plank Junior High; and Karla Hoinkes, guidance counselor at Oswego East High.