Educators came to the table Tuesday afternoon for a district planning session that focused on student achievement, educational planning and board goals.
The group of 25 discussed potential directions to improve student achievement that culminates in graduation, and much of the conversation was around student, parent and community involvement.
A report from Teresa Burson, facilitator for the Graduation and Student Achievement Task Force, said that first steps include setting expectations that are paired with accountability.
Burson said all programs and procedures should be data driven. In the Helena School District, she added, good data exists, but administrators could do better at pulling it all together and maybe have more common assessments.
Josh McKay, Helena Middle School principal, says involvement in activities should come before middle school for all students because it fosters a sense of community and belonging.
By middle school, McKay said, there is a skill disparity for those who have not been involved in clubs and sports in elementary school. Family dynamics and transportation play a significant role in extracurricular involvement.
Pam Birkeland, data assessment administrator, pointed out how critical it is to teach parents the difference it makes to have their children involved in something at school.
It’s important for parents to be involved and stay involved throughout the school experience, too, trustee Cherche Prezeau said. There is a perception that parent volunteers are only welcomed at the elementary level and not in middle or high school levels.
It’s important to engage the community more, Prezeau added.
It was the consensus of the group that the community is currently an untapped resource that could help make grand strides in success at school.
One way to engage the community is to bring members into the schools to volunteer more, even if that’s just to supervise play time.
Board member Terry Beaver said kids today don’t have enough free play time.
“We played all the time growing up. Today kids don’t play unless it’s directed activity,” Beaver said. “Our facilities should be open all the time — from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.”
Providing volunteers at the facilities will make the environment safe for everyone, he added.
“(Children) can devise their own play and need not be directed,” Beaver said. “I think kids have lost that ability.”
The community as a whole needs to feel invested in students, said Project for Alternative Learning Principal Craig Crawford.
“Graduation goes beyond the walls of the schools,” he said. “There is an economic benefit. Graduates come with bigger bank accounts with more buying power.”
Crawford said that getting this idea makes the community better as a whole.
Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or firstname.lastname@example.org