Professional and personal objectives in place, the teachers and staff of the New Richmond Exempted Village School District are ready to welcome students back to school on Aug. 15.
During a Convocation on Tuesday, speakers informed and inspired the New Richmond team. The session began with breakfast and friendship and concluded with new Superintendent Tracey Miller setting the priorities for the 2019-2020 school year.
Mr. Miller noted that in late spring and early summer, during and after the hiring process, he repeatedly heard from different groups and staff members that they needed time to heal and time to be together.
“Now’s that time. It’s a fresh start, it’s a fresh year,” he said.
Mr. Miller joined the staff after the implementation of a series of efficiencies. Board of Education President Tim DeFau greeted the staff Tuesday and quickly addressed the many difficult decisions the board made over the last year related to the efficiencies. The board's actions reduced district expenditures by $3 million.
“We will continue to look for ways to make improvements and increase our efficiencies here within the district,” he said. Mr. DeFau challenged the staff to do the same and share their ideas with the board of education.
“I believe with all of us working together that New Richmond will continue to be a leader in education,” DeFau said.
Teacher Nicole Parker, president of the New Richmond Teachers Organization, acknowledged that through efficiencies and consolidation a lot has changed. What hasn’t changed, however, is the commitment of the teachers and staff, she said.
“I look out in this room today, and I know in the midst of change that you are the heart of New Richmond School District,” Mrs. Parker said in her address. “You are what makes this a fantastic place for kids, adults, for our community. And I know that you will continue to do so.”
Bus driver and OPASE President Melody Potter celebrated the community’s strength and resilience, especially in difficult times.
“I have faith in our New Richmond family that in the days to come, we’re going to make it better because that’s who we are,” she said. “We’re all facing changes and we’re all going to have a wonderful school year.”
Using boxes as a metaphor, Superintendent Miller challenged staff members to look inside both their professional box and personal box.
In the professional box, staff members should have a singular purpose, to help students learn.
“That’s what we do. It’s not the teaching, it’s the learning that helps kids be successful,” Mr. Miller said.
But for some students, school is hard.
“So when they don’t make it, how are we going to bridge that gap, because we want every child to master that content,” he asked.
To help meet every student’s needs, the teachers and staff will focus on four critical questions of a professional learning community::
What do we want children to know and be able do?
How will we know when they have mastered it?
What will we do when they haven’t learned?
What will we do when they already know it?
“We want to remove boxes that are unnecessary in your professional lives,” Mr. Miller said. “I want you to be able to talk and collaborate to answer these four critical questions. It’s as simple as that. It’s what the instruction vision will be.”
The superintendent said it's his hope that everyone will be able to speak to the four critical questions.
“It seems a little mundane. We win, we go back to work, we win again,” Mr. Miller said. “That’s our instructional box, and we need to make sure anything else is removed that is a distraction from this singular purpose of educating kids. This applies to every department.
“Budgets got cut, everyone got cut. That doesn’t matter to the students. They expect the buses to be rolling and ready to go come this Thursday.”
As he turned his focus to the relationship box, Mr. Miller quoted the Proverb “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” People can either make your day or shred someone, he said.
“I want you to look down in your relationship box because I want you to care about each other and your kids because, in some cases, there isn’t anybody else,” he said.
Mr. Miller challenged staff members to look inside their relationship box.
How many things are you carrying from 30 to 40 years ago?
"Words are powerful,” he said. “I want us to make a difference in each other's lives.”
Let go of the past, look to the future and have a great school year, Mr. Miller said.