In the season of the “State of Union,” please accept my take on the “State of the District.”
It’s been an interesting year for the Sioux City Community School District.
The buzz around Bully has had a certain impact that I think surprised everyone involved and resulted in serious changes in the character of the schools. The reflection of our community that persists as a result is still not what any of us want it to be. However, no one should doubt that shining light on this problem that could have been so easily left in the shadows, has forced the schools and those in the community who have chosen to join in this growth process, into action. The district has become the fishbowl for the nation, and even internationally, on how to heal this disease of abuse in our culture.
The movement, in my estimation, has come far quickly, and continues to evolve. Speaking as a member of the Bullying Prevention Community Coalition, who partners closely with the schools, the focus is moving from a ‘reaction’ model to ‘prevention through pro-social promotion.’ In short, we’re moving to pushing kindness and personal responsibility, which will create significant change.
As I say the efforts have come far quickly, I agree with those who answer back that it is not far enough fast enough. As long as one child is hurting, or not succeeding, because of something the adults have failed to do, there is more work to be done. This should inspire the nay-sayers to jump in the trenches with us. Learn about being an ‘Upstander,’ and about the beSomebody campaign. Visit the Coalition Facebook page and somebodysite.wordress.com blog. Support the For Our Youth parents’ group.
Progress has been made by the Sioux City Community Schools in student achievement. This again is a place for the phrase, “but there is more work to be done.” Let us celebrate a significant raise in the graduation rate, and in the fact that the District was removed from No Child Left Behind ‘District in Need of Assistance’ status. The best news is that it appears the Board and the Superintendent realize these as accomplishments by the students, teachers, staff, and parents in the schools, but that they do not give us permission to let up. In my personal estimation we are making strides in raising the bottom line, but we still have significant issues when it comes to average and above- average performing students, especially in the late-elementary/ middle school range.
This year brought us the distraction of controversy over a special election, which ended in the maintenance of the status quo on the Board. Let’s move on.
One arena that continues to needlessly suck up too much of the District and community energy is the “facilities planning.” The District has been building and renovating the school buildings for years. They have to; the old schools are outdated in every which way a person looks at them. But the level of chaos that has surrounded the updates of our community’s basic infrastructure has been a serious drain. I wish student achievement and community engagement received so much attention as the conversation about buildings, taxes, parking, and parks. It has been an overly hot button issue and one that represents so much of the conflict within the District. With accusations of hidden intentions, drama of nostalgia, rumors, and special interests, it’s no wonder the reflection from the bullying piece of our mission looks like it does. It’s time to stop the bickering, make some plans, and take some action.
There are of course so many other areas to talk about when looking at the State of the District. Every Board Meeting has a “good news” section. There are indeed ‘great things happening.’ The technology department is consistently expanding the schools’ capabilities, the science programs are gaining by leaps and bounds. Communications Director Alison Benson has done an unprecedented job in partnering each school with other community agencies and even private businesses. The ‘Pathways to Success’ program will provide much needed skill development, opportunity, and connections within the workforce for the students to begin their futures, success, and achievement even before graduation.
So the State of the Sioux City Community Schools depends on your point of view; of what you are looking at. To sum it up, the State of the Schools:
Are a reflection of the community.
Great things are happening.
(And, of course)
There remains work to be done.