By ROBERT PIERCE
• Daily Leader
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of two articles regarding a restructuring process for South Middle School and Liberal High School. Another article will discuss what the state department of education has in mind for the two schools.
Planning processes for the restructuring of two of Liberal’s schools continued Monday during the USD No. 480 Board of Education meeting.
In February, district administrators were informed that South Middle School and Liberal High School were designated Tier I and Tier II schools respectively, meaning they were among the lowest achieving in the state.
Monday, the board gave some direction to work on that process as it voted to implement the transformational model at South, simply meaning the principal who led the school prior to commencement of the model would be replaced.
This has already taken place with Gilberto Rito replacing former South principal Brandon Hyde.
Following discussions from deputy superintendent Lance Stout and Dr. Julie Ford of the Kansas State Department of Education, the board voted unanimously to accept that recommendation and also to make 2010-2011 a planning year for LHS.
Stout said the restructuring process at South has been an ongoing process.
“We’ve spent a lot of time with district level administrators, building administrators, also involving at certain times throughout this process, teachers, community members, site council members and parents,” he said.
Stout said the district had intended on bringing a plan of action for South and restructuring the building.
“We put that on hold because the rules as explained to us that day had changed,” he said.
Stout said South was identified as a school that must plan for restructuring last summer after failing to meet Adequate Yearly Progress for four consecutive years.
“They are a school that received Title I dollars,” he said. “Part of the old rules were if you received Title I dollars and you don’t make AYP for four years, that fifth year must be a planning year.”
Stout said this is what had been done this year up until the first of February.
“On Feb. 1 of this year, our school district was notified at the KLN conference in Salina that South Middle School was targeted as a Tier I school resulting from the new federal guidelines,” he said.
As a a result of many factors including a needs assessment at South in the fall and looking at the requirements of four intervention models, Stout said district administrators determined the transformational model best meets the needs of the school.
“There’s a number of reasons, but these were the priorities as we deemed appropriate,” he said. “One, the results-based professional development. We came to you last spring with a plan to implement Literacy First not only at South Middle School, but in the district.”
Other factors include the hiring of an instructional coach, which Stout said was a high priority, as well as data analysis, formative and benchmark assessments and teacher collaboration time.
“At South Middle School specifically, Gib’s done a very good job with the Data Driven Instructional Notebooks,” he said. “These are all parameters, measures that are noted in the transformational model that we put a high premium on.”
Stout said the transformational model allows the district to continue to execute and enhance a strategic plan initially implemented in August of 2009.
“However, the strict guidelines that serve as the parameters of the transformational model will insure that all school staff members are held accountable for students making AYP,” he said.
As for LHS, Stout said district officials were notified the school was targeted as a Tier II school on Feb. 5 as a result of new federal guidelines.
“Up until that point in time, we had no idea that Liberal High School was even on the radar so to speak for this consideration,” he said. “The rules did change.”
Also in February, Stout said the district found out LHS could potentially receive federal grant dollars.
“However, we are recommending that we use this next school year, the 2010-2011 school year, as a planning year for implementing Tier II requirements for the following reasons,” he said.
One of those is capacity of the district, according to Stout.
“We certainly believe that the challenge of implementing two intervention models into our school district at the same time is nearly impossible,” he said.
Stout said in order to select an intervention model, ample resources, planning and time are required to access and implement effectively.
“It has taken a good deal of many people’s time this year to focus on South Middle School, and now to do that in addition to South at Liberal High School, that’s an extreme challenge,” he said. “That’s a capacity question mark.”
The second reason to use the upcoming school year as a planning period at LHS, Stout said, is needs assessments.
“Time is necessary to conduct a thorough needs assessment,” he said. “Our belief is that this next school year will serve this purpose.”
Sustainability is likewise a big issue, according to Stout.
“In order to provide a plan that can be sustained over time, ample planning must take place, and we never want to fall victim to making a hasty decision,” he said. “We believe strongly that it’s critical to take into account the many underlying factors that have led to Liberal High School being identified as a Tier II school.”
Stout said district administrators are for these reasons recommending 2010-2011 be utilized as a planning year to conduct a thorough needs assessment required by KSDE before selecting an intervention model for LHS.
“We will apply for grants,” he said. “We’re going to receive some money as early as this Wednesday that will help pay potentially for the assessment that’s necessary for Liberal High School.”