Monday, March 13, 2017

Addressing the Needs of All our Students

Our vision is to enable all students to discover their unique gifts and talents to prepare them to be college, career and life ready.  When we took a close look at the programs and facilities we were providing our students, we realized that we were not able to fulfill this commitment with our current learning environments.  
We have made several changes throughout the division to resolve this.  At the elementary level, we have updated our reading program for our K-2 students, provided additional math support and introduced coding classes to all students.  We have also replaced outdated furniture with flexible seating options that allow for more collaboration between students.  In addition, we evaluated our course offerings at the high school level and determined that the regional partnership with Pruden was not meeting the needs of our students.  

We are paying $952,000 annually for 220 slots.  However, enrollment has steadily declined, with only 125 students attending last year.  One of the drawbacks has been the lack of flexibility in scheduling.  Students don’t attend Pruden until their Junior and Senior years, and attending Pruden essentially locks in a student’s schedule for 4 of their 8 classes both years.  Students who may have been interested in a program at Pruden are not participating because they have other classes they want, or need, at their home school.    In addition, those students attending Pruden are not earning many industry certifications, with the most earned in any year being 66.  IWCS is also assigned a certain number of slots per program, which doesn’t allow an increase in high-interest fields, such as welding and culinary, in order to serve more of our students.

When we looked at the amount already allocated annually in our budget for Pruden, we realized that we could build our own in house program without having to increase our budget.  The $952,000 designated for Pruden could be used to purchase equipment, fund teachers and renovate spaces so that we can meet the needs of all our students.  By owning our program, we control the courses, sections and number of students we can reach. The flexible scheduling allows more students to “try-out” a program that wasn’t an option through Pruden.   After talking to the business community, parents and students, we focused on courses that offer industry certifications that would allow our graduates to be on a pathway to a good paying job after high school.  

We established phases to the program in order to stay within the existing allocation for Pruden.  Phase one was launched this year and we will be rolling out the remaining phases next year.  To avoid an extended roll-out of the plan, we have asked the Board of Supervisors to assume a $10 million dollar loan, or debt, which we can fund annually through the existing Pruden budget.  We would not need any additional funding from them to make this happen.  In a matter of 3 years, we can be serving over 400 of our students through our own program.  At the end of 20 years, not only will we have our own career program, fully equipped and manned for years to come, but we will have $750,000 in debt service payments become available for IOW County officials to use to benefit the schools or county in the future that would have been otherwise tied up in payments to Pruden.  By staying with Pruden, we will have spent $19 million on tuition with very little to show for our investment.  The numbers tell us that implementing the proposed educational plan will better serve all of our students and meet their needs for becoming college, career and life ready.