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A state of the district; Superintendent, officials to present progress report on USD 234

Thursday, January 17, 2013

In an effort to communicate her vision for the USD 234 district and solicit ideas from educators and community members alike, first-year Superintendent Diane Gross will be presenting a State of the District Address Monday at Fort Scott High School in conjunction with a regular in-service day for teachers.

The tentative schedule starts with breakfast from 7:30 to 8 a.m., followed by a 10-minute introduction outlining goals for the day.

From 8:10 to 8:55 a.m., Gross will lead discussions on enrollment, demographics, staffing, student achievement, curriculum and instruction, professional development and district improvements.

Business Manager Susan Brown will address finances and facilities. Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lindsay Madison will cover community information and perspectives, City Manager Dave Martin will address economic development and collaboration and county commissioners will handle "Perspectives from the County -- Working Together."

Brown said she has been researching what the district has done the last 10 years in regard to finance and facilities and will be sharing that information.

"I'll be bringing them up to speed on where we've been, what it is looking like for the future and how we turn challenges into opportunities," Brown said.

From 8:55 to 9:25 a.m., the subject matter will be "Opportunities -- Our Future for Fort Scott USD 234 and the Community Goals and Next Steps." Gross said the event should wrap up around 10 a.m.

Gross said anyone who has an interest in what education is contributing to Fort Scott would benefit by attending.

She said the presentation was designed to make sure that staff across the district -- with involvement from the chamber, city and county -- is aware she is trying to develop partnerships with those entities. She also wants to let them know the district is working on economic development and how education can contribute in that sector.

"It's really about establishing our priorities; what are our goals?; what is it we are trying to accomplish within the educational system?" Gross said. "So what we want to do is take a look at all the data ... declining enrollment and facility issues. There are several different issues we are looking at and it will be in relation to a district goals document that was started a year ago with the board that was in place at that time, which is our current board."

Gross said trustees did some work with an administrative team, but stopped because they knew a new superintendent would be joining the district.

She said she has had numerous conversations with the administrative team about goals. She also had a transition plan when she arrived, where she visited community members, board members and principals individually and talked to groups in the central office, both formally and informally.

She said she was looking for ideas on what was working, what was not working and where that fits with priorities established a year ago.

Gross said she hopes to gather different ideas and strategies to help the district move forward in the broader goal areas.

"This is really about activating and engaging people," Gross said. "We know that change is going to occur ... Many people look at change as an obstacle, or a problem, or an issue."

But Gross said it's a chance to look review what's been working and what hasn't.

"This also provides the foundation for folks to ask questions, to inquire and have a voice in where we are going," Gross said. "We are going to be asking for people who want to be truly engaged in that strategic planning process to really refine our action plans."

She said that community involvement is something that is desired on the part of the board, on the part of their staff and that people in the community have expressed a strong desire to do whatever they can to support USD 234 in providing a high-quality education for every student.

"We want to be a model and for people across the state to look at Fort Scott and say, 'Look at what they are doing there, look at what they are producing,'" Gross said.

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