New Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Superintendent Dr. Stephen West has only been on the job for a little over two weeks, but he is already settling into the Winona area community. West, who most recently served as executive director of educational services at Eden Prairie School District, said he and his family have already moved into a new home, which happens to be situated directly across from Cotter Schools. “To keep an eye on them,” he joked.
This Thursday will be West’s first WAPS Board meeting as superintendent, and he is coming prepared — with a 177-page agenda that includes a monitoring report template for students kindergarten through grade 12, administrative changes and policy revisions. “For me, it’s my way of being accountable to the board and the community,” West said of the new board monitoring reports and their detailed content. “It is important that the community understands that we’re doing everything in our power to ensure a good learning environment for their children.”
For West, this means evolving WAPS into a “system of excellence — not a system with pockets of excellence.” To accomplish this West said that he hopes to start by building upon several initiatives already in place, such as the district’s professional learning community (PLC) groups, which are teacher groups focused on student achievement. Currently, WAPS PLCs meet during late starts and early-release days, but West said that he would like to see this change to weekly meetings during prep times. “My belief is to figure out how to evolve [PLCs] into weekly meetings,” he explained. “As you move forward, PLCs are not about time — they are about what you do [as a teacher] and who you are.”
Additionally, West plans to include some of his own ideas to develop a system of excellence throughout the district, which is one of the main reasons for the thorough monitoring report template, the goal of which is “to provide an evaluation of the [academic] program and report on efforts to continuously make improvements.” Board members will have the opportunity to ask questions about the board monitoring reports and fine tune the way West will use them to provide information about student learning and achievement. “It’s about collaboration,” he said. “The board will receive the information at the meeting on Thursday and see if they are comfortable.”
As for the upcoming school year, West said he is more than ready to start the groundwork on what he hopes will become an innovative plan for a positive impact on the futures of WAPS students. “We’ve got some work to do, but I’m excited,” he said. “It is the first time in a long time that I can’t wait for summer to be over. I can’t wait to get into classrooms.”