Thursday’s Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board meeting will usher in the beginning of several changes in the district, including the introduction of new WAPS Superintendent Stephen West. “I think [the board and the Winona area community] are ready to move forward as a system,” he said of his new post. “That means a lot.”
One of the first things that West will provide the board is WAPS data from the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCA) testing, Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) testing, the American College Testing (ACT) and advanced placement (AP) courses. The data is part of a larger initiative titled “draft monitoring report template” with which West hopes to collaborate with the board to establish a way to measure student achievement. As stated in the briefing, the purpose of a monitoring report is to provide an evaluation of an academic program and report on the efforts to continuously make improvements to it. The draft monitoring report template provided in the board agenda covers math, language arts/English, third grade reading, science and social studies for students in kindergarten through grade 12. The NWEA tests are used more often than annual state tests, so they can be used to establish and measure student achievement goals throughout the academic year. West said the monitoring report will be implemented to review WAPS programs because, currently, “there [is] nothing in place to evaluate the system.”
“For me, it’s my own way of being accountable to the WAPS Board and the community,” West explained of the implementation. “They have the right to know how we’re doing as a system. It’s all about being honest, transparent, letting the community know and being proactive with the data.”
West also included proposed content for each monitoring report, such as an executive summary of the data, comparison of the results with the previously set targets, analysis of the data and recommendations for improvement. “It’s one of those areas I talked about [during my interview],” he said. “Monitor and report. You won’t get anything but transparency with me — it’s about celebrating moments [of achievement] and showing the warts as well.”
Goals that West hopes to support through the reporting system include:
a. Narrowing the achievement gap between minority and low-income students and their white peers, with the goal of reducing the gap in reading by 50 percent by 2018. Proficiency and growth gaps among all racial and other groups is to be measured and evaluated.
b. Increase the enrollment of minority students and other groups in honors, enrichment and AP courses to mirror the diversity of student populations at both Winona Middle School and Winona Senior High School (WSHS).
c. Improve the AP test results (a score of 3 or higher is our target for all student groups).
d. Improve ACT results.
The agenda also details several recommended changes to WAPS administrative positions, including the elimination of the controller within the finance department and the addition of an assessment and accountability coordinator position.
Sarah Slaby, current financial controller with the district, will replace Dan Pyan as director of finance. Her controller position will not be filled. As part of the updated director of finance position, Slaby’s role will be reconfigured to include the current responsibilities of the controller. Other administrative positions will also be reconfigured due to the elimination of the controller, which will include more responsibilities and a redistribution of assignments to the positions of director of human resources, bookkeeper and accounts payable.
West will also recommend the hiring of an assessment and accountability coordinator, who would have a range of responsibilities including working with professional learning community (PLC) groups and analyzing student achievement data. West also mentioned that the role of the new position would be flexible, and might even ultimately include duties of the recently eliminated grant writer position.
The administrative position changes are not expected to impact the budget.
A candidate for the WSHS principal job is also expected to be recommended during Thursday’s meeting.