Longer days, smaller classes
Cutting class sizes and adding time to the academic day are two high priorities Superintendent Gene Harris outlined for the district on Dec. 2.
At a regular Columbus City School district board meeting, Harris reported the implementation of new programs and initiatives as a result to the passage of Issue 76 in November.
The aggressive outline looks at the district’s future in the next four years – the length of the combined bond and levy – and beyond.
Harris’s presentation identified 16 promises the district plans to keep to its constituents.
The top two priorities Harris identified are the district’s plan to restore time to the academic day at all grades and reducing class sizes in grades K-3. The district plans to implement both in August 2009.
“These are certainly our highest priority,” Harris said.
Restoring time in the day aligns with the implementation of the Ohio core curriculum, a requirement by the state which expands the state’s minimum graduation requirements. Having extra time in the day to teach will assist with increased math and science requirements, according to Harris.
The implementation of more time in the school day will begin in January 2009, when committee members will outline a draft schedule, plan for counselors, intervention specialists and a time line.
School schedules and the identification of labs, technology and space are expected to be finalized in February 2009. The projected execution of the Ohio core curriculum in the district is expected to begin with middle schools in August 2009, and will include adding math and science teachers in the district, with the approval from the board of education.
“There are very delicate and intricate things we must do with implementing the Ohio core,” Harris said.
Harris turned to the second major implementation, reducing class sizes in grades K-3. By August, the district hopes to have space inventoried district-wide and plans on reducing the class sizes.
Each new program or initiative will involve committees comprised of teachers, staff and community members. All will work toward a goal of developing an implementation strategy that “maximizes the human, material, and financial resources of the district,” keeping cost and efficiency in mind.
Other plans Harris outlined for the district included buying 60 buses each year until 2012, when the district will purchase 57 buses. This will update the outdated 237 buses in the district. The district will also plan on phasing in new academic materials beginning in August 2009.
Four new theme-based schools are expected to be constructed by 2011, according to Harris.
“We have an extraordinary aggressive time line,” she said.
The chairpersons of the committee will begin to identify team members in January 2009. The committee will then brainstorm the possible locations for the schools. The implementation of the first two schools should take place by August 2010, with the last two finished by August 2011.
“This doesn’t mean the schools will be full-blown by 2010 or 2011,” Harris said. “To begin these high-quality schools, we need to be thoughtful, intentional, and that’s what I intend to be.”
Harris also outlined the plan to expand the district’s partnerships, which could take place by January 2010.
“There is a strategic alignment of partnerships,” she said. “We understand the (critical nature) of the implementation of the Ohio core and making sure our students have support not only academically, but from the community as well.”
Filling vacant positions
In other business, the board approved entering into an agreement with SC Search Consultants Inc., to conduct a search for a treasurer/chief financial officer.
Former district Treasurer Michael Kinneer resigned Aug. 20, taking a job in Florida. Assistant Treasurer Michael McCammon holds the position temporarily.
Board member Gary Baker II, member of the Treasurer/CFO Transition Task Force, advised the group has met four times since the departure of Kinneer in August. The committee submitted proposals to six executive search firms and four responded.
The board also set 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 18, as the Board Governance Orientation, in the board of education general assembly room at the district’s main office. The orientation is for anyone interested in replacing outgoing board member W. Carlton Weddington, who recently won a seat as state representative for District 27, and will resign his position before the end of the year.