Friday, Aug. 21, 2015 | 2 a.m.
As he does every August, Brian Greenspun is taking some time off and is turning over his Where I Stand column to others. Today’s guest columnist is Pat Skorkowsky, superintendent of the Clark County School District.
The first day of school is around the corner, and we have a lot to celebrate and look forward to for the 2015-16 school year. On Monday, 323,000 students will begin their first day or be welcomed back to our schools and will have new classrooms and new outstanding teachers, and will start making new friends.
Our students will embark on learning new material, developing skills and mastering challenges. The preparation for their success comes from our teachers and school staffers as well as initiatives happening behind the scenes. This year I am extremely excited about new initiatives and programs that will help this school year be even more successful. Below are a handful that will drive excellence for this school year:
School construction, renovation and replacement
We will continue work on seven new construction sites where schools will open in fall 2017, as well as renovations for two older buildings. While this does not solve our overcrowding issue, it certainly begins to address it. This is just the beginning of many capital improvement projects that will help improve learning environments and help address our student population growth.
We will have twenty-nine Zoom school programs at schools with a high percentage of English-language learners. Over the past two years, 52.2 percent of our students who received services from the Zoom reading centers exited the program reading at grade level. This year we expand on that in 10 more elementary schools and three secondary schools to the benefit of hundreds more students.
Twenty-two of our low-income and low-performing schools will get increased funds to provide more wraparound and education resources to keep students from falling behind. These students and their teachers will be provided with the tools they need to reach their potential and ensure the success of every student.
It’s your choice
One of our biggest sources of pride at CCSD is that we provide our students with options. Through itsyourchoice.ccsd.net, students can chose from options outside of attending their zoned school and attend other schools with available seats, our blended learning environment Nevada Learning Academy, career and technical academies and our magnet schools.
This year our schools will benefit from the new Family and Community Engagement Services (FACES) program, which focuses on providing opportunities for parents to get involved. Family engagement is the key to student success, and this program will provide parents with resources to be the best advocate and anchor for their children. Additionally, we will launch our mobile unit, CCSD On the Move, to bring resources and Internet capabilities to our parents to help them stay engaged.
This year two of our principals will take on a new task overseeing two schools each as part of our franchise school model. This idea allows principals who have demonstrated academic growth and achievement in their school to duplicate that success at an additional school.
Breakfast after the bell
Many of our schools will benefit from the breakfast after the bell program, which allows students at schools with 70 percent free and reduced-price lunch to have breakfast after the bell rings. Good nutrition is tied to good performance, and this is a critical component to achievement.
Return on investment
Last year we launched the Every Dollar Counts initiative, which demonstrates a commitment to value and return on investment and resulted in three subcommittees. The committees, formed by business leaders, revealed their preliminary reports last year, which will be developed into frameworks and implemented during this school year.
The CCSD Board of School Trustees adopted anti-bullying policies and procedures that will allow us to be more proactive in handling and reporting bullying cases. We also have more schools and students who have committed to participating in our Week of Respect and have taken the pledge to be UpStanders. Parents will receive notifications and work closely with our schools to make sure they are informed of situations that occur. In addition, our CCSD Police Department was recently recognized by the National School Safety Conference as one of the best in the nation.
Ready by third grade
Third grade is a critical point in our students’ education. Our students must be proficient in reading and writing by the end of third grade. Beginning in fourth grade a child makes the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. Dedicated funds from the Legislature will allow us to implement additional programs that focus on literacy and ensure our students don’t fall behind.
Male youth of color initiative
In the past year, CCSD has focused on reducing the number of suspensions and expulsion recommendations. We are providing programs in schools that focus on changing student behaviors before a child is suspended or recommended for expulsion. Our efforts allowed us to close a court-continuation school, and we will continue to redesign our alternative education system to support the students in our comprehensive schools and reduce the number of students leaving their home schools.
These initiatives are possible through the support of the 2015 Legislative session and our own efforts. With a renewed focus of making a difference with individual students, CCSD will continue to increase graduation rates, increase student achievement rates and provide access and opportunity to every student.
Every student, without exceptions, without excuses, can and will succeed.
Pat Skorkowsky is superintendent of the Clark County School District.