‘Game on’ be­comes motto for school year

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - BRENDA BERNET

SPRING­DALE — Mar­cia Smith, one of the as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dents for in­struc­tion, asked School Board mem­bers Tues­day about sit­u­a­tions where they hear the phrase, “Game on.”

“When there’s a chal­lenge,” Smith said.

The phrase is the dis­trict’s motto head­ing into the 2017-18 school year.

“Our game is on,” Smith said. “We are go­ing to take it to the next step.”

Smith and Kathy Morledge, also is an as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent over in­struc­tion, dis­cussed plans for in­struc­tion for the 201718 school year dur­ing a work ses­sion with School Board mem­bers Tues­day. Morledge fo­cuses on pre-kinder­garten through fifth grade, while Smith’s fo­cus is on sixth through 12th grade.

“For our kids to climb the stair­case to ed­u­ca­tional ex­cel­lence, we know bot­tom step is teach them all,” Morledge said.

The in­struc­tional fo­cus for 2017-18 will con­tinue to be de­vel­op­ing stu­dents who

are lit­er­ate and nu­mer­ate, can solve prob­lems, make good de­ci­sions and who will per­se­vere, Morledge said.

All ad­min­is­tra­tors re­turned to work Mon­day. Meet­ings are set next week for ad­min­is­tra­tors and newly hired teach­ers. Teach­ers re­turn Aug. 7, and stu­dents re­turn Aug. 14.

“We’re ex­pect­ing 23,000 kids,” Rollins said, a num­ber that in­cludes pre-kinder­gart­ners. “We know there are mul­ti­ple providers in the re­gion who are com­pet­ing ev­ery day for chil­dren.”

He es­ti­mates 700 stu­dents who live in Spring­dale School Dis­trict at­tend schools out­side the dis­trict, Rollins said. The dis­trict will have three char­ter school cam­puses within its bor­ders — Haas Hall Academy in Fayet­teville, Haas Hall Academy in Spring­dale and Ozark Montes­sori Academy. Shiloh Chris­tian School, one of the area’s largest pri­vate schools, also is in the dis­trict.

The de­ci­sion to add sev­en­th­graders to the Tyson School of In­no­va­tion for the 2017-18 school year has re­sulted in 55 to 60 sev­enth-graders sign­ing up for classes, Rollins said. He thinks the num­ber will grow.

Each stu­dent at­tend­ing school else­where is a $9,000 fi­nan­cial im­pact to the dis­trict, Rollins said. The im­pact of 700 stu­dents at­tend­ing other schools is $6.3 mil­lion.

Rollins still thinks the dis­trict will grow by a few hun­dred stu­dents, but the dis­trict has to pre­pare to cus­tom­ize how in­struc­tion is pro­vided to stu­dents, he said.

“We un­der­stand the need to grow and deepen all teach­ers’ in­sight and use of in­no­va­tive prac­tice,” Rollins said.

Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent Jared Cleve­land shared the lat­est fig­ures on stu­dent en­roll­ment by cam­pus, show­ing

22,600 cur­rent stu­dents. The dis­trict will not know ex­actly how many un­til stu­dents show up for classes.

Hell­stern Mid­dle School has more than 1,000 stu­dents, and the sixth grade is full, Cleve­land said. Cleve­land told School Board mem­bers dis­cus­sions about at­ten­dance zones and mid­dle school en­roll­ment will be needed, he said.

Cleve­land also is study­ing the com­pet­i­tive­ness of ad­min­is­tra­tor pay and con­tracts fol­low­ing the depar­tures of some top ad­min­is­tra­tors to nearby dis­tricts in re­cent years, he said.

Rollins also hopes for stronger stu­dent per­for­mance and said his staff is re­view­ing the re­sults of the ACT As­pire, re­leased this month.

“We’ve done pretty well in writ­ing scores,” he said. “We have a lot of im­prove­ment.”

Each new school year comes with en­ergy and ex­cite­ment, School Board mem­ber Kathy McFetridge said.

“I’m al­ways con­cerned about reach­ing those stu­dents that are strug­gling,” McFetridge said. “I wish our test scores could show how much our teach­ers work.”

Many chil­dren in the dis­trict are learn­ing English and are ad­just­ing to a dif­fer­ent cul­ture, Rollins said. While the dis­trict is see­ing suc­cesses among His­panic stu­dents, Rollins said reach­ing Mar­shallese stu­dents is a new fron­tier.

Dis­trict staff have de­vel­oped re­la­tion­ships with 14 pas­tors from the Mar­shallese com­mu­nity, Rollins said. The dis­trict is work­ing to help fam­i­lies un­der­stand the im­por­tance of get­ting chil­dren to school and en­cour­ag­ing them to give their best ef­fort, he said.

“We don’t want to buy into this idea that de­mog­ra­phy is destiny,” Rollins said. “We be­lieve if we do our work re­ally well we can help those kids be very suc­cess­ful.”

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