North Platte School District
School Attendance Matter
August is the time of the year where we begin to think about those last minute summer projects, the start of school, and fall sports. North Platte Public Schools started school on August 14th. It is a good time of the year to begin setting routines for your children. This will give your children the opportunity to establish a routine of getting up in the morning and going to bed at the appropriate times and eating meals at a scheduled time. An established routine will help the student adjust to the start of the school year and avoid any absences due to not feeling well or not being rested.
Research has revealed that school attendance matters for doing well in school and life. Improving attendance and reducing chronic absences takes commitment, collaboration and a planned approach to the particular challenges families and schools face yearly.
The North Platte School District acknowledges the importance of student attendance and has identified improving student attendance as high priority goal. The District is monitoring chronic absence data, developing attendance awareness campaigns for students and families, creating a community toolbox, recognizing student attendance champions and establishing program interventions to support students and families. The school district and the North Platte community are working together to promote regular attendance and reduce chronic absence.
Principals and teachers are ensuring all classrooms are nurturing and engaging so children want to come to school every day. Each school is ensuring that teachers take roll regularly so students know someone cares when they miss school. The District is collecting and analyzing chronic absence and good attendance data to determine patterns for students and schools. The district has developed and is implementing a school-wide incentive and reward program in partnership with Right Motors and Wild Bill’s Wings & Bowling. Principals will be sending home to all students’ attendance letters and a School Attendance Matters brochure educating parents, guardians and children about the importance of attendance.
The impact of chronic absenteeism hits low-income students particularly hard, especially if they don’t have the resources to make up for lost time in the classroom and face barriers getting to school – such as unreliable transportation, poor access to health care and unpredictable work schedules for parents. District staff will reach out to frequently absent students to find out in a supportive manner why they are missing and what would help them attend more regularly.
Our goal is to start the school year off engaging everyone in raising awareness about the importance of attending school and conveying the right message to the parents and students. No attendance initiative is complete without attention to parents, who are crucial in turning around chronic absence. In some cases, especially in the early grades, parents may not understand the importance of good school attendance or realize how quickly absences can add up. Improving student attendance is an important, cost-effective but often overlooked strategy for ensuring our students are on-track to learn and succeed. Nationwide, as many as one out of 10 students is chronically absent, meaning they miss 10 percent or more of school days, or nearly a month. Chronic absence is a leading, early warning indicator of academic trouble and dropouts.
The North Platte Public School District has worked hard during the 2016-17 school year on goals and strategies in the NPPSD’s strategic plan. The goals and some of the major accomplishments are stated in this brief summary of the 2016-17 school year.
Goal 1: The school district maintains and communicates at all levels of the organization a purpose and direction for continuous improvement that commits to high expectations for learning as well as shared values and beliefs about teaching and learning.
Accomplishments: The Board of Education set the purpose and direction for the district in January 2016 based on student, staff and community input. The district developed a strategic plan for the next five years. The district’s focus for the 2016-17 school year was to improve student success by providing high-quality professional development for teachers and principals; developing and implementing processes that affect teaching and learning in every classroom; and planning, developing and implementing programs that prepare students. A community survey was administered in October 2017 to understand public perception of the district.
Goal 2: The school district provides the governance and leadership that promotes and supports its purpose and direction; student performance and system effectiveness.
Accomplishments: The newly elected North Platte Board of Education had its organizational meeting in January 2017. The board meets monthly to ensure the district is operating effectively and efficiently. In compliance with state and federal laws, the board updated all policies, approved new math curriculum, supervised the budget and has updated facilities throughout the district according to the district facility plan.
On April 10, the board conducted a self-evaluation facilitated by Marcia Herring, director of board leadership for the Nebraska Association of School Boards. The board discussed areas for improvement.
The board revised its policy on public comment at meetings as a result of its discussion. Patrons wishing to address the board during the public comment period will be allowed five minutes to express their view. To ensure the board has adequate time to complete other items on the agenda, the board will decide at the end of 30 minutes of public comments whether to continue. The board may exceed the 30 minutes if the majority of the board agrees to extend the time. At the end of the public comments, the board president may acknowledge a member of the board or the administration to address any concerns or answer questions from the public.
Goal 3: The school district provides a rigorous, relevant, and coherent curriculum; delivered by high quality educators who use innovative, researched-based strategies; supported by school leaders to ensure success for all students.
Accomplishments: The district developed a new K-12 math curriculum and selected and purchased new K-12 math instructional resources to be implemented in the fall 2017. The district has been working on a college and career readiness initiative, which included the development of a career academy program. The district will implement the career academy program in fall 2017. The district has been working collaboratively with Mid-Plains Community College, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln West Central Research Center to explore the possibility of offering students career academy programs. In addition, NPHS is launching a program in which students can spend a class period in an internship based upon a career field of choice.
The school district will implement a new elementary instructional schedule next school year. The schedule will provide equitable instructional time for all subject areas for elementary students across the district. Revised grading and reporting procedures will be implemented in fall 2017.
Math outcomes have improved in all grades 3-8. The high school ACT composite and math readiness scores improved.
The school district implemented interventions to improve attendance via “Dare to Go Five Below.” The district improved the overall school attendance by 8 percent compared to 2015-16.
The school district will receive training on implementing the Nebraska Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports model on July 24-25. All schools will develop school wide behavior plans during the 2017-18 school year via school-based PBiS teams.
The school district administrated the Gallup Student Engagement Survey to all fifth- through 12th-graders in the fall of 2016. The results have been shared with schools’ continuous improvement teams and plans are being developed to address building-specific concerns.
Goal 4: The school district will utilize best practices to recruit, hire, mentor, retain and develop qualified certified and noncertified staff.
Accomplishments: The recruitment team attended teacher recruitment fairs at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and UNL in spring 2017. The district has recruited and hired 23 teachers, one elementary and one high school administrator due to retirements and job relocation.
Goal 5 : The school district demonstrates strategic resource management that includes long-range planning in support of the purpose and direction of the district. The district ensures appropriate levels of funding and sustainability of resources, as well as evidence of long-range capital and resource planning effectiveness.
Accomplishments: The school district’s leadership team implemented the Essential Finance Planning process in October 2017 to evaluate the efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of the school district operations. The district is challenged with a budget shortfall due to decline in student enrollment, levy limitations, reductions in state aid and the state’s economic conditions. The district reviewed all current programs and services and has reduced the district budget by $980,122. The district sold a parcel of land adjacent to Buffalo Elementary to Habitat to Humanity.
Goal 6: The school district provides safe, healthy and efficiently operated facilities and manages resources in all schools that support its purpose and direction to ensure success for all students.
Accomplishments: All the schools in the district have required limited access to schools and have installed a buzz-in system at each school. The high school implemented a closed-campus rule for students in grade 9-11. The school resource officer and the coordinator of student services trained all students and staff on the Standard Response Protocol.
A new, energy-efficient HVAC system will be installed in summer at Lincoln Elementary. The high school nurse treatment center will be relocated in the summer to accommodate the health needs of students and staff. The 1976 cooling tower at Adams Middle School will be replaced with a more efficient system.
Pursuant to Nebraska Department of Education regulations, the district will provide free lunch for students during the summer at Cody, Madison and Jefferson schools. This is an opportunity to keep our students healthy throughout the year.
Goal 7: The school district provides an effective communication process at all levels of the organization and to the community that promotes and reflects its purpose, values and beliefs about teaching and learning and the systems effectiveness to ensure success for all students.
Accomplishments: The ThoughtExchange community survey was administered in fall 2016. The survey data was analyzed and included in areas of improvement with the current strategic plan.
A “staff member of the month” recognition program was implemented. It is designed to recognize outstanding teachers and support staff for their contributions to the school district.
The district created a “North Platte Public Schools — Handy Facts” document to communicate district information to the community.
Dr. Ron Hanson
North Platte Schools