Marysville teachers take on leadership roles in school improvement plans

MARYSVILLE – It seems like everyone in town wants our schools to improve, and it seems like everyone who works for the Marysville School District is working to do just that.

“At Marshall, today was like a school day” with so many teachers there, Shelley Boten told the school board at a work session Monday.

Boten, the director of elementary schools, and Rod Merrell, director of secondary schools, talked about how dedicated teachers and administrators are with their School Improvement Plans.

“This is work they want to do,” Boten said of teachers, who were at school even though they weren’t required to be by their principals.

Teachers are buying into the planning sessions because “teachers are leading the learning,” she said. Merrell said gone are the days when such plans were just looked at every May. “It’s continuous,” he said of the process of updating them based on data-based needs.

Boten said the continuous improvement cycle is, “Plan, Do, Study, Act.” They look at data then try things, monitor and adjust.

“We work with the intention that we can do better,” Boten said.

Merrell said it makes sense for teachers to lead the way because they best know their students.

“These strategies should take us to the next level,” Boten said. “The teachers are excited they have clear targets.”

Merrell gave an example of how priorities change. One school’s goal of inquiry-based learning was changed to a focus on note-taking.

“We need to intervene, not wait,” Boten said.

They talked about themes found at most of the schools, including behavior, professional development, using AVID strategies, course completion, reducing absenteeism and differentiated instruction.

That last one is a “tough nut to crack,” Merrell said. “They think they are doing it, but they’re not.”

He continued, “We might not know the answer, but someone in this organization does. We don’t have to bring in expensive speakers. We can learn from each other.”

Both said they are excited about the better-focused school year.

“We both geek out about the beginning of school anyway,” but she’s even more excited because the teachers are, Boton said.

School board president Pete Lundberg said he was impressed with the discussion.

“We want to know this stuff,” Lundberg said of the board’s desire to understand data-driven decisions. “We’ve struggled for a long time with the data not being consistent across the district, comparing apples to bananas to grapefruit…”

Also at the work session, it was discussed how those same processes will be used regarding an agreement made with the Tulalip Tribes that includes some funding.

Director Chris Nation said in the past some of that money has been spent on things like food when it’s supposed to go for academics.

Rochelle Lubbers, executive director of education for the tribes, said this year the money will be spent on relationship building.

“You can’t learn without trust,” she said.

Lubbers said the tribal board approved the agreement Aug. 2 at its first reading.

“That’s really hard to do,” Lubbers said. “They are trusting in that relationship.”

She added there are more networks and links to help students than ever before.

Boten said everyone will be in their comfort zone because they will be using the same processes.

“It will eliminate magical thinking,” Lundberg said.

Finance director Mike Sullivan said at the work session that the Facilities Committee is leaning toward recommending a levy on the February ballot. It also decided a bond measure probably would not pass at this time.

Outreach director Jodi Runyon said, “We’ve got to do something with our facilities.”

Lundberg added, “They’ve got to be comfortable with their recommendation.”

He said whatever is decided he wants the district to do a better job of informing voters.

“We need to get the ball rolling earlier,” Nation added.

Lundberg said he’s concerned about the tax voters approved for the new fire district. “John Q. Public’s total tax to the homeowner.”

In other news, Sullivan said a lot of progress has been made this summer fixing up schools. Most of it should be done by the time school starts Sept. 4. The exception is new siding at Marysville-Pilchuck High School won’t be painted by then. Sullivan said crews hired for summer are going back to their regular jobs is the main reason why.

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