By Tim Ashley
SYRACUSE — In some ways, the goals for 2022 in the Wawasee Community School Corporation are tied closely to accomplishments and happenings of 2021.
Professional learning communities will continue to be a major emphasis this year, noted Don Bokhart, president of the Wawasee School Board. “PLCs will never be done,” he said. “We will always be tweaking them and identifying state standards.”
He gave a hypothetical example of a group of third grade teachers growing and developing new teaching strategies “as they feel more comfortable sharing their successes and information.”
Information about PLCs will continue to be shared during Wednesday morning Smart Start sessions with teachers. PLCs have been the major topic in those sessions since the start of the school year in August.
The instructional leadership team has met with Mike Hagadone of Solution Tree, a retired school administrator based in Washington State, four times and plan to have him come back at the end of January. There is also a video training planned for August with someone from Solution Tree, a professional development company Wawasee has been working with to help implement PLCs.
A major goal is to align the curriculum across the school corporation and have the same things taught. “You can test the same when you teach the same,” said Dr. Steve Troyer, superintendent of WCSC.
This year “we will really dig in” and address how teachers can balance the needs of all students regardless of their learning level. Older, more traditional methods of teaching usually meant teachers kept moving on and teaching their curriculum even if some students didn’t learn it the first time.
“We will no longer be leaving kids behind,” Troyer noted.
Implementing PLCs is closely tied with one of the critical issues the school board identified last year of increasing student achievement. Closely looking at how the curriculum is taught and how students are assessed should eventually also affect student achievement.
PLCs are funded by federal Title II money.
Also for this year, Bokhart noted early learning centers will continue to be developed. They are located at each elementary school in the school corporation and Syracuse Elementary has a second one for children of Polywood employees.
He said the early learning centers are not just for day care, but “prepare kids for kindergarten.” Some students are simply not ready for kindergarten when they are old enough to attend.
“If you come to school behind already, how do you ever get caught up?” Bokhart noted.
Bokhart did not specifically mention it, but beginning with the 2022-23 school year Wawasee will be switching to a semester schedule instead of trimesters. The school board approved the change at the November meeting.
Changing to a semester schedule will impact Wawasee High School the most and will mean more class periods during the day among other changes. At the November board meeting Troyer said there are many pros and cons to making such a change, but he feels it would be more efficient from a staffing standpoint to teach on a semester schedule.
More details need to be worked out yet and the board will be updated on changes as they are made.