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State gives Sikeston waiver for on-site visit

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

SIKESTON - It's when you can see your efforts have paid off that makes it all worthwhile and Sikeston Public Schools teachers received some news Tuesday that confirmed what they've been doing is working.

Cheers could be heard from throughout the Field House amid a stream of confetti after Superintendent of Schools Steve Borgsmiller relayed the good news. The R-6 School District got a waiver on the Missouri State Improvement Plan on-site review preparation.

It's a reward, Borgsmiller explained, for a job well done. "Folks, as the result of the long hard work that you who are sitting out in these chairs do for this school year, is a waiver and the school board is going to approve it this afternoon. We will not have an on-site visit this February," he said, as the cheering and clapping grew louder.

"It's a very very good pat on the back to our teaching staff," he later told school board members. "It does not change anything, it just confirms that what we have been doing is right on track."

The board unanimously approved accepting the waiver. The next on-site review will be scheduled for February 2004.

As explained by Kathy Boldrey, assistant superintendent of curriculum/middle grades, the MSIP process includes an on-site review every five years by a group of educators from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and area school districts.

"The review lasts two full days and includes a review of documentation prepared by the staff, interviews of school board members, administrators, teachers and support staff and reviewing questionnaires filled out by parents, teachers, administrators, support staff and secondary students," she said.

Gathered and sent to the state department annually is additional information required for the review which includes information on teacher certification, student-teacher ratios, number and types of courses offered to students, library facilities and materials, counseling services, fiscal report, etc.

The goal behind MSIP is to promote school improvement within each district and on a statewide basis.

In 1999 DESE established a waiver system to reward districts which are performing well, by lessening the burden of the MSIP on-site review preparation.

"The state department began awarding waivers in 1999 to districts who were consistently meeting the MSIP criteria," explained Boldrey. "Student performance data is reviewed annually by the state department and districts that qualify for the waiver are notified by the commissioner of education."

The information reviewed, she said, includes Missouri Assessment Program test scores, ACT scores, number of advanced courses offered at the high school, vocational course offerings, college placement of graduates, vocational placement after graduation, the drop-out rate and student attendance.

"If a district meets all the above standards for a minimum of three years, a waiver may be granted by the commissioner of education," Boldrey explained. "The students, faculty, staff and administration have worked hard to maintain a high level of academic performance and this hard work has been rewarded through the granting of a waiver.

"Whenever you have strangers on your campus watching you, your students, and evaluating your building, it makes for a stressful time. There is a lot of preparation involved with an on-site review. This takes away from teaching and planning time and meeting the needs of your students. The teachers are so excited about the waiver because they can concentrate on what they love doing, teaching."

Dr. Larry Bohannon, assistant superintendent of secondary education/staff development, pointed out the waiver highlights that work being done in professional development is working.

"The committee works extremely hard in planning in-services and workshops to give teachers the tools and training necessary to continue doing a great job," he said. "The addition of the half day in-service days will be used to continue this collaboration among teachers and administrators to share what works while improving on weaknesses in order for our students to achieve to their highest potential."

"This is big stuff folks," Borgsmiller told the estimated 500 people at the luncheon. "It is the result of the hours and the time and the effort, those things that you do every day as a result of the vocation that you have chosen. This is not by accident, this is not by request, this is not by design. I'm going to paraphrase what I heard last night. Being an educator is not a matter of life or death, it's bigger than that. What you do is bigger than that for our community, this is the only common thread we have to the community of Sikeston, Miner, Morehouse and the outlying areas.

"This is who we are," he said. "We have to make sure that this thread is always there not only for the good of our kids but for the strength of this community. So myself and on behalf of the Board of Education we applaud you for your efforts and we want you to continue on because the task never ends. Folks this is the icing on the cake, congratulations."