KDE task force provides feedback on upcoming superintendent survey

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Education Continuation Task Force: June 1, 2020 Virtual Meeting

  • The superintendent needs sensing survey focuses on areas such as policy development, district experience with trauma-informed approaches, general needs for school leaders, information technology and distance learning – specifically professional development and family-related needs.
  • Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney from KDE’s Office of Finance and Operations joined the task force to address concerns that members are hearing from school districts regarding reopening.

By Jacob Perkins
Jacob.perkins@education.ky.gov 

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has partnered with the Regional Educational Laboratory Program to begin drafting new surveys to help identify the needs occurring across the state due to the COVID-19 crisis.

These surveys will be sent to superintendents, principals, teachers and families. Hannah Poquette, from KDE’s Office of the Commissioner, discussed with the Education Continuation Task Force at its June 1 meeting the initial survey, which will be geared toward superintendents.

“This type of data collection will allow us to gain an understanding of the needs and how they might vary by region, group or grade-level,” said Poquette. “Our objective with this project is to ensure that our work at KDE is aligned to the needs that are occurring across the state and that we are prioritizing those needs in a way that aligns with our education stakeholders.”

The superintendent needs-sensing survey focuses on areas such as policy development, district experience with trauma-informed approaches, general needs for school leaders, information technology and distance learning – specifically professional development and family-related needs.

The survey will be for superintendents to identify three policy topics on which school and district leaders need state guidance for the 2020-2021 academic year and if they need to be addressed before schools reopen or after. The topics include:

  • Employee and student attendance;
  • Grade-level assignments;
  • Grade promotion;
  • Calculating grade point averages;
  • Administering standardized tests;
  • Graduation requirements;
  • Local school closures;
  • Emergency management plans;
  • Non-discrimination policies; and
  • Other.

Melissa Biggerstaff, associate executive director of the Green River Education Cooperative, said she would prefer to see the survey allow superintendents to select three topics to address by the return to school and then select another three that would be addressed after schools reopen.

“From what I’m hearing from superintendents, things like attendance of students and staff, they need to know that before school starts. However, once re-entry occurs, then we get into things like grading and GPAs,” said Biggerstaff. “I think it would be very beneficial to look at those two entities separate and get priorities for both.”

Biggerstaff said that she also would like to see an option added about what grading looks like when schools are utilizing non-traditional instruction (NTI) as well as a traditional in-person classroom setting.

“I know most, if not all of our districts had that question in the spring when we all went to NTI and I think that is an unresolved issue,” she said. “I think it was a little bit easier for districts this last quarter because we were in the fourth nine-weeks of school. But if we’re in the middle or in the beginning of school, what does grading look like?”

Feedback from Superintendent Webcast
Associate Commissioner Robin Kinney from KDE’s Office of Finance and Operations joined the task force to address concerns that members are hearing from school districts regarding reopening.

On May 26, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) joined Kentucky’s 172 superintendents and leadership from KDE to offer guidance on reopening school buildings in the fall.

In that webcast, DPH Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack provided an overview of the virus and explained that a vaccine will not be available until at least 2021. He said that In the meantime, schools will face challenges as they begin to plan for a potential reopening.

“Dr. Stack very much expressed that he understands and acknowledges the significant challenges that our school districts are facing as we make decisions,” said Kinney. “We have to balance this by probably having more kids together in spaces than we would ideally want from a purely public health perspective, but then also appreciating that we need to have kids have an ability to get together in whatever manner so that they don’t fall behind in their educational achievements.”

David Johnson, executive director of Southeast/South-Central Education Cooperative, said superintendents are growing frustrated.

“It seems like what they’re hearing right now is telling them that they’re not going to be able to open up in-house unless they’re willing to go against or stretch the guidelines they are presently being presented,” said Johnson.

Kinney said that the tension being felt from superintendents is also being felt within the department. She said the implementation of DPH guidance should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable and tailored to the needs of each community.

“The one-size-fits-all is just not going to make it,” she said. “Superintendents make those very hard decisions about their local school districts every single day. I think this feels a little harder because there is a lot at stake.”

Amy Razor, executive director of the Northern Kentucky Cooperative for Educational Services, said superintendents have begun working together to brainstorm solutions to begin school.

Kinney recommended that when brainstorming these ideas, remember that this is an unprecedented time that we are all living in and to be mindful that the plans you develop today could very well change tomorrow.

“Especially this year with what we’re facing, you can plan and put together your best efforts and really try to come up with all of these options and it is still likely to change,” said Kinney.

Kentucky Center for School Safety Update
Jon Akers, executive director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety (KCSS), provided his fellow task force members with an update on KCSS.

Akers said that he and KCSS staff are concerned with potential traffic issues when schools do reopen.

“Many of the parents have said that they’re not going to put a kid on a school bus,” he said, “they’re going to go ahead and take them to school.”

This raises concerns for Akers because of the large number of parents who already drive their kids to school each day. He also said he is concerned with the number of students who are dropped off before school staff has arrived on campus.

Akers said he is recommending superintendents communicate with families that schools will not allow students on school property until the staff is present. This may mean that schools work with their school resource officers and local law enforcement to keep traffic from entering the campus until a designated time.

“When the kids do get dropped off, we’re not advocating that they go to major gathering areas,” said Akers. “We are advocating that they go straight to their classrooms. This would keep as little traffic out in the hallways as possible and obviously cutting down on exposure.”

Previous coverage of the Education Continuation Task Force:

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