TIM WEBSTER: Input from stakeholders, curriculum focus will move RCAPS forward

By Tim Webster

Reed City Area Public Schools Superintendent

Please let me introduce myself. I am the new superintendent at Reed City Area Public Schools. For the past 15 years, I served as the Reed City Middle School principal. Now that I am superintendent, I have the opportunity to write about my administrative philosophy, which is that teams of people working together are generally more effective than one person directing. Properly using advisory teams from a variety of stakeholders is the backbone of the communication system that is vital to creating teamwork.

Once a month, I have an opportunity to meet with parent representatives as part of the District Leadership Parent Team. Our meetings usually last about an hour. The main purpose of these meetings is to help lead Reed City Area Public Schools in a positive direction. In our first meeting, we agreed to the following:

The superintendent will communicate the latest school news with explanations and discuss upcoming issues with this group to gather input before making decisions whenever possible.

The parent representatives will help identify areas of concern and suggest ways to improve our schools, offer input and views on school issues, become informed and communicate school issues to other parents in our community and bring issues to the table from others in the community that they represent.

I would like to thank parents and staff for volunteering to serve on this committee and to be representatives of our community. High school representatives include Shelly Dean, Amye Hensel and Lisa Voelker; middle school representatives are Susan Olds, Tracy Pelton and Tim Woodard; elementary representatives are Nicole Coats, Monica Fuller, Heather Hammar, Tammy Jackson, Amber Law amd Monica McCarver. Also on the District Leadership Parent Team are Denise Nelson, Reed City Education Association representative; Joyceln Busch, Reed City Educational Support Personnel Association representative; and Ross Momany, board of education representative.

In education today, we are in a time of high-stakes testing and competition. The RCAPS Board of Education has made a commitment to improve education for our students in a way that will be reflected in improved test scores.

The new Common Core curriculum has been adopted by the State of Michigan. It has been a bit controversial but appears to be coming our way. It is a major curriculum change, and our school is facing the challenge of incorporating it. Future testing is going to be based on this new Core curriculum, and our school’s report card will reflect how well we teach that Core curriculum. These changes take time.

This year, we have scheduled more hours of instruction time with students than is required. This allows us to take some hours for staff to work on curriculum and students to have time off. When to take that time off is controversial. You may have noticed some schools have late starts for students or take half days to allow staff members time to plan the implementation of the new curriculum. I have met with our District Leadership Parent Team and discussed the best way to make time for the students in our community. I also have met with a Superintendent’s Advisory Teacher Team to gather input on this issue. After a fair amount of discussion, the general consensus is to take one half day per month to work on the implementation of the new curriculum and that a Friday would be the best for parents. We are moving in this direction.

While time is a valuable resource, we have made other commitments as well. The most significant commitment is the addition of our district curriculum director, Tonya Harrison. Mrs. Harrison has a master’s degree in Curriculum Development. She will not only guide the implementation of the Common Core curriculum, but she will lead our school improvement process. The school improvement process is required by the state, and in simple terms consists of the following three steps:

1. Collect and analyze relevant educational data (usually test scores) to identify weaknesses in learning;

2. Come up with a district school improvement plan and school improvement plans for each building to address the areas of weakness; and

3. Provide professional development to staff and/or adjust the curriculum to ensure weaknesses are eliminated.

As you can see, all of these things are connected and must be coordinated. I believe that this commitment to improvement will move us in a direction that will make the Reed City community proud. All of us here at Reed City schools are aware that our report card will be in the news, and we want to make sure it is something that makes us and the community we serve proud. When you see we are making time for curriculum planning in the future, you will know why. Feel free to give input to any of the District Leadership Parent Team members who will bring suggestions to our monthly meeting.

Tim Webster is the superintendent of Reed City Area Public Schools. Contact him at twebster@reedcity.k12.mi.us.