An educational consulting firm, Focus on Results, was back in Webster Parish schools this week to continue guiding personnel in the development and implementation of their program, "Seven Areas of Focus."
The process of implementing the program began in the 2011-2012 school year and is purchased with Federal Title Funds at the cost of approximately $200,000.
"These funds are earmarked for title schools and professional development," said Yolanda Palmer, Title I Supervisor for Webster Parish Schools. "These funds cannot be spent on general expenses. The money is earmarked from the get-go on Professional Development."
Crevonne Odom, Business and Finance Director for Webster Parish Schools, echoed Palmer's statement and said Title Funds are dedicated by the federal government for free and reduced lunch and at-risk students.
"This framework has been used across the nation with great success," Superintendent Steve Dozier said. Dozier has worked with the company during his employment with Department of Defense schools and Union Parish.
"Several principals, teachers and central office personnel attended leadership trainings both in Webster Parish and Boston, Massachusetts in preparation for full implementation of the framework during the 2012-2013 school year," Dozier said. "During the last school year, much of the foundation that was needed for successful implementation was laid."
Schools were required to establish a school improvement team, which is made up of teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and in high schools, students are also included on the team.
"Roles and responsibilities of team members had to be defined," said Michelle Finley, Staff Development Facilitator. "Teams had to learn to analyze data to find weak areas and effectively communicate to other staff members and stakeholders, as well as collaborate and share in the decision making process.
"District representatives were selected by each school and then assigned in a support capacity, and we began moving away from a top down approach," she continued. "(That was all done) to coach principals and school improvement teams this year to make the transition more successful."
During September training, team members were introduced to the expectations for year one and how to begin defining an instructional focus for schools.
The October meeting guided school improvement team leaders through additional expectations, including the development of professional collaboration teams to improve teaching and learning for all students and to identify, learn and use effective evidelce-based teaching practices to meet the needs of each student.
"Even though we already have professional collaboration teams in place at each school (called the School Improvement Team or SIT), they are refining their meeting skills," Dozier said. "Setting group norms, assigning member roles, setting the agenda items and assigning minutes for those items are all skills that have to be refined.
District school improvement trainings are scheduled for November, January, February and March (2013). Each month the Focus on Results consultants will spend three days in Webster Parish schools coaching principals and school improvement teams in the Seven Areas of Focus Framework.
"This is a process, not an event," Dozier said. "We have to have the mindset of continuous school improvement."