Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Kristel Ann Foster's 3 Ways to Improve TUSD

Good working conditions are good learning conditions: 

I advocate for teacher centered, site based professional development to bring more autonomy to the educators who know how to improve student achievement. I advocate for our teachers to be involved in curriculum and assessment development. I respect the professionalism of our educators and from first hand experience, know that the right and responsibility to make instructional decisions is the biggest form of respect we can show our teachers. I appreciate that different sites are at different points in developing this, but this is the direction in which I guide my feedback to district leadership.

We have more work to do with student behavior. We have embraced the work to intervene the school to prison pipeline by setting goals to reduce our suspension and expulsion rate for all kids. We are educators, in the business of teaching kids, and this means helping them learn how to control themselves and behave in stressful situations. We can’t help them with this when we push them out of our schools by suspending and expelling them. As one principal said to me, “They will come back, and then what?”  She would rather work with her faculty and staff to help kids to behave differently rather than punish them with time away from their classroom. 

I recognize this is a big cultural shift. Not all of our teachers and principals know what to do or how to help the most difficult kids at their sites. We have invested in professional development in PBIS (Positive Behavior Incentive Systems) and Restorative Practice & Conflict Resolution. I also advocate at every chance I can for more counselors, social workers and therapists. We can’t get our most severely misbehaved kids the help they and their families need if we don’t have the personnel with the professional knowledge and skill to do so. 

Lastly, we must have Board members who commit to building trust with our community. No one will vote for a bond or an override to fund our schools if they don’t trust the district. With the current legislature, the state is not funding public education, so we must find ways to fund our schools here in our community ourselves. This is critical because we are the oldest district in the state, which means we have the oldest buildings which need the most repair and work. Refurbishing our sites to modern 21st century buildings is the right thing to do for our students. They deserve the best facilities and setting all the right conditions in place to fund this starts with a school board our community can trust. 

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