Friday, June 19, 2015

State of the District is "very strong"

Superintendent Dr. Nick Brake delivered the State of the District address to the Owensboro Board of Education on June 18.

The following are highlights from the address:

The state of the district is very strong.

 Enrollment has climbed by over 800 students since 2009, with an increase of 300 students in OPS elementary schools, 300 at the two middle school campuses and 200 at Owensboro High School.  

The district continues to focus on a three-fold strategy of engaging the whole child, innovation in teaching and learning, and organizational excellence.  

The "whole child" continuum begins with access and readiness at the pre-k level.  The district is working to expand access to Hager Preschool.  Estes Elementary is also piloting a blended preschool and kindergarten classroom this fall.  

Elementary schools have had a sharp focus on literacy and numeracy.  The Owensboro Reads project has garnered national attention with two awards.  The project is focusing intensive effort breaking the summer slide through reading camps and the 30 minute a day reading pledge.  Looking forward, the district will be launching a new program targeted at pre-k and early elementary students through an out of school devise-based reading platform called Footsteps-2-Brilliance.  

The middle school is adding a Pre-Advanced Placement program to significantly raise the overall rigor of the curriculum.  

The end of the P-12 continuum has been enhanced through the development of six new career and technical programs for high school students, including partnerships with the Owensboro Community and Technical College and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.  Dual credit numbers have nearly doubled, including 10 students that were part of the inaugural Early College Academy.  

The Fine Arts programs continue to be a major draw for students in the district.  Over 90 percent of students in grades 5-12 are fully engaged in a fine or performing arts curriculum and program. 

The district has been very successful engaging families and the community in the education of students.  Over 36 businesses, agencies and organizations had meaningful partnerships with the district last year. 

OPS is proud to be one of the seven Districts of Innovation in Kentucky.  The Owensboro Innovation Academy will open its doors this fall with 100 freshman as the state's first New Tech Network school.  

To foster the growth of innovative teaching and learning, the district distributed over $400,000 in iGrants to teachers and schools looking to use technology and more individualized instruction.  

Owensboro High School is at the forefront of working to develop an innovative new diploma that will be a part of the Kentucky Rising effort to make education more globally competitive. 

The district is focusing sharply on innovative teaching and learning by developing a strong culture of teachers working collaboratively focusing on the instructional core to engage students.   District finances have shifted with more funding to support school level instruction from 58 percent in 2012 to 68 percent in 2015. 

As an organization, OPS is focusing intensive efforts on attracting, developing and retaining the highest caliber workforce.  Teacher retention is very high district wide, especially at the elementary level.  The overall quality of applicants for teaching positions in OPS is very strong. 

OPS is focusing on leadership development of teacher leaders and aspiring administrators through the Leadership OPS program and a new partnership with Western Kentucky University to offer graduate courses in teacher leaders and school administration jointly with OPS leadership. 

Two management and operational areas have been and will continue to be a focus of the district.  Facility upgrades and renovations at elementary schools kicked off this year with the Sutton project.  The district is also looking to improve in the area of energy management.  OPS currently ranks 141 out of 173 district is energy utilization.  The district energy management team is looking to improve this area as a way of realizing cost savings.  If the district reaches the average level of energy use of those districts with energy management programs, the annual savings would be over $175,000 per year. 

The financial health of the district is very strong, with a fund balance that is the envy of many districts in the state.  Faced with increasing costs of energy combined with maintaining competitive salaries and providing support for technology, the arts, and expanding career and technical programs means that the district will have to look at ways to cut costs without cutting quality.  

Workforce engagement is very high as well.  The recently released TELL survey indicate that 95 percent of respondents agree or strongly agree that the district is a great place to work.  The response rate of the survey is a further indication of workforce engagement with a 92 percent response rate, compared to a 68 percent response two years ago.