The Ingredients Make All the Difference!
If you have ever baked a cake or prepared a special recipe, you likely use a certain list of go-to ingredients. You can’t substitute baking power for baking soda (Yes, I learned that the hard way.)! The same goes in education. Certain things cannot be omitted or trivialized even though they may not directly impact instruction. Today’s topic deals with Resources and Support Systems (Standard Four). In the AdvancED manual, “Resources and Support Systems” are defined in this way: “The district and school have resources and provides services that support its purpose and direction to ensure success for all learners.” The above statement is further defined with seven indicators: 1. Qualified professional and support staff are sufficient in number to fulfill their roles and responsibilities necessary to support the district and schools’ purpose, direction, and the educational program; 2. Instructional time, material resources, and fiscal resources are sufficient to support the purpose and direction of the district and school; 3. The district and schools maintain facilities, services, and equipment to provide a safe, clean, and healthy environment for all students and staff; 4. Students and district/school personnel use a range of media of information resources to support the school’s educational programs; 5. The technology infrastructure supports the district and schools’ teaching, learning, and operational needs; 6. The district and schools provide support services to meet the physical, social, and emotional needs of the student population being served; 7. The district and school provides services that support the counseling, assessment, referral, educational, and career planning needs of all students. As you can readily pick up from the extensiveness of the above statements, classroom teaching is but a small, though integral, part of the total educational system. Schools must be clean, students must be well-fed, and buildings must be maintained, and students must be safely transported to and from school. We are most fortunate to have the number one food service director in the state, Ms. Cindy Jacobs. We are also most fortunate to have the number one maintenance director in the state, Mr. Lee Templeton. We are also most fortunate to have the number one transportation director in the state, Ms. Edwina Bridges. Although their numerical designations may be unofficial, their importance and support are unquestioned. We have a very competent support staff in each of the three above areas; however, that is still but a small token of what else is necessary for the smooth running of a “Proficient” system. Clinton is in an awkward situation with so many of its teachers living out of town. Nearly half of the instructional staff live more than twenty-five miles away, usually in Fountain Inn, Simpsonville, or Spartanburg. Now that teachers are in short supply, larger and more affluent communities have begun raiding our coffers. Each year, we do a yeoman’s job of replacing excellent teachers with other high quality personnel. The fear is very real that our community cannot recruit and retain without the needed infrastructure of affordable housing, utilities, and other amenities. Our city council, city manager, and mayor are working feverishly to make our community competitive and we are very grateful. We must redouble our effort to provide the bedroom community close enough to larger cities but small enough to maintain the “Mayberry” appeal. We work very hard to communicate with parents and other stakeholders (Indicator 4.4) through electronic and traditional channels. Unfortunately, we still lack the overarching support from many parents necessary to ensure close, cooperative efforts on behalf of all children. We work with Thornwell Home for Children, Gateway Counseling, mental health, and law enforcement to provide additional support for families and students. Far, far too often students are so negatively affected from dysfunctional home situations that learning is the least of their concerns. We have excellent leadership from Dr. Greg Moore, Director of Special Programs, and Ms. Tina Daniels, Coordinator for Special Programs. These two relative newcomers are both dynamite and such a welcome breath of fresh air and new ideas, many of which are being implemented via special services for students with exceptionalities. Are we where we want to be with our resources? No. Financially, the district is at the same millage rate as it was in 2003. The cost of doing business and the cost of living certainly is NOT at 2003 levels. Yet we continue to thrive, even with reductions and aggressive competition over resources. We have been awarded numerous grants over the past three years to augment and grow our academic programming and increase our graduation rate. We have secured far more technology to improve instructional delivery and to validate real-world and problem-based learning. Talk about authentic education. In spite of our obstacles and difficulties, we are moving forward and making progress. On a scale of 1 – 4, I believe we are near a 3. We aren’t where we want to be but we are a far cry above where many others are. We are proud of our towns, our communities, and our many stakeholders. (Dr. David O’Shields is superintendent of Laurens County School District 56.)