Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nebraska Commissioner of Education Visits Chadron Schools

This afternoon the Chadron Public School's Administrative Team along with School Board President, Charlie Kuskie, had the honor of hosting Nebraska's Commissioner of Education, Dr. Roger Breed with an informal meeting to share local concerns and questions.  Our Chadron schools have one of the farthest districts from Lincoln where our elected and appointed officials make decisions affecting schools across the state.  It was a pleasure to not have to travel 8 hours to have a face-to-face meeting with one of those officials.

We were pleased that Dr. Breed quickly noted our high scores on the Nebraska State Assessments last spring.  He congratulated us on our test scores and was anxious to ask what steps we took in the past several years to prepare our teachers and students. He gave special recognition to our math scores which are significantly higher than many of the schools he has visited.

Along with our other administrators, I shared concerns about the need to have better enforcement for attendance issues.  I believe the strongest correlation of student success (in and out of the classroom) is regular attendance in school.  Dr. Breed said this is a common concern across the state, that about 6.3% of Nebraska students K-12 missed more than 20 days of school last year.  Even though there are circumstances that can legitimately affect a student from missing so many days, that these numbers need to decrease statewide. 

We shared our concerns that the continued emphasis in the core classes will have an effect on elective offerings that a student can take. He shared that it is known that elective offerings and extra-curricular activities are why most students attend school. Many of these offerings lead into career opportunities later in a student's life. However, the ability to teach reading, writing, math and science is only offered to people in our school settings. That without the strongest background that we can offer a student in these core areas, that they will not have the abilities to be as successful in other technical trainings and offerings.

I shared our interest in providing dual credit opportunities for our high school students.  Currently, we are working on a proposal with Chadron State College to pursue a pilot program for our qualified teachers to teach certain subjects for dual credit where if a student chooses to pay the tuition fee to the college then they can receive credit while attending their high school class.  We are in the very early stage of these discussions. Dr. Breed encouraged us to push for dual credit opportunities, that research shows that students who have obtained these credits are much more successful in completing college degrees. His support in our pursuits instills even more enthusiasm for us to continue our research.

It truly was an honor to spend time discussing these and various other topics that directly affect our district. We all know that our state doesn't have a lot of dollars right now to help local school districts.  Money or not, we are proud to offer a quality education and with support, we will continue looking into more opportunities to benefit our students. I'm thankful for our time spent expressing these concerns to Dr. Breed.