The Sedona-Oak Creek School District Governing Board convened Tuesday, Sept. 12, for a work session and its usual board meeting.
During the work session, Superintendent Dave Lykins presented his goals for this school year, which is his last as the district’s superintendent. There were two: Developing a curriculum mapping process and developing a new teacher evaluation system. The district identified both projects as priorities in fall 2016, and has been working toward these goals since then.
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Over the summer, curriculum director Deana DeWitt worked with a curriculum task force comprised of teachers from each school to set up a formula to help teachers write curriculum maps for their classes. Teachers district-wide had their first workshop to start these maps last week, and they’ll continue working on their curriculum guides throughout this school year.
The district also revised its teacher evaluation form in August, and this school year is implementing a system that includes four formal walkthroughs by evaluators over the course of the year.
“There’s two magic formulas to education, and that’s the teacher and the student,” Lykins said. “So how do we provide support to the teacher so they can increase their skill sets to provide support to our students? One way is by giving them a proper curriculum, and two is raising the bar of expectation and supporting them with a robust evaluation system where we’re giving them plenty of support.”
The board thanked Lykins for his work articulating these goals, but Vice President Heather Hermen noted that district superintendents also typically design a strategic plan for the district’s future, which SOCSD does not currently have.
With Lykins departing in June, board president Randy Hawley asked Lykins to work on an additional goal regarding how he can support the transition of leadership.
At the end of the work session, the board held some discussion about the search for Lykins’ replacement as superintendent. Hawley said they have four options: Perform the search themselves, hire a national firm to search for candidates, hire the Arizona School Boards Association to find candidates within Arizona, or develop a shared services agreement with the Mingus Union High School District for Penny Hargrove to serve as superintendent for both Mingus and Sedona.
The idea for a shared services agreement came about as Lynn Leonard, the district’s director of finance, leaves for a new position as Mingus’ business manager. Hawley suggested drafting an agreement with Mingus so Leonard could stay on as SOCSD’s director of finance while also working at Mingus, and using that as an opportunity to feel the waters to see if an expanded agreement to share Hargrove’s services might work, as well.
“It would guarantee us good people because I’ve heard nothing but good things about Penny, and I know Lynn is really good,” Hawley said, also citing that it would save both districts money.
While the rest of the board was open to signing a shared services agreement for Leonard, they were reluctant to jump into a similar arrangement for Hargrove without considering it in more depth.
“Mingus is very, very different in so many ways from Sedona: In the school itself, the community, the culture of the district ... and it’s a high school district. I know nothing about [Hargrove’s] abilities in K-8,” said board member Karen McClelland.
While Mingus Union is solely a high school district, half of SOCSD’s schools are elementary. McClelland suggested going through an interview process with Hargrove to determine whether she would be a good fit for SOCSD, or working with ASBA to find an Arizona candidate to fill the position.
Back to Business
The governing board’s first usual meeting of the school year held a full docket. First up, DeWitt presented an update on phase one of the district’s curriculum development process. Phase one was completed last week, when the curriculum task force presented its mapping formula to teachers, who in turn have now begun phase two, where they start writing curriculum guides for their classes.
“It’s a lot of work,” DeWitt said. “[But] it’s really a very cool collaborative effort on everybody’s part.”
No action was taken after the presentation, but the board commended DeWitt and the members of the curriculum task force for their progress.
In an echo of the board’s comment during the work session about needing a strategic plan, education consultant Don Groves presented the draft of a process to create a strategic plan for SOCSD, which he put together pro bono.
“It’s really apparent to me that the school district is not going to move forward unless you have a clear pathway,” Groves said. “This is a chance for us to engage all the stakeholders in the community, including our students, to define where this district needs to go to be an outstanding district — a lighthouse district.”
While no action was taken at this meeting, the board recommended placing another discussion about the strategic plan on the agenda for the next board meeting, and it is expected the board will vote whether to approve beginning the process of creating a strategic plan with Groves.
At the meeting, the board unanimously approved the superintendent’s goals; an intergovernmental agreement with Valley Academy of Career and Technical Education; a long-term substitute to fill a vacant special education position; a host of financial items geared toward standardizing extra-duty pay rates and providing bonuses for teachers; and the list of qualified evaluators who will conduct teacher evaluations, which included Mark Cunningham, who as teacher on assignment performs some assistant principal duties at Sedona Red Rock High School.
Board member Zach Richardson phoned in for the work session, but ended the call partway through the board meeting because of technical difficulties.
The next district governing board meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 3.