On May 20, 2008, the Educational Excellence School Advisory Council (EESAC) had its end-of-year meeting at the City of
Today is an historic day. Perhaps this is a turning point in the history of our school. Today we have invited our stakeholders to join us in what we have called the “Stakeholder Community Gathering.” The purpose of this gathering to give parents, students, teachers and the community the opportunity to speak about issues and concerns dear to them. The other reason is to highlight what EESAC has done for teachers and students this year. For the first time in six years, many teachers seem to be working voluntarily or involuntarily to change the culture of our school. The District Community Assessment Team (DCAT) too is making a difference. The DCAT is made up of all the educational stakeholders in my school. This is consistent with the vision expressed by Dr. Rudy Crew, our superintendent, at the March 17, 2008 Town Hall meeting, where he challenged everyone, particularly parents to demand quality instruction from teachers and good governance from the administration. The Miami-Dade County Public Schools system is under the auspices of the Florida Department of Education. The local school board has the sole governing authority. The school site principal has the ultimate authority in all decision making.
EESAC was created by the State of
The City of
Since Hurricane Andrew touched down in
At the beginning of the school year, EESAC began with $38,000. It has allocated all the money to more than 20 teachers and to about 800 students. Our student population consists of approximately 51% Hispanic, 40% African American, 8% White, and 1% other. The student/teacher ratio is 27:1. The problem facing the school include: parents’ mobility, migrant factor, and transportation. The average attendance rate is 88 percent. These students need our collective support in an era of budget cuts.
What is the Role of EESAC?
What is the role of EESAC in the school improvement process? According to the District’s Office of Accountability and Systemwide Performance, ESSAC “shall be the sole body responsible for final decision-making at the school relating to the implementation of the provisions of the ss.1001.42 (16) (Implement School Improvement and Accountability) and 1008.345 (Assessment and Accountability).” Furthermore, the “school’s EESAC must be involved in the progress monitoring of the SIP strategies throughout the year…and a review of some SIPs goals to be conducted periodically (Office of Accountability and Systemwide Performance, Briefing ID #:3919, 2008). Therefore, EESAC serves as the appropriate forum for authentic and representative input from all education professionals, parents, students, business community, and interest citizens.
Research on Student Achievement
If we are to maintain the efforts and sustain the momentum we have gathered so far, we have to make a commitment to put students first. In order to do this, we must be guided by research and data. There over five individuals with doctoral degrees at our school, while the majority of our teachers have masters’ degree. In 1966, a study was conducted by James S. Coleman titled “Equality of Educational Opportunity”. The purpose of the study was to find out whether differences in a school staff, facilities, and resources had a significant impact on student achievement. Coleman found that there is a limited relationship between academic achievement and school facilities, but identified the family, neighborhood, and social class as the important determinants of school success. The most important conclusion is that the environment in the family, community, and peer group, as well as the school, played a significant role in a child’s academic achievement. What does this study mean to our school? We do not have the time to explore the question at this forum, but EESAC will explore the question at its first meeting in September.
Using the Data
Because data is critical to school improvement, we must endeavor to use data to guide our teaching and our behavior. Our theme for this event is: Bridging the Gap: Developing a Shared Vision Together. We must help each other to learn and understand how to use data effectively to close the achievement gap among our students. We must end the bickering and focus on engaging each other, empowering each other, and supporting each other. Every effort must be made to align our vision, mission, beliefs, expectations, goals and objectives to the national, state, and district standards. We must do whatever it takes to uphold school board polices and UTD contractual agreements.
In order to accomplish all of the above, teachers and students must be responsible for their behavior in the classroom. Professional educators must address challenges such as teacher effectiveness in the classroom, teacher attendance, collegiality, and team building. Teachers and students must conduct themselves in a professional manner. To build teacher and staff morale, the staff and teachers must feel that they are included in the decision making process. The administration must strengthen the role of ESSAC. The administration must offer more opportunities for the staff and faculty to share successes and frustrations. This translates to investment in staff, faculty and students. We need open lines of communication with the administration. EESAC can facilitate the realization of these goals and aspirations.
Committing to a Shared Vision
No progress will be made at our school if we do not have a shared vision. It is clear that we do not have a plan for the moving our school forward. The administration must improve in this area. The plan that we have right now is not taking us anywhere. This is what EESAC would like to see happen at our school:
1. In the classroom, instructional personnel are taking the responsibility for quality instruction. This means shifting from problems that we cannot be fixed or changed to problems that we can control.
2. Taking advantage of professional development opportunities both at Homestead Senior and at the region and the district.
3. That the community presence and parental involvement are sustained.
4. In order to overcome the challenges ahead and meet the goals, objectives, and the high standards we are setting for ourselves, the following things must be present: (1) visibility in the halls, and (2) commitment to work together for the common vision.
5. We must join the PTSA and be involved in EESAC. EESAC and PTSA will work collaboratively to design activities and programs for the coming year.
Finally, the formation of a Task Force for Change is a good idea in the right direction. Our principal and the administrative team must continue to support the school leadership team. EESAC recognizes that the administrative team is often overwhelmed with lots of paperwork and discipline issues, we are all the business of improving our school together. I look forward to a meaningful open forum.
Florida Department of Education (2008). School improvement plan. Bureau of School Improvement. Retrieved from http://www.bsi.fsu.edu
Miami-Dade County Public Schools (2008). A resource guide for effective EESAC implementation 2006-2007. Office of Accountability and Schoolwide Performance. Retrieve from http://www.dadeschools.net
The School Board of
UTD/MDCPS Contract. (2008). Section 5: Education excellence school advisory council. (UTD/MDCPS, pg 192).