Update on school sites’ three-year instructional focus plans

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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In a collaborative effort between district and staff back in the 2019-2020 school year, each of the Winters Joint Unified School District’s school sites worked to create a customized Three-Year Instructional Focus Plan. While the challenges of COVID waylaid the original plans, the school administrators provided an update on these now-revised initiatives at the Dec. 16 school board meeting.

Each plan was created to bolster a single instructional focus of each school. Waggoner Elementary School’s focus is literacy. Shirley Rominger Intermediate School’s focus is differentiation. Winters Middle School’s focus is professional learning communities. Finally, Winters High School’s focus is connectedness.

“This year, 2021-22 we’re thinking of this as year one of our three-year plan because those original plans were put on ice,” said Assistant Superintendent/Director of Educational Services, Phoebe Girimonte. “The staff at each school have been hard at work revising and initiating implementation and ensuring that these plans are aligned with board priorities and Local Control Accountability Plans.”

In Waggoner’s focus on literacy, the meeting update provided actions already taken including the implementation of different tests, intervention blocks, teacher training, study materials, skill assessments and more.

After an analysis of aggregated data, Waggoner Principal Travis Nelson-Ortiz said the next steps were laid out on how the data will be used and the various training teachers will undergo to increase their effectiveness moving into the next school year.

Shirley Rominger Intermediate School’s focus of differentiation is defined as a teacher’s response to learners’ needs guided by general principles of differentiation composed of meaningful tasks, flexible grouping, quality curriculum, continual assessment and building community.

Principal Monica Moreno’s update on actions taken include implementation of a daily, school-wide math intervention block for 45 minutes, standards-based report cards, professional development, collaboration between grade levels and teacher training.

With the collected analytics of the implemented actions, the next steps will include the creation of small math and reading groups, educational walkthroughs, learning focused conversations and further identification of ways to address student needs and tailoring efforts based on those needs.

Meanwhile, the Winters Middle School focus of Professional Learning Communities – or PLC’s – is described by a quote from Learning by Doing, “An ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve. PLC’s operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous job-embedded learning for educators.”

Principal Dawn Delorafice said their actions of this focus included using assessments to inform instruction and intervention strategies, securing early release PLC time throughout the year, and building and sharing knowledge of PLC’s.

Next steps will take the analytics derived from these actions to bolster PLC initiatives and creation of formative assessments.

At the high school level, the WHS staff defined their focus of connectedness as: “The belief that adults and students in the school care about learning and each other as individuals and ensuring that students feel valued, accepted and supported by every staff member in all classrooms on campus. Students also explore interest and passions in subject matter content.”

A three-pronged approach including students, parents/community and staff, the actions are taken were something of an emotional survey of the students, gauging their level of connection and engagement with the school and one another.

Principal John Barsotti said his staff’s next steps will showcase a number of ways to increase connection, creation of family meetings, clubs, activities, workshops and the continuation of wellness surveys.

With the district and staff endeavoring this sizable undertaking, they keep in mind a principle that encompasses the time and effort needed to see these focuses come to fruition, ‘Practice makes progress.’

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