The Payson School Board got a first look at the still-fuzzy, high-stakes plan to stage a turnaround at the beleaguered Rim Country Middle School (RCMS) when Principal Will Dunman offered an update at the board’s Jan. 28 meeting.
Last year, the middle school received a “D” rating from the Arizona Department of Education based mostly on AIMS scores and student improvement.
Failing to bring those student test score grades up could now have grave consequences for the school, with changes in state and federal rules that propose to soon link teacher pay and school funding to the scores.
Dunman, along with teacher Kristi Ford, parent Michelle Wintrich, food service representative Bill Helmintoller and Superintendent Ron Hitchcock, reported on how their committees and departments plan to implement the board-adopted SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) goals.
From the moment Hitchcock started his job, he focused on creating four goals for the Payson district he believes will address the demands of the upcoming Common Core requirements, improve staff morale, and bring parents into the conversation.
Goal 1: Continuous Improvement of Student Achievement.
In the case of the middle school, state and national test scores have declined steadily in the last three years.
“We are continuing to want to improve our curriculum delivery,” said Dunman.
That means drilling students on the test — and convincing them to take it seriously. “When we showed them their scores, they take it seriously, if it’s relevant,” said Dunman.
Teachers will try to offer project-based learning across all subjects, improve instruction and develop techniques to “capture kids’ hearts.”
Dunman and his staff face an uphill battle, with studies showing students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade setting battle hormones, drugs and bullying.
To help, the board has voted in extra paid days for all PUSD teachers to attend a seminar at the beginning of the next school year.
Goal 2: The quality of district facilities and grounds will reflect the high quality of instruction in our classrooms.
“One of our goals is to increase the technology,” said Dunman.
The incoming, federal Common Core Standards have set the technology bar higher. Ultimately the computer-based Common Core test (PARRC) will replace AIMS. The hope is that students will begin to integrate technology to compete on the international stage.
Dunman announced that the school did not receive a grant from the HELIOS Education Foundation to improve its technology and labs, but will still try to improve labs and wireless capabilities to increase students’ technology skills.
Goal 3: Customer service will be exemplary at all schools and departments.
“When we talk about bullying, we tell them, ‘If you feel like you’ve been bullied come to us.’ We want the kids to feel safe and capture their hearts,” said Dunman.
He also said he will stay focused on meeting the needs of the teachers.
Dunman said RCMS also reaches out to support the community by partnering with the Town of Payson to support sporting events and host Rim Country Literacy classes.
Goal 4: Excellence in board leadership.
While the middle school does not have much to do with this goal, Dunman touched on the topic.