As I begin my fifth year at Mineral Point Schools, I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the students and staff of our district. Together we have accomplished so much in the focus areas of academics, fiscal responsibility, communication, and community partnerships.
For the fourth consecutive year, the district’s academic scores increased in almost every measure. Fund balance, the district’s total assets in reserve, increased for the third year in a row. The mill rate remains lower today than it was prior to the referendum three years ago and expenditures this year will again be less than last year. The district’s communication reach and amount of content shared exploded with the addition of a Communications Director. Partnerships with students and community through projects such as outdoor classrooms for elementary students in the oak savanna continue to thrive.
A focus area for the district that is the single most important change to the upcoming school year is job-embedded time on Wednesdays from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm for teachers to conduct the work of a PLC. PLC stands for a Professional Learning Community. What is a PLC? I use Rick DuFour’s definition which is,”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.”
PLCs operate under the assumption that the key to improved learning for students is continuous job-embedded learning for educators. When a PLC takes place, one assumes that a PLC is a meeting, an occasional event when colleagues meet to complete a task. It is not uncommon to hear, “My PLC meets Wednesdays from 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.” This perception of a PLC is wrong on two counts.
First, the PLC is the larger organization and not the individual teams that comprise it. While collaborative teams are an essential part of the PLC process, the sum is greater than the individual parts. Much of the work of a PLC cannot be done by a team but instead requires a school-wide or district-wide effort. It is helpful to think of the school or district as the PLC and the various collaborative teams as the building blocks of the PLC.
Second, once again, the PLC process has a pervasive and ongoing impact on the structure and culture of the school. If educators meet with peers on a regular basis only to return to business as usual, they are not functioning as a PLC. So the PLC process is much more than a meeting.
Every highly successful school district that I have visited has incorporated the PLC process to enhance student learning by focusing on results in a collaborative manner. I am excited to begin the Mineral Point PLC journey and thank parents and community for their trust and understanding of releasing students early on Wednesdays. I will share the results of the district’s PLC efforts and am confident that the ends will justify the means.
I wish for all students, parents, and staff to have a safe and productive 2015-2016 school year.