By Nancy Truitt Pierce
It has been over a year now since I was elected to the Monroe School Board. I want to report back on what I’ve learned, seen, heard and done.
You may recall that I come to this position with over 25 years as a management consultant to large local companies and with over 11 years on the board of Everett Community College. So, I’m experienced at digging into an organization to see what is working and what is not. I’ve spent this year digging deep and wide and spending a lot of time researching best practices for public education.
I have discovered that our schools in Monroe are much better than you’ve been told. There is still more work to be done but I’m thrilled and relieved to discover how good they are. Here are some facts to back that assertion:
The Monroe School District has been seen as a leader for years in offering options for families. Back in the early part of the century, long before I was elected, the school board decided that one size does NOT fit all and has worked with the superintendent and his team to build a rich array of options for our local families.
The result is that we are now one of the leading school districts in the state in offering options. Our families have as many or more options for finding the right program for each of their unique and precious kids than anywhere else in the state. In the past year, we added to that distinction by starting a dual language program at Frank Wagner Elementary and a Montessori program at Maltby Elementary. Both have been very well-received and have waiting lists.
We also boast the largest parent partnership in the state and are heralded as one of the national leaders in partnering with parents. We have one of the “Schools of Innovation” as named by OSPI: there are only 22 schools with this designation in the state (out of close to 3000 schools) so that’s an amazing honor for our Sky Valley Education Center. And SVEC is a magnet for over 400 kids who travel from other districts to attend here.
In financial management, we also excel. The state auditor went out to every school district in the state in 2011 and reviewed their uses of money to ensure it was being well-spent. Their report clustered the 295 school districts organized around the size and attributes of each district. In our cluster, we had less money but spent a higher percentage of it on teaching than any other district in that group. We had some of the lowest overhead and some of the lowest supervisory costs coupled with some of the highest support for teachers.
On almost every level, I have been pleased with what I have found. I think Dr. Hoover and his team is doing a good job with financial management, with instructional management and with employee management. We have new curriculum, new professional development and much better assessment data for the teams to use. As a result, there is a very good relationship between management and the unions and our teachers are some of the best in the region.
Monroe High School
Our high school has seen some very dramatic improvements in recent years, too. For instance:
One of my favorite improvements at the elementary level is the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) model they have implemented. That model brings teachers together at each grade level with robust data so they can work together to assess how they are doing and help each other be effective. Each grade level PLC sends a representative to the Building Leadership Team to share successes and concerns and to work across the grade bands to improve the whole school. I was so impressed when I saw the model in action that I took Robin Fitch, Principal of Frank Wagner Elementary to one of my client meetings to show this model to corporate executives. They were in awe.
Dr. Hoover and Dr. Mester also implemented state-of-the-art curriculum, much more robust professional development, better assessments, more effective data and a stronger teacher evaluation and discipline process. We aren’t yet at the level of test results we want, but we are showing good progress. As an example, the test scores for the fifth grade dramatically increased across the board this year at all five elementary schools. Since Dr. Hoover has been here six years, I consider the fifth grade one of the key indicators that the plan he has implemented is working. It clearly is.
But there is still more to do! Here are the things I think we all need to be concerned about:
The bottom line is that we have good schools and they are just getting better. We have great teachers and great educational leaders in this town. Join me in thanking Dr. Hoover and his team of extraordinary educators. We are lucky to have them. I look forward to working with you to take these schools all the way to great!
Nancy Truitt-Pierce is the Monroe School Board Director for District #2. She annually submits an editorial on the state of the school district to the Monroe Monitor.