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McDuffy gives State of the District
ARLINGTON — In her fourth year as superintendent of the Arlington School District, Dr. Kris McDuffy reiterated her belief that teaching children is “the world’s most important, challenging and rewarding work” during her annual State of the District address on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
Before she outlined “the seven Cs” of education to an audience of school district staff and parents that evening in the commons of Weston High School, McDuffy elaborated that she believes not only in holding students and educators alike to high standards, but also in providing them both with environments in which they can achieve and succeed best. To that end, McDuffy touted the value of teamwork between the schools and the surrounding community, a theme she would revisit repeatedly during her presentation.
McDuffy drew laughter from the crowd when she asserted that, contrary to the popular implication that rocket science is difficult, its basic formula is relatively simple when compared to the intersection of nature, nurture, the presence of positive adult role models, the degree of focus on student achievement and myriad other factors that made up the complex formula of student success in public education.
Despite this, McDuffy was able to break down what she considers the essentials of education into seven “Cs;” compassion, commitment, courage, collaboration, celebrations, challenges and communication. She described compassion as a key motivator for the Arlington School District’s 557 staff members as they serve the unique needs of 5,340 students.
“It’s those smiles,” McDuffy said, as she showed photos of children in classrooms. “It’s the joy of kids as they get it, and the joy we feel in seeing them learn and meeting their needs.”
McDuffy asserted that the district has demonstrated its commitment to the long-range strategic plan it adopted in 2010, which focuses on fostering student achievement, safe and caring learning environments, stewardship and continuous improvement. She added that data and evaluations determine the district’s practices.
McDuffy quoted Churchill’s definition of courage as the willingness not only to stand up and speak, but also to sit down and listen, as she praised the district’s staff for their courage in carrying out their work. She returned to the importance of partnerships in addressing the district’s collaborations, such as the professional learning communities that hash out what students should be learning and how to measure whether they’re learning it, as well as what courses the district should take with the students who aren’t learning and those who are.
McDuffy covered celebrations and challenges as conjoined issues, since much of the district’s progress has been tracked by tests whose standards have changed over time. Despite such difficulties, she praised district staff for monitoring student progress closely enough to adjust their practices in real time, and credited such responsive practices with helping four schools in the district earn statewide status as “schools of distinction” between 2009-11 for the progress they’ve made.
Since the 2010-11 school year, the district has remained within its recommended fund balance range of 7 percent to 10 percent, which McDuffy predicted it would continue through the 2015-16 school year. She cited this and the district’s recent recognition as one of the most efficient school districts in the state by the State Auditor’s Office as evidence of the district’s responsible stewardship of its resources, which include a shrinking pool of federal and state funding.
Before reminding her audience of the replacement school programs and operation levy for the Arlington School District on the Feb. 14 ballot, McDuffy promoted communication between the district and the community not only by directing people to the district’s year-and-a-half-old website at www.asd.wednet.edu, but also by encouraging community members to contact district staff and to attend events such as the State of the District address and the second “Know Your Schools” event on Feb. 8.
“We want your feedback,” McDuffy said. “We want to do everything we can to make it easier for you to access our resources.”
Ballots for the election were mailed on Jan. 27 and are due by Feb. 14. For more information, you can log onto www.asd.wednet.edu or contact Andrea Conley by phone at 360-618-6217 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.