At the January 23 Board meeting, Interim Superintendent Cal Lee presented a report on the current state of the district and recommendations for the future. He said the schools’ purpose is to prepare students to take the next steps in life and give them the tools to compete on the global economic playing field. Curriculum needs to be broadened to create communicative, imaginative, tech-savvy, multilingual, and adaptable students who are ready to take on jobs that may or may not already exist. He presented some statistics about the district. Quincy, with an enrollment of 6,522 students, ranks 40th out of 868 districts statewide. Quincy’s operating expenditure per pupil in 2010-11 was $9,670 which is $2,000 below the State average of $11,664. Quincy has one of the lowest tax rates in the state along with teacher salaries that are $20,000 a year less than the state average and administrator salaries that are $18,000 less than the state average. He noted that Quincy’s salary levels rank at or near the bottom among the largest unit school districts in Illinois.
In his four months serving as Quincy’s superintendent, Dr. Lee said he has identified many positives. He visited schools, classrooms and spoke with administrators. He said that the district is delivering a solid education even while the School Board has been forced to make budget cuts and financial decisions that have affected students. He said teachers and administrators are doing a good job with limited resources. He poses these three questions for school leaders and the Board: 1) Are your students learning? 2) How do you know? 3) What are you doing about it? Charts were displayed showing student ISAT and PSAE Reading and Math scores over the past ten years. He said that the education provided in Quincy is still high caliber, even though student test scores have plateaued in recent years. QHS graduation rate is above the state average at 88.1% compared to the state’s rate of 82.3%.
Dr. Lee presented recommendations for moving forward. He urged the Board to focus more on kids. He said there has been too much attention focused on finances at the expense of other important topics. He recommended the Board devote a certain amount of time each month to curriculum and instructional issues and student achievement. He also recommended the Board develop and implement a “strategic plan” to help guide the district, with input from parents and community stakeholders. He recommended a 7-year adoption cycle for articulating curriculum horizontally and vertically. He urged the Board to consider restructuring. Moving the ninth grade out of Quincy Junior High School would be one of his top priorities. He feels student achievement would improve for ninth-graders if they were in a more conventional high school setting. Future school construction should be considered as the district will have some bonds paid off within the next few years, giving the district the opportunity to use its bonding authority, with voter approval, to construct one or more schools. A priority for the district moving forward needs to be providing more modern technology for students. A step in that direction is the implementation of a wireless Internet structure thanks to the help of the Knapheide Manufacturing Company which is providing technical expertise and funding.
Quincy is facing many challenges, including rising poverty, decreases in funding and staffing, the need to implement the “common core” educational standards and new testing protocols, and new administrative leadership at the central office and three new Board members elected in April. Dr. Lee asked administrators for their three wishes in their positions as school leaders. Nearly all wished for more respect, support, and to be provided direction.
Dr. Lee urged the district to involve parents and community in development and implementation of the Strategic Plan and encourage parents and community to be involved in the schools. The Board needs to be transparent and communicate, communicate, communicate. Staff should be encouraged and expected to grow professionally and provided opportunities to do so. He said that every decision should be made in the context of how it will affect students and achievement. Dr. Lee will finish his employment as Interim Superintendent February 1.
Click below to view Dr. Lee’s slideshow.