For four years, North Platte Public Schools Superintendent Ron Hanson says, he has built the relationships and structure he believes will carry the school solidly into the future.
The theme for the 2019-20 school year is “United in Respect — Destined for Greatness.”
“We meet monthly and do a study about positive leadership by John Gordon,” Hanson said of faculty and staff. “We spend a lot of time talking about school culture.”
Last year, Hanson said, the administration and directors touched on every aspect of the district.
“From Kids Klub to our food service director to our custodial maintenance,” Hanson said, “all the directors are involved and we have conversations about how we treat others and what kind of culture we want.”
School principals were asked to survey all of the staff about what was important to them and what will make the district great.
“A real solid theme came through that,” Hanson said. “We analyzed the results and the importance of communication, the importance of relationships/connections and then commitment came out.”
The group then spent a lot of time looking at the definitions of the words communication, connections and commitment.
“They all work hand in hand,” Hanson said. “You work on communication and build that trusting relationship and people are going to commit to the cause.”
The next step, Hanson said, was to incorporate the definitions into one word.
“After looking up all these words and synonyms, we came up with ‘respect,’” Hanson said. “The word respect encompasses the trust, the loyalty, the honesty, the integrity — all those are embedded in that word.”
He said the district is rebranding and posters will display the theme at all the entrances of schools and classrooms.
At an administrative retreat the last week of July, Hanson said, they came to several conclusions.
“We talked about North Platte Public Schools and how that stands for something, all the way from dress, how we act, how we speak,” Hanson said. “People who come into our schools, all of that should be very noticeable.”
Hanson said for his fifth year, everything is lined up well, and an external accreditation review in April pointed out notable achievements as well as areas that need growth.
“Our communication was recognized, our governance was recognized and our school business partnership, the collaboration we’ve got going on, was recognized,” Hanson said.
The accreditation report advised using data to determine whether instructional practices are having an impact in the classroom.
He said the points in the accreditation report were similar to what the district saw as well.
“Using education to improve the process aligns perfectly with what we saw as a need, along with continuing to grow our College and Career Readiness initiative,” Hanson said. “That was a good thing, but they said keep a good thing going, keep it growing.”
The district will continue to give attention to the social and emotional aspects as well, Hanson said.
“We’re working with Network for Educator Effectiveness with the Multi-Tiered System of Supports and that really encompasses the whole child with the emphasis on academics,” Hanson said. “We have an academic focus, but yet the social/emotional/physical side of the child you have to think about also.”
He said there are some philosophical differences in this line of thinking.
“But we have to think about the whole child, especially in this day and age,” Hanson said. “We teach math, science and language, but we don’t teach students how to behave, how to adjust to the stresses of life.”
Hanson said in the past, social and emotional teaching was taken care of in other settings.
“You used to get a lot of that at home, you used to get a lot of that in churches, but the schools have now become that support group,” Hanson said.
The district applied for a School Climate Transformation grant, which is a five-year grant.
“If we get that, it is anywhere from $500,000 to
$1 million to bring in that social/emotional side into your schools,” Hanson said. “There is training for staff, because we’re not only going to address the needs of our students, but also a teacher who works with high-need students sometimes needs some pressure relievers as well.”
Hanson said the district also has done some reorganization at the administrative level.
“I’m already noticing the impact of our reorganization,” Hanson said. “You can’t do that overnight and the timing of that is critical in leadership.”
The associate superintendent position was eliminated.
“Now it’s Stuart Simpson (executive director of finance) and I, and then it’s all directors at the next level, directors and direct communication with principals,” Hanson said. “So we’ve closed that gap in going back to enhancing the communication, connection and commitment.”
He said the structure will be much tighter.
“If you understand the roles of servant leaders, I certainly serve the directors and the directors serve the principals and the principals serve the teachers and they serve our students and their families,” Hanson said. “If we see our role as a servant leader and providing removal of barriers, the directors can do their job better and so on.”
Hanson said it has taken time to get to this point.
“I think it has taken all four years to build those relationships and get the right people on the bus in the right seats,” Hanson said. “Now we’re moving in a direction we’re all committed to for the future of the district.”