The Pratt school district's Walter Pedigo Building, completed in 1956, and incorporated into the new Pratt High School built in 2008, was the starting point of a short facilities tour by the Board of Education on Monday night.
As constructed, the Pedigo Building was a "house of glass," according to Bryan Pixler, a career and technical education teacher, who pointed out needs for updating. Large areas of glass provide plenty of natural light, but windows are old and not energy efficient. Functioning windows are no longer necessary for ventilation in wood, welding and auto mechanics shops, which have updated HVAC systems.
Liberty Middle School Principal Tony Helfrich took over the tour at the LMS auditorium, where he pointed out stage curtains that are torn and rotting, and house lights that need to be upgraded. He described the auditorium as "definitely a selling point for our district," when interviewing candidates for teaching positions. He also pointed out the student elevator, which doesn't always work smoothly and is slated for replacement in the summer, and carpeting in the office, hallways and classrooms, with seams showing varying degrees of wear.
Information and impressions gathered from the tour, which last month focused on the maintenance building, will be used as the Board develops a three-year strategic plan for the district. The plan will cover four areas: culture of the district, student achievement, facilities and health, safety and wellness of students and staff, according to Superintendent Suzan Patton.
She summarized results from a parent survey that has been available on the district's website, and as a printed copy for anyone who requested it.
"I'm very pleased with the results," Patton commented, although noting that the survey reached "a very limited audience."
At least 160 people completed the survey, and most feel good about the education their children are receiving. They noted the importance of technology and use of social media as a way of receiving information. Respect for teachers was rated at 90 percent.
Topping the list of Board of Education priorities, as ranked by survey respondents, was quality of teacher performance, followed by preparation of students for college, vocational training and/or employment, continuous upgrades of computers, iPads and other technology and upkeep and maintenance of school facilities.
Drawing on her experience as a classroom teacher, Patton assigned homework to board members, telling them they would need a good working knowledge of survey results when they meet to begin to develop a plan.
Curriculum director David Schmidt reported that the district had met the deadline for submitting to Kansas State Department of Education a plan for evaluating teachers. It will rely heavily on administrators' observations, as before, but also include peer review, data from state assessment tests and local performance data.
Patton mentioned several bills being debated in the Kansas Legislature that are of concern to educators. SB 176, which creates a Coalition of Innovative School Districts, is admirable in its intent, she said, but only 10 percent of the state's districts can participate, and they are exempted from most regulations governing schools.
Both the House and the Senate are considering bills that would reduce the number of items school boards must negotiate with teachers. The Kansas Association of School Boards favors the bill, but Patton wanted to be on record for continuing to work with teachers and maintaining what she believes is a good relationship among administrators, the Board of Education and teachers.
"We need to keep a really sharp eye on what's going on in Topeka," said Mark Fincham, governmental relations representative for the board.