Introducing……. Fall Conference 2014!

  • Social Media Management Using Tweetdeck by Justin Willis, Jefferson County Public Schools
  • How to Plan a Community Event by Malinda Beauchamp, Union County Schools
  • Effective Communications at Board Meetings and Basics of Marketing School Messages by Brad Hughes, KSBA
  • Empathy: A Key Tool that Serves Both You and Me by Paul Schaumburg, Graves County Schools
  • “Meet the Press” including a panel of media professionals

Also, the OASIS Awards & Recognition Luncheon at 12:00 p.m. 
Friday, November 14

Reserve your room on or before October 20, 2014 to receive the KYSPRA group rate. Embassy Suites Lexington: 1801 Newtown Pike, Lexington, Kentucky, 40511.

TEL: +1-859-455-5000 FAX: 1-859-455-5001
Room Rates: $129.95 (King Non-Smoking/Double Non-Smoking)

We hope to see you on November 13 in Lexington!

Cindy Williams
President-Elect 2014-15
Conference Planner


Unbridled Learning Assessment & Accountability Release

KYSPRA Members:
Data from the Unbridled Learning Assessment and Accountability System will be made public on Friday, October 3, however it will be available to media under an embargo on Wednesday, October 1. Districts may also choose to share results and comments about the data with local media on October 1, prior to the public release with the understanding of the embargo.
Explaining the components of the Unbridled Learning system for the 2013-14 release is no easy task. I’ve worked with my District Assessment Coordinator and used info from the Kentucky Department of Education to create a handout to assist with our release in Bowling Green Schools. If you find this document helpful, please feel free to use it in your schools and districts, too.
Also, to help us and the local media with info about what to expect, logistics of the release, and overall understanding of the system, the Kentucky Department of Education Division of Communications hosted a virtual briefing on Thursday, September 25. The webcast is archived here.
We are all in this together, so please comment or share other suggestions of ways to explain or communicate these assessment and accountability results.
Have a great rest of the week!
Leslie Peek
Bowling Green Independent Schools
KYSPRA President, 2014-15

Budget & Tax Communication: Oldham County Schools

By Tracy Harris Green
Director of Communications and Development
Oldham County Schools

For the past two years, Oldham County Schools has developed active campaigns to promote passage of tax rate increases. Last year’s campaign was very successful and much different that how the district had handled tax rates in the past. Here, I will share with you a bit about our financial situation for background, and our communication plan for the past two years.

Oldham County is a very conservative county and opposition to tax rate increases has been very vocal in the past — with little representation from those who support. The board kept tax rates flat for three years during the recession, but it became obvious last year — when facing a $5 million deficit — that our district couldn’t continue to rely on our contingency fund or building transfers to make up for spending beyond our recurring revenues.

Last year, our campaign focused on why the district was facing such a large deficit and why it was a fiscally sound solution to raise taxes to right the ship. We reduced expenditures by $3 million (it was a big year of cuts, including teacher positions) and raised taxes the maximum 4 percent. We developed a FAQ and fast facts sheet, recorded a voice over with a Keynote presentation, and encouraged principals and school staff to share the info with the public. At the tax hearing, we had about 20 speakers, who split evenly between for and against. The increase passed and enabled us to actually have a budget surplus anticipated for 2014-15.

However, as we prepared our 2014-15 budget and began looking ahead to 2015-16, we had cause for concern. The state-mandated 2 percent salary increase in 2015-16 will cost our district an expected $1.2 million, not to mention step increases of $1 million and KTRS retiree health assessment increases of $360,000. We also anticipate the need to purchase buses in that fiscal year and to replace outdated classroom technology.

We also recognized we have lost a number of administrators and high caliber teachers to other districts for the past few school years, so we compared our salary schedules against nearby districts and found ourselves sorely lacking. Add to that added pressure and time commitments due to KPREP and we felt it was time to advocate for a salary increase for teachers.

When the Superintendent decided to ask for the maximum increase amount, which would be a 3.1 cent increase, we began putting together additional information for the public. It is our goal to be transparent about the reasons we are asking for an increase and how those dollars will be spent.

Our budget communications plan for 2014-15 included …

– Updating and adding to our Frequently Asked Questions list, posted on our website and distributed in hard copy at several public meetings

– Updating our Fast Facts sheet, posted on our website and distributed in hard copy at several public meetings

– Developing four Finance Module videos that explain how school finance works and what our district’s finances look like

– Posting a listing of district-owned property and the method of acquisition to address questions about why the district doesn’t sell off vacant property (part of hard copy packet also) (Click here for spreadsheets detailing the property owned by the district)

– Submitting an editorial column to our local weekly newspaper discussing our reasons for a tax increase

– Speaking at both local Rotary organizations as well as to our educational foundation and encouraging them to speak in support

– Working with our teacher’s association to launch a grassroots campaign of support (email below), in which teachers encouraged other teachers to send letters of support, attend the hearing and speak about their own experiences, and wear red to show unity and support.

Our web content for the tax rate hearing is here:

Now, not next year, is time to speak out on assessment/accountability system

By Brad Hughes
KSBA Director of Member Support/Communications Services

Almost from the moment Kentucky implemented the Unbridled Learning assessment and accountability system in 2011, local leaders have voiced concerns. And state leaders have called for patience.

After each of the first two years’ worth of test results came out, superintendents have questioned a variety of issues in the state’s measurement of academic progress. A particular point of anxiety has been how student growth is measured and accounted for in the elementary grades. Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and other Kentucky Department of Education officials have insisted that a minimum of three years of data are needed before changes should be made.

This month, educators, parents, the public and the news media will be digging into the results of Year 3 of Unbridled Learning. This year’s data has added significance on one point – it’s the trigger year for a full-blown review of how the system is working to gauge K-12 learning – student by student, school by school and district by district.

KDE’s stated timetable for making any changes to Unbridled Learning points to action by the Kentucky Board of Education in February or March of next year. But the review process is well underway and local leaders who want to impact the matter need to get it in gear now, not several months down the road.

Formal listening underway
In a mid-June Fast Five on Friday email, Holliday unveiled the KDE Office of Assessment and Accountability’s plan for gathering feedback on Unbridled Learning. It began with summer sessions with groups representing superintendents, school board members, principals and teachers and the district assessment coordinator network. According to the commissioner’s Fast Five note, the collection of ideas will culminate at the Sept. 11 summit of all of the state’s superintendents.

The public had its chance – briefly – during a three-week online survey last month. Announcing the survey in a news release, Holliday said his agency was “making good on our word to look at the accountability model after the first three years.”
A report with details of the comments by the public and educators is to be presented at the Oct. 7 meeting of the state board.

The rest of the timetable calls for a draft regulation on any changes in the assessment and accountability system by the KDE’s December meeting. That will be followed by a public review and comment period. Holliday recently told a regional educational cooperative audience that he expects the final KBE action on such a regulation to come in February or March. And that’s smack in the middle of the 2015 General Assembly, wherein the commissioner has stated he expects a legislative battle on a critical aspect of Unbridled Learning – measuring student learning using the common core standards.

Speak out now

Operating in the real world of government work, KDE staff had started long before the listening period to craft improvements in the system. There were clear signs of that commitment, albeit unstated, in public conversations between agency officials and superintendents over the past two years.

Another reality of developing government regulations is that effecting change is bolstered by getting in the game early. Each new draft of a reg has more built-in ownership by the crafters of the language. That makes input at this month’s superintendents’ summit and any advisory group meeting for the rest of the year a much better opportunity for having an impact than waiting to act after the draft regulation is made public in December.

To be sure, there will be discussions, negotiations, proposals and counterproposals almost up to the point of final implementation. But for local leaders who really want to see specific amendments to Unbridled Learning, now is the time to be a player.

The Last Word

Few things should matter more in assessing the work of school board members and superintendents than the academic progress in their districts. It’s a key part of the new superintendent evaluation model, and it will be a consideration when voters go to the polls on Nov. 4.

That makes your voice and your opinion worth considering if you make the effort to share them.

And that’s a message worth getting out.

Thanks to Brad Hughes for permission to share this piece, originally published in the Get Your Message Out column of the Kentucky School AdvocateSeptember 2014.