Westfield Washington Schools Supt. Dr. Mark Keen provides his thoughts on what the district’s goals, challenges and construction projects are for 2015.
Q: What does 2015 have in store for Westfield Washington Schools? What are your goals?
A: We are in the next to last year of our strategic plan, and there are a couple of areas where we still need to get to goal. We also need to monitor enrollment and construction to begin planning for our next elementary school. We will need a construction referendum and it takes approximately two years for construction, so we have to be looking ahead… We have great parental involvement and support, are thankful for that and hope we can continue to work together for our students.
Q: What challenges face the district this year?
A: The local tax situation is improving, but right now, the state funding formula is a huge challenge. We are the sixth lowest funded school district in the state, and the poor funding is impacting our ability to add challenging opportunities for our high performing students. Enrollment growth could be a challenge.
Q: What programs or initiatives is the district reviewing or looking to implement in 2015?
A: We are looking to add a computer science curriculum K-12, which includes coding as a key component. We also plan to implement a non-cognitive program to help our students to improve their abilities with soft skills like persistence, grit, resiliency, curiosity, etc. This implementation includes training of parents, coaches, community members and other adults to help extend the focus in this area outside of the classroom. This will start as part of the youth assistance program and then expand to other areas.
Q: Are there any plans for construction or renovation for 2015 besides the community stadium?
A: For 2015, other than projects like replacing the HVAC system, the main focus is on completing the stadium.
Q: School funding will be a focus during this legislative budget session. What do you hope to see for WWS and how important is a change in funding?
A: This is a critical area, as I referenced earlier. Our class sizes are a little larger than we would like in some areas, and we’re holding off adding some courses, due to lack of funds in other areas. Our principals and staff have ideas on ways to help our students be even more successful, but we need additional funding. We hope the formula changes enough to do some adds, and also to begin lowering our referendum amount.