Gallon Pledges Districtwide Change
Meanwhile, here's my take for what it's worth.
When students arrive on Sept. 4, they will find a new climate in the schools, one that recognizes realities such as seven superintendents in seven years and test scores that don't meet state standards, but which offers a matrix for change.
"I believe we are at war for our children," Schools Superintendent Steve Gallon III said Tuesday as he rolled out his strategic plan for the next three years.
Since July 1, Gallon has already laid the groundwork with a three-day retreat for administrators where he set the tone for his four-year stint at the helm of the district. Gallon wants tangible and measurable results from staff, parents, students and the community at large in meeting goals for improving learning outcomes, use of human resources, best business practices, a safe and productive learning environment and greater community and family engagement. He presented dozens of metrics for success, some of which have already begun, such as enhanced ways of communicating with the public through an improved website, a new electronic newsletter and a blog.
Among the many indicators of needed change, Gallon noted that at present the district has exactly one (Correction: Nationally board-certified)board-certified teacher and there is no online application process for new hires. A plan for measuring continuous improvement will start with Gallon himself answering the question, "Did I get it done?"
But the main focus will be on improving learning outcomes, as evidenced by test scores as well as students' personal development.
"This is the conversation," Gallon said. "If the conversation doesn't move this, it's noise."
New Plainfield High School Principal Brian Bilal used a quote from Gallon's book, "When Morning Comes," in summing up his intensive plan for uplifting the high school.
"The winds of possibility still blow, despite the cacophony surrounding urban education in America. We have to be quiet to hear them," Gallon wrote.
By now those following Gallon's entry into Plainfield have heard his watchwords often enough to anticipate them when he speaks, "tangible and measurable" being the main ones and stemming the "noise" of cynicism, apathy and other negative attitudes being another. Besides academic performance, district challenges include ever-tightening finances and a drop in enrollment.
"We're going after our 744 children in the charter schools," Gallon vowed.
Business administrator Gary Ottmann gave a budget presentation Tuesday that showed the district paid $6.5 million to charter schools in the 2007-08 school year and stands to lose another $1.6 million to a new charter school slated to open in September 2009. All three of the present charter schools in Union County are in the Plainfield district.
To further spread his message, Gallon is launching a series of town hall meetings starting with one on Aug. 28.