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From Dr. Ryan - August 16, 2023

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          This article is the first of a five part series that will be published as we begin the 2023-2024 school year.  This article will detail our priorities for this school year as we are working to resolve issues we have identified in past years.  Future articles will include:  Part 2 (Changes in the DCR1 district and public education); Part 3 (Enrollment growth and its challenges); Part 4 (DCR1 facilities and finances); Part 5 (Public support for our public schools).   

          In the Summer and Fall of 2022 the DCR1 school district worked to garner input and work with the staff and the board of education to create a 5 year comprehensive plan to ensure the district continues to move forward following the impact of COVID-19 and the inevitable learning loss which impacted all students.  The first goal area in this plan is to increase student achievement.   Our primary focus has to be on our students’ basic Reading/literacy and Math skills.  These two areas are the basis for all learning and are essential to improving the preparedness of our students for whatever they do when they graduate from Buffalo High School.  To address the need for improved literacy we are now teaching our students to read using structured literacy (phonics).  This change in our district is supported by a recent state statute passed which emphasizes the teaching of reading through phonics.  For those who may not be familiar with this term, phonics was the method of reading instruction for almost everyone prior to 1995. This past school year we provided phonics training for all teachers who teach reading in the district.   For mathematics we have chosen a platform which does not require an entirely new vocabulary outside of what we and our families already know.  For years I have heard from parents about “new math” and how they are effectively unable to help their own students with basic math because the vocabulary and processes are completely foreign.  Moving forward we are teaching mathematics in a format all of us would have used in years past.

          As we begin this school year our students and families will notice an emphasis on student discipline and student safety.  We have seen a rise in disciplinary issues over the past several years since the COVID shutdown.  Students will notice a heightened emphasis on small disciplinary issues and we will be consistently addressing those issues from the classrooms, to the hallways, and in other common spaces.  Although it may seem counter intuitive, discipline begins with building relationships with our students and families, and discipline must be consistently enforced in the classroom by our staff.  One big change in both our middle and high schools this year is the requirement that students use their lockers between classes and leave bags, backpacks, etc. in their lockers.  The high school has added time to the passing periods to accommodate the required locker usage.  The purpose behind the change is to increase safety by decreasing what students bring to classes.  When we think about the majority of students carrying loaded backpacks to each class; as well as, a coat plus another bag we would have the isles and the hallways jammed with items that are unnecessary.  Not only are additional items a congestion issue, but they are a school safety issue.  Each of our students in these buildings have a district issued chromebook with text and instructional materials that are accessed using the chromebook; consequently, the items students needed in the past are simply unnecessary.  We understand this will be a difficult change for some of our students and families; however, this is a step in the right direction.

          Finally, the district is wanting to embark on a building project on the high school campus beginning this school year.  The project is a new weight room and wrestling room facility to the south of the FEMA building.  This addition will provide locker rooms for PE classes in the FEMA gym and locker rooms for wrestling, football, and track. The bottom floor will contain a new concession stand and storage for our athletic programs.   We are putting this out for bids this Fall. 

          Over the next month or two I will be writing several more articles.  Future articles will include:  Part 2 (Changes in the DCR1 district and public education); Part 3 (Enrollment growth and its challenges); Part 4 (DCR1 facilities and finances); Part 5 (Public support for our public schools).   

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