Editor’s Note: The following submission is a response to the previous Sound Off. As the editor of the Weekly Mailer I felt that an immediate reply from the district would be helpful to the community and could help share the school district’s position.
In response to this letter, please allow me to introduce myself to you, my name is Jim Shank. I am the superintendent for Cassia County School District and I am more than happy to address your concerns.
I am new to the community and offer my apologies that we have never met but I believe that I am fairly visible and continue to engage the community. I am on KMVT for interviews and a monthly radio guest on the Zeb Bell program. I have been featured in the newspapers, on social media, podcasts, Facebook Live, and the district website. I attend school activities during the day, afterschool, and into the evening. I serve on the Governor’s Task Force Subcommittee for Operations. I am an active member of Rotary. I helped to organize and attended many of the public meetings during the March 2019 bond and last but not least, I am very easy to find in the district office and at our public school board meetings.
Now, to the items you list:
One: Idaho code gives elected school board members the direct responsibility and authority for the governance of a district. This includes and is not limited to policy making. Curriculum adoption, employee hiring/firing, fiscal decisions and establishing goals for academic achievement is Board controlled through statutory authority. The hired superintendent advises the Board and executes the policies, initiatives, strategies and goals for the district, as determined by the Board. Patrons can familiarize themselves with the leadership of the district easily by attending any of the monthly meetings open to the public.
This Board/CEO relationship is no different than other industries or corporate farming for that matter.
It is important to note that the Board works as a body of public servants with no personal gain or re-numeration. They don’t claim to be experts in education but work closely with those that are to guide their decisions for the community and for the student. Their work is extremely important.
Two: Growth in student achievement is at the forefront of our work. In the spring of 2019 the Board passed a Professional Learning Communities resolution to institute a district wide educational shift that focuses on a collective efficacy for student learning. All teachers and administrators will prioritize their classroom instruction according to the Professional Learning Communities strategies. I invite you to become familiar with this process by accessing the website, https://www.allthingsplc.info/ and to learn about the work of John Hattie at https://visible-learning.org/ . These research-based strategies are critical to improving student learning.
Three: During the bonding effort last spring, I heard from the public many, many times about the 2016 bond. The “not another cent until those things are fixed” comment is part of the recent work to contract with ABM and is a well vetted response to engage with experts in the field of custodial, maintenance, and grounds for a savings of nearly a half a million dollars annually. The savings says nothing about the fact that ABM will add 5 additional personnel including a facilities director, two night supervisors, and one grounds supervisor. I would also like to point out that regardless of the 2016 bond and the March 2019 failed bond, 1000 students in a school designed for 700 is a problem and a real concern for those specific students and families. Overall deferred maintenance such as failing roofs, inadequate heating, lack of ventilation, and incomplete projects such as Declo Elementary, are district wide issues, not attempts to garner votes.
Four: Indeed, the result of a lawsuit was recently published. Although, this suit was filed prior to my arrival, the results will be attended to.
It is a pleasure to serve the students and families of Cassia School District. High levels of learning and success for all students is the mission of the school district and that is our focus.