Mattos to give public talk in Bloomington on PLCs

Let’s take a break from depressing posts about the Indiana legislature and focus for a minute on reform efforts driven by schools.

Anyone who’s been to a Monroe County Community School Corp. board meeting in the past year or so has heard the buzz about Professional Learning Communities, the collaboration model that MCCSC leaders have embraced. But what exactly are Professional Learning Communities? How do they work? Will they make a difference or are they just another fad?

Here’s a chance to learn more. Mike Mattos, a PLC expert, author and former high-school principal, will give a public presentation on Professional Learning Communities Thursday (April 28) from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Bloomington High School South auditorium. (See: Mike Mattos April28 flyer-April 28 2011 ).

Mattos, who is affiliated with Solution Tree, the Bloomington education publishing and professional-development company, spoke to MCCSC teachers and staff last fall. He gives a lively and inspirational presentation.

‘Community school’ model implemented in Evansville

An article this week in Education Week focuses on the “community school” model of reform as practiced in Evansville, Ind., specifically in the K-8 Lincoln School.

The school “relies on ties between its district … and churches, social service agencies, nonprofit community groups, and other local organizations that have built a web of support to nurture schoolchildren across the entire district from ‘diaper to diploma,’” Mary Ann Zehr writes.

A $2.5 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Full-Service Community Schools Program is making the program possible for the 23,000-student Evansville Vanderburgh school district.

Education Week says Evansville Vanderburgh has made significant academic gains since implementing the program. But data on the state Department of Education website suggest the jury is still out on whether the approach is turning around low-performing schools.

Still, if the Evansville community is pitching in to meet the social and physical needs of kids at Lincoln School — where more than 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches — that’s unquestionably a good thing.

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School board faces tough call on interim leadership proposal

The Monroe County Community School Corp. board is in a tough spot. It needs to decide – quickly – whether to accept or reject a proposal by the corporation’s 25-member instructional leadership team to serve together as interim leader of the district while the board searches for a new superintendent.

The alternative is to appoint an interim superintendent until a long-term successor is chosen for Superintendent J.T. Coopman, who will retire Dec. 31.

The school board will discuss the team leadership idea Tuesday in a closed executive session. The next regular public meeting at which it could vote on the decision is Dec. 14.

The MCCSC instructional team, consisting of principals and the directors of elementary and secondary education, made the case for its leadership proposal last week at a school board work session. The unity and enthusiasm shown by the group were remarkable – all 25 people spoke and all endorsed the proposal. Members attributed the idea and their shared sense of purpose to the Professional Learning Communities model that the MCCSC adopted under Coopman.

School board members said they fully support Professional Learning Communities, but several expressed skepticism about leadership by committee. If they reject the proposal, it may be a challenge to do so in a way that doesn’t appear to be a slap at the PLC process.

The Nov. 30 school board work session was recorded by Monroe County’s Community Access Television Services. It will be re-broadcast several times this week on local cable channel 14. It can also be viewed online at catstv.net. It makes for surprisingly compelling TV.

In fact, anyone with strong interest in local schools and about five hours to spare could pair the work session with Saturday’s Support Our Schools forum, also being shown by CATS. The forum included insightful comments by former MCCSC officials, current city and county officials, parents and community members on a wide range of issues related to local schools.