Superintendent discusses progress on strategic plan

PINEDALE – Sublette County School District No. 1 Superintendent Jay Harnack and school administrators met with members of the public to talk about the district’s strategic plan progress report. Harnack reported on programs implemented to increase engagement and plans for greater school safety.

Last spring, community members, students, teachers, support staff and board members worked on developing a strategic plan for the school district. The working group focused on engagement between students, district staff and parents as a central theme.

The working group established three goals to enhance engagement: to form challenging and engaging instruction, create “high performing school cultures” and provide “whole child supports.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Harnack and school administrators summarized recent standardized test scores and accountability scorecards. Schools across the district did well, Harnack said, reflecting the “high achievements of students in our district.”

But while the “data is an outcome of what we work to achieve,” Harnack stressed the need to look beyond numbers at ways to engage students that are “whole child centered.” He thanked the district board of trustees for allowing the district to “take calculated risks and be innovative” in programming.

One new program was a partnership with the company Yondr to increase engagement by eliminating cell phone use in the classroom. A plan was implemented this year where students place phones in locked pouches provided by Yondr. The phones remain in a student’s possession in case of an emergency, but the student cannot use them during class time.

Pinedale High School Principal Brian Brisko said at the meeting that the program was making a “tremendous difference” in engagement and discipline issues. He said that so far this year, the high school has not had any discipline problems related to social media and cellphone use.

Harnack also discussed the transition to an eight-hour day at the high school to increase the number of electives in topics that students are “passionate about.” To cultivate parent engagement, the school district is using social media applications like “Bloomz” and “Remind” to communicate with parents.

Harnack outlined several proposals to build up school safety. The proposals are still in the planning stages, he said, and will be presented to the district board of trustees for discussion and approval at meetings in December, January and February.

Some of the proposals include a crisis management app on phones for staff to use. Harnack also discussed a security system that can communicate between cameras and a two-way intercom system in classrooms and can “lock down campus with one touch of the button.”

Other proposals include tinting the glass in windows at Pinedale Elementary, implementing a “safe to tell” system of anonymous reporting and improving the “visitor management system” by requiring all visitors to wear badges that can be scanned for sex offender checks.

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