Category Archives: World Class Schools

World Class Schools – Financially Strong and Operationally Efficient

World Class SchoolsIn my previous post I presented my vision for world class schools at UCF.  In a series of posts, I am going deeper into each of my six priorities for our schools.

Priority #6 – Financially Strong and Operationally Efficient

We need to be a district that is financially strong.  Strength comes from a strong tax base, keeping a close watch on expenses, limiting long-term debt, and professionally managing the districts books.   UCF has all of these strengths, and they must be watchfully maintained.

A strong tax base provides steady tax revenues to our schools, which provides year-to-year budgetary stability, and allows us to avoid cycles of layoffs and program cuts.  This stability is a great asset.  Moreover, the relationship between property values and world class schools is mutually reinforcing —  great schools creates demand for housing, which sustains property values, which sustains great schools.

But great schools also keep a close eye on expenses.  The goal is to not to spend the most on schools, but rather (like in any other industry) to provide the highest value to our community for every dollar that is spent.   Millage rates are high in UCF, but a majority of our community believes we still are on the right side of the value equation.  We must control the growth of expenses in our schools if we are to maintain this delicate balance and keep the trust and confidence of our taxpayers.

Financial Strength

Operationally efficient schools find ways to reduce administrative costs and non-instructional expenses.  And, knowing that instructional expenses are the single largest cost in the district, the most innovative districts also find ways to deliver more learning while staying within the limits of Act 1.  This is an immense challenge, but the best organizations in the world accept the challenge of improving productivity year-in and year-out.

Our district needs to have a strong balance sheet.  We should not carry large amounts of debt, and all debt that we do incur should only be to finance long-life assets like buildings.  We should take a conservative approach to our financial projections, and protect our Aa1 credit rating (which places us in the top 3% of Pennsylvania school districts.)

We need strong financial systems, procurement practices, and controls.   The district should continue to join together with other districts in purchasing arrangements to leverage our combined purchasing power.  Our existing financial systems are adequate, and our most recent independent audit found no issues with the district’s financial controls.    We must continue to run a tight ship, maintaining the good practices already in place and finding additional places to improve.

‘World class education’ does not mean ‘expensive’.    Rather, it means that we derive the highest possible value from every dollar we spend on education.  The tax payer is paying for the education of the community’s children, and we must be excellent stewards of each and every tax dollar.

World Class Schools – Our Curriculum

World Class SchoolsIn my previous post I presented my vision for world class schools at UCF.  In a series of six posts, I am going deeper into each of my six priorities for our schools.

Priority #4 – A Rigorous Curriculum

To be world class, our course sequences must offer paths to high levels of achievement, and offer a rigorous course of study across all core learning areas.  Recognizing that each student learns differently and brings different knowledge and skills to each learning opportunity, our curriculum must also be increasingly individualized and customized. Continue reading

World Class Schools – Our School Climate

World Class SchoolsOn February 26, I posted my vision for world class schools at UCF.  In a series of six posts, I am going deeper into each of my six priorities for our schools.  Priority 1 is here; Priority 2 is here.

Priority 3:  A Great Environment for Learning

UCFSD schools must have a world-class learning environment, where every child is respected, feels safe, and can succeed.    This is means more than providing good facilities and ensuring physical safety (though those are both important.)   It is rather about improving the experience of school — how going to school makes our students and teachers feel.  It is the norms, values, goals, interpersonal relationships, and learning practices that shape the daily experience of school life.
Continue reading

World Class Schools – Our Educators

World Class SchoolsIn an earlier post I presented my vision for world class schools at UCF.  In a series of six posts, I will go deeper into each of my six priorities for our schools.  Previously, I covered Priority #1:  Students.

Priority #2:    Great Teachers, Principals, and Administrators

Research has shown that great teachers make a huge difference in the lives of their students.   Great teachers help their students learn more, grow more, and blossom as individuals.  Students of great teachers even earn more as adults!

World class schools recognize the value of great teachers.   It starts by attracting the best candidates to the district.  This requires strategic marketing of our district, and targeting the strongest candidate pools.   Our interview process needs to be highly selective.  And our pay and benefits must continue to be competitive with other top schools.

Once teachers join us, we should invest in their development with training, regular coaching and feedback, professional education, and mentoring from our best experienced teachers.   As new teachers complete their three-year state-mandated probationary period, we must fairly but strictly hold to our high expectations and standards, and award tenure to those who earn it.

As teachers progress in their career, we must provide them the resources and support to grow, innovate, and succeed.   We should provide our teachers autonomy to practice their craft, and give feedback through peer review and a multi-faceted evaluation system.  And we should recognize and reward teachers as they successfully engage our students.

#1 principalThe same system with high expectations should be in place for principals and senior leaders in administration.   We need to hire great leaders, and provide them the resources to succeed and innovate, hold them accountable to achieve district goals, and recognize and reward them when they do.

For both teachers and administrators, we should adjust our human resource systems and pay practices so that we attract, retain, and reward top educators.  This is a critical issue for the district in the next several years, because a significant proportion of our teachers will retire in the next decade. If we put in place the right practices, UCF will become the employer of choice for great teachers and administrators.   It should be tough to get hired at UCF, but also be the best place to practice as a skilled educator. If we have the best teachers and administrators, the result will be improved student learning, and more life opportunities for our students.

World Class Schools – Our Students

World Class SchoolsIn my previous post I presented my vision for world class schools at UCF.  In a series of six posts, I will go deeper into each of my six priorities for our schools.

Priority #1:    All students graduating fully prepared to achieve their academic and career goals.

Perhaps it is stating the obvious, but our schools exist for the benefit of the children in our community.   Therefore, we must put the needs of our students at the center of everything we do.  Our resources, attention, and focus must be squarely on them.   And our programs, policies, and people must be applied to bring out the best in each student, providing the opportunities and support each child needs to reach his or her full potential. Continue reading

Unionville-Chadds Ford Schools – Let’s Become World Class

Every child comes to UCF with incredible potential, with a world of opportunities ahead of them.   A world class education will open the door to those possibilities, and will prepare all students to realize their highest aspirations.

We already have a strong school district today.    Our graduates go on to challenging universities, interesting careers, and fulfilling lives.   UCF is known as a good place to work, and we attract the best teachers and administrators.   We have generous, supportive, and involved families.  We are well-run, fiscally responsible, and have a top credit rating.

Building on these strengths, we can do even better. Our students deserve world class schools – the best around.  What does world class look like?

  1. All students graduating fully prepared to achieve their academic and career goals.
  2. Great teachers and administrators who stay and thrive.
  3. A behavioral climate that is safe, supportive, respectful, and encouraging.
  4. A proven curriculum that accelerates student learning and engagement.
  5. Well-informed families who are fully engaged in our educational mission
  6. A fiscally strong and efficiently run district, mindful of our tax-payers.

To become world class, our practices need to get even better in each of these six areas.  And we should pursue this because of what a world class education brings:  more life opportunities to each one of our UCF students.

In coming posts, I will expand on each of these six priorities.