School district turnaround program

By Traci Chapman

As questions continue to be asked about the state’s new testing model, El Reno Public Schools’ new superintendent is choosing a different way to address the district’s test scores.

Superintendent Craig McVay said last week he first learned of the UVA School Turnaround Specialist Program when meeting with officials at the Oklahoma Board of Education. A combination curriculum offered by the Darden School of Business and Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, the program offers professional development training to struggling school districts, McVay said.

“It provides not only the professional development but also integrated activities for building site leaders, it helps them gain experience in behaviors that drive significant gains in student achievement,” McVay said.

The program is based on individual district needs after an in-depth assessment is made, McVay said. Because the district has struggled with its student achievement benchmarks, state officials approached him to discuss a partnership that could bring the program to El Reno, he said.

“This is the type of help only received by top business leaders, with the ongoing support and resources,” McVay said.

That’s because of the program’s cost, topping $7,000 per school per year – basically $225,000 of professional development assistance for more than two years in the program, he said. That’s where the state education department comes in.

“They (state education department officials) have agreed to funding the initial survey and year one for sure and are going to look into funding the additional year and a half,” McVay said. “The state department approached us with the offer.”

The department spoke to only a handful of districts across the state about the program partnership, McVay said. After school board members agreed to allow an assessment concerning the program, next up would be visits by University of Virginia staff, who would look into the district’s viability for the program.

“It could be a great opportunity for all of us,” the superintendent said. “It is incredibly expensive, and we don’t have the funds available for something like that, but if it works out it could be a great thing for us.”

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