Wichita community shares ways to improve school district

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Wichita Public Schools is always looking for ways to improve. In October 2017, the new superintendent started hosting community listening sessions, and the results are now out.

“I was really excited to have all of the feedback,” said Superintendent Alicia Thompson. “I mean we heard from thousands of families and community members and business leaders.”

Thompson said the purpose was to listen and learn what the community wanted for the district’s future.

There were 20 listening sessions for parents, staff, students and community members. Thompson asked four questions:

  • What is Wichita Public Schools doing well?
  • What areas present the greatest challenges for the school district?
  • What needs to be done in order to move the district forward?
  • How can we best communicate with you to promote an open and transparent district culture?

The feedback showed USD 259 is succeeding in areas such as curriculum, student opportunities and teachers.

According to Thompson, she learned that stakeholders want the district to focus on college and career readiness.

“There needs to be more enrichment and higher standards for students who are at grade level and/or above the level. there are so many choices that it gets overwhelming,” wrote a Wichita parent. “If my child doesn’t get into IB or a Magnet School, I want to know that all schools are going to be academically challenging and my student will be ready for college when he graduates.”

Many teachers expressed they’d like to see more investment in resources and staff, according to the report.

One Wichita teacher wrote: “I think the district needs to offer more opportunities for teachers to grow as educator. We need to be able to attend conferences that allow networking and professional development opportunities.”

Thompson shared that one of the top complaints was student behavior.

A USD 259 employee wrote: “BEHAVIOR intervention!! You cannot get to the academic until you deal with the discipline. It is keeping teachers from teaching and students from learning.”

KSN’s Amanda Aguilar sat down with the superintendent, who said she was shocked to learn the most of the community wanted to see more of a focus on careers.

A parent wrote that the school district needed a “continued focus on educating children so they are prepared for future jobs and future challenges.”

The superintendent also learned that some students might not go to college, and the district should prepare students for that.

A Wichita student wrote they want “more opportunities that just college focus – other programs/certifications.

Thompson said it’s something the district will seriously consider.

“Having our CTC programming, getting kids certificates so when they if they choose not to go to college that they have some type of certificate, which does still take some college classes though, but to be able to go on to a specific career,” she said.

Thompson plans to use these comments to create a new strategic plan for the Wichita school district.

“We are going to begin working with the board of education identifying themes, big goals and beginning to get objectives,” she said.  “We are going to be building a mission statement, and a vision statement and then presenting that information to our city, to our internal folks so they too can see the results and the fruits of their labor from all the listening sessions and tours we had for our community.”

The full report of the listening sessions is now available to the public on the school district’s website.


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