Wichita schools chief John Allison hears public’s suggestions on district priorities

11/12/2013 7:57 AM

08/06/2014 9:09 AM

Why should people care about Wichita public schools?

“Our students are the future employees, employers, consumers,” superintendent John Allison said Tuesday evening during the first of seven community meetings about district priorities. “As goes our school district really goes this community.”

About 30 members of the public attended Tuesday’s forum at East High School. Allison gave a brief overview before the group split into small discussion groups to talk about what Wichita schools do well, what they could do better and what the district should focus on in coming years.

Suggestions ranged from year-round school to a greater emphasis on basic grammar. Several parents said good teachers are crucial and that teachers should be required to return parents’ calls or e-mails in a timely manner. Some said they worry that advanced students aren’t being challenged and that material is being “dumbed down” to accommodate low achievers.

Miranda Nevins, a mother of two, said every student “should be completely prepared for the next grade” before they move on.

“From what I hear, that’s not always happening,” said Nevins, who has a daughter in fourth grade and a son in sixth.

Parents need to take a more active role in their children’s education, she said, and schools could encourage that by requiring parents to regularly review or sign off on homework.

“Everyone’s working and everyone’s busy,” she said, “but that’s important.”

Other suggestions offered Tuesday included establishing a second dual language magnet school, having middle- and high-school counselors work more closely with students and parents to choose classes, reducing the number of standardized tests and removing teachers who don’t meet expectations.

Allison said he intends to mark his fifth school year in Wichita by actively seeking feedback from parents, employees and the community about educational initiatives. Since he was hired in 2009, district discussions have been dominated by budget issues, boundary changes, bond issue projects and a debate over whether to build a new Southeast High School.

“We won’t be talking about the three B’s – budget, boundaries or bonds,” Allison said Tuesday.

Gathering input about education priorities in general is “key to knowing what the Wichita community values,” he said.

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