Van-Far R-1 hones strategic plan

By Peggy O’Farrell, Correspondent
Posted 9/23/21

A community-wide team of teachers, school administrators, parents and business leaders expect to wrap up discussions this week on a new strategic plan for the Van-Far R-1 School …

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Van-Far R-1 hones strategic plan

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A community-wide team of teachers, school administrators, parents and business leaders expect to wrap up discussions this week on a new strategic plan for the Van-Far R-1 School District.

Superintendent of Schools John Fortney told school board members that they should receive the proposal for review at the October board meeting.

The final plan will guide classroom instruction and staff development for the next several years, Fortney said at the Sept. 17 meeting.

The plan will include a new mission statement and lay out five high-priority goals aimed at improving district performance.

Team members have had “very good, really deep conversations” to identify and address “perceived barriers” in the school district, Fortney said.

The state requires that every district have a strategic plan in place, Fortney said.

Professional development for teachers and building administrators is a key component of the plan, he said, as board members approved a budget of just over $36,000 for professional development this school year.

The budget includes about $17,000 left over from last year, he said, since COVID-19 disrupted much of the training schedule.

Professional development includes subject-specific education, as well as leadership training and training in new teaching techniques and strategies.

In other action, district officials are looking at ways to increase the number of bus drivers for sports and other extracurricular activities, Fortney told board members.

The district has enough daily route drivers, he said, but meeting the need for sports events and other activities is challenging.

School bus drivers need a CDL with the “S" classification, which means anyone licensed to drive commercial or farm vehicles would need to get an additional license.

“The issue is that we have immediate trip needs,” Fortney said. But testing locations are limited, and it takes about 6 weeks from the time an applicant takes the test until they can drive a school bus.

He is in the process of getting his license, and officials hope coaches and others will also get their licenses so they can drive students back and forth to games and on field trips, he said.

District officials are considering paying staff the same hourly rate that a bus driver would earn for driving students to events, Fortney said.

A change in state policy means parents can now make audio recordings of IEP meetings regarding special needs students.

Districts can request that parents notify them no more than 24 hours in advance if they plan to record a meeting, Fortney said. If Van-Far parents choose to record a meeting, the district will make its own recording and keep it on file.

The policy change is intended to reduce any confusion or conflict about how teachers and administrators will handle educational and disciplinary needs for special needs students.

“My two cents, we’re doing the right thing. If a parent wants to record, the only thing they’re going to hear is us advocating for the parents and the child,” he said.

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