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Ripley to proceed with administrative restructuring

December 21, 2016
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - Ripley Central School District and Chautauqua Lake Central School District will proceed with an administrative restructuring project aimed at reducing costs and improving curriculums, members of both district's boards learned at a recent joint meeting.

Chautauqua Lake Superintendent Benjamin Spitzer said that on June 30, 2016 both boards approved a resolution to proceed with administrative restructuring. He said that since that time, there have been regular superintendent planning sessions. He also said that joint administrative planning sessions have been held every Monday.

Ripley Superintendent Dr. Lauren Ormsby told the boards that one of the objectives of this project is to bring the two districts into alignment. "We want to enhance communication between districts, further improve programs for students, streamline administrative functions and increase efficiencies," she said.

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
Many teachers and visitors from both Ripley and Chautauqua Lake school districts attended a joint meeting of the board of education from both districts.

Spitzer informed board members that the two districts now share several services, and have expanded their partnerships in maintenance and transportation. "Tire changing," he said, "may seem like a small thing, is something real and tangible that the districts share." He said representatives from the two districts also collaborate for attendance at meetings, and for grant applications.

Spitzer also told the members of the school boards that the two districts share communications, such as notifying parents about new requirements for lockdown drills, and about lead test results.

Spitzer then outlined plans for administrative restructuring, saying: "What we have here is another 'striking moment.'

Our business official at Chautauqua Lake has retired. Our plan is to go to our board of education with the recommendation that they appoint Vice-Principal Beth Olson to this position."

Spitzer said that Olson has always assumed the responsibilities associated with APPR and the responsibility of staff development. "If Olson takes the new position, our plan would be to develop an intermunicipal agreement, a working relationship that would allow Dr. Ormsby to work on professional development at Chautauqua Lake," he said.

Spitzer told the boards that if these steps are taken, the districts will have to determine how Dr. Ormsby's work at Ripley will be affected. "This is the first really big opportunity that deals with staffing," he said

Another aspect of sharing would be the practices of EL Learning. Ormsby explained to the visiting board members how Ripley got on the path to becoming an EL Learning school district. It began 5 years ago, she said, when Ripley was identified as a focus district. Rather than just try to improve academic performance, the district began looking into ways to change the way students were educated, she said. "We stumbled into the idea of deeper learning, preparing students for 21st century college and careers," she said.

Ormsby told the boards that in the Deeper Learning network, there are several programs, each on focusing on a different aspect of education, including New Tech, Asia Society, Envision Education, E L Learning, and High Tech High.

The district chose for its focus on three structures - mastery of work, character and high quality work. "For us, that connection was important," she said. She noted that eleven people attended the EL Education National conference in Detroit this past fall, including three representatives from Chautauqua Lake[O1] .

Chautauqua Lake Science teacher Adam Gollwitzer was one of the teachers who attended the EL Learning national conference. "EL Education lined up with some of the goals I had as a teacher," he told the board members. I started to implement the principles of EL into my Field Science Class, he said. "At the conference, it was amazing to be with teachers from across the country, many of whom are working with disadvantaged students," Gollwitzer said.

Gollwitzer and Ormsby also mentioned the benefits of EL Passage portfolios, in which, according to EL, "students take responsibility for the creation of their portfolios, taking care to select and keep good evidence of their learning." These portfolios are sent with the students when they make the transition from elementary school to middle school.

Ripley Board of Education President Robert Bentley noted that common core came out at about the same time that Ripley was identified as a school in need. He said "We endorsed Common Core," and "since we were able to focus on elementary education, we've spent our time on this."

Bentley noted that the district found itself in a unique position to embrace Deeper Learning after it made the decision to tuition students in grades 7-12 to Chautauqua Lake. "We were able to focus on elementary education," he said. "Everything seemed to come together in that moment."

Bentley thanked several members of the Ripley faculty, including Dr. Ormsby, Kim Oakes, Michelle Helmer, Erin Wheeler, Lisa Stonefoot, and Karen Kondrick. He said they really deserve the credit for pursuing deeper learning.

Ormsby noted that the 21st Century Grant, which supports the creation of active learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours has been a collaboration of six school in Chautauqua County: Ripley, Chautauqua Lake, Fredonia, Silver Creek, Brockton, and Cassadaga.

The program helps students meet state and local standards in core academic subjects, such as reading and math; offers students a broad array of enrichment activities, Ormsby said. This grant would enable us to build an active learning center at Chautauqua Lake, she said.

This is a process, not an event, Spitzer said, and I'm hoping both boards see some significant advancements in a very short period of time. "I want to give kudos to the administrators and executives at Chautauqua Lake, and also here," Spitzer told school board members.



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