On the one-year anniversary of the Be The Best Initiative, Superintendent Mike McGrory presented his vision to continue efforts to move Ottumwa Schools toward becoming a destination for families and the best district in the state. The Vision of Excellence is a shared vision and response to our stakeholders’ desires for continued school improvement. The responses from our stakeholders formed the foundation of the Be The Best initiative. The Vision of Excellence continues to address the critical issues that are important to our community:
- Increase student achievement by investing in our teachers and the necessary academic, social, and emotional support that students need.
- Smaller personalized learning environments through neighborhood schools and ideal grade configurations that increase flexibility in buildings, maximize student support, and improve teacher collaboration and curriculum alignment
- Create safe and supportive schools by improving the culture and climate of each school
- Promote community collaboration and school pride
The recommendations include:
- Continue to upgrade northside elementary schools to maintain high-quality neighborhood schools with significant improvements in the classrooms, grounds, and facilities.
- Open a new alternative learning center in August of 2022 for grades 9-12 which will improve the culture and climate by creating a safe, supportive learning environment that incorporates real, authentic learning experiences that address student needs.
- Make Ottumwa High School a 10th-12th grade building that creates a more personalized learning environment for students. This would provide significant investments to Ottumwa High School now versus saving for a possible new high school in the future. This can be done through available funds without raising taxes. Remodeling OHS to create modern and dynamic learning spaces, exterior and interior upgrades, and improving curricular and extracurricular activities. Improvements in parking and lighting will help accentuate the historic building.
- Evans Middle School will serve students in grades 8-9. Serving fewer students will provide more personalized learning while expanding opportunities for Career Technical Education, pre-AP courses, and high school credit offerings. Consolidating these grades will promote smaller learning communities, increase student achievement, a smooth transition between grades 8 and 9, and provide greater support for academic and social-emotional learning. Combining these grades into one location will result in a variety of extracurricular opportunities for both 8th grade and freshmen.
- Liberty Elementary will become an intermediate learning center for grades 6-7. The facility, with wide hallways and a competition gym, will provide the appropriate grade configuration for this age of students. The facility and expansive campus will be able to offer more curricular and extracurricular opportunities for students. A new disc golf course will complement existing outdoor recreational opportunities for this age group. Bussing older students will also decrease traffic congestion at this location.
- Douma Elementary will be the site of two smaller schools serving grades 1-2 and grades 3-5. This will create ideal grade configurations that bring uniformity to elementary schools across the district as well as a small neighborhood-school feel. The campus will include two school facilities connected with a walkway to allow shared cafeteria and gym space. Teachers will have increased opportunities to collaborate and articulate across grade levels. The Douma location also offers several access points and will be designed to provide parents with easy drop-off and pick-up options.
- Pickwick Early Childhood Center will become a PK-K facility, serving the district’s youngest learners and all southside kindergarten students. Increased student achievement for preschool students and kindergarten preparedness through project-based learning, student engagement, meeting core standards, and greater teacher collaboration. Staggered drop-off and pick-up alleviate wait times and schedules can be worked around parent needs. Busing is also an option for these young learners.
“Success is more than making physical changes,” said McGrory. “We will give staff the resources and time to prepare for the transition, develop curriculum, and collaborate.”
While McGrory made this recommendation to the board, staff input and community forums will allow for additional comments and suggestions. During the month of February, the community is invited to share their input during several community forums, facilitated by Superintendent McGrory. The district is excited to hear feedback on this ambitious project from all stakeholders, including students, parents, local businesses, and community members. Watch for an upcoming survey to provide an opportunity for additional feedback on the Vision of Excellence as we continue efforts to become a destination district for families and the best school in the state.