More than 100 teachers and community stakeholders gathered on Oct. 11 for the district’s fifth-annual State of the District Address.
It was those community members that Interim Superintendent Dr. Ann Laing singled out as the most important partner for the district moving forward. Racine Mayor John Dickert echoed those thoughts in remarks he delivered to attendees.
“In the city of Racine, we focus on partnerships and we focus on working together,” Dickert said. “One of the first things that Dr. Laing did was she came in and met with me, and said, ‘How are we going to work together to create a better Racine?’”
The district remains committed to embracing the North Star vision for its students, as well as data-driven, student-focused learning models, Laing said. At the same time, Laing said Unified must continue to improve student learning, build staff capacity, manage and align resources and continue to engage students, parents and the community.
“We have been doing some right things, and we need to continue to do some right things,” Laing said. “We need to continue to improve student learning by helping students to understand that they belong. We have to help them understand they have a responsibility for learning.”
Laing also identified three recommendations for academic achievement that the district would continue to work toward:
- continue progress in writing achievement
- improve literacy and mathematics instruction
- improve student engagement and career education.
Still, academic success has a direct correlation with how engaged the district is with students and the community, Laing stressed.
“We need to change the conversation in the community by focusing on the positive things that are happening,” Laing said. “We call on the entire community to join us in focusing on our children. Parents can help their children succeed by being positive role models.”
Community agencies like the United Way, YMCA and John XXIII Center can also help provide moral support, tutoring, mentoring, counseling and after-school activities, Laing added.
“It is the job of every one of us to help parents and students make connections to programs that can help them to be more successful in school and in life,” Laing said. “If we are going to prosper as a community, educating every child to succeed is a must, not a choice.”
Several Unified principals also spoke about achievements made as part of school improvement programs. Horlick Principal Angela Apmann, for example, spoke about changes made to the school’s freshman transition program.
“In the year 2009-2010, we calculated that 49 percent of our freshmen had one or more Fs,” Apmann said. “So we created a freshman cohort, and those students have four core teachers who provide study skills. And we built those relationships.”
The theme of relationship building came full circle when Laing expressed her thoughts on how the district and the city could move forward with their plans. She referenced a book that Dickert gave her at a previous meeting, Schools Can’t Do It Alone.
“We need to have a more positive perception of the district,” Laing said. “We have to work together [with Racine] to reach out and collaborate. We’ll start by looking to extend learning activities beneficial to students outside of school time.”