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BACK TO SCHOOL WEDNESDAY

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School system looks to keep momentum going in classroom

By Thomas Barr

SHEPHERDSVILLE – Starting his seventh year at the helm of the Bullitt County Public School System, superintendent Keith Davis is once again eager to see over 13,000 students arrive on Wednesday morning.

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     While pleased with the tremendous strides made academically during his tenure, Davis said the work would not stop until Bullitt County can boast the best school district in Kentucky.

     “We don’t want to be average,” said Davis. “We want to be excellent.”

     If one looks at the state ranking system, Bullitt County has made strides to reach the top half of the districts. But Davis said that is still a long way from where he wants the district to be.

     “Thanks to the hard work of the entire staff in the district, we have made improvements,” said Davis. “But we can’t be content.”

     As the new year opens on Wednesday, Davis said the added pressure of having less state funding and more state mandates remains as strong as ever.

     What has changed is the temptation to change initiatives or to alter programs each year.

     Now, it is a matter of taking the teaching philosophies that are in place with the resources available and figure out a way to make the system better.

     “There will always be that pressure to do better each year,” admits Davis. “But we’re not trying to implement new programs each year. We want to get really good at the research-based programs that we use today.”

     Programs such as MAP, Compass Living and Apex are always being evaluated to find out if there is a better system, said Davis. But the superintendent said each has served the district well.

     In his push for excellence, Davis said that there has been a lot of pressure placed upon the administrators and the faculty. But he said everyone has responded to the challenge.

     “We have a new learning culture here,” said Davis. “I think most people are pleased with what we are doing.”

     At the same time, he knows there will be distracters. As long as the students are being better served, Davis said that is the only end result that matters.

     Several new things in store for students in the coming year will be the new grading system. Grades will be assigned in the old-time 10-point system. From now on, a 90 will be an A with an 80 being a B.

     Another change this year will be the gifted program. New wrinkles will be added to the program this year and he believes it will help students in all grade levels.

     In September, Davis will propose a new retention program for students.

     He said that currently system of retaining students due to grades might be outdated.

     Still working on the logistics, Davis would like to see funding for additional help for students who are struggling in a particular area of math.

     Time is the one thing that is needed to help students who need a little extra assistance. That could entail Saturday hours or evening summer school.

     For a little money, Davis said he believes this is a key part of the retention program.

     For example, Davis said 92 elementary students were retained this past year. Over the course of time, it would be much better for the students and better for the district to provide the needed help to make sure they stay on course.

     His plan will go to the school board for consideration in September.

     The district will implement a new teacher program this year.

     The goal is to meet with new teachers every couple of months. If they are struggling with a particular thing, Davis said there would be assistance.

     In the past, he said the district hasn’t done anything formal to have discussions throughout the first year in the classroom. But, Davis said, there is a tremendous amount of learning that new teachers experience that first year in the classroom.

       All three high schools will have college and career programs in place with coaches available to assist students. By May 2015, seniors must prove that they are college or career ready in order to receive a diploma.

       Bullitt Central was part of a state pilot program last year and it proved to be very successful. All three will participate in the college and career readiness program this year.

     In terms of construction, all schools will be ready when the bell sounds on Wednesday.

     College and career centers are being constructed at North Bullitt and Bullitt East high schools at this time. Major renovations and a new career and college center are also in the works at Bullitt Central.

     Davis said tile work is finishing up at Hebron and Mount Washington middle schools. Cedar Grove Elementary continues to have an on-going tile issue.

     Security improvements will be done at each of the schools. That work is an on-going project.

     His one personal goal this year is to spend time in every classroom. That means visits in 850 rooms over the course of the year.

     “I’m not there to evaluate,” said Davis. “I’m there to learn and to listen. I get to see a lot of cool ideas that I can take to other schools.”

     Davis said he was in the classes a lot prior to last year, when administrative things seemed to need his attention.

     This year, the commitment has been made to the board that he would get out and see what is going on in the classrooms.

     During those visits, Davis said he wants to show that he is willing to listen.

     With the various means of communications, Davis said he gets a lot of feedback and a lot of ideas from those in the field. With that have come some changes.

     “I can’t sit behind the desk and know how the system is operating,” said Davis. “I really do like to be back in the classrooms. We’ve got a lot of great teachers in this district.”

     With the summer break gone, Davis said he is always excited to start a new year.

     “It is exciting,” Davis said of the opening day “I like working with kids. That’s why we go into education is to work with kids.”

     The district grew by less than 100 students last year. He doesn’t expect a major influx of new students but building has started to recover and the district won’t know the numbers until kids show up on the first day.