Only 'building' work deals with student learning

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Back to School: 1 Day and Counting

By Thomas Barr

      SHEPHERDSVILLE - It's the time of year that may bring more excitement to the adults than to the children.

     With the beginning of the new school year just days away, Bullitt County superintendent Keith Davis admits that there is a bit of excitement in the air.

     "I love this time of year," said Davis, entering his sixth year at the helm of one of the state's largest school districts with around 13,000 students. "I think everyone is ready to get back to work."

     For the first time in his tenure, Davis won't be worrying about a school being ready to open.

     While there are some projects in the wings, Davis said no major work is being conducted presently and all schools will be ready to open on Wednesday.

     "The schools are clean and most of them could be ready to open today," Davis said on Wednesday.

     "This gives us one less thing to focus on," Davis said of a construction phase which started well over a decade ago.

     Instead, the total focus is on student learning and getting students ready for a career or college.

     Part of that focus includes a lot of professional development. Attending a technology session last week, Davis said he is amazed at how technology can be used in the classroom.

     "It's amazing," said Davis. "I learned a lot of stuff."

     That "stuff" is important in the classroom as students are seeking different ways to learn. The ability for students to use their personal electronic devices returns this year and Davis said those schools allowing it have a very strict monitoring system to make sure the use is on education and not recreation.

     The big push statewide is a 2015 deadline to have youngsters college- or career-ready. In the past, Davis said the goal has seemed to be that every student would attend college. That is not realistic.

     Instead, Davis said the district is looking at various programs to make sure students are prepared for life after high school.

     For example, the district is working with the area technology center to add programs in culinary and information technology.

     Davis said partnerships are being formed for both areas of study. Classes won't be ready until after Christmas.

     Two directives for the coming school year for Davis will be to study how the district is providing services for gifted students and to study retention and how to handle that situation in the future.

     Davis feels good about the programs offered to accelerate talented students, especially at the high school level with things such as dual credit classes, BAMS and working with Jefferson Community and Technical College.

     But he wants to get a handle on what is being done to help skilled students at the lower grade levels. He is very satisfied by the work in the I-Leap program but wants to make sure more can't be done.

     "We need to challenge those kids early on," said Davis. "If you don't, you might not get a second chance later on."

     In the area of retention, Davis said it is difficult.

     The district does not want to pass along a students just because of social issues, such as a child's age. At the same time, time to help mentor and tutor a student may be limited.

     The result of the study, which will be presented to the board next spring, will cost some money, predicted Davis. He said it would involve more one-on-one teaching for the students.

     With the school bell about to ring, Davis said few administrative spots remain free. Maryville Elementary is the lone school with a principal vacancy. Ruth Esterle, a counselor at Mount Washington Elementary, is acting as interim principal.

     Robb Smith has come on board as the new director of secondary education. Smith was principal at North Oldham High. He replaces David Marshall, who is filling a similar role in the Oldham County School District.

     "I think we are in pretty good shape," Davis said as the opening day approaches.

     The superintendent understands that he has distracters, some of which are employees of the system.

     However, he said that would be common with any business.

     "Everyone is not on board," said Davis. "Change is difficult. But we know we are going in the right direction."

     Davis said he is proud of everyone associated with the school district for their hard work over the past five years.

     "We have a wonderful school district and I learn so much from the staff every day," said Davis.

     A change over the past few years, in addition to rising test scores, is that when conferences are held, it is Bullitt County educators who are making many of the presentations.

     "It's a great time to be in education in Bullitt County," said Davis.

     While scores have brought the county from near bottom to the midway point in terms of assessment, Davis is confident the scores will only get better.

     Classrooms will be open on Wednesday, Aug. 8. Parents with questions are urged to call the individual schools or the Central Office immediately.