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Schools must now tackle new teaching of core standards

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By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - It’s that time of the year once again.

Over 12,000 youngsters are out buying supplies, getting clothes purchased and preparing to realign their sleeping patterns as Bullitt County Public School classes will begin on Wednesday.

Superintendent Keith Davis, entering his fifth year at the helm of one of the largest school districts in Kentucky, is excited. But he is also worried.

“I can’t sleep but I don’t have the same anxiety as when I started,” Davis admitted. “That’s because we have good people in place and they know how to do their jobs.”

Even before school starts, the district has been utilizing extra learning time for the teachers who will be faced with the state’s newest initiative - core learning standards.

Gone is the old CATS and KERA. For Kentucky educators, Senate Bill 1 brought in a new line of thinking and teaching.

“I think it will be very positive,” said Davis. “And instead of playing catch up, I think we are ahead of the curve.”

Over the past week, teachers spent several days with educators from their own grade level and their own area of expertise. They were working on learning as much as they could in a short period of time on the new core standards.

Davis said that although he it totally against the idea of teaching to take tests, that is pretty much how the public and state educators grade local districts.

He said the federal No Child Left Behind standards have left a black eye on schools and school systems. With the continuing higher standards, Davis predicts more and more districts will not meet the federal standards.

On the flip side, the superintendent said it has made all schools focus more on the fact that all students can learn.

“Our schools are going better than ever,” said Davis. “We’re making improvements every year but there is so much still to be done.”

The district will continue to expand upon the use of the MAP assessments to individualize teaching strategies for each student. This will also be used to allow gifted students to excel.

The BAMS academy for those who excel in math and science begins its second year.

And one of the two major goals for the coming year will be to prepare students to be career and college ready.

A special academy is starting this year to allow students who are more interested in a technical field - such as automotive repair, welding or health services - can attend classes in that area of expertise and then use computers to achieve their other traditional coursework.

Sixty students - mainly freshman and sophomores - will participate this year with the number to double in 2012-13.

Davis said the idea is to get youngsters prepared for life - whether it is through a career, college or the military.

“We have to get our students ready for life,” said Davis.

For years, the technology center, formerly known as vocational schools, were available but Davis said wasn’t promoted. It was a place where students went for part of the day and it was a haven for those who may not have likes the normal classroom setting.

“We have to get everyone ready for life,” said Davis.

The second focus will be on communications. He said that can be much better at all levels.

This will include improving the district’s website.

One worry Davis won’t have to lose sleep over will be construction projects.

With the exception of Hebron Middle’s major renovation program, Davis said everything else is in good condition. The district will soon be looking toward state guidance on the next round of renovations.

Hebron is coming along and much of the work still left will be outside or down a corridor not being used.

His next area of concern in terms of construction will be at the high schools, even though expansions were just completed a couple of years ago at North Bullitt and Bullitt East. Under the new facilities plan, major work is planned for Bullitt Central, as well as additional space at the other two high schools.

The final teaching spots are filling and Davis said the only administrative positions open are assistant principal jobs at Bullitt East High and Eastside Middle.

“We’re ready to go,” said Davis. “It’s going to be a very good year.”