9/25/2012 10:16:00 AM Williams Unified School District looking to build forward momentum Savage and Ellico report positive changes, new construction projects and more to city council
WILLIAMS, Ariz. - From superintendent to business manager, to principals of both the high school and elementary school, the Williams Unified School District (WUSD) experienced a complete changeover of all key positions this summer.
"We are a new, young team and I am proud to say that for the first time in a long time, all of the school district administration live in the community of Williams and have their own children in this school system," WUSD Superintendent Rachel Savage reported to the Williams City Council Sept. 13.
Business Manager Melissa Ellico said the School Facilities Board of Arizona has allotted funds to improve some major problems with WUSD facilities.
"One of the facilities they have fixed and renovated for us is the high school gymnasium ceiling," she said.
The elementary school was able to get an entire new roof system as well as some support elements and welding.
"It was a long year of transition and training as we moved classroom to classroom to get empty spaces for the construction crew to work in, but what a blessing it has been to our kids to make sure they have a safe and secure facility," Ellico said.
Not only that, just two weeks ago, WUSD was awarded an additional school improvement grant from the School Facilities Board, to bring the rest of the building up to code. Ellico said they hope to start construction in the next few weeks.
Also in the works, and in conjunction with the city of Williams, is the Safe Routes to School Grant. This will allow a safe bus lane so students can board busses without having the danger of the close proximity of the parking lots. The projected start for this project is in the spring.
"All the kids walking, all the parents, staff are all in the same zone," Ellico said. "That's not the safest way to have a parking lot or school system, so this wonderful grant is going to give us a new lane to the north side of the school to have a nice safe place for the loading and unloading of the kids."
According to the Arizona Department of Education website, WUSD has earned a "C" grade under the model the department uses to grade student achievement.
Just in the last few weeks, with the new administrative team, Savage reported they have dissected the testing data and discovered the district earned a "B."
"I'm incredibly proud of that," Savage said. "Our kids go to school with a lot of different challenges, and I know that these are tough times. But no excuses, the kids in the school district are achieving and I am so proud of the teachers, the parents, grandparents and most importantly the kids."
Savage said her administration has three main goals for the school year. First, to obtain high levels of achievement for all grades and second to "commit to a collaborative culture."
"This means that teachers are talking to each other now," Savage said. "This is a great thing. They are working together, lesson planning together and it's making all the difference."
Finally, faculty administrators plan to use data they've collected from testing and studies to modify instruction and further meet student's needs.
School district override
Another issue important to WUSD administrators, and raised by Savage during the presentation, is the school district override, an item on the ballot in November.
Because the override has been in effect for five years, it is soon to expire.
"We need to ask the community members of Williams to reauthorize that override, Savage told the council. "To be clear, the override is not an increase in taxes. It is you, giving us the permission to keep going with what we have currently in progress."
The extra cost of programs such as full day Kindergarten, junior varsity and varsity athletics and high school electives are just some of the activities absorbed by the school district, and made possible by the override.
"If the override isn't passed, the school district will be forced to cut nearly $375,000 and that cuts into a lot of positions," Savage said.