Looney unveils improvement plan

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 25, 2005

Butler County Schools' Superintendent Mike Looney is looking at least 10 years down the road for the school system.

During the school board's meeting last week, Looney presented the Butler County Board of Education with his short-term improvement plan for 2005-06, which is the beginning of Looney's long-term plans to improve the system.

"The No Child Left Behind Act has had an enormous impact on public schools," Looney said.

"We have had two schools that, for more than five years now, have failed to meet AYP (adequate yearly progress) standards. In order to get them out of the 'school improvement' category, they have to make progress for two consecutive years."

The superintendent said that his new motto is "Whatever it takes."

The proposed plan's main objectives are to meet AYP standards, to promote a positive learning and working environment for faculty, students and staff, to promote data based decisions and to prepare tomorrow's leaders.

"Every day without a plan is a day lost without a vision," Looney said.

With a detailed PowerPoint presentation, Looney explained his 22 objectives listed in his plan.

The first major item of focus involved an examination of the curricula and programs that work well, and the identification of the programs and processes that need restructuring.

"I propose that we realign some of the work being done at the central office," Looney said. "We need to establish a curriculum and instruction department that will be responsible for developing, monitoring and supporting existing programs that work.

This can best be accomplished by reassigning the tasks of current central office personnel and by adding one additional senior staff member, a curriculum and instruction specialist.

The salary and benefits will be based on the person's degree and experience."

The board accepted Looney's proposal and gave him permission to advertise for the position.

The new candidate would be hired by October 1, 2005, with the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Another important goal Looney wants to attain is the ten percent increase in the number of students taking advanced or honors classes, as well as those who would be in dual enrollment classes.

Students in dual enrollment take college courses and receive college credit while still in high school.

"Last year, the average ACT score in Butler County was 18," Looney said.

"That score needs to be higher so that our kids will be ready for college and have a better chance for success."

Superintended Looney was also very concerned about the achievement of special education students in the system.

"We need to improve our special education achievement and scores in reading and math by ten percent," he said. "By having the new curriculum and instruction specialist in place, it will help us to reach this goal by August of 2006."

In addition to the curriculum goals, Looney made it clear that teachers and students must have a comfortable environment in which to learn.

This was brought about by many complaints last year of teachers' classrooms being too hot or too cold. With lockboxes placed over the thermostats, teachers had no control over the room's temperature.

"Teachers need control of the environment in their own classrooms," he said.

"I have taken all lockboxes off of the thermostats so that teachers can adjust the temperature in their own rooms.

The estimated cost of this is $15,000 in possible power bills, and I think it is well worth it. If students aren't comfortable, they won't be able to learn."

Outside of the classroom, there are other problems, especially when it comes to transportation.

The school system is having a difficult time finding substitute school bus drivers. Looney proposed to provide an increase in substitute bus driver pay from $20 a day to $25 a day.

"We are talking about the people who transport our most prized possessions," Looney said. "At least it's a beginning."

Along with Superintendent Looney, the board heard from Matthew Shell, Butler County Board of Education computer technology director.

"It may take me six weeks to be able to respond to a teacher who has technology problems in the classroom," Shell said. "If we had one other computer technician, we could at least handle those requests within three weeks or less."

The board accepted Looney's proposal that an additional computer technician be hired. This salary and benefits would be provided by a State Foundation Program fund, so no local money would be needed.

"We have a lot of work to do," Looney said, "but with increased time, energy and effort on the part of everyone already in place in the school system, we have a greater chance to fulfill these goals for each and every one of our students," Looney said.