South Lane School District’s decision to pursue a Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant from the U.S. Department of Education was really a “no brainer.” The district has anchored their key improvement efforts around the CLASS Project and the four blueprint areas. These four areas focus on performance evaluation for teachers and administrators, alternative models of compensation, career pathways for teachers to play significant leadership roles in the district’s work, and professional development that is relevant and differentiated for the needs of staff. The TIF grant was simply a way to seek more resources to accomplish this important work.
South Lane School District has a long history of collaborating with their teachers. A culture has been created over the years where everyone – teachers, administrators, custodians, secretaries and other staff – are truly invested in doing whatever it takes to ensure student success. South Lane’s core beliefs include:
- Kids Come First!
- Decision Making is Student Centered
- Kids Learn Best When They Want To Be At School
- South Lane Teachers Comment on the Strong Collaboration
In South Lane School District collaboration has become our foundation. In fact, we pride ourselves on what we call the “South Lane Way." We have always come together as teams, building staff, as a whole district and as a community, especially when dealing with challenges or tough times. This level of trust has created a foundation that we can not only rely on, but also build on. In addition, there is complete transparency in decision making, even when the outcome is not as rosy as we would like. Students, parents, staff, and community members have an inordinate trust in the decisions that are made at all levels. All decisions are made by first taking students into account, and staff know that our administrators, even those at the very top, have worked at every level of education. Credibility and trust continue to strengthen our foundation, as shared decision-making is used as a model, doors are open for communication and administrators become fixtures (rather than visitors) in the classroom.
The strong and diverse voices in South Lane School District provide a rich and powerful influence in decisions that impact students and staff. The willingness of our superintendent and district leadership team to trust and partner with employee groups inspires our collaborative working relationships. Our superintendent and district office team is personable and accessible and employees feel at ease when approaching them with anything from concerns, to advice, to problem solving strategies. We have been successful in our collective bargaining efforts for over twenty years. Our district also encourages and supports participation of all staff members in teacher-leader opportunities such as our CLASS Project, Studio Classroom work and teacher-coaching positions (TOSA.)
Strategies to Support the Collaboration
Several structures have been in place over the years to support this collaboration. A Contract Maintenance Committee (CMC) exists for both licensed and classified associations. CMC meets regularly to share information, share problems and serve students. The Superintendent has a Student Advisory Team that meets multiple times each year to make sure the student voice is strong and present in all key decisions that are made at the district level – including things like how to balance the budget. A similar structure exists for District-wide Parent Representatives. Meetings for this group occur several times a year and there is sharing in both directions about how to best meet the needs of all students.
The CLASS work in South Lane has only enhanced this strong relationship. It has added structure and resources to an already positive model.
Dr. Krista Parent is the Superintendent of South Lane School District. It is her 28th year in the district as a teacher, principal, curriculum director, assistant superintendent and superintendent for the past 12 years. Heather Bridgens is in her 13th year in the district as a high school Language Arts teacher, department head, coach and CLASS Executive Team member. Jan Jacobs is in her 26th year in the district as a middle school Language Arts and Social Studies teacher, coach and CLASS Executive Team member.