By Kristin Rover
West Clermont Local School District officials are in the midst of making a number of changes for next school year.
According to new Superintendent Dr. Keith Kline, the changes are being put in place to help make the district more efficient and improve the experience for students while they are there.
“We have a lot of things that are going on at West Clermont as we wrap up the school year and prepare for the next,” Kline said.
Kline said some of the big changes board members and administrators are making are taking place at the middle school level.
He said they will be doing some re-organization at the middle school and will be bringing back “teaming.”
“Roughly 120 students will be assigned to four staff members,” Kline said. “Those folks will work with that group of kids and shepherd them through the school year.”
Kline said the district has had this type of structure in the past.
“When I talk with middle school teachers, they say that it is one of the major things I can do to have an impact on middle school ratings,” Kline said.
He said next year, core area teachers will be grouped into teams at the middle school level.
“It allows us to do more curriculum integration, interdisciplinary work and make better connections,” Kline said.
Kline said administrators have re-organized electives at the middle school level as well.
“We feel like we have a pretty good menu of options for kids to choose from,” Kline said.
Kline said he has already been getting positive feedback about the changes coming at the middle school.
“The parent feedback on the middle school re-organization has been terrific,” Kline said. “They are excited about the direction we’re going. Teachers are excited about teaming and new leadership.”
In addition to the changes at the middle school, Kline said another important change they are working on at the district is “rightsizing,” staff throughout the district.
“We had some imbalance with staff from one campus to another,” Kline said. “One of the big things we have been able to do is balance staff on both sides of the district.”
Kline said he feels regardless of where a child goes to school, he believes the child should have equal access to resources.
He said the district was able to make the staffing changes after a number of teachers retired this year.
“We made some reductions in the process and moved some staff from one building to another to balance staffing needs,” Kline said.
Kline said another staffing change that was made was the hiring of Ellie Preston, director of curriculum and instruction at the district.
“We eliminated assistant superintendent and are going with directors,” Kline said.
Kline was previously assistant superintendent before he became superintendent, and M.E. Steele-Pierce, the other assistant superintendent, retired last year.
“Ellie brings significant background in technology integration,” Kline said about Preston. “She is a good match for West Clermont.”
Kline said district officials are also working to alleviate traffic concerns next year and are considering changing the start time at the middle school.
“We are looking at moving start time for the middle school up to 7 a.m.,” Kline said.
He said moving the start time would eliminate four bus routes and save money, and moving the start time would also disperse traffic over a longer period of time at the two campuses.
“We are trying to find a happy medium, but we feel we can alleviate some of the traffic congestion,” Kline said.
Kline said district officials have not made a final decision about changing the start time yet and are still looking for feedback.
He said improving communication with parents and community members is one of the district’s biggest goals moving forward.
“One of our four areas of focus right now is communication,” Kline said. “We are looking at a variety of ways we can be better communicators with parents and the community.”
One way the district already has improved communication is with a new website.
“I think it is much more user friendly,” Kline said. “Certainly I am excited it is colorful and bright.”
Kline said parents and community members are able to sign up for email updates on the website, and he said they will also be rolling out intranet this fall.
“The website feedback has been tremendous,” Kline said.
Kline said he and other district officials will continue to look for ways to improve the district, and they will also continue to look for ways to save money.
“This past spring we cut $1.5 million going into next school year,” Kline said. “We are trying to find ways to be more efficient.”
For more information about the district, visit www.westcler.org.