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story.lead_photo.caption Jefferson City Public Schools (JCPS)

The Board of Education for Jefferson City Public Schools met with the district's top administrators Thursday night to outline the approach for the coming school year in achieving goals of improvement in literacy, student behaviors and relationships with staff — and that approach is expected to be school building-specific.

The board at its annual retreat did not exactly set the long-term and short-term goals of the district for the 2019-20 school year, but members did hear and express approval of the district's proposed approach of having individual school buildings work with the central office to set tailored goals that work toward overall district goals:

Long-term: Have 100 percent of students in the district reading at or above their grade level.

Short-term: Increase the percent of students reading at or above their grade level to 65-75 percent by the end of next school year; decrease the number of times students are removed from classrooms for inappropriate behaviors by 8-15 percent; and increase staff's favorable rating of trust and communication with the district's central office as indicated on an annual staff survey by 11 percent — which would put that rating at 50 percent after the staff survey results shared last November.

JCPS board President Steve Bruce said he would expect the district comes back to the board in April or May with building-level goals — that may be different from one building to another — developed in conversations with principals, who would have created them with their teachers and other staff.

"We want our teachers involved in the process," JCPS Chief of Learning Brian Shindorf said, adding later that it's on principals to hold teachers accountable to the classroom goals they develop together, and it's on the district to prepare principals to be able to effectively give that feedback.

"If you have a solid academic program, (every student) gets better," he said. "We want to hear 'We'll get better at,'" he added of the action steps the district will work with buildings to develop for their plans.

Shindorf said buildings have had their own sets of goals in the past, but there was a lot of disconnect between those plans across the district.

"We're committed to 65-75 percent," JCPS Director of Quality Improvement Brenda Hatfield said of the overall district goals, citing the reading achievement one in particular.

Shindorf said the district's overall goals were reached after leaders asked themselves what would be realistic for next year.

For example, Superintendent Larry Linthacum said, as of May last year, 55 percent of the district's students were reading at or above their grade level. The goal for this school year was set at 60 percent, though the district won't know until May whether they will have met it.

Linthacum said at the end of the 2015-16 school year — his first year leading the district — 50 percent of students were reading at or above their grade level, and it was 53 percent at the end of the 2016-17 school year.

He said he wants parents and teachers to feel confident the district has a plan.

"Clearly, there needs to be a sense of urgency from top to bottom," because every delay in reaching improvements negatively affects students, Bruce said.

Shindorf said school buildings' plans should start coming in by the end of March.

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