To free up capital for the new high schools and support programs students want, Nichols made some controversial recommendations, such as moving the services of
On Tuesday, Nichols responded to questions collected by
Q: What decision do you regret most about your first two years as superintendent and why?
A: I think you always look back and reevaluate your decisions. With the changes we have made, there is always room for improvement in communication. If I could have done anything better, I would have tried harder to communicate the focus of our changes. I also would have tried to have balanced some of our new programs we started last year. Our teachers had a lot of new things at the start of last school year, such as STAR and College and Career Readiness Standards. I think it created some stress at the start of the school year. I should have tried harder to let them see what changes we were making and why we were making them.
Q: What is the No. 1 issue confronting
A: Competition for students with surrounding communities based on student academic performance, facilities and programs. We have to be competitive. The PARCA (
Q: If the
A: Really, it would not make a change. I feel that the
Q: A month after non-renewing 89 employees to save money, you recommended raises and the board approved them for some Central Office employees. How do you justify these moves?
A: With the restructuring of our district and staff, we will save several hundred thousand dollars. I believe that the redistribution of jobs and the small amount we paid are justified as it relates to the duties in these positions. Also, not all of the 89 positions have been permanently deleted. In the end, the cuts will total about 59, and 27 of them will be certified employees. Most of the teacher cuts came from restructuring the alternative school and moving teachers due to school choice. We have 17 school sites. When you look at the cuts, that's about one teacher per site.
Q: How have non-renewals and resignations affected the student-teacher ratios in
A: For the most part, these cuts have not been in the classroom. Therefore, we may see a few more students in middle and high school, but not many. We have had to evaluate our classes and make sure that we do a better job of utilizing our staff between schools to address student needs. In some places, we had smaller classes so those teachers are being shared across the district. We have a
Q: One of the commitments you made when becoming superintendent is not to mess with programs that work.
A: We are going to evaluate all programs. As for Horizon, we are still able to offer the students the same academic format in a new location. So the Horizon program will continue. In the past two years, we restructured our middle school IB program so that we now offer a broader choice of electives. This change does not stop us from using the teaching concepts of the MYP (Middle School Years Program). We just have the flexibility of letting parents and students have more choice in their education path. Moving the program to
Q: You have said you meet regularly with students. What are they telling you and how are you addressing their concerns?
A: They are very interested in more career choice options and dual enrollment. Technology is also a big issue. They know that they will face a competitive world and they want to be ready. They also would like to have options like dance, communication training and sports like lacrosse.
Q: The board will vote on an architectural firm to design the new high schools on
A: Our goal right now would be to open our new facilities in the fall of 2017. Once a firm is selected, the architects will meet with students and faculty members at each school. We don't want the design phase to be a protracted process, but we have to get it right because these schools will serve our students for the next 50 years or so.
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