LAMOILLE —There are plenty of positives when it comes to education in the smaller school districts, according to Ricardo Espinoza, the new superintendent for LaMoille Community Unit School District 303.
Espinoza and LaMoille Elementary Principal Jim Brandau talked about the strengths of a small school, its challenges, and the shared objective for LaMoille Community Unit School District 303.
According to Espinoza, there is a lot you can do with a smaller school that you can’t with a larger school, like getting to know the staff and students, the parentsand community better. In smaller schools, students are known personally and aren’t just a number, he said.
Through working with the school board, staff and the community in smaller districts,it’s also easier to get initiatives and programs started, added. And, it’s easier to stop those initiatives and programs if you decide to do something different.
In his comments, Brandau agreed with Espinoza’s description of the smaller school districts, especially in the ability to get to know students and their parents, the staff and community. He believes there is more of a family-sense with the small school.
Also, Brandau said it’s easier to monitor student progress in smaller schools, and it’s easier to work with each and every student, The district’s Resource To Intervention (RTI) program hits everyone, from the gifted student, to the special needs student, to every student in between, he said.
As far as the challenges of the smaller district, Espinoza said those challenges begin with funding and unfunded mandates. Some of the mandates are good and make sense, but the problem is providing funding for them. One way to handle those challenges is to look at co-oping with other school districts to see what can be shared.
Working at LaMoille for the past 14 years, Brandau said as an administrator he talks with other administrators to see what collaborations can be done and how other districts are handling various needs and concerns.
In addition to funding and unfunded mandates issues, Espinoza said another challenge facing the small school academically is the new PARRC testing for schools which will be implemented in coming years. The PARRC is a challenge because of the needed additional technology and hardware, which will all cost money.
Because PARRC is Internet-based, Brandau said studies show about 90 percent of all school districts don’t have the needed technology to do the PARRC tests. Schools will also have the problem of coming up with enough space to do those tests because of the need to share classrooms and equipment.
On a positive note, Espinoza said there is a technology loan program, which has a 2 percent interest rate, and LaMoille is eligible for $53,200 through that program. A 2 percent interest rate for two years would be great, he said.
Another major challenge facing all school districts is pension reform. In his opinion, Espinoza said the term “pension reform” is not the right description to use.
“I don’t think it’s really pension reform, but pension transform. They want to change something they think is broken. It’s not really broken. It’s not adequately financed or financed the way it should be to pay for what we have promised our teaching and administration population,” Espinoza said. “This is a huge issue for school districts.”
In spite of any challenges facing the LaMoille district, Espinoza said his objective is to make the most of the strengths of the district and to continue to focus on the students.
“”Our main objective at LaMoille is to put all our resources into our teachers so that our students can achieve academically, socially and emotionally,” Espinoza said. “This objective will support LaMoille’s mission and vision.”
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