Krenz: District showing positive signs

Published 10:55 am Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Austin Public Schools is continuously improving.

That was the message behind Superintendent David Krenz’s state of the district address to the Austin Public Schools board Monday, as he gave an update on the district’s progress on the strategic roadmap goals.

The district’s goals include ensuring college readiness for students, developing cultural competency for all students of various backgrounds, emphasizing technology as an important asset, building community partnerships, effectively managing district resources and delivering proper learning.

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While many initiatives are already underway — such as the Grading For Learning system or the Positive Behavior Instruction and Support method for reinforcing a good school atmosphere — there are other ways Austin students are learning, such as apprenticeships and internships with local organizations.

Krenz points to the recent Advanced Placement Biology initiative, where AP Bio students will work with Hormel Institute scientists as part of the class as a way to meld real-life applications with classroom learning.

“Learning doesn’t just take place in the classroom,” Krenz said. “It is important that the kids make that connection. … It’s taking real-life experiences and connecting them with new information, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”

In addition, district officials are looking for ways to improve Austin education. John Alberts, educational services director, presented the results to the board of a Baldrige self-assessment survey done last spring.

The Baldrige assessments are done to highlight how organizations get to best practices within their given industry. It focuses on what goes on inside an organization, in this case the district, and what initiatives, policies and practices are there for everything to get done.

“It’s very much a management tool,” Alberts said.

While Austin schools scored about average as far as organizational efficiency goes, district officials learned about their strengths and weaknesses. While creating a safe environment, senior leaders setting an example and preparations for emergency are Austin’s strong points, the district will find ways to improve in a few key areas. District officials will work to improve staff engagement, flesh out more work processes, and work on getting feedback from the community as a result of the survey, which Alberts hopes will be posted on the district website soon.

Baldrige is only one method to figure out what to improve, and Krenz said Austin schools will continue to work toward improving student education.

“We do believe in continuous improvement,” he said. “We’re not satisfied and we need to keep moving forward, and we’re going to do that.”