#KSDempowers September 2019

Monthly Update from Kuna Superintendent Wendy Johnson

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Great start to a new year!

“I love it when a plan comes together.”

Whether you are a fan of the ”A Team” (or even know this cultural reference), my message is one of appreciation that when we work purposefully together, we empower and transform -- and get things done.

The start of the 2019-20 school year exemplified the work of our A “amazing” Kuna Team.

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Reducing class sizes, bus wait times

I want to thank everyone for their hard work that resulted in a smooth start to the school year. Thanks to our spring staffing plans and voter support of our levy for learning, we were able to reduce class sizes. We’re still growing but our well executed plan empowers us to be proactive, instead of scrambling to react.

I am pleased with how well our busing plan worked. After a challenging start last year and 12 months planning with experts, we changed routes, stops and the start and end time of schools. I appreciate everyone’s patience as we made this significant change to cut down on bus waiting times and make sure everyone gets to school on time.

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Growth funding growth, tax rate drops

Kuna School District property tax rates are dropping.

Three years ago, the Kuna Board of Trustees approved a 10-year Strategic Plan. That plan identified the tax support -- bonds for buildings and the levies for learning -- necessary to support a rapidly growing community and its children.

The Board committed to fund the plan with a stable, predictable tax rate that would not exceed $5 per $1,000 of taxable property value. The goal was to reach a point where growth pays for growth and the tax rate would drop.

We reached the tipping point this year.

At the September meeting, we shared with the Board that thanks to their work refinancing bonds, paying a bond off early as well as new homes and businesses growing the tax rolls, our Kuna School District property tax levy will drop this year from $5 to $4.90 per $1,000 of taxable property value.

We expect to see the rate continue to decline as growth pays for growth.

Student growth triggers emergency levy

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Emergency levy tax rate 1

Levy and increased state funds will support staff, curriculum & technology needs & more

Idaho law provides a tool -- called an emergency levy -- for fast growing districts to address increases in students at the start of the school year. We're up nearly 300 students from last year and qualify for a $1.38 million one-time levy. This levy won't change our overall rate which is dropping. The district also expects to receive additional state funding based on those new students. Below is a chart showing how those funds will be budgeted to support teaching and learning.
Chart that shows the breakdown of increased funding

Ratios in line with targets in our staffing plan!

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Full-time kindergarten plan shows strong returns

Looking at the steady decline of children arriving for kindergarten ready to benefit, last year we led the state in doubling the instructional time for our youngest students by offering full day, every day kindergarten.

It was possible thanks to community support for our levy for learning, state literacy funds and our amazing kindergarten team.

We asked outside experts at Stanford University and the Lee Pesky Center help evaluate the impact of this change.

The math and reading data from this first year tell a powerful story about the impact our well executed plan. Check out the charts below that show reading growth outpaced the state and math proficiency outpaced the nation.

I’m really excited about what I’m hearing from first grade teachers about students ready to learn.

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Moving from compliance to student empowerment

We’ve made great gains in many areas, and we have more work to do.

When I shared our ISAT proficiency results with our school board, it was very difficult because our results aren’t yet where we want them to be.

After I explained the results and our ongoing plans to improve, the board responded in a very powerful way, “How do we help?”

Our board’s response to our challenges exemplifies the culture of KSD. We cannot do the hard work of transforming lives alone.

This is the reason why we are focusing on ensuring that all of our schools are implementing the Professional Learning Community (PLC) structure and revisiting our district non-negotiables.

Together, we will dig in to closing the achievement gap. When I speak next year with the Board, staff and the community, I know we will continue to celebrate growth and add to that celebration an improvement in our ISAT proficiency.

Our district is in the midst of a transformation moving away from compliance to empowerment.

Empowerment is where we equip students with the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions which leads to students truly own their learning. These transformations can be scary for all of us, and we will navigate this next transformation together--some of our educators are already leading the way.

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KSD Reads! A learning journey

That's why we're leading a book study -- KSD Reads. I've invited our staff to join me in reading "Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning" by Spencer and Juliani. and I am humbled by the response we received (98 people signed up!) and eager to take this learning journey together.

And this year, we will celebrate this transformation by sharing our stories of empowerment and I hope you will share them. We're sharing a few in this newsletter and invite you to share!



September Kuna Way Awards!

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Important Dates & Events

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Sept. 20 - Kuna High School Homecoming!

Oct. 3-4 - No school State In-Service days

Oct. 10 - Middle School Student led conferences

Oct. 17-18 - Elementary School Parent Teacher Conferences

Oct. 25 - End of quarter 1

Oct. 29 - KHS Parent Teacher Conferences

Superintendent Wendy Johnson

I am a superintendent of an amazing school district in Kuna, Idaho. I love serving children, teachers and families and having an impact on the future. #ksdempower #futureready