On the Fifth Day of School, Commissioner Hanley visits KPBSD

West Homer El students excel!

KPBSD and brilliant Kenai Peninsula weather welcomed Alaska State Education and Early Development Commissioner Mike Hanley on August 29, 2011. Beginning his visit at West Homer Elementary, Commissioner Hanley commended the students and educators for their Standard Based Assessment (SBA) scores during a morning assembly. Touring Homer High School, Commissioner Hanley, Superintendent Steve Atwater, Liz Downing a School Board member, and district Communications Specialist Pegge Erkeneff viewed a bonanza of opportunities for student learning in woodworking, art, machinery, theatre, science, language arts, math, and more. Commissioner Hanley was interested to learn that no student at Homer High will earn a D grade this year—D’s have been discontinued and dropped due to a continual striving for excellence.

Rising SBA scores

The benefit of a wireless school district with Smart Board technology is enormous! Homer Middle school showcased their commitment to growth and achievement, demonstrating how interactive Smart Boards integrate into classrooms and student engagement. Viewing assessment scores in a prominent display case impressed Commissioner Hanley. He commented that while assessment scores don’t offer the full picture of a student, to highlight rising scores in a commons area display raises the bar for everyone.

DIASA (Data Interaction for Alaska Student Assessments) at Connections

A working lunch in Soldotna with the school district leadership team was followed by visits to the three-tiered Intensive Needs program at Soldotna High School, and Connections district-wide home school program. Reflecting on everything he observed, Commissioner Hanley said, “There are big changes in education in Alaska—and in our country. I think with the leadership we have here, the Kenai Peninsula is well poised for taking on new challenges.” At the final visit to Sterling Elementary the conversation centered around practices of multigrade classrooms, and looping—an educational practice of teachers and young adolescents remaining together for two or more years. While observing a dance and music class, a young girl recognized Commissioner Hanley, and quickly smiled hello. Happy surprise was evident as they both grinned, greeting each other.

Concluding a full day of meeting students, administrators, teachers, and seeing several schools, Commissioner Hanley expressed,

“There are concerns about the American and Alaskan education system being broken—but it is not on the Kenai Peninsula. Great things are happening here. Educators know who kids are, where they are, and address needs for students to be successful.”

Commissioner Hanley and Superintendent Atwater

Superintendent Steve Atwater agrees: “Commissioner Hanley’s visit to KPBSD offered him some insight into why our students do so well. I know that he was impressed by our schools’ commitment to do what it takes to help our students succeed.” What a brilliant fifth day of school reflecting what transpires throughout the entire 25,600 square mile school district. A thank you extends to Commissioner Hanley for his visit to KPBSD.