For the Sedalia School District 200, the past eight years have been challenging in some respects but as the 671 administrators, faculty and staff met Monday in the Heckart Center for the Performing Arts auditorium for their welcome-back-to-school workshops, the district finds itself anticipating the opportunities to make a difference in the lives of more than 5,100 students who attend Sedalia 200 Schools.
“I truly am humbled by how hard each and every one of you works to help our students become the most successful young men and women they can be,” Superintendent Brad Pollitt said to the employees gathered. “Don’t ever think for one minute that you are not appreciated and that you are not responsible for making memories for our children.
“We ended the year with our APR above 90 percent and our attendance was at 91.13 percent which was phenomenal,” he added. “You have to have a climate and an atmosphere for that to work, so thank you for what you do to make that possible.”
Pollitt spoke to the Democrat Wednesday morning about what has made the district so successful in recent years and some of the challenges for the future as the district continues to grow.
“We couldn’t have accomplished this without the community support, especially eight years ago with the passage of the levy to build the high school,” Pollitt said. “Since that time we have constructed a state-of-the-art athletic facility (Jennie Jaynes Activity Complex and Tiger Stadium) as well as our current construction project at the high school which we were able to build without an additional levy from the community.”
Smith-Cotton High School Principal Wade Norton said he also feels the success the district is experiencing is due in large part to the community’s support.
“I think that Sedalia weathered the perfect storm when the voters passed the levy for the high school,” Norton said. “The administration at the time (Superintendent Doug Ebersol, Dr. Harriet Wolfe, then assistant superintendent and current CFO, and then Assistant Superintendent Pollitt) provided a level of trust and stability for both the community and district that has empowered us and allowed us to hire good teachers who could then do their jobs.
“The entire Sedalia 200 team from the board of education to the administrators, teachers and support staff district-wide are as close as we can be to being on the same page,” he added. “We take pride in what we do but we are especially proud of our students and their success.”
Pollitt added that many in the community want to be involved in the district and he credits much of that to effectively communicating with district patrons.
“We’re living in the information era and communication is vital,” Pollitt said. “We try to do a good job with our website and getting the word out to let the community know what we are doing on a daily basis.
“The continued use of technology is one of our focuses for our students because we have to provide students an understanding of how to use and find information,” he added. “Technology provides a means to engage students more and teachers are becoming facilitators to help the students process and use that information.”
Norton agreed that communication is vital to the district’s success.
“We make sure to try to inform the community in whatever means we have available, now a lot of that is done via text or email or through our website and cell phones,” Norton said. “But we’ll send a note or knock on doors if we have to to get our kids in school and help them.”
One way the district is helping students is through its curriculum and educational programs offered.
After the successful pilot program at Horace Mann Elementary last year, the district will expand its elementary STEM Program to Parkview and Skyline elementaries.
The district will focus this year on cross-walking its current curriculum to the new state learning standards.
“One of the main focuses this year is an emphasis on our English and math curriculums throughout the district as well as adding to our efforts to improve our district ACT scores,” Pollitt said. “The ACT does have importance and relevance but we know that test scores are not what define this district.
“I truly believe that we provide a high number of classes and activities for our students to not only achieve their diplomas but also be involved in extracurricular activities,” Pollitt added. “We recognize that we have to make adjustments at times when they are in the best interests of our students and we are willing to do that to see them succeed.”
For Norton, that is another reason for the district’s success — the willingness to listen to and care about what the community and the students feel are important.
“We really know what the kids’ needs are because we really started to pay attention to what they were saying,” Norton said. “The students are leaders and we respect their opinions when they tell us something they need.
“When I first started here 20 years ago we didn’t have the same diverse population that we have today,” he added. “We have so many races and cultures and languages and we all can learn from them. It is something that will pay dividends for us all in the end because it allows us all to learn how to work with and get along with others.”
The increasing English language Learners (ELL) population as well as an increasing population and enrollment are two of the other challenges Pollitt sees for the district in the future.
“We’re never perfect; when you have over 5,100 students we make mistakes,” Pollitt said. “But when we do we learn from those mistakes and try to improve upon them and resolve the situation.”
“I want to thank you all for the belief that you have in our students,” Pollitt told the district’s employees Monday morning. “Each and every one of you is what makes Sedalia 200 ‘the gold standard in education.’”
As part of the morning’s presentations, a video produced by S-C 2016 graduate Austin Wood was shown. The students were not scripted, and many of them told similar stories of the helpfulness of the staff and the pride they have as being Tigers.
One elementary student expressed what many of the district’s students may feel when he said, “I think I can do it, my teacher knows I can.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.