Global world, technology drive Dist. 728 change

by Jim Boyle

Elk River Star News


Dist. 728 Supt. Mark Bezek said the Elk River Area School District is positioned perfectly to get the results the district is getting today.

“And we’re doing well,” he told members of the Elk River Area School Board. “But what we have in place today is not going to make it in five to 10 years.”

With those words, Bezek offered up his Collaborative Leadership Team to deliver a wide array of proposals that will overhaul the district’s delivery of education to increase student achievement and provide the district a competitive advantage over other student choices.

The CLT, as it’s known, is comprised of principals, third-level administrators and anyone else in the district who supervises people. It has been working intensely on developing what they have termed “delimeters.” These are not cuts but ways to transition and transform the district’s school system; they will not save the district money, but rather start the process of reallocating the district’s resources to accomplish its strategic plans, according to the district.

CLT members made the recommendations for a host of delimeters at a Dec. 18 work session, and the Elk River Area School Board will be asked to approve them in January.

“Those are the decisions you as board members get to make,” Bezek said. “Which (delimeters) do we use and which ones don’t we use.”

The proposed changes could start showing up in schools across the district next fall, and others might not be seen but will taking place behind the scenes in the areas of human resources, business services and teaching and learning. All will have an emphasis on advancing the district’s strategic plan.

Plans call for emphasis to be placed on technological and informational literacy in the elementary schools. To help, allocated specialist time will be altered to create a time for media specialists to teach these skills.

World languages will be taught at the middle school level and eventually in the elementary school level. And instead of computer keyboarding in middle school, administrators propose changing to a computer coding course to help students develop a greater working knowledge of apps to help them use and create them.

Student choice will drive change in the high schools. The plan is to back off on some local social studies and physical education requirements to create that choice. Administrators also want to investigate schedules to provide more student opportunity.

“Today more than ever, educators need to be facilitators of the learning process,” Bezek said. “They need skills to guide today’s learners in this highly technological new age.”

At a recent technology conference, a keynote speaker coined the terms “futurcators” and “pastucators,” Bezek said.

“Futurcators embed technology and work with students and open doors for them,” Bezek said. “Pastucators … use books and they’re turned off to technology.”

The Elk River Area School District Teaching and Learning Team will handle the new teacher evaluation system that will require differentiated responses to teacher’s individual skill set and learning style.

“Our challenge is we have to learn to teach for the future, not the past,” Bezek said. “It’s about what’s important for these kids to know and how do we deal with these accelerated technologies.”