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"Educating Greatness" is what KSD is all about - Published by The Star Herald


‘Educating greatness’ is what KSD is all about “Educating greatness” is the new mantra of the Kosciusko School District.


“It’s a choice you make — greatness is a mindset,” said Dr. Zach Bost, the district’s superintendent. “It's what we're trying to develop in our people. Great is better than good; it's the best. And what we're saying is we feel like every kid, every teacher, every principal, every clerical staff member, every bus driver, every cafeteria worker, they have greatness in them. And whoever is in charge of that person, it is their job to get it out.”


He added, “Education extends way beyond what you learn in a book. So if we're educating greatness, we're not just teaching kids out of a book; we're teaching them about life. We're growing them as people — that means socially, emotionally and academically. Educating greatness is what our district is all about.”


District leaders came up with the new slogan during a summer retreat before the start of the new school year.


“We challenged our leaders on that retreat day, if Apple has ‘Think Different,’ what can we say that can unite everybody in our district? … We came up with different adjectives, different words. And when it was all said and done, after about two hours, we came out with just two words — educating greatness.”


And the greatness mindset is spreading quickly throughout the district.


“We made it up, but now everybody's using it,” said Bost.


Central office staff, including Bost, go to different schools every day to help out, from making copies to assisting students getting out of cars.


“I kept hearing everybody using the word ‘greatness’ to me,” he said. “And they even changed how they would greet kids getting out of the cars. ‘Hey, go be great today.’ ‘Greatness starts with you.’ I was hearing it in different ways.”


The athletic programs are also using it, with slogans such as “catching greatness” and “displaying greatness.”


That mindset also extends throughout Kosciusko with the district’s “overall vision for a community of greatness,” said Bost. 


“Our back-to-school bash was a great example of how we can use an event to bring our entire community together,” he said. “We plan to continue this push for more community-building events, like family movie night in our newly renovated auditorium, family reading night in our elementary schools, or family STEM night. This will be a time that our community and parents can continue to grow together.”


Bost said the district also wants to build community with local businesses and churches by offering more opportunities for partnerships.


Building a “culture of greatness” is one of the district’s top goals this school year, along with several other initiatives and programs.


“What we want to do with this district is we want to build the culture first and create safe schools that our parents and the public can trust,” said Bost. “If we were to say that student achievement is our No. 1 goal for why you have a school, then safe schools is goal 1A. Without parents’ trust in us and without schools being safe and orderly where kids can sit in the classroom and receive the instruction they need, nothing else really matters.”


New this year, the district will soon hold shared decision meetings. Each school will hold its own, and a shared decision meeting will also be held at the district level.


“What we want to be able to achieve by that is to give a voice to our teachers, our community members, our parents,” said Bost. “This is a chance for us to sit down and make real district decisions moving forward.”


Topics at the meetings could range from new initiatives to school facilities to other areas, such as attendance, with each contributing ideas. Students will be involved at the individual school meetings and the district-wide meetings.


For instance, high school shared decision meetings will include high school students, parents and community members. At the district level, a student from each school will attend, eight community members, 10 parents and about five staff members.


“I think giving a voice to your stakeholders is important,” said Bost. “One thing that I think our team could tell you emphatically is that we're a decision team. We do everything through a shared-decision process. There's no unilateral decision-making in this district.”


Applications to get involved will be available early this month.


The district is also gearing up to establish professional learning communities, or PLCs.


PLCs are collaborative meetings where teachers work to develop and revise common assessments, deconstruct standards, analyze student data, share strategies, model lessons for one another, video and critique lessons, use collaborative grading, and discuss articulation of student-friendly learning targets.


“Those teachers will actually come and teach their lesson to the other teachers, and then the other teachers will give that teacher feedback,” said Bost.


The PLCs give teachers an opportunity to not only collaborate but also grow and advance in their careers.


“Our next step is to develop PLC leaders at each grade level, which gives people an upward trajectory within our organization,” said Bost. “We start identifying teacher leaders, because I think what's more powerful than administrators are teacher leaders. … We want to develop leaders at that level so that they can work together.”


The Petal School District, which is the top school district in the state and where Bost served as the high school principal before becoming KSD superintendent, has had great success with PLCs since the initiative was started there.


Within the PLCs, the teachers grow together and build a sense of community.


“Our ingredients for success are already here,” said Bost. “It's our teachers, and we can learn from each other and grow organically.”


The district is also putting a heavy focus on literacy this school year, especially at the elementary school level.


Upon being hired, Bost said he noticed that the district’s reading scores have been slowly going down for some time for the past 10 years.


This year, the district has created a foundational system to increase reading levels, starting at the kindergarten level.


“I think this is a critical process we're doing,” said Bost. “We want to create little readers, and we want to reverse the cycle because better readers can actually do a lot of things better. You can become better at math because now you can dissect a long word problem. You can become better at science and history because you're able to comprehend what you're reading better. Reading becomes so important, and one of our early focuses is creating that foundation of greatness.”


Something new the district has implemented is Guided Readers.


Bost said, “Guided Readers is an old school way of teaching, but it really works.”


A diagnostic test produces data about the students’ reading levels.


Guided Readers starts with a level A book in kindergarten and then moves up as the child progresses. Teachers keep a running record on each student of their reading levels through individual evaluations that include tracking reading speed and comprehension.


Teachers will communicate with parents through progress reports on what reading level their children are at and what level they should be at.


The district also recently started the Read 20 initiative, where the district is partnering with parents.


Parents are asked to set aside 20 minutes every day to read with their children. For children not able to read yet, parents are asked to read to them. For students who can read, parents are asked to listen as their children read to them.


The district has created a program, “literacy of greatness,” which includes five components of literacy.


“We've also asked all of our teachers, kindergarten all the way to third grade, to use those five components to make their daily lessons every day so our students can grow in every single category,” said Bost. “It's really going to help our kids grow in their reading faster. Scientifically research-based instruction is what we're trying to deliver.”


Lastly, Bost said, “We want to build community within the schools. First, with our teachers through PLCs, but second with our students. … We want to create schools where all of our students feel like they belong and are cared for.”