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Jim Schul: Here's to optimistic reform on the school board

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I tried.

Congratulations to new school board members Nancy Denzer, Karl Sonneman, and Michael Hannraty. I personally like each of them and I’m so happy for them.

I know that I am among the many people in the country who lost in Tuesday’s election, but I am not interested in holding a pity party with any of them. Frankly, I feel like a winner. Because of this election, I got to know so many community members, including so many of WAPS’ wonderful teachers. It has been a true blessing for me. Thank you to all of you who supported me. I appreciate you so much. Because of this election, I was able to offer research-based ideas that can set WAPS apart from so many of the traditional public schools in our country. Because of this election, I was able to blaze a path of optimistic reform that can heal our district.

A good starting place for optimistic reform is to take better care of our teachers. They need hope and this hope comes in the form of authentic encouragement, increased support, and tangible respect. Recent research put forth by John Hattie testifies that the most significant school-based influence on student achievement is collective teacher efficacy (the collective belief of teachers in their ability to positively affect students). It is increased when teachers have a greater stake in school decision making. It is lowered when school decisions are made in a top-down approach. Linda Darling-Hammond’s research team at the Learning Policy Institute confirmed this truth in their study of the world’s best school systems.

Much of the country’s public schools fail miserably in how they treat their teachers. There’s no good reason why WAPS cannot be a trailblazer on this front for the country to follow. The potential for synergistic change in how we do school is set to bubble to the surface. The ingredients for greatness already exist in WAPS. If greatness is to happen, however, the next school board needs to take the path of optimistic reform. Our community is hungry for it. Our community deserves it.

Jim Schul, Winona

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