Belen

A balanced approach to literacy is the key to student achievement, according to Superintendent Don Duran.

The Belen School District’s top executive said that literacy is more than reading.

“Many times, schools focus on just the reading part; literacy is more inclusive than that,” Duran said recently when discussing his goals for the district. “Literacy is a balance of reading, listening, speaking and writing. It also includes math. ”

The superintendent’s plan to accomplish this goal involves being sure all activities at school sites are focused on student achievement.

“In order to get to where we want to go, we have to align our curriculum, activities and resources so they help us get there. The things that are not going to help reach our goal we must not waste time on.”

When Duran says everything will be aligned, he means everything including parent-teacher organizational involvement in the school environment.

His goals also include reorganization of community input at the schools through the development of site councils. These committees will be more than parent-teacher organizations.

“The councils will be made up of parents and teachers, and, at the high school and middle school, there will be students involved,” he said.

“I believe the most important unit for making decisions is at the school level. The councils will focus on what we are about: student achievement getting our students to the level we want them to be.”

While using the Baldrige process, which Duran is introducing to the district, the councils will focus their work around increasing student achievement through equitable and equal access to the general curriculum.

The councils will be involved in acquiring base-line data on standards implementation, program assessment, budget alignment, development of policy and procedures and staffing and professional development.

Besides providing curriculum and activities to enhance student achievement, the district will be developing a facility master plan to ensure the district’s infrastructure also supports learning.

“We are developing a long-range facility master plan for our warehouse, food services, maintenance and technology services,” Duran said. “It will be a long-range plan for the district’s infrastructure.”

The first-year superintendent said “one thing we lack in Belen right now is a clear plan as to where we are going and how we are going to get there. By developing the master plan, we will not only know what our goals are educationally, but we will know what are facility needs will be to support reaching that goal.”

Besides developing a facility plan, Duran has also set the goal of developing a safe-school plan that will be aligned with state requirements.

“I want to reinforce that we will continue to have safe schools in our district,” he said. “This is one of the concerns of our community. We will develop and implement a safe-school plan across the district so that parents, students and our community have confidence that we have a safe learning environment.”

The educator said the district’s schools “are a reflection of our community. The more we can make our community healthier, the more our schools become healthier. One does not happen without the other. As we make our schools healthier, we become leaders in making the community healthier.”

By healthier, Duran means providing an environment in which students may be free from fear.

“When a student has unhealthy issues, such as drug addiction or abuse or even if there is going to be food to eat, to deal with at home, the child is not prepared to learn when they come to school,” he said. “The environment the child is dealing with has an impact on the academic achievement when at school.”

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Jane Moorman