Hagerty Aims District Toward the 21st Century
- Citizen Input Guides Schools
- Strategic Plan Is Developed
- Funding Becomes A Key Concern
- Capital Needs Met
- Health Concerns Prompt Action
- Emphasis Is Placed On Evaluation
- Organizational Alignment Is Changed
- Vocational-Technical Program Changes
- Use Of Technology Increases
- Financial Crisis Develops
- Hagerty Leaves
The man they hired was Paul J. Hagerty, at the time Superintendent in Macon, Georgia. The Board got what it wanted. Dr. Hagerty brought new ideas with him that would force change during the next decade like none seen to date in such a short period of time. (Historical perspective)
When he first arrived in Springfield, Dr. Hagerty said that one of his first concerns would be opening up lines of communication with teachers and parents.
Over the years that objective was met through the appointment of a Minority Affairs Committee and a Parents' Advisory Council, regular meetings with the Parent-Teacher Association Council and representatives of teachers from every building. He also worked closely with representatives of the district's two major teacher groups, the Springfield Education Association and the Springfield-National Education Association. Even through collective bargaining never became a reality in Missouri, representatives of the teacher organizations and administrators had been formed into a Teacher-Administrator Meet and Confer Committee. Its purpose was to come to agreement on issues that would go before the Board of Education for consideration.
It was a period during which a number of other employee representative groups appeared. Formed were groups representing secretaries, food service workers, and building service employees.
Dr. Hagerty's theme as he arrived in Springfield was "Dedicated To Excellence". That was evident in all the improvements in academics that he spurred during the early years of his tenure as Superintendent.
They included an increase in graduation requirements from 20 to 22 units; a weighted grading system in high school; instigation of final exams; designation of Advanced Placement courses; and implementation of a Certificates of Excellence program.
In addition, with his guidance, committees of teachers and parents developed Major Instructional Goals for all grades. Produced in connection with these were handbooks that parents could use at home with their children. It was just one of the steps in which parents were brought into closer cooperation with the schools.
Parents, patrons, and teachers...working in committees...provided much of the impetus to improvement in the district.
Shortly after Hagerty became Superintendent, the much-publicized "A Nation At Risk" report by the National Commission on Excellence in Education was released. This was the stimulus for much change.
A Springfield Commission on Excellence was formed to follow-up on the national commission's recommendations and tailor them to the Springfield situation. Their report included many things that were later put into effect. They included:
- An increase in graduation requirements from 20 to 22 units of credit with the number required in language arts and science increased and driver education dropped as a required course.
- Increased emphasis on developing comprehensive schedules for students to follow in enrolling for high school courses.
- A comprehensive set of major instructional goals.
- Implementation of a Seals of Excellence program giving special recognition on diplomas to graduating students who have done outstanding work in the major areas of the curriculum.
- Addition of the Test of Achievement and Proficiency (TAP) to the testing schedule for seniors.
- Recommendations from a staff committee on alternative programs to handle continually disruptive students.
- Increasing the number of class days in the school calendar to 177.
- Identifying needs of high school students for a seven-period rather than a six-period day to allow them to better meet the new graduation requirements.
- A study of the teacher-administrator evaluation procedure which resulted in a contract with Dr. Richard Manatt and the development of a new system.
- More emphasis on seeking the best teacher graduates for employment in the district.
The Springfield Commission, overall, gave the district a grade of B+.
Six years later, another community effort was formed to develop a long-range plan for the district which would have even more major effects upon the way children were taught.
A small group of parents, teachers, administrators, patrons, and Board of Education members, struggled for several long days to first decide what they felt the community wanted from its school district. From this group came a Mission for the district, Objectives for the program, and Belief statements. They also developed specific strategies of action that the district should take in meeting the Mission and Objectives. They said that the district will:
- ensure the maximum academic achievement, personal development, and self-esteem of every student.
- design, implement, and monitor an outcomes-based curriculum.
- implement instructional methods to ensure individual achievement, through topic-centered, individualized, or other innovative approaches.
- fully involve the parents in assuring the success of their children in school.
- develop and implement a result-driven staff development program that will ensure each staff member will have the skills, knowledge, self-esteem, and job satisfaction that is essential to perform effectively.
- develop and implement a mutually beneficial instructional partnership uniting the Springfield Public Schools with business, industry, and community organizations.
- ensure that each graduate enters either post secondary education or a productive career.
- implement a plan to ensure the best use of resources and facilities.
- implement an effective two-way public communication plan.
- incorporate appropriate technology into every aspect of our operations and educational programs.
- pursue traditional and non traditional funding from public and private sources.
- establish a research and development function to ensure that programs and practices are developed and assessed.
- organize strategically to accomplish our mission.
Thirteen Action Teams of parents, patrons, teachers, and administrators were formed to give substance to each of these strategies. They came up with 121 recommendations.
Not all of these recommendations had been fulfilled or even started by the end of Dr. Hagerty's tenure in Springfield but many had. They prompted the trial of many new techniques and procedures for improving instruction.
A few of the things that were tested in pilot schools throughout the district...looking toward full implementation...were outcome-based education, mastery learning, cooperative learning, middle school organization, and ungraded schools.
Increased emphasis was directed toward helping teachers better do their job with increased inservice training and use of technology. To pull all of this together, the former Tefft Elementary School...vacated when nearby Weller School was expanded...became the Tefft Center.
New funding methods were also pursued. Key outcome of this was formation of a Springfield Public Schools Foundation. Purpose of the foundation was to raise private funds for education purposes such as scholarships and seed money for innovative projects that can't be funded with tax monies.
Such outside funding became increasingly important as the decade of the 80's passed. The district at the start of the period had an operating reserve of about $6,000,000. By the end of the Hagerty period, those reserves had dropped to less than $1,000,000, a dangerous point. This was caused by several factors. One was a reduction in state funds available for education. Another was the increased cost of the new instructional programs that were being implemented. By 1992, the district was forced to make budget cuts that had the most serious effect on the educational program and staff since the budget cuts of the 1970's. Some services and programs were completely eliminated and the district's administrative staff was restructured. There were extremely low pay improvements or none at all.
Voters were not generally supportive of operating levy increases during the period. They turned down, by a large margin, a request for an 80 cent increase in the levy in 1981, shortly after Dr. Hagerty came to Springfield. This was the first levy for which a two-thirds majority was needed for passage. Local voters did reapprove a 48 cent levy that had been approved in 1976 but was called into question by the wording on the ballot. They also approved an additional 48 cent levy in 1986.
One of the important improvements in financing came in 1982 with approval by Missouri voters of Proposition B. This levied a new sales tax for use in education. Part of the money raised, however, went back to taxpayers in relief of property taxes.
Springfield voters continued to be supportive of the capital needs of the district. In 1984, they approved a $15 million bond issue. This was significant because it included funds to start building libraries at each elementary school. They would replace collections of books which had been housed in a variety of cramped locations.
In 1989, a $24.8 million bond issue was approved which went to complete the elementary libraries and to build a new elementary school in the north part of the district. It was later named for Missouri's favorite son, Harry S. Truman. It was the first new elementary school to be built in north Springfield for many years. The new building was indicative of an increased housing growth in the north part of the county, which had been dormant for a long time.
Also built from bond funds was a new elementary school in southwest Springfield. The school, named after retired educator Dr. Wanda Gray, opened its doors in 1986.
The last bond issue during the Hagerty era came in 1992, with the approval of $25 million in bonds. A large portion of this would go to build a new middle school in the southwest part of the district as well as to expand eight other schools into middle schools. The new school would be named after famous Missouri Negro scientist, George Washington Carver.
While this ten-year period was one in which several new schools were opened or planned, it was also a period when several were closed.
Two small elementary schools...Ritter and Oak Grove...were closed during budget cuts because of their small enrollments. The Ritter building was sold to a private individual. Oak Grove was leased to the Junior League for a community building.
There was discussion about closing another long-time school building but the pressure of public sentiment killed this idea. Paul Hagerty found out rather quickly and forcefully what patrons thought about Central High School when he proposed closing it in 1982. He had suggested it might best be used for other specialized programs. Instead, Central got over $1 million in improvements.
In 1985, the district faced another kind of problem, one that would plaque schools throughout the country in succeeding years. The way the Springfield Public Schools handled the case of children affected with HIV...the AIDS virus...made them a model for the rest of the country.
When it was discovered that there were two children in the schools who had the HIV virus from blood transfusions, the district took a proactive response which kept the situation from growing into one of hate and animosity.
A press conference was immediately called to let the community know that the district was dealing with the problem. It was announced that a new policy had been developed...and new procedures put in place...to handle all such cases of infectious disease.
Following on the heels of the press conference, a live call-in question and answer session...which lasted for over four hours...was televised on the educational access channel of the local cable system.
The concern of the community was soon dissipated and things returned to normal in a short period of time. In the years to come...as AIDS gained more and more publicity...students with the virus would be forced out of their schools throughout the country because of the ignorance of members of their communities.
Later, material on AIDS was added to the curriculum and provided to all employees to make them better informed about the causes of the disease.
More attention was placed during this period on another health problem facing students...increased use and misuse of drugs and alcohol.
Many programs were introduced into the schools in an attempt to make students aware of the dangers of drug use.
A Coordinator of Drug Programs was appointed in 1989 to coordinate the programs that worked with both the instructional aspect of drug education as well as the programs to help students with problems. A number of activities were established using money from a new state law entitled the Drug Free Schools and Community Act.
Programs were established at several high schools to help students identify and overcome drug problems. One of these, the CHOICE program at Central High School, was one of four such programs in the state to be submitted to the U. S. Department of Education for recognition. Later the CARE team projects at two other schools were recognized across the country as outstanding curriculum projects.
The district's drug education program was selected by the State Department of Education as one of the exemplary programs to be included in a statewide video production. The district's total health education program was one of 25 recognized nationally by the Metropolitan Life Foundation. The district was also recognized by the Governor's Coalition on Health Education of Missouri Children and Adolescents for its model comprehensive health services.
Individuals and programs were honored often during the decade. Paul Hagerty himself was named Executive Editor of the Month by the Executive Educator magazine and named as one of the top 100 educators in the country by the magazine several times during the period.
Kickapoo High School was selected as one of 152 school throughout the country where excellence was recognized by the U. S. Department of Education.
Programs honored nationally included the district's Adopt-A-School program, the elementary and secondary science programs, and the art and drug education programs.
The decade of the 80's was one in which increased emphasis was placed on tracking just how well teachers were teaching and students were learning.
As a result of suggestions made during the discussions held by the Commission on Excellence, a project was started to provide better evaluation of teachers and administrators in the district.
The Board contracted, in 1984, with Dr. Richard Manatt of Iowa State University, an expert in the evaluation process, to help the district develop a system of teacher-administrator evaluations.
Over the next three years, Dr. Manatt assisted local staff members in developing and implementing those procedures written specifically for and by local teachers and administrators. Those procedures...which were much more objective in nature than those used previously...were approved by the Board of Education in 1986.
In was in that same year that an organizational health study...looking at the climate in buildings...was done by a team from the University of Arkansas.
As a natural follow-up in the district-wide evaluation process, Dr. Fenwick English, a nationally known educator, conducted a comprehensive curriculum audit in the district.
To promote professional development, a Springfield Leadership Conference was started in 1987 which brought to teachers, administrators and parents leading educators from throughout the country.
The following year, a Professional Development Committee was established to provide more coordination to an inservice training program for teachers and administrators that had been in operation for several years.
To provide a better indicator of just how well Missouri students were learning basic skills needed to survive upon gradation, the State developed the Missouri Mastery and Achievement Test (MMAT).
Many new techniques were tried during the decade...both prior to and following the strategic planning process.
They included not only instructional programs but programs that helped students and parents in other ways. Breakfast programs were added to the food service program in all schools. A program of before and after-school child care was developed at a number of schools as a joint venture between the district and the Springfield Family Y.
One of the fastest growing programs was based on the premise, in which the state of Missouri was a leader, that students would be better prepared to enter school if their parents were knowledgeable and could help prepare them. A Parenting Center, which was a joint project of several community agencies, was established in 1983 at Berry School. Three years later, with special funds available from the state, the district assumed total responsibility for parent education through a program called Parents as First Teachers. In that program...later renamed Parents as Teachers....trained educators worked with parents during the first three years of their child's development. Sessions were held both in individual homes and through group interchanges. That program has grown rapidly and has been recognized all over the country.
Although the emphasis in many of the programs was on finding students with special needs at an early age to prevent failures and dropouts, attention as also given to help for older youngsters as well.
A Teen Parenting program was set up in 1984. It had two purposes: to help pregnant high school students to have healthy babies and to give them the kind of support needed to keep the teen parents in school. This included establishment of a nursery at Central High School for teen mothers throughout the district.
In 1987, in-school suspension programs were started in the district's five high schools to help cut down on dropouts. Instead of being suspended from school because of discipline problems, the students were sent to special rooms in the school where they were isolated but could still get the instructional help they needed.
A new alternative school program was set up in a former elementary school building and called Bailey Education Center. It provided personalized learning in a less threatening environment for high school age students who were about to dropout or who had already done so. Nursery care was also set up here since many of the students were teen mothers.
Throughout the 1980's programs were also expanded for exceptional children on all levels. The special education program continued to expand with an emphasis on providing special assistance to students placed in regular classrooms and to their teachers.
The WINGS (Working with the Individual Needs of Gifted Children) was expanded again, this time to students in kindergarten through grade two.
Along with changes in the curriculum itself, several changes in organizational structure appeared as the decade of the 90's started.
Because the district has a number of smaller elementary schools, administrative units were formed which tied several smaller schools together. The personnel in these schools worked together to make the best use of the resources, people and materials, in the schools involved.
A major shift in organizational alignment, in line with the stress upon helping young people move most effectively between grade levels, was the establishment of the first middle school at Pleasant View. The middle school houses grades six, seven, and eight together. It involves not just a realignment of grades but a realignment of the entire philosophy of education for students at this age. Emphasis is placed on helping all children to succeed and to feel a part of the school experience. This personal emphasis will help a child feel better about himself or herself and result in fewer dropouts. By the mid-1990's, this concept was expanded to all schools in the district.
In attempt to find a better way of reorganizing instructional periods at the high school level, Hillcrest High School began a pilot project of eight-block scheduling. It differed significantly from the traditional high school scheduling of six periods of less than an hour each. The eight-block schedule provides a 90-minute block for classes every other day, allowing teachers to more effectively use their teaching time. The program also allows time for students to work in small groups with an advisor who will work with them throughout their high school career.
The Board of Education paid more attention to the needs of its employees during the 1980's.
For the first time, in 1987, salaries were considered first in the budget-making process. The Board approved in that year a three-year salary improvement package. In previous years, the process had been to wait until the amount of revenue was known before approving salaries. Even more important, the Board built up an extensive fringe benefit package that was previously unavailable. It included Board-paid life insurance, health insurance, and dental insurance. I In addition, an employee wellness program was started.
A major change in the instructional program occurred in 1990 when voters approved the establishment of a new Heart of the Ozarks Community Technical College. When this was formed, the school district turned over to the new institution all of its vocational-technical facilities. All high school vocational training would be held in the same Graff Vocational-Technical Center (now Graff Career Center) but the district would contract for the service. All adult education programs that had been operated as part of the Springfield Public Schools were taken over by the college.
New technology was very much a part of the push for excellence. In 1981, a new cable television system was started in Springfield which included an educational access channel which became another tool for instruction.
In 1984, a five-year plan for developing computer education was approved by the Board and work started on it. Since that time, computer labs have been established at all schools. Several of them are tied together into local area networks which allow teachers to better know what their students are learning.
Satellite receiving equipment was added at all high schools in 1987 and expanded to all junior highs in 1991.
Added during the start of the new decade, also, were such equipment as laser disc players and CD-ROMs and the teaching material to use on them.
Other aspects of the district were also brought into the age of new technology. The district went on a line with a powerful new PRIME mainframe computer system in 1989 which electronically tied all schools together. Electronic mail provides instant access to all buildings in the district. The system also handles financial information, student scheduling, student attendance, and many other functions.
As part of the expansion of library services, all library materials were computerized and made available on the system to all schools in the district.
As the district entered the last decade before the start of the 21st century, it was exploring so many new techniques or programs that it was hard to list them all. All were designed to help accomplish the district's goal of providing success for all. New ideas for educational improvement were added almost daily.
Most of these activities were stalled in 1992 when the fiscal situation became so bad that budget cuts had to be made. The state revenue received by the district was actually declining, both because of the state's economy and because of a court-mandated desegregation in Kansas City.
Budget cuts had been made often in the past ten years but none would be as drastic as the cuts of 1992. Not only would there be no salary increases, salary schedules would be frozen. Cuts were made in all those areas where they were usually made but, for the first time, drastic changes in the way personnel were used was also required. The district's School and Community Relations Office, a part of central administrative services since 1954, was eliminated as part of a restructuring move for more efficient use of personnel. At the same time, Curriculum Supervisors, who were full-time, were returned to the classroom part-time.
Funds were cut for supplies, equipment, and travel in an attempt to reduce the anticipated budget for the next year by about $2.5 million.
In the midst of all this turmoil came perhaps the biggest turmoil of all. Dr. Paul Hagerty, who had been interviewing for jobs elsewhere, announced in May of 1992 that he would leave to become Superintendent in Seminole County, Florida.
Now, not only would the Board of Education have to worry about the district's financial situation, it would have to start the process of finding a new Superintendent.
As the school district ended 125 years of service to the community, members of the Board of Education would be faced with making a decision that would have a very major effect on the character of education in the community as the country crashed headlong into the 21st Century.