By Dustin Shipman BSSD Superintendent

“The Ram’s Horn” is a regular column by Big Sky School District Superintendent Dustin Shipman, offering news and insight from the district.

As we approach the middle of the second quarter in the school district, we are busy with holiday performance rehearsals, working through curriculum and preparing for the future. As you all know, the school board and community are now in the implementation stages of our strategic planning process and one of the major areas of the initiative is faculty excellence.

Each day around the world, parents entrust schools to care for their children, with the expectation that the students’ lives will be enhanced in a learning environment. In order for these expectations to be met, schools must have a number of things in place: strong curriculum, safe facilities, a welcoming environment and capable teachers. Research indicates that the single most influential factor to increased student achievement is an effective teacher.

We are currently in the process of articulating expectations in order to have excellent faculty members in BSSD. We are fortunate to have leadership that has worked in a variety of educational settings and are highly developed in identifying and supporting excellence in the classroom. One of our biggest goals as administrators so far has been to gather school-wide data for both teaching strategies and behaviors in the district.

We have been able to establish baseline criteria for articulating high expectations, how those expectations will be demonstrated, and what additional supports are needed to ensure that Big Sky teachers are among the best in Montana and the Northwest. In order to be the best school, we need to employ, retain, support and celebrate teachers who make serious impacts with students on a daily basis.

To execute the ambitious plan the board has adopted, the faculty will be very involved and will have to manage much of the heavy lifting. We will support extensive professional development for faculty, encourage reflective teaching, and continue to assess and coach thoughtful planning of lessons.

Ultimately, our jobs as school administrators are to ensure the faculty has the tools, support and training required to be excellent – because excellent teachers equal excellent schools.