Edna McGill, the temporary interim superintendent for Columbus Schools, says the district is in “good shape” as it prepares for the start of the school year, which begins for students on Aug. 7. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff
July 26, 2013 9:59:45 AM
Although her job as Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent is considered "temporary" and "interim," Edna McGill says she isn't simply holding down space until her replacement arrives.
"My philosophy about education is that it is an organization in the community. Every organization in the community has an economic impact on the community. The educational institutions are no different. From that perspective, I think it's important that the educational organization be thriving and be as positive as possible. That's my goal, to make it the best that it can be," McGill said Thursday.
McGill said her move into the superintendent role has been a smooth transition despite the difficult circumstances surrounding her arrival.
"Everything has gone really well, the transition and everybody working together, I've been really pleased with that," she said. "I sense that everyone is ready to move forward and the wheels are moving forward. The kids are coming whether we're ready or not and we plan to be ready."
McGill noted that while students don't start school until August 7, teachers have been in the classroom for the past several weeks training to implement Common Core standards.
"They've been in training," she said. "They feel really good about where they are related to Common Core."
While there was some initial concern about student and teacher reaction to the Common Core standards, McGill said she feels both groups will be able not only adjust to the new program but to embrace it.
"When you talk about an organization, no matter what organization it is, whenever you have change it causes some sense of anxiety and so that's the way our teachers have felt about Common Core," McGill said. "To just be able to get together and talk about it, that was very valuable."
McGill said while Common Core standards will be reflected primarily in testing, the basic skill set is the same for students.
"The standards are new. The skills are not," she said. "If you're learning about English Language Arts, you're going to learn about nouns and verbs and complete and incomplete sentences. The skills are still the same. How we're tested on them will look a little bit different. Before when we might have had a question to identify the noun in the sentence, now we might have a paragraph where the kids will have to read it and there will be a two-step question."
"We're adding more informational text. The purpose of Common Core is to have the kids be college and career ready. In doing that, we need to get kids used to reading informational text."
In addition to Common Core training for teachers, McGill has made the district's budget one of her top priorities. The district will host a public budget hearing on Aug. 3. The following Saturday the board will meet to approve the budget. McGill said the budget process has gone "amazingly well."
"Everything looks really good. We think we're where we need to be on that," she said. "Generally, I can say we're in good shape. We're budgeting tight and we'll be watching our money very closely as we move through the school year. But right now everything looks pretty good."
In June, the district received the scores of the state test results, but the official results will not be released until September. While she would not comment on specifics, McGill said she was encouraged by some of the results. District employees will attend a workshop next week to discuss the scores.
"We'll be looking at the test scores from the district level down to the school level," she said. "The principals have already been looking at the scores from the student level so we'll be developing some goals for the district and for the school that will help us move forward pretty quickly to address any areas of weakness and to celebrate. We cannot forget that we will need to celebrate successes. That's important to me and I know it will be to the teachers who worked really hard to gain those successes."
Buses and food
McGill also addressed the change of bus service providers from Waters Truck and Tractor to Ecco Ride and the loss of Aramark food service. During their May meeting, the school board voted to use in-house food services. Both contract changes meant additional hires for the district.
"For the most part, the drivers are the same that were there last year. We're good," she said. "There's really not going to be a step missed that we can anticipate."
Addressing the need for new food service hires, McGill said, "For the most part, it's mostly the same people that had been there."
"Those are the three (obligations)," she said. "We've got to get them to school and we've got to feed them and the teachers have to be trained. We have those pretty big pieces in place and, we feel like, in good shape."
McGill will serve as temporary interim through the end of September. The board of trustees is expected to then appoint a permanent superintendent. While McGill said she is willing to serve as interim superintendent, she said she is not interested in serving as superintendent on a permanent basis.
"I let the board know I was not interested in the full-time position. The interim, I would be interested in but full time, no."
During her time as temporary interim superintendent, McGill said she is focused on bettering the lives and the grades of students in the district.
"I'm always focused on achievement and having the kids achieve to the highest level that they can," she said. "If we use our instructional money to that end, I think everything else will be fine."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.