The Dierks Public School District plans to focus the 2019-20 school year on reducing absenteeism, improving reading skills and implementing professional learning communities (PLCs) among the teachers.
Eleven employees from both the elementary and the high school traveled to the Professional Learning Communities at Work Institute in Hot Springs on July 17-19 in order to learn more about the educational initiative. The PLCs contribute to a more consistent curriculum and common assessments, and teachers are accountable to one another within their communities, according to Superintendent Jody Cowart.
“It’s a self-accountability piece to make sure that we’re instructing our students with the same curriculum, and we’re also assessing our students in a more consistent manner,” Cowart said.
The Arkansas Department of Education launched a project to introduce the PLC method into Arkansas schools in 2017. Cowart said he thinks it is a proven process with data to support it.
The school district welcomed two new employees into the Dierks community. Chad Lites started as the high school principal on July 1. Lites graduated from Dierks High School in 1989 and Henderson University in 1993, and he did his graduate work in Texas A&M in Texarkana.
“He’s familiar with our community and our school,” Cowart said. “He’s been very busy since July 1 trying to get things ready for Aug. 13.”
Colbey Lawyer joined the staff as the new band director. He graduated from Rogers High School in 2014 and Arkansas Tech University in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in music education.
Cowart is beginning his second year as superintendent after serving four years as the Dierks High School principal.
“I always just look forward to having … the students back in the buildings,” Cowart said. “I like being around our staff. We feel like we deliver a quality education here at Dierks for our kids.”
The high school plans to utilize technology this year with plenty of Chromebooks for the students. The elementary strives to close the achievement gap and reduce absenteeism, and a continuous priority is to improve reading, which helps correlate with improved test scores. Teachers attend training throughout the year to help students read at grade level.
“We’re just looking forward to having a good school year,” Cowart said.
The elementary open house will be Aug. 8 at 4:30-6:30 p.m., and school starts on Aug. 13.