June 16, 2009 — Close to 1,000 teachers, counselors, monitors, librarians and other school workers and residents turned out for the first St. Croix District Department of Education Best Practices Conference that began Tuesday.
The two-day conference, mandatory for education personnel, was held at St. Croix Educational Complex and was a collaborative effort of the district and the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE). The ICLE, of Rexford, N.Y., assists school districts in implementing changes in curriculum, instruction, and assessment systems.
"We have to build a system that is successful by design, not by chance," said Raymond J. McNulty, senior vice president of ICLE and keynote speaker.
He spoke of the need for schools to become aware of the changes in curriculum, instruction and assessment because students are living in a world that is changing dramatically.
"We need to educate students with skills they need to face the unknown to help them do well in the lives they will lead outside of school," McNulty says. He told the audience how high performing schools use the Rigor, Relevence, and Relationship Framework of ICLE to provide better standards and instruction.
Teachers can use the framework to measure their progress and to select appropriate instructional strategies to meet learner needs and higher achievement goals.
McNulty told the participants they can't teach kids they don't know, so he encouraged them to get to know their students. He told the teachers if they didn't have the passion and commitment for hard work they need to get out of the profession.
"It won't work unless you have the passion to make it work," he said in closing.
The conference examined model schools from the mainland and showcased St. Croixs improving schools, including Pearl B. Larsen Elementary School, St Croix Educational Complex and St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC).
Willard John, principal at CTEC, said relationships with students are 80 percent of the staff's job. Prospero Lewis, assistant principal at Complex and Valrica Bryson, gave an overview of advance placement programs, school to work and the fine arts programs at the high school. Rodney Moorehead, principal at Pearl B. Larsen and Ivion James, assistant principal, told participants about the programs, practices and progress made since last year.
"I got good ideas and examples from Pearl B. Larsen and how to implement them," said Jane Kelley, librarian at Elena Christian Jr. High.
Muriel Summers, principal of A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C., spoke about instilling the love of learning and excitement for school using imaginative instruction. Bobby Ashley, principal of Ashe County Middle School in North Carolina gave tips on how to meet the intellectual, physical, social and emotional needs of students in a community with financial, cultural and geographical challenges.
Susan Kovalik, founder of The Center for Effective Learning, Virginia Beach, Va., spoke about some of the latest research on neuroscience and its applications to the classroom. Participants learned basic brain anatomy and its ramifications for instructional strategies, classroom management and collaboration.
"My hope of this conference is to help identify improvements needed and make those improvements," said Gary Molloy, St. Croix District superintendent of schools. "And to spur continued achievement and improve the quality of education in the Virgin Islands."
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