Cash: Higher standards needed in district

Robert Smith
Justin Sellers has completed 10 years of school board service.

Pawhuska school superintendent David Cash on Monday evening told members of the Board of Education the school system needs to set and meet high academic standards.

“You never get better by making excuses,” Cash said. He and Assistant Superintendent Beverly Moore are both in their first year leading the school district, and the Oklahoma state report cards issued Feb. 28 are evaluations of school conditions and educational outcomes from the 2017-18 academic year — a year ago.

The district’s new leadership has spent the year initiating change. There has been change in the way that students are tracked academically so that individual student academic growth is being monitored and encouraged. There has been an increase in monitoring of absenteeism and truancy so that incidences of those problems are being reduced. There has also been an increase in offerings of dual-enrollment courses to give high school students more opportunities to begin doing college work while still in high school.

Cash said he anticipates the school district’s efforts to meet the individual academic needs of students will begin to show fruit when report cards are issued next year. For now, the 2018 grades on which Pawhuska will seek to improve include a “D” overall at Pawhuska Elementary School (the upper elementary that serves grades 3-6); a “D” for grades 7-8, which are the junior high grades; and a “C” for the high school. Indian Camp Elementary School, which is the lower elementary school serving students through second grade, did not receive a grade.

Cash told the board that Pawhuska’s grades in the area of absenteeism were better than he anticipated. Indian Camp, Pawhuska Elementary, the junior high grades and Pawhuska High School all graded out better than the statewide averages for 2018 in regard to absenteeism.

In keeping with the district’s desire to offer its students more challenging academic options, the Board of Education approved Cash’s recommendation that two new courses be created for high school seniors. One is a Senior Project course that will allow students to develop career-related projects that will involve formal presentations to be judged by community members. The other is a personal finance course that will give seniors a semester of concentrated instruction regarding what it takes to earn an income, handle tax liabilities, manage bank accounts, save and invest money and plan for retirement.

Mike Tolson, a member of the board, responded approvingly to the new courses and also suggested the district might look at whether it would be acceptable for Pawhuska Public Schools to give seniors some incentive to make sure they register to vote. Cash said he would seek feedback on the legal acceptability to different approaches to promoting voter registration by high school seniors.

Monday night was board chairman Justin Sellers’ last meeting as a board member. Addie Roanhorse will succeed him in April. Sellers’ colleagues thanked him for his 10 years of school trustee service.