By LEVI PASCHER
GLOVERSVILLE - The city school district has a clear goal for the next school year: Improve the graduation rate.
Improving the rate is the theme of the district's 2013-14 vision statement, which the Board of Education approved this week.
Achieving the district's goal of dramatically increasing the number of high school graduates, beginning with the class of 2014, won't be easy, but it can be done, district officials said.
"Improving graduation rates is the single most important goal we have," Superintendent Michael Vanyo said.
During a board retreat in early July, district administrators met with members of the Board of Education to craft the vision statement.
"The vision statement is guided by the belief that a high school diploma is the key to personal success," Vanyo said. "The key to getting those diplomas in the hands of more students will be a districtwide approach that encompasses students at every grade level."
Gloversville's graduation rate was 61 percent in 2012 and 56.3 percent in 2011, according to the state Education Department. Those rates are based on students who graduated after four years of high school as of August of the fourth year. Gloversville's graduation rate is among the lowest at schools in Fulton and Montgomery counties.
Vanyo has been focused on improving the graduation rate since he started at the district last school year.
"We will not settle for anything less than a marked improvement of our graduation rate this year," he said.
The school's vision statement says, "Our schools will equip all students - in grades K-12 - to succeed at the highest levels, while building strong support for the collective belief that high school graduation is a key to lifelong success and personal achievement."
According to a news release, the district will accomplish this by:
Seeking greater community and regional collaboration to maintain rich program offerings and more effective student services, while minimizing the burden on local taxpayers.
Elevating student outcomes and improving graduation rates by demanding and nurturing greater leadership, quality teaching and personalized student support.
Maintaining a wide array of strong education programs that integrate technology and enhance community participation at every school.
Carrying out that vision will require aligning the goals of the board, district administrators, faculty and staff, the district says.
"With everyone in the district working toward a common goal - raising the graduation rate - we will absolutely be successful," Vanyo said.
Aligning goals and practices throughout the district will encompass everything from curriculum to discipline, the news release said. The district will take a K-12 approach. One example is a new, districtwide discipline program focused on rewarding good behavior. The program will begin this year.
Some district staff members already have been trained in the program, and more will be trained in the coming months, the news release said.
Board members focused on four major areas during their summer retreat:
Reviewing the district mission statement to ensure it aligns with the district's vision and goals.
Drafting a district vision statement for the 2013-14 school year.
Establishing Board of Education subcommittees and assigning members.
Developing specific goals for the 2013-14 school year.
"By having the same vision throughout the district, all of the schools will be on the same page," said school board Vice President E. Lynn Brown.
She said the district will aim to increase data-driven instruction to ensure every instructor is doing it the same way and using information to drive the learning and discussion during classes.
Board President Richard Carlson said the vision statement was needed because "it is awfully difficult to come up with goals that are going to get you to where you want to be, unless you have the vision of where you want to be."
"There is no question of where does the district want to head or what do we want to do; it is very clear within our vision," Brown said.
Board member Mike Hauser said the board members have been working well together and are embracing Vanyo's direction to establish a mission for all the buildings within the district.
"It has been long overdue, and so far, it has been a very positive experience," Hauser said. "I can see the [board] bonding a little bit, and everyone is coming together with one collective vision."
According to the news release, the board will meet again in September with the goal of turning the ideas discussed at Tuesday's school board meeting into specific goals for each building and administrator. The district says the goals will be measurable and attainable by the end of the school year.