It has been a full year now since Charlotte Bernard took over the reins as Superintendent of Clinton County Schools and for the most part, the goals she set for herself and the school district have been achieved, but in an interview last week, she noted that there is still a lot of work to do.
Superintendent Bernard reviewed her first year as schools’ superintendent last week and said she had enjoyed her first year on the job and continues to enjoy it every day, but added “It has been challenging. We’ve implemented some new things and I’m proud of the way the district is moving forward,” she said.
Last year, Bernard laid out a 30/60/90 day plan of things she hoped to do throughout the year. However, she admitted there were some things that couldn’t be accomplished as quickly as she would have preferred.
“Some things take time in order to be achieved…for one thing, I wanted to be in the schools every day but as the year progressed, I got pulled away a lot,” she said.
The superintendent did discuss some of the programs that were implemented that she was most proud of, including creating a student advisory and teacher advisory group, also known as “The Voice.” She meets with students once per month at each school and gets their opinions on school matters.
In fact, it was a student “Voice” group that came up with the concept of the “Taste Test Sampler” initiative where the public was invited to sample new foods that would be provided at school through the Food Service program. That initial event, held at Albany Elementary, was very successful.
“We let students and staff have a ‘voice’ and help make decisions,” Bernard said.
Another successful campaign that began early in the school year was a student-body wide assembly, or what she called a “pride campaign” that coined the phrase “We Are Bulldogs.” She said that initiative was to unify students, staff, parents and the community, adding it takes all of them working together to make a successful school district.
Bernard also began the “breakfast with the superintendent,” where groups of parents, chosen at random, are invited to have breakfast with her at the board office and discuss any concerns they may have or answer their questions. “During such sessions, we have talked about the vision we would like to take for our schools, she added.
The superintendent also holds principal meetings weekly and says she tries to be at a school each morning to meet parents and she also rode bus routes last year. “I want to recognize and appreciate the roles that of the staff members and students play,” she said.
Bernard also said she had a good working relationship with the Board of Education, saying they have been very supportive and appreciated the hard jobs they have as board members. “I couldn’t ask for a more supportive group…they offer advice and I’m very proud to work with them.”
The first year superintendent also said she has tried to be supportive of all staff and teachers and when they ask for something they need in the classroom to help them do a better job, she tries to help get them whatever they need.
During the upcoming 2013-14 school year, Bernard named two areas in which she was going to focus heavily, instruction and attendance. Each, she said, played a role hand-in-hand with each other. “To be educated, you have to be in school,” she said, adding she was going to work with the Director of Pupil Personnel and school principals on the goal of higher attendance rates for the coming year.
Bernard also noted that the state of Kentucky was in a transition period with its new testing system, including a new teacher evaluation system. “It is important we train teachers as well as administrators well,” she said. “I try to be in the classroom as much as possible so I know what’s going on and try to help out wherever I can.”
A new state initiative that is taking hold, one in which Superintendent Bernard supports, will likely be passed by the local board of education at its meeting later this month, is raising the drop-out age from 16 to 18 years of age.
Since the legislature passed the bill allowing for the measure, several school districts have already voted to raise the age and if a certain number of districts across the state adopt it, the measure will become a statewide mandate. Also, districts that adopt the measure will receive a $10,000 incentive.
“I do feel it is a good idea,” said Bernard. “In order to get a job today, you need to be either college or career ready and students need to stay in school for an education, regardless of whether they pursue a higher education or prepare for a career out of high school.”
Bernard said that financially, the district is currently on sound footing, but warned that due to the economy and cuts from both state and federal levels, the district has to be very mindful of its spending and be good managers of their budget.
“Throughout the state and nation, we have seen cuts that have forced staff layoffs…and we have had to realign some job rolls,” Bernard said. She added the district had to continually find ways to cut back, including in areas of transportation and others, and make sure each department stays within its budget.
Another accomplishment the superintendent is proud of is that in November of last year, the Clinton County School District was named a “Top Ten” school district for one-year growth on College and Career Readiness rates in Kentucky.
Bernard, who was granted a two-year contract last spring, concluded by saying she was proud of the accomplishments the district has seen over the past year and is looking to the upcoming year as superintendent of the Clinton County School District.