Superintendent Insider: Specialized For Success
  • Teacher Workload Updates

    Posted by Special School District on 9/8/2022

    I am constantly amazed by the level of support our staff provide students each and every day. It is clear that we all want what’s best for students. From the trusting relationships staff build with students and their families, to the creative lessons that celebrate students’ individuality, none of this could be possible without our teacher-level staff. 

    However, when our staff face unmanageable demands, not only does their own well-being suffer, their ability to connect with students and families is compromised.  

    In late 2021, the Teacher Workload Committee was created to better understand the breadth of non-instructional tasks that teachers are asked to complete. The Committee identified the most time-consuming tasks by connecting with teachers and administrators. They spent time reviewing research and District-level data to develop potential solutions for alleviating some of the workload stress experienced by instructional staff. Through staff surveys, discussions with Teacher Advisory and Union groups, it became clear that SSD teachers in our partner districts, SSD schools, and technical education buildings are all facing a significant paperwork burden. In many cases, we realize this is a challenge experienced across the field of education, particularly special education, but we recognize that we can do better.  

    We can do better by:  

    • Making use of existing information before creating new forms.
    • Critically thinking of how we use the information we are collecting. If it is not informing action, discontinuing its use.
    • Controlling the introduction of new paperwork.

    Recently, the Teacher Workload Committee announced limitations to certain unnecessary or non-instructional tasks like lengthy lesson plans, widescale Fastbridge screenings that extends beyond its recommended use, ad-hoc staff surveys, and duplicative Safe School courses. Within the next few months, a paperwork approval process will be introduced to slow the flow of new information requests to teachers. 

    Our teacher-level staff have consistently asked for leadership to consider available time before introducing new initiatives, paperwork, and tasks. It is critical for the wellbeing of our staff, the success of our students, and achieving our vision as a District, that we continue to work together to address teacher workload. I invite you to submit your thoughts via Let’s Talk (selecting the Teacher Workload topic tag), as we continue to work on new measures. 

    I am incredibly proud of the commitment and care SSD staff show to students, families, and their colleagues. It is our hope that these new measures allow our teachers to do what they do best- teach

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  • Synergy in SSD

    Posted by Special School District on 3/31/2022

    “Synergy - the bonus that is achieved when things work together harmoniously.”

     - Mark Twain

    The success of SSD’s students is dependent on so many factors - our outstanding teachers, paraprofessionals, student support services, transportation, security, and operations staff all collaborate daily to ensure the best student outcomes. But, as talented as our team is, we cannot accomplish our goals alone. SSD is fortunate to be supported by approximately 700 organizations, businesses, universities, associations, and institutions throughout the St. Louis region who serve as our partners in achieving student success. Through these alliances, we achieve a synergistic system focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, allowing us to provide each student with the resources they need to reach their full potential.

    By providing a myriad of benefits, our partners enhance the educational experience we provide, supply resources to our students and families, and offer work-based learning opportunities in our Tech high schools, adult education programs, and the CBVI and VSP programs.

    Our partnership opportunities are vast, allowing those who choose to support us to choose from a menu of options in which to engage. Here are just a few examples:

    • Providing guest speakers
    • Hosting a Community Based Vocational Instruction (CBVI) or Vocational Skills Program (VSP) site
    • Hosting field experiences
    • Offering internships
    • Participating in career and technical education advisories
    • Providing scholarships
    • Serving as mentors

    We recently collaborated with many of our partners on an exciting new project, the St. Louis County Apprenticeship and Career Pathways Showcase. By working together with representatives from the Affton, Pattonville, and Rockwood school districts, we hosted three community events to connect students to a variety of post-secondary pathways available throughout the region.  

    One partner deserving special mention is the Special Education Foundation (SEF), an organization dedicated to assisting SSD students since 1984.  Their generous support impacts our stakeholders in many valuable ways, including funding innovative learning programs, supplying equipment, providing scholarships and camperships to students, and funding students’ critical needs.  Thanks to SEF assistance, we have also been able to implement a new program to provide food support for students in need over our winter and spring breaks. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have such a generous partner devoted to the well-being and success of our students. 

    We are always open to exploring new partnership ideas that serve to facilitate our students’ success. If you know of an organization interested in exploring a partnership with SSD, please direct them to our SSD Partnership page or encourage them to fill out this form, and Sally Difani, our administrator of community partnerships, will be in touch. 

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