Friday, November 14, 2014


Regular readers of this column know that the education and career-readiness of our youth are important issues to me, hence their recurrence in dozens of my columns over the past decade.

That’s why I was delighted when Royalton-Hartland’s superintendent Roger Klatt asked if I’d like to have a conversation with him and the district’s technology expert Jim Luckman about their strategies and goals.

It was especially meaningful to me because I have a vested interest in Roy-Hart. I’m a product of the school (class of 1993), a resident (I see my school taxes as an investment in my community), and a parent of a three-year old who’s less than a year away from pre-K. 

In the years prior to her birth and still until just last week, I debated with myself on an almost daily basis about what to do with my children’s education? Would I put them in private school or send them to Roy-Hart which was consistently low on Business First’s rankings (75 out of 98 districts in WNY) and has a low graduation rate (a smidge over 77%)?

I left my meeting with Roger and Jim finally having an answer. My kid(s) will be going to Roy-Hart. They made me feel that good about the direction and future of the school district that any reservations I had were gone.

When Roger was brought on as superintendent, it appeared superficially to a lot of residents that it was only a cost-cutting move, since we were sharing him with Barker. That’s not the full story. His goals were to find synergies between the two districts, share the best practices of one with the other, and capitalize and piggyback on the strengths of individuals and programs within each district. Those are tasks that he visibly savors and has a passion for. 

Among his first endeavors was strengthening intervention for students who have troublesome grades, those kids who might have otherwise become the 23% who never graduated. For that, they added a teaching assistant who could focus on the courses where help was needed and they developed a more robust afterschool program while adding a similar one to the mornings, which previously was not available.

As for the majority of students -- those who aren’t at risk of failing or dropping out -- they are also being given the tools to succeed.

In the coming weeks, all buildings on the 3 Roy-Hart campuses will be wireless with a 10 gig broadband system. This strengthens recent investments in the technology infrastructure which has led to a PC in every classroom, laptop carts, rovers (which are mobile smartboards) and the implementation of Ipads (even the pre-k classrooms will be outfitted with those). Similar investments are coming, especially on the heels of the Smart Schools funding approved by New York’s voters in November which will bring well over a million dollars to the district.

All of this brings kids into the age of digital learning, an absolute necessity if they hope to achieve in college (and therefore the workplace).

Online courses were once the refuge of older non-traditional and working college students. But, now, as quickly as technology changes, so are the practices of higher education. Online courses are starting to take over and replace the standard offerings of classrooms and lecture halls. Many college freshmen have as much as a third of their course loads being conducted in an online environment. That can be shocking to an 18-year-old who just spent 14 years in a typical classroom environment with an instructor front and center.

Roy-Hart has begun the first of many endeavors into preparing students for this. Some students in both of Roger’s districts are taking an “introduction to sociology” course through Niagara University while being stationed at their respective high schools. Jim has coordinated the technology as such that the 3 entities can have synchronized and shared conversations facilitated by the home base teacher. It creates a blended learning environment which includes virtual facetime, personal interaction, online learning, and occasional visits to NU so the students can get a feel for research. It’s exactly what students will experience at college, but in their own public schools. They will be ready for what the future brings.

Roger and Jim also shared numerous other goals and aspirations with me that will be presented to the board and the school community in the coming months, all of which focus on improved student performance and career readiness. Based upon the buy-in and efforts they’ve had from parents, teachers, and students there’s no reason to think these other exciting ideas won’t work.

It’s obvious to me that Roy-Hart is on the right path. So are its students. So is my daughter.

From the 17 November 2014 Lockport Union Sun and Journal

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