Summit School District focuses on professional development

Summit High School is pictured March 18, 2021. Summit School District reorganized its professional development schedule to ensure the most effectiveness for teachers and students.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News


As Summit School District works to improve its academics this school year, professional development will play an important role for district staff.

At the Sept. 30 school board meeting, Director of Elementary Education Liz Strempke and Director of Secondary Education Lana McLaughlin presented the board with the district’s updated plans for its professional development program, called Professional Learning Communities.

“Our goal with (Professional Learning Communities) work is for our teachers ultimately (to) continue their learning, and then they will grow with their crafts in their classrooms,” Strempke said.

During negotiations with the Summit County Education Association this spring, the district added additional professional learning days along with a new structure for how the program will work. The district created a professional development programming schedule, which will switch off the coordination of training every Wednesday between teachers, district leadership, human resources and staff from different schools and departments.

“We were seeking a predictable time for staff members and principals to know that they had this time to be able to grow and learn,” McLaughlin said.

They also created an overview to ensure all of the development work aligns with the strategic plan and the district and school Unified Improvement Plans, which are state-required documents looking at root causes for problems and specific steps to address them.

“We have that continuous systematic process running through a whole alignment,” Strempke said.

McLaughlin also said the district leadership team outlined several common learning agreements to ensure everyone has the same vision of what professional development aims to accomplish. District leadership agreed on six components to serve as priorities: collaboration to ensure all voices are present; creating structured agendas, norms and protocols; focusing on strategic plans for targeted student growth; identifying data and evidence-based metrics for success; building on standards-based metrics of success and conducting reflective analysis to determine what adjustments are needed.

“It goes back to the notion of building systems that are sustainable that we use across the district,” Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford said. “… (Schools) have autonomy to a degree to do what they need to do within their buildings. … However, we agreed that we use that time professionally for certain purposes, and individual (schools) can’t go off on their own and pursue their own directions unless it fits those common agreements.”

Strempke said consistency across classrooms is essential so teachers will have an idea of what students have been exposed to as they work their way through each grade level.

Board member Tracey Carisch asked how district leadership is measuring the success of the new model. Strempke said the biggest indicator of performance is ultimately how the district performs on the Colorado Measure of Academic Success tests. She said there was talk of designing the district’s own assessments, but they’ll also make use of other standardized tests aligned with Colorado Academic Standards.

Carisch said she wants to see more specifics about how these professional development improvements are impacting the academic outcomes of kids in the classroom. Crawford said this is something district leadership will continue to talk about to ensure students are achieving success.

Strempke said all schools also gained an additional 30 minutes of professional development time for literacy, writing and math from last year, meaning those core content areas are taking up much of the training days.

“We’re all learners all the time, and if we’re not learners we can’t grow,” Strempke said. “How do we expect our children to grow if we aren’t right there with them?”

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