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Watkins sets 2018 goals for PCS

BY CAROLINE EGGERS - ceggers@perutribune.com

During the Peru Community Schools’ annual board meeting on Monday night, Superintendent Sam Watkins shared the “State of the Corporation.”

Between the state and nationally-recognized fine arts programming, superb athletic performances from Tiger sports such as tennis and wrestling, and the highest graduation rates in the county, Watkins said he is gratified by last year’s accomplishments.

“But I am not satisfied,” he said.

So, Watkins addressed where the school should be heading in 2018.

First, Watkins prioritized creating a safe, positive and effective learning environment for all students and staff.

“People like Peru Community Schools and I’m very proud of that,” Watkins said. “We pride ourselves on educating students positively.”

Peru Community Schools serves 2,032 students, and has over 175 classified staff. Despite a declining county population, the school system has remained resilient, Watkins said.

And he wants to ensure that everyone continues to be happy, perform well and progress.

Next, Watkins said educational excellence and equity should be a top concern. “That means low, medium, high... every demographic,” Watkins said.

Third, the school system needs to strengthen community engagement between the students, families, and community at large, Watkins said, an area where he’s has already witnessed some improvement.

He plans on cultivating their response to intervention programs, which is how the school system communicates with the community and parents to get them more involved.

Watkins also want students to be prepared by utilizing an integrated, technologically-infused climate. Already, the one-to-one computer blended environment has helped students develop 21st century skills, he said.

Brand new to 2018, Peru Community Schools will be implementing the Indiana Graduation Pathways requirements, which will affect incoming high school freshmen. Watkins said he is driving for a 100 percent graduation rate, but fellow board member Tim Comerford pointed out that the new program will drop their graduation rates to the mid-70s.

This, in turn, will affect the high school accountability grade, which affects the corporation’s grade, according to Watkins.

But he’s confident they’ll be able to make adjustments to get the graduation rate to a good place before long.

“We’ll be back up leading this area before you know it,” Watkins said.

Lastly, the school system must maintain fiscal integrity, Watkins said. He expressed confidence that the “rainy day fund” was in good standing, and that they were able to give two major raises to the corporation this year.

“I’m proud of where we’re at, I’m proud of where we’ve been,” Watkins said. But he sees opportunities for improvement.

“We’ve had a lot to do this year, so I really appreciate your work,” Watkins told the board. Leadership played a big role in the school system’s success, with 77 years of experience on the PCS board and over 150 years of administrative experience, he said.

Watkins said he plans on working with each principal to make sure they have proper goals for the new school year.

He quoted an old African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”