Relationship with students essential, Paducah Schools Superintendent says
Every first-time superintendent in Kentucky is required to complete a year-long capstone project. Shively’s assessed his district’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities with the future in mind. “We are the most diverse district in the state of Kentucky,” Shively continued. “So how do you meet those unique needs of all those different kids? It’s a major strength of ours, our diversity, but it’s also a tremendous challenge. I’m going to stop and say: It always has been and always will be about relationships. That’s what it starts with.”
It’s a concept Shively said he’s talked about since his opening day as superintendent, though he admits it’s one that can get lost in the shuffle if you’re not careful.
“The only constant in education it seems like lately is change,” Shively said. “We have moving targets. We have new standards, new accountability systems, new evaluations systems. If you get so caught up in implementing things, you can lose your focus on where you’re going.”
To illustrate the dizzying number of “moving targets” schools are facing, he passed around copies of a hand-drawn mind-map he’d made of all the major initiatives Paducah Schools had implemented this school year. One of the board members let out an “Oh lordy ...” at the sight.
“How do you go from that to something that makes sense?” he asked them. Making sense of the chaos represented on that map was exactly what the strategic planning process allowed Shively and his team to do, he said. Out of the planning process, they identified three important five-year goals for the district.
First, to have 100 percent of Paducah Schools’ students graduating college or career-ready. Second, to emphasize 21st century skills, and third, to facilitate students taking control over their own learning.
“I want to stress that focusing on being college and career ready is not enough,” Shively added. “That’s us thinking of us as a school and not being focused on the bigger picture. We need to create problem solvers and critical thinkers. Students that can work in diverse settings. We need kids that can communicate, collaborate and be creative.”
A big step toward all three of those goals, he hopes, will be Paducah Tilghman’s Capstone and Jump Start programs that will begin this fall.
College-ready seniors will have the option of customizing their senior years so they can explore their interests and really figure out who they want to become, Shively said. The programs will give students opportunities to get out in the community for research, mentorships and apprenticeships that will even better prepare them for college and careers in their chosen fields.
“It’s a way to connect our students to our community,” Shively said of the programs. “We have lots of talent here, but we see that lots of times that talent doesn’t come back to Paducah. So it’s a chance to get our kids connected to Paducah before they go. Strengthening those relationships.”
Shively’s capstone mentors were both present for his presentation, and they were more than pleased.
Fred Carter, executive director of superintendent coaching and mentoring for the Kentucky Department of Education, told the Paducah board members they had hired the best man for the job.
Lonnie Burgett, outgoing superintendent of Mayfield Schools and one of Shively’s former teachers, echoed Carter’s praise.
“I’ve known him a long time, and he’s very consistent,” Burgett said. “He will continue to put forth the effort that he’s put forth this year. He’s a very intelligent man, one of the brightest kids I’ve ever had. He loves kids. He has a great desire for kids to achieve. He’s a high achiever himself, and most importantly, he knows that kids can achieve.”