Claysburg showing progress

There is cause for optimism about prospects for the Claysburg-Kimmel School District to improve its test scores and low ratings.

After getting off to a rocky start, it now appears that the relationship between a new citizens committee, the school board and district administrators has evolved into a working partnership capable of achieving significant results.

The effort must not become “short-circuited” by any breakdown in the mutual cooperation that seems to currently exist.

Initially, there was danger that the current effort would not be born. That was because of what district officials perceived as excessive aggressiveness on the part of concerned citizens, and perhaps that perception was accurate.

However, the board and administration didn’t relish the assumption that their performance was being questioned amid the concerns over student achievement.

Now the situation is moving forward in the right way. The citizens committee is developing its recommendations to present to the board. Meanwhile, district officials are considering whether to hire an outside firm to help identify ways to reverse the district’s rankings decline, whether to adopt business-inspired planning methods or, presumably, both.

Comments at a nonvoting meeting last week projected an upbeat, optimistic spirit that apparently has been missing from the district for some time.

Perhaps Stan Finnegan, who is heading the citizens group, portrayed the situation best, although the message doesn’t always materialize if a mission becomes sidetracked.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Finnegan said. “You just have to work to get there.”

Claysburg-Kimmel must remain determined to reach that end.

The rankings problem isn’t unique to Claysburg-Kimmel. Other districts have had problems adjusting to new testing requirements and helping students otherwise attain higher levels of academic performance.

Some districts have exhibited more and earlier determination than Claysburg-Kimmel to reach the student-performance goals now being expected by state and federal education officials. That doesn’t mean Claysburg-Kimmel can’t eventually attain or top the higher scores and rankings about which others currently are able to boast.

What has evolved in the district is a means to that end. The citizens committee, working in cooperation with district officials, is a foundation for new ideas and pursuits.

Perhaps the district became too contented with the status quo. Parents as well as district officials can be blamed for that.

The work currently under way represents a needed awakening, and those at the helm have the talents to effect a turnaround.

“We can probably assume it’s the curriculum,” said Mona Eckley, a board member, reflecting on what might be the biggest component of the problem.

She’s probably correct that the district’s curriculum isn’t as challenging as it could be.

But it’s likely that curriculum is only part of the problem, albeit a big part.

A good question for the district is whether teachers are being given enough opportunity to provide input amid an organized structure for dialogue.

Claysburg-Kimmel appears poised for improvements, but it would seem rankings and test scores are only part of a bigger picture that requires evaluation.

The district must not rest until that’s accomplished.