R-I works to strengthen Professional Learning Community
Posted on 06/19/2017

Building leaders from Poplar Bluff R-I participated in a Professional Learning Community Institute this summer in order to continue to ensure an emphasis is being placed on utilizing data to drive classroom instruction.

Administrators from the district’s 10 schools plus Central Office joined over 1,400 educators from throughout North America to hear from top authors in K-12 education at a workshop put on by professional development company Solution Tree from Monday through Wednesday, June 12-14, in St. Charles.

“As I moved throughout the district during the 2016/17 school year, what I witnessed was our teachers and paraprofessionals—our primary implementers of classroom instruction—working extremely hard and engaged in good practices,” explained Scott Dill, who is entering his second year as superintendent. “It became clear to me that we didn’t need to do anything that different, we simply needed to refocus on becoming better at what we were already doing.”

A PLC is defined as an ongoing process in which educators work collaboratively in recurring cycles of collective inquiry and action research to achieve better results for the students they serve, according to the most recent edition of “Learning by Doing” by a team of veteran educators and researchers.

Poplar Bluff initially engaged in the process when Chris Hon, Dill’s predecessor, assembled his cabinet in 2010/11. Hon and Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Patty Robertson received training, along with a dozen staff members, and attempted to host an internal workshop to accelerate the process.

The following school year, collaboration day was instituted across campus, creating full days in the academic calendar of common planning time designated for personnel to vertically align curriculum. The teamwork includes utilizing common formative assessments to make the best instructional decisions and establishing targeted interventions for students to ensure they hit their benchmarks, according to R-I education officials.

“It is a balance between support and accountability,” said Dr. Amy Dill, O’Neal Elementary principal. “You want your teachers to feel support with tools, professional development and resources, but at the same time you’re putting the support and resources in place to have accountability to make sure we’re implementing it right.”

After several years, it was time for a refresher – if not to refocus on priorities, simply because there has been turnover among principals and certified staff, added Robertson, who helps organize the collaboration that takes place between buildings. There is a difference between morale and culture, she observed.

“Not to take anything away from building relationships – I think that’s a super important piece – but sometimes we think about culture in the sense of being the ‘feel good’ element,” Robertson commented. “Really, culture has to be that driving commitment among all staff members to make sure that we achieve our purpose.

“And what is our purpose?” she continued. “Our purpose is to help students achieve at high levels.”

Back when Robertson’s tenure began in the 1990s, she noted, instructors taught in isolation. While faculty members were expected to be self-driven, there was no uniformed structure to hold the group to any set of standards. Amy Dill agreed, adding that the PLC model helps principals maintain situational awareness. 

“In a true collaborative environment, the conversation turns from one about my students to a conversation about our students,” stated Scott Dill, who is Amy’s spouse. “At the end of the day, if you are an employee of Poplar Bluff School District at any level, they are all our students.” 


Cutline: The superintendent cabinet and building principals, some of whom were not yet on contract, attend a keynote presentation during the PLC At Work Institute recently held in St. Charles.

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