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Specialist evaluates school district

William Ferchland, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Dr. John Champlain is considered a wizard at making school districts across the nation more efficient. His current project is the Lake Tahoe Unified School District.

Champlain, director of the Institute for Quality Schools in Phoenix, was at South Lake Tahoe last week to assist the superintendent and board of education in moving toward a new organizational pattern.

“(The district) slipped in central focus and now they need to get back and find what they want to be together,” Champlain said.

Champlain, who received a Superintendent of The Year Award in New York, has worked with roughly 300 school districts in the past 18 years.

Diane Scheerhorn, superintendent of LTUSD, has worked with Champlain for 12 years.

On Thursday and Friday, during two four-hour meetings, Champlain conducted a workshop with the board of education.

He listed obligation, participation and commitment as three ways to improve the district.

“I don’t think this is an unsatisfactory school district,” he said. “It can be better.

“You have to respect people and involve them in understanding what’s happening in their work world.”

The district has faced tough issues that include declining enrollment, teacher layoffs and discontent among instructors.

Champlain said the district and teachers need to come together and move on.

Diane Scheerhorn, superintendent of LTUSD, agreed with his evaluation.

“We’re trying to link the entire district so we have a common language,” she said.

Scheerhorn and several board members traveled to Phoenix June 17 for a three-day seminar on quality schools headed by Champlain. Two weeks later, he flew up to South Lake Tahoe.

Champlain advised the board to strain decisions through eight “filters.” Those so-called “filters” include philosophies of purpose, ethics, knowledge and beliefs.

“I like the idea of making our ideas with intention because then everybody knows where we’re coming from,” said Lennie Schwartz, president of the LTUSD Board of Education.

The board is currently restructuring the district’s mission statement and will institute the filter-decision process after the objective is approved, Schwartz said.

“We don’t need new ideas, but different ways of looking at things,” Schwartz said. “If it doesn’t filter through our screens, we won’t do it. Everything we do should be good for kids.”


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