Education feature: Superintendent requires advanced placement classes

File photo Clovis Christian School Superintendent Ladona Clayton requires all high school students to take advanced placement classes.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ staff writer

Clovis Christian School’s new superintendent spent her first 21/2-months on the job revamping.

Among Ladona Clayton’s targets — college readiness programs, professional development for teachers, the evaluation process and even the school policy manual.

Clayton was hired as the superintendent in July. She succeeded Steve Schultze, whose contract wasn’t renewed after his involvement with a fugitive.

One might think Clayton’s first order of business would be concentrating on increasing enrollment. The school is down to 176 students compared to 236 at the same time last year, Clayton said.

But enrollment isn’t her main goal. Board President Rev. Ben Wright puts it this way — enrollment will take care of itself.

“We want to increase enrollment. How we do that, we provide excellence in education. What we’re working on is excellence and if we provide it then people will want it,” Wright said.

To that end, Clayton has worked toward excellence by requiring all high school students to take Advanced Placement classes. Each junior and senior took the Accuplacer, an examination that measures a student’s readiness for college-level classes.

Clayton and the high school Principal Ivan Godwin met with the parents of each student about individual results.

“We want to ensure that our students don’t need to take remedial courses once they enter college,” Clayton said. “Which is the national trend.”

Much of Clayton’s time has been spent on professional development. Clayton said the teachers were trained in data analysis and interpretation.

“What we did is we looked at standardized test results and learned what to do with the results. We learned how to use that data to improve academic performance,” Clayton said.

In service time was also spent studying Bloom’s Taxonomy. It’s a theory developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, who led a group of educational psychologists. They developed a classification of levels of intellectual behavior important in learning.

Clayton said the focus is on asking higher-level thinking questions.

Teachers also worked on lesson design and implementation to make classes more engaging and purposeful, Clayton said.

Clayton said she is also looking at the K-12 curriculum to identify strengths and areas in need of improvement.

“We want to ensure (the curriculum) is rigorous and relevant. At some grade levels we have that in place and in some content areas we have that in place. We’ve identified gaps that must be addressed,” Clayton said. “Fortunately, we have a strong teaching team to work with. Because of that, the hardest part of the work is already done.”

One of Clayton’s goals is to imbed a Biblical Christian world view in the daily classroom and in students’ lives away from school. It’s a task Clayton calls monumental.

“The only way this will be possible, is to engage all the stakeholders. So we start with the board of directors, parents, churches, the school itself and the larger community that the children live and breathe in every day,” Clayton said.

Wright said Clovis Christian wants a Christ-centered environment.

“God’s design permeates everything. Math and English, all of it, is under his creation,” he said.

Clayton said with everyone engaged in the process, each area of a child’s life will reinforce and send the message of a Biblical Christian world view.

Clayton has also begun programs to increase communication between parents and staff. A town hall meeting, called “Keeping You in the Loop,” will be held each semester. The spring meeting is 6:30 p.m. March 2 at the elementary campus.

Wright said the board and school have been pleased with Clayton’s performance so far.

“I tell parents, we weren’t smart enough to get her (earlier). It’s a God thing. We’re so blessed and pleased,” Wright said.