On an annual basis, both the Superintendent and the Board of Trustees work through the process of developing and establishing goals. These goals become the articulation of the focus for the upcoming school year. Though not specifically attributed to any one individual, I recall one of my college professors stated that "an unwritten goal simply becomes a wish."

In developing my goals as the superintendent, I sought input from a number of data sources. These included: principal feedback, evaluative data, district improvement feedback, as well as conversations with staff members. After careful review, goals were established with three primary areas of focus: Graduation Rates, Communication and Fiscal Responsibility.

Consistently, the issue of graduation rates weighs heavily on the minds of our staff and the board of trustees. Current reports show Humboldt with an overall graduation rate of approximately 65%. Each time this figure is brought up, a collective sigh can be heard. Though our biggest obstacle is the effective tracking of students as they flow in and out of the district, clearly we must take a greater role in ensuring that every student meets graduation requirements.

In order to address this, changes are being implemented across the district. This began three years ago with the introduction of full day kindergarten. Additional modifications include: late start Thursday's to ensure staff are trained to meet new standard requirements; literacy blocks at the elementary level; Warrior Hall at WJHS was implemented as an intervention and support program; a MERIT program has been developed for McDermitt to target struggling students; and a freshman cohort has been developed at LHS to work with students to ensure academic success.

Each of these activities provides a foundation to reaching our ultimate goal: graduation rates above state average and highest among Nevada school districts. Change does not come easy, or overnight, but we are up to the task. Each school has enhanced their focus on academic success, and the result will be seen as our students move through their educational career.

The second area of focus is on effective communication. Recent focus groups with staff indicated enhanced communication is essential. In addition to ensuring effective lines of communication with staff, the same goal is detailed for our community stakeholders. In support of this objective, we will work to better share processes and seek input from staff, while also ensuring the community has ways to effectively engage. Soon we will be providing information on avenues for community engagement.

The third and final goal centers on fiscal responsibility. As an educational entity, funds are derived from state and local taxes. As such, we have a profound obligation to ensure that funds are used in an open and transparent way. As with most school districts, roughly 85 percent of all funds cover the cost of personnel. These individuals are the focal point to ensuring the success of our students, and as a community I believe we are fortunate to have the staff that we have.

With 85% going to salaries and benefits, the remaining 15 percent becomes the basis of our operations. With these funds we pay for utilities, books, paper, pencils, copy machines, fuel, food, athletics, clubs, and the list goes on. Each of these is essential to the operations of the district. Despite the required expenses, we also build in an annual ending fund balance as required by state statute.

In order to operate on such a tight margin, we must be fiscally conservative. More frequently we use the term "return on investment" when considering expenditure patterns. We can no longer afford to fund things simply because we always have. Now we must be able to demonstrate an impact on meeting our primary goal and purpose: graduation rates.

In addition to the goals of the superintendent, the board also develops a set of goals and objectives. Historically, the board has centered their goals around three common themes: graduation rates, visibility and professional development.

As these goals become the direction for the 2014-2015 school year, efforts are tracked to determine effectiveness. Following up on the importance of writing our goals down, I'm reminded of the supporting adage, "we inspect what we expect." This remains true as we collectively focus on ensuring that our students are provided the richest opportunities possible and meet the expectations of being "college and career ready."

Dr. David Jensen can be reached at (775) 623-8196 or at djensen@humboldt.k12.nv.us.