WINNEMUCCA - As summer draws to a close, thoughts turn to the start of a new school year and all that must be accomplished before that first day.

New clothes are purchased, school supplies inventoried, last opportunity sleepovers enjoyed, and sleeping in until noon is taken advantage of. Under the frenzy of becoming prepared, anticipation for the new year is building. Schedules are available to view, students are finding which friends are in their classes, and students heading to new schools are starting to take campus tours.

For our staff, the same level of excitement is building. Teachers are preparing their classrooms, reviewing schedules and developing lesson plans. In addition, groups of teacher leaders are working with site and district administration to define the academic changes that are going to be necessary to ensure that all students have the skills to graduate.

One area that is being addressed and defined is the late start Thursday. This time has been developed to provide intense professional development to our teachers as they prepare to meet the expectations of Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Few question the hard work required of schoolteachers. I can honestly say that the teachers in Humboldt County School District are some of the most dedicated and caring individuals I know. Oftentimes I see teachers in their classrooms late at night and on weekends, preparing to meet the needs of our children.

Based on the significant time commitments that our teachers currently adhere to, the late start Thursdays were designed to provide critical professional development for all teachers within the school day. Adjustments to start and end times, especially at the elementary level, were made to hold sacred instructional time to the extent possible.

By carving out this dedicated hour, teachers will have approximately 30 hours of professional development over the year, tying directly to enhanced instructional practices. This ties directly to the goals established by the Board of Trustees and the Superintendent to ensure that we see a steady increase in graduation rates over the next several years. Thus, our late starts become a critical step in this process.

The primary focus for our late starts will be in the area of math. A review of our test scores shows this is a needed starting point. However, the instruction that will be provided will have direct impact on other core instructional areas, as well as instructional practices as a whole. We are excited to track the impact this training will have.

In addition to the late start, Lowry High School will implement a beneficial change with a focus on increasing graduation rates. Students will now have, as part of their schedule, 60 minutes per week for Intervention or Enrichment opportunities. This time is developed to provide opportunities for students who may be struggling with course content or high school proficiencies to receive additional instruction leading to academic success. As students are able to gain the concepts, opportunities for Enrichment then become available.

For students who have a grasp on the content, and/or have passed their proficiencies, the Enrichment provides further opportunities to prepare for graduation. Items discussed by LHS staff members included opportunities to explore new areas of interest, pursue athletic endeavors, work on college scholarship applications, receive and provide tutoring in core content, etc.

These changes and opportunities set the foundation to meet changes that will be implemented for next year's (14-15) incoming freshman. In a future article I will write about the new expectations approved by our state legislators that have changed graduation requirements for these incoming students.

As a district, we are committed to increasing graduation rates and ensuring that every Humboldt graduate is prepared to enter into either college or the work force. In order to make this a reality, change is required. Our teachers and staff are up to the challenge and look forward to seeing every student walk across the stage as graduates!

Dr. David Jensen is Superintendent of Schools and can be reached at (775) 623-8196 or at