New Southwest superintendent outlines plans

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Area native Tilford takes proactive stance for district, addresses student safety

In early August, Tosha Tilford officially took the reins as superintendent of Southwest schools, and as part of her new duties, plans to facilitate the district's continued growth and maintain its reputation for providing quality education.

But, she also plans to revisit a few items to keep the district in tip-top shape for the future.

Tilford previously served as the district's high school principal for five years, and in addition to working for the district, knows the school, community and its needs more than most, having attended Southwest schools from kindergarten through 12th grade.

"We had a really good start to the year, and I'm really proud to be here," Tilford said. "It's a different transition from being a high school principal, but it's going very well. I am pleased with it.

"I would like for our district to continue to grow, and with me being from Southwest, and being high school principal, I want to continue for us to be one of the best schools around. Our tests scores are already moving up and are better than some of the area schools, and I want to hold firm to that. We've always had a good school and want it to continue to grow."

As superintendent, she has some specific line items she wants the board to review and consider. One is the need for a district safety analysis.

"Being the superintendent, even though I am very familiar with the facilities, after the tornados in Carl Junction and Joplin, I thought it would be wise to find an expert to come in, do a walk-through and determine where would be the safest environment for students to be if we did have something catastrophic," she said. "We may have places that are not very safe. My plan is to tell the board what direction we're going with that."

Second is revisiting the district's drug testing policy. Tilford said the goal is to be proactive in keeping students safe.

"As the new superintendent, I want to revisit what's been put in place to make sure we're doing what's best for the kids," she said. "And, we may end up finding that what we have is perfect, or may end up tweaking some things. I'm going to spend some time with the administration to look our policy over and some others in the area, just to make sure we're doing what we need to deter our students from drugs, and using our resources in the best possible way."

Third on her list is a facilities review.

"The maintenance director and I have gone through all of our facilities, and I will present to the board some facts on what our facilities need because it looks like we're going to have to run a bond issue for some restroom renovations, heating and air units [which are at least 20 years old], and roof repairs," she said. "By no means am I putting the bond or ballot together, but these are just some of the things I've found we have a need for.

"They are not wants, they are needs where we've got to get some of these facilities back up to standard. The students deserve it. I've got to report the findings to the board then they'll make their decision on what they think is best for the district, and we'll go from there."

Tilford said the district will also be instituting Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) as a means for teachers to collaborate with each other to improve and sharpen skills, and expanding a program called Instructional Proactive Inventory.

"That's a data collection piece where teachers evaluate what's going on in other teachers' classrooms in regard to student engagement and student performance," Tilford said. "We've been doing that for years, but are taking that to the next step."

Overall, Tilford wants to not just maintain the upward growth trend of the district, but raise the bar.

"I feel very fortunate that I've gotten the opportunity to be the leader of this school district," she said. "I want to remain one of the top schools in the area, the state, or even better. Our kids deserve that, and I'm definitely embedded in this school and this community. I want it to be home for everyone, and for teachers to feel at home when they're here, and for everyone to have the same Trojan pride that I had when I was attending school here.

"Growing up, a lot of people would say when you asked where they were from Washburn or Seligman, but I would say, 'I'm from Southwest,' because I've always been proud of that."

The district recently gained two school buses to start the year off. The buses were purchased from Midwest Transit Equipment out of Nixa at a cost of $91,200.

"Last year, we purchased a new bus, and this year we went with two used buses because by the time our buses are on the country roads we have here, the bodies end up wearing out before the motors," Tilford said. "So, we felt it was more fiscally efficient to purchase buses that have more miles on them, transition two buses out of our route, keep one for a spare, and be better off in the end. These buses are very nice."

A new camera system for the buses was also purchased, at a cost of $1,666, which includes two cameras and a DVR, and an additional $738 was paid to move one of the camera systems from an older bus and be installed on one of the newer buses.

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