Zionsville Community Schools Mid-School Year Updates

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December 2023/January 2024

As the calendar year was wrapping up, I sat down with Zionsville Community Schools’ superintendent Dr. Rebecca Coffman to discuss the highlights of the first semester and topics of interest going into 2024.

Dr. Scott Robison

Addressing the Needs of a Growing Community

There are 60-plus languages, in addition to English, spoken primarily in homes throughout the Zionsville community. Coffman and members of the ZCS administrative team are pleased to have introduced ParentSquare to the district.

“One of the things that I appreciate about switching to ParentSquare is that I can see the languages that people have selected, especially for emergency communications,” Coffman said. “I feel confident that we are doing better daily at getting information out to all of the ZCS families throughout the community.”

Another way that Coffman and ZCS administrators have been identifying the needs and concerns of the school district is through the feedback of the ZCS Eagle Ambassador Academy. The program is designed to take participants inside ZCS to gain in-depth knowledge of how the school system operates. Participants also have an opportunity to connect with district and building-level ZCS team members as they work alongside other community leaders for the children in Eagle and Union Townships. Information on the academy is available on the ZCS website at zcs.k12.in.us.

Coffman shared, “Our Eagle Ambassador Program has gone really well. We have 50 participants [currently] participating. I truly appreciate that we have people [in our community] who want to learn about our school [system]. We meet every month and have focused topics. We’ve talked about school safety, facilities operations, school transportation and cyber security. Every session, we’ve had a feedback survey, and participants can provide feedback and ask questions. It’s been a positive experience.”

Coffman added that ZCS has restarted its “Strong in Every Way” speaker series after taking a hiatus during the pandemic. She is hoping to build up attendance for these presentations as they discuss current issues such as artificial intelligence, parenting in a digital age, child abuse prevention and training, and other important topics relating to the safety and educational experiences of ZCS students.

Visit the ZCS website for a current schedule of upcoming speaker presentations.

2023 Highlights and Benchmarks

Coffman listed some of the district’s highlights and benchmarks for the first half of the 2023-24 school year.

“We had the opportunity to sit with our teachers’ association, and we landed on a two-year contract that is attractive not just in compensation but also in benefits,” Coffman stated. “That will be beneficial for us, as we are recruiting new graduates and recruiting next spring for open positions. I feel that we will be competitive with some of the other contracts in the metro Indianapolis area. We had some thoughtful conversations with our teacher leaders, and that was a very positive opportunity for us.”

Coffman continued, “There’s a lot of excitement that’s occurring with some of the different businesses and [industries] that are coming to Boone County, and we’ve been trying to expand connections [that] are providing additional opportunities for ZCS. We met with the leadership [at] INvets to learn more about the transition period [when] individuals leave military service and begin civilian life. We’ve been able to introduce folks from INvets [to] various veterans [who] are in our organization, both in operations and transportation, so we have a couple of new opportunities and new relationships that have been forged.”

Coffman was pleased with the most recent budget season.

“We were able to maintain a stable tax rate again, and we’re in year ten of having a stable tax rate while still accomplishing our goals. We did a ‘ratings’ call with Standard and Poor, and we were able to affirm our strong credit rating to be, again, one of the highest in the state for all school corporations. Our rating helps our taxpayers significantly when [ZCS] has to borrow bonds to finance different needs. We can take advantage of a very low interest rate by having that strong rating. That is [a] huge success because we saw neighboring [school] districts not fare as well.”

Looking Ahead to 2024

This past September, ZCS was awarded the AI-Powered Platform Pilot Grant through the Indiana Department of Education to use an artificial intelligence “personalized tutor” program dubbed Khanmigo.

Coffman stated, “Our high school math students who are taking Algebra 1 and 2, Finite Math and maybe one other course can take advantage of this grant offering. It is a pilot [program], and we’re pleased to be awarded that. We’re excited to see how successful students feel [about it] as a tool as they navigate their courses.”

Coffman continued, “Some other things on the horizon as we enter 2024: our fourth-grade families will begin hearing from our middle schools on what we are offering students, and Lynn Kissel, who is John Maxwell-certified and does a lot of our work with residency and enrollment, is offering some ‘Transition Strong’ sessions for fourth-grade families to consider ways in which they’ll be connected not just with their student(s) but to one another’s families as their children transition into middle school.”

As the major ZCS facilities’ construction and renovation projects wrap up with minor finishing touches, Coffman shared that besides ensuring that they provide a quality space for students and staff, Coffman and her team will conduct a “refresh” of the ZCS full facility study.

ZCHS Dr. Scott Robison

“Union Elementary and Zionsville West Middle Schools are close to that 20-year mark,” Coffman said. “We are constantly evaluating [our facilities] to make sure that we are being good stewards of the resources taxpayers have afforded the school corporation. We are revisiting that study now, and then we will overlap that [study] with our finances to make a financial plan, [again] with the goal of maintaining our tax rate stability so that we’re not increasing taxes for the community members.”

Coffman concluded, “There’s a lot to celebrate. We’ve done a nice job of trying to maintain our promise to our community of maintaining lower class sizes. We watch the [area] developments very carefully because we want to maintain small class sizes.”