Neil Gray


Observer Columnist

If you have spent any time at all listening to an educator talk about education, you’ve probably heard words that you’re pretty sure you’ve never heard before, let alone seen in a crossword puzzle or on “Wheel of Fortune.”

While these words may make no sense to you and it seems like everyone else understands them, you’re just not comfortable asking for clarification. Sound familiar? On behalf of all educators, please accept my apology.

Educators are inundated with educational jargon derived from acronyms, or words formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term. 

We hear and use them so often that we accept their usage and interject them into our conversations, discussions, lectures, informational letters, websites, etc. Just because we understand our educational acronyms in context doesn’t necessarily mean that you do. It’s important for us to keep that in mind and to make sure that we all have the same understanding of the terms we’re using when it comes to doing what’s best for our students and communities via the local schools. 

We need and appreciate your support for our schools.

One of my favorite-sounding and most important educational acronyms is SIAC. It stands for School Improvement Advisory Committee. 

Iowa Code 280.12 requires school boards to “appoint a school improvement advisory committee to make recommendations to the board or authorities” and to “utilize the recommendations from the school improvement advisory committee to determine” major educational needs, student learning goals, long-range and annual improvement goals, desired levels of student performance, progress toward meeting goals, harassment or bullying prevention goals, programs, training, and other initiatives. 

The law says school boards are to “consider recommendations from the school improvement advisory committee to infuse character education into the educational program.” The SIAC members should be comprised of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and representatives from the local community.

If we truly believe that input from stakeholders is fundamental to improvement in our school systems, then the essence of your district’s SIAC is to ensure that a collaborative partnership with families and community members exists to create an outstanding learning environment for our children. 

While nomination procedures, terms of service, and number of yearly meetings may vary by school district, an effective SIAC simply enables schools and their learning communities to better understand each other’s needs to more effectively serve students. Who wouldn’t want that for their kids and community?

The next time you have a chance to talk SIAC with someone in your school, please do! If you’re interested in becoming an integral part of your school district’s vision and implementation, please consider becoming a SIAC member. If you currently are (or have been) a part of your district’s SIAC, thank you! As a stakeholder in your learning community, your input and support is more important than ever. The lifetime success of today’s and tomorrow’s students depends on all of us working together.

Neil Gray is superintendent of the Northeast Community School District.