Hearing Held On School Goals

Published 3:28 pm Thursday, December 20, 2012

PRINCE EDWARD – County school board members held a public hearing for input on a proposed comprehensive plan at their December meeting.

Six school board committees consisting of administrators, board members, parents and community members have developed objectives and strategies.

“…The board is here to listen to any concern or suggestions that you may have in relation to these goals or any of the strategies or objectives,” offered Board Chairman Russell Dove at the outside of the hearing.

Email newsletter signup

Some Comments

Sally Thompson noted that she was addressing the board as a retired school teacher with 29 years of experience in kindergarten and first grade and as a volunteer in Prince Edward's kindergarten.

“There is no way that I could teach today-granted I'm older, but that I could teach today in the present classroom situation you are giving our teachers,” she said. “I taught 20 years with an assistant. These women are teaching without any help 20 students trying to progress their curriculum. Johnny is going to the bathroom, we've got a little fight in there. We've got Suzie who's thrown up on the floor. How is she going to teach. I find this critical. There is no way you can ensure that schools are supported quality teaching unless you give assistants back to the…pre-K, kindergarten and first grade.”

Thompson noted the goal of improving academic achievement for all students while closing the achievement gap “cannot be realized unless you start at the bottom.” She noted that a child's most important years are kindergarten and first grade.

The Goals

The Comprehensive Plan includes a list of goals for the school division. Specifically, board outlined to:

*Improve academic opportunities and achievement for all students while closing the achievement gap.

*Strengthen home, school, business, and community engagement to advance staff and student achievement.

*Ensure that schools are safe, orderly, nurturing, and supportive of quality teaching.

*Promote a positive, healthy, and inviting school culture conducive to learning.

*Optimize effective use and management of operational resources that support teaching and learning.

*And hire, support, and retain highly qualified teachers and staff.

Six committees have already met and discussed objectives and strategies associated with each of the goals.

More Speakers

Chamber of Commerce Chairman Rucker Snead applauded the efforts of those putting the plan together.

“It looks to be well thought out, linked, synchronized. (The) question always becomes can we execute successfully and that goes back, ultimately, to the budget and effort and, to tie back ultimately there in the classroom,” he said.

He also noted, “…I've heard enough, more than anecdotal now, where families won't come to our community because of the perception-the perception-the quality of our school systems. So we've got to make sure we're sending the message out that our schools are important. I think the plan supports that, but if we're going to continue to thrive as we move forward…the successful implementation of this plan is critical.”

Cornell Walker assessed that there is one issue that a lot of the plan would hinge on.

“In your plan, you have (the goal to) promote good will within the community. Right now, it's not there. And, if the good will isn't there to get the parents involved, to get the students involved, something has to take place for that.”

A second item, he cited, is to have highly qualified teachers.

“I think this school system has a big turnover in teachers,” Walker said. “And, correct me if I'm wrong on that, but as long as there is a lot of turnover and the pay is not competitive with the other school systems, we'll always have that turnover. And, if the turnover is always there, the learning is not there.”

He suggested they consider retention target percentages.

“If there was a sustainable goal that you could set for retaining teachers, I think that would go a long way toward the education of the students,” he said.

James Ghee asked about the timetable to go with the goals “to give us some idea of how we would measure performance. And, that five-year stretch is pretty long and there is nothing in here that shows how we would measure performance throughout that five-year period. And we might need, yet, to look at a timetable to go along with the goals.”

The goals, he would assess, are “significant” as well as “doable” and suggested annual goals or ways to measure success at reaching the goals or targets by year.

Chairman Comments

Following the public hearing, Chairman Dove expressed appreciation for the input and added that they would surely consider each idea brought before them, go back and have some discussion at the January meeting. (The board is expected to adopt the plan at that meeting.)

Developing a timetable, division Superintendent Dr. David Smith cited, would be the next step.

“…There will be timetables for all this,” he said.

Ghee asked if the public would have an opportunity to comment on the proposed timetable that would go along with the plan.

Dove didn't see why not, noting that they'll develop one, get it out and seek input.