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December 26, 2014

Plan should help Sylacauga schools move forward

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Posted: Monday, February 3, 2014 7:42 pm

The Sylacauga City School System is to be commended for moving forward with the development of a five year strategic plan, adopted by the school board last week, which sets in place goals and objectives for improvement during the next five years.

The impetus for developing the plan came from the schools accreditations process, which was successfully completed last spring. Accreditation is a combined process of self-study and outside review in which schools and school systems assess performance based on a variety of criteria.

The school district was evaluated according to accrediting organization AdvancED’s five standards for quality and rated on a 1-4 scale, with 4 being the highest, as follows: 3.25 for purpose and direction; 3.17 for governance and leadership; 2.83 for teaching and assessing for learning; 2.88 for resources and support systems; and 2.6 for using results for continuous improvement.

The strategic plan helps define how that improvement should take place.

The system held a meeting to seek public input, and also solicited responses to online surveys to help identify needs.

With 21 community stakeholders working on the plan, with feedback from more than 500 people in the community, the plan was put together using AdvancED standards in the same four major categories used for assessment during the accreditation process.

The system started out from a good point, according to an education consultant brought in for the project. The schools would be moving from a level of comfort, with a challenge to do more.

The plan breaks each category into goals and then strategies for achieving those goals.

Under governance and leadership, the goals emphasize having qualified, effective and innovative board members and school leaders, and providing opportunities for collaborative efforts to improve school system governance.

Goals for teaching and assessing learning are to meet all students’ needs with meaningful, rigorous, relevant and high-quality instruction, improve achievement, and make progress toward 100 percent graduation, and to use student data analysis in that process.

For facilities, resources and support systems, the goals include providing safe, well-maintained facilities with up-to-date technology, and to provide effective transportation, health and wellness and nutrition services.

Goals for collaboration, communication and continuous improvement focus on using accreditation monitoring plans to evaluate success and guide decisions while keeping stakeholders informed.

Highlighted goals are expanding availability of technology, expanding preschool programs, increasing fine arts and other electives and expanding career and technical education programs.

One board member noted the goals sound simple, but that there are many levels to each set of goals — each one covers a lot of ground.

Much is demanded of our public schools, where students from a wide variety of backgrounds depend on faculty and staff to help them reach their fullest potential. The goals set forth in this strategic plan can help the system be more successful in helping them do that.

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