RSS delves into planning and accountability in a multi-hour session – Salisbury Post


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SALISBURY – The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Education Council and administrative leaders spent a day on Thursday discussing the direction of the district.

As part of the eight-hour agenda, Superintendent Tony Watlington presented the council with tons of data and the process of creating the district’s strategic plan – a goal he set for himself shortly after been chosen as the new district superintendent. Watlington spoke of marrying the district’s special renewal status with strategic planning to deliver results.

The district is working with consulting firm Insight Education Group on the plan. Company co-founder Jason Stricker also attended the board retreat.

The timeline for the plan is to begin to be implemented this fall. Rowan-Salisbury Schools have established a Steering Committee made up of staff, parents, students, community members and the district administrative office.

Data points for staff, community

On Thursday, Watlington presented the board with more than a dozen community, staff and student data points – which he had previously discussed at a school board meeting in April, improving graduation and graduation rates. abandonment.

The presentation also included an overview of the increased enrollment in the district’s College and Career Promise program, which allows high school and senior students to take dual enrollment courses with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Enrollment increased from 566 for the 2016-2017 school year to 2,011 in 2019-2020. It declined a bit during the pandemic – to 1,550 during the year 2020-2021. Career and technical education degrees are also on the rise.

The increase in the number of schools in the district not meeting growth targets and the slow progression of underperforming schools after the district reduced that number in 2016 is not positive. Academic difficulties threaten the district’s renewal status, which will come under review. by the state in 2023. Watlington aims to reverse these two trends.

The presentation looked at other factors including food insecurity, overdose rates, life expectancy and diabetes compared to neighboring counties. Rowan County is at the bottom of the list in every category on a list of 10 neighboring counties.

Fewer people in Rowan County are also earning a bachelor’s or graduate degree, although the county is in the middle of the pack for high school graduates. A lot of people here have a university education.

The neighborhood is also facing demographic problems. Its enrollment has been slowly declining for about a decade and the student demographics have changed while that of the community remains the same. The percentage of white students attending RSS schools is declining.

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Education Teachers’ Working Conditions Survey, 85% of teachers think places to work and learn are good. That statistic sits in the middle of neighboring districts, but Davidson County schools have shown that 92% of teachers think so.

For the year 2019-2020, RSS does not compare favorably to neighboring districts in terms of teacher retention, with more than 7% of teachers in the district working elsewhere, according to the survey.

The district ranks poorly compared to most neighboring districts when it comes to starting salary and low on the list of veteran teachers. The salaries of principals and the pay of classified staff such as teacher assistants, guards and bus drivers are also low.

The district also interviewed local stakeholders and received 1,611 responses. Of those who responded, 57% were parents or guardians, 32% were employees, 8% students, and only 3% were diverse members of the community. Early learning and staff compensation were at the top of the list of priorities chosen by respondents.

Four themes also emerged that the district needs to focus on: engaged learners, great schools, system-wide supports, and effectiveness. Smaller categories within the larger themes were improving educational outcomes, reducing the number of underperforming schools, increasing enrollment, increasing the number of high performing staff, and developing a new responsibility model.

Watlington explained how the $ 26.3 million federal HSS grant received last year matches planning goals – funding staff development, incentives for teachers, signing bonuses at at-risk schools, and pilot programs. skill-based at Morgan Elementary and South Rowan High.

The grant, called “Accelerate Rowan” is intended to create incentives for teachers to advance the district’s work on renewal.

Connect with students

Watlington said RSS is moving towards a competency-based model and the district wants to research it through pilot programs. The model changes the way students progress through content, giving them a personalized approach rather than a block of content delivered to a group at the same pace.

Part of the plan in motion is the communication strategy, getting as much information out as possible to people.

“When you plan to move an organization, it requires all of these stakeholders to understand, not just buy in,” said Stricker, who works with the district as a consultant.

Watlington said the most important factor in student success is their teacher.

“How do you put the best teachers in touch with some of the most needy students? Watlington asked the board, adding that this would be the best strategy to invest in.

The way to do this, said Watlington, is to take the millions in grants and apply some capitalist principles by recruiting some of the best teachers in the area and “paying them big bucks.”

“You have to say we’re going to do what it takes to get a first round pick for School X and Kids X,” Watlington said.

While trying to improve academics, the district faces two models of accountability: the traditional state model based on end-of-class and standardized testing as well as the local model it develops through renewal.

New accountability model

School principal Kelly Withers told the board about the work on the new model and the district’s accountability goals. She dispelled the idea that renewal means less responsibility and spoke about ways the district seeks to track student performance over the long term.

The model is framed by the District Renewal System and divided into unique academics, interpersonal skills, and life goals.

The district sets performance targets that correspond to each area it wishes to monitor. For unique life goals, he wants 90% of elementary students to explore new areas of interest and create portfolios showing they have done so.

Withers said the goal is not to ask elementary students to make career decisions. Instead, RSS wants to show them certain fields that they might be interested in.

By moving to college, districts want 90% of students exposed to career options that match their interests and also create portfolios for those.

In high school, the district wants 95% of students to have work experience, such as an internship related to what they want to do after graduation, and 100% of students to have a plan when they leave high school. , whether must be enrolled in higher education, enlisted in the military or employed.

For academics, schools want 90% of students between Grades 3 and 11 to show growth. For interpersonal skills, the district wants each school to track student improvements, teacher feedback to students, and, again, portfolios to record their growth.

Withers said the district isn’t just interested in what students plan to do when they graduate. He wants to monitor their performance in their activities, noting that many students drop out of college or leave the military during basic training.

The Strategic Plan Steering Committee will meet later this month and in July to continue work on the plan. This weekend, design teams led by teachers, principals and the administrative cabinet are on retreat to Lake Junaluska for a planning retreat.

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