Warren County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mary Young identified school system strengths and challenges in a 90-day entry plan report she presented during the board of education’s Nov. 5 meeting.
Community and data input
She indicated that developing her report involved a three-part process to become more acquainted with the school district, the county and local residents since she became superintendent in July: speaking with school system representatives and people in the community, reviewing data that included graduation rates and academic performance, visiting individual schools and holding community forums.
In her report, Young pledged to continue her visits to local schools throughout the academic year and to continue meetings with community members to “advance learning, build strong communications and create change.”
The superintendent also prepared a survey for students, parents/guardians, school staff and community members which asked for input on the following: three things that Warren County Schools does well, three things that the school system needs to work on and recommendations for improving Warren County Schools.
According to the report, the following were listed as school system strengths: technology, staff providing a supportive and family atmosphere, recognizing student and staff achievement, school choice at the middle and high school level, and safety advances.
The following were mentioned as areas where improvement is needed: financial challenges that affect school funding, class activities, salaries/supplements and teacher supplies; consistent communication with parents and teachers; customer service, including concern about negative interaction in conversation and behaviors between students, parents and staff and an “it’s always been done this way” mentality; retaining teachers and hiring qualified staff; high quality instruction with interventions for struggling students; professional development geared toward specific needs, such as new or seasoned teachers, content area and instructional coaching; and transportation, including late buses and increasing communication with staff.
Survey respondents made the following recommendations for improvement: customer service-create a welcoming environment, be a better listener, be more responsive to parent and employee concerns; improve school funding and increase teacher salaries; develop services which include mental health and socio-economic learning for students with recurring disciplinary concerns; develop structures and systems to increase communication; school district should have one calendar instead of the three currently used; create a teacher recruitment and retention plan; develop a parent engagement plan; increase partnerships with the community to include business, government, organizations and churches; provide more academic opportunities for students to include after school tutoring, band, chorus and art.
In her report, Young listed additional school system strengths as its literacy project for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, pre-kindergarten program, buses with cameras and GPS systems, partnerships with colleges, universities and education-related organizations at the state, national and international levels.
Young listed the following as areas where improvement is needed: consistent code of conduct at all school levels, alternative programming, development and implementation of a literacy project focusing on middle and high school students, individualized educational program practices and staffing, teachers providing instruction based upon needs for struggling learners, content interventionists and coaches for all teachers, expansion of Career and Technical Education programs of study, staffing allotments, staff recruitment and retention, systems and structures to ensure clear internal and external communications, limited financial resources, teacher and student attendance, parental engagement, social media and community partners.
The report lists the following opportunities to help the school system improve: partnerships with religious organizations, businesses, government and media; university and community college support and partnerships, along with working with Vance-Granville Community College to expand course offerings; implement a “grow your own” teacher pipeline through VGCC’s college transfer degree program; federal, state and local grants; teachers willing to implement student activities such as spelling bee, debate teams, oratory club and academic bowl; use of technology to improve operations and communication; new school system website; long-term plan to address aging school facilities and declining student enrollment; implement a multi-tiered system of support and mental health plan to assist students; and work with the Kerr Area Transportation Authority to transport parents and students by offering vouchers.
Young listed the following barriers as having an impact on Warren County Schools: decreasing local rural population; charter, home and private schools; negative community perception of the district; three school calendars, and the district’s ability to be effective and efficient; teacher recruitment and retention; teacher salaries and supplements in neighboring school districts; and aging facilities, vehicles and equipment.
Priorities for moving forward
The superintendent told the newspaper on Friday that recent meetings with community advisory committees have been productive, and that many participants pledged to assist Warren County Schools through their skills and to help students. Young said that she is asking principals about the needs at their schools in order to match community volunteers to address those needs.
In her report, Young outlined several priorities to address as the first steps toward improving the school system.
They include devoting the next six months to review current spending habits to improve inefficiencies and reallocate resources. Young also calls for consistent reviews of staffing and spending practices to increase effectiveness and efficiency. She would like for employees to offer innovative solutions to budgetary challenges and to provide suggestions on how to maximize resources.
Young noted that the school system and community should continue to work together to improve early childhood education to close achievement gaps.
She added that the curriculum and student support should focus on helping students gain the following skills: analytical thinking and innovation, active learning, creativity, originality, initiative, technology design and programming, critical thinking and analysis, complex problem solving, leadership and social influence, emotional intelligence, reasoning and problem-solving in order to develop ideas and solutions, and systems analysis and evaluation.
Young will focus on recruiting and retaining teachers with the added emphasis on the need for educators to build positive relationships with students.
In concluding her report, Young noted that she has started a discussion with the board of education about developing a new strategic plan for the school district to be implemented with the 2020-21 school year.
To view the complete report, see above left. To obtain a paper copy of the report, contact the school system’s central administrative office at 252-257-3184.