School board OKs five-year Strategic Plan
By Kathryn Schiliro
The county Board of Education (BOE) voted unanimously to approve the system-wide Strategic Plan at last Monday's board meeting.
The five-year plan, which started with community-wide meetings and was then generated and refined by smaller community- and school employee-staff groups, addresses student achievement, i.e. curriculum, college and career readiness; the relationship between the schools and the community; school climater; staff development; and effective operation, i.e. transportation, nutrition, technology, etc.
The final draft of the plan was put out for public comment following last month's BOE meeting, and the only comments received were a request for clarification of some wording and requests relating to school transportation updates and keys to creating safe bus environments.
Action plans are in place to implement the Strategic Plan, which will run throught the 2016-2017 school year. School administration will appoint school-level teams to work on alignment of the plan, and those team members will work with system administration as far as monitoring implementation.
In other BOE-related news:
• Assistant Superintendent Sarah Burbach shared with the BOE that there are 305 students in Special Education in the county's schools this year, and that the system serves nine of the state-sanctioned 12 disability areas. The greatest number of students–73–have specific learning disabilities, meaning they "have average intelligence, but processing deficits in one or more areas that affect language, written expression, math, and/or reading."
There are 67 students that fall under "Other Health Impaired" with "medically diagnosed needs that affect their learning, 50 "Significantly Developmentally Delayed," 41 "Emotional/Behavioral Disordered," 39 "Speech Impaired," 17 with Autism, 14 with "Intellectual Disabilities," three with traumatic brain injuries and one deaf or hard of hearing student.
The school system receives more than $725,000 in federal and state money for its Special Education program. That money is spent on pay and specialized equipment. The school system employs 32.8 state-allotted Special Education teachers, but the state says the county earned 33.11 of these. There are 41 Special Education paraprofessional employed in county schools–18 are funded through state and federal grants and 6.5 through state allotments. Additionally, the county earned 1.33 school psyschologists but employs one and earned 1.79 Special Education directors but employs less than one, Burbach said.
With implementation of the College-Career Readiness Performance Index, a new Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) measure, Special Education students must be taught with their "non-disabled peers" for at least 80 percent of their school day, something county teachers are already working toward.
Morgan is also one in four Georgia systems testing an online Individualized Education Plan (IEP) program for the state. IEPs are exactly what they sounds like–plans developed specifically for a student to maximize teaching in the way that student learns best.
• There are currently 3,316 students in Morgan County schools, 19 less than last month, Burbach said. Most comings and goings are happening at the high school.
• Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett's Teacher Advisory Board, made up of about 10 teachers from each of the county's schools, expressed most concern to him about the implementation of Common Core standards, a complete reworking of curriculum which is being done while teachers are teaching; budget concerns and modifications to the work calendar; and the upcoming vote on the Georgia Constitutional amendment regarding charter schools.
• Bennett met with 12 representatives from 16 charter systems across the state–Barrow, Dawson, Floyd, Fulton, Gordon, Madison, Putnam, Warren and White counties, Calhoun, Cartersville, Decatur, Dublin, Gainesville and Marietta city schools–as well as state legislative representatives about forming a Charter School Foundation, with possible functions to include "research, exchange of ideas, advocacy, fundraising, and coordination of resources." The group hopes to meet with Governor Nathan Deal in the future.
• The system's Race to the Top District grant application is completed and was sent to the state Department of Education (DOE) for editing. It's due to the U.S. DOE at month's end. The county's application focuses on education personalization through technology.
According to Bennett, Morgan County's up against 800 nationwide applications.
• The BOE voted unanimously to approve: revisions to board policy regarding closed sessions; changes to board policy regarding promotion and retention classifications for high school students for public comment; and the retirement of an elementary school custodian and recommendation to hire a paraprofessional for the high school.
• A local business owner and Madison resident, Debbie Smith, who runs Facetime4U–a social media management company for local businesses–addressed the board about the relationship between the school system and local businesses.
Smith said she's noticed all local, small businesses do to support the school system–making donations, participating in fund-raisers, posting flyers, not to mention ELOST sales tax contributions–and feels there is a bit of a disconnect between the school system and local business. There on behalf of local, small business, Smith said she would like any feedback the school board had as far as how local residents and small business owners could become more connected to the school system and administration.
Printed in the October 18, 2012 edition