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Challenging times ahead for Rowan-Salisbury Schools

By Judy Grissom
Rowan-Salisbury Schools superintendent
SALISBURY — As the 2011-2012 school year begins for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, it may prove to be one of the most challenging years in the history of public education.
With careful planning and the utilization of federal jobs money and some of the system’s fund balance, classroom teachers and teacher assistants’ positions were saved from the cutting board.
However, the school system will begin the year with financial cuts at the Central Office in major areas and in some program areas. Continually removing the infrastructure of the system will eventually weaken the support at the school and classroom level.
The school calendar was altered in the late days of decisions being made at the state level. Five additional instructional school days were added to the calendar at the same time as funds for transportation were slashed.
The Board of Education requested and had approved a waiver to use the additional days this year for staff training days for several reasons. The decision for the additional days came too late to redo the entire budget to compensate for bus transportation for the extra student instructional time for this year.
Because of the Race To The Top federal grant received by the State of North Carolina, system staff are required to complete 30 to 40 hours of training on new Common Core standards and Formative Assessment with five of the teacher workdays being eliminated. The waiver of the extra days will allow the completion of the training without interfering with classroom teaching. During the 2012-2013 school year, students will attend school for 185 days instead of 180 days.
Teachers will be challenged this year learning about new standards for all of the content areas taught in our schools. While learning about the new standards, they will be expected to teach the “old” curriculum because students will be assessed at the end of the year on the “old” curriculum. Working with two very different curriculums will prove to be a juggling act for even the best of teachers.
Accountability for student success continues to increase each year. Teachers are already dealing with increasing targets for accountability with less resources to prepare their students.
Teachers and principals were evaluated on new instruments this past year. During the summer, a new standard that rates a teacher on increasing student performance has been added to the evaluation instrument. A new standard was added to the principal’s evaluation that rates a principal on increasing student performance for his/her school.
One of the most difficult challenges in facing all of the changes this year is doing so in an atmosphere of negativity towards public school and the hard work that teachers are doing every day in their classroom and all of the support staff helping them.
The media and the public sometimes forget their part in helping our students to be productive and successful. There is so much time and effort spent in emphasizing the “bad” that the “good” is totally ignored. If there were ever a time that our community should join together in positively supporting and rewarding our staff for their hard work instead of tearing apart everything that is done, this is the year to do it.
I applaud the employees of the Rowan-Salisbury School System because they put their heart and soul in helping our students prepare for an ever-changing future.
Our administrative staff will be reading the book “The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy” this fall.
We will be looking at ways we can move forward and refuel for a better future. I hope everyone in our community will renew their commitment to helping each and every student in our classrooms with a positive approach and “Get On The Energy Bus” with us.
Dr. Judy Grissom is the superintendent of the Rowan-Salisbury School System.

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