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Rowan-Salisbury superintendent unveils strategic plan

Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody unveiled the Rowan-Salisbury School System’s new three-year strategic plan, motto and logo and to community members at a forum in China Grove Monday evening.

“I think it was right on target,” said Brian Miller, a parent who attended the community forum.

“It was exciting to finally unveil the strategic plan,” Moody said, adding that the importance of having a strategic plan is “to make people focus” on the same things.

The district’s new motto is “E3: Extraordinary Education Every Day,” and the new logo is comprised of a blue and green abstract person reaching for a star in a forward-moving motion.

Moody began by showing a video written, directed and produced by the district’s WRSS student news team comparing current classroom environments with ones once the strategic plan is implemented.

The students contrasted using flashcards and worksheets to digital devices and mobile learning applications. They demonstrated using an iPad to explore three-dimensional cells and talked about how they could be more creative in the classroom.

The plan will rebuild some parts of instruction from the ground up.

While the district’s graduation rate is up to 82.9 percent from 73 percent in 2010 and the dropout rate has fallen to 1.17 percent from 4.24 percent, student enrollment has dropped by 900 students and teacher turnover is 5.75 percent higher than in 2009.

In addition, Rowan-Salisbury reading and math scores are lower than the state average.

The district will focus on improving literacy and providing engaging work and instruction. Moody said a new literacy framework will be rolled out this summer.

The school system currently uses a number of different reading programs in its schools, which often hinders children of poverty who frequently move around. The number of students receiving free and reduced lunch has increased from 53.9 percent to 63.4 percent since 2009.

“We believe a consistent, robust” reading curriculum makes “all the difference,” Moody said.

Providing engaging work and instruction will help students learn more effectively.

Children learn differently and their brains operate differently, Moody said. “We have to engage them in a different way.”

One way Moody said engaging work and instruction are achieved is by utilizing technology in the classroom.

Another is eliminating what she calls “throw away work,” such as worksheets, and having students solve real-life problems in their classrooms.

Finally, encouraging and enabling teachers to collaborate through professional development and the appropriate resources will foster engaging instruction.

Moody, along with forum leaders, also stressed the importance of community involvement in schools.

“We have to be engaged,” said Pete Teague. “Education is not a spectator sport.”

Moody asked attendees to fight for higher teacher salaries.

“Right now, in the region, we are the lowest paying district in our region. Period,” she said. “We’ve got to change this.”

She also suggested that attendees invest in the literacy aspect of the strategic plan in a number of ways, including volunteering to read to students, engaging students in conversations about reading and participating in the district’s Give Five Read Five book drive.

“We need to get everyone involved,” said Elaine Spalding, president of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.

Spalding volunteers weekly at Overton Elementary with Communities in Schools.

“It is such a rewarding experience,” she said.

Moody encouraged business owners to invest in the school system by allowing students to solve their businesses’ real-life problems and providing incentives for doing so.

School board member Josh Wagoner said unveiling the strategic plan gives “validity to the planning.”

Before Tuesday night, he said, the plan still didn’t “really have any legs” because there was no community buy-in yet.

“We have lots of strategies that are attached to each of those goals,” Moody said.

The video produced by the students and a detailed version of the strategic plan will be available on the Rowan-Salisbury School System website today.

The unveiling was a part of a community forum organized by The Gateway Building Partners, including the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, RowanWORKS Economic Development, Salisbury-Rowan Convention & Visitors Bureau, Downtown Salisbury, Inc. and The LandTrust for Central North Carolina.

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