Rowan-Salisbury School System sets goals with strategic plan

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 15, 2014

Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody took over the Rowan-Salisbury School System in October, when she promised to take several months to observe and learn how the district functions and what it takes to bring success to the district.
After months of observing and planning, Moody has released a strategic plan, complete with goals for each department.
The district’s priorities are maintaining school safety; recruiting, developing and retaining quality employees and engaging the community.
“We need a laser-like focus on what we’re going to do,” Moody said.
The plan also includes two focus areas: reading and literacy and engaging work and instruction.
Reading and literacy
Under the new plan, the district wants 90 percent of students to be reading at or above grade level by the year 2017, as well as achieving or exceeding one year’s growth in reading each year.
The district wants to implement problem based learning and critical thinking skills by introducing real-life problems for students to solve.
By implementing the district’s one-to-one initiative, each third through 12th grader and Rowan-Salisbury teacher will have an iPad or laptop to use.
Opportunities will be provided for teachers to join professional learning communities to create more effective lessons and learning environments.
The technology department’s goals focus closely on the district’s one-to-one initiative. Students will be able to use their devices for the entire school year.
With added technology, teachers, parents and the community are asked to instill healthy digital citizenship habits.
Teachers and parents must understand copyright, content, morals and ethics to teach students about validity, credibility and proper sources while using technology, Moody said.
Simply providing digital devices for students and teachers isn’t enough, however.
Executive Director of Technology Candace Salmon-Hosey pointed out, “We can’t leave staff behind.”
The district’s digital innovation plan requires extensive professional development to help teachers work together to create innovative learning experiences for students.
“We’re preparing kids for a world we can’t imagine,” said Eisa Cox, director of secondary education.
Since students have nearly unlimited access to information, teachers become “co-constructors of knowledge,” she added.
In addition, the district’s infrastructure must be able to support all the additional digital devices.
“The infrastructure piece clears the path for one-to-one,” Salmon-Hosey said.
The goal is that students and staff “have strong access to the internet” every time they try to connect, she added.
Salmon-Hosey said they plan to accomplish that by installing access points in every classroom, with additional access points throughout each building.
According to Kristi Rhone, director of human resources, her department plans to lower the teacher and employee turnover rate to at or below 10 percent by 2017 by personalizing training and professional development, showing appreciation to staff and improving working conditions. They also plan to conduct a salary study and look at ways to be financially competitive with surrounding districts.
Rhone also said she would hold an annual job fair to recruit and hire qualified individuals so that all Rowan-Salisbury employees will be highly qualified for their position by 2017.
The human resources department plans for all Rowan-Salisbury employees, by 2017, to take part in comprehensive professional development.
“We’ve got to make sure everybody has the appropriate training,” Rhone said.
The finance department will redesign the district’s budget to align with the district’s focus areas, such as digital conversion. This will allow funding to go to projects that further literacy, school safety and the one-to-one digital conversion.
By 2015, the finance department will establish an internal committee to ensure all grant submissions align with one of the district’s focus areas.
The finance team will also focus funding for staff development toward professional development that will further the district’s focus areas by 2015.
“We want to make sure that our staff and our students are learning in a safe environment,” said Risk Manager Sharon Gardner.
Gardner said the district plans to implement improvements over a five-year period of time recommended at each school by Safe Havens International, an independent school safety contractor. Improvements include cameras, proxy doors and visitor management systems.
The department of student services’ goal is to develop a comprehensive plan encompassing bullying, drug abuse, medical care, dropout prevention and homelessness.
In a district with roughly 3,000 student athletes, between 260 and 270 coaches and 29 teams, a long-range plan for improving athletics is a must, according to Assistant Superintendent of Administration Nathan Currie. In the fall, a concrete plan discussing fair play, adding more programs and improving opportunities with the district’s athletic directors.
Transportation – The department will also work to improve its efficiency rating, which generates state funding, to 90 percent or more by 2017. This will be done using the fewest number of buses to carry the most students and controlling expenditures such as gas or breakdowns.
The transportation department plans to reduce each student’s average ride time by 5 percent by 2017. Route coordinators will drive routes to check actual ride times, and mechanics will “need to stay on top of their buses,” according to Transportation Director Tim Beck.
The transportation department’s final goal is to reduce bus discipline referrals by 10 percent by 2017. Drivers will receive training, and cameras will be installed on the buses. Student incentives will also be used.
Child nutrition – The child nutrition department will increase student breakfast participation by 8 percent.
“It’s good for the kids,” said Libby Post, director of child nutrition, adding that students who receive breakfast at school are less likely to be tardy and receive better test grades.
By 2017, child nutrition plans to increase ServSafe certified staff by 20 percent. Currently, approximately half of the child nutrition workers have taken the food safety course.
Child nutrition also plans to increase high school lunch participation by 5 percent by 2017. Post said the high school menus have been redesigned, and staff plans to use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote lunches.
Maintenance – The maintenance department is currently transitioning to a new work-order system that tracks repairs, supplies and cost. They plan to complete the conversion by 2017.
By 2017, the maintenance department also plans to decrease energy consumption by 2.5 percent. Methods of energy reduction will be individualized for each school, but will include practices such as closing doors and blinds, turning off lights and replacing lighting, air-conditioning units and water conversion.
Maintenance Director Butch Bivens said he also wants to increase the number of certifications and licenses maintenance employees have through stipend rewards.
We want our people “to be as professional as they can be,” Bivens said.
The communications department plans to publicize the importance of reading by gaining parental and community support through projects like ‘’Give Five, Read Five,” volunteer tutoring and a summer reading website.
They also plan to provide more opportunities for the community to get involved in Rowan-Salisbury schools through partnerships with local businesses and organizations in events such as the expanded back to school celebration, the Teacher of the Year breakfast. Information about opportunities will be available under the “community” tab of the district’s new website when it is launched in August.