School board to spend retreat ‘deep thinking’
By Rebecca Rider
SALISBURY — Sometimes, you have to get out of town to get a look at the big picture. At least that’s the idea behind the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education’s retreat, scheduled to run from the afternoon of Jan. 19 through noon Jan. 21 in Chapel Hill.
The board has scheduled similar retreats in the past. Chairman Josh Wagner said the short trips present an opportunity to build camaraderie and discuss ideas outside a formal meeting with an agenda.
“So I think that’s the best part of it,” he said. “It helps us to see each other as human beings instead of just as board members.”
The total cost for Rowan’s 15 representatives to attend, including hotel, food and materials, is estimated at $10,000. Wagner said board expenses will be covered by board members’ budgeted allotment for professional development and will not add to the existing budget. Wagner said in an email that several board members may attend one only event each year and do not spend the allotted amount in a given year.
“This year will be no different,” he said.
Last year, three other school boards joined a retreat that was held near Florence, S.C. This year, the school board from Alvin, Texas, will join the Rowan-Salisbury board for a day of training and a half-day of discussion.
Both Wagner and Superintendent Lynn Moody emphasized the importance of hearing from another education leaders. Moody said the retreat will give the boards an opportunity to compare demographics and data and to strategize for the future.
On Thursday afternoon, all seven members of the board will go to Chapel Hill to meet with the University of North Carolina’s new dean of education, Fouad And-El-Khalick, to hear his thoughts on the future of public education.
Friday morning, they will be joined by their Texas counterparts along with a total of 14 teachers — seven from Rowan-Salisbury Schools and seven from Alvin, Texas — as well as the two superintendents. The all-day workshop, held at the Carolina Inn, will focus on professional development for the board and learning.
Moody said the board will discuss its role in the community and how it can become an advocate for public education during a session with the Schlechty Center, a nonprofit organization that focuses on changing the way teachers and administrators view their schools to create an engaging learning environment.
George Thompson, president of the Schlechty Center, will lead the retreat, Moody said.
UNC Professor Jim Johnson will also speak to the boards about poverty’s relation to academics.
“And we’re going to talk about what this means for us,” Moody said. “How do we move academic achievement to a high level while recognizing poverty? … And what is our role in that? What is the teacher’s role, what is the board’s role, what is the superintendent’s role?”
Moody said the retreat will be different from the board’s typical professional development.
“Generally, our professional development is around strategies or best practices or objectives, … and this is more of an opportunity to do what I call deep thinking,” she said.
On Saturday morning, participants will split into small groups to discuss the previous day’s sessions, something Wagner said will be key to the success of the retreat.
“I think it can be helpful only if we have the opportunity for discussion,” he said.
Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.
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