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Rowan-Salisbury school board works to polish new strategic plan

SALISBURY — The strategic plan for Rowan-Salisbury Schools has slimmed down over the years. The 2014-17 plan was 25 pages of goals, plans and dreams, but the 2017-20 plan finishes with a flourish at just three pages.

School districts are required to submit a new strategic plan to the state every three years. The plan must map out the school system’s path until the next plan is due.

Rowan-Salisbury’s previous plan had a strong focus on literacy and weaving technology into every classroom. Andrew Smith, director of innovation for the district, said that over the past three years the system has seen gains in literacy and other academic measures.

“It’s now time to enter into the second strategic plan. So what we’re looking at here will guide us through 2020,” he told the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education on Monday.

A strategic plan is more than just a required stack of paper, however. Smith said drawing up a draft of the plan — a six-month process — allowed school officials to see where the district is strong and where it is struggling.

“The end of the strategic plan allows a nice venue to holistically measure where the district stands in a multiple of areas,” Smith said.

As district staff began reviewing the old plan and looking toward the future, five key goals emerged: the need to develop reading skills, community schools and human resources; making sure all school buildings are well-maintained and in good condition; and implementing the district’s mindset and culture.

The new plan also focuses on a need for social and emotional learning to help improve staff and student mental health.

Smith said the paring of the plan’s length, in addition to a requirement to evaluate progress on each goal each year, will help keep the district accountable and allow officials to measure progress more easily.

Board Chairman Josh Wagner said he thinks slimming down the strategic plan is a good thing.

“I don’t know how many folks in the community pay attention to it. It seems a little convoluted. … So I appreciate the fact that we’re narrowing it down,” he said.

Wagner also highlighted the plan’s focus on community involvement and talked about the need to get the community more involved in things like the strategic plan.

“I think understanding what the community wants and expects and how we can do things better is important,” he said. “… This is a long process, and trying to get where we’re going is going to take a long time.”

However, board members did take issue with some parts of the plan. Dean Hunter spoke up about one of the goals: to provide well-maintained school buildings. A bullet point under that goal is to “determine whether to consolidate school facilities and/or utilize a bond referendum.”

Superintendent Lynn Moody said the team who put together the plan tried to include “board goals,” or topics that the Board of Education has discussed frequently or feels are important.

“You are kind of carrying the weight of moving us in that direction,” Moody said of several sub-items, including the one about consolidation.

Hunter, however, took issue with the fact that the strategic plan implied that the district would be responsible for the decision to consolidate or close schools — which would be incorrect.

“When it’s all said and done, it’s seven people that are going to be responsible for that,” Hunter said. “… I think those are too specific of terms.”

Moody clarified that the plan presented Monday is just a draft and board members would tweak the wording as they see fit.

Hunter and Moody had a heated discussion about the issue, and other board members weighed in with other concerns. Board member Richard Miller said he wants to know how the school system plans to measure growth in the first three goals — particularly the literacy goal that specified the use of Achieve3000.

Wagner said he doesn’t like the implication that teachers will be responsible for extra work — particularly when it comes to community schools goals, which includ attendance and social and emotional well-being.

“Our teachers are already doing a million other things besides teaching,” Wagner said. “It’s not their job.”

After further discussion, the board agreed to review the strategic plan again at its Oct. 23 business meeting. The meeting will begin at 4 p.m. with a closed session in the Wallace Educational Forum board room, 500 N. Main St. Celebrations will be held at 5 p.m. and public comment, at 6 p.m.

In other business, the board:

  • Discussed the potential construction of a new field house at East Rowan High School.
  • Discussed a temporary easement with the North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union, which is considering opening a new branch adjacent to school system property in China Grove.
  • Were informed that the state now requires all boards of education to appoint a Business Advisory Council and discussed possible appointments.
  • Heard a presentation about the possibility of installing solar panels at Salisbury High School.
  • Discussed potential alternates for West Rowan Elementary School.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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