Board of Education
Training seminar focuses on long-term vision
by Wes Mayer
The Coweta County Board of Education met Thursday to complete its annual training and discuss the school system budget for current and upcoming projects. The training session fulfilled the three mandatory hours the school board is required to take yearly, and the program was facilitated by Laura Reilly from the Georgia School Boards Association.
The focus of the training was to look at the five-year strategic plan for the school board and the Coweta County School System and look at the AdvanceED accreditation system.
All members of the board — superintendent Dr. Steve Barker, chairman Winston Dowdell, clerk Connie Hanson and school board members Harry Mullins, Sue Brown, Frank Farmer, Graylin Ward, Amy Dees and Larry Robertson — were present for the training session.
Reilly’s presentation was centered around the improvement life cycle, a cycle that continuously involves setting goals, planning strategies, implementing and delivering, evaluating and adjusting for success, analyzing data and starting over by setting new goals. Reilly said the process is always changing because education is a business of people, new students are always becoming a part of the system, and the county’s economy revolves around the schools.
“Continuous improvement is ingrained in us, and that is how we’re supposed to operate,” Barker said.
Reilly compared the school board and its school system to a conductor and his/her orchestra, describing a conductor as someone who does not personally play an instrument, but who creates beautiful and organized music by uniting a group of very different people.
“This leadership team is the conductor for this strategic planning process,” Reilly said. “Without leadership, a tone or climate you set up, it can affect the whole process.”
Before beginning the AdvancED presentation, Reilly fostered discussion among members of the board as they discussed their mission, vision and beliefs. Their mission is simple — Coweta Committed to Student Success (CCSS - Coweta County School System) — and their vision, to ensure the success of each student, is straightforward. Although the word “success” has a very broad definition.
“I don’t define success as graduation,” Dees said. “To develop lifelong learners is success to me.”
The school board members discussed what success means to them, and it was ultimately defined as every student becoming and feeling successful. This is a vision considered nearly impossible to attain, but it gives the school board a goal to continually reach for.
The board members moved on to look at their strategic plan for the next five years. The board’s goals centered on improving student achievement with graduation rates and test scores and meeting the annual yearly progress. Next month, the board will receive last school year’s grade according to the Georgia Department of Education’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), a report system the school board was introduced to last spring.
Other goals included meeting federal requirements, improving student/teacher attendance and expanding and increasing opportunities for students with Advanced Placement courses and dual enrollment at the Central Educational Center and college campuses in Coweta County.
After the board discussed its goals and areas of improvement, Reilly began her presentation on the AdvanceED standards for quality. There were five standards of the presentation — purpose and direction, governance and leadership, teaching and assessing for learning, resources and support systems, and using results for continuous improvement.
Purpose and direction focused on the engagement of student, teachers and parents. For the board, engagement was closely related to success, and while engaging all students is a great goal, it will not be as effective without engaged parents or teachers.
“With parents,” Reilly said, “20 percent are always going to love and support you and 20 percent are going to hate you no matter what you do. It’s the 60 percent in the middle who don’t know and are on the fence that you have to continue to work with.”
This tied closely to the second standard of governance and leadership. Reilly asked the members of the school board how they measured their own successes. The board discussed and came up with multiple answers — they communicate well with each other and with employees of the school system, they set forth goals but do not micro-manage and meddle with employees’ jobs, and they receive input and inform all interested parties about their decisions and actions.
The most important standard was teaching and assessing for learning because that is the backbone of the school system. The main point of the standard was to ensure all students have sufficient opportunities to develop learning, thinking and life skills that lead to success at the next level.
“We’re really about the business of student achievement,” Dr. Barker said. “That is where we spend an enormous amount of our time.”
When the three-hour training session concluded with a video about AndvancED — available at www.advanc-ed.org — a short budget meeting followed.
Financially, the school board is technically over its operational budget for the term because of the purchase of new school buses. The money spent toward the buses will be reimbursed, though, so the board is actually under budget, which will show in the next budget report, officials said.
For projects, Barker spoke on filling available custodial positions in the county’s schools by outsourcing to custodial companies. The outsourcing has worked well so far in the schools where it was implemented, he said.
Barker also said that none of the county schools is over capacity, but some are at max capacity. This either means expansion of the schools or creating a way to have schools with space help out the schools that might need more space. This is a process that might not involve redistricting and is something for his staff to look into. Either way, many school facilities need to maximize the space they have rather than add additional space.
Using the Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Task, the Coweta school board has funded a few projects. Current projects involve expansions to East Coweta High School and Evans Middle School, along with retrofitting the schools with new lighting.
Upcoming projects may include additions to Lee Middle School and Madras Middle School because of their surrounding extra land, and the plans for these additions will be drafted in the next few months.
Long-range projects include improving Northgate High School’s sewer system and updating the elementary schools’ air conditioning, which could be completed in the next few summers.
A final project would be to replace the high school stadium’s fields with turf. Barker’s staff has done research on the matter, and while it won’t be so much of a cost improvement for installation, it will improve the condition of the fields for year-round use, not only for sports, but for events such as graduation ceremonies.