Mount Airy City Schools unveiled a new four-year strategic plan this week, following months of work.
Back at the start of the school year, school officials reached out to the public to get participation in some brainstorming sessions.
Dr. Kim Morrison, school superintendent, encouraged teachers and parents alike to come up with ideas for improving education, even if some of the “pie in the sky” dreams might not be feasible.
She pointed some of the many changes that have occurred since the last four-year plan was created in 2012. Technology has grown greatly, the high school began offering Mandarin as a foreign language, and Tharrington Primary has a Spanish-immersion classroom.
Over several weeks, committees met to discuss areas of concern and ways to better the district for both students and employees alike for the next four years.
More than 60 people were involved in creating the new strategic plan. Morrison led one group of participants, while three other groups were led by Jason Dorsett, chief operations officer; Jesse Hiatt, director of accountability and student services; and Carrie Venable, public information officer and special projects.
Before the planning committee could discuss details of the plan, the Board of Education needed to swear in its four members who won their elections unopposed.
Mayor David Rowe swore in the four in order of their tenure on the board. Wendy Carriker has been a member since 1996, Phil Thacker joined in 2000, and Kate Appler joined in 2004. Mike Marion was appointed to the board last year and was elected for his first four-year term.
Thacker brought his grandfather’s Bible for the swearing in. He said that his grandfather was the first person in the family to attend school in the city in 1902.
No group of people locally have any more responsibility or opportunity to support the Granite City than do the people of the city schools, said Rowe, himself a former school board member. The school board has a positive impact on so many lives, he said, that that is proven every year with good scores and good reports.
Carriker was unanimously chosen to continue as board chair for another two years, and Tim Matthews was selected as vice chair.
Morrison and the other three team leaders gave a Power Point presentation to the school board on the strategic plan.
Some of the tactics listed are already under way and are identified by the word ongoing in parentheses after the list item, Morrison noted. For example, PLCs (professional learning communities) have been going well, she said.
“North Carolina defines successful schools as places where every child graduates college- and career-ready,” said Morrison.
“Our mission and vision have remained constant,” she said. “All students will: Think critically, Innovatively solve problems, Be responsible citizens, Be confident leaders.”
Morrison went through the strategies for Area 1: Empowered Students. “We want our students to not only be engaged, but empowered. We believe every child can maximize their potential.We want our district to maintain and grow academic excellence.”
Goal #1: Academic Excellence
Strategy 1. Increase Early Learning Support (new)
Strategy 2. Support Professional Learning Communities (ongoing)
Strategy 3. Conduct walkthroughs (ongoing)
Strategy 4. Implement MACS Instructional Plan- Power Standards, PBL, and Balanced Literacy (ongoing)
Strategy 5. Introduce student voice into teaching and learning (new)
(Ask students questions like: How do you feel about this class? About your learning? Which problem-based learning do you want to do?)
Strategy 6. Academic Summer Camps (ongoing)
Goal #2: Preparing students for college and career
Strategy 1. Juniors and Seniors visit college campuses (expanded)
Strategy 2. Teachers and students participate in internships (expanded)
Strategy 3. RCR partners continues with after-school clubs, internships and new partners (expanded)
Strategy 4. Students take college courses while in high school (expanded)
Strategy 5. Students pass all math, ELA, and science EOGs/EOCs (ongoing)
Strategy 6. Online courses developed in all core areas (ongoing)
Goal #3: Prepare students to think innovatively (STEAM)
Strategy 1. Science classes incorporate Problem/Project-based learning (expanded)
Strategy 2. Mathematics classes incorporate Problem/Project-based learning (ongoing)
Strategy 3. Technology integrated into lessons consistently (ongoing)
Strategy 4. Arts integrated into core classes (new)
Strategy 5. K-12 implement an Innovation Day based on student interest (new)
Strategy 6. 4 STEAM camps offered in the summer
Goal #4: Prepare students with global skills and exposure
Strategy 1. Every child have the opportunity to travel outside of the state or country (new)
(This is an ambitious goal, but athletes, chorus members and band members already are getting to travel, she noted. The marching band even went to Florida.)
Strategy 2. Every child have the opportunity to take a foreign language (expanded)
(The dual-language immersion program will be expanded over the next four years. The district would like to one day offer a foreign language to middle schoolers.)
Strategy 3. Each school implement cultural events around their language (expanded)
Goal #5: Grow healthy students
Strategy 1. Administer an at-risk student survey (ongoing)
Strategy 2. Build action plan based on the survey (new)
Strategy 3. Partner with Mount Airy Parks and Recreation to sponsor 5K on the Greenway Event (ongoing)
Goal #6: Prepare students to be leaders
Strategy 1. Students will be incentivized to meet 100 hours of service each year (new)
Strategy 2. Future Leaders Academy will create opportunities for service projects (ongoing)
Strategy 3. Clubs will be supported to implement service projects (ongoing)
Strategy 4. K-5 schools will be supported to reach Lighthouse status for Leader in Me (ongoing)
Strategy 5. Leader in Me will be implemented K-8 (new)
• Dorsett led the school board through the second area: Retained, Recruited and Reinvigorated Staff
Goal #1: Highly Qualified Staff
Strategy 1. Increase attendance at job fairs (Expand)
Strategy 2. Expand partnerships with local colleges and universities (Expand)
Strategy 3. Increase use of social media to share vacancies (Expand)
(Placing things on our website isn’t enough, he said. The notices need to go where the traffic is.)
Strategy 4. Continue HR review process to confirm and screen certification (Ongoing)
Strategy 5. Establish a system to identify potential transfers or retirements (New)
(This will require keeping open lines of communication among staff, he said.)
Strategy 6. Create an incentive plan (New)
Dorsett said his group asked: How can the district recruit and retain teachers? Possibly help with moving costs or pay for licensure fees?
The high school may only get one or two student teachers a year, he said. The district could benefit from getting more of them. “They check us out, we check them out.”
Maybe one approach would be to reach out to students before they reach their senior year, try some early recruiting, Dorsett suggested.
There are many who graduate with a degree in elementary education only to find that those grade levels are full, he said. When speaking with students, the school system can suggest students get certified to teach up through middle school so they have more ways they can land a job.
Goal #2: Recognition of Employees
Strategy 1. Create a staff advisory committee (New)
Strategy 2. Secure business-sponsored incentives for employees (Expand)
Strategy 3. Establish a system at the district and school level for employee recognitions (expand)
Goal #3: Support and Development for New and Current Employees
Strategy 1. Implement Exit Surveys (New)
Strategy 2. Monitor BT and Mentor Support System (Ongoing)
Strategy 3. Formation of a staff wellness committee (New)
Strategy 4. Provide ongoing Personal Development for all classified areas (Expand)
(Yes, the district encourages teachers, but what about career development for custodians like getting HVAC certification, he offered.)
Strategy 5. Calibrate the NCEES process for district administrators (Ongoing)
Strategy 6. Explore ways to provide additional time for PD in the district calendar (New)
Strategy 7. Create employee attendance incentives (New)
• Hiatt led the presentation for Area 3: Meaningful Systems.
Goal #1: Globally Connected Classrooms
Strategy 1. All schools have a functioning Media/Technology team. (new)
Strategy 2. System is in place to easily inventory and manage technology assets. (new)
Strategy 3. Increase the number of teachers using technology for virtual reality/simulations. (new)
(The district can’t send kids on a trip to the Grand Canyon, but there can be ways to offer a virtual field trip, Hiatt said.)
Goal #2: Provide safe facilities for students, staff, and community.
(Local fire and police personnel offered input in this area, Hiatt said.)
Strategy 1. Each site will have a functioning School Safety Committee.(expanding)
Strategy 2. Each site will annually complete the components of the Fire Safety Plan. (ongoing)
Strategy 3. Each site will annually complete the components of the Safety from Intruders Plan. (ongoing)
Strategy 4. Each site will annually complete a Car Rider Safety Review (ongoing)
• Venable gave the presentation for Area 4: Strategic Partnerships.
Goal #1: System of Partnerships
Strategy 1. Compile list of partners (new)
Strategy 2. Create Partnership/Grants/Fundraiser Office (new)
(Venable said she wouldn’t want to overuse any business or group, like hitting up Cooke Rentals on every charity. An office could coordinate efforts and recruit new business partners.)
Goal #2: Innovative Partnerships
Strategy 1. Investigate entrepreneurship opportunities with partners and possibilities for students (new)
(Alumnus Will Pfitzner started a business, LazerEdge Designs, while studying at N.C. State last year.)
Strategy 2. Research better ways to serve current partners (new)
Strategy 3. Investigate new partnerships/avenues that encourage Global Travel (new)
Strategy 4. Research local businesses/community organizations that benefit from bilingual employees (new)
Strategy 5. Contact local businesses not currently involved in district partnerships (new)
Goal #3: Engaged Families
(How can the school system serve families better? What do families want and need, and how can schools provide that?)
Strategy 1. Create comprehensive assessment of family engagement practices (new)
Strategy 2. Team training and planning around family engagement (new)
Strategy 3. Support for implementation (new)
Strategy 4. Pilot Family Engagement Academy Sessions (ongoing)
After the presentation, the school board gave its approval. The new strategic plan will go into effect in January.
Morrison suggested that the folks who worked on this plan be recognized at the January board meeting, and the board concurred.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.