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Schools aim to create strategy for ‘globally competitive’ students

Staff Writer
Globally competitive students who are taught by 21st-century professionals in a classroom where new technologies are used, are part of the 2012-2015 Strategic Plan for Lincoln County Schools (LCS) that was discussed at the Board of Education meeting Wednesday night. Superintendent Sherry Hoyle, Assistant Superintendents Elaine Boysworth, Matt Stover and Steve Zickefoose pitched the draft of the plan to the board for approval this week.
“This plan parallels to a road map,” Board Chair Ed Hatley said. “You can take various roads to get to the same goal; the smaller goals show what will have to be done in order to achieve the overall, larger goals.”
Over the summer, a variety of LCS employees worked on the main points listed, which will be effective until 2015 when a new plan is drafted. However, the packet the board members reviewed is still considered a living document, Boysworth explained, and can be re-visited and changed after the oversight committee considers the feedback it receives.
Boysworth jumped into the discussion first, explaining her roles in creating the first goal — to produce globally competitive students. Under each strategic priority is a list of goals to help make that happen. She cited working to increase the graduation rate and surveying teachers during their first year of working with the Common Core and Essential Standards curriculum changes as keys that will help students, teachers and other education employees in the county fulfill the bigger picture.
Stover and Director of Elementary Education for county schools Glenda Walker were at the forefront of the second aspect — hiring instructors who are comfortable teaching students 21st century skills and what they look like in the classroom. Stover picked out a few components that he believes will lead to finding those teachers, and also ways to train current employees to make sure they are up to par. More specifically, he will target hiring those who hold advanced academic degrees and who are national board-certified.
School Board member Bob Silver voiced concerns about making sure local students are aligned with what will be expected of them later in their education. Stover assured him that, at the state-level, K-12 curriculum is being aligned with what those same students will later-learn in universities around North Carolina.
Stover previously told the Times-News that certain subjects, such as math and science, are difficult slots to fill — a problem that was addressed in his section of the plan. A 10-percent increase in the number of applicants for certain subjects is the target for the next three years. Recently, five or fewer hopefuls applied for positions in these areas, Stover said. Attending job fairs across the state at colleges and universities will be an outlet to find those who meet the criteria, Stover hopes.
In the classrooms of the innovative, up-to-date instructors will be healthy and responsible students, according to the drafted document. A safe, nurturing and inviting school-setting is attributed to fostering an environment that is both mentally and physically healthy for the students in the area. New alternatives to out-of-school suspensions and training of the guidance staff in local schools are elements Hoyle and her team hope to implement to make this happen.
The superintendent also spoke on leadership and innovation in area schools, through partnerships with local businesses. The wheels were already put in motion, as local administrators took part in the business/industry tour in August, to kick off the effort.
A Workforce Summit will also be established to solicit information for students on requirements for employment or higher education after graduation.
To wrap up the main action item of the night, Zickefoose touched on the financial end of the spectrum and how to be cost-efficient in the school system. Real-world trends and constant monitoring and updating to see where specific needs are so funding can be spent in those areas.
“This will be very beneficial to the students,” Zickefoose assured the board.
Boysworth commented that the new plan is different this year; those involved tried to write smart goals that were measurable and have target dates, she said.
The School Board unanimously voted to approve the draft of the Strategic Plan.
Other items discussed:
Hoyle spoke on the numbers from the first 10 days of classes. Rock Springs Elementary, North Lincoln Middle and High schools were reported to have the largest number of students this year. Overall, 11,550 students went back to school this fall.
Board member Clayton Mullis cast a sole dissenting vote against re-hiring LCS retirees to serve as mentors for local principals. After the meeting, he told the Times-News that he voted the way he did because he wanted to leave room for those already employed in county schools to have room to grow and pursue leadership opportunities in the school system.
An update was presented by Executive Director of Facilities Darrell Gettys on the status of school construction projects. The majority of the projects that lasted throughout the summer are completed, such as the East Lincoln High concession stand and ticket booth, and the Iron Station Elementary project that added more classrooms to the school. Next, Gettys and his team will prepare for the next steps in re-vamping the Lincolnton and West Lincoln High track fields.
The Building and Site and Policy committees now have a meeting set for 6 p.m., Sept. 17.

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