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Schools consider range of new ideas

 

AMANDA SEBASTIANO

Staff Writer

 

Becoming more aggressive against bullying and creating programs to recognize academic merit, are a few of the ideas local educators pitched during a recent Board of Education committees meeting to ensure a positive, stronger learning environment for Lincoln County students.

In response to the Lincoln County Schools’ (LCS) Strategic Plan to help improve the quality of education for area students, local schools were instructed to create school improvement plans that aligned with the LCS’ plan that was approved at the Board of Education meeting last month.

Last week, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Elaine Boysworth presented a summary of what the schools came up with during the Board of Education Curriculum Committee’s meeting. Previously referred to by School Board Chair Ed Hatley as a “road map” to success, the Strategic Plan will be in effect until 2015 and is the hope of school officials that schools throughout the county will adopt practices that parallel with the LCS goals.

Over the summer, various education leaders, including Superintendent Sherry Hoyle and Assistant Superintendents Elaine Boysworth, Matt Stover and Steve Zickefoose met with other members of the learning community to determine how to improve the learning environment for students, from technology to instruction.

They came up with five strategic priority goals that range from ways to produce globally competitive students to being financially responsible in the classroom. Also addressed, is a long-standing trend of difficulty filling certain slots, such as math and science teaching positions, which Stover has addressed in his goal for the plan.

A 10-percent increase in the number of applicants for certain subjects is his target for the next three years.

Recently, five or fewer hopefuls applied for positions in these areas, Stover previously told the Times-News. He hopes to recruit future instructors by attending job fairs across the state at colleges and universities.

Now that the county has a living document established for the next few school years — meaning it can be changed at any time as school officials see fit, after considering community feedback — officials reached out to staff members from each local institution, from the elementary level to high school, to spell out how they will better prepare their students for successful futures.

Boysworth noted various similarities across the board, while reviewing the proposed ideas for each school.

Every grade level shared the following components:

  • All plans include strategies to incorporate 21st century skills into the curriculum.
    Student achievement will be partly measured by reviewing End of Grade (EOGs) and End of Course (EOCs) assessments to see where the students’ weaknesses are.
  • Each facility will undergo inspections and will learn Character Education strategies to ensure youth are learning from up-to-date, capable educators.
  • The faculty members will also undergo Guidance Essential Standards training to further accommodate the needs of the children attending their school, while also keeping in mind the students who are deemed “at risk” through an evaluation process by the N.C. Wise program — a tool used to find students who are off the graduation track, based on the failure to meet certain criteria.
  • On the elementary and middle school levels, schools listed ideas such as creating programs for children in families who need assistance, merit-based programs that recognize students for achievements in the classroom and around campus and becoming more proactive with enforcing anti-bullying policies. Students will also be encouraged to do more silent reading that will help increase reading fluency, teachers hope.
  • High school students may have more options to help them graduate, according to the various plans. Transcript reviews and graduation counseling, credit recovery programs and recruiting dropout students to re-enroll and (hopefully) graduate later, were unanimous light bulbs that went off in the minds of administrators at North, West, East and Lincolnton high schools.
    After Boysworth’s presentation, attending school officials had questions.
  • “Outside of the mandates, what are your personal outcomes you want to see implemented?” School Board member Bob Silver asked Boysworth. “What would you like to see happen?”
  • Boysworth responded with the her hope that students will learn rigorous, 21st century content that will help youth be prepared for graduation, while truly learning those skills — not just being able to repeat information they’ve read. However, those components aren’t possible, if the technology isn’t there, she said.
  • School Board Vice-Chair Candy Burgin and Silver were energetic about the idea of researching grant opportunities and tapping unused dollars for tools that will aid students in their education, preparing them for the work force or college later.
  • The improvement plans each school created will be in effect until 2014.

Other items discussed at committee meetings earlier this week:

  • A plan based on achievement and three additional goals — an accountability plan — which alternative schools in the state must adopt and utilize, was presented by Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Elaine Boysworth on behalf of Asbury Alternative. The addition of at least three volunteers, decreasing the number of out-of-school suspensions by five percent and increasing the number of students promoted by three percent, are the targets for this school year.
  • Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee Bob Silver opened the floor for discussion of ways to keep teachers in Lincoln County through incentives based on merit. The group agreed to set up a meeting with state and local officials at the beginning of 2013 to discuss options for how to compete with the higher salaries of teachers in neighboring counties.
  • The Policy Committee voted in favor of keeping students in school for 180 days, totaling 1,080 hours of instructional time, next school year in response to a calendar bill that was passed in July. The legislation says students must receive a minimum of 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction over a nine-month period. In addition, the changes also include restrictions setting Aug. 26 as the earliest start date and June 11 as the latest ending date for students in the 2013-2014 school year.
  • Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Matt Stover said he is comfortable staying with the current calendar (180 days) and through research and his meetings with the calendar committee and local principals, he found that increasing the number of days wasn’t pertinent to student achievement.

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