Pulliam focuses on future

By Greg Gelpi

There will no longer be rewards for predicting rain, but rewards for building arks, Clayton County schools Superintendent Barbara Pulliam told the school board.

Pulliam recapped the year's accomplishments and plotted the course ahead for the school system in her State of the System address to the Clayton County Board of Education.

At the forefront of that list of 10 accomplishments, Pulliam cited the lifting of the system-wide probation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the school system's accrediting agency, had placed the system on a yearlong probation for violating its own policies.

"I think the school system has improved greatly over a year ago," said Sid Chapman, the president of the Clayton County Education Association. "I think Dr. Pulliam is learning the culture as well as the community. I think she's heading in the right direction."

Running through a score of statistics and demographics of the school system, Pulliam announced that the school system will follow the Noah Principle, rewarding those finding solutions, rather than identifying problems.

For instance, she said that the data shows that children are coming into the school system and that many come with limited proficiency in English, but the system must find solutions to address this.

"As a board, you must know that meeting Georgia Standards is not enough," Pulliam said, calling the state's standards too low and setting the system's standards higher. "If the children haven't learned, we must teach it again."

The school system's recruitment office has "declared war" on recruiting, particularly on the recruitment of Spanish-speaking teachers, Pulliam said. Many in that office are wearing buttons with the number 100, illustrating the office's goal of recruiting 100 such teachers.

Looking forward, Pulliam is working within the framework of the five goals established by the school board. Those goals are: Academic achievement, a safe orderly environment, effective and highly qualified staff, increased parental involvement and support services.

The school system's "downfall," though, has been "petty, petty, petty" disciplinary write-ups of teachers over personality conflicts, Chapman said.

But even this seems to be improving, he said, explaining that the superintendent's office is working on a plan to address this.

What the school is "lacking" is a "sense of community," Chapman said. "You have to have a happy workforce in order to have a competent workforce, to have a productive workforce."

Teachers must feel that they are compensated properly, are listened to and supported, he said.

"It's a far cry from the best, but it's certainly not the worst," Chapman said of the school system.