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Clayton schools going back to the basics - Altimese Dees

I don't know about you, but I feel better about Clayton County Schools now that Dr. Gloria Duncan has been appointed Interim Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Duncan has been in the county for over 30 years, so she knows what the issues are. In fact, she most recently served as principal for Riverdale High School.

I, and a group of other realtors, were privileged to meet with Dr. Duncan recently for the very first time. After sitting down with her and discussing the serious issues at hand, I was immediately impressed and felt a calming in my spirit that she was the right person for the job.

During Dr. Duncan's first few weeks on the job, she has already met with every teacher in the county. I like the way she puts it: "I've taken the shackles off the teachers and have empowered them to teach."

Her vision is that teachers will teach "according to a student's learning style and needs - not by scripts."

In our meeting, Dr. Duncan discussed several plans for the system. The plans that are most vivid in my mind are:

· Realigning the system's efforts and making sure that teachers are teaching students what will be tested, in accordance to the Georgia Performance Standards.

· Giving student assessments every three months and monitoring if expectations are being met for that period of time; if not, provide immediate remediation.

· Putting in place a research department to go through last year's test scores to find the areas where the teachers' focus should be.

· Consulting with local school systems that have been successful with Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), such as Rockdale County, and finding the keys to their success.

· Putting training programs in place for principals and assistant principals; and identifying teachers who need help in classroom management and making sure that they get the coaching that they need. Administrative training is also planned, which would help guide administrators through the day-to-day activities of a school.

· Moving the bad apples out of the schools and transferring them to the Alternative Program; adding more teachers, psychologists and counselors to meet those students' needs. Also, looking for additional space for students to go when they have been suspended from school, instead of having those students roam the streets.

· Improving the communications gaps between the schools and the media and the community; making sure that the positives are being communicated, and improvements are being made.

· Addressing the overcrowding of our schools by identifying those students who live outside of the county, but attend our schools using false addresses.

· Seeking assistance from the Clayton County Police to monitor our communities in the mornings and afternoons when children are coming to, and leaving, school.

I am thankful to have received this kind of information from Dr. Duncan, and was enlightened by the discussion I and my fellow real estate agents had with her.

It helped us to see that the school system will be run like a corporation with Dr. Duncan as the Chief Operating Officer; the school board as the Board of Directors; the teachers and staff members as the employees; and the students are the customers.

Difficult decisions must be made, but, at the end of the day, the entire operation and all focus should be centered on the customer - the student.

I feel better, now, and I'm looking forward to an improved school system. As Dr. Duncan says proudly, the new Clayton County Schools motto is: "Moving On, Moving Up and Reaching Goals."