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Duncan outlines school system progress since August 2007

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A shortage of textbooks for the start of school in August 2007, no systemwide plan of improvement, and inadequate security for middle and high schools, are some of the things Interim Superintendent Gloria Duncan said she found when she took over the Clayton County School District in July 2007.

Duncan made the declarations in a 30-minute, "State of the District" address to the Board of Education this week.

"We began last year with the vision of making Clayton County Public Schools the highest performing school district in the state of Georgia, and that remains our goal this year," Duncan said.

Duncan told her audience what she inherited from former superintendent, Barbara Pulliam, who resigned, before she explained what she has done since.

She cited "inadequate data supplied to schools to assist them in planning for Adequate Yearly Progress [AYP];" the absence of an employee or department charged with dealing with school improvement; broken ties with local colleges and universities; and a special-education department that has been out of compliance with state standards for two years.

Other concerns, she said, included staff members working in schools and the central administration complex, but not being listed in the school system's organizational chart, and staffers receiving promotions despite not meeting the minimum criteria for their new positions.

Duncan also said the central enrollment center in Morrow did not have enough space to handle large crowds that showed up to the first day of the 2007-2008 school year. Parents waited for several hours to enroll their children.

"We are going to send parents to their child's assigned school during peak enrollment periods," Duncan said. "We may revisit that in the future, if we get an enrollment center that is large enough to handle the volume."

Then, the superintendent talked about changes. She said textbooks for the school year have already been ordered and a tracking system will be implemented next year. She said a plan of improvement is in the works and additional security officers have been hired to ensure the safety of the district's 52,805 students.

Duncan said she and her staff have re-established a partnership with Clayton State University, provided discipline training for principals and assistant principals, and now have assessment analyses of academic achievement in every subject throughout the school year.

The district's chief also said Clayton County first-graders achieved a 21-point increase on the reading section of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). She said it means the students are outperforming 70 percent of first-graders across the nation.

She also said 87 percent of Clayton County 11th-graders passed the Georgia High School Writing Test in September. Duncan added that 89 percent of 11th-graders across the state passed the test.

"We are also pleased to report that Mundy's Mill High School exceeded the state ... passing rate with 92 percent of its students passing the Georgia High School Writing Test," She said to thunderous applause from those attending the meeting.

"Riverdale High School is also to be commended for matching the state passing rate of 89 percent."