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Clayton Schools may 'go global' in vision

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Nearly 200 Clayton County Public Schools employees, parents, and community and religious leaders reached a general consensus that the school system was aiming too low in its current vision statement, during a strategic-planning work session on Friday.

The vision statement adopted by the Clayton County Board of Education in June 2007 states that the school system's aim is to be the top school district in the Metropolitan-Atlanta area.

Many of the people on the steering committee said on Friday that the school system should, instead, aim to be better than the rest of the world.

Ten recommendations for a new vision statement were made, and a team of nine committee members pulled those ideas into a single, proposed, vision statement.

"It is the vision of Clayton County Public Schools to be a district of excellence, preparing all students to successfully compete in a global economy," reads the new, proposed vision statement.

That statement will be presented to the full, strategic-planning steering committee today during the concluding portion of the planning work session. The gathering will begin at 9 a.m., at the school system's Professional Learning Center, which is located at 1087 Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro.

In addition to hearing the proposed vision statement, the committee will discuss the most popular beliefs that were selected on Friday, and a proposed mission statement, during today's portion of the work session.

The group will also review goals for the school system, and a timeline for completing the strategic plan, said Luvenia Jackson, the district's special assistant to the superintendent, and the person overseeing the committee's work.

Once a draft of the plan is finished, it will be made available for public review and comment, and then go to the Clayton County Board of Education for adoption.

Melissa Collins, 17, a senior at Mundy's Mill High School, said an international focus is key to charting the school system's future, because its graduates have to compete for jobs, with their counterparts from around the world. Collins is the lone student on the steering committee, and she was a member of the team that created the proposed vision statement.

"We have to be ready to participate in, not just a national society, but a global society," she said. "Everything is international now."

Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley added that "the competition is not our state, or Metro Atlanta, anymore. It's the world, and we've got to go global in our thinking as a result."

Steering committee members also reviewed the school system's eight beliefs that were established two years ago, as well as five proposed beliefs, to see which beliefs they wanted the district to use. That review was led by Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske.

"They are the essence by which we do our job, and all of these beliefs are focused on who?" Teske asked committee members. "The students. The children."

The committee was then broken up into 10 small groups to review the existing and proposed beliefs. Every committee member was given 10 blue dots, and Teske told committee members to place dots next to the beliefs they most agreed with.

Once all of the dots were placed, there were four existing beliefs, and one proposed belief that stood out above the others. Those beliefs were:

· "Education is the shared responsibility of the home, the school, and the community," (existing belief, 85 dots).

· "An involved parent will enhance the educational experience of every child," (existing belief, 73 dots).

· "Communication, and understanding among all stakeholders of our diverse community are essential to achieving the goals of education," (existing belief, 67 dots).

· "Learning is most productive when the needs of each child are met through instruction provided by competent teachers," (existing belief, 58 dots).

· "We believe that learning is a continuous process," (proposed belief, 50 dots).

The remaining existing, and proposed, beliefs had between 20 and 33 dots placed next to them.

When the school system was re-accredited -- on a probationary basis -- by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in May, one of four new mandates for improvement from the accrediting agency was a review of the school system's strategic plan that included community input.

Another new mandate was for the district to review its beliefs, vision statement and mission statement.

On Wednesday, SACS Spokesperson Jennifer Oliver said the accrediting agency will send a review team to the district in November to monitor progress. Exact dates for the visit have not yet been determined, Oliver said.