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School officials outline steps for improvement

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton County school officials explained that improving the district will take the involvement of everyone, during a recent strategic-plan, community-update meeting.

The meeting was attended by approximately 100 people, almost all of whom, either work for the district, or sit on the county's board of education. Only a handful of other community members was present.

During the meeting, principals, teachers, students, and district-level administrators explained what steps are being taken to increase the level of participation by all of the district's stakeholders, in order to meet the school system's six strategic goals.

Some of those steps include rigor meters, mind-mapping, word splashes, anti-bullying posters, safety audits, and increasing the numbers of "partners in education."

"It's going to take all of us working together, as a team, to ensure the success of our students," said School System Chief Academic Officer Diana Carry.

In addition to outlining what has been done already, district officials also announced several activities that will be taking place in the coming months, in a continuing effort to meet the strategic goals.

Spokesman Charles White said the recognitions of students and district employees will be removed from school board meetings, and performed during two separate recognition ceremonies (one in the fall, and one in the spring). He also said communications officials will conduct focus groups in the fall and winter, to improve district communications, and that social-networking web sites, such as Facebook, and YouTube, will also be used to distribute information to new audiences.

A new e-mail address -- goodnews@clayton.k12.ga.us -- is also scheduled to be set up, so school officials, parents, and students can e-mail the district's communications department to report positive stories about the district.

Community Relations Liaison Rhonda Burnough said the district is partnering with the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce to conduct a "Principal Partner's Day" program, in which business leaders will be able to come into a school, and act as principal for a day.

Coordinator of Student Assessment Natasha Jefferson said students will take achievement assessments in mid-September to see where they are academically, while the school year is still young. She said pupils will take another assessment in December to evaluate how well they have learned information by the mid-way point in the school year.

Director of Student Safety John Walker said the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), and the Georgia Department of Education, will conduct safety audits, and assessments at each school in the county, this fall.

A Gang Deterioration Protocol, designed to provide interventions when a student is deemed to be at-risk of becoming involved in gangs, is also on its way, said Sheriff Kem Kimbrough, during a joint presentation on school safety, with Walker.

Several community attendees said they were impressed by what the district is doing, and were optimistic about where the school system is headed. "I liked how they are moving towards improving rigor, communications, technology, and achievement," said Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn-Dixon. "If we can get those things going, we'll be in good shape."

Clayton County Chamber of Commerce President Yulonda Beauford said she was "very pleased" with the things she heard during the meeting. "It was enlightening to hear, and see, the great amount of work that has been done in all the various areas," Beauford said. "It shows we're going in the right direction, and exceeding what we've been asking of the district."

According to the district's web site, the school system's six strategic goals are:

* "To increase academic achievement for all students in Clayton County Public Schools, as evidenced by state, national and international assessment results."

* "To provide and maintain a safe, orderly and secure learning environment."

* "To create an environment that promotes active engagement, accountability, and collaboration of all stakeholders, to maximize student achievement."

* "To effectively communicate the system's vision, and purpose, and allow stakeholder involvement in an effort to build understanding and support."

* "To provide high quality support services delivered on time, and within budget, to promote student academic success in Clayton County Public Schools."

* "To recruit and retain highly qualified, and effective staff."