The plan was developed over three months by a group of 21 community stakeholders using AdvancED accreditation standards, feedback from at least 585 community participants and other guidelines to determine direction and goals. The process was facilitated by a team of educators from Burke Education.
“I want to thank everybody who participated in this and (Superintendent Dr. Todd Freeman) for leading this and (board member Melissa Garris) for participating for the board,” said BOE vice president Steve Marlowe. “I’ve been on the school board for almost seven years now, and I’ve wanted a good, solid strategic plan, and I feel like we finally have it. I am very appreciative of what’s been done.”
Freeman thanked special education coordinator Jennifer Rosato, who coordinated the planning committee, for her efforts.
“She deserves much more recognition than I can give her, but Ms. Rosato led this community project the whole way, and I did what I needed to do and stayed out of the way,” Freeman said. “They put together quite a good one for us to follow the next five years.”
The plan outlines goals and strategies for improvement from 2014-2019 that fall under four major categories: governance and leadership; teaching and assessing for learning; facilities, resources and support systems; and collaboration, communication and continuous improvement.
Some of the main areas identified for improvement are: expanding the availability of technology, growing preschool programs, increasing fine arts offerings and other electives, and expanding the career and technical education programs.
Also at the meeting, board member Skip Smithwick asked if the School System will ask forgiveness for its snow days last week. School was canceled Jan. 28-31 due to the surprise snowstorm that created unsafe road conditions.
Freeman said he will submit a letter to the state superintendent Monday asking for a waiver for the makeup days since the snowstorm was declared a state of emergency.
“Normally, you don’t see that many days affected by a snow event in our state,” Freeman said. “Quite frankly, it wouldn’t have affected our judgment in terms of whether to hold school or not, because we still had some tough areas (Friday) morning. It certainly helps with the calendar though, because finding three and a half days would have been a chore.”
While many students and school staff across the state were stuck at schools overnight Jan. 28, Sylacauga schools got all students and staff home. Freeman said principals handled the situation well.
“They were called by our office and things started movingly rapidly,” he said. “They worked very diligently. (Student services coordinator) Bobby Hall and our school resource officers, I cannot commend them enough that by 6, all of our students were home. Many schools had difficulty with that, and that’s by no fault of their own, it was a very difficult circumstance, but we were most fortunate to get them home and safe by that time.”
BOE president Jennie McGhee said “a lot of people were very proud of how the children got home and everything,” and she thanked those involved.
Marlowe agreed, saying, “I appreciate everything our teachers and staff and administrators do every day. If anybody had any doubt about what they do for our students and our community, it should have gone away Tuesday. They went the extra mile, and I am personally grateful for the job you do.”
In other business, the BOE:
• Approved employment of: Kerri Ransom, special education instructional assistant at Indian Valley Elementary; custodian John Fields Jr.; substitutes Sarah Leonard, Harold Brooks, Wesley Entrekin, Sarah Gilliland, Kyrel Keith, Diamond Murphy and Misty Basinger.
• Approved leaves of absence for: Sherry Bearden, family and medical leave, effective Jan. 1 through March 1; Kathy Holland, on-the-job injury, effective Dec. 18, 2013, through March 18.
• Approved retirement of CNP worker Sherry Bearden, special education instructional assistant DeAnna Bailey, custodian Bobbie Moon.
• Approved accounts payable, payroll, financial statements for December totaling $1.9 million.
• Approved new tuition students Parker Mays and Paxton Mays.
• Approved a contract with English Language Learning consultant Kati Czachowski through May 22. The contract shall not exceed $15,500.
• Approved a low bid of $71,679 to Southern Technology Services for a network cabling and infrastructure for Phase 2 of high school renovations.
• Received a proposal for the 2014-2015 school calendar.
The next regular BOE meeting is Feb. 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the central office.